There is one consolation

When Bonnibel arrived in New York the day after her rencontre with the
sibyl, she found her uncle’s fine carriage in waiting for her at the
depot. Mrs. Arnold, though she would gladly have cast the girl off, was
too much afraid of the world’s dictum to carry her wishes into effect.
She determined, therefore, that society should have no cause to accuse
her of failing in kindness to her husband’s orphan niece. She knew well
what disapprobation and censure a contrary course would have created,
for the beautiful daughter of the famous General Vere, though she had
not yet been formally introduced to society, was widely celebrated for
her grace and beauty, and her _debut_, while she had been considered
her uncle’s heiress, had been anticipated with much interest. Of course
her penniless condition now would make a great difference in the eyes
of the fickle world of fashion, but still Mrs. Arnold knew that nothing
could deprive Bonnibel of the prestige of birth and rank. The young
mother who had died in giving her birth, had been one of the proud and
well-born Arnolds. Her father, a gay and gallant soldier, though he had
quickly dissipated her mother’s fortune, had yet left her a prouder
heritage than wealth–a fame that would live forever in the annals of
his country, perpetuating in history the name of the chivalrous soldier
who had gallantly fallen at the head of his command while engaged in
one of the most gallant actions on record.

So Bonnibel found a welcome, albeit a chilling one, waiting for her in
Mrs. Arnold’s grand drawing-room when she arrived there cold and weary.
The mother and daughter touched her fingers carelessly, and offered
frigid congratulations upon her recovery. Mrs. Arnold then dismissed
her to her own apartments to rest and refresh her toilet under the care
of her maid.

“You need not be jealous of her youth and beauty any more, Felise,”
said Mrs. Arnold complacently to her daughter. “She has changed almost
beyond recognition. Did you ever see such a fright?”

Felise Herbert, hovering over the bright fire that burned on the marble
hearth, looked up angrily.

“Mother, you talk like a fool,” she said, roughly. “How can you fail to
see that she is more beautiful than ever? She only looked like a great
wax doll before with her pink cheeks and long curls. Now with that
new expression that has come into her face she looks like a haunting
picture. One could not forget such a face. And mourning is perfectly
becoming to her blonde complexion, while my olive skin is rendered
perfectly hideous by it. I see no reason why I should spoil my looks
by wearing black for a man that was no relation of mine, and whom I
cordially hated!”

Mrs. Arnold saw that Felise was in a passion, and she began to grow
nervous accordingly. Felise, if that were possible, was a worse woman
than her mother, and possessed an iron will. She was the power behind
the throne before whom Mrs. Arnold trembled in fear and bowed in
adoration.

She hastened to console the angry girl.

“I think you are mistaken, my dear,” she said. “I cannot see a
vestige of prettiness left. Her hair is gone, her color has faded,
and she never smiles now to show the dimples that people used to call
so distracting. There are few that would give her a second glance.
Besides, what is beauty without wealth? You know in our world it simply
counts for nothing. She can never rival you a second now that it is
known that she has no money and that you will be my heiress.”

The sullen countenance of Felise began to grow brighter at the latter
consolatory clause.

“As to the black,” pursued Mrs. Arnold, “of course you and I know that
it is a mere sham; but then, Felise, it is necessary to make that much
concession to the opinion of the world. How they would cavil if you
failed in that mark of respect to the memory of your step-father.”

“There is one consolation,” said Felise, brightening up, “I can lay it
aside within a year.”

“And then, no doubt, you will don the bridal robe as the wife of the
millionaire, Colonel Carlyle,” Mrs. Arnold rejoined, with an air of
great satisfaction.

“Perhaps so,” said her daughter, clouding over again; “but you need not
be so sure. He has not proposed yet.”

“But he will soon,” asserted the widow, confidently.

“I expected he would do so, until now,” said Felise, sharply. “The old
dotard appeared to admire me very much; but since Bonnibel Vere has
returned to flaunt her baby-beauty before him, his fickle fancy may
turn to her. A pretty face can make a fool of an old man, you know.”

“We must keep her in the background, then,” said Mrs. Arnold,
reassuringly. “Not that I am the least apprehensive of danger, my dear,
but since your fears take that direction he shall not see her until
all is secure, and you must bring him to the point as soon as possible.”

“I have done my best,” said Felise, “but he hovers on the brink
apparently afraid to take the leap. I cannot understand such dawdling
on the part of one who has already buried two wives. He cannot be
afflicted with timidity.”

“We must give him a hint that I shall settle fifty thousand dollars on
you the day you marry,” said her mother. “I have heard that he is very
avaricious. It is a common vice of age and infirmity. He fears you will
spend his wealth too freely.”

“And so I will, if I get a chance,” said Felise, coarsely. “I have been
stinted all my life by the stepfather who hated me. Let me but become
Mrs. Colonel Carlyle, and I assure you I will queen it right royally.”

“You would become the position very much,” said the admiring mother,
“and I should be very proud of my daughter’s graceful ease in spending
her husband’s millions.”

Miss Herbert’s proud lips curled in triumph. She arose and began to
pace the floor restlessly, her eyes shining with pleased anticipation
of the day which she hoped was not far distant when she would marry
the rich man whose wealth she coveted, and become a queen in society.
She looked around her at the splendor and elegance of her mother’s
drawing-room with dissatisfaction, and resolved that her own should be
far more fine and costly, her attire more extravagant, and her diamonds
more splendid. She was tired of reigning with her mother. She wanted to
rule over a kingdom of her own.

Felise had no more heart than a stone. Her only god was wealth, and her
ambition was towering. She thought only of self, and felt not the first
emotion of gratitude to the mother who had schemed and planned for her
all her life. All she desired was unbounded wealth and the power to
rule in her own right.

* * * * *




“Miss Felise has caught a beau at last,” said Bonnibel’s maid to her
as she brushed the soft locks of her mistress. She had been having a
hasty chat with Miss Herbert’s maid since her arrival that day, and had
gathered a good deal of gossip in the servants’ hall.

“Indeed?” asked Bonnibel, languidly, “what is his name, Lucy?”

“He is a Colonel Carlyle, miss; a very old man Janet do say, but worth
his millions. He have buried his two wives already, I hear, and Miss
Herbert is like to be a third one. I wish him joy of her; Janet knows
what her temper is.”

“You need not speak so, Lucy,” said Bonnibel, reprovingly, to the maid
whose loquacity was far ahead of her grammar. “I daresay Janet gives
her cause to indulge in temper sometimes.”

“Lor! Miss Bonnibel,” said Lucy, “Janet is as mild as a dove; but Miss
Felise, she have slapped Janet’s mouth twice, and scolds her day in and
day out. Janet says that Colonel Carlyle will catch a Tartar when he
gets her.”

“Be quiet, Lucy; my head aches,” said Bonnibel, thinking it very
improper for the girl to discuss her superior’s affairs so freely; she
therefore dismissed the subject and thought no more about it, little
dreaming that it was one portentous of evil to herself.

Felise need not have troubled herself with the fear of Bonnibel’s
rivalry. The young girl was only too willing to be kept in the
background. In the seclusion which Mrs. Arnold deemed it proper to
observe after their dreadful and tragic bereavement they received
but few visitors and Bonnibel was glad that her recent illness was
considered a sufficient pretext for denying herself to even these
few. Some there were–a few old friends and one or two loving
schoolmates–who refused to be denied and whom Bonnibel reluctantly
admitted, but these few found her so changed in appearance and broken
in spirit that they went away marveling at her persistent grief for the
uncle whom the world blamed very much because he had failed to provide
for her as became her birth and position.

But while the world censured Mr. Arnold’s neglect of her, Bonnibel
never blamed her uncle by word or thought. She believed what he had
told her on the memorable evening of his death. He _had_ provided for
her, she knew, and the will, perhaps, had been lost. What had become of
it she could not conjecture, but she was far from imputing foul play
to anyone. The thought never entered her mind. She was too pure and
innocent herself to suspect evil in others, and the overwhelming horror
of her uncle’s tragic death still brooded over her spirit to the utter
exclusion of all other cares save _one_, and that one a sore, sore
trial that it needed all her energies to endure, the silence of Leslie
Dane and her anxieties regarding his fate; for still the days waned and
faded and no tidings came to the sick heart that waited in passionate
suspense for a sign from the loved and lost one.

Strange to say, she had never learned the fatal truth that Leslie Dane
stood charged with her uncle’s murder, and that justice was still on
the alert to discover his whereabouts. During her severe and nearly
fatal illness all approach to the subject of the murder had been
prohibited by the careful physician, and on her convalescence the
newspapers had been excluded from her sight and the subject tabooed in
her presence. She had forgotten the solemn charge of Felise Herbert
and her mother that fatal night which she had so indignantly refuted.
Now she was spared the knowledge that the malignity of the two women
had succeeded in fixing the crime on the innocent head of the man she
loved. Had Bonnibel known that fact she would have left Mrs. Arnold’s
roof although starvation and death had been the inevitable consequence.
But she did not know, and so moped and pined in her chamber, tearful
and utterly despairing, oblivious to the fact that she was doing what
Felise most desired in thus secluding herself.