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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Bars Of Iron - Part 1. The Gates Of Brass - Chapter 4. The Mother's Help
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The Bars Of Iron - Part 1. The Gates Of Brass - Chapter 4. The Mother's Help Post by :koalo Category :Long Stories Author :Ethel May Dell Date :May 2012 Read :1755

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The Bars Of Iron - Part 1. The Gates Of Brass - Chapter 4. The Mother's Help


"It's always the same," moaned Mrs. Lorimer. "My poor children! They're never out of trouble." Avery stood still. She had fled to the drawing-room to recover herself, only to find the lady of the house lying in tears upon the sofa there. Mrs. Lorimer was very small and pathetic. She had lost all her health long before in the bearing and nurturing of her children. Once upon a time she must have possessed the delicate prettiness that characterized her eldest daughter Jeanie, but it had faded long since. She was worn out now, a tired, drab little woman, with no strength left to stand against adversity. The only consolation in her life was her love for her husband. Him she worshipped, not wholly blindly, but with a devotion that never faltered. A kind word from him was capable of exalting her to a state of rapture that was only out-matched by the despair engendered by his displeasure. There was so much of sorrow mingled with her love for her children that they could scarcely have been regarded as a joy. In fact Avery often thought to herself how much happier she would have been without them.

"Do sit down, Mrs. Denys!" she begged nervously, as Avery remained motionless in the middle of the room. "Stay with me for a little, won't you? I can never bear to be alone when any of the children are being punished. I sometimes think Pat is the worst of all. He is so highly strung, and he loses his head. And Stephen doesn't quite understand him, and he is so terribly severe when they rebel. And did you know that Ronald and Julian had been smoking again on the way back from school? They look so dreadfully ill, both of them. I know their father will find out."

Mrs. Lorimer's whispered words went into soft weeping. She hid her face in the cushion.

A curious little spasm went through Avery, and for a few mad seconds she wanted to burst into heartless laughter. She conquered the impulse with a desperate effort though it left her feeling slightly hysterical.

She moved across to the forlorn little woman and stooped over her.

"Don't cry, dear Mrs. Lorimer!" she urged. "It doesn't do any good. Perhaps Ronald and Julian are better by now. Shall we go upstairs and see?"

The principle was a wrong one and she knew it, but for the life of her she could not have resisted the temptation at that moment. She had an unholy desire to get the better of the Reverend Stephen which would not be denied.

Mrs. Lorimer checked her tears. "You're very kind," she murmured shakily.

She dried her eyes and sat up. "Do you think it would be wrong to give them a spoonful of brandy?" she asked wistfully.

But Avery's principles were proof against this at least. "Yes, I do," she said. "But we can manage quite well without it. Let us go, shall we, and see what can be done?"

"I'm afraid I'm very wicked," sighed Mrs. Lorimer. "I'm very thankful to have you with us, dear. I don't know what I should do without you."

Avery's pretty mouth took an unfamiliar curve of grimness for a moment, but she banished it at once. She slipped a sustaining hand through Mrs. Lorimer's arm.

"Thank you for saying so, though, you know, I've only been with you a fortnight, and I don't feel that I have done very much to deserve such high praise."

"I don't think time has much to do with friendship," said Mrs. Lorimer, looking at her with genuine affection in her faded blue eyes. "Do you know I became engaged to my husband before I had known him a fortnight?"

But this was a subject upon which Avery found it difficult to express any sympathy, and she gently changed it. "You are looking very tired. Don't you think you could lie down for a little in your bedroom before supper?"

"I must see the poor boys first," protested Mrs. Lorimer.

"Yes, of course. We will go straight up, shall we?"

She led her to the door with the words, and they went out together into the hall. As they emerged, a sudden burst of stormy crying came from the study. Pat was literally howling at the top of his voice.

His mother stopped and wrung her hands. "Oh, what is to be done? He always cries like that. He used to as a baby--the only one of them who did. Mrs. Denys, what shall I do? I don't think I can bear it."

Avery drew her on towards the stairs. "My dear, come away!" she said practically. "You can't do anything. Interference will only make matters worse. Let us go right up to the boys' room! Pat is sure to come up directly."

They went to the boys' room. It was a large attic in which the three elder boys slept. Ronald and Julian, aged fifteen and fourteen respectively, were both lying prostrate on their beds.

Julian uttered a forced laugh at the sight of his mother's face. "My dear Mater, for Heaven's sake don't come fussing round here! We've been smoking some filthy cigars--little beastly Brown dared us to--and there's been the devil to pay. I can't get up. My tummy won't let me."

"Oh, Julian, why do you do it?" said Mrs. Lorimer, in great distress. "You know what your father said the last time."

She bent over him. Julian was her favourite of them all. But he turned his face sharply to avoid her kiss.

"Don't, Mater! I don't feel up to it. I can't jaw either. I believe those dashed cigars were poisoned. Hullo, Ronald, are you quieting down yet?"

"Shut up!" growled Ronald.

His brother laughed again sardonically. "Stick to it, my hearty! There's a swishing in store for us. The mater always gives the show away."

"Julian!" It was Avery's voice; she spoke with quick decision. "You've got exactly an hour--you and Ronald--to pull yourselves together. Don't lie here any longer! Get up and go out! Go for a hard walk! No, of course you don't feel like it. But it will do you good. You want to get that horrible stuff out of your lungs. Quick! Go now--while you can!"

"But I can't!" declared Julian.

"Yes, you can,--you must! You too, Ronald! Where are your coats? Pop them on and make a dash for it! You'll come back better. Perhaps you will get out of the swishing after all."

Julian turned his head and looked at her by the light of the flaring, unshaded gas-jet. "By Jove!" he said. "You're rather a brick, Mrs. Denys."

"Don't stop to talk!" she commanded. "Just get up and do as I say. Go down the back stairs, mind! I'll let you in again in time to get ready for supper."

Julian turned to his brother. "What do you say to it, Ron?"

"Can't be done," groaned Ronald.

"Oh yes, it can." Sheer determination sounded in Avery's response. "Get up, both of you! If it makes you ill, it can't be helped. You will neither of you get any better lying here. Come, Ronald!" She went to him briskly. "Get up! I'll help you. There! That's the way. Splendid! Now keep it up! don't let yourself go again! You will feel quite different when you get out into the open air."

By words and actions she urged them, Mrs. Lorimer standing pathetically by, till finally, fired by her energy, the two miscreants actually managed to make their escape without mishap.

She ran downstairs to see them go, returning in time to receive the wailing Pat who had been sent to bed in a state verging on hysterics. Neither she nor his mother could calm him for some time, and when at length he was somewhat comforted one of the younger boys fell down in an adjacent room and began to cry lustily.

Avery went to the rescue, earnestly entreating Mrs. Lorimer to go down to her room and rest. She was able to soothe the sufferer and leave him to the care of the nurse, and she then followed Mrs. Lorimer whom she found bathing her eyes and trying not to cry.

So piteous a spectacle was she that Avery found further formality an absolute impossibility. She put her arm round the little woman and begged her not to fret.

"No, I know it's wrong," whispered Mrs. Lorimer, yielding like a child to the kindly support. "But I can't help it sometimes. You see, I'm not very strong--just now." She hesitated and glanced at Avery with a guilty air. "I--I haven't told him yet," she said in a lower whisper still. "Of course I shall have to soon; but--I'm afraid you will think me very deceitful--I like to choose a favourable time, when the children are not worrying him quite so much. I don't want to--to vex him more than I need."

"My dear!" Avery said compassionately. And she added as she had added to the daughter half an hour before, "Poor little thing!"

Mrs. Lorimer gave a feeble laugh, lifting her face. "You are a sweet girl, Avery. I may call you that? I do hope the work won't be too much for you. You mustn't let me lean on you too hard."

"You shall lean just as hard as you like," Avery said, and, bending, kissed the tired face. "I am here to be a help to you, you know. Yes, do call me Avery! I'm quite alone in the world, and it makes it feel like home. Now you really must lie down till supper. And you are not to worry about anything. I am sure the boys will come back much better. There! Is that comfortable?"

"Quite, dear, thank you. You mustn't think about me any more. Good-bye! Thank you for all your goodness to me!" Mrs. Lorimer clung to her hand for a moment. "I was always prejudiced against mothers' helps before," she said ingenuously. "But I find you an immense comfort--an immense comfort. You will try and stay, won't you, if you possibly can?"

"Yes," Avery promised. "I will certainly stay--if it rests with me."

Her lips were very firmly closed as she went out of the room and her grey eyes extremely bright. It had been a strenuous half-hour.

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