The Breaking Point (Chapter 3, page 1 of 16)


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Chapter 3

The Wheeler house was good, modern and commonplace. Walter Wheeler and
his wife were like the house. Just as here and there among the furniture
there was a fine thing, an antique highboy, a Sheraton sideboard or
some old cut glass, so they had, with a certain mediocrity their own
outstanding virtues. They liked music, believed in the home as the unit
of the nation, put happiness before undue ambition, and had devoted
their lives to their children.

For many years their lives had centered about the children. For years
they had held anxious conclave about whooping cough, about small early
disobediences, later about Sunday tennis. They stood united to protect
the children against disease, trouble and eternity.

Now that the children were no longer children, they were sometimes
lonely and still apprehensive. They feared motor car accidents, and
Walter Wheeler had withstood the appeals of Jim for a half dozen years.
They feared trains for them, and journeys, and unhappy marriages, and
hid their fears from each other. Their nightly prayers were "to keep
them safe and happy."

But they saw life reaching out and taking them, one by one. They saw
them still as children, but as children determined to bear their own
burdens. Jim stayed out late sometimes, and considered his manhood in
question if interrogated. Nina was married and out of the home, but
there loomed before them the possibility of maternity and its dangers
for her. There remained only Elizabeth, and on her they lavished the
care formerly divided among the three.

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