The Landlady is a short story by Roald Dahl that was published in 1959. The story is set in England and follows the main character, Billy Weaver, as he arrives in Bath and checks into a boarding house run by an old woman. The landlady seems nice at first, but Billy soon realizes that something is very wrong with the house and its occupants. The story ends with a shocking twist that will leave readers wondering what really happened.
The setting of The Landlady is important to the story because it creates an atmosphere of unease and dread. The town of Bath is never explicitly mentioned by name, but the reader gets a sense of its quaintness and old-fashionedness from the description of the boarding house and the landlady.
The house is described as being in a “narrow street,” with “a small window set in the door,” and it is clear that it is an old building. The landlady herself is also quite old, and she is described as having “a lined face” and “wrinkled hands.” All of these details contribute to a feeling of foreboding that something bad is going to happen.
The setting also plays a role in the story’s twist ending. The reader is led to believe that Billy has been murdered by the landlady, but it is later revealed that he has actually been turned into one of her stuffed animals.
The boarding house’s parlour was inspected from the outside of the structure in one of the major variables in “The Landlady.” The scene started when I walked down Bath’s wide street to the Bell and Dragon hotel. There were no businesses on this busy thoroughfare.
The only thing that occupied the space were grandiose houses that towered over me, their front gardens dark and uninviting. The gate to each one was locked shut. The windows on the upper floors were either boarded up or had curtains so thick that not even a sliver of light could escape.
The houses were close together, and it felt as if they were leaning in towards the street, like a group of old men huddled around a fire. I began to feel uneasy, as though I was being watched. This feeling increased when I noticed a woman standing in the shadows of one of the doorways, observing me intently.
I quickened my pace, but she began to follow me, keeping a few steps behind. I turned around and she smiled at me, revealing a row of perfect teeth. She was an old woman, but it was hard to tell her exact age as she was so well preserved. The only thing that betrayed her age were her eyes, which were watery and faded.
The old woman asked me if I was looking for somewhere to stay and I told her that I was. She said that she had a room available in her boarding house and invited me to come inside. The prospect of staying in one of these sinister houses was not appealing, but the old woman seemed harmless enough so I decided to go with her.
The inside of the house was just as dark and foreboding as the outside. The hallway was narrow and long, with a threadbare carpet that looked like it had not been vacuumed in years. The wallpaper was yellowing and peeling, and there were cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling.
The old woman showed me into the parlour, which was musty and cramped. There was a small fireplace in one corner, with a mantelpiece crammed full of bric-a-brac. The furniture was old and mismatched, and there were several portraits of frowning people hanging on the walls. The whole room had an air of neglect about it.
Despite the dreary setting, I agreed to take the room. The old woman told me her name was Mrs. Bapcat and she showed me to my room. The room was small and sparsely furnished, with just a bed, a wardrobe and a washstand. The wallpaper was peeling in here too, and the window was so dirty that it was hard to see outside. Mrs. Bapcat said that she would have someone clean it “tomorrow”.
I settled into my room and tried to read, but I couldn’t concentrate. The atmosphere in the house was stifling and oppressive. I began to feel as though I was being watched again, and I had the strange feeling that something bad was going to happen.
Despite my misgivings, I decided to stay the night. I told myself that Mrs. Bapcat was just an old woman and there was nothing to be afraid of. I turned out the light and tried to sleep, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
The next morning, I awoke to find Mrs. Bapcat standing over my bed, watching me sleep. She said that she had made breakfast and invited me to come downstairs. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I had the sudden urge to leave. But I knew that would be rude, so I reluctantly got out of bed and followed her downstairs.
I noticed a poster pinned to one of the upper panes of a building’s ground floor window in the dark evening. I was able to read the notice because of the bright street lamp not six meters from my home. Bed And Breakfast was written on it. The boarding house stood in a row of identical structures.
The small town, which was in the West Country of England, had a high street with several pubs, a few restaurants, and an old-fashioned sweetshop. The boarding house was situated towards the end of the high street.
I approached the door of the boarding house and rang the bell. A short, plump woman with dark hair opened the door. She had a kind face and was wearing a flowered dress. The woman introduced herself as Mrs. Wilkinson, the landlady. I told her my name was Billy Weaver and that I had come to inquire about the room for rent. Mrs. Wilkinson said that she had a room available and invited me inside.
The interior of the boarding house was musty and smelled of cabbage. The wallpaper was old and peeling in places, and the furniture was worn. Mrs. Wilkinson showed me to the room, which was on the second floor. The room was small and had a single bed, a dresser, and a small table with a lamp on it. There was a window that overlooked the street.
I told Mrs. Wilkinson that I would take the room and asked about the price. She said that it would be ten shillings per week, which I agreed to pay. I also asked about the other tenants in the boarding house. Mrs. Wilkinson told me that there were three other lodgers who rented rooms from her. One was an elderly man who worked at the local post office, one was a young woman who worked at the sweatshop-, and the other was a middleaged woman who worked as a maid at one of the pubs.
I thanked Mrs. Wilkinson and said that I would move my things into the room the following day. I then went to one of the pubs for dinner and had a pint of beer. After dinner, I walked back to the boarding house and went to bed.
The next morning, I awoke early and began unpacking my suitcase. As I was doing so, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find Mrs. Wilkinson standing there with a cup of tea. She told me that breakfast would be served in the dining room downstairs in half an hour.
I finished unpacking and went downstairs to the dining room. The other lodgers were already there, seated around the table. The elderly man introduced himself as Mr. Hawkins, the young woman as Miss Fisher, and the middle-aged woman as Mrs. Davis. We all chatted over breakfast and got to know each other a little better.
After breakfast, I went upstairs to my room and started writing a letter to my parents. I was interrupted by a knock at the door. It was Mrs. Wilkinson, who told me that she had some errands to run and would be gone for a few hours. She asked me if I would mind looking after the boarding house in her absence.