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?”