Virgie often wondered what he could be thinking about, but she did not feel like questioning him, lest he should refer again to the painful topic of his leaving her.
One day, however, coming into the room suddenly, she saw her mother’s bible in his hands, and she was sure there were tears in his eyes. She appeared not to notice either his employment or his emotion, but soon stole softly away again, and went weeping up to her own room.
After that he busied himself with writing a great deal, and she felt sure that he was making arrangements for her of which he had spoken on that stormy evening. A great dread came over her at the thought of being left alone in the world; and yet, in spite of all, she looked forward to the return of Mr. Heath with more of pleasure and anticipation than she had known for many a year.
Thus more than a week went by, and one afternoon Virgie, her father being asleep and the house oppressively still, took her book and went out to a little nook back of her cottage, where she was in the habit of going to study, and where Chi Lu had built a rustic seat for her beneath a great pine tree that grew out of a cleft in the mountain.
But she could not concentrate her thoughts upon the page before her; they went roving after a coal black steed and its handsome rider, until finally her book dropped from her hands, her eyes fixed themselves dreamily upon the lofty, far-off peaks of the Humboldt Mountains, and she was lost to time and place—everything save her own delightful musings.
So absorbed was she that she was not aware of the approach of any one until a small but exquisitely arranged bouquet of mountain flowers were laid upon the seat beside her, and a rich but well remembered voice said:
“Pardon me, Miss Abbot, for intruding upon your solitude, but Chi Lu told me that Mr. Abbot was resting and could not be disturbed at present, and that I should find you here.”
Virginia sprang to her feet, the tint of the wild rose in her cheeks, her violet eyes grown black with repressed excitement.
“Mr. Heath?” she cried, her scarlet lips parting in a bewildering smile.
“Yes; forgive me for having startled you so,” he said, gently, then adding with a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. “You were surely in a very brown study.”
“I am afraid I was,” she returned, laughing. “But what lovely flowers!” she continued, taking them up and bending to inhale their fragrance. “How kind of you to gather them for me.”
The young man’s eyes lingered about her in a delighted gaze, for she made the fairest picture imaginable standing there in her soft gray dress with its collar and cuffs of black velvet, a knot of scarlet ribbon at her throat, the brilliant flowers in her hands, and a fleecy white shawl wrapped about her shoulders. Her shining hair was gathered into a satiny brown coil at the back of her head and pinned with a silver arrow, while a few naturally curling locks lay lightly on her forehead. The dark, moss-grown rock was behind her; the softly waving plumy boughs of the pine tree above her, a carpet of tender green beneath her feet.