Colonel Carlyle was as deeply infatuated with Bonnibel Vere as
the jealous Felise had declared him to be; but, as she had always
asserted, he was very wily and cautious in his advances. He was afraid
of frightening the pretty bird he wished to ensnare. He, therefore,
adopted a deportment of almost fatherly tenderness toward her that was
very pleasant to the lonely girl, who missed her uncle’s protecting
care so much, and who also began to perceive in Mrs. Arnold and her
daughter a changed manner, which, while it could scarcely be colder
than usual, was tinged with an indefinable shade of insolence.
Poor, pretty Bonnibel! she had fallen upon dark days. She had been
deceived by Mrs. Arnold’s protestations at first, but by degrees a new
light began to break upon her. Mrs. Arnold began to practice a degree
of parsimony toward her that was bewildering to the girl. She withdrew
Bonnibel’s allowance of money, and at last the girl found her dainty
little purse quite empty, and likely to remain so–a thing that had
never happened to her before in the course of her life, for her uncle
had been lavishly generous to her in respect to pin-money. Her supply
of mourning was extremely limited, and but for her quiet mode of life
would have been quite inadequate to her needs.
But if Mrs. Arnold had wished to diminish Bonnibel’s beauty by giving
it so meager a setting she failed in the endeavor. The jewel was too
bright to miss extraneous adornment.
The somber black dresses could not dim the gleam of her golden hair,
the sparkle of her sea-blue eyes. Her white brow and throat were like
the petals of a lily, and with returning health a lovely rose-tint
began to flush her cheeks.
Her beauty was a royal dower of which no spite or malignity could
deprive her. Clothed upon with sackcloth she would still have remained,
“A daughter of the gods, divinely tall,
And most divinely fair.”
Bonnibel knew that she was beautiful. She had heard it remarked so
often that she could not be ignorant of the fact.
In those past happy days that now seemed so far away she had taken a
childish, innocent pride in the knowledge. But now in her trouble and
loneliness she had forgotten it, or cared for it no more. So it never
occurred to her to ascribe the painful change in her aunt and Felise to
the fact that was quite obvious to others–the very plain fact that she
had unconsciously rivaled Felise with Colonel Carlyle and that he only
waited a proper season to declare himself.
There was none of the dawdling and hesitation now that had marked
his courtship of Felise and prevented him from making the important
declaration she had schemed and toiled for. He had virtually jilted
Felise, for he had done everything but speak the important words, but
the proud girl bore his desertion in ominous silence that boded no good
to the man who had thus wronged her.
Lucy and Janet, the respective maids of the two young ladies, held many
a whispered colloquy over Colonel Carlyle’s defection. Janet indeed
was an object of sympathy in those days, for she had to bear the brunt
of Felise’s anger, which was no slight thing to endure. Indeed, it is
probable that the much-enduring maid would have given warning on the
spot had it not been for an _affaire du cœur_ which she was carrying
out with the footman.
Rather than be separated from this object of her fond affections Janet
remained in Felise’s service and endured her caprices and ill-treatment
with that heroic fortitude with which women from time immemorial have
borne slight and wrong for love’s sake.
“Will Miss Bonnibel marry him, do you think, Lucy?” asked Janet at one
of their solemn conclaves.
“I don’t know,” Lucy answered. “Seems to me the child don’t have the
least idea of what is going on right afore her eyes. I don’t believe
she knows that the colonel is a courtin’ her! She thinks he is a
friend, like, and because he knew her father in the army and talks a
good deal about his bravery, she listens to him and never dreams that
she has cut Miss Felise out right afore her face.”
“And serves her right, too,” said Janet, heartily, taking a malicious
pleasure in the defeat of her over-bearing mistress; “I, for one, am
downright glad that she has cut my lady out of her rich beau! It would
be a fine match for Miss Bonnibel since her uncle has left her without
“I hope she will marry him,” said Lucy. “Things isn’t going at all to
my notion in this house, Janet. Sour looks and impident words is flung
around altogether too free in my young lady’s hearing. And she getting
that shabby that she have got but one decent mourning gown to her back,
and I hear nothing said of a new one! As for money I don’t believe Mrs.
Arnold has given her a single penny since her uncle died; I’ve seen her
little purse and it’s quite empty. I’d have put a few of my own savings
into it, only I was afraid she might be angry.”
“I hope she’ll marry Carlyle and queen it over them both,” said Janet.
“I tell you, Lucy, it was very strange that Mr. Arnold’s _will_ wasn’t
found. I am quite sure he made one–he wouldn’t have slighted your
young lady intentionally. He loved that pretty little blue-eyed girl
as the apple of his eye, and there was small love lost between him and
t’other one. ‘Twas mysterious the way things turned out at his death,
“Aye, it were,” assented Lucy; “I heard Miss Bonnibel, myself, tell
Mrs. Arnold down at Sea View when she were sick, that her uncle told
her he had made a will and provided liberally for her. And Mrs. Arnold
laughed at her and pretended that the fever hadn’t got out of her
head yet. _She_ didn’t want to believe there was a will, Janet, _she_
didn’t! Now I ask you, Janet, what has become of that there will?”
Janet laughed scornfully and significantly.
“Ah! it’s gone where Miss Bonnibel’s blue eyes will never shine on it,”
said she. “It’ll never see the light of day again. All that she can do
is to marry Colonel Carlyle and get even with them all.”
“I wish she would,” sighed Lucy; “but I don’t believe she will. They
said she was in love with a young artist last summer, and that her
uncle drove him away–the same young man they laid the murder on, you
“Do you believe he did it, Lucy?”
“Not I,” said Lucy, with a scornful sniff. “I’d sooner believe _they_
did it between themselves! I’ve seen the young man when he used to come
visiting the master at Sea View. A handsome young man he was, and that
soft-spoken he would not hurt a fly, I know. But he was poor and made
his living by drawing pictures, and since Miss Bonnibel is poor, too,
now, I’d rather she’d marry that rich old man, for, poor dear, what
good could _she_ do as a poor man’s wife!”
“Has she forgotten the young feller, do you think?” inquired Janet,
thinking of her own “young feller” below stairs with a thrill of
romantic sympathy for Miss Vere’s love affair.
“Oh, dear, _no_, and never _will_,” said Lucy, confidently. “She never
names him; but I know she’s been grieved and unhappy over and above
what natural grief for Mr. Arnold could amount to. But I doubt it’s
all over between them. He’s been in hiding, of course, somewhere, ever
since they accused him of the murder, and I doubt if Miss Bonnibel ever
sets her sweet blue eyes on his handsome face again.”
“If he’s not guilty why don’t he come out and prove his innocence?”
exclaimed the romantic Janet. “What a fine scene there would be–Miss
Bonnibel all in smiles and tears of joy, and t’other ones scowling and
angry at them two lovers.”
“Ah! I can’t tell you _why_ he doesn’t do so,” answered Lucy, sighing;
“but there must be some good reason for’t. No one could get me to
believe that Mr. Dane did that wicked and cruel murder! My young
mistress, so innocent as she is herself, could never have loved a man
that was mean enough to do that deed!”
The loud peal of Miss Herbert’s dressing-room bell resounding through
the house broke up the conference between the maids, and Janet went
away to answer it, muttering, angrily:
“Lucy, I do wish we could change mistresses for awhile. I’m that tired
with tramping up and down to wait on that ill-natered upstart that all
my bones are sore.”
So Bonnibel’s circumstances and prospects were discussed in high life
up-stairs, and by servantdom down-stairs, while she herself, the most
interested party, was ignorant of it all.
How could she, whose torn heart was filled with one single aching
memory, take note of all that went on about her?
She was still living in the past, and took small heed of the present.
She thought Colonel Carlyle was still fond of Felise, and that his
little kindnesses and attention to her were offered to her for her
father’s sake. She felt grateful to him, but that was all. She was not
pleased when he came, nor sorry when he went. So, when the long, cold
days of winter wore away and nature began to smile with the coming of a
genial spring, and Colonel Carlyle could restrain his impatient ardor
no longer, his proposal of marriage, worded with all the passion of a
younger lover, came upon her with the suddenness of a thunderbolt from
a clear sky.
“Surely, Mr. Carlyle, I have misunderstood your meaning,” she said,
looking up at him when he ceased to speak, with terror and fright in
her large eyes. “You asked me to–to—-”
“To _marry_ me,” said the colonel. “You have not misunderstood me,
Bonnibel. I love you, my darling, as passionately as any young man
could do. I ask you to give yourself to me for my cherished wife. It
would be the sole aim of my life to make you happy. Will you be my
wife, little darling?”
“Why, you–you are engaged to Miss Herbert,” said Bonnibel, in surprise
“I beg your pardon, my dear. I am not. I admire and esteem Miss Herbert
very much, but I have never addressed a word of love to her. It is
_you_ whom I love–_you_ whom I wish to make my wife,” exclaimed the
“I certainly understood that you would marry Felise,” answered
“It was a very serious error on your part, my dear little girl, for I
have been trying all the winter to make you see that I loved no one but
“I never dreamed of such a thing,” exclaimed the girl, in a tone of
“Then you are the only one who did not suspect it,” said he, in a
mortified tone. “The fact was very patent to all others.”
Bonnibel looked down at the shimmering opal on her finger, and a blush
of shame rose over her delicate features. She thought to herself,
“This is dreadful for me–a wedded wife–to sit here and listen to such
words without the power of protesting against them.”
“Perhaps you think I am too old for you, my angel,” said the colonel,
breaking the silence; “but my heart and my feelings are much younger
than my years. I could not have loved you more ardently thirty years
ago. But if age is a fault in your eyes, my darling, I will atone for
it by every indulgence on earth, and by a deathless devotion.”
“Oh, pray, do not say another word, Colonel Carlyle. It can never be,
sir. I can never be your wife!” exclaimed the girl, in deep agitation.
“But why not, my dearest girl?”
“I do not love you, sir,” said the girl, cresting her graceful head
half-haughtily upon her slender throat.
“I will teach you to love me, darling. Come, say that you will let me
take you away from this house, where I can see that they hate you,
and make your life more happy. I will do anything to further your
happiness, Bonnibel,” urged the colonel.
“What you wish is quite impossible, sir. I beg that you will dismiss
the subject, my dear, kind friend, and forget it,” repeated Bonnibel,
“I will not take _no_ for an answer,” replied the colonel, obdurately.
“I have taken you by surprise, and you do not know your own mind, my
dear little girl. I will give you a week to decide in. Think of all the
advantages I can offer you, Bonnibel, and of my devoted love, and say
_yes_ when I come back for your answer.”
So saying he abruptly took his leave.