The missionary, who since the early spring had been laboring up and down the rivers St. John and Miramichi, now concluded to return to his family for the coming winter. Such had been his intention and his promise to Mrs. Norton, when he left home. He was induced to go at this particular time partly by the hope of rendering some service to Mr. Lansdowne during his journey, and partly in order to see Mrs. Lansdowne and impart to her the particulars of her brother’s residence and illness at Miramichi. A scheme of mercy on the part of the good man.
On the return of Mr. Dubois to his house, he found a package of letters, which, in the confusion and anxiety of the previous day, had remained unopened. There was one from the Count de Rossillon, announcing the death of the Countess. He wrote as if deeply depressed in mind, speaking of the infirmities of age weighing heavily upon him, and of his loneliness, and imploring Mr. Dubois to come, make his abode at the chateau and take charge of the estate, which, at his death, he added, would pass into the possession of Mrs. Dubois and Adele.
Mrs. Dubois’s heart beat with delight and her eyes swam with tears of pleasure, at the prospect of once more returning to her beloved Picardy. Yet her joy was severely chastened by the loss of the Countess, whom she had fondly loved.
Adele felt a satisfaction in the anticipation of being restored to the dignities of Rossillon, which she was too proud to manifest.
Mr. Dubois alone hesitated in entertaining the idea of a return. His innate love of independence, together with a remembrance of the early antipathy the Count had shown to the marriage with his niece, made the thought repellant to him. A calmer consideration, however, changed his view of the case. He recollected that the Count had at last consented to his union with Mrs. Dubois, and reflected that the infirmities and loneliness of the Count laid on them obligations they should not neglect. He found, also, that his own love of home and country, now that it could at last with propriety be gratified, welled up and overflowed like a newly sprung fountain.
The tornado had spent itself, the fire had rushed on to the ocean, the atmosphere had became comparatively clear and the weather cool and bracing.
On the evening before the departure of Mr. Norton and Mr. Lansdowne, the family met, as on many previous occasions, in the Madonna room. In itself, the apartment was as cheerful and attractive as ever, but each one present felt a sense of vacancy, a shrinking of the heart. The sunny changeful glow of one bright face was no longer there, and the shadows of approaching separation cast a gloom over the scene.
These people, so strangely thrown together in this wild, obscure region of Miramichi, drawn hither by such differing objects of pursuit, bound by such various ties in life, occupying such divergent positions in the social scale, had grown by contact and sympathy into a warm friendship toward each other. Their daily intercourse was now to be broken up, the moment of adieu drew nigh, and the prospect of future meeting was, to say the least, precarious. Was it strange that some sharp pangs of regret filled their hearts?