James still lay on his tossed, uncomfortable bed in the evening twilight. The long, lonely hours, when he imagined Louis to have taken him at his word and gone home, had given him a miserable sense of desertion, and as increasing sensations of illness took from him the hopes of moving on that day, he became distracted at the thought of the anxiety his silence would cause Isabel, and, after vainly attempting to write, had been lying with the door open, watching for some approaching step.
There was the familiar sound of a soft, gliding step on the stairs, then a pause, and the sweet soft voice, ’My poor James, how sadly uncomfortable you are!’
‘My dear!’ he cried, hastily raising himself, ’who has been frightening you?’
‘No one, Fitzjocelyn was so kind as to come for me.’
‘Ah! I wished you to have been spared this unpleasant business.’
’Do you think I could bear to stay away! Oh, James! have I been too useless and helpless for you even to be glad to see me?’
‘It was for your own sake,’ he murmured, pressing her hand. ’Has Fitzjocelyn told you?’
‘Yes,’ said Isabel, looking up, as she sat beside him. ’Never mind, James. It is better to suffer wrong than to do it. I do not fear but that, if we strive to do our duty, God will help us, and make it turn out for the best for our children and ourselves.’
He grasped her hand in intense emotion.
‘I know you are anxious about me,’ added Isabel. ’My ways have been too self-indulgent for you to think I can bear hardness. I made too many professions at first; I will make no more now, but only tell you that I trust to do my utmost, and not shrink from my duties. And now, not a word more about it till you are better.’
SWEET USES OF ADVERSITY.
One furnace many times the good and
bad will hold;
But what consumes the chaff will only cleanse the gold.
R. C. TRENCH.
During the succeeding days, James had little will or power to consider his affairs; and Isabel, while attending on him, had time to think over her plans. Happily, they had not a debt. Mrs. Frost had so entirely impressed her grandson’s mind with her own invariable rule of paying her way, that it had been one of his grounds for pride that he had never owed anything to any man.
They were thus free to choose their own course, but Lord Ormersfield urged their remaining at Northwold for the present. He saw Mr. Calcott, who had been exceedingly concerned at the turn affairs had taken, and very far from wishing to depose James, though thinking that he needed an exhortation to take heed to his ways. It had been an improper reprimand, improperly received; but the Earl and the Squire agreed that nothing but morbid fancy could conjure up disgrace, such as need prevent James Frost from remaining in his own house until he could obtain employment, provided he and his wife had the resolution to contract their style of living under the eye of their neighbours.