I caught sight of her at the play at the theatre, and in answer to her beckoning, I went over during the interval and sat down beside her. For some time I just listened to the animated discussion she and her companions were having. It was long since I had last seen her, and if someone had not mentioned her name, I hardly think I would have recalled seeing her before. She was so large. She addressed me brightly.
‘Well, it’s many years since we first met. 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 overlooking a cemetery, and I was earning very little money. 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 the only free moment she had was on the following Thursday and would I 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 thought of going there. But I was flattered so I answered that I would meet her on Thursday at half past twelve.
I was surprised when the menu was brought, for the prices were a great deal higher than I had anticipated. 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 wonder if they have any salmon.’
Well, it was early in the year for salmon, but I asked the waiter if there was any.
Yes, a beautiful salmon had just come in. 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 have a little caviare.’
My heart sank. I knew I could not afford caviare, but I could not tell her that. I asked the waiter to bring caviare. For myself I chose the cheapest dish on the menu – a mutton chop.
‘I think you are unwise to eat meat,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how you can expect to work after eating such heavy things. I don’t believe in overloading my stomach.’
She ate the caviare and she ate the salmon. She talked about art and literature and music. But I wondered what the bill would come to.
‘I see that you’re in the habit of eating a heavy luncheon. Why don’t you follow my example and just eat one thing? I’m sure you’d feel so much better for it.’
‘I am only going to eat one thing,’ I said.
The waiter came again. She waved him aside with an airy gesture.
‘No. No. I never eat anything for luncheon. Just a bite. I couldn’t possibly eat anything more unless they had some of those giant asparagus. I should be sorry to leave Paris without having some of them.’
A happy smile spread over the waiter’s face, and he assured me that they had some.
‘I’m not hungry,’ my guest sighed, ‘but if you insist, I don’t mind having some asparagus.’
I ordered them. While we waited, I started to panic. It was not a question of how much money I should have left over for the rest of the month, but whether I had enough to pay the bill. The asparagus appeared.
‘Coffee?’ I said when she had finished eating.
‘Yes, just an ice cream and coffee,’ she answered.
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 was speaking for you.’
The bill came, and when I paid it I found that I could only afford to leave three francs for the service. Her eyes rested for an instant on the money I left for the waiter, and I knew that she thought me mean. But 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.’
‘I’ll do better than that,’ I replied. ‘I’ll eat nothing for dinner tonight.’
‘Humorist!’ she cried, jumping into a cab, ‘you’re quite a humorist!’
But I have had my revenge at last. Today she weighs more than a hundred kilos.adapted from The Luncheon by Somerset Maugham
7.1. The aim of the experiment was to (! he asked her to remind him where they had met.) (! she introduced somebody to him.) (! she was reluctant to speak to him.) ( he found it difficult to recognize her.)
7.2. The man decided to have lunch with the woman at Foyot’s because he (! had always wanted to know what drew French senators there.) (! had no idea it was an expensive place.) ( felt pleased with the interest the woman had taken in him.) (! hoped to further his career prospects.)
7.3. Which is true about the meal the man and woman had? ( The woman disapproved of the food the man ordered for himself.) (! The food the woman ordered was recommended by the waiter.) (! The man ordered for himself the two cheapest dishes on the menu.) (! Both the man and the woman rounded their meal off with a frozen dessert.)
7.4. After leaving three francs for the waiter, the man realised that the woman (! had played a joke on him.) ( considered the tip inadequate.) (! regretted having eaten so much.) (! understood that he was penniless.)
7.5. The man realised he had had his revenge on the woman when (! she said he was amusing.) (! they finished their lunch.) (! she drove away in a taxi.) ( he met her at the theatre.)