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The Umbrella Man

Member Since
Jul 2020
Published Books
3
The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com

Pre reading

In pairs, look at the two quotes (on the next page) about first impressions. Which one do you agree with? Discuss why.

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The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com
The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com

Part I

 

Read Part I of the story. You can work by yourself, in a group of 3 or with your teacher.

 

THE UMBRELLA MAN

 

A short story by ROALD DAHL

 

I’m going to tell you about a funny thing that happened to my mother and me yesterday evening. I am twelve years old and I’m a girl. My mother is thirty-four but I am nearly as tall as her already. 

Yesterday afternoon, my mother took me up to London to see the dentist. After that, we went to a cafe. I had a `banana split` and my mother had a cup of coffee. By the time we got up to leave, it was about six o’clock. 

When we came out of the cafe it had started to rain. ‘We must get a taxi my mother said. We were wearing ordinary hats and coats, and it was raining quite hard. 

‘Why don’t we go back into the cafe and wait for it to stop?’ I said. I wanted another of those banana splits. They were gorgeous

‘It isn’t going to stop,’ my mother said. ‘We must get home.` 

We lingered on the pavement in the rain, looking for a taxi. ‘I wish we had a car with a chauffeur,’ my mother said. 

Just then a man came up to us. He was a small man and he was pretty old, probably seventy or more. He raised his hat politely and said to my mother, ‘Excuse me, I do hope you will excuse me . .`  He was sheltering under an umbrella which he held high over his head.

 

 ‘Yes?’ my mother said, very cool and distant.

 ‘I wonder if I could ask a small favour of you,’ he said. ‘It is only a very small favour`.

I saw my mother looking at him cautiously. She is a suspicious person, my mother. With strange men, she has a saying, ‘The nicer the man seems to be, the more suspicious you must become`.

This little old man was particularly nice. He was courteous. He was well-spoken. He was well-dressed. He was a real gentleman. The reason I knew he was a gentleman was because of his shoes. ‘You can always spot a gentleman by the shoes he wears,’ was another of my mother’s favourite sayings. This man had beautiful brown shoes.

 

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The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com
The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com

Read Part II of the story.

 

‘The truth of the matter is,’ the little man was saying, ‘I’ve got myself into a bit of a scrape. I need some help. I assure you, it’s almost nothing, in fact, but I do need it. You see, madam, old people like me often become terribly forgetful . . . ‘

My mother’s chin was up and she was staring down at him. It was a fearsome thing, this frosty-nosed stare of my mother’s. Most people go to pieces completely when she gives it to them. 

But the little man on the pavement with the umbrella over his head didn’t bat an eyelid. He gave a gentle smile and said, ‘I beg you to believe, madam, that I am not in the habit of stopping ladies in the street and telling them my troubles.’ 

‘I should hope not,’ my mother said.

I felt quite embarrassed by my mother’s sharpness. I wanted to say to her, ‘Oh, mummy, for heaven’s sake, he’s a very very old man, and sweet and polite, and he’s in some sort of trouble, so don’t be so beastly to him.’ But I didn’t say anything. 

The little man shifted his umbrella from one hand to the other. ‘I’ve never forgotten it before,’ he said. 

‘You’ve never forgotten what?’ my mother asked sternly

‘My wallet,’ he said. ‘I must have left it in my other jacket. Isn’t that the silliest thing to do?’

 ‘Are you asking me to give you money?’ my mother said. 

‘Oh, good gracious me, not!’ he cried. ‘Heaven forbid I should ever do that!’ 

‘Then what are you asking?’ my mother said. ‘Do hurry up. We’re getting soaked to the skin here.’ 

‘I know you are,’ he said. ‘And that is why I’m offering you this umbrella of mine to protect you, and to keep forever, if . . . if only . . . ’ 

‘If only what?’ my mother said. 

‘If only you would give me in return a pound for my taxi-fare just to get me home.’ 

My mother was still suspicious. ‘If you had no money in the first place,’ she said, ‘then how did you get here?’ 

‘I walked,’ he answered. ‘Every day I go for a lovely long walk and then I summon a taxi to get me home. I do it every day of the year.’ 

’Why don’t you walk home now?’ my mother asked. 

’Oh, I wish I could,’ he said. ’I do wish I could. But I don’t think I could manage it on these silly feeble legs of mine. I’ve gone too far already.’ 

My mother stood there. She was beginning to melt a bit, I could see that. And the idea of getting an umbrella to shelter under must have tempted her a good deal.

 ‘It’s a lovely umbrella,’ the little man said. 

‘So I’ve noticed,’ my mother said. 

‘It’s silk,’ he said.

 ‘I can see that.’

 ‘Then why don’t you take it, madam,’ he said. ‘It cost me over twenty pounds, I promise you. But now it’s of no importance so long as I can get home and rest these old legs of mine.’

 I saw my mother’s hand feeling for the clasp of her purse. 

Now listen, mummy, I was telling her, you simply mustn’t take advantage of a tired old man in this way. It’s a rotten thing to do.

My mother paused and looked back at me. Then she said to the little man, ‘I don’t think it’s quite right that I should take an umbrella from you worth twenty pounds. I think I’d better just give you the taxi-fare and be done with it.’

 ‘No, no no!’ he cried. ‘It’s out of the question! I wouldn’t dream of it! Not in a million years! I would never accept money from you like that! Take the umbrella, dear lady, and keep the rain off your shoulders!’ 

My mother gave me a triumphant sideways look. She fished into her purse and took out a pound note. She held it out to the little man. He took it and handed her the umbrella. 

He pocketed the pound, raised his hat, gave a quick bow from the waist, and said, ‘Thank you, madam, thank you.’ Then he was gone.

 ‘Come under here and keep dry, darling,’ my mother said. ‘Aren’t we lucky. I’ve never had a silk umbrella before. I couldn’t afford it.’ ‘He was a gentleman. I’m very pleased I was able to help him.’

 ‘Yes, mummy,’ I said.

‘A real gentleman,’ she went on. ‘Wealthy, too, otherwise he wouldn’t have had a silk umbrella.’ I shouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t a titled person.’ ’Yes, mummy.’ ‘This will be a very good lesson to you,’ she went on. ‘Never rush things. Always take your time when you are summing someone up. Then you’ll never make mistakes.’

 

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The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com
The Umbrella Man by Martine Ben Harush - Ourboox.com

Read Part III of the story.

 

 ‘There he goes,’ I said. ’Look.’ ‘Where?’ ‘Over there. He’s crossing the street. Goodness, mummy, what a hurry he’s in.’ 

We watched the little man as he moved in and out of the traffic. When he reached the other side of the street, he turned left, walking very fast.

 ‘He doesn’t look very tired to me, does he to you, mummy?’

 My mother didn’t answer.

 ‘He doesn’t look as though he’s trying to get a taxi, either,’ I said. 

My mother was standing very still and stiff, staring across the street at the little man. He was in a terrific hurry. He was bustling along the pavement, sidestepping the other pedestrians and swinging his arms like a soldier on the march.

 ‘He’s up to something,’ my mother said, stony-faced.

‘But what?’ 

‘I don’t know,’ my mother snapped. ‘But I’m going to find out. Come with me.’ She took my arm and we crossed the street together. 

‘Can you see him?’ my mother asked. ‘Yes. There he is. He’s turning right down the next street.’ We had to walk very fast to keep up with him.

‘What is he up to?’ my mother said.

 ‘What if he turns round and sees us?’ I asked.

‘I don’t care if he does,’ my mother said. ‘He lied to us. He said he was too tired to walk any further and he’s practically running us off our feet! He’s a barefaced liar! He’s a crook!’ 

‘You mean he’s not a titled gentleman?’ I asked. 

‘Be quiet,’ she said.

‘He’s disappeared!’ I cried. ‘Where’s he gone?’

‘He went in that door!’ my mother said. ‘I saw him! Into that house! Great heavens, it’s a pub!’ It was a pub. In big letters right across the front it said THE RED LION.

 ‘You’re not going in are you, mummy?’

 ‘No,’ she said. ‘We’ll watch from outside.’ We could see through it very well if we went close. We stood huddled together outside the pub window. 

‘There he is,’ I said. ‘Over there.’ The room we were looking into was full of people and cigarette smoke, and our little man was in the middle of it all. He was now without his hat and coat, and he was edging his way through the crowd towards the bar. When he reached it, he placed both hands on the bar itself and spoke to the barman. The barman came with a glass filled with light brown liquid. The little man placed a pound note on the counter

‘That’s my pound!’ my mother hissed. ‘By golly, he’s got a nerve!’ 

The little man picked up the glass and put it to his lips. . . and very soon all the whisky had disappeared down his throat in one long pour. 

‘Fancy paying a pound for something to swallow in one go!’ ‘It cost him more than a pound,’ I said. ‘It cost him a twenty-pound silk umbrella.’

 ‘So it did,’ my mother said. ‘He must be mad.’ 

The little man was standing by the bar with the empty glass in his hand. Slowly, he turned away from the bar and edged his way back through the crowd to where his hat and coat were hanging. He put on his hat. He put on his coat. Then, in a manner so superbly cool and casual that you hardly noticed anything at all, he lifted from the coat-rack one of the many wet umbrellas hanging there, and off he went. ‘Did you see that!’ my mother shrieked. ‘Did you see what he did!’ ‘Sssh!’ I whispered. ‘He’s coming out!’ We lowered our umbrella to hide our faces, and out from under it. Out he came. But he never looked in our direction. He opened his new umbrella over his head and scurried off down the road the way he had come. ‘So that’s his little game!’ my mother said. ‘Neat,’ I said. ‘Super.’ We followed him back to the main street where we had first met him, and we watched him as he proceeded, with no trouble at all, to exchange his new umbrella for another pound note. This time it was with a tall thin fellow who didn’t even have a coat or hat. And as soon as the transaction was completed, our little man went down the street and was lost in the crowd. But this time he went in the opposite direction. ‘You see how clever he is!’ my mother said. ‘He never goes to the same pub twice!’ ‘He could go on doing this all night,’ I said. ‘Yes,’ my mother said. ‘Of course. But I’ll bet he prays like mad for rainy days.’

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Watch an animated production of The Umbrella Man:

 

 

 

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Martine’s class:

Go to the  link and answer THREE questions. Write your name next to your answer. No more than 4 pupils can answer each question but you cannot write the same answer as anyone else. Whoever answers first will have an easier time.

 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1LW6PhS-oAEGPHVQu-6utL8dihArzesUUg7Un5m9si0s/edit#slide=id.g8c84bdb7a9_0_143

 

 

 

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Talia’s class:

Go to the link and answer THREE questions. Write your name next to your answer. No more than 4 pupils can answer each question but you cannot write the same answer as anyone else. Whoever answers first will have an easier time.

 

https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/17fE3ncQJHkmyo8SujsNLY5tL-I7fYkFVr47sHriE3iU/edit#slide=id.g8c84bdb7a9_0_183

 

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Ourboox is the world's simplest platform for creating and sharing amazing ebooks.

You too can become one of our 75,000 authors.

Join us now and start creating your own books right away.

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