"The End of the World"
– Sequel of sorts for my drabble "One-Shot", written for the Tumblr event MM Tribute Day.
"Now George," Mary said commanding her son while she sat gracefully in her saddled horse.
"This is how you hold the horse's reins." She had to smile at her little boy as he concentrated. He did not look exactly at ease on a horse, but soon enough he would overcome this apprehension. After all, she had often taken him riding with her, but now they were not sharing a horse. George was his own master and Lynch looked on with approval before giving a small nod towards Mary as he retreated back into the stables.
"Look darling," she continued. "Hold one rein in each hand. Each of your reins should then sit between your little finger and your ring finger," Mary made sure to demonstrate slowly before speaking again. "This way the reins lay across your palm so that they come out of your hand over your index finger. You need to learn this position to maintain control over your horse."
George stared at the reins before fumbling with the leather in his small hands. He looked at his Mama again, because she did everything with such poise. And Mama trusted him to be on his own horse, she was not only more fun than Lynch, she was a better teacher too.
"I can't do it," George grumbled impatiently with a pleading look at his mother.
Ever his father's son she thought ruefully. George always expected to master things quickly, and if he did not, he berated himself.
"George," Mary said calmly. "Remember that you can neither be too heavy handed with the reins nor grip them too loosely as both are ineffective to guide the horse." She demonstrated again slowly showing him how she had positioned her hands.
"How's this Mama?" George asked with excitement as he held up his hands placed within the reins.
"Superb," Mary said with approval. "Just remember to be careful and follow my lead."
George nodded solemnly as he smiled at his mother.
"Are you ready?" Mary said with a broad smile. "We will try a slow canter around the stables."
It was the most glorious of spring days. The sunshine was warm, and it seemed to beckoning them to frolic. Mary was grateful to be sharing some time alone with her oldest child, proud that he was on horseback beside her. He had certainly graduated from the rocking horse in the nursery, and it made her quite nostalgic as she stared at him.
"Yes, Mama," George returned enthusiastically.
They started off with a very slow pace, and George watched his Mama. He looked back and forth between his Mama and how he was holding his reigns in deep concentration. His horse trotted with confidence, and it made him feel reassured. George smiled at his Mama, and she laughed at their camaraderie. He was having such a grand time that he didn't hesitate to remove one of his hands in order to itch his nose. However, it didn't help and soon he sneezed, his other hand releasing his reins. It all happened so fast that George did not feel the fall from his horse. He did not hear his Mama's alarmed exclamation. But, he did scratch his itch.
And so after his tumble from his horse, he had a concussion. Because he was clumsy he had a multitude of bruises. George was supposed to stay in bed. The first day had been alright as everyone came to see him. They brought him treats, and the day went by very quickly. However, two days later as he mended, he was bored of looking out of the nursery window. The bruises on his legs were turning ugly colors, and he couldn't help but touch them with disgust, even though it made him wince. It was not fair that he still had to stay in bed.
As he stared forlornly out the window, he could see nanny with his sister Felicity and baby brother Ernest. They were both walking the grounds, in the beautiful sunshine. It made George feel suddenly very sad as Ernest was walking, and he was missing this moment. He knew this should make him happy as the baby struggled with taking each step. But, instead it only further upset him. His baby brother could do something he could not. For he was going to have to stay in bed forever, Dr. Clarkson had said the swelling in his right knee was cause for concern and Grandma Isobel agreed it was wise to be cautious and prescribe bed rest.
George bit his lip and crossed his arms over his chest. Nanny and his sister and brother waved, but he turned his head. He was so confused. As their big brother, he should be out there with them. He should be their leader; he should help them. It wasn't fair. George leaned back in his bed and thumped his head against the frame. However, given his recent concussion this proved to be an awful idea. It made his dull headache return with a vengeance. George knew this must be the end of the world for he was blubbing all of a sudden.
"Little chap," he heard his father call him, breaking through his sniffling. He opened his eyes and with only a few steps, his father reached him. Papa was always this fast.
"Papa," he squeaked out rubbing at his eyes angrily.
George felt his father sit on his bed. He stroked his cheek gently and wiped away his tears. George couldn't help himself; he had to tell his father his worst fear.
"Papa," he gasped, "I'll never get out of bed. It's the end of the world."
Matthew didn't laugh at his son's over-reaction. His face was sincere as he soothingly pulled him into his arms.
"There now, little chap," he said quietly. "I know how you feel."
Matthew didn't know who was more upset his wife or his son. But, he was in the middle of the situation and was glad to offer what comfort and support he could to both of them. George leaned into the embrace, burying his face in the soft material of his father's suit.
"Papa, I want to go outside!" George cried. "I'll never get better."
"Now George," Matthew said calmly, "Never is a very long time, and I know for certain that you will be better in no time, likity split."
He stroked his son's back in soothing circles, as he looked away from his son to the object; he had brought into the nursery. Matthew knew now, more than ever his son needed to see the cane, and now more about its history. George sniffled, and he kissed the top of his sandy blond hair. He maybe a precocious six-year-old, but he had such a gentle heart.
"But," George whispered as his breath caught in his throat. He clutched his father leaning even more against him.
"Yes," Matthew encouraged, "You can tell me."
"I had one-shot riding with Mama, and I ruined it."
Matthew pried his son out of his arms, tipping his chin to look into his eyes.
"Mama is not mad at you, little chap, far from it. Furthermore, One-Shot himself would think you were quite brave the way you embraced your first riding lesson."
George bit his quivering lip. Matthew could see he was still not convinced.
"Do you promise?" He asked timidly.
"I promise little chap," Matthew said faithfully. "Now," he said as he reached for the cane propped alongside the bed. "Do you know what this is?"
George nodded. He looked into his father's prompting gaze and answered without a tremor in his voice, confident regarding this question.
"It's your walking stick," George said quietly.
"Yes indeed," Matthew said ruefully. "I have to use it after every cricket match when the house tries to win against the village."
"You and Grandpa and Uncle Tom always win," George said proudly, "And someday I will get to play on the team too."
"Yes soon I can retire," Matthew said with a grin. "And then you and your brother will be vital to the future success."
"Mama always says you look great with the stick, more so than grandpa."
"Well," Matthew chuckled, "Your mother is very kind to me. The truth is I just need it more than Grandpa does."
"No," George said sternly, "You don't need it. You're fit as a fiddle."
"True," Matthew said with reassurance. "I'm fine now. But, I want you to understand something little chap. In a month or two, you won't even remember you had to spend this time in bed."
George sighed dramatically, his little head shaking in disbelief.
So, Matthew tried a different tactic. It made him shiver as he placed his hand over the handle of the cane.
"Do you remember when grandpa erected the war memorial in the village?"
George nodded although he was not confident about the memory it would seem.
"Well," Matthew said he cleared his throat; even now he didn't like to think, let alone speak about the war; especially to his children. But, George needed this story.
"During the war," Matthew began, "When I as a soldier, long before I was married to Mama, I was hurt very badly. So, I know what you are feeling."
"You do?" George asked as he put his hand on top of his father's that was still holding the cane.
"Yes," Matthew replied. "I do little chap. Because I had to stay in bed, and doctors told me, I would never walk again."
Matthew was about to continue when he had to pause at the sight of George's mouth gaping wide open. His inquisitive expression gave way to a tender question that he almost whispered it was spoken so quietly.
"Papa," George said, "When you were hurt, did you think about One-Shot?" George asked earnestly. "Because I thought about you."
It was a lesson having children that they are more perceptive than they are often given credit for, and they can voice the most astonishing statements. Matthew stared at his oldest child relishing the sympathy that was being offered, for George had seemingly forgotten his earlier complaints. Furthermore, he had told George and his siblings countless stories about his father the late Dr. Crawley, who had the keen nickname, One-Shot. And yet Matthew was stunned the way George had put it all together. He leaned forward and kissed the crown of his son's blond hair.
"Yes," Matthew said as he cleared his throat from the sudden convulsion of such a sentiment. "I never wanted my papa more than at that time. Although I was sad, your grandma Isobel, and your mother helped me."
"And you got better," George said with a small smile.
"Just like you will my little chap," Matthew said as he tapped his nose playfully, "You will get better. Don't fret."
"Can I keep your cane?" George asked.
The question surprised Matthew. He had meant the cane only to be a prop for his story. Of course, it would be too big for his six-year-old son, but then again there was more than one way it could offer support.
"Yes," Matthew said. "We can share the cane from now on."
Matthew removed his hand from the cane, and George followed his example. He had the cane up briefly before Matthew pulled back the covers and laid it next to his son in bed. George touched the polished handle and sighed.
"Papa," George said sincerely.
"Yes?" Matthew asked intrigued at what his little boy would ask next.
"I'm not sure I like riding horses," George said changing the subject. "But, I'll do it again for Mama."
"Did you know that One-Shot never rode a horse in his life?" Matthew said fondly as he tucked the covers up over his son, hiding the cane under the blanket. "Perhaps you just take after him that's all."
"All?" George said defiantly. "That is everything to be like you and Grandpa."
"Now that's my boy," Matthew said proudly. He stroked his cheek with the back of his hand before pointing outside the nursery window. George turned his head and saw his Mama had joined Nanny and his younger siblings. He waved at them contently and sure enough not only did they wave back, they started to walk towards him. Felicity was holding Ernest's hand, and they stumbled moving forward faster than their little legs could carry them, and so they tumbled over. But, with Mama's help they resumed their walk with determination.
"See," Matthew said to George jovially, "Nothing can stop a Crawley."
George turned towards his father with a grin. He could now see that staying in bed, was not the end of the world.
Thanks for reading! Have a very Happy M&M Tribute Day!