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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Bars Of Iron - Part 1. The Gates Of Brass - Chapter 20. The Straight Truth
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The Bars Of Iron - Part 1. The Gates Of Brass - Chapter 20. The Straight Truth Post by :JPatrick Category :Long Stories Author :Ethel May Dell Date :May 2012 Read :1452

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The Bars Of Iron - Part 1. The Gates Of Brass - Chapter 20. The Straight Truth

PART I. THE GATES OF BRASS CHAPTER XX. THE STRAIGHT TRUTH

"Ah, my worthy physician, enter, enter!" was Mr. Lorimer's bland greeting. "What news of the patient?"

Tudor tramped up to the hearth, looking very square and resolute. "I've come from the schoolroom," he said, "where I went to take a look at Jeanie. But I found Gracie required more of my attention than she did. Are you absolutely mad, I wonder, to inflict corporal punishment upon a highly-strung child like that? Let me tell you this! You'll turn her into a senseless idiot if you persist! The child is nearly crazed with terror as it is. I've told them to put her to bed, and I'm going up to give her a soothing draught directly."

Mr. Lorimer rose with dignity. "You somewhat magnify your office, doctor," he said.

"No, I don't!" said Tudor rudely. "I do what I must. And I warn you that child is wrought up to a highly dangerous pitch of excitement. You don't want her to have brain-fever, I suppose?"

"Pooh!" said Mr. Lorimer.

Tudor stamped a furious foot, and let himself go. He had no scruples about losing his temper at that moment. He poured forth his indignation in a perfect tornado of righteous anger.

"That's all you have to say, is it? You--a man of God, so-called--killing your wife by inches and not caring a damn what suffering you cause! I tell you, she has been at death's door all day, thanks to your infernal behaviour. She may die yet, and you will be directly responsible. You've crushed her systematically, body and soul. As to the children, if you touch that little girl again--or any of 'em--I'll haul you before the Bench for cruelty. Do you hear that?"

Mr. Lorimer, who had been waving a protesting hand throughout this vigorous denunciation, here interposed a lofty: "Sir! You forget yourself!"

"Not I!" flung back Tudor. "I know very well what I'm about. I spoke to you once before about your wife, and you wouldn't listen. But--by Heaven--you shall listen this time, and hear the straight truth for once. Her life has been a perpetual martyrdom for years. You've tortured her through the children as cruelly as any victim was ever tortured on the rack. But it's got to stop now. I don't deal in empty threats. What I've said I shall stick to. You may be the Vicar of the parish, but you're under the same law as the poorest of 'em. And if anything more of this kind happens, you shall feel the law. And a pretty scandal it'll make."

He paused a moment, but Mr. Lorimer stood in frozen silence; and almost immediately he plunged on.

"Now as regards Mrs. Denys; I heard you give her notice just now. That must be taken back--if she will consent to stay. For Mrs. Lorimer literally can't do without her yet. Mrs. Lorimer will be an invalid for some time to come, if not for good and all. And who is going to take charge of the house if you kick out the only capable person it contains? Who is going to look after your precious comfort, not to mention that of your wife and children? I tell you Mrs. Denys is absolutely indispensable to you all for the present. If you part with her, you part with every shred of ease and domestic peace you have. And you will have to keep a properly qualified nurse to look after your wife. And it isn't every nurse that is a blessing in the home, I can assure you."

He stopped again; and finding Mr. Lorimer still somewhat dazed by this sudden attack, he turned and began to pace the room to give him time to recover.

There followed a prolonged silence. Then at last, with a deep sigh, the Vicar dropped down again in his chair.

"My good, doctor," he said, "I am convinced that your motives are good though your language be somewhat lacking in restraint. I am sorely perplexed; let me admit it! Mrs. Denys is, I believe, a thoroughly efficient housekeeper, but--" he paused impressively--"her presence is a disturbing element with which I would gladly dispense. She is continually inventing some pretext for presenting herself at the study-door. Moreover, she is extremely injudicious with the children, and I am bound to think of their spiritual welfare before their mere bodily needs."

He was evidently anxious to avoid an open rupture, so perhaps it was as well that he did not see the look on Tudor's face as he listened to this harangue.

"Why don't you pack them off to school?" said Tudor, sticking to the point with commendable resolution. "Peace in the house is absolutely essential to Mrs. Lorimer. All the elder ones would be better out of it--with the exception of Jeanie."

"And why with the exception of Jeanie, may I ask?" There was a touch of asperity in Mr. Lorimer's voice. He had been badly browbeaten, and--for some reason--he had had to submit. But he was in no docile mood thereafter.

Tudor heard the note of resentment in his tone, and came back to the hearth. "I have been awaiting a suitable opportunity to talk to you about Jeanie," he said.

"What next? What next?" said Mr. Lorimer fretfully.

Tudor proceeded to tell him, his tone deliberately unsympathetic. "She needs most careful treatment, most vigilant watching. There is a weakness of the lungs which might develop at any time. Mrs. Denys understands her and can take care of her. But she is in no state to be entrusted to strangers."

"Why was this not mentioned to me before?" said Mr. Lorimer querulously. "Though the head of the house, I am always the last to be told of anything of importance. I suppose you are sure of what you say?"

"Quite sure," said Tudor, "though I should be absolutely willing for you to have another opinion at any time. As to not telling you, I have always found it difficult to get you to listen, and, as a rule, I have no time to waste on persuasion." He looked at the clock. "I ought to be going now. You will consider what I have said about sending the other children away to school? You'll find it's the only thing to do."

Mr. Lorimer sighed again with deep melancholy.

Tudor squared his shoulders aggressively. "And with your permission I'll tell Mrs. Denys that you have reconsidered the matter and hope she will remain for a time at least, if she can see her way to do so."

He paused very definitely for a reply to this. Mr. Lorimer's mouth was drawn down at the corners, but he looked into the fire with the aloofness of a mind not occupied with mundane things.

Tudor faced him and waited with grim resolution; but several seconds passed ere his attitude seemed to become apparent to the abstracted Vicar. Then with extreme deliberation his eyelids were raised.

"Excuse me, doctor! My thoughts were for the moment elsewhere. Yes, you have my permission to tell her that. And--I agree with you. It seems advisable to remove the elder children from her influence without delay. I shall therefore take steps to do so."

Tudor nodded with a shrug of the shoulders. It did not matter to him in what garb his advice was dressed, so long as it was followed.

"Very well," he said. "I am now going to settle Gracie, and I shall tell her you have issued a free pardon all round, and no more will be said to anyone. I was told one of the boys was in hot water too, but you can let him off for once. You're much more likely to make him ashamed of himself that way."

Mr. Lorimer resumed his contemplation of the fire without speaking.

Tudor turned to go. He was fairly satisfied that he had established peace for the time being, and he was not ill-pleased with his success.

He told himself as he departed that he had discovered how to deal with the Reverend Stephen. It had never occurred to him to attempt such treatment before.

To Avery later he gave but few details of the interview, but she could not fail to see his grim elation and smiled at it.

"I am to stay then, am I?" she said.

"If you will graciously consent to do so," said Tudor, with his brief smile.

"I couldn't do anything else," she said.

"I'm glad of that," he said abruptly, "for my own sake."

And with that very suddenly he turned the subject.

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