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The Breaking Point

Chapter 13
The week that followed was an anxious one. David's physical condition slowly
improved. The slight thickness was gone from his speech, and he sipped
resignedly at the broths Lucy or the nurse brought at regular intervals. Over the
entire house there hung all day the odor of stewing chicken or of beef tea in the
making, and above the doorbell was a white card which said: "Don't ring. Walk
As it happened, no one in the old house had seen Maggie Donaldson's
confession in the newspaper. Lucy was saved that anxiety, at least. Appearing,
as it did, the morning after David's stroke, it came in with the morning milk, lay
about unnoticed, and passed out again, to start a fire or line a pantry shelf.
Harrison Miller, next door, read it over his coffee. Walter Wheeler in the eight-
thirty train glanced at it and glanced away. Nina Ward read it in bed. And that
was all.
There came to the house a steady procession of inquirers and bearers of small
tribute, flowers and jellies mostly, but other things also. A table in David's room
held a steadily growing number of bedroom slippers, and Mrs. Morgan had been
seen buying soles for still others. David, propped up in his bed, would cheer a
little at these votive offerings, and then relapse again into the heavy troubled
silence that worried Dick and frightened Lucy Crosby. Something had happened,
she was sure. Something connected with Dick. She watched David when Dick
was in the room, and she saw that his eyes followed the younger man with
something very like terror.
And for the first time since he had walked into the house that night so long ago,
followed by the tall young man for whose coming a letter had prepared her, she
felt that David had withdrawn himself from her. She went about her daily tasks a
little hurt, and waited for him to choose his own time. But, as the days went on,
she saw that whatever this new thing might be, he meant to fight it out alone, and
that the fighting it out alone was bad for him. He improved very slowly.
She wondered, sometimes, if it was after all because of Dick's growing interest in
Elizabeth Wheeler. She knew that he was seeing her daily, although he was too
busy now for more than a hasty call. She felt that she could even tell when he
had seen her; be would come in, glowing and almost exalted, and, as if to make
up for the moments stolen from David, would leap up the stairs two at a time and
burst into the invalid's room like a cheerful cyclone. Wasn't it possible that David
had begun to feel as she did, that the girl was entitled to a clean slate before she
pledged herself to Dick? And the slate - poor Dick! - could never be cleaned.
Then, one day, David astonished them both. He was propped up in his bed, and
he had demanded a cigar, and been very gently but firmly refused. He had been