“Nothing, thank you. You may save the maid the trouble of preparing that tea if you will. I could not possibly drink it. I always carry my own tea with me, and prepare it myself. If it is not too much trouble, Dicky, will you get me a pot of hot water and some cream? I have everything else here.”
I really felt sorry for Dicky. He caught the tension in the atmosphere, and looked from his mother to me with a helpless caught-between-two-fires-expression. With masculine obtuseness he put his foot in it in his endeavor to remedy matters.
“Why do you call my mother Mrs. Graham, Madge?” he said querulously. “She is your mother now as well as mine, you know.”
“I am nothing of the kind.” His mother spoke sharply. “Of all the idiotic assumptions, that is the worst, that marriage makes close relatives, and friends of total strangers. Your wife and I may learn to love each other. Then there will be plenty of time for her to call me mother. As it is, I am very glad she evidently feels as I do about it. Now, Dicky, if you will kindly get me that hot water.”
“I will attend to it,” I said decidedly “Dicky, take your mother to her room and assist her with her things. I will have the hot water and cream for her almost at once.”
In the shelter of the dining room, where neither Dicky nor his mother nor Katie could see or hear me, I clenched my hands and spoke aloud.
“Call her mother! Give that ill-tempered, tyrannical old woman the sacred name that means so much to me. Never as long as I live!”
Dicky met me at the door of the dining room and took the tray I carried. It held my prettiest teapot filled with boiling water, a tiny plate of salted crackers, together with cup, saucer, spoon and napkin.
“Say, sweetheart,” he whispered, “I want to tell you something. My mother isn’t always like this. She can be very sweet when she wants to. But when things don’t go to suit her she takes these awful icy ‘dignity’ tantrums, and you can’t touch her with a ten-foot pole until she gets over them. She was tired, from the journey, and the fact that you kept her waiting in the taxicab made her furious. But she’ll get over it. Just be patient, won’t you, darling?”
If the average husband only realized how he could play upon his wife’s heart-strings with a few loving words I believe there would be less marital unhappiness in the world. A few minutes before I had been fiercely resentful against Dicky’s mother. And my anger had reached to Dicky, for I felt in some vague way that he must be responsible for his mother’s rudeness.
But the knowledge that he, too, was used to her injustice and that he resented it when directed against me made all the difference in the world. I reached up my hand and patted his cheek.
“Dear boy, nothing in the world matters, if you aren’t cross and displeased.”