By Mrs. Georgie Sheldon
Author of “Nora,” “Trixy,”
“Earle Wayne’s Nobility,”
“A True Aristocrat,” Etc.
Copyright, 1887, 1888, 1891
By Street & Smith
Virgie and the Benighted Traveler.
“Virgie, I shall have to give up the race.”
“My strength is failing rapidly. It was all that I could do to creep home to-night. My trembling limbs, my labored breathing, and this dreadful cough, all warn me that I must set my house in order, and make provision for your future.”
It was an apparently old man who spoke thus, and yet the years of his life numbered but a little over fifty.
His hair was silvery white; his face was colorless and haggard, his eyes dim and sunken, and his form was much attenuated and bowed by the disease which was fast consuming him.
He was sitting by a blazing fire, in an ordinary easy-chair over which a heavy coverlid had been thrown to make it more comfortable; but he shivered, and hovered over the blaze, as if he were chilled to the very marrow, while the hands which he held extended to catch the warmth were livid, and trembling from weakness.
The room was small, but cozy and home-like. A cheap, coarse carpet, though of a bright and tasteful pattern, lay upon the floor. An oval table, covered with a daintily embroidered cloth, stood in the center. There was a pretty lamp, with a bright Japanese shade upon it. There were also a few books in choice bindings, and a dainty work-basket filled with implements for sewing. A few pictures—some done with pen and ink, others in crayon, but all showing great talent and nicety of execution—hung, in simple frames, upon the walls. The two windows of the apartment were screened by pretty curtains of spotless muslin over heavier hangings of crimson, while a lounge and two or three chairs completed the furnishing of the room.
Beside the table, in a low rocker, several paces from the invalid by the fire, yet where she could catch every expression of his pale, sad face, there sat a young girl, with a piece of fancy work in her hands, upon which she had been busily engaged before her father spoke.
She was perhaps twenty years of age, with a straight, perfect form, and a face that would have better graced a a palace than the humble mountain home where she now abode. It was a pure, oval, with delicate, beautiful brows; soft, round cheeks, in which a lovely pink came and went with every emotion. Her eyes were of a deep violet color, shaded by dark silken lashes, though their expression was saddened somewhat just now by a look of care and anxiety. Her white forehead was surmounted by rich chestnut-brown hair, which was gathered into a graceful knot at the back of her finely shaped head. A straight, patrician nose; a small, but rather resolute mouth, and a rounded chin, in which there was a bewitching dimple; small, lady-like hands and feet, completed the tout ensemble of Virginia Abbot, the daughter and only child of a whilom honored and wealthy bank president of San Francisco.