Roald dahl royal jelly pdf

Roald dahl royal jelly pdf DEFAULT

1 Royal Jelly by Roald Dahl Part I It worries me to death, Albert, it really does, Mrs. Taylor said. She kept her eyes fixed on the baby who was now lying absolutely motionless in the crook of her left arm. I just know there s something wrong. The skin on the baby s face had a pearly translucent quality, and was stretched very tightly over the bones. Try again, Albert Taylor said. It won t do any good. You have to keep trying, Mabel, he said. She lifted the bottle out of the saucepan of hot water and shook a few drops of milk on to the inside of her wrist, testing for temperature. Come on, she whispered, Come on, my baby. Wake up and take a bit more of this. There was a small lamp on the table close by that made a soft yellow glow all around her. Please, she said. Take just a weeny bit more. The husband watched her over the top of his magazine. She was half dead with exhaustion, he could see that, and the pale oval face, usually so grave and serene, had taken on a kind of pinched and desperate look. But even so, the drop of her head as she gazed down at the child was curiously beautiful. You see, she murmured. It s o good. She won t have it. She held the bottle up to the light, squinting at the calibrations. One ounce (29 g) again. That s all she takes. No it isn t even that. It s only three quarters. It s not enough to keep body and soul together. Albert, it really isn t. It worries me to death. I know, he said. If only they could find out what was wrong. There s nothing wrong, Mabel. It s just a matter of time. Of course there s something wrong. Doctor Robinson says no. Look, she said, standing up. You can t tell me it s natural for a six-week-old child to weigh less, less by more than two whole pounds (900 g) than she did when she was born! Just look at those legs! They re nothing but skin and bone! The tinny baby lay limply on her arm, not moving. Doctor Robinson said you was to stop worrying, Mabel. So did that other one. Ha! she said. Isn t that wonderful! I m to stop worrying! Now, Mabel! What does he want me to do? Treat it as some sort of a joke? He didn t say that. I hate doctors! I hate them all! she cried, and she swung away from him and walked quickly out of the room towards the stairs, carrying the baby with her. Albert Taylor stayed where he was and let her go. In a little while he heard her moving about in the bedroom directly over his head, quick nervous footsteps going tap tap tap on the linoleum above. Soon the footsteps would stop, and then he would have to get up and follow her, and when he went into the bedroom he would find her sitting beside the cot as usual, staring at the child and crying softly to herself and refusing to move. She s starving, Albert, she would say. Of course she s not starving. She is starving. I know she is. And Albert? 1

2 Yes? I believe you know it too, but you won t admit it. Isn t that right? Every night now it was like this. Last week they had taken the child back to the hospital, and the doctor had examined it carefully and told them that there was nothing to matter. It took us nine years to get this baby, Mabel had said. I think it would kill me if anything should happen to her. That was six days ago and since then it had lost another five ounces. (140g) But worrying about it wasn t going to help anybody, Albert Taylor told himself. One simply had to trust the doctor on a thing like this. He picked up the magazine that was still lying on his lap and glanced idly down the list of contents to see what it had to offer this week: - Among the Bees in May - Honey Cookery - The Bee Farmer and the B. Pharm. - Experiences in the Control of Nosema - The Latest on Royal Jelly - This Week in the Apiary - The Healing Power of Propolis - Regurgitations - British Beekeepers Annual Dinner - Association News Part II All his life Albert Taylor had been fascinated by anything that had to do with bees. As a small boy he often used to catch them in his bare hands and go running with them into the house to show to his mother, and sometimes he would put them on his face and let them crawl about over his cheeks and neck, and the astonishing thing about it all was that he never got stung. On the contrary, the bees seemed to enjoy being with him. They never tried to fly away, and to get rid of them he would have to brush them off gently with his fingers. Even then they would frequently return and settle again on his arm or hand or knee, any place where the skin was bare. As he grew older, Albert Taylor s fascination with bees developed into an obsession, and by the time he was 12 he has built his first hive. The following summer he had captured his first swarm. Two years later, at the age of 14, he had no less than 5 hives standing neatly in a row against the fence in his father s small backyard. He never had to use smoke when there was work to do inside the hive and he never wore gloves on his hands or a net over his head. Clearly there was some strange sympathy between this boy and the bees, and down in the village, in the shops and pubs, they began to speak about him with a certain kind of respect, and people started coming up to the house to buy honey. When he was 18, he had rented one acre of rough pasture and there he had set out to establish his own business. Now, eleven years later, he was still in the same spot, but he had six acres (2,4 hectares) of ground instead of one, two hundred and forty well-stocked hives, and a small house he d built mainly with his own hands. He had married at the age of 20 and that, apart from the fact that it had taken them over nine years to get a child, had also been a success. In fact, everything had gone pretty well for Albert until this strange little baby girl came along and started frightening them out of their wits by refusing to eat properly and losing weight every day. He looked up from the magazine and began thinking about his daughter. This evening, for instance, when she had opened her eyes at the beginning of the feed, he had gazed into them and seen something that frightened him to death a kind of misty vacant stare, as though the eyes themselves were not connected to the brain at all but were just lying loose in their sockets like a couple of small grey marbles. Did those doctors really know what they were talking about? 2

3 One could always take her along to another hospital, somewhere in Oxford perhaps. He might suggest that to Mabel when he went upstairs. He could still hear her moving around in the bedroom, but she must have taken off her shoes now and put on slippers because the noise was very faint. He switched his attention back to the magazine and went on with his reading. He finished the article called Experiences in the Control of Nosema, then turned over the page and began reading the next one. The Latest on Royal Jelly. He doubted very much whether there would be anything in this that he didn t know already: What is this wonderful substance called royal jelly? Royal jelly is a glandular secretion produced by the nurse bees to feed the larvae immediately after they have hatched from the egg. The pharyngeal glands of bees produce this substance in much the same way as the mammary glands of vertebrates produce milk. The fact is of great biological interest because no other insects in the world are known to have evolved such a process. All old stuff, he told himself, but for want of anything better to do, he continued to read. Royal jelly is fed in concentrated form to all bee larvae for the first three days after hatching from the egg; but beyond that point, for all those who are destined to become drones or workers, this precious food is greatly diluted with honey and pollen. On the other hand, the larvae which are destined to become queens are fed throughout the whole of their larvae period on a concentrated diet of pure royal jelly. Hence the name. Above him, up in the bedroom, the noise of footsteps had stopped altogether. The house was quiet. (...) Royal jelly must be a substance of tremendous nourishing power, for on this diet alone, the honeybee larva increases in weight 1500 times in five days.(...) This is as if a seven-and-a-half pound baby (3,5 kg) should increase in that time to five tons. (...) Albert Taylor stopped and read that sequence again. He read it a third time. This is as if a seven-and-a-half pound baby (3,5 kg)... Mabel! he cried, jumping up from his chair. Mabel! Come here! He went out into the hall and stood at the foot of the stairs calling for her to come down. There was no answer. He ran up the stairs and switched on the light on the landing. The bedroom door was closed. He crossed the landing and opened it and stood in the doorway looking into the dark room. Mabel, he said. Come downstairs a moment, will you please? I ve just had a bit of an idea. It s about the baby Part III The light from the landing behind him cast a faint glow over the bed and he could see her dimly now, lying on her stomach with her face buried in the pillow and her arms up over her head. She was crying again. Mabel, he said, going over to her, touching her shoulder. Please come down a moment. This may be important. Go away, she said. Leave me alone. Don t you want to hear about my idea? Oh, Albert, I m tired, she sobbed. I m so tired I don t know what I m doing any more. I don t think I can go on. I don t think I can stand it. There was a pause, Albert Taylor turned away from her and walked slowly over to the cradle where the baby was lying, and peered in. (...) What time is the next feed? he asked. Two o clock, I suppose. And the one after that? Six in the morning. I ll do them both, he said. You go to sleep. She didn t answer. You get properly into bed, Mabel, and go straight to sleep, you understand? And stop worrying. I m taking over completely for the next 12 hours. You ll give yourself a nervous breakdown going on like 3

4 this. Yes, She said. I know. I m taking the nipper and myself and the alarm clock into the spare room this very moment, so you just lie down and relax and forget all about us. Right? Already he was pushing the cradle out through the door. Oh, Albert, she sobbed. Don t worry about a thing. Leave it to me. Albert... Yes? I love you Albert. I love you too, Mabel. Now go to sleep. Albert Taylor didn t see his wife again until nearly 11 o clock the next morning. Good gracious me! she cried, rushing down the stairs in dressing-gown and slippers. Albert! Just look at the time! I must have slept twelve hours at least! Is everything all right? What happened? He was sitting quietly in his armchair, smoking a pipe and reading the morning paper. The baby was in a sort of carry-cot on the floor at his feet, sleeping- Hullo, dear, he said smiling. She ran over to the cot and looked in. Did she take anything, Albert? How many times have you fed her? She was due for another one at 10 o clock, did you know that? Albert Taylor folded the newspaper neatly into a square and put it away on the side table. I fed her at two in the morning, he said, and she took about half an ounce, no more. I fed her again at six and she did a bit better that time, two ounces... Two ounces! Oh, Albert, that s marvellous! And we just finished the last feed ten minutes ago. There s the bottle on the mantelpiece. Only one ounce left. She drank three. How s that? He was grinning proudly, delighted with his achievement. The woman quickly got down on her knees and peered at the baby. Doesn t she look better? he asked eagerly. Doesn t she look fatter in the face? It may sound silly, the wife said, but actually I think she does. Oh, Albert, you re a marvel! How did you do it? She s turning the corner, he said. That s all it is. Just like the doctor prophesied, she s turning the corner. I pray to God you re right, Albert. Of course I m right. From now on, you watch her go. The woman was gazing lovingly at the baby. You look a lot better yourself too, Mabel. I feel wonderful. I m sorry about last night. Let s keep it this way, he said. I ll do all the night feeds in future. You do the day ones. She looked up at him across the cot, frowning. N0, she said. Oh no, I wouldn t allow you to do that. I don t want you to have a breakdown, Mabel. I won t, not now, I ve had some sleep. Much better we share it. No, Albert. This is my job and I intend to do it. Last night won t happen again. All right, he said. In that case I ll just relieve you of the donkey work; I ll do all the sterilizing and mixing of the food and getting everything ready. That ll help you a bit, anyway. I ve been thinking that up until last night I ve never even raised a finger to help you with this baby. That isn t true. Oh yes it is. So I ve decided that from now on I m going to do my share of the work. I m going to be the feed-mixer and the bottle-steriliser. Right? It s very sweet of you, dear, but I really don t think it s necessary... Come on! he cried. Don t change the luck! I ve done it the last three times and just look what happened! When s the next one? Two o clock, isn t it? Yes. 4

5 It s all mixed, he said. Everything s all mixed and ready and all you ve got to do when the time comes is to go out three to the larder and take it off the shelf and warm it up. That s some help, isn t it? The woman got up off her knees and went over to him and kissed him on the cheek. You re such a nice man, she said. I love you more and more every day I know you. Later, in the middle of the afternoon, when Albert was outside in the sunshine working among the hives, he heard her calling to him from the house. Albert! she shouted. Albert, come here! He started forward to meet her, wondering what was wrong. Oh, Albert! Guess what! What? I ve just finished giving her the two-o clock feed and she s taken the whole lot! No! Every drop of it! Oh, Albert, I m so happy! She s going to be all right! She s turned the corner just like you said! She came up to him and threw her arms round his neck and hugged him, and he clapped her on the back and laughed and said what a marvellous little mother she was. Naturally, there was a certain amount of suspense in the air as the time approached for the 6 o clock feed. By five thirty both parents were already seated in the living-room waiting for the moment to arrive. The bottle with the milk formula in it was standing in a saucepan of warm water on the mantelpiece. The baby was asleep in its carry-cot on the sofa. At twenty minutes to six it woke up and started screaming its head off. There you are! Mrs. Taylor cried. She s asking for the bottle. Pick her up quick, Albert, and hand her to me here. Give me the bottle first. He gave her the bottle, then placed the baby on the woman s lap. Cautiously, she touched the baby s lips with the end of the nipple. The baby seized the nipple between its gums and began to suck ravenously with a rapid powerful action. Oh, Albert, isn t it wonderful? It s terrific, Mabel. In seven or eight minutes, the entire contents of the bottle had disappeared down the baby s throat. You clever girl, Mrs. Taylor said- Four ounces again. Albert Taylor was leaning forward in his chair, peering intently into the baby s face. You know what? he said. She even seems as though she s put on a touch of weight already. What do you think? The mother looked down at the child. Doesn t she seem bigger and fatter to you, Mabel, than she was yesterday? Maybe she does, Albert. I m not sure. Although actually there couldn t be any real gain in such a short time as this. The important thing is that she s eating normally. She s turned the corner, Albert said. I don t think you need to worry about her anymore. I certainly won t. You want me to go up and fetch the cradle back into our bedroom. Mabel? Yes, please, she said. Albert went upstairs and moved the cradle. The woman followed with the baby, and after changing its nappy, she laid it gently down on its bed. Then she covered it with sheet and blanket. Doesn t she look lovely, Albert? she whispered. Isn t that the most beautiful baby you ve ever seen in your entire life? (...) After they had finished eating, the parents settled themselves in armchairs in the living-room, Albert with his magazine and his pipe, Mrs. Taylor with her knitting. Albert, she said after a while. Yes, dear? What was it you were going to tell me last night when you came rushing up to the bedroom? You said you had an idea for the baby. Albert Taylor lowered the magazine on to his lap and gave her a long sly look. Did I? he said. 5

6 Yes. She waited for him to go on, but he didn t. What s the big joke? she asked. Why are you grinning like that? It s a joke all right, he said. Tell it to me, dear. I m not sure I ought to, he said. You might call me a liar. She had seldom seen him looking so pleased with himself as he was now, and she smiled back at him, egging him on. I d just like to see your face when you hear it, Mabel, that s all. Albert, what is all this? He paused, refusing to be hurried. You do think the baby is better, don t you? he asked. Of course I do. You agree with me that all of a sudden she s feeding marvellously and looking one hundred percent different? I do, Albert, yes. That s good, he said, the grin widening. You see, it s me that did it. Did what? I cured the baby. Yes, dear, I m sure you did. Mrs. Taylor went right on with her knitting. You don t believe me, do you? Of course I believe you, Albert. I give you all the credit, every bit of it. Then how did I do it? Well, she said, pausing a moment to think. I suppose it s simply that you re a brilliant feed-mixer. Ever since you started mixing the feeds she s got better and better. You mean there s some sort of an art in mixing the feeds? Apparently there is. I ll tell you a secret, he said. You re absolutely right. Although, mind you, it isn t so much how you mix it that counts. It s what you put in. You realize that, don t you, Mabel? Mrs. Taylor stopped knitting and looked up sharply at her husband. Albert, she said, don t tell me you ve been putting things into that child s milk? He sat there grinning. Well, have you or haven t you? It s possible, he said. I don t believe you. He had a strange fierce way of grinning that showed his teeth. Albert, she said. Stop playing with me like this. Yes, dear, all right. You haven t really put anything into her milk, have you? Answer me properly, Albert. This could be serious with such a tiny baby. The answer is yes, Mabel. Albert Taylor! How could you? Now don t get excited, he said. I ll tell you all about it if you really want me to, but for heaven s sake keep your hair on. It was beer! she cried. I just know it was beer! Don t be so daft, Mabel, please. Then what was it? 305 Part IV Albert laid his pipe down carefully on the table beside him and leaned back in his chair. Tell me, he said, did you ever by any chance happen to hear me mentioning something called royal jelly? I did not. 6

7 It s magic, he said. Pure magic. And last night I suddenly got the idea that if I was to put some of this into the baby s milk... How dare you! Now Mabel, you don t even know what it is yet. I don t care what it is, she said. You can t go putting foreign bodies like that into a tiny baby s milk. You must be mad. It s perfectly harmless, Mabel, otherwise I wouldn t have done it. It comes from bees. I might have guessed that. And it s so precious that practically no one can afford to take it. When they do, it s only one little drop at a time. And how much did you give to our baby, might I ask? Ah, he said. That s the whole point. That s where the difference lies. I reckon that our baby, just in the last four feeds, has already swallowed about 50 times as much royal jelly as anyone else in the world has ever swallowed before. How about that? Albert, stop pulling my leg. I swear it, he said proudly. She sat there staring at him, her brow wrinkled, her mouth slightly open. You know what this stuff actually costs, Mabel, if you want to buy it? There s a place in America advertising it for sale this very moment for something like five hundred dollars a pound jar! Five hundred dollars! That s more than gold, you know! She hadn t the faintest idea what he was talking about. I ll prove it, he said, and jumped up and went across to the large bookcase where he kept all his literature about bees. He took down the last issue of the American Bee Journal and turned to a page of small classified advertisements at the back. Here you are, he said. Exactly as I told you, We sell royal jelly - $ 480 per lb jar wholesale. He handed her the magazine so she could read it herself. Now do you believe me? This is an actual shop in New York, Mabel. It says so. It doesn t say you can go stirring it into the milk of a practically newborn baby, she said. I don t know what s come over you, Albert, I really don t. It s curing her, isn t it? I m not sure about that, now. Don t be damn silly, Mabel. You know it is. Then why haven t other people done it with their babies? I keep telling you, he said. It s too expensive. Practically nobody in the world can afford to buy royal jelly just for eating except maybe one or two multimillionaires. The people who buy it are the big companies that make women s face creams and things like that. They re using it as a stunt. They mix a tiny pinch of it into a big jar of face cream and it s selling like hot cakes for absolutely enormous prices. They claim it takes out the wrinkles. And does it? Now how on earth would I know that, Mabel? Anyway, he said, returning to his chair, that s not the point. The point is this. It s done so much good to our little baby just in the last few hours that I think we ought to go right on giving it to her. Now don t interrupt, Mabel. Let me finish. I ve got 240 hives out there and if I turn over maybe a hundred of them to making royal jelly, we ought to be able to supply her with all she wants. Albert Taylor, the woman said, stretching her eyes wide and staring at him. Have you gone out of your mind? Just hear me through, will you please? I forbid it, she said, absolutely. You re not to give my baby another drop of that horrid jelly, you understand? Now, Mabel... Do me a favour, will you? he said. Let me explain some of the marvellous things this stuff does. You haven t even told me what it is yet. All right, Mabel. I ll do that too. Will you listen? Will you give me a chance to explain it? 7

8 She sighed and picked up her knitting once more. I suppose you might as well get it off your chest, Albert. Go on and tell me. He paused, a bit uncertain now how to begin. It wasn t going to be easy to explain something like this to a person with no detailed knowledge of apiculture at all. You know, don t you, he said, that each colony has only one queen? Yes. And that this queen lays all the eggs? Yes, dear. That much I know. All right. Now the queen can actually lay two different kinds of eggs. She can lay eggs that produce drones, and she can lay eggs that produce workers. Now if that isn t a miracle, Mabel, I don t know what is. Yes, Albert, all right. The drones are the males. We don t have to worry about them. The workers are the females. So is the queen, of course. Now what happens is this. The queen crawls around on the comb and lays her eggs in what we call cells. She lays one egg to each cell, and in three days each of these eggs hatches out into a tiny grub. We call it larva. Now, as soon as this larva appears, the nurse bees they re young workers all crowd round and start feeding it like mad. And you know what they feed it on? Royal jelly, Mabel answered patiently. Right! he cried. That s exactly what they do feed it on. They get this stuff out of a gland in their heads and they start pumping it into the cell to feed the larva. And what happens then? You want to know what happens then? he asked, wetting his lips. I can hardly wait. Royal jelly, he read aloud, must be a substance of tremendous nourishing power, for on this diet alone, the honey-bee larva increases in weight 1500 times in five days! How much? Fifteen hundred times, Mabel. And you know what that means if you put it in terms of a human being? It means, he said, lowering his voice, leaning forward, fixing her with those small pale eyes, it means that in five days a baby weighing seven and a half pounds to start off with would increase in weight to five tons! For the second time, Mrs. Taylor stopped knitting. Now you mustn t take that too literally, Mabel. Who says I mustn t? It s just a scientific way of putting it, that s all. Very well, Albert. Go on. But that s only half the story, he said. There s more to come. The really amazing thing about royal jelly, I haven t told you yet. I m going to show you now how it can transform a plain dull looking little worker bee with practically no sex organs at all into a great big beautiful fertile queen. Are you saying our baby is dull-looking and plain? she asked sharply. Did you know that the queen bee and the worker bee, although they are completely different when they grow up, are both hatched out of exactly the same kind of egg? I don t believe that, she said. It s as true as I m sitting here, Mabel, honest it is. Any time the bees want a queen to hatch out of the egg instead of a worker, they can do it. How? Ah, he said, shaking a thick forefinger in her direction. That s just what I m coming to. That s the secret of the whole thing. Now what do you think it is, Mabel that makes this miracle happen? Royal jelly, she answered. You already told me. Royal jelly it is! he cried, clapping his hands and bouncing up on his seat. His big round face was glowing with excitement now, and two vivid patches of scarlet had appeared high up on each cheek. Here s how it works. I ll put it very simple for you. The bees want a new queen. So they build an extra-large cell, a queen cell we call it, and they get the old queen to lay one of her eggs in there. The other one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine eggs she lays in ordinary worker cells. Now. As 8

9 soon as these eggs hatch into larvae, the nurse bees rally round and start pumping in the royal jelly. All of them get it, workers as well as queen. But here is the vital thing, Mabel, so listen carefully. Here s where the difference comes. The worker larvae only receive this special marvellous food for the first three days of their larval life. After the third day they re put straight away on to more or less routine bees food a mixture of honey and pollen and then about two weeks later they emerge from the cells as workers. But not so the larva in the queen cell! This one gets royal jelly all the way through its larval life. The nurse bees simply pour it into the cell, so much so in fact that the little larva is literally floating in it. And that s what makes it into a queen! You can t prove it, she said. Don t talk so damn silly, Mabel, please. Thousands of people have proved it time and time again, famous scientists in every country in the world. All you have to do is take a larva out of a worker cell and put it in a queen cell (...) and just so long as the nurse bees keep it well supplied with royal jelly, then presto! it ll grow up into a queen! And what makes it more marvellous still is the absolutely enormous difference between a queen and a worker when they grow up. The abdomen is a different shape. The sting is different. The legs are different. The... (...) It s pretty hard to believe, she said, that a food can do all that. Of course it s hard to believe. It s another of the miracles of the hive. He stood beside the bookcase with the magazine in his hand, smiling a funny little furtive smile of triumph, and his wife watched him, bewildered. He was not a tall man; he had a thick plump pulpy-looking body that was built close to the ground on abbreviated legs. The legs were slightly bowed. The head was huge and round, covered with bristly short-cut hair, and the greater part of the face now that he had given up shaving altogether was hidden by a brownish yellow fuzz about an inch (2,5 cm) long. In one way and another, he was rather grotesque to look at; there was no denying in that. Looking at him now as he buzzed around in front of the bookcase with his bristly head and his hairy face and his plump pulpy body, she couldn t help thinking that somehow, in some curious way, there was a touch of the bee about this man. Up until now it had never occurred to her that her husband might look like a bee. It shocked her a bit. You know something? She said, staring at him but smiling a little all the same. You re getting to look just a teeny bit like a bee yourself, did you know that? He turned and looked at her. I suppose it s the beard mostly, she said. I do wish you d stop wearing it. Even the colour is sort of bee-ish, don t you think? What the hell are you talking about, Mabel? Albert, she said. Your language. Do you want to hear any more of this or don t you? Yes, dear, I m sorry. I was only joking. Do go on. He turned away again and pulled another magazine out of the bookcase and began leafing through the pages. Now just listen of this, Mabel. Still and Burdett found that a male rat which hitherto had been unable to breed, upon receiving a minute daily dose of royal jelly, became a father many times over. Albert, she cried, this stuff is much too strong to give to a baby! I don t like it at all. Nonsense, Mabel. Listen! Mrs. Taylor said, interrupting him. I think the baby s crying. Albert glanced up from his reading. Sure enough, a lusty yelling noise was coming from the bedroom above. She must be hungry, he said. His wife looked at the clock. Good gracious me! she cried, jumping up. It s past her time again already! You mix the feed, Albert, quickly, while I bring her down! I don t want to keep her waiting. 9

10 Part V In half a minute, Mrs. Taylor was back, carrying the screaming infant in her arms. Do be quick, Albert! she called, settling herself in the armchair and arranging the child on her lap. Please hurry! Albert entered from the kitchen and handed her the bottle of warm milk. It s just right, he said. You don t have to test it. She hitched the baby s head a little higher in the crook of her arm, then pushed the rubber teat straight into the wide-open yelling mouth. The baby grabbed the teat and began to suck. The yelling stopped. Mrs. Taylor relaxed. Oh, Albert, isn t she lovely? She s terrific, Mabel thanks to royal jelly. Now, dear, I don t want to hear another word about that nasty stuff. It frightens me to death. You re making a big mistake, he said. We ll see about that. The baby went on sucking the bottle. I do believe she s going to finish the whole lot again, Albert. I m sure she is, he said. And a few minutes later, the milk was all gone. Oh, what a good girl you are! Mrs. Taylor cried, as very gently she started to withdraw the nipple. The baby sensed what she was doing and sucked harder, trying to hold on. The woman gave a quick little tug and plop, out it came. Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! the baby yelled. Nasty old wind, Mrs. Taylor said, hoisting the child on to her shoulder and patting its back. It belched twice in quick succession. There you are, my darling, you ll be all right now. For a few seconds, the yelling stopped. Then it started again. Keep belching her, Albert said, she s drunk it too quickly. His wife lifted the baby back on to her shoulder. She rubbed its spine. She changed it from one shoulder to the other. She lay it on its stomach on her lap. She sat it up on her knee. But it didn t belch again, and the yelling became louder and more insistent every minute. Good for the lungs, Albert Taylor said, grinning. That s the way they exercise their lungs, Mabel, did you know that? There, there, there, the wife said, kissing it all over the face. There, there, there. They waited another five minutes, but not for one moment did the screaming stop. Change the nappy, Albert said. It s got a wet nappy, that s all it is. He fetched a clean one from the kitchen, and Mrs. Taylor took the old one off and put the new one Mrs. Taylor on. This made no difference at all. Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! the baby yelled. You didn t stick the safety pin through the skin, did you, Mabel? Of course I didn t, she said, feeling under the nappy with her fingers to make sure. The parents sat opposite one another in their armchairs, smiling nervously, watching the baby on the mother s lap, waiting for it to tire and stop screaming. You know what? Albert said at last. What? I ll bet she s still hungry. I ll bet all she wants is another swig at that bottle. How about me fetching her an extra lot? I don t think we ought to do that, Albert. It ll do her good, he said, getting up from his chair. I m going to warm her up a second helping. He went into the kitchen, and was away for several minutes. When he returned he was holding a bottle brimful of milk. I made her a double, he announced. Eight ounces. Just in case. Albert! Are you mad! Don t you know it s just as bad to overfeed as it is to underfeed? You don t have to give her the lot, Mabel. You can stop any time you like. Go on, he said, standing over her. Give her a drink. 10

11 Mrs. Taylor began to tease the baby s lip with the end of the nipple. The tiny mouth closed like a trap over the rubber teat and suddenly there was silence in the room. The baby s whole body relaxed and a look of absolute bliss came over its face as she started to drink. There you are, Mabel! What did I tell you? The woman didn t answer. She s ravenous, that s what she is. Just look at her suck. Mrs. Taylor was watching the level of milk in the bottle. It was dropping fast, and before long three or four ounces out of the eight had disappeared. There, she said. That ll do. You can t pull it away now, Mabel. Yes, dear. I must. Go on, woman. Give her the rest and stop fussing. But, Albert... She s finished, can t you see that? Go on, my beauty, he said. You finish that bottle. I don t like it, Albert, the wife said, but she didn t pull the bottle away. She s making up for lost time, Mabel, that s all she s doing. Five minutes later the bottle was empty. Slowly, Mrs. Taylor withdrew the nipple, and this time there was no protest from the baby, no sound at all. It lay peacefully on the mother s lap, the eyes glazed with contentment, the mouth half open, the lips smeared with milk. Twelve whole ounces (340g), Mabel! Albert Taylor said. Three times the normal amount! Isn t that amazing? The woman was staring down at the baby. And now the old anxious tight-lipped look of the frightened mother was slowly returning to her face. Come here, Albert, she said. What? I said come here. He went over and stood beside her. Take a good look and tell me if you see anything different. He peered closely at the baby. She seems bigger, Mabel, if that s what you mean. Bigger and fatter. Hold her, she ordered. Go on, pick her up. He reached out and lifted the baby up off the mother s lap. Good God! he cried. She weighs a ton! Exactly. Now isn t that marvellous! he cried, beaming. I ll bet she must be back to normal already! It frightens me, Albert. It s too quick. Nonsense, woman. It s that disgusting jelly that s done it, she said. I hate the stuff. There s nothing disgusting about royal jelly, he answered, indignant. Don t be a fool. Albert! You think it s normal for a child to start putting on weight at this speed? You re never satisfied! he cried. You re scared stiff when she s losing and now you re absolutely terrified because she s gaining! What s the matter with you Mabel? The woman got up from her chair with the baby in her arms and started towards the door. All I can say is, she said, it s lucky I m here to see you don t give her any more of it, that s all I can say. She went out, and Albert watched her through the open door as she crossed the hall to the foot of the stairs and started to ascend, and when she reached the third or fourth step she suddenly stopped and stood quite still for several seconds as though remembering something- then she turned and came down again rather quickly and re-entered the room. Albert, she said. Yes. I assume there wasn t any royal jelly in this last feed we ve just given her? I don t see why you should assume that, Mabel. Albert! What s wrong? he asked, soft and innocent. How dare you! she cried. 11

12 Albert Taylor s great bearded face took on a painted and puzzled look. I think you ought to be very glad she s got another big dose of it inside her, he said (...) The woman was standing just inside the doorway clasping the sleeping baby in her arms and staring at her husband with huge eyes. She stood very erect, her body absolutely stiff with fury, her face paler, more tight-lipped than ever. You mark my words, Albert was saying, you re going to have a nipper there soon that ll win first prize in any baby show in the entire country. Hey, why don t you weigh her now and see what she is? You want me to get the scales, Mabel, so you can weigh her? The woman walked straight over the large table in the centre of the room and laid the baby down and quickly started taking off its clothes. Yes! she snapped. Get the scales! Then she unpinned the nappy and she drew it away and the baby lay naked on the table. But Mabel! Albert cried. It s a miracle! She s fat as a puppy! Indeed, the amount of flesh the child had put on since the day before was astounding. The small sunken chest with the rib bones showing all over it was now plump and round as a barrel, and the belly was bulging high in the air. Curiously, though, the arms and legs did not seem to have grown in proportion. Still short and skinny, they looked like little sticks protruding from a ball of fat. Look! Albert said. She s even beginning to get a bit of fuzz on the tummy to keep her war! He put out a hand and was about to run the tips of his fingers over the powdering of silky yellowy-brown hairs that had suddenly appeared on the baby s stomach. Don t you touch her! The woman cried. She turned and faced him, her eyes blazing, and she looked suddenly like some kind of little fighting bird with her neck arched over towards him as though she were about to fly at his face and peck his eyes out. Now wait a minute, he said, retreating. You must be mad! she cried. Now wait just a minute, Mabel, will you please, because if you re still thinking this stuff is dangerous...that is what you re thinking, isn t it? All right, then. Listen carefully, I shall now proceed to prove to you once and for all, Mabel, that royal jelly is absolutely harmless to human beings, even in enormous doses. For example why do you think we had only half the usually honey crop last summer? Tell me that. His retreat, walking backwards, had taken him three or four yards away from her, where he seemed to be more comfortable. The reason we had only half the usual crop last summer, he said slowly, lowering his voice, was because I turned one hundred of my hives over to the production of royal jelly. You what? Ah, he whispered. I thought that might surprise you a bit. And I ve been making it ever since right under your very nose. His small eyes were glinting at her, and a slow sly smile was creeping around the corners of his mouth. You ll never guess the reason, either, he said. I ve been afraid to mention it up till now because I thought it might...well...sort of embarrass you. There was a slight pause. He had his hands clasped high in front of him, level with his chest, and he was rubbing one palm against the other, making a soft scraping noise. You remember that bit I read you out of the magazine? That bit about the rat? Let me see now, how does it go? Still and Burdett found that a male rat which hitherto had been unable to breed... He hesitated, the grin widening, showing his teeth. You get the message, Mabel? She stood quite still, facing him. The very first time I ever read that sentence, I just jumped straight out of my chair and I said to myself if it ll work with a lousy rat, I said, then there s no reason on earth why it shouldn t work with Albert Taylor. He paused again, craning his head forward and turning one ear slightly in his wife s direction, waiting for her to say something. But she didn t. And here s another thing. He went on. It made me feel so absolutely marvellous, Mabel, and so sort 12

13 of completely different to what I was before that I went right on taking it even after you d announced the joyful tidings. Buckets of it I must have swallowed during the last 12 months. The big heavy haunted-looking eyes of the woman were moving intently over the man s face and neck. There was no skin showing at all on the neck, not even at the sides below the ears. The whole of it, to a point where it disappeared into the collar of the shirt, was covered all the way round with those shortish hairs, yellowy black. Mind you, he said, turning away from her, gazing lovingly now at the baby, it s going to work far better on a tiny infant than on a fully developed man like me. You ve only got to look at her to see that, don t you agree? The woman s eyes travelled slowly downward and settled on the baby. The baby was lying naked on the table, fat and white and comatose, like some gigantic grub that was approaching the end of its larval life and would soon emerge into the world complete with mandibles and wings. Why don t you cover it up, Mabel? he said. We don t want our little queen to catch a cold. The End 13

Page 1

Roald Dahl The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl, Volume 1 This collection of Roald Dahl's adult short stories, from his world-famous books, includes many seen in the television series, TALES OF THE UNEXPECT ED. With their vibrant characters, their subtle twists and turns, and biza rre and often macabre plots, these stories shock in a way that makes them utterly addictive. Roald Dahi can stand you on your head, twist you in kno ts, tie up your hands and leave you gasping for more. Contents KISS, KISS The Landlady 3 William and Mary 17 The Way up to Heaven 57 Parson's Pleasure 76 Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat 112 Royal jelly 136 Georgy Porgy 176 Genesis and Catastrophe 212 Edward the Conqueror 222 Pig 250 The Champion of the World 281 OVER TO YOU Death of an Old Old Man 323 An African Story 341 A Piece of Cake 362 Madame Rosette 380 Katina 424 Yesterday was Beautiful 460 They Shall Not Grow Old 467 Beware of the Dog 492 Only This 510 Someone Like You 519 SWITCH BITCH The Visitor 533 The Great Switcheroo 602 The Last Act 637 Bitch 680 KISS, KISS The Landlady BILLY WEAVER had travelled down from London on the slow afternoon train, w ith 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 clea r starry sky over the houses opposite the station entrance. But the air wa s 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 sid e." Billy thanked him and picked up his suitcase and set out to walk the qu arter-mile to The Bell and Dragon. He had never been to Bath before. He did n't know anyone who lived there. But Mr Greenslade at the Head Office in Lo ndon 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 thes e days. Briskness, he had decided, was the one common characteristic of all suc cessful businessmen. The big shots up at Head Office were absolutely fantas tically brisk all the time. They were amazing. There were no shops in this wide street that he was walking along, only a line of tall houses on each side, all of them identical. They had porche s 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 residences. But now, even in the darkness, he could see that the paint was peeling from th e woodwork on their doors and windows, and that the handsome white fa•ades 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 prop ped up against the glass in one of the upper panes. It said BED AND BREAKFA ST. There was a vase of pussy-willows, tall and beautiful, standing just un derneath 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. The pussy- willows looked wonderful beside them. He went right up and peered through th e 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 furnit ure. 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 usuall y a good sign in a place like this, Billy told himself; and all in all, it l ooked to him as though it would be a pretty decent house to stay in. Certain ly 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 coupl e of nights in a pub once before and he had liked it. He had never stayed i n any boarding-houses, and, to be perfectly honest, he was a tiny bit frigh tened of them. The name itself conjured up images of watery cabbage, rapaci ous landladies, and a powerful smell of kippers in the living-room. After dithering about like this in the cold for two or three minutes, Bi lly decided that he would walk on and take a look at The Bell and Dragon bef ore making up his mind. He turned to go. And now a queer thing happened to him. He was in the act of steppin g back and turning away from the window when all at once his eye was ca ught 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 hi m through the glass, holding him, compelling him, forcing him to stay w here 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 th e bell. He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and t hen at once -it must have been at once because he hadn't even had time to t ake his finger from the bell-button -the door swung open and a woman was st anding there. Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half-minute's wait be fore the door opens. But this dame was like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed th e bell -and out she popped! It made him jump. She was about forty-five or fifty years old, and the moment she saw hi m, she gave him a warm welcoming smile. "Please come in," she said pleasantly. She stepped aside, holding the do or wide open, and Billy found himself automatically starting forward into th e house. The compulsion or, more accurately, the desire to 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." "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 willin g to pay. "If that is too much," she added, "then perhaps I can reduce it just a ti ny 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 bes t school-friend welcoming one into the house to stay for the Christmas holida ys. 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, n o 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 sixpe nce a night, who gives a damn about that? "I should've thought you'd be simpl y swamped with applicants," he said politely. "Oh, I am, my dear, I am, of course I am. But the trouble is that I'm incl ined to be just a teeny weeny bit choosey and particular -if you see what I me an." "Ah, yes." "But I'm always ready. Everything is always ready day and night in this house just on the offchance that an acceptable young gentleman will come alo ng. 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 exact ly right." She was half-way up the stairs, and she paused with one hand on t he stair-rail, turning her head and smiling down at him with pale lips. "Lik e you," she added, and her blue eyes travelled slowly all the way down the l ength 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 ch arming 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 waterbottle between the sheets to air th em out, Mr Weaver. It's such a comfort to have a hot water-bottle in a strang e bed with clean sheets, don't you agree? And you may light the gas fire at a ny time if you feel chilly." "Thank you," Billy said. "Thank you ever so much." He noticed that the b edspread 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 ea t 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 th e 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 q uickly out of the room and closed the door. Now, the fact that his landlady appeared to be slightly off her rocker di dn't worry Billy in the least. After all, she was not only harmless--there wa s no question about that--but she was also quite obviously a kind and generou s soul. He guessed that she had probably lost a son in the war, or something like that, and had never got over it. So a few minutes later, after unpacking his suitcase and washing his hand s, 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 littl e 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 pe n and wrote down his name and address. There were only two other entries a bove 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 wa s Gregory W. Temple from Bristol. That's funny, he thought suddenly. Christopher Mu; holland. 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 me n, 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 M ulholland? "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 t he 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 tha t queer? Maybe it was in the newspapers. They weren't famous in any way, we re 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 extraordi narily handsome, both of them, I can promise you that. They were tall and yo ung and handsome, my dear, just exactly like you." Once more, Billy glanced down at the book. "Look here, he said, noticing the dates. This last entry is over two years o ld." "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 extraord inary 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 of them separately, so to speak, but somehow or othe r, 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 y ou see what I mean--like--like Dempsey and Tunney, for example, or Churchi ll and Roosevelt." "How amusing," she said. "But come over here now, dear, and sit down bes ide 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 anyth ing 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 ha nds, 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 jus t outside the borders of one's memory. He hated to give up. "Now wait a minute," he said. "Wait just a minute. Muiholland...Christ opher Muiholland...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?" s he said. "And sugar?" "Yes, please. And then all of a sudden "Eton schoolboy?" she said. "Oh no, my dear, that can't possibly be right because my Mr Muiholland was ce rtainly not an Eton schoolboy when he came to me. He was a Cambridge under graduate. 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 t he 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 pla ced his teacup on the table in front of him. "There we are," 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 bod y was half-turned towards him, and he could feel her eyes resting on his fac e, 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 it, the least unpleasant, and it reminded him well, he wasn't quite sur e what it reminded him of Pickled walnuts? New leather? Or was it the corrid ors 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 Muiholland ." "I suppose he left fairly recently," Billy said. He was still puzzling hi s 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 smiled back at him, and then she put out one of her white hands and pa tted 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 sur e he was, and his teeth weren't quite so white. You have the most beautiful t eeth, 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 remar k. "He was actually twenty-eight. And yet I never would have guessed it if h e hadn't told me, never in my whole life. There wasn't a blemish on his body ." "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, bitin g his lower lip. "That parrot," he said at last. "You know something? It had me completel y fooled when I first saw it through the window from the street. I could hav e 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 n odded towards the dachshund curled up so comfortably in front of the fire. B illy looked at it. And suddenly, he realized that this animal had all the ti me been just as silent and motionless as the parrot. He put out a hand and t ouched it gently on the top of its back. The back was hard and cold, and whe n he pushed the hair to one side with his fingers, he could see the skin und erneath, greyish-black and dry and perfectly preserved. "Good gracious me," he said. "How absolutely fascinating." He turned awa y from the dog and stared with deep admiration at the little woman beside hi m 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 h e 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 call ed, then I can always come down here and look it up. I still do that almost every day with Mr Mulholland and Mr--" "Temple," Billy said. "Gregory Temple. Excuse my asking, but haven't the re been any other guests here except them in the last two or three years?" Holding her teacup high in one hand, inclining her head slightly to the le ft, she looked up at him out of the corners of her eyes and gave him another g entle little smile. "No, my dear," she said. "Only you." William and Mary WILLIAM PEARL did not leave a great deal of money when he died, and his wil l was a simple one. With the exception of a few small bequests to relatives , he left all his property to his wife. The solicitor and Mrs Pearl went over it together in the solicitor's offic e, and when the business was completed, the widow got up to leave. At that poi nt, the solicitor took a sealed envelope from the folder on his desk and held it out to his client. "I have been instructed to give you this," he said. "Your husband sent i t to us shortly before he passed away." The solicitor was pale and prim, and out of respect for a widow he kept his head on one side as he spoke, lookin g downward. "It appears that it might be something personal, Mrs Pearl. No d oubt you'd like to take it home with you and read it in privacy." Mrs Pearl accepted the envelope and went out into the street. She paused on the pavement, feeling the thing with her fingers. A letter of farewell f rom William? Probably, yes. A formal letter. It was bound to be formal--stif f and formal. The man was incapable of acting otherwise. He had never done a nything informal in his life. My dear Mary, I trust that you will not permit my departure from this wor ld to upset you too much, but that you will continue to observe those precept s which have guided you so well during our partnership together. Be diligent and dignified in all things. Be thrifty with your money. Be very careful that you do not--.. et cetera, et cetera. A typical William letter. Or was it possible that he might have broken down at the last moment and written her something beautiful? Maybe this was a beautiful tender message, a sort of love letter, a lovely warm note of thanks to her for giving him t hirty years of her life and for ironing a million shirts and cooking a milli on meals and making a million beds, something that she could read over and o ver again, once a day at least, and she would keep it for ever in the box on the dressing-table together with her brooches. There is no knowing what people will do when they are about to die, Mrs Pearl told herself, and she tucked the envelope under her arm and hurried home. She let herself in the front door and went straight to the living-room a nd sat down on the sofa without removing her hat or coat. Then she opened th e envelope and drew out the contents. These consisted, she saw, of some fift een or twenty sheets of lined white paper, folded over once and held togethe r at the top left-hhnd corner by a clip. Each sheet was covered with the sma ll, neat, forward-sloping writing that she knew so well, but when she notice d how much of it there was, and in what a neat businesslike manner it was wr itten, and how the first page didn't even begin in the nice way a letter sho uld, she began to get suspicious. She looked away. She lit herself a cigarette. She took one puff and laid the cigarette in the ashtray. If this is about what I am beginning to suspect it is about, she told herself, then I don't want to read it. Can one refuse to read a letter from the dead? Yes. Well... She glanced over at William's empty chair on the other side of the firep lace. It was a big brown leather armchair, and there was a depression on the seat of it, made by his buttocks over the years. Higher up, on the backrest , there was a dark oval stain on the leather where his head had rested. He u sed to sit reading in that chair and she would be opposite him on the sofa, sewing on buttons or mending socks or putting a patch on the elbow of one of his jackets, and every now and then a pair of eyes would glance up from the book and settle on her, watchful, but strangely impersonal, as if calculati ng something. She had never liked those eyes. They were ice blue, cold, smal l, and rather close together, with two deep vertical lines of disapproval di viding them. All her life they had been watching her. And even now, after a week alone in the house, she sometimes had an uneasy feeling that they were still there, following her around, staring at her from doorways, from empty chairs, through a window at night. Slowly she reached into her handbag and took out her spectacles and put them on. Then, holding the pages up high in front of her so that they caught the late afternoon light from the window behind, she started to read: This note, my dear Mary, is entirely for you, and will be given you shortly after I am gone. Do not be alarmed by the sight of all this writing. It is nothing but an attempt on my part to explain to you precisely what Landy is going to do to me, and why I have agreed that he should do it, and what are his theories a nd his hopes. You are my wife and you have a right to know these things. In fact you must know them. During the past few days, I have tried very hard to speak with you about Landy, but you have steadfastly refused to give me a h earing. This, as I have already told you, is a very foolish attitude to take , and I find it not entirely an unselfish one either. It stems mostly from i gnorance, and I am absolutely convinced that if only you were made aware of all the facts, you would immediately "change your view. That is why I am hop ing that when I am no longer with you, and your mind is less distracted, you will consent to listen to me more carefully through these pages. I swear to you that when you have read my story, your sense of antipathy will vanish, and enthusiasm will take its place. I even dare to hope that you will become a little proud of what I have done. As you read on, you must forgive me, if you will, for the coolness of my style, but this is the only way I know of getting my message over to you cl early. You see, as my time draws near, it is natural that I begin to brim wi th every kind of sentimentality under the sun. Each day I grow more extravag antly wistful, especially in the evenings, and unless I watch myself closely my emotions will be overflowing on to these pages. I have a wish, for example, to write something about you and what a satis factory wife you have been to me through the years and am promising myself th at if there is time, and I still have the strength, I shall do that next. I have a yearning also to speak about this Oxford of mine where I have been living and teaching for the past seventeen years, to tell something ab out the glory of the place and to explain, if I can, a little of what it ha s meant to have been allowed to work in its midst. All the things and place s that I loved so well keep crowding in on me now in this gloomy bedroom. T hey are bright and beautiful as they always were, and today, for some reaso n, I can see them more clearly than ever. The path around the lake in the g ardens of Worcester College, where Lovelace used to walk. The gateway at Pe mbroke. The view westward over the town from Magdalen Tower. The great hail at Christchurch. The little rockery at St John's where I have counted more than a dozen varieties of campanula, including the rare and dainty C. Wald steiniana. But there, you see! I haven't even begun and already I'm falling into the trap. So let me get started now; and let you read it slowly, my d ear, without any of that sense of sorrow or disapproval that might otherwis e embarrass your understanding. Promise me now that you will read it slowly , and that you will put yourself in a cool and patient frame of mind before you begin. The details of the illness that struck me down so suddenly in my middle life are known to you. I need not waste time upon them--except to admit at o nce how foolish I was not to have gone earlier to my doctor. Cancer is one o f the few remaining diseases that these modern drugs cannot cure. A surgeon can operate if it has not spread too far; but with me, not only did I leave it too late, but the thing had the effrontery to attack me in the pancreas, making both surgery and survival equally impossible. So here I was with somewhere between one and six months left to live, growing more melancholy every hour--and then, all of a sudden, in comes La ndy. That was six weeks ago, on a Tuesday morning, very early, long before your visiting time, and the moment he entered I knew there was some sort o f madness in the wind. He didn't creep in on his toes, sheepish and embarrassed, not knowing wh at to say, like all my other visitors. He came in strong and smiling, and he strode up to the bed and stood there looking down at me with a wild bright glimmer in his eyes, and he said, "William, my boy, this is perfect. You're just the one I want!" Perhaps I should explain to you here that although John Landy has never been to our house, and you have seldom if ever met him, I myself have been friendly with him for at least nine years. I am, of course, primarily a te acher of philosophy, but as you know I've lately been dabbling a good deal in psychology as well. Landy's interests and mine have therefore slightly o verlapped. He is a magnificent neuro-surgeon, one of the finest, and recent ly he has been kind enough to let me study the results of some of his work, especially the varying effects of prefrontal lobotomies upon different typ es of psychopath. So you can see that when he suddenly burst in on me that Tuesday morning, we were by no means strangers to one another. "Look," he said, pulling up a chair beside the bed. "In a few weeks you'r e going to be dead. Correct?" Coming from Landy, the question didn't seem especially unkind. In a way it was refreshing to have a visitor brave enough to touch upon the forbidd en subject. "You're going to expire right here in this room, and then they'll take you out and cremate you." "Bury me," I said. "That's even worse. And then what? Do you believe you'll go to heaven?" "I doubt it," I said, "though it would be comforting to think so." "Or hell, perhaps?" "I don't really see why they should send me there." "You never know, my dear William." "What's all this about?" I asked. "Well," he said, and I could see him watching me carefully, "personally, I don't believe that after you're dead you'll ever hear of yourself again--un less.... " and here he paused and smiled and leaned closer unless, of course, you have the sense to put yourself into my hands. Would you care to consider a proposition?" The way he was staring at me, and studying me, and appraising me with a queer kind of hungriness, I might have been a piece of prime beef on the c ounter and he had bought it and was waiting for them to wrap it up. "I'm really serious about it, William. Would you care to consider a propos ition?" "I don't know what you're talking about." "Then listen and I'll tell you. Will you listen to me?" "Go on then, if you like. I doubt I've got very much to lose by hearing it." "On the contrary, you have a great deal to gain-especially after you're dea d." I am sure he was expecting me to jump when he said this, but for some rea son I was ready for t. I lay quite still, watching his face and that slow whi te smile of his that always revealed the gold clasp on an upper denture curle d around the canine on the left side of his mouth. "This is a thing, William, that I've been working on quietly for some yea rs. One or two others here at the hospital have been helping me especially Mo rrison, and we've completed a number of fairly successful trials with laborat ory animals. I'm at the stage now where I'm ready to have a go with a man. It 's a big idea, and it may sound a bit far-fetched at first, but from a surgic al point of view there doesn't seem to be any reason why it shouldn't be more or less practicable." Landy leaned forward and placed both hands on the edge of my bed. He has a good face, handsome in a bony sort of way, with none of the usual doctor' s look about it. You know that look, most of them have it. It glimmers at yo u out of their eyeballs like a dull electric sign and it reads Only I can sa ve you. But John Landy's eyes were wide and bright and little sparks of exci tement were dancing in the centres of them. "Quite a long time ago," he said, "I saw a short medical film that had b een brought over from Russia. It was a rather gruesome thing, but interestin g. It showed a dog's head completely severed from the body, but with the nor mal blood supply being maintained through the arteries and veins by means of an artificial heart. Now the thing is this: that dog's head, sitting there all alone on a sort of tray, was alive. The brain was functioning. They prov ed it by several tests. For example, when food was smeared on the dog's lips , the tongue would come out and lick it away: and the eyes would follow a pe rson moving across the room. "It seemed reasonable to conclude from this that the head and the brain d id not need to be attached to the rest of the body in order to remain alive p rovided, of course, that a supply of properly oxygenated blood could be maint ained. "Now then. My own thought, which grew out of seeing this film, was to r emove the brain from the skull of a human and keep it alive and functioning as an independent unit for an unlimited period after he is dead. Your brai n, for example, after you are dead." "I don't like that," I said. "Don't interrupt, William. Let me finish. So far as I can tell from subs equent experiments, the brain is a peculiarly self-supporting object. It man ufactures its own cerebrospinal fluid. The magic processes of thought and me mory which go on inside it are manifestly not impaired by the absence of lim bs or trunk or even of skull, provided, as I say, that you keep pumping in t he right kind of oxygenated blood under the proper conditions. "My dear William, just think for a moment of your own brain. It is in perf ect shape. It is crammed full of a lifetime of learning. It has taken you year s of work to make it what it is. It is just beginning to give out some first-r ate original ideas. Yet soon it is going to have to die along with the rest of your body simply because your silly little pancreas is riddled with cancer." "No thank you," I said to him. "You can stop there. It's a repulsive idea, and even if you could do it, which I doubt, it would be quite pointless. What possible use is there in keeping my brain alive if I couldn't talk or see or hear or feel? Personally, I can think of nothing more unpleasant." "I believe that you would be able to communicate with us," Landy said. " And we might even succeed in giving 9ou a certain amount of vision. But let' s take this slowly. I'll come to all that later on. The fact remains that yo u're going to die fairly soon whatever happens; and my plans would not invol ve touching you at all until after you are dead. Come now, William. No true philosopher could object to lending his dead body to the cause of science." "That's not putting it quite straight," I answered. "It seems to me there' d be some doubts as to whether I were dead or alive by the time you'd finished with me." "Well," he said, smiling a little, "I suppose you're right about that. But I don't think you ought to turn me down quite so quickly, before you know a b it more about it." "I said I don't want to hear it." "Have a cigarette," he said, holding out his case. "I don't smoke, you know that." He took one himself and lit it with a tiny silver lighter that was no bigg er than a shilling piece. "A present from the people who make my instruments," he said. "Ingenious, isn't it?" I examined the lighter, then handed it back. "May I go on?" he asked. "I'd rather you didn't." "Just lie still and listen. I think you'll find it quite interesting." There were some blue grapes on a plate beside my bed. I put the plate on

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Roald Dahl is known for clever, unsettling and highly entertaining short stories. Many have a surprise ending, but whether they do or not his stories are engaging from beginning to end.

Some of Dahl’s stories are a bit on the long side for a short story, but they don’t feel like it. Even the longest ones are well worth the time it takes to read them.

I’ve included an approximate word count and a link for easy reading where possible.

If you’re a big Dahl fan and want to own a collection, my favorites are The Complete Short Stories Volume 1and Volume 2.

What is Dahl’s Most Famous Short Story?

I think there are only two possibilities:

  • “The Landlady”
  • “Lamb to the Slaughter”

Both stories are very memorable and are frequently anthologized. If you haven’t read them yet, you’re in for a treat.

Here are some of Dahl’s short stories in alphabetical order of the first word of the title, excluding “A”, “An” and “The”.

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life

The narrator’s cow is ready to mate. Rummins has agreed to let him use his famous bull. While helping the narrator bring the cow over, Claud tells him Rummins has a special way of doing things. When they arrive, Rummins asks the narrator if he wants a heifer or a bull.

An African Story  | 5,550 words

A pilot gets a story from an old man in a remote location. The old man thinks he hears a noise. He goes outside and listens. He hears the high-pitched yelp of a dog coming from the shed of his worker, Judson.

“An African Story” (PDF Pg 37)

Beware of the Dog | 5,070 words

Peter Williamson, an injured WWII pilot, manages to keep flying his Spitfire. He’s lost a leg. He feels fine and thinks about how he’ll land the plane and surprise everyone with the news. Suddenly he feels bad; he knows he won’t make it.

“Beware of the Dog”

“He glanced down again at his right leg. There was not much of it left. The cannon shell had taken him on the thigh, just above the knee . . .”

—Beware of the Dog

The Bookseller

William Buggage owns a rare book shop where he’s assisted by Miss Tottle. She pays little attention to the shop and Buggage pays almost none. The real money is made in the back room. Today alone, three cheques have come in. They target people with titles and anyone else who has money.

The Boy Who Talked with Animals | 6,700 words

The narrator goes to Jamaica to relax. He feels something unsettling permeating the whole island. A maid tells him about a tourist who was killed only two months ago. On his second evening a fisherman dumps an enormous turtle on the beach. People start making claims on the meat and shell. A boy tries desperately to save the turtle.

“The Boy Who Talked with Animals” (Page 4)

The Butler | 1,200 words

A newly rich man, George Cleaver, moves into an expensive London house. He hires an expensive French chef and an English butler. The Cleaver’s throw dinner parties to climb the social ladder. Something about the dinners isn’t really working, though. His butler explains that the wine is the problem, so George decides to become an expert.

“The Butler” (PDF Pg. 3)

Death of an Old Old Man

Charlie is known as an excellent pilot, but he’s terrified of going up again. It’s been getting worse every time. He’s been anticipating the order since last night. He doesn’t want to lose fifty years of his life.

Dip in the Pool | 4,300 words

Passengers on a cruise ship are dining when it starts swinging heavily. Mr. Botibol takes the opportunity to talk to the purser. The Captain makes an estimate on how much distance will be covered each day. The passengers can make bets on it. Botibol wonders if this patch of rough weather was accounted for in the estimate. It gives him an idea.

“Dip in the Pool”

Edward the Conqueror

Louisa calls her husband, Edward, for lunch. He has a bonfire going to clear out the brambles. Very close to the fire is a large stray cat. She takes it inside. It seems to show appreciation for the piano music she plays. Edward doesn’t like the cat. Louisa comes to believe it’s the reincarnation of a famous composer.

Galloping Foxley | 5,600 words

The narrator has taken the same train to work for thirty-six years. He’s a man of habit and is comforted when everything stays the same. One morning  his routine commute to work is disturbed by a new train passenger. He’s bothered by the intrusion. There’s something familiar about this stranger. He tries to identify the newcomer.

Read “Galloping Foxley” (PDF Pg 46)

“And once again I felt that slow uneasy stirring of the memory, stronger than ever this time, closer to the surface but not
yet quite within my reach.”

—Galloping Foxley

Genesis and Catastrophe: A True Story

A doctor assures a woman that her newborn son is healthy. She’s very worried. She’s given birth to three children who’ve all died. She finds it hard to believe that this one will be any different. The doctor does his best to convince her.

Georgy Porgy 

The narrator is a fairly well-rounded person. The one area he feels he’s lacking is with women. Physical contact with them is repugnant to him; he even avoids shaking hands. He’s a curate with a large number of spinsters in his parish. Fending them off makes him jumpy.

The Great Automatic Grammatizator | 6,800 words

Adolph Knipe has just finished building an automatic computing machine, the most advanced type ever made. His boss, Mr. Bohlen, is pleased with their success, but Adolph isn’t excited. Mr. Bohlen insists that Adolph take a vacation and relax, but he comes up with an even bigger idea.

This story can be read in the preview of The Umbrella Man and Other Stories.

The Great Switcheroo

Vic and Mary are among the group at Jerry and Samantha’s for a cocktail party. Vic is attracted to the hostess, Samantha. He wants to make a pass at her but several things make it too risky. As he considers the complications, an idea starts forming in his mind. It’s a bit of a long shot. For one thing, Jerry would have to agree to it.

Read “The Great Switcheroo”

The Hitch-Hiker | 4,200 words

A man picks up a hitch-hiker and asks him about his work, but the hitch-hiker only reveals that he’s in a skilled trade. After talking about how fast the car can go, the driver accelerates, only to be pulled over by the police. He is very worried but the hitch-hiker isn’t.

“The Hitch-Hiker” (PDF Pg. 18)

Lamb to the Slaughter | 3,900 words

A pregnant woman, Mary Maloney, gets her husband a drink when he comes home from work. He needs a little time before he’s ready to talk. Tonight, he drinks more than usual. She wants to fix him something to eat, but he doesn’t want anything. The mood is a bit tense. He has something important to tell her.

“Lamb to the Slaughter”

The Landlady | 3,550 words

Billy Weaver, a young, inexperienced salesman arrives in Bath. He starts the next morning. In the meantime, he needs a place for the night. While looking for a hotel, he comes across a private Bed and Breakfast. After some vacillation, he knocks on the door. A very nice lady invites him in.

“The Landlady”

“Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half-minute’s wait before the door opens. But this dame was a like a
jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell—and out she popped! It made him jump.”

—The Landlady

Man from the South | 4,625 words

The narrator is at a hotel, having a beer by the pool. An older, well-dressed man sits down by him. An American cadet who was enjoying himself in the pool also sits down. The cadet takes out cigarettes. The older man and the cadet disagree on the reliability of his lighter. The older man bets that the young man’s lighter won’t flame ten times in a row without missing one. He’s willing to wager his Cadillac.

“Man from the South”

Mr. Hoddy | 2,650 words

Claud and Clarice go to her father’s place, Mr. Hoddy’s, for the evening. Clarice warns him that her father will ask him how he’s going to support her. He’s not to mention the greyhounds; her father doesn’t approve. Claud speaks vaguely about his money-making ideas. Mr. Hoddy presses him for details, making it a bit uncomfortable.

Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat | 6,000 words

Mrs. Bixby makes a monthly visit to her old Aunt Maude. However, she spends the majority of the time with another man. After doing this for many years, the man gives her a beautiful present. She loves it but soon realizes she’ll have to explain how she came to have such an expensive item. She comes up with a plan to keep it.

“Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat”

My Lady Love, My Dove | 5,360 words

A wealthy couple has guests for the weekend. The wife doesn’t like either of them, but they play a good game of bridge. She doesn’t like the things they say. She tells her husband that they should have some fun by spying on their guests.

“My Lady Love, My Dove”


Sir Basil Turton inherits his father’s business and title. He’s much in demand by the women in London. A foreign woman, Natalia, swoops in and marries him. The narrator attends a dinner party with the Turtons. Lady Turton behaves indiscreetly, paying undue attention to a male guest. Her husband is aware, but he doesn’t take any action.

Nunc Dimittis

The narrator, Lionel, writes the story of his outrageous behavior toward a friend of his, Janet. He’s ashamed and embarrassed by how things went. The trouble started when he escorted Gladys home one evening. She roped him into staying a while and told him a secret. She also told him that Janet had said something about him.

“I wanted, essentially, to address myself to an imaginary and sympathetic listener, a kind of mythical you, someone gentle and understanding to whom I might tell unashamedly every detail of this unfortunate episode. I can only hope that I am not too upset to make a go of it.”

—Nunc Dimittis

Only This 

In an English cottage, an old woman lies in bed. She hears bombers flying overhead and thinks of her son in the Royal Air Force, imagining that she’s in the plane with him.

Parson’s Pleasure | 9,300 words

Mr. Boggis, an antiques dealer, surveys a village, making note of the farmhouses. He’s disguised as a clergyman. He buys valuable items from unsuspecting country dwellers, paying them very little and reselling for a huge profit. He has a gift for reading people and talking to them in the most effective way. On one trip, he makes the find of his life and puts his considerable skill to use.

A Piece of Cake | 4,700 words

A pilot recounts something that happened to him during wartime. He can’t remember everything—not before, only when it happened. There was trouble, but he was flying too low to bail out. It continued to get worse.

“A Piece of Cake” (PDF Pg 123)


Lexington becomes an orphan at twelve days old. His parents get shot trying to get into their own home. He gets taken in by a seventy-year-old aunt. She’s a vegetarian. She home-schools him, shelters him from the outside world, and teaches him to cook.

Poison | 4,300 words

The narrator arrives home around midnight. His roommate, Harry, still has the light on in his room. He lies motionless in his bed, terrified, because a poisonous snake is under the covers on his stomach. It’s been there for hours and he can’t take it much longer. They try to figure out what to do.

Princess Mammalia

Princess Mammalia is a plain girl until her seventeenth birthday when she suddenly becomes beautiful—the most beautiful girl in the realm. With her newfound beauty comes power. She gradually uses it more and more.

The Ratcatcher | 4,200 words

A ratcatcher is called to a farm by special order of the health department. The ratcatcher is an off-putting man, but he knows his job well. He comes up with a plan to eliminate the rats, and he shares his knowledge with the owners.

“The kind of dark furtive eyes he had were those of an animal that lives its life peering out cautiously and forever from a hole in the ground.”

—The Ratcatcher

Royal Jelly | 8,000 words

A new mother, Mabel, is worried because her baby has been losing weight since birth. Her husband, Albert, isn’t so worried. He thinks things will improve in time. He’s a bee expert. While reading about bees, he makes a connection between them and the situation with his new daughter. It gives him an idea.

Read “Royal Jelly” 

Rummins | 3,700 words

Claud tells Rummins that his hayrick is infested with rats and is drawing the attention of the authorities. Rummins enlists the help of a few men to tear it down. While they work, the narrator thinks back a few months when the rick was built and remembers a significant detail.

Skin | 3,350 words

A panhandler passes an art gallery and sees a painting by a man he knew over thirty years ago. The painter’s work is now very valuable. The panhandler has a tattoo on his back, drawn by this master, so he goes inside to show the crowd.

“Skin” can be read in the Amazon preview of Skin and Other Stories.

The Soldier

Robert is out walking late at night trying to keep his mind on good memories. His thoughts go to earlier in the day when his wife discovered a splinter in his foot. Somehow, he hadn’t noticed it. She tests his sensation with a pin. He remembers some examinations he had at the doctor’s a year ago.

Someone Like You

Two friends reunite over drinks. It’s been five years. The narrator’s friend has been fighting in the war the whole time. He’s changed and they find it hard to start talking. They have several drinks. He talks about the power he had over people’s lives.

The Sound Machine | 5,375 words

Klausner has invented a machine that captures sound frequencies inaudible to humans and makes them understandable. He tries the machine out one night and hears a terrible shriek. The problem is he can’t identify where it’s coming from.

The Surgeon

Dr. Sandy is in his office with a recent patient, a young man who was in a serious car accident. It’s been seven weeks and the man is recovered. He’s a Saudi Arabian Prince. He wants to give the doctor a sum of money, but the doctor doesn’t accept any payment beyond his regular salary. The Prince accepts this but insists that the doctor takes a gift from the King. Refusing would be a grave insult. He takes a velvet pouch from his jacket.

Read “The Surgeon” (PDF Pg 59)

Taste | 5,250 words

At their dinners a wine connoisseur, Richard, and his host, Mike, make small bets on whether the expert can identify the wine being served. At one such dinner, Richard is a bit distracted by his host’s daughter, Louise. His attention returns to the meal when Mike unveils a special wine. Both men are confident; the betting gets out of hand.

They Shall Not Grow Old

Two pilots sit outside the hangar. A third man, Fin, has been gone for two and a half hours. He should have been back by now. Even if he hadn’t been shot down, he would have run out of fuel. Last night, he started talking about getting married.

The Umbrella Man | 2,400 words

While waiting for a taxi, a mother and daughter are approached by an older man who wants to sell them an expensive umbrella, cheaply. He explains that he’s forgotten his wallet and just needs cab fare to get home.

“The Umbrella Man”

The Way Up to Heaven | 5,000 words

Mrs. Foster is always punctual while her husband seems to take pleasure in delaying her for her appointments. Mrs. Foster plans to fly to see her daughter and granddaughters in Paris. On the morning of her trip, Mr. Foster stresses her unbearably by making her wait for him.

“The Way Up to Heaven”

William and Mary | 10,000 words

Mary Pearl receives a letter from her lawyer following her husband’s death. Her husband had been approached by a doctor with an unusual plan for him. He went ahead with it, even though Mary was against the idea.

” A letter of farewell from William? Probably, yes. A formal letter. It was bound to be formal—stiff and formal. The man was incapable of acting otherwise. He had never done anything
informal in his life.”

—William and Mary

The Wish | 1,460 words

A tremendous length of carpet stretches through the hallway ending at the front door of a house. The boy who lives there suddenly notices its possibilities. He imagines that its three colors represent different things—the red is hot coals, the black is snakes, and the yellow is safe. He tries to make his way across the carpet.

“The Wish”

Yesterday was Beautiful 

An English pilot ejects from his plane and lands on a Greek island. His foot is injured. There’s no one in sight. He searches the deserted town for a boat that can take him to the mainland.

As I read more Roald Dahl short stories they will be added to this page.

Tales of the Unexpected - Roald Dahl - Ian Fleming - Lamb to the Slaughter - Susan George 1979

Royal Jelly (short story)

Short story by Roald Dahl

"Royal Jelly" is a short horror story by Roald Dahl. It was included in Dahl's 1960 collection Kiss Kiss and his 1979 collection Tales of the Unexpected, and later published as a standalone volume in 2011[1] and included in the February 1983 issue of Twilight Zone Magazine.[2][3]

The story was adapted as an episode of the series Tales of the Unexpected in 1980, including Timothy West and Susan George as the couple.[4]


Albert and Mabel Taylor have a newborn baby daughter. Mabel is frightened because the child won't eat and has been losing weight since birth. Albert, a beekeeper, devises the novel solution of adding royal jelly, used to make bee larvae grow, to the baby's milk. The baby begins to drink ravenously, getting fatter.

Albert admits to putting royal jelly in their daughter's milk, and Mabel asks him to stop. He tries to soothe his wife by explaining its nutritional value as stated in several magazines. Despite his wife's continued objections, Albert continues to add royal jelly to his daughter's milk, resulting in her growing larger. Finally Albert admits that he himself ate royal jelly in an effort to increase his fertility, which obviously worked as their daughter was conceived soon after.

Mabel begins to realise how much her husband resembles a gigantic bee, and how their daughter looks like a large grub. At the end of the story, Albert says, "Why don't you cover her up, Mabel? We don't want our little queen to catch a cold."

Television adaptation[edit]

The Tales of the Unexpected episode follows the story closely, but keeps the daughter concealed until the final reveal at the end.



Dahl pdf jelly roald royal

Sections:Information | Plot Description | Fun Stuff


Plot Description

Personally, I think this is one of Dahl’s scariest stories. The description of the baby at the end… *shudder* I read it aloud to some of college roommates once and they were freaked out.

Spoiler warning! This is a simple story and concerns the Taylor family: Albert, Mabel, and their newborn baby daughter. Mabel is frightened because the child won’t eat and has been losing weight since birth. She’s desperate and frantic, but the doctors can’t do anything. After she goes to bed, Albert begins to read from one of his many books on beekeeping. He’s always had a way with bees, and now he makes his living by maintaining over 200 hives and selling the honey. This particular night he is reading about royal jelly, which is a substance that the worker bees produce and feed to the larvae for the first three days of their lives. It allows the young bees to rapidly mature and grow in size. Queen bees, however, are continuously fed the stuff throughout their larval life. It’s what actually, physically changes them into queens. Albert gets the idea that this stuff could help his daughter grow too. When Mabel comes downstairs the next morning, she is astounded to hear that the baby has drank five ounces of milk throughout the night. She watches as Albert prepares another bottle and the child ravenously drains the entire contents. She gets curious, though, when Albert later claims to have cured the baby himself. He finally confesses that he added large quantities of royal jelly to the baby formula, much to Mabel’s shock and dismay. He tries to convince her with facts and statistics, but she will have none of it. She tells him that even if it does work, they had a terrible honey crop the previous year and she doesn’t want any bees devoted to making it. She forbids him from feeding anymore of it to the child. At the next feeding, the baby drinks two bottles and physically seems to be getting fatter. They go to weigh the child and Mabel is frightened to see that though she’s put on weight on her abdomen, her arms and legs are skinny and her tummy is beginning to sprout “yellowy-brown hairs.” Mabel accuses him of dosing the child with more royal jelly, which Albert admits to. In a last ditch attempt to convince his wife that it’s perfectly healthy, he admits that last year he turned over half his bees to the production of the jelly, which he consumed himself. He did it in the hopes that it would make him more fertile, and it obviously worked since he daughter was conceived not long after. Mabel suddenly realizes that her husband does really resemble a great big bee, and her daughter laying on the table looks like nothing so much as a gigantic grub. “Why don’t you cover her up, Mabel?” he says. “We don’t want our little queen to catch a cold.”

Fun Stuff

Twilight Zone Magazine

Engraved Illustration from “Royal Jelly”

Royal jelly: part 1


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