فصل 01

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کتاب های متوسط

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فصل 01

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  • زمان مطالعه 4 دقیقه
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CHAPTER ONE

An interesting woman

I first met Penelope Ashton at a dinner-party. She was not a beautiful woman, but she was well-dressed, quite pretty and, as I quickly realized, very intelligent. She was a good listener, but did not say much herself. After dinner I managed to spend a lot of time talking to her. I learned that she was a biologist doing research with Professor Lumsden at University College in London. She was an attractive and interesting woman.

It was late when the party came to an end and I took her to catch the last train home.

‘Which station does your train go from?’ I asked,

‘Victoria’ she replied.

In the taxi on the way to Victoria Station I asked her out to dinner. She was silent for a moment, then said,

‘All right. Wednesday evening.’

After she had hurried off to catch her train, I realized I didn’t know if she was married or not.

On the following Wednesday I met her at University College at a quarter past seven in the evening. ‘Do you always work so late?’ I asked.

She shook her head. ‘Not always. It depends on how my work is going. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later.’

We went to the theatre and had dinner afterwards in a restaurant in Soho. For me it was a most enjoyable evening and I think it was for Penelope, too.

In the next six weeks we went out together several times and I realized that Penelope Ashton was becoming a serious part of my life.

One evening we had dinner at my flat. I cooked a Chinese meal for her and, when she told me how much she had enjoyed the meal, she also invited me to her home for the weekend. To meet her family.

Marlow is a small town on the River Thames, about an hour’s drive from London. The house where Penelope lived with her father and her sister was in the countryside, just a few minutes from the town. It was a large and beautiful house, the kind that you read about in the best magazines. It had a big, well-kept garden, tennis courts and a swimming- pool.

Penelope’s father, George Ashton, was in his mid-fifties. His wife was dead and he had not married again. He was tall, grey-haired, and very fit, as I discovered when he beat me at tennis. After the game I was tired, but Ashton dived in to the swimming-pool for a swim before going back to the house for a shower. He was twenty-five years older than I was, but I was exhausted from the game of tennis, which I had lost. I sat down beside Penelope.

‘Is he always like that, always so full of energy?’ I asked.

‘Always!’ she promised.

Her sister, Gillian, was not at all like Penelope. She was the kind of woman who likes to stay at home and run the house. It was a large house, with several servants, and she organized it very well. Gillian told the servants what to do, she planned the meals, and seemed to be very happy.

It was a friendly family and I soon felt very comfortable with them, although I knew that I was there to be inspected. We had dinner, we talked, the girls went to bed, and George Ashton and I sat and talked for a long time. He told me about his two factories, which made special kinds of plastic materials. Then he asked me, very politely, how I earned my living.

‘I’m an economist,’ I answered. ‘I work in a company which studies economic problems and then helps other companies to do their business better. We don’t work for big companies, but lots of smaller ones, like yours, find our advice useful.’

Ashton seemed happy with my answers and the rest of the weekend passed quietly. On Sunday evening, as I was leaving, Ashton invited me to return the following weekend. I was happy to accept. I had enjoyed that first family weekend, and I had enjoyed their company. Ashton, the rich, fit and independent businessman; Gillian, his home- loving daughter, and Penelope, the scientist with her own career outside the family. The only strange member of the group was Benson, Ashtons personal servant. He spoke with a gentle, educated accent but his face looked as if he had had far too many fights when he was a young man.

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