Thus weeks and months went by.
For a time the warm, genial summer weather seemed to hold Mr. Abbot’s disease somewhat in check, and, as he was cheerful, and enjoyed the novelty of having two young and charming people about him, there was a little season during which that small household was very happy.
He studied the young stranger attentively, and was more and more prepossessed in his favor. They conversed frequently upon topics which Mr. Abbot had long been in the habit of scoffing at, but there was an element of reverence in Mr. Heath’s nature that commanded his respect in spite of preconceived ideas and a tendency to skepticism. His arguments were always reasonable and convincing. He could not fail to feel this influence; and it was not long before Virgie could see that a great change had taken place in her father’s feelings regarding his relations to an overruling power and the future, which hitherto had seemed so vague and uncertain.
Yet, notwithstanding all this, he often experienced a feeling of uneasiness.
He could not fail to perceive that Virgie was learning to care a great deal for their new friend, and that Mr. Heath was deeply interested in his daughter.
This was all well enough if Mr. Heath was what he appeared to be, and his intentions were honorable.
But he could never quite divest himself of the feeling that there was something rather mysterious in his desire to remain in that remote region, and it would be terrible if any harm should result from it to his one ewe lamb.
He had always guarded her so tenderly and carefully no breath of evil, scarce a sorrow, save their one great sorrow, had ever touched her. Once or twice the thought had come to him, prompted, no doubt, by the circumstances which had driven him to that place, that the man might have become entangled in some wrong or crime, and was hiding, like himself, from the world and justice; and yet it was difficult to fancy that he was not all that was honorable and upright, for his life and conduct from day to day were beyond reproach.
“If they love each other, and he is all he seems, I could give her to him, and feel more content than I ever thought to be,” he said to himself, while brooding upon the subject one afternoon while Virgie and her lover were out on a ramble. “She would be far better off under the care and protection of a kind husband, than she would be to send her to New York. Her future would be settled, and there would be no fear on account of the snares and temptations of society in the gay city.
“Still I really know nothing about him. He says nothing about himself, his home, or his family. If it should turn out that he has a suspicion that she will have money, and he is seeking her for that, it would be a fearful blow. I could not bear that her young life should be ruined.”
He sat in troubled thought for a long time, considering the subject from every point, sometimes reproaching himself for not having foreseen the danger of allowing the two young people to come together, and refused to sell his claim to Mr. Heath; then again feeling a sense of shame for his unworthy suspicions of one who bore the stamp of true nobility upon his very face.