Mr. Lansdowne had been plodding among musty law books and threading legal intricacies, with occasional interruptions, caused by fits of impatience and disgust at the detail and tedium of study, until he had at length fought his way through and placed himself in the front rank of his profession. His brilliant achievement in the famous Jenkins case, in the outset of his career, had at once won for him a position at the bar which most young men have to toil years to obtain. His family was wealthy and influential. It was not strange that with these advantages, united to the possession of remarkable personal beauty, he should be the centre of a numerous group of friends and admirers. He was the object of pride among the older barristers and gentlemen of the bench, the cynosure of the young men, and the one among a thousand whom elegant mammas and smiling maidens wooed with their selectest influences.
Yet one great element of earthly happiness was wanting to his life. He could not forget the enchantment of those days spent in the far-off wilds of Miramichi. He turned continually to those scenes, as the most prominent of his existence. There he had stepped from boyhood into manhood. There he had seen life in new and before untried forms. He had there witnessed a wonderful display of God’s power through the terrible agency of the all-devouring flame, and there, for the first time, he had confronted death and sorrow. There, he had loved once and as he believed, forever. He recalled Adele, as she first appeared before him,—an unexpected vision of beauty, in all her careless grace and sweet, confiding frankness; in her moments of stately pride, when she chilled him from her side and kept him afar off; and in her moments of affectionate kindness, and generous enthusiasm. In short, in all her changeful moods she was daily flitting before him and he confessed to himself, that he had never met a being so rich in nature and varied in powers, so noble in impulse and purpose, so peerlessly beautiful in person.
Thus he lived on from day to day, remembering and yearning and dreaming,—the ocean yawning between him and his love. Concealed in the depths of his soul, there was, however, a hope fondly cherished, and a purpose half formed.
A few weeks after the reception of Mr. Norton’s letter, the Count de Rossillon died. Sitting, as usual, in his great purple-cushioned arm-chair, taking his afternoon nap, he expired so gently that Mrs. Dubois, who was reading by the window, did not know, or even suspect, when the parting between spirit and body occurred. Kindly, genial, and peaceful had been his last years, and his life went out calmly as the light of day goes out amid the mellow tints of a pleasant autumn sunset.
When Mrs. Dubois went to arouse him from what seemed an unusually long slumber, she found a volume of Fenelon spread open upon his knee, and turning it, her eye ran over passages full of lofty and devout aspiration. These, probably expressed the latest thoughts and desires of the good chevalier, for as she looked from the pages to his face, turned upward toward the ceiling, a smile of assent and satisfaction was still lingering there, although his breath had departed and his pulse was still.