“You say needless. Why do you not confide in me, and tell me if the object you have in view to accomplish in the few days delay is a dangerous one at all.”
“Will you forgive me, Flora, if for once I keep a secret from you?”
“Then, Charles, along with the forgiveness I must conjure up a host of apprehensions.”
“Nay, why so?”
“You would tell me if there were no circumstances that you feared would fill me with alarm.”
“Now, Flora, your fears and not your judgment condemn me. Surely you cannot think me so utterly heedless as to court danger for danger’s sake.”
“No, not so—”
“And yet you have a sense of what you call honour, which, I fear, would lead you into much risk.”
“I have a sense of honour; but not that foolish one which hangs far more upon the opinions of others than my own. If I thought a course of honour lay before me, and all the world, in a mistaken judgment, were to condemn it as wrong, I would follow it.”
“You are right, Charles; you are right. Let me pray of you to be careful, and, at all events, to interpose no more delay to our leaving this house than you shall feel convinced is absolutely necessary for some object of real and permanent importance.”
Charles promised Flora Bannerworth that for her sake, as well as his own, he would be most specially careful of his safety; and then in such endearing conversation as may be well supposed to be dictated by such hearts as theirs another happy hour was passed away.
They pictured to themselves the scene where first they met, and with a world of interest hanging on every word they uttered, they told each other of the first delightful dawnings of that affection which had sprung up between them, and which they fondly believed neither time nor circumstance would have the power to change or subvert.
In the meantime the old admiral was surprised that Charles was so patient, and had not been to him to demand the result of his deliberation.
But he knew not on what rapid pinions time flies, when in the presence of those whom we love. What was an actual hour, was but a fleeting minute to Charles Holland, as he sat with Flora’s hand clasped in his, and looking at her sweet face.
At length a clock striking reminded him of his engagement with his uncle, and he reluctantly rose.
“Dear Flora,” he said, “I am going to sit up to watch to-night, so be under no sort of apprehension.”
“I will feel doubly safe,” she said.
“I have now something to talk to my uncle about, and must leave you.”
Flora smiled, and held out her hand to him. He pressed it to his heart. He knew not what impulse came over him then, but for the first time he kissed the cheek of the beautiful girl.
With a heightened colour she gently repulsed him. He took a long lingering look at her as he passed out of the room, and when the door was closed between them, the sensation he experienced was as if some sudden cloud had swept across the face of the sun, dimming to a vast extent its precious lustre.