illustrated tablesetting with a plate containing a large lamb-leg roast resting on a puddle of blood

Lamb to the Slaughter

by Roald Dahl

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Before the husband breaks the news, what three clues are there that this particular evening is going to be a break with routine?

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Mary and Patrick have an everyday routine which suggests the monotony of their lives. Mary, six months pregnant, is Patrick's servant, trying to anticipate his every want and need. What Mary doesn't recognize immediately is Patrick's tension when he breaks that routine. Patrick finishes off his first drink in one gulp and makes himself a stronger one after that. They usually go out to eat on Thursdays, but Mary offers to cook something and serve it to Patrick if he prefers to stay in. Patrick doesn't want dinner, and he doesn't want the snack Mary offers to make him. Patrick is growing more tense with the ticking of the clock.

Finally, Patrick tells Mary he's leaving her, but he'll take care of her and the baby monetarily. Mary can't even begin to understand what Patrick has told her. Her actions after that reflect the routine she has followed each day of taking something out of the freezer to cook for her husband.

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Three clues:

1.  Patrick Maloney drains his first drink in one gulp which the wife notes as unusual.

2.   He refuses to allow her to get him another drink (he makes a very strong 2nd drink for himself) or anything to eat.

3.  When she gets up to get a snack for him, he commands her to sit down - the text said this action made her afraid.

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