October winds were blowing coolly over the sea before Bonnibel Vere
arose from her sick-bed, the pale and wasted shadow of her former rosy
and bewildering self.
She had convalesced but slowly–too slowly, the physician said, for one
of her former perfect health and fine constitution. But the weight of
grief hung heavily upon her, paralyzing her energies so completely that
the work of recuperation went on but slowly.
Two months had elapsed since that dreadful night in which so much had
taken place–her secret marriage and her uncle’s murder.
She should have had a letter from her young husband ere this, but it
was in vain that she asked for the mail daily. No letter and no message
came from the wanderer, and to the pangs of grief were added the
horrors of suspense and anxiety.
A look of weary, wistful waiting crept into the bonnie blue eyes that
had of old been as cloudless and serene as the blue skies of summer.
The rose forgot to come back to her cheek, the smile to her lips. The
shadow of a sad heart was reflected on her beauty.
“Upon her face there was the tint of grace,
The settled shadow of an inward strife,
And an unquiet drooping of the eye,
As if its lid were charged with unshed tears.”
The first day she sat up Mrs. Arnold came in to see her. She had only
returned from the city a few days before and was making preparations to
go back for the winter season. She sent the nurse away, saying that she
would sit with Miss Vere a little while herself.
It was a lovely day, warm and sunny for the season, and Bonnibel sat in
her easy-chair near the window where she could look out upon the wide
expanse of the ocean with its restless blue waves rolling in upon the
shore with a solemn murmur. She loved the sea, and was always sorry
when the family left their beautiful home, Sea View, for their winter
residence in the city.
“You have grown very thin, Bonnibel,” said her aunt, giving her a very
scrutinizing glance, as she reclined in her chair, wrapped in a warm,
white cashmere dressing gown, to which her maid had added a few bows of
black velvet in token of her bereavement. “It is a pity the doctor had
to shave your hair. You look a fright.”
Bonnibel put her hand up to her brow and touched the soft, babyish
rings of gold that began to cluster thickly about her blue-veined
“It is growing out again very fast,” she said; “and it does not matter
any way. There is no one to care for my looks now,” she added, thinking
of the uncle and the lover who had doted so fondly on her perfect
“It matters more than you think, Bonnibel,” said Mrs. Arnold, sharply,
the lines of vexation deepening in her face. “It behooves you to be as
beautiful as you can now, for your face is your fortune.”
“I do not understand you, aunt,” said the young girl, gravely.
“It is time you should, then,” was the vexed rejoinder, “I suppose you
think now, Bonnibel, that your poor uncle has left you a fortune?”
Bonnibel looked at her in surprise, and the widow’s eyes shifted
uneasily beneath her gaze.
“Of course I believe that Uncle Francis has provided for my future,”
said the girl, quietly.
“You are mistaken, then,” snapped the widow; “Mr. Arnold died without a
will and failed to provide for either you or Felise. Of course, in that
case, I inherit everything; and, as I remarked just now, your face is
“My uncle died without a will!” repeated Bonnibel in surprise.
“Yes,” Mrs. Arnold answered, coolly.
“Oh, but, aunt, you must be mistaken,” said Bonnibel, quickly, while a
slight flush of excitement tinted her pale cheeks. “Uncle Francis did
leave a will. I am sure of it.”
“Then where is it?” inquired Mrs. Arnold.
“In his desk in the library,” said the girl confidently. “He told
me but a few hours before his death that he had made his will, and
provided liberally for me, and he said it was at that minute lying in
“Are you sure you have quite recovered from the delirium of your
fever?” inquired the widow, scornfully. “This must be one of the
vagaries of illness.”
“I am as sane as you are, madam,” said Bonnibel, indignantly.
“Perhaps,” sneered Mrs. Arnold, rustling uneasily in the folds of
her heavy black crape. “However that may be, no will has been found,
either in the desk or in the hands of his lawyer, where it should most
probably be. The lawyer admits drawing one up for him years ago, but
thinks he must have destroyed it later, as no trace of it can be found.”
“I have nothing to live upon, then,” said Bonnibel, vaguely.
She did not comprehend the extent of the calamity that had fallen
upon her. Her sorrow was too fresh for her mind to dwell upon the
possibilities of the future that lay darkly before her.
“You have absolutely nothing,” repeated Mrs. Arnold, grimly. “Your
father left you nothing but _fame_; your uncle left you nothing but
_love_. You will find it difficult to live upon either.”
Bonnibel stared at her blankly.
“You are utterly penniless,” Mrs. Arnold repeated, coarsely.
“Then what am I to do?” asked the girl, gravely, twisting her little
white hands uneasily together.
“What do you suppose?” the lady inquired, with a significant glance.
A scarlet banner fluttered into the white cheeks of the lovely invalid.
The tone and glance of the coarse woman wounded her pride deeply.
“You will want me to go away from here, I suppose,” she answered,
Mrs. Arnold straightened herself in her chair, and to Bonnibel’s
surprise assumed an air of wounded feeling.
“There, now, Bonnibel,” said she, in a tone of reproach, “that is just
like you. I never expected that you, spoiled child as you are, would
ever do me justice; but do you think I could be so unfeeling as to cast
you, a poor orphan child, out upon the cold charity of the world?”
Bonnibel’s guileless little heart was deceived by this dramatic
exhibition of fine feeling. She began to think she had done her uncle’s
“Forgive me, aunt,” she answered, gently. “I did not know what your
feelings would be upon the subject. I know my uncle intended to provide
“But since he signally failed to do so I will see that you do not
suffer,” said the widow, loftily; “of course, I am not legally
compelled to do so, but I will keep you with me and care for you the
same as I do for my own daughter, until you marry, which, I trust,
will not be long after you lay aside your mourning. A girl as pretty
as you, even without fortune, ought to make an early and advantageous
settlement in life.”
The whiteness of the girl’s fair, childish face was again suffused with
“I shall never marry,” she answered, sadly, thinking of the
lover-husband who had left her months ago, and from whose silence she
felt that he must be dead; “never, never!”
“Pshaw!” said Mrs. Arnold, impatiently; “all the girls talk that way,
but they marry all the same. I should be sorry to have to take care of
you all your life. I expect you and Felise to marry when a suitable
_parti_ presents himself. My daughter already has an admirer in New
York whom she would do well to accept. He is very old, but then he is a
She arose, stately, handsome and dignified.
“Felise and I return to New York Saturday,” she said. “Will you be
strong enough to accompany us?”
“I am afraid not,” said Bonnibel, faintly.
“Very well. Your maid and the housekeeper will take care of you in our
absence. I will send you a traveling suit of mourning, and when you
feel strong enough you can come to us.”
“Yes, madam,” Bonnibel answered, and the wealthy widow left the room.
So in a few weeks after, while nature was putting off her gay livery
and donning winter hues, Bonnibel laid aside the bright garments she
had been wont to wear, as she had already laid aside the joy and
gladness of her brief spring of youth, and donning the black robes of
bereavement and bitterness,
“Took up the cross of her life again,
Saying only it might have been.”
The day before she left Sea View she went down to the shore to have a
parting row in her pretty little namesake, the _Bonnibel_.
She had delayed her return to the city as long as possible, but now she
was growing stronger she felt that she had no further excuse to dally
in the home she loved so well, and which was so inseparably connected
with the two beloved ones so sadly lost–the uncle who had gone away
from her through the gates of death, and the young husband who seemed
separated from her just as fatally by time and distance.
As she walked slowly down to the shore in the beautiful autumnal
sunshine it seemed to her they both were dead. No message came to her
from that far Italy, which was the beloved Mecca of Leslie’s hopes and
aspirations. He had never reached there, she told herself. Perhaps
shipwreck and disaster had befallen him on the way.
No thought of his forgetfulness or falsity crossed the mind of the
loyal little bride. It seemed to her that death was the only thing that
could have thrown that strange gulf of silence between their hearts.
She sprang into the little skiff–one of her uncle’s loving gifts to
his niece–and suffered it to drift out into the blue waves. A fresh
breeze was blowing and the water was rather rough. The breeze blew the
soft, short rings of gold merrily about her white temples where the
blue veins were seen wandering beneath the transparent skin.
The last time she had been out rowing her hair had flouted like a
banner of gold on the breeze, and her cheek had glowed crimson as the
sunny side of a peach.
Now the shorn locks and the marble pallor of her cheeks told a
different story. Love and beauty had both left her, she thought,
mournfully. Yet nature was as lovely as ever, the blue sky was mirrored
as radiantly in the blue sea, the sunshine still shone brightly, the
breeze still whispered as tenderly to its sweethearts, the flowers. She
alone was sad.
She stayed out a long while. It was so sunny and warm it seemed like a
summer instead of an autumn day. The sea-gulls sported joyously above
the surface of the water, now and then a silvery fish leaped up in the
sunshine, its scales shining in beautiful rainbow hues, and shedding
the crystal drops of spray from its body like a shower of diamonds, and
the curlew’s call echoed over the sea. How she had loved these things
in the gay and careless girlhood that began to seem so far away in the
“That was Bonnibel Vere,” she said to herself, “the girl that never
knew a sorrow. I am Bonnibel Dane, whose life must lie forever in the
She turned her course homeward, and as she stepped upon the shore she
picked out a little blue sea-flower that grew in a crevice of the rock,
and stood still a moment looking out over the blue expanse of ocean,
and repeating some pretty lines she had always loved:
“‘Tis sweet to sit midst a merry throng
In the woods, and hear the wild-bird’s song;
But sweeter far is the ceaseless dirge,
The music low of the moaning surge;
It frets and foams on the shell-strewn shore,
Forever and ever, and evermore.
I crave no flower from the wood or field,
No rare exotic that hot-beds yield;
Give me the weeds that wildly cling,
On the barren rocks their shelter fling;
Those are the flowers beloved by me–
They grow in the depths of the deep blue sea!”
A sudden voice and step broke on her fancied solitude. She turned
quickly and found herself face to face with the wandering sibyl, Wild
The half-crazed creature was, as usual, bare-headed, her white
locks streaming in the air, her frayed and tattered finery waving
fantastically about her lean, lithe figure. She looked at Bonnibel with
a hideous leer of triumph.
“Ah maiden!” she cried–“said I not truly that the bitter waters of
sorrow were about to flow over you? You will not mock the old woman’s
Bonnibel stood silent, gazing in terrified silence at the croaking old
“Where is the gay young lover now?” cried Wild Madge laughing wildly.
“The summer lover who went away before the summer waned? Is he false,
or is he dead, maiden, that he is not here to shelter that bonny head
from the storms of sorrow?”
“Peace, woman,” said Bonnibel, sadly. “Why do you intrude on my grief
with your unwelcome presence?”
“Unwelcome, is it, my bonnie bird? Ah, well! ’tis but a thankless task
to foretell the future to the young and thoughtless. But, Bonnibel
Vere, you will remember me, even though it be but to hate me. I tell
you your sorrows are but begun. New perils environ your future. Think
not that mine is but a boasted art. Those things which are hidden from
you lie open to the gaze of Wild Madge like a painted page. She can
read your hands; she can read the stars; she can read the open face of
“You rave, poor creature,” said Bonnibel, turning away with a shiver of
unreasoning terror, and pursuing her homeward way.
Wild Madge stood still on the shore a few minutes, looking after the
girl as her slim, black-robed figure walked away with the slow step of
weakness and weariness.
“It is a bonny maid,” she said, aloud; “a bonny maid. Beautiful as an
angel, gentle as a dove. But beauty is a gift of the gods, and seldom
given for aught but sorrow.”