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Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat by Roald Dahl

Prepare for a very entertaining short story with a wicked plot twist!

Girl reading a book.

Pre-reading Questions:

  1. What do you already know about the author Roald Dahl?
  2. What are the most important features of a successful short story?
  3. What is a pawnbroker?

Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

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Mrs Bixby and the Colonel_s Coat
"Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" as plain text

Mrs Bixby and the Colonel's Coat


Roald Dahl



Wilkins: Excuse me, Madam ...

Mrs B: Wilkins! What on earth are you doing here?

Wilkins: It's the Colonel, Madam. He asked me to give you this.

Mrs B: Oh, good heavens! What an enormous box! What is it, Wilkins? Was there a message? Did the Colonel send me a message?


Wilkins: No message, Madam.

Mrs B: Oh, I see. Right. Well, oh, thank you, Wilkins ..


Speaker: As soon as she was on the train, Mrs Bixby went to the toilet and opened the box. Inside was the most beautiful mink coat she had ever seen. The fur was almost black. It must have cost at least two or three thousand pounds - even more, she thought. With the coat was a letter from the Colonel saying that he wouldn't be able to see her any more and that the coat was a parting gift. Mrs Bixby realised she had a problem. In a couple of hours she would be in London. Ten minutes after that she would be home. And even someone like Cyril, her husband, would start asking questions if his wife suddenly walked in from a weekend wearing a three thousand pound mink coat.


Mrs B: Oh, it's not fair! I can't give the coat back now! I've got to have it! I've just got to have this coat...


Speaker: By the time the train arrived in London, Mrs Bixby had worked out a plan. Outside the station, she walked up to the nearest taxi driver.


Mrs B: Driver ... Do you know of a pawnbroker that's still open around here?

Driver: Pawnbroker! Well, there's one or two in Brixton.

Mrs B: Stop at the first one you see, then, will you please?


Taxi starts


***


Taxi stops


Mrs B: Wait here for me, please.


Door bell


Pawnbroker: Yes?

Mrs B: Oh, good evening. Oh, isn't it silly of me? I've gone and lost my purse. And as this is Saturday all the banks are closed until Monday and I've simply got to have some money for the weekend. This is quite a valuable coat, but I'm not asking for much. I just want to borrow enough on it to see me through the weekend. I'll pay to get it back on Monday.


Pawnbroker: Well, let me have a look at it.


Mrs B: Certainly. If only I had a watch on me or a ring, I'd give you that instead.But I haven't got a thing on me except this coat.


Pawnbroker: It looks new.


Mrs B: Oh yes, it is. But as I said, I only want to borrow enough to tide me over till Monday. How about fifty pounds?


Pawnbroker: Fifty? Yes, all right. I'll lend you fifty pounds.


Mrs B: It's worth a hundred times more than that, of course, but I know you' ll take good care of it until I return .


Pawnbroker: Now, if I can just have one or two details. Name?


Mrs B: Oh. Leave that out. And the address. Well, you don't have to put down the name and address, do you?


Pawnbroker: No, you don't have to but...


Mrs B: It's just that I'd rather not. It's personal.


Pawnbroker: As you wish. You 'd better not lose this ticket, then.


Mrs B: Oh, I won't lose it.


Pawnbroker: It's just that you do realise, don't you, that anyone who gets hold of it can come in and claim the article.


Mrs B: Yes, I know that.


Pawnbroker: All right. What do you want me to put for a description?


Mrs B: Oh, no description either, thank you. Just put down the amount I'm borrowing.


Pawnbroker: Look, I think you ought to put a description. A description always helps if you want to sell the ticket to someone else. You never know. You might want to sell it some time.


Mrs B: I don't want to sell it.


Pawnbroker: You might have to. Lots of people do.


Mrs B: Look, I'm not broke, if that's what you mean. I simply lost my purse, that's all. Don't you understand?


Pawnbroker: All right, have it your own way. It's your coat. Right... here's your ticket and ten ... twenty ... thirty ... forty ...fifty pounds.


Mrs B: Thank you. I'll be in on Monday to pick it up again.


***


Flat door opening


Mrs B: I'm home, darling!

Mr B: I'm in here.

Mrs B: Hello, darling. Did you miss me?

Mr B: It's twelve and a half minutes past six. You' re a bit late, aren' t you?

Mrs B: Yes, I know, darling. It's those dreadful trains. Aunt Maud sends you her love as usual. I'm dying for a drink, aren't you?

Mr B: Yes, why not? (Drink being poured) There you are.

Mrs B: Oh, thank you, darling. And what did you do last night?

Mr B: Oh, I stayed on in the office and did some work. I also got my accounts up to date.


Mrs B: Now really, Cyril, I think it's high time you let other people do your donkey work for you! You're much too important for that sort of thing.


Mr B: I prefer to do it myself. I'm very proud of my work.


Mrs B: I know you are, darling, and I think that's absolutely wonderful. But I don't want you to burn yourself out. Anyway, why doesn't that Pulteney woman do the accounts? She's your secretary, isn't she?


Mr B: She does do them. But I have to decide the price first, and she doesn't know who's rich and who isn't.


Mrs B: Mmmm ... this martini's perfect, darling. Quite perfect. Oh, by the way, look what I found just now on the seat of my taxi. It's a ticket. It's got a number on it and I thought it might be valuable, so I kept it.


Mr B: Here, let me see. Ah, you know what this is?

Mrs B: No dear, I've no idea.

Mr B: It's a pawn ticket.

Mrs B: A what?

Mr B: A ticket from a pawnbroker.Here's the name and address of the shop, somewhere in Brixton.

Mrs B: Oh, how disappointing! I was hoping it might be a lottery ticket or something.

Mr B: Oh, there's no reason to be disappointed. As a matter of fact, this could be rather amusing.

Mrs B: Why could it be amusing, darling?

Mr B: Well, don't you see? We can go along to the pawnbroker place and claim whatever article this is.


Mrs B: Can we, darling? Can we really?


Mr B: Of course. That's how it works. Whoever has the ticket can claim the article.


Mrs B: Oh, I see. But do you think it's worth claiming?


Mr B: Well, I certainly think.it's worth finding out what it is. You see this figure of fifty pounds that's written here? You know what that means?


Mrs B: No, dear. What does it mean?


Mr B: It means that the article in question is almost certainly something quite valuable.


Mrs B: Do you mean it'll be worth fifty pounds?


Mr B: Fifty? More like five hundred!


Mrs B: Five hundred!


Mr B: Don't you understand dear. A pawnbroker never gives more than about a tenth of the real value.


Mrs B: Good heavens! I never knew that.


Mr B: And there are a lot of things you don't know, my dear. Now, listen to me ... as there's no name and address of the owner...


Mrs B: But surely there's something to say who it belongs to?


Mr B: No, not a thing. People often do that. They don't want anyone to know they've been to a pawnbroker. They're ashamed of it.


Mrs B: Then you think we can keep it.


Mr B: Of course we can keep it. This is now our ticket.


Mrs B: You mean my ticket. I found it.


Mr B: My dear girl, what does it matter? The important thing is that we are now in a position to go and claim it any time we like for only fifty pounds. How about that?


Mrs B: Oh, what fun! Give me the ticket then, darling. I'll rush over first thing on Monday.


Mr B: I think I'd better do that.


Mrs B: Oh no! Let me do it.


Mr B: I think not, my dear. I'll pick it up on my way to work.


Mrs B: But it's my ticket. Please let me do it Cyril! Why should you have all the fun?


Mr B: Oh you don't know these pawnbrokers, my dear. You could be cheated.


Mrs B: I wouldn't get cheated, honestly I wouldn' t. Give it to me, please.


Mr B: Also, you have to have fifty pounds. You have to payout fifty pounds before they'll give it to you.


Mrs B: I've got that - I think.


Mr B: I'd rather you didn't handle it, if you don't mind.


Mrs B: (Desperate) Cyril, I found it! It's mine! Whatever it is, it's mine! Isn't that right?


Mr B: Well, of course it's yours, my dear. There's no need to get so worked up about it.


Mrs B: I'm not. I'm ... I'm just excited, that's all.


Mr B: I suppose you haven't thought that this might be something for a man - a watch, for example. It isn't only women who go to the pawnbroker's, you know.


Mrs B: Well, in that case I'll give it to you - for Christmas. But if it's a woman's thing, I want it myself. Is that agreed?

Mr B: Yes. All right. That sounds very fair...


***


Telephone ringing


Mrs B: (Picking it up) Cyril?

Mr B: I got it!

Mrs B: You did? Oh, Cyril, what was it? Was it something good?

Mr B: Good? It's fantastic! You wait till you see this! You'll faint!

Mrs B: Oh, darling, what is it? Oh, tell me quick!

Mr B: You' re a lucky girl, that's what you are.

Mrs B: It's for me, then?

Mr B: Of course it's for you. Though I can't understand how it got to be pawned for only fifty pounds. Someone must be crazy!


Mrs B: Cyril! Tell me what it is! Please! I can't bear it!


Mr B: Try to guess.


Mrs B: Er .. . a necklace?


MrB: Wrong.


Mrs B: I know. A diamond ring!


Mr B: Wrong again. I'll give you a clue.It's something you can wear.


Mrs B: Something I can wear? You mean like a hat?


Mr B: (Laughing) No, darling, It's not a hat.


Mrs B: Oh, for goodness sake, Cyril, why don't you tell me?


Mr B: Because I want it to be a surprise, that's why. I'll bring it home with me this evening.


Mrs B: Oh no, you won' t! I'm coming right down there to get it now!

Mr B: I'd rather you didn't do that. I'm too busy. You'll disorganise my whole morning. I'm half an hour behind already.

Mrs B: Then I'll come in the lunch-hour. Alright?

Mr B: I'm not having a lunch hour. Oh well, come at one-thirty then, while I'm having a sandwich. Goodbye.

Mrs B: Goodbye, darling. (Exhilarated) I've got it! I've got the coat! I've got the coat. ...


***


Mrs B: Oh, Cyril, I'm so excited!

Mr B: And so you should be! You're a lucky girl, did you know that? Anyway, come on through to my room. Oh, Miss Pulteney, go and have your lunch now. You can finish that work when you come back.

Miss P: Certainly, Mr Bixby.

Mr B: Right, my dear. It's in here. Now - shut your eyes. Alright - you can look.

Mrs B: I don't dare to!

Mr B: Go on take a peek.

Mrs B: Oh, alright, then.


Speaker: Mrs Bixby opened one eye - just a little - just enough to give her a dark view of the man standing there in his white coat, holding something in the air.


Mr B: Mink! Real mink!


Speaker: At the sound of the word she opened her eyes quickly, at the same time moving forward to take the coat in her arms. But there was no coat. There was only a stupid little fur neckpiece in her husband's hands.


Mr B: Look at that, then! Isn't it beautiful? What's the matter, my dear? Don't you like it?

Mrs B: Why yes - I - I - I think it's - it's lovely - really lovely.

Mr B: It quite took your breath away for a minute, didn't it?

Mrs B: Yes, yes it did.

Mr B: Magnificent quality. Fine colour too. You know something, my dear. I reckon this would cost you two or three hundred pounds at least if you were to buy it in a shop.

Mrs B: I don't doubt it.


Mr B: Here, try it on. Oh, I say! It's perfect! It really suits you. It isn't everyone who has mink, my dear.


Mrs B: No, it isn't.


Mr B: You'd better leave it at home when you go shopping, or they' ll think we're millionaires and start charging us double.


Mrs B: I'll try to remember that, Cyril.


Mr B: Oh, and I'm afraid you mustn't expect anything else for Christmas. Fifty pounds was rather more than I was going to spend anyway. Right, run along now, my dear, and buy yourself a nice lunch. Oh, did I tell you I was going to be home late tonight?


Mrs B: 0, dear.


Mr B: It' ll probably be at least eight thirty the way things look at the moment. It may even be nine.

Mrs B: Yes, alright, dear. I'll see you later, then.


Door opening and closing


Mrs B: (Furious) I'm going to kill that pawnbroker! I'm going right back there to the shop this very minute and I'm going to throw this filthy neckpiece right in his face and if he refuses to give me back my coat, I'm going to kill him.


Speaker: As Mrs Bixby was thinking these things, Miss Pulteney, her husband's secretary, came past her down the passage on her way to lunch.


Miss P: Isn't it a gorgeous day!


Speaker: She smiled as she spoke. There was a tilt in her walk and she looked just like a queen - just exactly like a queen in the beautiful, black mink coat that the Colonel had given to Mrs Bixby.

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