You defy my authority?

The morning after the rejection of Colonel Carlyle, Bonnibel Vere sat
alone in a pleasant little morning-room that was thrown out from the
main residence as a wing. It was daintily furnished in blue plush and
walnut, and had double glass doors that looked out upon a lovely little
garden that in this pleasant May season was glowing with bloom and
fragrance.

Bonnibel had been trying to read, but in the perturbed state of her
mind she could not fix her attention upon the book. It had fallen from
her lap upon the floor, and as she sat in the luxurious arm-chair she
leaned forward with her little chin buried in one pink palm and her
blue eyes gazing into vacancy, as if lost in thought.

She looked very fair and sweet sitting there in a cool, white
morning-dress, trimmed in lace and dotted about with several bows of
black ribbon. Her beautiful hair, which was growing long and thick
again, fell upon her shoulders in loose curls, like glints of sunshine.

She had broken a spray of white hyacinth and pinned it on her bosom,
and she looked as pure and sweet as the flower itself.

“I am very sorry,” she was thinking to herself, “that I was so
unfortunate as to win Colonel Carlyle’s affection. I certainly never
dreamed of such a thing, and a year ago I should have laughed in the
face of any old man who dared propose to me, and have told him I did
not wish to marry my grandfather. Heigh-ho! I have grown graver now,
and do not turn everything into a jest as I did then. Still, I wish
it had not happened. I liked him simply as my father’s friend, and I
thought he liked me just as papa’s daughter.”

She sighed heavily.

“I think I understand some things now that have puzzled me all the
winter,” she mused. “He was Felise’s lover when I first came, and I
have unconsciously rivaled her. She hates me for it, and Aunt Arnold
hates me, too. Ah! if they knew all that I knew they need not be
afraid. Felise is welcome to him, and I will try to induce him to
return to her. I never thought that Colonel Carlyle could have acted so
basely toward her, as it seems he has—-”

Mrs. Arnold’s sudden entrance into the room interrupted her
meditations. She looked so angry and overbearing that Bonnibel rose and
was about leaving the room when she was recalled abruptly.

“Stay, Bonnibel; I wish to speak with you. Resume your seat, if you
please.”

Flushing with resentment at the insolent authority of the tone,
Bonnibel turned and faced the lady with a gleam of pride shining in her
blue eyes.

“Pardon me,” she answered, coldly. “I will hear what you have to say
standing.”

“As you please,” said Mrs. Arnold, with a sneer. “Perhaps your strength
may not stand the ordeal, however.”

Bonnibel stared at her in silent surprise.

“You have refused an offer of marriage from Colonel Carlyle,” said Mrs.
Arnold in a tone of deep displeasure.

Bonnibel’s fair cheeks deepened their color ever so slightly.

“Yes, madam, I have,” she answered after a moment’s thought. “But I am
ignorant of the means by which you became cognizant of the fact.”

“It does not matter,” Mrs. Arnold replied, flushing to a dark red under
the clear pure eyes bent upon her. “Perhaps he told me himself. One
would think that even so elderly a lover would consult a young lady’s
guardian and protector before addressing her! But no matter how I came
by my information, you admit its truth.”

“Certainly, madam,” Bonnibel answered quietly, but wondering within
herself what all this fencing meant. She was growing slightly nervous.
The fair hands trembled slightly as they hung lightly clasped before
her, and the white and red rose triumphed alternately in her cheek.

Mrs. Arnold stood resting her folded arms on the back of a chair,
regarding the lovely young creature as if she had been a culprit before
the bar of justice.

“May I ask what were your reasons for declining the honor Colonel
Carlyle offered you?” she inquired in measured tones.

Bonnibel was half-tempted to deny Mrs. Arnold’s right to ask such
a question. With an effort she fought down the quick impulse,
and answered in a voice as gentle as the other’s was rude and
self-assertive:

“I did not love him, Aunt Arnold!”

“Love! Love!” sneered the widow contemptuously. “What had _love_ to do
with the matter? You, a poor, penniless, dependent creature, to prate
of love when such a man as Colonel Carlyle lays his millions at your
feet! You should have jumped at the chance and thanked him for his
condescension!”

The listener regarded her with horror and amazement. Her delicate lips
quivered with feeling, and her eyes were misty with unshed tears.

“Surely, Aunt Arnold,” she said, questioningly, “you would not have had
me accept Colonel Carlyle simply for his gold?”

“Yes, I would, though,” answered Mrs. Arnold roughly, “and what is
more, I intend that you _shall_ accept him, Bonnibel Vere! Girl, you
must have been mad to dream of refusing such a splendid offer. When
Colonel Carlyle returns for his final answer you will tell him that
your first refusal was only a girlish freak of coquetry, to try his
love, and that you accept his offer gratefully.”

Bonnibel’s cheeks turned as white as her dress, a mist rose before her
eyes, shutting out the sight of her aunt’s angry face.

She staggered and put out her hand to steady herself by a chair. Mrs.
Arnold regarded her with an air of cold insolence.

“I thought you would find it rather beyond your strength to stand
before our conversation was over,” she remarked, with slight sarcasm.

Bonnibel did not seem to hear the last shaft of malice. She answered
the preceding words in a voice that she strove to render steady and
controlled.

“I cannot recognize your right to dictate to me in a matter that
concerns myself alone, madam.”

Mrs. Arnold listened to the proud, calm tones in furious wrath.

“You defy my authority? You refuse to obey me?” she broke out angrily.




“Your violence leaves me no other alternative, Aunt Arnold,” said the
young girl, trying hard to speak calmly. “I do not wish to marry yet,
and the man whom you wish me to accept as a husband, could never be the
choice of my heart. I cannot understand why you should wish to force me
into a marriage so unsuitable.”

The graceful, womanly dignity of the young girl’s words and manner made
no impression on the coarse woman’s nature. She only saw before her the
girl she had hated ever since her innocent babyhood, the girl whose
peerless beauty had come between Felise and her brilliant prospects.
She broke out in a passionate resentment:

“Because I want to be rid of you, girl! You have been a tumbling-block
in my path your whole life, and I hate the very sight of your
baby-face! But I took pity on you and cared for you when poverty came
upon you. In return for my kindness you stole my daughter’s lover! Now
you shall marry him and get out of her way. It is the only reparation
you can make her. Do you think I will allow you to refuse Colonel
Carlyle, and remain here to cheat her out of the next eligible chance
that offers? Never!”

It was hard work for the listener to be so fiercely assailed by
this woman and not break out into the angry remonstrances that were
swelling in her heart. But Bonnibel had learned the difficult art
of self-control lately. She reflected to herself that it was but
natural that Mrs. Arnold should feel sore over the disappointment and
humiliation of her clever, handsome daughter.

“I am very sorry to hear that you hate me so much,” she said, a little
sadly. “I have had no one to love me since Uncle Francis died, and I
hoped I might win a little place in his wife’s heart. But you wrong me,
indeed, in charging me with stealing Felise’s lover. I never dreamed
of winning him away from her; I was deceived by his interest in me,
thinking it was simply because he had been a friend and comrade of my
dear papa. I might have known better, you say. Perhaps I might, but I
was blinded by private troubles of my own, and scarcely heeded what
went on around me. I am very sorry I have been the innocent cause of
pain to Felise.”

“Spare her the additional mortification of your sympathy,” was the
ironical answer. “I think she can bear the old dotard’s desertion.
She does not desire your regrets, and I believe I have named the only
reparation possible for you.”

“And that?” said the girl, slowly.

“Is to marry Colonel Carlyle and get out of her way,” was the harsh
reply.

“I cannot do that,” said Bonnibel, hurriedly. “It is impossible for me
to marry Colonel Carlyle–there are many reasons why I should not. As
to the other, I will—-”

She was about to add, “I will go away from here,” but a sickening
thought flashed across her. _Where_ could she go?

She had no relative to fly to in her trouble. She did not know how to
work and take care of herself. She had never learned anything useful,
and her education had been mostly limited to those showy, superficial
accomplishments in vogue in the fashionable world. She had five hundred
fashionable friends, but not one to whom she could turn for comfort in
this her dark hour.

“You say you cannot marry Colonel Carlyle,” said Mrs. Arnold, breaking
in on her troubled silence. “Listen to the only alternative that is
left you. I give you until he returns for his answer to decide in. If
you do not then accept him you shall no longer have the shelter of my
roof. Yes, in the very hour that you refuse Carlyle’s millions, I will
turn you out homeless into the streets!”

Into the streets! How the words grated on the girl’s horrified hearing.
She had seen them take up a dead girl from the street once, a girl as
young and fair almost as herself.

They said she had poisoned herself because she had no home. They took
her away to the Morgue, but Bonnibel had never forgotten that fair,
still face as it lay cold in death.

She recalled it now with a shiver. Some one had turned the poor girl
into the streets to die. Would that be her fate?

A deadly weakness stole over her. She dropped into a chair like one
shot, and Mrs. Arnold as she stood near her could hear the loud, wild
beating of her heart. Her little white hands trembled, and her cheeks
and lips turned white as marble.

“Aunt Arnold,” she said, looking up at the cruel, relentless woman,
“you would not do that, surely? I should have nowhere to go, and I
am so terribly afraid of the night and the darkness in the dreadful
streets of the city!”

“No matter,” sneered the listener. “You can go to one of the finest
houses in the city if you like, and have every luxury that wealth can
command–but if you refuse that, out you go from under the shelter of
this roof!”

There was the sound of some one singing in the flower-garden outside.

It was Felise. She came in with one handful of roses, while the other
held a newspaper which she was studying with a thoughtful brow.

“Bonnibel,” she said, abruptly, “do you recollect that young artist,
Leslie Dane, who used to visit at Sea View last summer?”

A wave of color drifted into the girl’s white cheek. She looked up
quickly into the thoughtful face of Felise.

“Yes,” she answered, “what of him, Felise?”

“Did he not go to Rome to study painting?” inquired the artful girl.

“That was his intention, I believe,” said Bonnibel, wondering what was
coming now.

“I thought so. There can be no mistake, then–poor fellow! Look here,
Bonnibel.”

She put the paper she carried into the young girl’s hand, and touched
her taper finger to a marked paragraph.

Bonnibel’s eyes followed the jeweled finger and read the few lines with
staring gaze, mutely conscious of the overpowering scent of the roses
that Felise carried in her hand.

Ever afterward Bonnibel associated roses with the thought of death.

“Died on the 10th of April, at Rome, Italy, of malarial fever, Leslie
Dane, in the 24th year of his age. Mr. Dane was an artist and a native
of the United States of America. _Requiescat in pace._”

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