Tears welled up into the eyes of the invalid as he listened to the words of this true, earnest lover.
“God bless you for a noble, royal hearted man!” he exclaimed, reaching forward and clasping the young baronet’s hand. “Yes, I can say God bless you now—for you have taught me to believe there is an Infinite Father and I can reverently invoke His benediction upon you. Of course I will give you Virgie and feel that she is richly blessed in having won such a husband and thus I can die with not a care upon my heart.”
“You have given me the richest boon that it is in my power to crave,” returned Sir William, his face kindling with happiness. “But you need not speak of dying. A sea voyage would prolong your life. Come with me at once to England and to Heathdale where you shall have every comfort and attention, and the change will do you good.”
A sad smile flitted over Mr. Abbot’s wan features.
“It is too late,” he said, sorrowfully. “I shall not live through another month; but my mind is at ease and it will be a restful season—the little time that I am spared. No, I shall never leave this place, but I have a request to make of you.”
“Tell me, and it shall be granted if it is in the power of man,” returned Sir William, eagerly.
“I should like, if you can win Virgie’s consent, to see her your wife before I die. It will be better for you both; then, after I am gone, you can take her away as soon as you choose, and perhaps among new scenes and with new ties she will not grieve so bitterly for me.”
Sir William Heath’s heart leaped with joy at this proposition, though there was an expression of sadness on his handsome face as he looked upon the wreck before him, and realized how truly he had spoken. He knew that he had very little time to live.
“If I can win her, nothing would make me happier than to accede to your wish,” he said, in a low, earnest tone.
At this time, a light step was heard in the hall, and the next moment the door was opened, while a sweet young voice called:
“Come, papa and Mr. Heath—tea is ready; the peaches are delicious, and Chi Lu has obtained, from some mysterious source, real cream to eat with them.”
“Will You Be My Wife?”
In spite of the exciting conversation of the last half-hour Mr. Abbot appeared more than usually cheerful during tea. He was indeed more like the brilliant, entertaining host that he used to be in their former beautiful home in San Francisco, than Virgie had seen him since their troubles had come upon them.
At the same, time the young girl wondered what could have occurred to make their guest so silent and preoccupied. It was evidently an effort for him to converse at all, while two or three times he was addressed more than once before he responded, but his glance whenever it met hers thrilled her strangely, and kept a beautiful flush upon her cheeks throughout the meal.