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Making Allowances For Mamma
by [?]

At the head of her own breakfast table,–a breakfast table charmingly littered with dark-blue china and shining glass, and made springlike by a great bowl of daisies,–Mary Venable sat alone, trying to read her letters through a bitter blur of tears. She was not interested in her letters, but something must be done, she thought desperately, to check this irresistible impulse to put her head down on the table and cry like a child, and uninteresting letters, if she could only force her eyes to follow the lines of them, and her brain to follow the meaning, would be as steadying to the nerves as anything else.

Cry she would NOT; for every reason. Lizzie, coming in to carry away the plates, would see her, for one thing. It would give her a blazing headache, for another. It would not help her in the least to solve the problem ahead of her, for a third and best. She must think it out clearly and reasonably, and–and–Mary’s lip began to quiver again, she would have to do it all alone. Mamma was the last person in the world who could help her, and George wouldn’t.

For of course the trouble was Mamma again, and George–

Mary wiped her eyes resolutely, finished a glass of water, drew a deep great breath. Then she rang for Lizzie, and carried her letters to the shaded, cool little study back of the large drawing-room. Fortified by the effort this required, she sank comfortably into a deep chair, and began to plan sensibly and collectedly. Firstly, she reread Mamma’s letter.

Mary had seen this letter among others at her plate, only an hour ago. A deep sigh, reminiscent of the recently suppressed storm, caught her unawares as she remembered how happy she and George had been over their breakfast until Mamma’s letter was opened. Mary had not wanted to open it, suggesting carelessly that it might wait until later; she could tell George if there was anything in it. But George had wanted to hear it read immediately, and of course there had been something in it. There usually was something unexpected in Mamma’s letters. In this one she broke the news to her daughter and son-in-law that she hated Milwaukee, she didn’t like Cousin Will’s house, children, or self, she had borrowed her ticket money from Cousin Will, and she was coming home on Tuesday.

Mary had gotten only this far when George, prefacing his remarks with a forcible and heartfelt “damn,” had said some very sharp and very inconsiderate things of Mamma. He had said–But no, Mary wouldn’t go over that. She would NOT cry again.

The question was, what to do with Mamma now. They had thought her so nicely settled with Cousin Will and his motherless boys, had packed her off to Milwaukee only a fortnight ago with such a generous check to cover incidental expenses, had felt that now, for a year or two at least, she was anchored. And in so many ways it seemed a special blessing, this particular summer, to have Mamma out of the way,–comfortable and happy, but out of the way. For Mary had packed her three babies and their nurse down to the cottage at Beach Meadow for the summer, and she and George had determined–with only brief weekend intervals to break it–to try staying in the New York house all summer.

Ordinarily Mary, too, would have been at Beach Meadow with the children, seeing George only in the rare intervals when he could run up from town, two or three times a season perhaps, and really rather more glad than otherwise to have Mamma with her. But this promised to be a trying and overworked summer for him, and Mary herself was tired from a winter of close attention to her nursery, and to them both the plan seemed a most tempting chance for jolly little dinners together, Sunday and evening trips in the motor, roof-garden shows and suppers. They had had too little of each other’s undivided society in the three crowded years that had witnessed the arrival of the twins and baby Mary, there had been infantile illnesses, Mary’s own health had been poor, Mamma had been with them, nurses had been with them, doctors had been constantly coming and going, nothing had been normal. Both Mary and George had thought and spoken a hundred times of that one first, happy year of their marriage, and they wanted to bring back some of its old free charm now. So the children, with Miss Fox, who was a “treasure” of a trained nurse, and Myra, whose Irish devotion was maternal in its intensity, were sent away to the seaside, and they were living on the beach all day, and sleeping in the warm sea air all night, and hardier and browner and happier every time they rushed screaming out to welcome mother and daddy and the motor-car for a brief visit. And Mamma was with Cousin Will. Or at least she HAD been–