At length he was aroused from his reverie by the sound of the voice he knew and loved so well; and, sitting suddenly erect and speaking with resolution, he said:
“I am her father. I have a right to know. He shall tell me who he is, and why he is here.”
“Will You Give Me Your Daughter?”
“Papa,” said Virgie, putting a flushed, beautiful face inside the room where her father was sitting, and all unconscious of the very serious considerations that were agitating his mind: “I have invited Mr. Heath to take tea with us. A basket of the loveliest peaches came to us this afternoon from some mysterious source, which, however, I am inclined to think, he could tell us something about if he chose. So, if you entertain him for a little while, I will go and prepare a dish of them for him to share with us.”
“Yes, yes. Come in, Mr. Heath. I was waiting to see you. Run away, Virgie, and attend to your peaches, and I will see that our friend is properly entertained until tea is ready,” the invalid responded, with unusual animation.
Virgie tripped lightly up to her chamber, where she removed her hat, and stopped a moment before her glass to rearrange the locks that lay lightly upon her forehead, and blushed a conscious rosy red as she looked into her eyes and read the strangely happy expression that lay in their clear depths. Then she tied a long white apron around her slim waist, and went down to pare her peaches, never suspecting the vital questions that were being discussed in the little parlor so near her.
“Mr. Heath,” Mr. Abbot began, as the young man had seated himself, “I was thinking of you just as you entered, and had resolved to ask you a couple of very plain, and to me, important questions.”
“Which, no doubt, I shall be very glad to answer if I can do so,” his companion responded, smiling, yet flushing lightly as he began to suspect what the nature of the invalid’s inquiries might be.
“Thank you,” responded Mr. Abbot, courteously, and then added, gravely: “I do not need to remind you, I am sure, that as a father I am often anxious regarding my daughter’s future, and for this reason I feel compelled to ask you that which, under other circumstances I should not feel at liberty to ask. Will you tell me who you are?”
“My name, Mr. Abbot, is—William Heath,” the young man began, looking thoughtful; then seemed to hesitate to go on.
“Is that all that you have to tell me about yourself?” the invalid inquired, with some dignity, and attentively studying the face opposite him. “I knew that before,” he went on, a suspicion of sarcasm in his tone, “but I have long felt that there was something of mystery connected with the circumstances of your being here. It is rather extraordinary that a young man of your talent and culture should desire to locate in a rough place like this. It has been evident to me for some time that your mining operations were of secondary importance to you, for you cannot reap much if any profit. It must take nearly all you realize to pay the two men you hire to work your claim, while you lead, comparatively, a life of leisure. My second question was regarding this—why are you here?”