The Breaking Point
Elizabeth had gone about all day with a smile on her lips and a sort of exaltation
in her eyes. She had, girl fashion, gone over and over the totally uneventful
evening they had spent together, remembering small speeches and gestures;
what he had said and she had answered.
She had, for instance, mentioned Clare Rossiter, very casually. Oh very, very
casually. And he had said: "Clare Rossiter? Oh, yes, the tall blonde girl, isn't
She was very happy. He had not seemed to find her too young or particularly
immature. He had asked her opinion on quite important things, and listened
carefully when she replied. She felt, though, that she knew about one-tenth as
much as he did, and she determined to read very seriously from that time on. Her
mother, missing her that afternoon, found her curled up in the library, beginning
the first volume of Gibbon's "Rome" with an air of determined concentration, and
wearing her best summer frock.
She did not intend to depend purely on Gibbon's "Rome," evidently.
"Are you expecting any one, Elizabeth?" she asked, with the frank directness
characteristic of mothers, and Elizabeth, fixing a date in her mind with terrible
firmness, looked up absently and said:
"No one in particular."
At three o'clock, with a slight headache from concentration, she went upstairs
and put up her hair again; rather high this time to make her feel taller. Of course,
it was not likely he would come. He was very busy. So many people depended
on him. It must be wonderful to be like that, to have people needing one, and
looking out of the door and saying: "I think I see him coming now."
Nevertheless when the postman rang her heart gave a small leap and then stood
quite still. When Annie slowly mounted the stairs she was already on her feet, but
it was only a card announcing: "Mrs. Sayre, Wednesday, May fifteenth, luncheon
However, at half past four the bell rang again, and a masculine voice informed
Annie, a moment later, that it would put its overcoat here, because lately a dog
had eaten a piece out of it and got most awful indigestion.
The time it took Annie to get up the stairs again gave her a moment so that she
could breathe more naturally, and she went down very deliberately and so
dreadfully poised that at first he thought she was not glad to see him.