There was one person, as you will believe, who watched with keener though
more hidden interest than any other, the prosperous growth of Eppie under the
weaver's care. He dared not do anything that would imply a stronger interest in a
poor man's adopted child than could be expected from the kindliness of the
young Squire, when a chance meeting suggested a little present to a simple old
fellow whom others noticed with goodwill; but he told himself that the time would
come when he might do something towards furthering the welfare of his daughter
without incurring suspicion. Was he very uneasy in the meantime at his inability
to give his daughter her birthright? I cannot say that he was. The child was being
taken care of, and would very likely be happy, as people in humble stations often
were-- happier, perhaps, than those brought up in luxury.
That famous ring that pricked its owner when he forgot duty and followed desire--
I wonder if it pricked very hard when he set out on the chase, or whether it
pricked but lightly then, and only pierced to the quick when the chase had long
been ended, and hope, folding her wings, looked backward and became regret?
Godfrey Cass's cheek and eye were brighter than ever now. He was so
undivided in his aims, that he seemed like a man of firmness. No Dunsey had
come back: people had made up their minds that he was gone for a soldier, or
gone "out of the country", and no one cared to be specific in their inquiries on a
subject delicate to a respectable family. Godfrey had ceased to see the shadow
of Dunsey across his path; and the path now lay straight forward to the
accomplishment of his best, longest-cherished wishes. Everybody said Mr.
Godfrey had taken the right turn; and it was pretty clear what would be the end of
things, for there were not many days in the week that he was not seen riding to
the Warrens. Godfrey himself, when he was asked jocosely if the day had been
fixed, smiled with the pleasant consciousness of a lover who could say "yes", if
he liked. He felt a reformed man, delivered from temptation; and the vision of his
future life seemed to him as a promised land for which he had no cause to fight.
He saw himself with all his happiness centred on his own hearth, while Nancy
would smile on him as he played with the children.
And that other child--not on the hearth--he would not forget it; he would see that it
was well provided for. That was a father's duty.