I caught sight of her at the play and, in answer to her beckoning, I went over during the interval and sat down beside her. It was long since I had last seen her and if someone had not mentioned her name I hardly think I would have recognised her. She addressed me brightly. ‘Well, it’s many years since we first met. How time does fly! We’re none of us getting any younger. Do you remember the first time I saw you? You asked me to luncheon.’
Did I remember?
It was twenty years ago and I was living in Paris. I had a tiny apartment in the Latin quarter overlooking a cemetery and I was earning barely enough money to keep the body and soul together. She had read a book of mine and had written to me about it. I answered, thanking her, and presently I received from her another letter saying that she was passing through Paris and would like to have a chat with me; but her time was limited and the only free moment she had was on the following Thursday; she was spending the morning at the Luxembourg and would I give her a little luncheon at Foyot’s afterwards? Foyot’s is a restaurant at which the French senators eat and it was so far beyond my means that I had never even thought of going there. But I was flattered and I was too young to have learned to say no to a woman. Few men, I may add, learn this until they are too old to make it of any consequence to a woman what they say. I had eighty francs (gold francs) to last me the rest of the month, and a modest luncheon should not cost more than fifteen. If I cut out coffee for the next two weeks I could manage well enough. I answered that I would meet my friend—by correspondence—at Foyot’s on Thursday at half-past twelve. She was not so young as I expected and in appearance imposing rather than attractive. She was, in fact, a woman of forty (a charming age, but not one that excites a sudden and devastating passion at first sight), and she gave me the impression of having more teeth, white and large and even, than were necessary for any practical purpose. She was talkative but since she seemed inclined to talk about me I was prepared to be an attentive listener. I was startled when the bill of fare was brought for the prices were a great deal higher than I had anticipated. But she reassured me.
UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT
1. Although the author was not a vindictive man he was very happy to see the twenty one stone lady who had impoverished him twenty years ago, and says he had finally had his revenge. What makes him says this?
2. There are quite a few places where the author uses the expressions ‘my heart sank’, ‘panic seized’ etc. What was the reason for this?
3. Locate instances of irony in the story.
TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT
Discuss in pairs or in small groups
1. People with foibles are often not conscious of them.
2. The author’s attempts at keeping up his pretence of friendliness while he was mentally preoccupied with the expense of the luncheon.
Please refer to attached file for NCERT Class 11 English Elective The Luncheon