Forgive me

It is barely midnight and the mirth and merriment are at their hight
down-stairs. Bonnibel hears the sound of

“The violin, flute and bassoon,
And the dancers dancing in tune.”

through all her interview with Colonel Carlyle, but when it is ended
she does not return to the ball-room. She leaves him with a cold
good-night, and retires to her own room.

Lucy, her maid, starts up drowsily from her easy-chair as she enters.

“You here, Lucy?” she says. “I told you not to stay up for me. You
should not break your rest staying up night after night like this.”

“Lor’, Miss Bonnibel, I have had as comfortable a snooze in your
arm-chair as if I had been tucked into my bed,” Lucy answers
good-naturedly. “Don’t you go for to worry over me staying up. I kin
stand it if you kin.”

Her mistress stands in the center of the room, her eyes shining, her
white hands tearing at the diamond necklace about her throat.

“Take it off, Lucy,” she cries out impatiently. “It hurts me, it chokes
me!”

Lucy hastens to obey, but starts back as she sees the wild, white face
of the hapless girl.

“Oh, me!” she exclaims, “you look like a ghost, you are that white. Are
you sick, Miss Bonnibel? Let me get you something to take–some wine,
or something?”

“No, no, I wish nothing,” she answers, impatiently. “Only undress me,
Lucy, and help me to bed. I am very tired–that is all.”

She sits quite still while Lucy removes the jewels that shine about
her, the white satin slippers, the elegant dress, and brings the snowy
night-dress instead. Then as the maid kneels down and buttons the
delicate robe, Bonnibel, glancing down, sees her eyes full of tears and
her full lip quivering.

“Lucy,” she says, in surprise, “what is it? What has grieved you?”

Lucy starts as if frightened at being detected.

“Forgive me, ma’am,” she says; “it’s for you I grieve. You are that
changed that I can’t bear it! Here I have been your maid since you was
a little girl of twelve, and how happy you used to be before the master
died–now for goin’ on a year I’ve never seen a real smile on your
face. Something troubles you all the time. Can’t I help you? Can’t I do
something for you?”

The humble, patient fidelity of the girl touches Bonnibel to the heart,
it is so seldom that an honest, heartfelt word of kindness falls on
her ears. Impulsively she bends and puts her lily white hand into the
strong clasp of the girl sitting humbly at her feet, looking up at her
with tear-filled eyes.

“Lucy, my poor girl,” she says, plaintively, “I believe you are the
only true friend I have on earth!”

“Then can’t I help you, Miss Bonnibel?” cried Lucy, feeling that the
words of her young mistress are too true for her to dispute them.
“Something troubles you–can’t I help you to be happier?”

A sigh–hopeless, passionate, profound–drifts across the lips of the
listener.

“No no, my poor, kind girl,” she answers; “no one can help me–I must
bear my own cross–no one can carry it for me! Only stay with me, Lucy,
and love me always–I have so few to love me–and I shall feel better
when I can see that your kind heart sympathizes with me.”

“I’ll never leave you, my dear mistress,” sobs the girl; “I’ll never
forget to love every hair of your innocent head.”

She kisses the little hand Bonnibel has given her reverently and
tenderly, as if it were some precious thing.

“Lucy, I am going to test your fidelity,” says the girl, drearily. “I
am going away to Europe next week. Will you go with me?”

Lucy stares open-mouthed.

“To Yurrup, Miss Bonnibel! Away off to them furrin parts?”

“Yes, Lucy, away off there. Does your courage fail you?” her mistress
inquires, with a slight, sad smile.

“No, no, ma’am. I don’t like furrin people much; but I’ll go to the
ends of the earth with you!” is the resolute reply.




“Your devotion shall not be taxed that far, Lucy. We will go to France.”

“That heathen land,” exclaims Lucy, “where the monseers eats frogs and
snakes?”

Bonnibel cannot repress a smile at the girl’s quick gesture of disgust.

“You will like the French people better, I hope, when you stay among
them two years, for I shall probably stay in Paris that long. I am
going to school there, Lucy. You know that I have never been to
school in my life, and my governesses were not strict enough with me.
There are many things I do not know yet, that one moving in society I
frequent should know. So I am going to learn something yet. It is never
too late to mend, you know.”

Lucy looks up, her eyes growing round with surprise.

“Lor’, Miss Bonnibel, I never heard of a married woman going to school
in my life.”

“Perhaps you never heard of a married woman so untutored as I am,” her
young mistress returns, somewhat bitterly; “anyway, I am determined to
go to school and learn something. But I cannot do without a maid, and I
will take you, if you will go.”

“That I certainly will, Miss Bonnibel,” said Lucy, emphatically.

“Very well, Colonel Carlyle and I will start to New York to-morrow to
make preparations for our trip. See that the trunks are all packed,
Lucy.”

“I will, ma’am. They shall be ready, never fear.”

She rises and looks wistfully at the little white figure in the chair,
resting its dimpled chin in the curve of one pink palm, the golden head
bent wearily.

“Sha’n’t I get you something? Indeed, you look ill,” she implores.

“Nothing, Lucy. Good-night.”

“Good-night, ma’am,” Lucy responds, going away rather reluctantly.

Bonnibel makes no move to retire when Lucy has gone. The little white
bed awaits her, tempting to repose by its daintiness and coolness, but
she does not look toward it; only sits still as Lucy left her, with her
face bowed on her hand.

Colonel Carlyle has gone back to the ball-room again, trying to steel
his heart against the upbraidings of his conscience. He moves among the
revelers pale and _distrait_, yet still trying to bear his part in the
gaieties lest people should whisper that he is unhappy, and fearful
that some one may read the secret of his jealousy and cruelty to his
beautiful darling.

Curious glances follow him, whispers breathe the story that he fain
would conceal, every eye notes Bonnibel’s absence.

They shrug their shoulders and tell each other in confidence that
Colonel Carlyle is a perfect Bluebeard, and has banished his wife from
the festal scene because he is jealous of Byron Penn.

And the music and the dancing go on until daylight warns the gay ones
to flee from that too true light that reveals their weariness and
haggardness so plainly.

But the ball is long since over for Bonnibel. Lucy finds her as she
left her, curled up in the great arm-chair, sleeping like a grieved
child, with the trace of tears on her cheek.