The first time Mrs. Foster is described as nervous, Roald Dahl uses the word "pathological" to describe her fear, driving home how serious a nervous condition she has. It only applies to her ability to be on time for things, but it's so severe that, even if she's only going to be insignificantly late, she will enter into "hysterics" and her eye will start twitching "madly."
In the first stressful car ride to the airport, her husband describes her behavior as "fussing," and that evening, he acknowledges that her day must have been "anxious." When she is expressing her distress, she does it in "cries" and with her face "screwed up tight." When she is finally about to catch the plane and decides to leave without her husband, her face is "absolutely white" and she is actively "urging" the driver to "hurry" and get her to the airport on time.
Some of the words in the story “The Way up to Heaven” that portray Mrs. Foster as nervous or afraid are as follows:
1) Pathological fear (paragraph 1, page 1): The text states that “all her life, Mrs. Foster had an almost pathological fear of missing a train, a plane, a boat, or even a theatre curtain.” This could be taken to mean that Mrs. Foster has a phobia of sorts for “lateness."
2) Twitch (paragraph 1, page 1): This is a word that is synonymous with the word “tremble.” People often tremble or twitch when they are anxious or nervous about certain things. The text states that the very thought of being late could easily push Mrs. Foster into “such a state of nerves that she would begin to twitch.”
3) Flutter and fidget (paragraph 2, page 1): The words “flutter” and “fidget” both mean to move restlessly about. People often fidget or flutter about when they are anxious about certain worrying events that they expect to happen, or even when they are uncomfortable with surrounding circumstances. The text states that Mrs. Foster would “flutter and fidget” when faced with the possibility of being late for an event.
4) "Drive her nearly into hysterics": Mr. Foster knows his wife’s obsession with punctuality. He also knows that the possibility of being late could easily make his wife hysterical.
5) "Flying from room to room": On the day that she is to travel to Paris, Mrs. Foster “flies from room to room, pretending to supervise” the busy servants. However, all she is really thinking about is her tarrying husband and how he is going to make her miss the plane.
6) "She began walking up and down the hall": Mrs. Fosters cannot keep still while waiting for her husband to come down (so that they can make for the airport). She paces the hall because of her growing anxiety for the possibility that she might miss the plane.
7) "Hands clasped tight under the rug" (page 3): As Mr. and Mrs. Foster travel to the airport, Mrs. Foster sits in the hired car with “her hands clasped together tight under the rug.”
8) Fussing: Mr. Foster asks his wife to “stop fussing” when the hired car that they are traveling in slows down because of the poor weather (heavy fog).
9) She started hunting frantically: After Mr. Foster explains that he has lost Ellen’s present, Mrs. Foster starts to “hunt frantically” for the small box in the car. This means that she searches the car in a panicky way, obviously worried that the lost present could further delay her.
10) The little face was screwed up tight with anxiety: On the second day of the journey to Paris, following the delayed flight, Mrs. Foster is worried that her husband’s actions might make her miss the plane. He has gone back to the house to look for a present that he wants her to take to Ellen, his daughter. However, Mrs. Foster finds the present in the car.