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Name:Class:The LandladyBy Roald Dahl1959Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a British novelist, short story writer, and poet. Dahl’s stories are known forhaving darkly comic or unexpected endings. In this short story, a young man in search of lodging is taken inby a landlady who is not what she seems. As you read, take note of how Roald Dahl portrays the landlady.[1]Billy Weaver had travelled down from London onthe slow afternoon train, with a change at1Swindon on the way, and by the time he got to2Bath it was about nine o’clock in the evening andthe moon was coming up out of a clear starry skyover the houses opposite the station entrance.But the air was deadly cold and the wind was likea flat blade of ice on his cheeks.“Excuse me,” he said, “but is there a fairly cheaphotel not too far away from here?”3“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 otherside.”Billy thanked him and picked up his suitcase andset out to walk the quarter-mile to The Bell andDragon. He had never been to Bath before. Hedidn’t know anyone who lived there. But MrGreenslade at the Head Office in London had told4him it was a splendid city. “Find your ownlodgings,” he had said, “and then go along andreport to the Branch Manager as soon as you’vegot yourself settled.”[5]"The Linville River Farm bed and breakfast, no longer inoperation" by Lindley Ashline is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.Billy was seventeen years old. He was wearing a5new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby hat, and a new brown suit, and he was feeling fine. He6walked briskly down the street. He was trying to do everything briskly these days. Briskness, he haddecided, was the one common characteristic of all successful businessmen. The big shots up at HeadOffice were absolutely fantastically brisk all the time. They were amazing.1.2.3.4.5.6.a large town in South West Englanda region in the countryside in South West EnglandA “porter” is a person employed to carry luggage.Splendid (adjective): very impressivea soft felt hat with a narrow brimBriskly (adverb): quick and active1

There were no shops on this wide street that he was walking along, only a line of tall houses on eachside, all them identical. They had porches and pillars and four or five steps going up to their front7doors, and it was obvious that once upon a time they had been very swanky residences. But now,even in the darkness, he could see that the paint was peeling from the woodwork on their doors and8windows, and that the handsome white façades 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 saidBED AND BREAKFAST. There was a vase of yellow chrysanthemums, tall and beautiful, standing justunderneath the notice.He stopped walking. He moved a bit closer.Green curtains (some sort of velvety material) were hanging down on either side of the window. Thechrysanthemums looked wonderful beside them. He went right up and peered through the glass intothe room, and the first thing he saw was a bright fire burning in the hearth. On the carpet in front of9the fire, a pretty little dachshund was curled up asleep with its nose tucked into its belly.[10]The room itself, so far as he could see in the half-darkness, was filled with pleasant furniture. Therewas a baby-grand piano and a big sofa and several plump armchairs; and in one corner he spotted alarge parrot in a cage. Animals were usually a good sign in a place like this, Billy told himself; and all inall, it looked to him as though it would be a pretty decent house to stay in. Certainly it would be morecomfortable than The Bell and Dragon.10On the other hand, a pub would be more congenial than a boarding-house. There would be beer anddarts in the evenings, and lots of people to talk to, and it would probably be a good bit cheaper, too. Hehad stayed a couple of nights in a pub once before and he had liked it. He had never stayed in anyboarding-houses, and, to be perfectly honest, he was a tiny bit frightened of them. The name itself111213conjured up images of watery cabbage, rapacious landladies, and a powerful smell of kippers inthe living-room.14After dithering about like this in the cold for two or three minutes, Billy decided that he would walkon and take a look at The Bell and Dragon before making up his mind. He turned to go. And now a15queer thing happened to him. He was in the act of stepping back and turning away from the window16when all at once his eye was caught and held in the most peculiar manner by the small notice thatwas there. BED AND BREAKFAST, it said. BED AND BREAKFAST, BED AND BREAKFAST, BED ANDBREAKFAST. 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 nextthing he knew, he was actually moving across from the window to the front door of the house, climbingthe steps that led up to it, and reaching for the bell.7.8.9.10.11.12.13.14.15.16.Swanky (adjective): stylish and expensiveA “façade” is the face of a building, especially the front that looks on a street.a type of dog with short legs and a long bodyCongenial (adjective): pleasant and enjoyableConjure (verb): to make someone or something appearRapacious (adjective): aggressively greedya type of fishto be indecisivestrange or oddPeculiar (adjective): strange or odd; unusual2

He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and then at once – it must have beenat once because he hadn’t even had time to take his finger from the bell-button – the door swung openand 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 this17dame was a like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell – and out she popped! It made him jump.[15]She was about forty-five or fifty years old, and the moment she saw him, she gave him a warmwelcoming smile.“Please come in,” she said pleasantly. She stepped aside, holding the door wide open, and Billy found18himself automatically starting forward into the house. The compulsion or, more accurately, the desireto follow after her into that house was extraordinarily strong.“I saw the notice in the window,” he said, holding himself back.“Yes, I know.”“I was wondering about a room.”[20]“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 happenedto 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.”[25]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 forbreakfast? 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 oneinto the house to stay for the Christmas holidays. Billy took off his hat, and stepped over the19threshold.[30]“Just hang it there,” she said, “and let me help you with your coat.”17.18.19.“Dame” is another term for a woman.Compulsion (noun): an irresistible urge to behave in a certain waya point of entering3

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.”20The old girl is slightly dotty, Billy told himself. But at five and sixpence a night, who gives a damn21about that? – “I should’ve thought you’d be simply swamped with applicants,” he said politely.[35]“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 bitchoosy 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 thatan acceptable young gentleman will come along. And it is such a pleasure, my dear, such a very greatpleasure when now and again I open the door and I see someone standing there who is just exactlyright.” She was half-way up the stairs, and she paused with one hand on the stair-rail, turning her headand smiling down at him with pale lips. “Like you,” she added, and her blue eyes travelled slowly all theway 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’lllike it.” She took him into a small but charming front bedroom, switching on the light as she went in.[40]“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 sucha comfort to have a hot water-bottle in a strange bed with clean sheets, don’t you agree? And you maylight 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 offthe bed, and that the bedclothes had been neatly turned back on one side, all ready for someone toget in.“I’m so glad you appeared,” she said, looking earnestly[45]22into 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 chairand started to open it.“And what about supper, my dear? Did you manage to get anything to eat before you came here?”20.21.22.“Dotty” means somewhat mad.Swamp (verb): to overwhelm with an excessive amount of somethingEarnest (adjective): serious and sincere4

“I’m not a bit hungry, thank you,” he said. “I think I’ll just go to bed as soon as possible becausetomorrow 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 kindenough to pop into the sitting-room on the ground floor and sign the book? Everyone has to do thatbecause it’s the law of the land, and we don’t want to go breaking any laws at this stage in theproceedings, do we?” She gave him a little wave of the hand and went quickly out of the room andclosed the door.23Now, 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 quiteobviously a kind and generous soul. He guessed that she had probably lost a son in the war, orsomething like that, and had never got over it.[50]So a few minutes later, after unpacking his suitcase and washing his hands, he trotted downstairs tothe ground floor and entered the living-room. His landlady wasn’t there, but the fire was glowing in thehearth, and the little dachshund was still sleeping in front of it. The room was wonderfully warm andcosy. 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 nameand address. There were only two other entries above his on the page, and, as one always does withguest-books, he started to read them. One was a Christopher Mulholland from Cardiff. The other wasGregory W. Temple from Bristol. That’s funny, he thought suddenly. Christopher Mulholland. It rings abell. 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 hisfather’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 hecame to think of it, he wasn’t at all sure that the second name didn’t have almost as much of a familiarring 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 intothe room with a large silver tea-tray in her hands. She was holding it well out in front of her, and rather24high up, as though the tray were a pair of reins on a frisky horse.[55]“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 thenewspapers. They weren’t famous in any way, were they? I mean famous cricketers or footballers orsomething like that?”23.24.a phrase that means insaneFrisky (adjective): playful and full of energy5

“Famous,” she said, setting the tea-tray down on the low table in front of the sofa. “Oh no, I don’t thinkthey were famous. But they were extraordinarily 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.[60]“Look here,” he said, noticing the dates. “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 daintyHow time does fly away from us all, doesn’t it, Mr Wilkins?”25little sigh. “I would never have thought it.“It’s Weaver,” Billy said. “W-e-a-v-e-r.”[65]“Oh, of course it is!” she cried, sitting down on the sofa. “How silly of me. I do apo