The stranger stepped, dripping, into the hall, a tall, straight figure, booted and spurred, and enveloped in waterproof jacket, trousers, and havelock.
“Thanks,” he said, “you are very kind; but allow me to introduce myself; my name is Heath—William Heath, at your service.”
“Then, Mr. Heath, come to my fireside and dry and warm yourself; my name is Abbot and this is my daughter,” replied Mr. Abbot, leading the way into the cheerful parlor whither Virgie had retired when her father opened the door to the benighted wayfarer.
Mr. Heath bowed with all the polish that could have been expected of him had he been in a royal drawing-room instead of a rude cottage in a ruder mining district of the mountains of Nevada, while his dark eyes flashed with a look of admiration over the perfect figure and into the lovely face of his host’s daughter.
He removed his hat and havelock, revealing a grand head covered with waving brown hair, and a handsome face all aglow with intelligence. His eyes were a dark, wine-brown, his glance as keen and straight as an eagle’s, his manner and bearing betraying that he was accustomed to mingle with people of culture and refinement.
The Stranger Welcomed.
Virginia Abbot simply inclined her regal head in returning the stranger’s greeting; then taking up her work again, she sat down by the table, with her back toward the fire and the newcomer. She had not failed to notice his look of surprised admiration when introduced to her, and it had affected her strangely.
Five years previous Mr. Abbot and his young daughter had come to that wild region entire strangers—the former, a man of gentlemanly bearing, somewhat past his prime; the latter a wondrously beautiful girl of fifteen, just budding into womanhood, and with a dignity of mien and refinement of speech which, together with her beauty, caused the uncouth inhabitants of the place to regard her with something of awe, and as if they thought she belonged to an entirely different sphere from them.
Mr. Abbot owned a claim in the gold and silver region there, which he asserted that he was going to work himself, much to the surprise of the rough miners, for he was a frail looking man.
He built a small but very convenient house, containing five rooms, which, with the few elegancies he had brought with him, for his child’s sake, and which proclaimed that the strangers had been accustomed to the luxuries of life heretofore, became the pride and wonder of the settlement.
The house was painted inside and out; there were carpets upon the floors, draperies at the windows, vases and ornaments on the mantels, pictures on the walls. But though all the furnishings were of the simplest and cheapest, yet, to the rude and unaccustomed people about them, their home seemed a veritable palace.
Another mystery and evidence of superiority was the grave and self-contained Chinaman who came with them, and was installed as cook and servant in general in the small kitchen, and who waited upon the young lady of the house with so much respect and deference.