But Al waited. And presently she said, grudgingly, wearily, “There’s a dollar bill and some small change in the can on the second shelf in the china closet.”
Al was off like a terrier. From the pantry came the clink of metal against metal. He was up the hall in a flash, without a look at Rose. The front door slammed a third time.
Rose stirred her cold tea slowly, leaning on the table’s edge and gazing down into the amber liquid that she did not mean to drink. For suddenly and comically her face puckered up like a child’s. Her head came down among the supper things with a little crash that set the teacups, and the greasy plates to jingling, and she sobbed as she lay there, with great tearing, ugly sobs that would not be stilled, though she tried to stifle them as does one who lives in a paper-thin Chicago flat. She was not weeping for the Henry Selz whom she had just seen. She was not weeping for envy of her selfish little sister, or for loneliness, or weariness. She was weeping at the loss of a ghost who had become her familiar. She was weeping because a packet of soiled and yellow old letters on the top shelf in the hall closet was now only a packet of soiled and yellow old letters, food for the ash can. She was weeping because the urge of spring, that had expressed itself in her only this morning pitifully enough in terms of rhubarb, and housecleaning and a bundle of thumbed old love letters, had stirred in her for the last time.
But presently she did stop her sobbing and got up and cleared the table, and washed the dishes and even glanced at the crumpled sheets of the morning paper that she never found time to read until evening. By eight o’clock the little flat was very still.
Theresa Platt (she that had been Terry Sheehan) watched her husband across the breakfast table with eyes that smouldered. When a woman’s eyes smoulder at 7.30 a.m. the person seated opposite her had better look out. But Orville Platt was quite unaware of any smouldering in progress. He was occupied with his eggs. How could he know that these very eggs were feeding the dull red menace in Terry Platt’s eyes?
When Orville Platt ate a soft-boiled egg he concentrated on it. He treated it as a great adventure. Which, after all, it is. Few adjuncts of our daily life contain the element of chance that is to be found in a three-minute breakfast egg.
This was Orville Platt’s method of attack: First, he chipped off the top, neatly. Then he bent forward and subjected it to a passionate and relentless scrutiny. Straightening—preparatory to plunging his spoon therein—he flapped his right elbow. It wasn’t exactly a flap; it was a pass between a hitch and a flap, and presented external evidence of a mental state. Orville Platt always gave that little preliminary jerk when he was contemplating a step, or when he was moved, or argumentative. It was a trick as innocent as it was maddening.