But no one could tell how it came about

Among all the radiant beauties that promenaded the beach and danced
in the ball rooms at Long Branch, the young bride of Colonel Carlyle
became immediately distinguished for her pre-eminent loveliness.

Wherever she went she created a great sensation.

People went to the places where they heard she would be, just to look
at that “faultily faultless” face “star-sweet on a gloom profound.”

Artists raved over her form and features. They said she was the fairest
woman in the world, and that her beauty had but one fault–it was too
cold and pale. One touch of glow and color in that “passionless, pale,
cold face,” they said, would have made her so lovely that men would
have gone mad for her–gone mad or died.

And then she was so young, they said. She had never been presented in
society. Colonel Carlyle, the cunning old fox, had married her out of
the schoolroom before anyone had a chance to see her. The fops and
dandies swore at him behind their waxed mustaches, while better and
nobler men said it was a shame that such a fair, charming girl should
be wedded to such an old man.

There were some who said that the girl, young as she was, had a hidden
heart-history. These were the poets and dreamers. They said that the
language of those pale cheeks and drooping eyes was that she had been
torn from her handsome lover’s side and bartered for an old man’s gold.

But these were mere conjectures. No one knew anything about her
certainly, until Mrs. Arnold and Felise came down after a week’s delay.
Then they knew that she was the daughter of General Vere, and the niece
of Francis Arnold, the murdered millionaire.

Felise told them of the artist lover who had murdered the millionaire
because he would not give him his niece. The excitement only ran higher
than before, and people looked at the young creature with even more
curiosity and interest than ever.

Bonnibel could not help seeing that she was an object of interest and
admiration to everyone about her. She saw that the men sought her
side eagerly and often, and that the women were jealous of her. At
first she was vexed and angry about it. She could not get a moment to
herself. They were always seeking her out, always hovering about her
like butterflies round a flower. She wondered why they came round her
so, but at length she remembered what she had almost forgotten. Uncle
Francis had often told her so; Leslie Dane had told her so; she had
heard it from others, too, and even Wild Madge had admitted it.

Ah! Wild Madge! Over her memory rushed the words of the fearful old
hag, freighted with a deeper meaning than they had held at first.

“You are beautiful, but your beauty will be your bane.” “Years of
sorrow lie before you!” “You will be a young man’s bride, but an old
man’s darling!”

“It has all come true,” she thought, turning from the circle around
her, and looking wistfully out over the waves that came swelling
against the shore, like some wild heart beating against the bars of
life. “It has all come true–yet how little I dreamed that she could
read the future that lies folded, like the leaves of a book, from first
sight. How little I thought that a shadow could ever fall between me
and happiness! Yet in a few short months her wild prediction has been
fulfilled. I have drank deeply of sorrow’s cup. I have been a young
man’s bride; now they say I am an old man’s darling. All–all has been
fulfilled save the shame and disgrace with which she threatened me. But
that can never come, never, _never_!” and a look of pride came over the
fair face, and the round throat was curved defiantly.

Colonel Carlyle was quite happy and proud at first over the sensation
created by his beautiful girl-wife. He liked to see how much people
admired her. It pleased him to note the admiring glances that followed
her slightest movement.

She belonged to him, and all the admiration she excited was a tribute
to his taste and his pride.

For a whole week he was as pleased and happy as a man could be, but
a shadow fell upon him with the coming of Felise. He grew morbidly
jealous.

Jealous, and without a shadow of reason, for Bonnibel was like the
chaste and lovely moon–she shone coldly and alike upon all.

But the colonel became a changed man–everyone noticed it, and many
said that the old man was growing jealous of his beautiful darling.

But no one could tell how it came about, not even Felise Herbert, who,
when questioned by her mother, refused to admit that the faintest, most
insidious hint from her lips had been dropped like poison into the
cup of perfect happiness from which the doting old husband was fondly
drinking.

One morning a note lay on his dressing-table–a little note scrawled
in a disguised hand–he took it up and read it, then put it down again
and stood gazing blankly at it as if it were the death-warrant of his
happiness. It was very short, but every word was stamped indelibly on
his memory.

“Your wife,” it ran, “wears a little opal ring on the third finger of
her right hand. She prizes it more than all the costly jewels you have
lavished upon her. It was the gift of a former lover whom she still
adores. Ask her to cease wearing the ring, or even to show you the
inscription inside, and you will see who has the warmest place in her
heart.”

Could this be true? Was this a friend who warned him, he thought. He
remembered the pretty little ring perfectly.

The jealous pang that had been tearing at his heart for days grew
sharper than ever.

He knew his wife did not love him yet, but he had fondly hoped to win
her heart in time.

If what the writer of that anonymous letter said was true, then it was
vain to hope any longer.

“A former lover whom she still adored.” Oh! God, could that be true?

“I will test her,” he said to himself. “No one shall poison my mind
against my beautiful wife without a cause. ‘I will put it to the test
and win or lose it all.'”

He went to a jeweler’s that morning and came back with a little box in
his vest-pocket.

Then he asked Bonnibel if she would walk down to the seashore with him.

She complied with a gentle smile, and he found her a shady seat a
little off from the crowd, where they could talk uninterrupted.

She laid down her parasol, and removing her delicate gloves folded her
white hands listlessly together.

Colonel Carlyle took up the hand that wore the opal ring and looked at
it fondly.

“My dear,” he said, “that is a very pretty ring you wear, but it is
not beautiful enough for your perfect hand. I have brought you a much
handsomer one with which to replace it.”

He took it from his pocket and showed it to her–a lovely, shimmering
opal set round with gleaming pearls.

“I have heard that opals are unlucky stones,” he said, “but if you are
not superstitious, and like to wear them, will you lay aside the simple
one you now have and put this on instead?” and he made a movement as if
he would withdraw the tabooed one from her finger.

Bonnibel withdrew her hand quickly, and looked up into Colonel
Carlyle’s face.

He saw her delicate lips quiver, and a dimness creep over her eyes,
while her cheeks grew, if anything, paler than ever. Her voice trembled
slightly as she answered:

“I thank you for your beautiful gift; but I cannot consent to wear it
in the place of the plainer one I now have.”

“And why not, my dear little wife? It would look much handsomer than
the one you now wear on your finger.”

A faint flush tinged her snow-white cheek at the half-sarcastic
emphasis of his words. Her glance wandered off to the sunlit sea and a
tear rolled down her check as she said, very gently:

“I am quite aware of that, Colonel Carlyle. Your ring is a marvel of
beauty and taste, and I will wear it on another finger if you like;
but I prize the other more for its associations than for its beauty or
value. It was a keepsake from a friend. You remember the pretty words
of the old song:

“‘Who has not kept some trifling thing,
More prized than jewels rare,
A faded flower, a broken ring,
A tress of golden hair?'”

There was a tone of unconscious pleading in her pathetic voice, and the
heart of the jealous old husband gave a throb of pain as he listened.

“It is true, then,” he thought to himself. “It was a gift of a former
lover.”

Aloud he said rather coldly:

“Since you prize it so much as a keepsake, Bonnibel, put it away
in some secret place, and preserve it as romantic people do such
treasures–it will be safer thus.”

“I prefer to wear it, sir,” she answered, with a glance of surprise at
the persistency.

“But I do not wish you to wear it. I particularly desire that you
should lay it aside and wear the one I have brought you instead,” he
insisted, rather sharply goaded on by jealousy and dread.

Bonnibel turned her eyes away from the blue waves of the ocean and
looked curiously at her husband. She saw that he was in desperate
earnest. His dark eyes flashed with almost the fire of youth, and his
features worked with some inward emotion she did not in the least
understand.

“I am sorry to refuse your request, sir,” she answered, a little
gravely; “though I am surprised that you should insist upon it when I
have plainly expressed a contrary wish. I can only repeat what I have
said before, that I prefer to wear it.”

“Against my wishes, Bonnibel?”‘

“I hope that you will not further oppose it, sir, on the ground of a
mere caprice,” she answered, flushing warmly. “It was the gift of a
dear friend, who is dead, and I shall always wear it in remembrance.”

“The gift of a former lover, perhaps,” sneered Colonel Carlyle, half
beside himself with jealousy.

“I suppose it cannot matter to you, Colonel Carlyle, who the giver may
have been,” exclaimed Bonnibel, offended at his overbearing tone, and
flushing indignantly.

“Pardon me, but it does matter, Bonnibel. I dislike exceedingly to see
my wife wearing the ring of one whom she loves better than her husband!
Common regard for my feelings should induce you to lay it aside without
forcing me to issue a command to that effect!”

His jealous pain or innate tyranny was fast getting the better of
his prudence, or he would scarcely have taken such a tone with the
young wife whose heart he so ardently longed to win. She sprang
up impetuously and looked down at him with the fires of awakened
resentment burning hotly upon her cheeks, looking beautiful with the
glow and warmth of passion in the face that had been too cold and pale
before. The same proud spirit that had forced her to defy her Uncle
Francis that memorable night animated her now.

“I think you will hardly dare issue such a command to me, Colonel
Carlyle. Remember that though I am your wife I am not your slave!”

How fair she looked in his eyes even as she indignantly defied his
authority! But passion had made him blind to reason and justice. With
a swift glance around to assure himself that no one was in sight, he
caught her small hand and tried to wrench the ring from her finger by
force.

“At least I will see whose hated name is written within the precious
jewel!” he exclaimed.

“Release me, this moment, Colonel Carlyle! If you dare to persevere in
such a cowardly and brutal course, I swear to you that I will never
live with you another day! Yes, I would leave you within the hour
were I twice your wife!” cried the girl, in such passionate wrath and
scorn that the colonel let go of her hand in sheer surprise at the
transformation of his dove.

“You would not dare do such a thing!” he exclaimed, vehemently.

“Would I not?” she answered, with flashing eyes. “I dare do anything!
Beware how you put me to the test!”

He stood glaring at her with rage and malignity distorting his
aristocratic features. How dared that feeble, puny girl defy him thus?

For a moment he almost hated her. A sleeping devil was aroused within
his heart.

“Bonnibel,” he exclaimed, angrily, “you shall repent this hour in dust
and ashes!”

All the latent fire and scorn of the girl’s passionate nature were
fanned into flame by his threatening words.

“I care nothing for your threat,” she answered, haughtily. “I defy you
to do your worst! Such threats do honor to your manhood when addressed
to a weak and helpless girl! See how little I prize the gift of one who
could act in so unmanly a way.”

She stooped and caught up his ring where it had fallen on the sands
in all its shining beauty. She made a step forward towards the water,
her white hand flashed in the air a moment, and the costly jewel fell
shimmering into the sea.

They stood a moment looking at each other in silence–the girl
reckless, defiant, like a young lioness at bay; the man astonished,
indignant, yet still thrilled with a sort of inexpressible admiration
of her beauty and her daring. He saw in her that moment some of the
dauntless courage of her hero-father. The same proud, untamed spirit
flashed from her glorious eyes. It flashed across him suddenly and
humiliatingly that he had been a fool to try such high-handed measures
with General Vere’s daughter–he might have known that the same
unconquerable fire burned in her veins. He had seen Harry Vere go into
the battle with the same look on his face–the same flashing eye, the
same dilated nostril and disdainful lip.

He went up to her, thrilled with momentary compunction for his fault,
and took her hand in his.

“You were right, Bonnibel,” he said, humbly. “I acted like a coward and
a brute. I was driven mad by jealousy. Can you forgive me, darling?”

“I accept your apology, sir,” she answered, coldly; but there was
little graciousness and much pride in her manner. Her pride had been
outraged almost past forgiveness.




Colonel Carlyle keeps the peace for several days. He finds that he has
overstepped the mark and that it will take careful management to regain
his lost ground in his wife’s regard. Bonnibel, though she married him
without a spark of love, has yet given him a very frank and tender
regard and esteem until now. She has always thought him a perfect
gentleman, a model of courtesy and propriety, and as such she has given
him all that was left in her heart to give–the reverence and affection
of a dutiful daughter. Now, without a moment’s warning, her ideal has
fallen from the proud pedestal where she had placed it–its shattered
fragments bestrewed the ground, and _she_ knows, if he does not, that
the broken image can never be restored.

He has deceived her, she tells herself bitterly, but now that he has
won her, the mask of courtliness is laid aside, and he shows the iron
hand that was hidden beneath the velvet glove.

But a few short weeks had fled, and he begins to play the tyrant
already.

Her passionate, undisciplined nature rises up in hot rebellion against
his injustice. The foolish jealousy of his old age appears very
contemptible to her youthful eyes. She does not try to excuse it to
herself. A great revulsion of feeling comes over her, chilling the
gentle growth of tenderness and gratitude in her heart. Her manner
grows cold, reserved, almost offensively haughty.

Ere this first cloud on the matrimonial horizon clears away the grand
ball of the season comes off. The gay visitors at Long Branch dance
every night, but this is to be the most brilliant affair of any–a
“full dress affair” is what the ladies call it–meaning to say that
they wear their finest dresses and costliest jewels–the gentlemen
likewise.

The night is cloudless, balmy, beautiful–such nights as we have in
the last of July when the moon is full and Heaven martials its hosts
of stars in the illimitable canopy above. The spacious ball-room is
thronged with revelers. The dreamy, passionate strains of waltz-music
float out upon the air, filling it with melody.

Standing beside a window is Colonel Carlyle, in elegant evening dress,
looking very stately and distinguished despite his seventy years.
Leaning on his arm is Felise Herbert, looking radiant in rose-colored
satin and gauze, with a diamond fillet clasping her dark hair, and
diamonds shining like dew on her bare throat and rounded arms. Smiles
dimple her red lips as she watches the animated scene about her, and
her dark eyes shine like stars. Her companion thinks that he never saw
her half so handsome before as she hangs on his arm and chatters airy
nothings in his ears.

“Look at our little Bonnibel,” she says, in a tone of innocent
amusement; “is she not a demure little coquette? She looks like a
veritable snow-maiden, as cold and as pure, yet she has young Penn
inextricably prisoned in her toils, and everyone knows it–no one
better than herself.”

His glance follows hers across the room to where his young wife stands
a little outside the giddy circle of waltzers, leaning on the arm of
a handsome, dreamy-looking youth, and despite the jealous pang that
thrills him at Felise’s artful speech, his heart throbs with a great
love and pride at her exceeding beauty.

She looks like a snow-maiden, indeed, as her enemy says. She wears
costly white lace over her white silk, and her cheeks and brow, her
arms and shoulders are white as her dress. Colonel Carlyle’s wedding
gift, a magnificent set of diamonds, adorns her royally. There is not
a flower about her, nothing but silk and laces and costly gems, yet
withal, she makes you think of a lily, she looks so white, and cold,
and pure in the whirl of rainbow hues around her.

Her companion bends toward her, speaking earnestly, yet she listens
with such apparent indifference and almost ennui that if that be
coquetry at all it can surely be characterized by no other term than
that of Felise–“demure.”

“I thought that Penn’s loves were all ideal ones,” the colonel says,
trying to speak carelessly as he watches his wife’s companion closely.
“To judge from his latest volumes of poems, the divinities of his
worship are all too ethereal to tread this lower earth.”

Felise laughs significantly as her companion ceases to speak.

“Byron Penn, despite the ethereal creatures of his brain, is not proof
against mortal beauty,” she says. “Remember, Colonel Carlyle, that
angels once looked down from Heaven and loved the women of earth.”

“He is a graceful waltzer,” her companion returns, as the young poet
circles the waist of the snow-maiden with one arm and whirls her into
the mazes of the giddy, breathless waltz.

“Very,” says Felise, watching the graceful couple as they float around
the room, embodying the very poetry of motion.

She is silent a moment, then looks up into her companion’s face with a
slightly curious expression.

“Pardon my question,” she says, thoughtfully; “but do you quite approve
of _married_ women waltzing with other men than their husbands?”

He starts and looks at her sharply. The innocent deference and
unconsciousness of her voice and face are perfect.

“Since you ask me,” he says, slowly, “I may say that upon mature
consideration I might think it was not exactly _comme il faut_. Yet
I have really never before given a second thought to the subject. It
is quite customary, you know, and it seems even more excusable in my
wife than other women, since I never waltz myself, and she would be
compelled to forego that pleasure entirely unless she shared it with
others.”

“Oh, pray do not think that I have any reference to Bonnibel,”
exclaimed Felise, hurried and earnestly, “I was speaking altogether in
the abstract. Yet I fully agree with you that your wife would be more
excusable for many little errors of head and heart than most women. She
is scarcely more than a child, and has never had the proper training
to fit her for her present sphere. Her uncle was culpably indulgent
to her, and hated to force her inclination, which was very adverse to
study or application of any kind. Consequently our little Bonnibel,
though beautiful as a dream, is little more than an unformed child. She
should be in the school-room this minute.”

Every word is spoken with such a pretty air of excusing and defending
the young wife’s errors, and condemning her dead uncle as their cause,
that Colonel Carlyle is entirely deceived. He did not know that
Bonnibel was so neglected and unformed before, but he takes it on trust
since Felise is so confident of it, and the thought rankles bitterly in
his proud heart. But he passes over the subject in silence and returns
to the primal one.

“So you would not, as a rule, Miss Herbert, commend the practice of
married women waltzing with other men than their husbands?”

She drops her eyes with a pretty air of mingled confusion and
earnestness.

“Perhaps you will call me prudish,” she says, “or perhaps I may be
actuated by the more ignoble passion of jealousy; but I have always
felt that were I a man it would be insupportable shame and agony for
me to see my wife, whom I loved and revered as a being little lower
than an angel, whirled about a common ball-room in the arms of another,
while the gaping public nodded and winked.”

She saw a look of shame and pain cross his face as his eyes followed
the white figure floating round the room in the clasp of Byron Penn’s
arms.

“I suppose there are not many women who feel as strongly on that
subject as you do,” he says, slowly.

“Oh, dear, no, nor men either, or they would not permit their wives
such license,” is the quick reply.

The waltz-music ceases with a bewildering crash of melody, and some
one comes up and claims Felise for the next german. She floats away
airily as a rose-colored cloud on her partner’s arm, and leaves her
victim alone. He stands there quite silently a little, seeming lost in
troubled thought, then goes to seek his wife.

He finds her the center of an admiring circle, the young poet, Byron
Penn, conspicuous among them.

With a slight apology to his friends he offers his arm and leads her
away from the throng out to the long moonlighted piazzas.

“Shall I find you a seat or will you promenade?” he inquires politely.

“Oh! promenade, by all means,” she answers a little constrainedly.

They take a few turns up and down the long piazza, Mrs. Carlyle’s long
robe trailing after her with a silken “swish, swish;” she makes no
observation, does not even look at him.

Her large eyes wander away and linger upon the sea that is glorious
beyond description with the radiance of the full moon mirrored in its
deeps, and making a pathway of light across its restless waves.

She thinks vaguely that the golden streets of the celestial city must
look like that.

“I hope you are enjoying the ball?” her liege lord observes
interrogatively.

“As much as I ever enjoy anything,” she returns listlessly.

“Which means—-” he says, quickly, then checks himself abruptly.

She finishes his sentence with a dreary little sigh:

“That I do not enjoy anything very much!”

He looks down at her, wondering at the unusual pathos of her tone, and
sees a face to match the voice.

Moonlight they say brings out the true expression of the soul upon the
features.

If that be true then Bonnibel Carlyle bears a sad and weary soul within
her breast.

The white face looks very _spirituelle_ in the soft, mystical light,
and the delicate lips are set in a line of pain.

No man likes to see his wife unhappy. It is a reflection upon himself.
It is his first duty to secure her happiness. Colonel Carlyle is
nettled, and says, half querulously:

“I am sorry to see you _ennuyed_ where everything seems conspiring to
promote your happiness. Can I do nothing to further that end?”

Her large eyes look up at him a moment in grave surprise at his fretful
tone. Then she says to herself in apology for him:

“He is old, and I have heard that old people become irritated very
easily.”

“Pray do not trouble yourself over my thoughtless words, sir,” she
says, aloud. “I am tired–that is all. Perhaps I have danced too much.”

“It was of that subject I wished to speak with you when I brought you
out here,” he answers, abruptly. “Are you very fond of the waltz,
Bonnibel?”

“I like it quite well;” this after a moment’s study. “There is
something dreamy, intoxicating, almost delightful in the music and the
motion.”

A spasm of jealousy contracts his heart. He speaks quickly and with a
labored breath.

“I have never waltzed in my life, and cannot, of course, enter into the
feelings of those who have, but I can see what I am about to ask may be
a great sacrifice to you.”

She glances up inquiringly into his face, but he will not meet her eyes.

“Bonnibel, I want you to give up waltzing altogether–will you do it?”
he asks, bruskly.

“Give up waltzing?” she echoes, in surprise. “Is not that a very sudden
notion, Colonel Carlyle? I did not know you harbored any objections to
the Terpsichorean art.”

“I do not in the abstract,” he answers, evasively. “But you will pardon
me for saying that I consider it exceedingly indelicate and improper
for a married woman to dance with any man but her husband. That is why
I have asked you to give it up for my sake.”

“Do other people think the same way, sir?” she inquires timidly.

“All right-minded people do,” he answers firmly, quite ignoring the
fact that he is a perfectly new proselyte to his boldly announced
conviction of the heinousness of the waltz.

Silence falls between them for a little time. They have stopped walking
and stand leaning against the piazza rails. Quite unconsciously she
has pulled a flower from his elegant _boutonniere_, and is tearing it
to pieces between her white-gloved fingers. She looks up as the last
rose-leaf is shredded away between her restless fingers and asks,
quietly:

“Would it please you very much to have me give up waltzing, sir?”

“More than words can express, my darling; are you going to make me
happy by the promise?”

“I am quite willing to please you, sir, when it is possible for me to
do so,” she answers quite gently; “you have my promise.”

“Bonnibel, you are an angel!” exclaims the enraptured colonel. He draws
his arm around her an instant and bends to kiss her lips. “A thousand
thanks for your generous self-sacrifice!”

“You need not thank me, sir–it is not much of a sacrifice,” she
answers, dryly.

She has drawn out her programme of the dances for the evening and is
hurriedly consulting it.

“I find that I am engaged for one more waltz,” she says, carelessly. “I
suppose you do not object to my dancing that? It would be embarrassing
to excuse myself.”

“Your partner is–whom?” he inquires, with a slight frown.

Again she consults her programme.

“It is Mr. Penn.”

“Cannot you excuse yourself? Say you are tired? Your head aches? Women
know how to invent suitable excuses always–do they not?”

“I will do as you wish, sir,” she answers, in so low a voice that he
does not catch its faint inflection of scorn.

Other promenaders come out on the piazza, and one or two laughing
jests are thrown at him for keeping the “belle of the ball away from
her proper sphere.”

“Perhaps I _am_ selfish,” he says. “Let us return to the ball-room, my
love.”

“As you please,” she answers.

He leads her back and lingers by her side awhile, then it strikes him
that _les proprietes_ do not sanction a man’s monopolizing his wife’s
company in society. With a sigh he leaves her, and tries to make
himself agreeable to other fair women.

He has hardly left her before the band strikes up “The Beautiful Blue
Danube,” and Byron Penn starts up from some remote corner, from which
he has witnessed her return to the ball-room.

“This is our waltz, is it not?” he says, with a tremor of pleasure in
his voice.

A slight flush rises over Bonnibel’s cheek.

“I believe it is,” she answers; “but if you will not think me very
rude, Mr. Penn, I am going to ask you to excuse me from it. I am tired
and shall dance no more this evening.”

“You are very cruel,” says the poet, plaintively; “but if you wish to
atone for your injustice you will walk down to the shore with me and
look at the moonlight on the sea, and hear how delicious the music
sounds down there. You can form no conception of its sweetness when
mellowed by a little distance and blent with the solemn diapason of the
waves.”

“If you will go and tell my maid to bring me a shawl,” she answers,
indifferently, “I will go with you for a minute.”

He returns with a fleecy white wrap, and they stroll away from the
“dancers dancing in tune.”