At least half an hour before it was time to leave the house for the station, Mrs. Foster would step out of the elevator all ready to go, with hat and coat and gloves, and then, being quite unable to sit down, she would flutter and fidget about from room to room until her husband, who must have been well aware of her state, finally emerged from his privacy and suggested in a cool dry voice that perhaps they had better be going now, had they not? …His timing was so accurate - just a minute or two late, you understand - and his manner so bland that it was hard to believe he wasn’t purposely inflicting a nasty private little torture of his own on the unhappy lady.
And now, lately, she had come more and more to feel that she did not really wish to live out her days in a place where she could not be near these children, and have them visit her, and take them out for walks, and buy them presents, and watch them grow. She knew, of course, that it was wrong and in a way disloyal to have thoughts like these while her husband was still alive.
“But don’t you really think Walker should stay there all the time to look after things?” she asked meekly.
“Nonsense. It’s quite unnecessary. And anyway, I’d have to pay him full wages.”
“Oh yes,” she said. “Of course.”
“What’s more, you never know what people get up to when they’re left alone in a house,” Mr. Foster announced, and with that he took out a cigar and, after snipping off the end with a silver cutter, lit it with a gold lighter.
She couldn’t be sure, but it seemed to her that there was suddenly a new note in his voice, and she turned to look at him… She glanced at him again, and this time she noticed with a kind of horror that he was staring intently at the little place in the corner of her left eye where she could feel the muscle twitching.
“In that case, dear, I’ll just get myself a room somewhere for the night. And don’t you bother yourself about it at all.”
“That would be foolish,” he said. “You’ve got a large house here at your disposal. Use it.”
“But, dear, it’s empty.”
“Then I’ll stay with you myself.”
“There’s no food in the house. There’s nothing.”
“Then eat before you come in. Don’t be so stupid, woman. Everything you do, you seem to want to make a fuss about it.”
“No,” he said slowly. “I don’t think I will. But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t drop me at the club on your way.”
She looked at him, and at that moment he seemed to be standing a long way off from her, beyond some borderline. He was suddenly so small and far away that she couldn’t be sure what he was doing, or what he was thinking, or even what he was.
At this point, Mrs. Foster suddenly spotted a corner of something white wedged down in the crack of the seat on the side where her husband had been sitting. She reached over and pulled out a small paper-wrapped box, and at the same time she couldn’t help noticing that it was wedged down firm and deep, as though with the help of a pushing hand.
The chauffeur, had he been watching her closely, might have noticed that her face had turned absolutely white and that the whole expression had suddenly altered. There was no longer that rather soft and silly look. A peculiar hardness had settled itself upon the features. The little mouth, usually so flabby, was now tight and thin, the eyes were bright, and the voice, when she spoke, carried a new note of authority.
Once a week, on Tuesdays, she wrote a letter to her husband, a nice, chatty letter—full of news and gossip, which always ended with the words “Now be sure to take your meals regularly, dear, although this is something I’m afraid you may not be doing when I’m not with you.”
“Hello,” she said. “Listen - this is Nine East Sixty-second Street…Yes, that’s right. Could you send someone round as soon as possible, do you think? Yes, it seems to be stuck between the second and third floors. At least, that’s where the indicator’s pointing…Right away? Oh, that’s very kind of you. You see, my legs aren’t any too good for walking up a lot of stairs. Thank you so much. Good-bye.”
She replaced the receiver and sat there at her husband’s desk, patiently waiting for the man who would be coming soon to repair the lift.