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“Lamb to the Slaughter”, Roald Dahl, 1954.

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Part one

THE ROOM WAS WARM and clean, the curtains drawn, the two table lamps alight – hers and the one by the empty chair opposite. On the sideboard behind her, two tall glasses, soda water, whiskey. Fresh ice cubes in the Thermos bucket.

Mary Maloney was waiting for her husband to come home from work. Now and again she would glance
1 up at the clock, but without anxiety, merely
2 to please herself with the thought that each minute gone by made it nearer the time when he would come. There was a slow smiling air about her, and about everything she did. [...]

‘Sit down,’ he said. ‘Just for a minute, sit down.’ It wasn’t till then that she began to get frightened.

‘Go on,’ he said. ‘Sit down.’ She lowered herself back slowly into the chair, watching him all the time with those large, bewildered
3 eyes. He had finished the second drink and was staring
4 down into the glass, frowning.

‘Listen, he said, ‘I’ve got something to tell you.’ ‘What is it, darling? What’s the matter?’. He had become absolutely motionless, and he kept his head down so that the light from the lamp beside him fell across the upper part of his face, leaving the chin and mouth in shadow. She noticed there was a little muscle moving near the corner of his left eye.

‘This is going to be a bit of a shock to you, I’m afraid’, he said. ‘But I’ve thought about it a good deal and I’ve decided the only thing to do is tell you right away. I hope you won’t blame me too much.’ And he told her. It didn’t take long, four or five minutes at most, and she sat very still through it all, watching him with a kind of dazed
5 horror as he went further and further away from her with each word.

‘So there it is,’ he added. ‘ And I know it’s kind of a bad time to be telling you, but there simply wasn’t any other way. Of course I’ll give you money and see you’re looked after. But there needn’t really be any fuss
6 . I hope not anyway. It wouldn’t be very good for my job.’ Her first instinct was not to believe any of it, to reject it all. It occurred to her that perhaps he hadn’t even spoken, that she herself had imagined the whole thing. Maybe, if she went about her business and acted as though
7 she hadn’t been listening, then later, when she sort of woke up again, she might find none of it had ever happened.

Part two
A few minutes later she got up and went to the phone. She knew the number of the police station, and when the man at the other end answered, she cried to him,

‘Quick! Come quick! Patrick’s dead!’

‘Who’s speaking?’

‘Mrs Maloney. Mrs Patrick Maloney.’

‘You mean Patrick Maloney’s dead?’

‘I think so,’ she sobbed
8 . ‘He’s lying on the floor and I think he’s dead.’

‘Be right over,’ the man said.

The car came very quickly, and when she opened the front door, two policemen walked in. She knew them both - she knew nearly all the men at that precinct
9 - and she fell right into Jack Noonan’s arms, weeping
10 hysterically. He put her gently into a chair, then went over to join the other one, who was called O’Malley, kneeling by the body.

‘Is he dead?’ she cried.

‘I’m afraid he is. What happened?’

Lamb To the Slaughter from Someone Like You, Roald Dahl, 1954.

look 2.
just 3.
confused 4.
looking fixedly 5.
shock 6.
agitation 7.
as if 8.
cried noisily 9.
police station 10.
Voir les réponses


a) Look at the book cover and the title. What do you expect the story to be about?

b) Where does the scene take place?

c) Who are the characters (present or mentioned)?

d) How does she feel? What are the elements proving it?

e) How does he feel? What are the elements proving it?

f) What does he imagine her reaction will be?

g) Can you guess what he is talking about?

h) How does she react?

i) What has just happened?

j) How does the woman react?

k) Who comes to her home?

l) What do you think really happened?

Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a British author who wrote 19 children’s books. In 1953 he published the best-selling story collection Someone Like You and married actress Patricia Neal. He published the popular book James and the Giant Peach in 1961. In 1964 he released another highly successful work, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was later adapted by Tim Burton.

Roald Dahl biography photo

Your time to shine!

Sharpen your observation and deduction skills! You are an investigation unit. Discuss with your partners and follow the clues in the text to find out what happened.

Enregistreur audio

Present your conclusions as a team to your head officer.


Read both passages and be ready to answer the other group's questions: who, what, where, why?

Draw a timeline of events.

Imagine the alibi, motive of the suspects.

Get ready to present your findings.

Méthode je comprends un message écrit p. 238
Méthode je m'exprime à l'oral p. 240
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