LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER
by Roald Dahl
THE ROOM WAS WARM and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight - hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whisky. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket. Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work. Now and again she would glance up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come. There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did. The drop of the head as she bent over her sewing was curiously tranquil. Her skin - for this was her ...view middle of the document...
She loved him for the way he sat loosely in a chair, for the way he came in a door, or moved slowly across the room with long strides. She loved the intent, far look in his eyes when they rested on her, the funny shape of the mouth, and especially the way he remained silent about his tiredness, sitting still with himself until the whisky had taken some of it away.
'Tired, darling?â€™. 'Yes,' he said. 'I'm tired.' And as he spoke, he did an unusual thing. He lifted his glass and drained it in one swallow although there was still half of it, at least half of it left. She wasn't really watching him but she knew what he had done because she heard the ice cubes falling back against the bottom of the empty glass when he lowered his arm. He paused a moment, leaning forward in the chair, then he got up and went slowly over to fetch himself another.
â€˜Iâ€™ll get it!' she cried, jumping up, 'Sit down,' he said.
When he came back, she noticed that the new drink was dark amber with the quantity of whisky in it.
'Darling, shall I get your slippers?â€™ 'No.' She watched him as he began to sip the dark yellow drink, and she could see little oily swirls in the liquid because it was so strong.
'I think it's a shame,' she said, 'that when a policeman gets to be as senior as you, they keep him walking about on his feet all day long.' He didn't answer, so she bent her head again and went on with her sewing; but each time he lifted the drink to his lips, she heard the ice cubes clinking against the side of the glass.
'Darling,' she said. 'Would you like me to get you some cheese? I haven't made any supper because it's Thursday.'
'No,' he said.
'If you're too tired to eat out,' she went on, it's still not too late. There's plenty of meat and stuff in the freezer, and you can have it right here and not even move out of the chair.' Her eyes waited on him for an answer, a smile, a little nod, but he made no sign.
â€˜Anywayâ€™ she went on, 'I'll get you some cheese and crackers first.' 'I don't want it,' he said.
She moved uneasily in her chair, the large eyes still watching his face. 'But you must have supper. I can easily do it here. I'd like to do it. We can have lamb chops. Or pork. Anything you want. Everything in the freezer.â€™ â€˜Forget it,â€™ he said.
'But, darling, you must eat! I'll fix it anyway, and then you can have it or not, as you like.' She stood up and placed her sewing on the table by the lamp.
'Sit down,' he said. 'Just for a minute, sit down.' It wasn't till then that she began to get frightened.
'Go on,' he said. 'Sit down.' She lowered herself back slowly into the chair, watching him all the time with those large, bewildered eyes. He had finished the second drink and was staring down into the glass, frowning.
'Listen,' he said, 'I've got something to tell you.' 'What is it, darling? What's the matter?â€™. He had become absolutely motionless, and he kept his head down so that the light from the lamp beside him fell across the upper...