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Reading Club Pre-Intermediate: The Luncheon by S. Maugham

THE LUNCHEON

by Somerset Maugham

tumblr_lx4aqzmetg1qaze3do1_500I caught sight of her at the play and in answer to her beckoning I went over during the interval and sat down beside her. It was long since I had last seen her and if someone had not mentioned her name I do not think I would have recognized her. She addressed me brightly.
"Well, it's many years since we first met. How time flies! We are not getting any younger. Do you remember the first time I saw you? You asked me to luncheon."
Did I remember?
It was twenty years ago and I was living in Paris. I had a tiny apartment in the Latin Quarter and I was earning barely enough money to keep body and soul together. She had read a book of mine and had written to me about it. I answered, thanking her, and presently I received from her another letter saying that she was passing through Paris and would like to have a chat with me; but her time was limited and the only free moment she had was on the following Thursday. She asked me if I would give her a little luncheon at Foyot's. Foyot's is a restaurant at which the French senators eat and it was so far beyond my means that I had never even thought of going there. But I was flattered and I was too young to say no to a woman. I had eighty francs to live on till the end of the month and a modest luncheon should not cost more than fifteen. If I cut out coffee for the next two weeks I could manage well enough.
I answered that I would meet her at Foyot's on Thursday at half past twelve.
She was not so young as I expected and in appearance imposing rather than attractive. She was in fact a woman of forty, and she gave me the impression of having more teeth, white and large and even, than were necessary for any practical purpose. She was talkative, but since she seemed inclined to talk about me I was prepared to be an attentive listener. I was startled when the menu was brought, for the prices were a great deal higher than I had expected. But she reassured me.
“I never eat anything for luncheon," she said.
"Oh, don't say that!" I answered generously.
"I never eat more than one thing. I think people eat too much nowadays. A little fish, perhaps. I wonder if they have any salmon."
Well, it was early in the year for salmon and it was not on the menu, but I asked the waiter if there was any. Yes, they had a beautiful salmon, it was the first they had had. I ordered it for my guest. The waiter asked her if she would have something while it was being cooked.
"No," she answered, "I never eat more than one thing. Unless you had a little caviar.' I never mind caviar."
My heart sank a little. I knew I could not afford caviar, but I could not tell her that. I told the waiter by all means to bring caviar. For myself I chose the cheapest dish on the menu and that was a mutton chop.
"I think you're unwise to eat meat," she said. "I don't know how you can expect to work after eating heavy things like chops. I never overload my stomach."
Then came the question of drink.
"I never drink anything for luncheon," she said.
"Neither do I," I answered promptly.
"Except white wine," she went on as though I had not spoken. "These French white wines are so light. They are wonderful for the digestion."
"What would you like?" I asked her.
"My doctor won't let me drink anything but champagne." I think I turned a little pale. I ordered half a bottle. I mentioned casually that my doctor had absolutely forbidden me to drink champagne.
"What are you going to drink, then?"
"Water." 
She ate the caviar and she ate the salmon. She talked gaily of art and literature and music. But I wondered what the bill would come to. When my mutton chop arrived she said:
"I see that you're in the habit of eating a heavy luncheon. I'm sure it's a mistake. Why don't you follow my example and just eat one thing? I'm sure you'd feel much better then."
"I am only going to eat one thing," I said, as the waiter came again with the menu. She waved him aside with a light gesture.
"No, no, I never eat anything for luncheon. Just a bite, I never want more than that. I can't eat anything more unless they had some of those giant asparagus. I should be sorry to leave Paris without having some of them."
My heart sank. I had seen them in the shops and I knew that they were horribly expensive. My mouth had often watered at the sight of them. "Madame wants to know if you have any of those giant asparagus," I asked the waiter.
I hoped he would say no. A happy smile spread over his broad face, and he assured me that they had some so large, so splendid, so tender, that it was a marvel.
"I'm not in the least hungry," my guest sighed, "but if you insist I don't mind having some asparagus.
I ordered them.
"Aren't you going to have any?"
"No, I never eat asparagus."
"I know there are people who don't like them."
We waited for the asparagus to be cooked. Panic seized me. It was not a question now how much money I should have left for the rest of the month, but whether I had enough to pay the bill. It would be terrible to find myself ten francs short and be obliged to borrow from my guest. I could not bring myself to do that. I knew exactly how much money I had and if the bill came to more I made up my mind that I would put my hand in my pocket and with a dramatic cry start up and say my money had been stolen. If she had not money enough to pay the bill then the only thing to do would be to leave my watch and say I would come back and pay later.
The asparagus appeared. They were enormous and appetizing. The smell of the melted butter tickled my nostrils. I watched the woman send them down her throat and in my polite way I talked on the condition of the drama in the Balkans. At last she finished.
"Coffee?" I said.
"Yes, just an ice-cream and coffee," she answered.
It was all the same to me now, so I ordered coffee for myself and an ice-cream and coffee for her.
"You know, there's one thing I thoroughly believe in," she said, as she ate the ice-cream. "One should always get up from a meal feeling one could eat a little more."
"Are you still hungry?" I asked faintly.
"Oh, no, I'm not hungry; you see, I don't eat luncheon. I have a cup of coffee in the morning and then dinner, but I never eat more than one thing for luncheon. I was speaking for you."
"Oh, I see!"
Then a terrible thing happened. While we were waiting for the coffee, the head waiter, with a smile on his false face, came up to us bearing a large basket full of huge peaches. Peaches were not in season then. Lord knew what they cost. I knew too — a little later, for my guest, going on with her conversation, absent-mindedly took one. "You see, you've filled your stomach with a lot of meat and you can't eat any more. But I've just had a snack and I shall enjoy a peach."
The bill came and when I paid it I found that I had only enough for a quite inadequate tip. Her eyes rested for a moment on the three francs I left for the waiter and I knew that she thought me mean. But when I walked out of the restaurant I had the whole month before me and not a penny in my pocket.
"Follow my example," she said as we shook hands, "and never eat more than one thing for luncheon."
"I'll do better than that," I answered. "I'll eat nothing for dinner tonight."
"Humorist!" she cried gaily, jumping into a cab. "You're quite a humorist!"
But I have had my revenge at last. Today she weighs twenty-one stone.' 


Exercises

Pre-reading Tasks

1. Luncheon is a formal lunch.

What sort of luncheon do you think you are going to read about? Write 3-5 sentences.

2. Practice the pronunciation of the words from the story. 

Latin Quarter, restaurant, senator, menu, reassure, salmon, caviar, digestion, champagne, giant, asparagus, drama, Balkans, stomach, thoroughly, inadequate, revenge, weigh.

Vocabulary and Grammar Tasks

1. Find in the story the English for:

заметить кого-либо, рядом с чем-либо, как летит время!, сводить концы с концами, справиться с чем-либо, быть пораженным, разуверять, великодушно, в меню, перегружать (желудок), пищеварение, сердце упало, ничего не иметь против, у меня слюнки текли, не могу позволить себе, ничуть, занимать у кого-либо, мне было все равно, перекусить, счет, чаевые, следовать чьему-либо примеру, отомстить, весить.

2. Fill each gap with a word or word combination in italics in an appropriate form.

couldn’t afford
to water
on the menu
digestion
a tip
time flies
to overload
to have one’s revenge

1. It’s many years since we first met. How __________!
2. For myself I chose the cheapest dish __________.
3. ‘I never __________ my stomach’, she said.
4. These French wines are wonderful for __________.
5. My heart sank. I knew I __________ caviar.
6. I had seen asparagus in the shops, my mouth often __________ at the sight of them.
7. When I paid the bill I had only enough for quite an inadequate __________.
8. But I __________. Today she weights twenty-one stone. 

3. Replace the italicized words and word combinations with a synonym in an appropriate form.

to be startled
to borrow from
to manage well enough
beside
wouldn’t mind
to keep body and soul together
it was all the same to me

1. I went over during the interval and sat down next to her.
2. I was earning barely enough money to make both ends meet.
3. I thought if I cut out coffee for the next two weeks I could do well enough.
4. I was struck when the menu was brought.
5. My guest sighed, ‘If you insist I won’t object to having some asparagus’.
6. It would be terrible to be obliged to take money from my guest if I didn’t have enough to pay for the bill.
7. It made no difference to me now, so I ordered coffee for myself and an ice-cream and coffee for her.

4. A Which of the verb tenses in the sentences below is used to describe:

a) an action that happened before another past action?
b) an action in progress (going on) around a particular past moment?
c) a completed action connected with the present?
d) a single past action? 

1. I’ve just had a snack and I shall enjoy a peach.
2. She ate the caviar and she ate the salmon.
3. It was twenty years ago and I was living in Paris.
4. Foyot’s was far beyond my means that I had never even thought of going there.

B Use the verbs in brackets in an appropriate tense (active or passive)

1. The prices were a great deal higher than I __________. (to expect)
2. The waiter asked if she would have something while it __________. (to cook)
3. I think I __________ a little pale. (to turn)
4. I mentioned casually that my doctors absolutely __________ me to drink champagne. (to forbid)
5. While we __________ for the coffee, the head waiter came up to us with a basket full of huge peaches. (to wait)
6. You see, you __________ your stomach with a lot of meat and you can’t eat any more. (to fill)
7. I __________ my revenge at last. Today she weighs twenty-one stone. (to have)
8. When I __________ out of the restaurant I had the whole month before me and not a penny in my pocket. (to walk) 

5. A Decide why the italicized nouns are used with a, the or ?.

1. a) I never eat anything for luncheon.
b) A modest luncheon would not cost more than fifteen.

2. a) It was early in the year for salmon.
b) They had a beautiful salmon, it was the first they had. She ate the salmon.

3. a) I ordered coffee for myself and an ice-cream and coffee for her.
b) ‘You know, there’s one thing I thoroughly believe in’, she said and she ate the ice-cream.
c) While we were waiting for the coffee, the head waiter came up to us.

B Use the proper article

1. You asked me to _____ luncheon.
2. She asked me if I would give her _____ little luncheon at Foyot’s.
3. If I cut out _____ coffee for the next two weeks I could manage well enough.
4. I knew I could not afford _____ caviar.
5. I see that you are in the habit of eating _____ heavy luncheon.
6. I never drink anything for _____ luncheon except _____ white wine.
7. I never eat _____ asparagus.
8. We waited for _____ asparagus to be cooked.

Reading Comprehension and Discussion Tasks

1. Answer the following questions:

1. Where did the author catch sight of the woman? Why wouldn’t he have recognized her if somebody hadn’t mentioned her name?
2. Did he remember where he had first met her? Where was he living at that time? How much was he earning?
3. Why did she write to him? Where would she like him to give her a little luncheon? Why had he never thought of going to Foyot’s?
4. Why did he agree to meet her at Foyot’s?
5. What did she look like? What was unusual about her appearance?
6. Why was the author prepared to be an attentive listener?
7. Why was he startled when the menu was brought? How did she reassure him?
8. What did she repeatedly say throughout the luncheon?
9. What did she order first? Why did his heart sink?
10. What did he order for himself? What did she say about his choice?
11. What was she going to drink?
12. What did she talk about while she ate the salmon and the caviar?
13. Why did she say she wanted to have asparagus? Why did the author say he never ate asparagus?
14. Why did panic seize him? What did he decide to do if he didn’t have enough money to pay the bill?
15. What terrible thing happened while they were waiting for the coffee?
16. What did she say she believed in?
17. Could he pay the bill? Why did he know she thought him mean?
18. Why did she say he was a humorist? Was he?
19. Has he had his revenge at last? What sort of revenge is it?
20. Act out the scene of the luncheon.
21. Act out an inner monolog of the author during the luncheon. 

2. Discuss the following:

1. Make guesses about the woman’s background.
2. Why do you think she wrote to the author? Do you think many people send letters to writers? Could you write to a writer? What writer could you send a letter to and what would you write about?
3. Why do you think she asked him to give her a luncheon at Foyot’s? Why did she order the most expensive things? Why did she repeatedly say she never ate anything for luncheon? Did she really mean it or was it a trick?
4. ‘She gave me the impression of having more teeth, white and large and even, than there were necessary for any practical purpose’. Why do you think the author pays special attention to the description of the woman’s teeth?
5. What do you think is the author’s attitude to the reading public: good-humored, ruthless, ironical or skeptical?
6. Does S. Maugham, in your opinion, try to convey any message in the story or does he only try to amuse the reader? How did you find the story?