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The Elevator   By: (1837-1920)

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This etext was produced from the 1911 Houghton Mifflin Company edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

THE ELEVATOR

by William D. Howells

I.

SCENE: Through the curtained doorway of MRS. EDWARD ROBERTS'S pretty drawing room, in Hotel Bellingham, shows the snowy and gleaming array of a table set for dinner, under the dim light of gas burners turned low. An air of expectancy pervades the place, and the uneasiness of MR. ROBERTS, in evening dress, expresses something more as he turns from a glance into the dining room, and still holding the portiere with one hand, takes out his watch with the other.

MR. ROBERTS to MRS. ROBERTS entering the drawing room from regions beyond: "My dear, it's six o'clock. What can have become of your aunt?"

MRS. ROBERTS, with a little anxiety: "That was just what I was going to ask. She's never late; and the children are quite heart broken. They had counted upon seeing her, and talking Christmas a little before they were put to bed."

ROBERTS: "Very singular her not coming! Is she going to begin standing upon ceremony with us, and not come till the hour?"

MRS. ROBERTS: "Nonsense, Edward! She's been detained. Of course she'll be here in a moment. How impatient you are!"

ROBERTS: "You must profit by me as an awful example."

MRS. ROBERTS, going about the room, and bestowing little touches here and there on its ornaments: "If you'd had that new cook to battle with over this dinner, you'd have learned patience by this time without any awful example."

ROBERTS, dropping nervously into the nearest chair: "I hope she isn't behind time."

MRS. ROBERTS, drifting upon the sofa, and disposing her train effectively on the carpet around her: "She's before time. The dinner is in the last moment of ripe perfection now, when we must still give people fifteen minutes' grace." She studies the convolutions of her train absent mindedly.

ROBERTS, joining in its perusal: "Is that the way you've arranged to be sitting when people come in?"

MRS. ROBERTS: "Of course not. I shall get up to receive them."

ROBERTS: "That's rather a pity. To destroy such a lovely pose."

MRS. ROBERTS: "Do you like it?"

ROBERTS: "It's divine."

MRS. ROBERTS: "You might throw me a kiss."

ROBERTS: "No; if it happened to strike on that train anywhere, it might spoil one of the folds. I can't risk it." A ring is heard at the apartment door. They spring to their feet simultaneously.

MRS. ROBERTS: "There's Aunt Mary now!" She calls into the vestibule, "Aunt Mary!"

DR. LAWTON, putting aside the vestibule portiere, with affected timidity: "Very sorry. Merely a father."

MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh! Dr. Lawton? I am so glad to see you!" She gives him her hand: "I thought it was my aunt. We can't understand why she hasn't come. Why! where's Miss Lawton?"

LAWTON: "That is precisely what I was going to ask you."

MRS. ROBERTS: "Why, she isn't here."

LAWTON: "So it seems. I left her with the carriage at the door when I started to walk here. She called after me down the stairs that she would be ready in three seconds, and begged me to hurry, so that we could come in together, and not let people know I'd saved half a dollar by walking."

MRS. ROBERTS: "SHE'S been detained too!"

ROBERTS, coming forward: "Now you know what it is to have a delinquent Aunt Mary in law."

LAWTON, shaking hands with him: "O Roberts! Is that you? It's astonishing how little one makes of the husband of a lady who gives a dinner. In my time a long time ago he used to carve. But nowadays, when everything is served a la Russe, he might as well be abolished. Don't you think, on the whole, Roberts, you'd better not have come

ROBERTS: "Well, you see, I had no excuse. I hated to say an engagement when I hadn't any."

LAWTON: "Oh, I understand. You WANTED to come. We all do, when Mrs. Roberts will let us." He goes and sits down by MRS. ROBERTS, who has taken a more provisional pose on the sofa. "Mrs. Roberts, you're the only woman in Boston who could hope to get people, with a fireside of their own or a register out to a Christmas dinner... Continue reading book >>




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