LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER by ROALD DAHL
The room was warm, the curtains were closed, the two table lamps were lit. On the cupboard behind her there were two glasses and some drinks. Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work.
Now and again she glanced at the clock, but without anxiety: She merely wanted to satisfy herself that each minute that went by made it nearer the time when he would come home. As she bent over her sewing, she was curiously peaceful. This was her sixth month expecting a child. Her mouth and her eyes, with their new calm look, seemed larger and darker than before.
When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the car tires on the stones outside, the car door closing, footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock. She stood up and went forward to kiss him as he entered.
"Hello, darling," she said.
"Hello," he answered.
She took his coat and hung it up. Then she made the drinks, a strong one for him and a weak one for herself; and soon she was back again in her chair with the sewing, and he was in the other chair, holding the tall glass, rolling it gently so that the ice knocked musically against the side of the glass.
For her, this was always a wonderful time of day. She knew he didn't want to speak much until the first drink was finished, and she was satisfied to sit quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved the warmth that came out of him when they were alone together. She loved the shape of his mouth, and she especially liked the way he didn't complain about being tired.
"Yes," he sighed. "I'm thoroughly exhausted. And as he spoke, he did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drank it down in one swallow although there was still half of it left. He got up and went slowly to get himself another drink.
"I'll get it!" she cried, jumping up.
"Sit down," he said.
When he came back, she noticed that the new drink was a very strong one. She watched him as he began to drink.
"I think it's a shame," she said, "that when someone's been a policeman as long as you have, he still has to walk around all day long." He didn't answer. "Darling," she said," If you're too tired to eat out tonight, as we had planned, I can fix you something. There's plenty of meat and stuff in the freezer." Her eyes waited to an answer, a smile, a nod, but he made no sign.
"Anyway," she went on. "I'll get you some bread and cheese."
"I don't want it," he said.
She moved uneasily in her chair. "But you have to have supper. I can easily fix you something. I'd like to do it. We can have lamb. Anything you want. Everything's in the freezer."
"Forget it," he said.
"But, darling, you have to eat! I'll do it anyway, and then you can have it or not, as you like."
She stood up and put placed her sewing on the table by the lamp. "Sit down," he said. "Just for a minute, sit down." It wasn't until then that she began to get frightened.
"Go on," he said. "Sit down." She lowered herself into the chair, watching him all the time with large, puzzled eyes. He had finished his second drink and was staring into the glass.
"Listen," he said. "I've got something to tell you."
"What is it, darling? What's the matter?"
He became absolutely motionless, and he kept his head down.
"This is going to be a big shock to you, I'm afraid," he said. "But I've thought about it a good deal and I've decided that the only thing to do is to tell you immediately." And he told her. It didn't take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat still through it all, watching him with puzzled horror.
"So there it is," he added. "And I know it's a tough time to be telling you this, but there simply wasn't any other way. Of course, I'll give you money and see that you're taken care of. But there really shouldn't be any problem. I hope not, in any case. It...
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