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No Friends at Dinner

ALAN LOFT came to live in Mrs. Finney's house. She was not a kind woman, and he knew that very well. But he could not find any other rooms in the town. All the other rooms were taken by other people. He did not like Mrs. Finney, but he was glad to have a bed and food.

    "Don't put your feet on my chairs, young man," said Mrs. Finney. "Keep my chairs clean."
"I'll never put my feet on them," he answered quietly. But he looked at Rover, the dog. Rover always slept on the best chairs.
"And don't stay out late at night," she said. "I don't want a lot of noise when you come in late. I want to sleep."
"I'll stay at home every night," he said. "May I ask a friend to dinner sometimes?"
"No. Don't bring any of your friends here. I don't want a lot of men in the house. And if you want your own dinner, you must come at the right time. If you come back late, you can't have any dinner."
"I'll never be late," he said. But Rover had his dinner when he came in, and sometimes he came in very late at night.
"You must pay me at the beginning of every month," she said, "not at the end. I haven't a lot of money, and I'll have to buy a lot of food for a big man like you."

Alan paid her some money at once. He lived there for nearly a month. He was not happy. She did not give him very much food, and he did not see his friends very often.

One morning he was telling his troubles to a friend, Roy.

"But you mustn't let anyone talk to you like that!" said Roy.
"What can I do?" said Alan. "I must stay there. If I get angry, she may send me away. Where shall I go then?"
"I know a woman who has a big house," said Roy. "It's a long way out of the town, but she lets a girl have two of her rooms. The girl wants to leave at the end of the month. You may be able to have those rooms next month. Let us go and ask."

Alan thanked him and they went to see the woman. Her name was Mrs. Goole.

"Yes, the girl may leave," said Mrs. Goole. "She may go to live in London."
"May I come and live here next month?" said Alan.
"Yes, if no one comes and takes the rooms before that."

Alan thanked her and the two men left.

"When you go home tonight," said Roy, "remember to speak like a man. If you have to leave your room tomorrow, you can go to a hotel for three days. You'll not have to pay much for three days at a hotel. Then you can go to Mrs. Goole."

Alan went home late, and there was no dinner on the table.

"There's no dinner for you," said Mrs. Finney.

Alan remembered Roy's words. "Yes, there is," he said. "Go and get it ready at once. I pay for my dinner and I'll have my dinner. Now! At once, please!"
Mrs. Finney could not believe her ears. "Are you speaking to me, young man?" she said.
"Yes, I am. Go and get my dinner, quick."
"You must leave my house tomorrow," she said. "I don't let anyone speak to me like that."
"I'll speak to you as you speak to me," he said. "I'll gladly leave your house tomorrow. But tonight I'm here and I want my dinner. Get it."
"Where are you going to live?" she asked.
"I've found a better place than this. Get my dinner, please, and don't talk."

She got his dinner and he looked at the food. "I want more than this," he said. "Bring some more."

She brought him a little more, but he soon finished his dinner. Rover came in just when he was finishing. Mrs. Finney began to get some food for the dog.

"Leave that dog," said Alan. "Bring me a glass of water, please."

Mrs. Finney could not understand this change in Alan. She brought the water, and Rover went out of the room without his food.

Alan went into the other room, but Rover was in the best chair. He took up the dog in his arms. Rover began to make a noise. Mrs. Finney ran into the room. "What are you doing to my dog, young man?" she said angrily.
"I'm taking him out of the house," said Alan. He opened the front door and put Rover outside. "Tonight I want the best chair, and I'll have it. And don't call me 'Young man'. My name is Mr. Loft.
"Yes, Mr. Loft," she said.
"Tomorrow morning," he said, "I want a taxi. You must go out and telephone for one." He sat down in the best chair and took up a book.
"I don't want you to leave, Mr. Loft," she said. " "I don't want to stay here. I'm not a child; I'm a man. I live a quiet life, but you always talk like an angry policeman. This is the only home that I have. If I stay, I'll come in every night as late as I like. I'll bring all my friends here. And that dog must never come into a room when I'm in it. Remember! If he comes in, I shall leave at once."
"Yes, Mr. Loft," she said. "Will you stay?"
"I'll tell you tomorrow. I'll think about it."

On the next day, before he went out, he got a letter from Mrs. Goole. He opened it quietly. Mrs. Finney was looking at his face when he read it:

Dear Mr. Loft,
You came to my house to ask about my two rooms; but the girl who has them does not want to leave, and so I cannot let you have them next month. I am sorry.
Yours truly,
Ada Goole.


He put the letter down. He did not show it to Mrs. Finney, but she wanted to read the letter. He knew that very well.

"This letter's from one of my friends," he said. "He wants to have a talk with me. I shall ask him to dinner tonight. So I can't leave your house. I can't move just now. But remember! The dinner must be good, and if we're late, you must keep it hot for us."
"Yes, Mr. Loft."
"Another thing, Mrs. Finney. The dinners which you give me are too small. They must be bigger, please. Not only tonight, but when I have dinner here alone. Remember! More food, Mrs. Finney!"
"Yes, Mr. Loft," she said.

He went out to ask Roy to dinner. (Stories of Today, Longman)

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