Billy caught sight of a printed notice propped up against the glass in one of the upper panes. It said BED AND BREAKFAST.
He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and then at once —it must have been at once because he hadn’t even had time to take his finger from the bell button—the door swung open and a woman was standing there.
She was about forty-five or fifty years old, and the moment she saw him, she gave him a warm, welcoming smile. “Please come in,” she said pleasantly. She stepped aside, holding the door wide open, and Billy found himself automatically starting forward. The compulsion or, more accurately, the desire to follow after her into that house was extraordinarily strong.
The old girl is slightly dotty, Billy told himself. But at five and sixpence a night, who cares about that? “I should’ve thought you’d be simply swamped with applicants,” he said politely.“Oh, I am, my dear, I am, of course I am. But the trouble is that I’m inclined to be just a teeny-weeny bit choosy and particular—if you see what I mean.”“Ah, yes.”
“Very well, then. I’ll leave you now so that you can unpack. But before you go to bed, would you be kind enough to pop into the sitting room on the ground floor and sign the book? Everyone has to do that because it’s the law of the land, and we don’t want to go breaking any laws at this stage in the proceedings, do we?”
fBilly set his cup down slowly on the table and stared at his landlady. She smiled back at him, and then she put out one of her white hands and patted him comfortingly on the knee. “How old are you, my dear?” she asked.“Seventeen.”“Seventeen!” she cried. “Oh, it’s the perfect age! Mr. Mulholland was also seventeen. But I think he was a trifle shorter than you are; in fact I’m sure he was, and his teeth weren't so white. You have the most beautiful teeth Mr. weaver, did you know that?"