5 Shorts Stories by Roald Dahl

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Five Shorts Stories by Roald Dahl Edited by the TLS2 students, 2012-2013 school year 1 Table of Contents: Introduction to The Umbrella Man p. 3 The Umbrella Man p. 4 Introduction to The Landlady p. 10 The Landlady p. 11 Introduction to Lamb to the Slaughter p. 19 Lamb to the Slaughter p. 20 Introduction to The Hitchhiker p. 28 The Hitchhiker p. 29 Introduction to The Way Up to Heaven p. 38 The Way Up to Heaven p. 39 Credits p. 51 2 Introduction to “The Umbrella Man”: The narrator of this story is a girl who has gone to London with her mother to visit the dentist. They go to a café, and when they leave, they discover that it's pouring rain and they have no umbrella. So they decide to get a taxi. While they're watching for a cab, an old gentleman sheltering under an umbrella approaches them. He asks for a favour. The girl's mother is very distrustful of strange men. The old man explains that he has forgotten his wallet and would like to sell them his umbrella in return for the taxi fare back to his home. He explains that it's a very nice silk umbrella worth twenty pounds, but his legs are weak and he simply must take a taxi home. The mother offers to simply give him the cab fare, but he insists that they take the umbrella. But they discover that the old man… Dylan’s opinion: I enjoyed reading this story, on the one hand because it is interesting, on the other hand because it makes us think of the real lesson of this story, the morale, mixing reflexion and simplicity, and open the eyes on the current society. Myriam’s opinion: I did not like the short story , because I found it boring and the end displeased me a lot because I did not expect it. I find that ridiculous. But I well appreciated the suspense and the writing of the short story and the girl who delivered us her feelings. Philippine’s opinion: I liked reading this story because it is an interesting story. It is easy to read and it is short. Everybody can read it because it is understandable. More precisely, I enjoyed this story because it holds a moral but also because this story is interesting. I liked when the little man offers his umbrella to the mother and her daughter to protect them from the rain but, I like the fact that the little man wants a pound note to come back home against his umbrella too. Especially, I liked the moment where the little man is scuttling along like a rabbit in front of them, and also the moment where the mother understands that he is a crook. 3 The Umbrella Man I’M GOING TO TELL you about a funny thing that happened to my mother and me yesterday evening. I am twelve years old and I’m a girl. My mother is thirty-four but I am nearly as tall as her already. Yesterday afternoon, my mother took me up to London to see the dentist. He found one hole. It was in a back tooth and he filled it without hurting me too much. After that, we went to a café. I had a banana split and my mother had a cup of coffee. By the time we got up to leave, it was about six o'clock. When we came out of the café it had started to rain. “We must get a taxi," my mother said. We were wearing ordinary hats and coats, and it was raining quite hard. "Why don't we go back into the café and wait for it to stop?" I said. I wanted another of those banana splits. They were gorgeous. “It isn't going to stop," my mother said. "We must go home." We stood on the pavement in the rain, looking for a taxi. Lots of them came by but they all had passengers inside them. "I wish we had a car with a chauffeur," my mother said. Just then, a man came up to us. He was a small man and he was pretty old, probably seventy or more. He raised his hat politely and said to my mother "Excuse me. I do hope you will excuse me. . . ." He had a fine white moustache and bushy white eyebrows and a wrinkly pink face. He was sheltering under an umbrella which he held high over his head. "Yes?" my mother said, very cool and distant. "I wonder if I could ask a small favour of you.” he said. "It is only a very small favour." I saw my mother looking at him suspiciously. She is a suspicious person, my mother. She is especially suspicious of two things - strange men and boiled eggs. When she cuts the top off a boiled egg, she pokes around inside it with her spoon as though expecting to find a mouse or something. With strange men she has a golden rule which says, "The nicer the man seems to be, the more suspicious you must become." This little old man was particularly nice. He was polite. He was well-spoken. He was well-dressed. He was a real gentleman. The reason I knew he was a gentleman was because of his shoes. "You can always spot a gentleman by the shoes he wears," was another of my mother's favourite sayings. This man had beautiful brown shoes. "The truth of the matter is," the little man was saying, "I've got myself into a bit of a scrape. I need some help. Not much, I assure you. It's almost nothing, in fact, but I do need it. You see, madam, old people like me often become terribly forgetful. . . ." My mother's chin was up and she was staring down at him along the full length of her nose. It is a fearsome thing, 4 this frosty-nosed stare of my mother's. Most people go to pieces completely when she gives it to them. I once saw my own headmistress begin to stammer and simper like an idiot when my mother gave her a really foul frosty-noser. But the little man on the pavement with the umbrella over his head didn't bat an eyelid. He gave a gentle smile and said, "I beg you to believe, madam, that I am not in the habit of stopping ladies in the street and telling them my troubles." "I should hope not, " my mother said. I felt quite embarrassed by my mother's sharpness. I wanted to say to her, "Oh, mummy, for heaven's sake, he's a very very old man, and he's sweet and polite, and he's in some sort of trouble, so don't be so beastly to him." But I didn't say anything. The little man shifted his umbrella from one hand to the other. "I've never forgotten it before," he said. "You've never forgotten what?" my mother asked sternly. "My wallet," he said. "I must have left it in my other jacket. Isn't that the silliest thing to do?" "Are you asking me to give you money?" my mother said. "Oh, goodness gracious me, no" he cried. "Heaven forbid I should ever do that" "Then what are you asking?" my mother said. "Do hurry up. We're getting soaked to the skin standing here." "I know you are," he said. " And that is why I’m offering you this umbrella of mine to protect you, and to keep forever, if . . . if only . . ." "If only what?" my mother said. "If only you would give me in return a pound for my taxi-fare just to get me home." My mother was still suspicious. "If you had no money in the first place," she said, "then how did you get here?" "I walked," he answered. "Every day I go for a lovely long walk and then I summon a taxi to take me home. I do it every day of the year." "Why don't you walk home now," my mother asked. "Oh, I wish I could, " he said. "I do wish I could. But I don't think I could manage it on these silly old legs of mine. I've gone too far already." My mother stood there chewing her lower lip. She was beginning to melt a bit, I could see that. And the idea of getting an umbrella to shelter under must have tempted her a good deal. "It's a lovely umbrella," the little man said. "So I’ve noticed," my mother said. "It's silk, " he said. 5 "I can see that." "Then why don't you take it, madam," he said. "It cost me over twenty pounds, I promise you. But that's of no importance so long as I can get home and rest these old legs of mine." I saw my mother's hand feeling for the clasp on her purse. She saw me watching her. I was giving her one of my own frosty-nosed looks this time and she knew exactly what I was telling her. Now listen, mummy, I was telling her, you simply mustn't take advantage of a tired old man in this way. It's a rotten thing to do. My mother paused and looked back at me. Then she said to the little man, "I don't think it's quite right that I should take a silk umbrella from you worth twenty pounds. I think I'd just better give you the taxi- fare and be done with it." "No, no, no" he cried. "It's out of the question I wouldn't dream of it Not in a million years I would never accept money from you like that Take the umbrella, dear lady, and keep the rain off your shoulders" My mother gave me a triumphant sideways look. There you are, she was telling me. You're wrong. He wants me to have it. She fished into her purse and took out a pound note. She held it out to the little man. He took it and handed her the umbrella. He pocketed the pound, raised his hat, gave a quick bow from the waist, and said. "Thank you, madam, thank you. " Then he was gone. "Come under here and keep dry, darling," my mother said. "Aren't we lucky. I've never had a silk umbrella before. I couldn't afford it." "Why were you so horrid to him in the beginning?" I asked. "I wanted to satisfy myself he wasn't a trickster," she said. " And I did. He was a gentleman. I'm very pleased I was able to help him." "Yes, mummy," I said. "A real gentleman," she went on. "Wealthy, too, otherwise he wouldn't have had a silk umbrella. I shouldn't be surprised if he isn't a titled person. Sir Harry Goldsworthy or something like that." "Yes, mummy." "This will be a good lesson to you," she went on. "Never rush things. Always take your time when you are summing someone up. Then you'll never make mistakes." "There he goes," I said. "Look." "Where?" "Over there. He's crossing the street. Goodness, mummy, what a hurry he's in." We watched the little man as he dodged nimbly in and out of the traffic. When he reached the other side of the street, he turned left, walking very fast. "He doesn't look very tired to me, does he to you, mummy?" My mother didn't answer. "He doesn't look as though he's trying to get a taxi, either," I said. My mother was standing very still and stiff, staring across the street at the little man. We could see him clearly. He was in a terrific hurry. He was bustling along the pavement, sidestepping the other pedestrians and swinging his arms like a soldier on the march. 6 "He's up to something," my mother said, stony-faced. "But what?" "I don't know," my mother snapped. "But I’m going to find out. Come with me." She took my arm and we crossed the street together. Then we turned left. "Can you see him?" my mother asked. "Yes. There he is. He's turning right down the next street." We came to the corner and turned right. The little man was about twenty yards ahead of us. He was scuttling along like a rabbit and we had to walk fast to keep up with him. The rain was pelting down harder than ever now and I could see it dripping from the brim of his hat onto his shoulders. But we were snug and dry under our lovely big silk umbrella. "What is he up to?" my mother said. "What if he turns round and sees us?" I asked. "I don't care if he does, " my mother said. "He lied to us. He said he was too tired to walk any further and he's practically running us off our feet He's a barefaced liar He's a crook" "you mean he's not a titled gentleman?" I asked. "Be quiet, " she said. At the next crossing, the little man turned right again. Then he turned left. Then right. "I’m not giving up now," my mother said. "He's disappeared" I cried. "Where's he gone?" "He went in that door" my mother said. "I saw him Into that house Great heavens, it's a pub" It was a pub. In big letters right across the front it said THE RED LION. "You're not going in, are you, mummy?" , "No," she said. "We'll watch from outside." There was a big plate-glass window along the front of the pub, and although it was a bit steamy on the inside, we could see through it very well if we went close. We stood huddled together outside the pub window. I was clutching my mother's arm. The big raindrops were making a loud noise on our umbrella. "There he is," I said. "Over there." The room we were looking into was full of people and cigarette smoke, and our little man was in the middle of it all. He was now without his hat or coat, and he was edging his way through the crowd toward the bar. When 7 he reached it, he placed both hands on the bar itself and spoke to the barman. I saw his lips moving as he gave his order. The barman turned away from him for a few seconds and came back with a smallish tumbler filled to the brim with light brown liquid. The little man placed a pound note on the counter. "That's my pound" my mother hissed. "By golly he's got a nerve" "What's in the glass?" I asked. "Whiskey," my mother said. "Neat whiskey." The barman didn't give him any change from the pound. "That must be a treble whiskey," my mother said. "What's a treble?" I asked. "Three times the normal measure," she answered. The little man picked up the glass and put it to his lips. He tilted it gently. Then he tilted it higher. . . and higher. . . and higher. . . and very soon all the whiskey had disappeared down his throat in one long pour. "That was a jolly expensive drink," I said. "It's ridiculous" my mother said. "Fancy paying a pound for something you swallow in one go" "It cost him more than a pound, " I said. "It cost him a twenty pound silk umbrella." "So it did," my mother said. "He must be mad." The little man was standing by the bar with the empty glass in his hand. He was smiling now, and a sort of golden glow of pleasure was spreading over his round pink face. I saw his tongue come out to lick the white moustache, as though searching for the last drop of that precious whiskey. Slowly, he turned away from the bar and edged back through the crowd to where his hat and coat were hanging. He put on his hat. He put on his coat. Then, in a manner so superbly cool and casual that you hardly noticed anything at all, he lifted from the coat rack one of the many wet umbrellas hanging there, and off he went. "Did you see that" my mother shrieked. "Did you see what he did" "Ssshh" I whispered. "He's coming out" We lowered the umbrella to hide our faces and peeped out from under it. Out he came. But he never looked in our direction. He opened his new umbrella over his head and scurried off down the road the way he had come. "So that's his little game" my mother said. 8 "Neat, " I said. "Super." We followed him back to the main street where we had first met him, and we watched him as he proceeded, with no trouble at all, to exchange his new umbrella for another pound note. This time it was with a tall thin fellow who didn't even have a coat or hat. And as soon as the transaction was completed, our little man trotted off down the street and was lost in the crowd. But this time he went in the opposite direction. "You see how clever he is" my mother said. "He never goes to the same pub twice" "He could go on doing this all night, " I said. "Yes," my mother said. "Of course. But I'll bet he prays like mad for rainy days." 9 Introduction to “The Landlady”: “The Landlady” is a short story written by Roald Dahl. The main character is Billy WEAVER. The story takes place in the city of Bath. A business man advised him to go to the “Bell And Dragon” pub. On his way to the hotel, he sees a bed and breakfast which seems more comfortable than the Bell And Dragon. He rings on the door’s bell and a woman opens the door and seems too nice to be true. She asks him to sign in the guestbook but Billy is astonished when he sees that the last signature had been signed three years ago. When he records himself in the book, he drinks a cup of tea brought by the woman who takes care of the bed and breakfast. Later, Billy by drinking the cup, finds out the tea tastes unusual… Alexandre’s opinion: It’s a short story that I enjoyed as for the story itself, as by the frequent use of black humour, all finally concentrated and told with an exceptional imagination. Charlotte’s opinion: The way Roald Dahl describes the events is very interesting because he highlights the mysterious dimension of the time, this allows us to ask different questions and solicit our imagination. I enjoyed reading this short story because from moment to moment our hypotheses can change. Selena’s opinion: When I read “The Landlady” I did not expect such an end; this story surprised me and we do not know where it leads us. I like to be surprised by the stories I read. 10 The Landlady BILLY WEAVER HAD TRAVELLED down from London on the slow afternoon train, with a change at Swindon on the way, and by the time he got to Bath it was about nine o'clock in the evening and the moon was coming up out of a clear starry sky over the houses opposite the station entrance. But the air was deadly cold and the wind was like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks. "Excuse me" he said "but is there a fairly cheap hotel not too far away from here?" "Try The Bell and Dragon" the porter answered pointing down the road. "They might take you in. It's about a quarter of a mile along on the other side." Billy thanked him and picked up his suitcase and set out to walk the quarter-mile to The Bell and Dragon. He had never been to Bath before. He didn't know anyone who lived there. But Mr Greenslade at the Head Office in London had told him it was a splendid city. "Find your own lodgings," he had said "and then go along and report to the Branch Manager as soon as you've got yourself settled". Billy was seventeen years old. He was wearing a new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby hat, and a new brown suit, and he was feeling fine. He walked briskly down the street. He was trying to do everything briskly these days. Briskness, he had decided was the one common characteristic of all successful businessmen. The big shots up at Head Office were absolutely fantastically brisk all the time. They were amazing. There were no shops on this wide street that he was walking along, only a line of tall houses on each side, all of them identical. They had porches and pillars and four or five steps going up to their front doors, and it was obvious that once upon a time they had been very swanky residence. But now, even in the darkness, he could see that the paint was peeling from the woodwork on their doors and windows, and that the handsome white facades were cracked and blotchy from neglect. Suddenly, in a downstairs window that was brilliantly illuminated by a street-lamp not six yards away, Billy caught sight of a printed notice propped up against the glass in one of the upper panes. It said BED AND BREAKFAST. There was a vase of pussywillows, tall and beautiful, standing just underneath the notice. He stopped walking. He moved a bit closer. Green curtains (some sort of velvety material) were hanging down on either 11 side of the window. The pussywillows looked wonderful beside them. He went right up and peered through the glass into the room, and the first thing he saw was a bright fire burning in the hearth. On the carpet in front of the fire, a pretty little dachshund was curled up asleep with its nose tucked into its belly. The room itself, so far as he could see in the half-darkness, was filled with pleasant furniture. There was a baby-grand piano and a big sofa and several plump armchairs and in one corner he spotted a large parrot in a cage. Animals were usually a good sign in a place like this, Billy told himself; and all in all, it looked to him as though it would be a pretty decent house to stay in. Certainly it would be more comfortable than The Bell and Dragon. On the other hand, a pub would be more congenial than a boarding-house. There would be beer and darts in the evenings, and lots of people to talk to, and it would probably be a good bit cheaper, too. He had stayed a couple of nights in a pub once before and he had liked it. He had never stayed in any boarding houses, and, to be perfectly honest, he was a tiny bit frightened of them. The name itself conjured up images of watery cabbage, rapacious landladies, and a powerful smell of kippers in the living-room. After dithering about like this in the cold for two or three minutes, Billy decided that he would walk on and take a look at The Bell and Dragon before making up his mind. He turned to go. And now a queer thing happened to him. He was in the act of stepping back and turning away from the window when all at once his eye was caught and held in the most peculiar manner by the small notice that was there. BED AND BREAKFAST, it said. BED AND BREAKFAST, BED AND BREAKFAST, BED AND BREAKFAST. Each word was like a large black eye staring at him through the glass, holding him compelling him. forcing him to stay where he was and not to walk away from that house, and the next thing he knew, he was actually moving across from the window to the front door of the house, climbing the steps that led up to it, and reaching for the bell. He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and then at once - it must have been at once because he hadn't even had time to take his finger from the bell-button - the door swung open and a woman was standing there. Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half minute’s wait before the door opens. But this dame was like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell - and out she popped It made him jump. She was about forty-five or fifty years old and the moment she saw him, she gave him a warm welcoming smile. "Please come in," she said pleasantly. She stepped aside, holding the door wide open and Billy found himself automatically starting forward into the house. The compulsion or, more accurately, the desire to follow after her into that house was extra- ordinarily strong. "I saw the notice in the window," he said holding himself back. "Yes, I know." 12 "I was wondering about a room." "It's all ready for you, my dear," she said. She had a round pink face and very gentle blue eyes. "I was on my way to The Bell and Dragon" Billy told her. "But the notice in your window just happened to catch my eye." "My dear boy," she said, "why don't you come in out of the cold?" "How much do you charge?" "Five and sixpence a night, including breakfast." It was fantastically cheap. It was less than half of what he had been willing to pay. "If that is too much" she added "then perhaps I can reduce it just a tiny bit. Do you desire an egg for breakfast? Eggs are expensive at the moment. It would be sixpence less without the egg" "Five and sixpence is fine," he answered. "I should like very much to stay here." "I knew you would. Do come in." She seemed terribly nice. She looked exactly like the mother of one's best school-friend welcoming one into the house to stay for the Christmas holidays. Billy took off his hat, and stepped over the threshold. "Just hang it there," she said, "and let me help you with your coat." There were no other hats or coats in the hall. There were no umbrellas, no walking-sticks - nothing. "We have it all to ourselves," she said, smiling at him over her shoulder as she led the way upstairs. "You see, it isn't very often I have the pleasure of taking a visitor into my little nest." The old girl is slightly dotty, Billy told himself. But at five and sixpence a night, who gives a damn about that? "I should've thought you'd be simply swamped with applicants," he said politely. "Oh, I am, my dear, I am, of course I am. But the trouble is that I'm inclined to be just a teeny weeny bit choosy and particular; if you see what I mean". "Ah, yes." "But I'm always ready. Everything is always ready day and night in this house just on the off-chance that an acceptable young gentleman will come along. And it is such a pleasure, my dear, such a very great pleasure when now and again I open the door and I see someone standing there who is just 13 exactly right." She was half-way up the stairs, and she paused with one hand on the stair-rail, turning her head and smiling down at him with pale lips. "Like you," she added, and her blue eyes travelled slowly all the way down the length of Billy's body, to his feet, and then up again. On the first-floor landing she said to him, "This floor is mine." They climbed up a second flight. "And this one is all yours," she said. "Here's your room. I do hope you'll like it." She took him into a small but charming front bedroom switching on the light as she went in. "The morning sun comes right in the window, Mr Perkins. It is Mr Perkins, isn't it?" "No," he said. "It's Weaver." "Mr Weaver. How nice. I've put a water-bottle between the sheets to air them out, Mr Weaver. It's such a comfort to have a hot water-bottle in a strange bed with clean sheets, don't you agree? And you may light the gas fire at any time if you feel chilly." "Thank you," Billy said. "Thank you ever so much" He noticed that the bedspread had been taken off the bed, and that the bedclothes had been neatly turned back on one side, all ready for someone to get in. "I'm so glad you appeared," she said, looking earnestly into his face. "I was beginning to get worried." "That's all right," Billy answered brightly. "You mustn't worry about me." He put his suitcase on the chair and started to open it. "And what about supper, my dear? Did you manage to get anything to eat before you came here?" "I'm not a bit hungry, thank you," he said. "I think I'll just go to bed as soon as possible because tomorrow I've got to get up rather early and report to the office." "Very well, then. I'll leave you now so that you can unpack. But before you go to bed would you be kind enough to pop into the sitting-room on the ground floor and sign the book? Everyone has to do that because it's the law of the land and we don't want to go breaking any laws at this stage in the proceedings, do we?" She gave him a little wave of the hand and went quickly out of the room and closed the door. Now, the fact that his landlady appeared to be slightly off her rocker didn't worry Billy in the least. After all, she was not only harmless - there was no question about that - but she was also quite obviously a kind and generous soul. He guessed that she had probably lost a son in the war, or something like that, and had never got over it. 14 So a few minute later, after unpacking his suitcase and washing his hands, he trotted downstairs to the ground floor and entered the living-room. His landlady wasn't there, but the fire was glowing in the hearth and the little dachshund was still sleeping in front of it. The room was wonderfully warm and cosy. I'm a lucky fellow, he thought, rubbing his hands. This is a bit of all right. He found the guest-book lying open on the piano, so he took out his pen and wrote down his name and address. There were only two other entries above his on the page, and, as one always does with guest-books, he started to read them. One was a Christopher Mulholland from Cardiff. The other was Gregory W. Temple from Bristol. That's funny, he thought suddenly. Christopher Mulholland. It rings a bell. Now where on earth had he heard that rather unusual name before? Was he a boy at school? No. Was it one of his sister's numerous young men, perhaps, or a friend of his father's No, no, it wasn't any of those. He glanced down again at the book. Christopher Mulholland 231 Cathedral Road, Cardiff Gregory W. Temple 27 Sycamore Drive, Bristol As a matter of fact, now he came to think of it, he wasn't at all sure that the second name didn't have almost as much of a familiar ring about it as the first. "Gregory Temple?" he said aloud searching his memory. "Christopher Mulholland? ..." "Such charming boys," a voice behind him answered, and he turned and saw his landlady sailing into the room with a large silver tea-tray in her hands. She was holding it well out in front of her, and rather high up, as though the tray were a pair of reins on a frisky horse. "They sound somehow familiar," he said. "They do? How interesting." "I'm almost positive I've heard those names before somewhere. Isn't that queer? Maybe it was in the newspapers. They weren't famous in any way, were they? I mean famous cricketers or footballers or something like that?" "Famous," she said setting the tea-tray down on the low table in front of the sofa. "Oh no, I don't think they were famous. But they were extraordinarily 15 handsome, both of them, I can promise you that. They were tall and young and handsome, my dear, just exactly like you." Once more Billy glanced down at the book. "Look here," he said, noticing the date. "This last entry is over two years old." "It is?" "Yes, indeed. And Christopher Mulholland's is nearly a year before that - more than three years ago." "Dear me," she said, shaking her head and heaving a dainty little sigh. "I would never have thought it. How time does fly away from us all, doesn't it Mr Wilkins?" "It's Weaver," Billy said. "W-e-a-v-e-r." "Oh, of course it is " she cried, sitting down on the sofa. "How silly of me. I do apologize. In one ear and out the other, that's me, Mr Weaver." "You know something?" Billy said "Something that's really quite extraordinary about all this?" "No, dear, I don't." "Well, you see - both of these names, Mulholland and Temple, I not only seem to remember each one of them separately, so to speak, but somehow or other, in some peculiar way, they both appear to be sort of connected together as well. As though they were both famous for the same sort of thing, if you see what I mean - like . . . well . . . like Dempsey and Tunney, for example, or Churchill and Roosevelt." "How amusing," she said. "But come over here now, dear, and sit down beside me on the sofa and I'll give you a nice cup of tea and a ginger biscuit before you go to bed." "You really shouldn't bother," Billy said. "I didn't mean you to do anything like that." He stood by the piano, watching her as she fussed about with the cups and saucers. He noticed that she had small, white, quickly moving hands, and red finger-nails. "I'm almost positive it was in the newspapers I saw them," Billy said. "I'll think of it in a second. I'm sure I will." There is nothing more tantalizing than a thing like this which lingers just outside the borders of one's memory. He hated to give up. "Now wait a minute," he said. "Wait just a minute. Mulholland . . Christopher Mulholland . . . wasn't that the name of the Eton schoolboy who was on a walking tour through the West Country, and then all of a sudden . . . " "Milk?" she said. "And sugar?" "Yes, please. And then all of a sudden ..." 16 "Eton schoolboy?" she said. "Oh no, my dear, that can't possibly be right because my Mr Mulholland was certainly not an Eton schoolboy when he came to me. He was a Cambridge undergraduate. Come over here now and sit next to me and warm yourself in front of this lovely fire. Come on. Your tea's all ready for you." She patted the empty place beside her on the sofa, and she sat there smiling at Billy and waiting for him to come over. He crossed the room slowly, and sat down on the edge of the sofa. She placed his teacup on the table in front of him. "come over here," she said. "How nice and cosy this is, isn't it?" Billy started sipping his tea. She did the same. For half a minute or so. neither of them spoke. But Billy knew that she was looking at him. Her body was half-turned towards him, and he could feel her eyes resting on his face, watching him over the rim of her teacup. Now and again, he caught a whiff of a peculiar smell that seemed to emanate directly from her person. It was not in the least unpleasant, and it reminded him - well, he wasn't quite sure what it reminded him of. Pickled walnuts? New leather? Or was it the corridors of a hospital? "Mr Mulholland was a great one for his tea," she said at length. "Never in my life have I seen anyone drink as much tea as dear, sweet Mr Mulholland." "I suppose he left fairly recently," Billy said. He was still puzzling his head about the two names. He was positive now that he had seen them in the newspapers - in the headlines. "Left?" she said arching her brows. "But my dear boy, he never left. He's still here. Mr Temple is also here. They're on the third floor, both of them together." Billy set down his cup slowly on the table, and stared at his landlady. She stared back at him, and then she put out one of her white hands and patted him comfortingly on the knee. "How old are you, my dear?" she asked. "Seventeen." "Seventeen" she cried. "Oh, it's the perfect age Mr Mulholland was also seventeen. But I think he was a trifle shorter than you are, in fact I'm sure he was, and his teeth weren't quite so white. You have the most beautiful teeth Mr Weaver, did you know that?" "They're not as good as they look" Billy said. "They've got simply masses of fillings in them at the back." "Mr Temple, of course, was a little older," she said ignoring his remark. "He was actually twenty-eight. And yet I never would have guessed it if he hadn't told me, never in my whole life. There wasn't a blemish on his body." 17 "A what?" Billy said. "His skin was just like a baby's." There was a pause. Billy picked up his teacup and took another sip of his tea, then he set it down again gently in its saucer. He waited for her to say something else, but she seemed to have lapsed into another of her silences. He sat there staring straight ahead of him into the far corner of the room, biting his lower lip. "That parrot," he said at last. "You know something? It had me completely fooled when I first saw it through the window from the street. I could have sworn it was alive." "Alas, no longer." "It's most terribly clever the way it's been done," he said "It doesn't look in the least bit dead. Who did it? "I did." "You did?" "Of course," she said "And have you met my little Basil as well? She nodded towards the dachshund curled up so comfortably in front of the fire. Billy looked at it. And suddenly, he realized that this animal had all the time been just as silent and motionless as the parrot. He put out a hand and touched it gently on the top of its back. The back was hard and cold, and when he pushed the hair to one side with his fingers, he could see the skin underneath it greyish-black and dry and perfectly preserved. "Good gracious me," he said. "How absolutely fascinating. "He turned away from the dog and stared with deep admiration at the little woman beside him on the sofa. "It must be most awfully difficult to do a thing like that." "Not in the least," she said. "I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away. Will you have another cup of tea?" "No, thank you," Billy said. The tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds, and he didn't much care for it. "You did sign the book, didn't you?" "Oh, yes." "That's good. Because later on, if I happen to forget what you were called then I can always come down here and look it up. I still do that almost every day with Mr Mulholland and Mr...Mr." "Temple," Billy said. "Gregory Temple. Excuse my asking, but haven't there been any other guests here accept them in the last two or three years?" Holding her teacup high in one hand, inclining her head slightly to the left, she looked up at him out of the corners of her eyes and gave him another gentle little smile "No, my dear," she said. "Only you." 18 Introduction to “Lamb to the Slaughter” Mary Maloney is six weeks pregnant, and she loves her husband Patrick, a cop who, one day, reveals to his wife that he’s going to leave her for another woman. So, she becomes very angry, and kills him by knocking him down with a frozen leg of lamb. Then, she calls Patrick’s policemen friends and tells them that her husband has been killed ; so they go to her house to analyze the crime scene. She invites them to a particular dinner… Oceane’s opinion: This story was unusual but really good to read. It is strange and a little bit sadistic. It is between horror and black comedy. Therefore I liked this story because it is an some way a fun and original story that we are not used to reading. Myriam’s opinion: I was a very enjoyable short story; I liked it. The author uses tension, suspense... the writing is fresh and active. There are lots of contrasts to great effects to create humorous short story with the serious subject of death. 19 Lamb to the Slaughter 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 sixth month with child - had acquired a wonderful translucent quality, the mouth was soft, and the eyes, with their new placid look, seemed larger, darker than before. When the clock said ten minutes to five, she began to listen, and a few moments later, punctually as always, she heard the tyres on the gravel outside, and the car door slamming, the footsteps passing the window, the key turning in the lock. She laid aside her sewing, stood up, and went forward to kiss him as he came in. 'Hullo, darling,' she said, 'Hullo,' he answered. She took his coat and hung it in the closet. Then she walked over and made the drinks, a strongish one for him, a weak one for herself; and soon she was back again in her chair with the sewing, and he in the other, opposite, holding the tall glass with both his hands, rocking it so the ice cubes tinkled against the side. For her, this was always a blissful time of day. She knew he didn't want to speak much until the first drink was finished, and she, on her side, was content to sit quietly, enjoying his company after the long hours alone in the house. She loved to luxuriate in the presence of this man, and to feel - almost as a sunbather feels the sun - that warm male glow that came out of him to her when they were alone together. 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?’. '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 20

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