“Charles, Charles, I did love you. I do love you now.”
“Then let sorrow and misfortune shake their grisly locks in vain,” he cried. “Heart to heart—hand to hand with me, defy them.”
He lifted up his arms towards Heaven as he spoke, and at the moment came such a rattling peal of thunder, that the very earth seemed to shake upon its axis.
A half scream of terror burst from the lips of Flora, as she cried,—
“What was that?”
“Only thunder,” said Charles, calmly.
“’Twas an awful sound.”
“A natural one.”
“But at such a moment, when you were defying Fate to injure us. Oh! Charles, is it ominous?”
“Flora, can you really give way to such idle fancies?”
“The sun is obscured.”
“Ay, but it will shine all the brighter for its temporary eclipse. The thunder-storm will clear the air of many noxious vapours; the forked lightning has its uses as well as its powers of mischief. Hark! there again!”
Another peal, of almost equal intensity to the other, shook the firmament. Flora trembled.
“Charles,” she said, “this is the voice of Heaven. We must part—we must part for ever. I cannot be yours.”
“Flora, this is madness. Think again, dear Flora. Misfortunes for a time will hover over the best and most fortunate of us; but, like the clouds that now obscure the sweet sunshine, will pass away, and leave no trace behind them. The sunshine of joy will shine on you again.”
There was a small break in the clouds, like a window looking into Heaven. From it streamed one beam of sunlight, so bright, so dazzling, and so beautiful, that it was a sight of wonder to look upon. It fell upon the face of Flora; it warmed her cheek; it lent lustre to her pale lips and tearful eyes; it illumined that little summer-house as if it had been the shrine of some saint.
“Behold!” cried Charles, “where is your omen now?”
“God of Heaven!’” cried Flora; and she stretched out her arms.
“The clouds that hover over your spirit now,” said Charles, “shall pass away. Accept this beam of sunlight as a promise from God.”
“I will—I will. It is going.”
“It has done its office.”
The clouds closed over the small orifice, and all was gloom again as before.
“Flora,” said Charles, “you will not ask me now to leave you?”
She allowed him to clasp her to his heart. It was beating for her, and for her only.
“You will let me, Flora, love you still?”
Her voice, as she answered him, was like the murmur of some distant melody the ears can scarcely translate to the heart.
“Charles we will live, love, and die together.”
And now there was a wrapt stillness in that summer-house for many minutes—a trance of joy. They did not speak, but now and then she would look into his face with an old familiar smile, and the joy of his heart was near to bursting in tears from his eyes.