He had come out to seek them, and had approached just as Sir William uttered those last words.
“Lady Heath!” exclaimed Virgie, starting up and turning a very astonished face first upon one and then the other. “What do you mean? I do not understand.”
“Haven’t you told her?” Mr. Abbot asked of the young man.
Sir William shook his head, with a smile.
“Told me what, papa?”
“That our friend here is Sir William Heath, of Heathdale, and an English baronet.”
Virgie stood in wondering silence for a moment, her face flushed and drooping, while a hundred thoughts flashed through her mind.
Her lover a titled peer of England! This noble man, who might have chosen his wife from the nobility of his own country, had concealed his identity, had buried himself in the wilds of Nevada, and lived like a common miner simply to win her, an humble mountain maiden. He who belonged to an honored race, and possessed both title and wealth, had overlooked the fact that a heavy cloud enshrouded her own and her father’s name, and was willing to lift her to the proud position of his wife and the mistress of his beautiful home. These and many other thoughts held her speechless, and made her tremble with something of fear that in the future he might regret it all, and wish that he had never seen her.
“I am afraid I am not fitted—” she at length faltered.
“In point of education, Virgie, you are fitted for the proudest position that could be offered you,” her father returned, with some spirit. “All that you need is a trifle more worldly polish, which you will readily gain as Sir William takes you into society, and I am proud to give you to him. God bless you both, my children.”
His voice broke.
He would have been glad to go with her to the scenes of her new life, to watch her develop in a higher atmosphere and see her happiness in her proud position. But he knew it could not be; and overcome, for the moment, with the thought of the separation which must soon come, he turned abruptly away and went feebly back to the cottage.
Mr. Abbot Desires an Immediate Marriage.
Whether it was owing to the excitement of the previous evening, or to a feeling of relief from care and anxiety upon Virgie’s account which made Mr. Abbot feel that at last he might safely lay down his burdens, it would be impossible to say, but he was alarmingly ill the morning after the betrothal, and unable to rise from his bed.
His strength seemed to have left him, and he lay weak as a child, panting with every breath, a deadly faintness and sinking sensation frequently seizing him and making him feel as if the world was rapidly slipping from his grasp.
Virgie was in an agony of fear.
She had never seen her father so ill before, and it seemed to her that he must die if he did not soon have relief.