Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat

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"Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" is a story by Roald Dahl that first appeared in the 1959 issue of Nugget. The story is about Mrs. Bixby receiving a glamorous mink coat from a man with whom she had an affair (the Colonel). She hopes to sneak the coat into her house without her husband noticing, but she soon realizes that her husband has plans of his own.

Mrs. Bixby and her husband, a dentist, live in a flat. Four times a year, Mrs. Bixby flies from England to Ireland, supposedly visiting her old aunt; in fact, she is having an affair with the Colonel.

One day, Mrs. Bixby gets a rare and expensive present from the Colonel: a black, lustrous, and quite extravagant mink coat. A letter from the Colonel that came in the box with the coat informs Mrs. Bixby that they can no longer see each other, and suggests she tells her husband the mink coat was a present from her aunt for Christmas. She is in despair as she reads the letter.

Mrs. Bixby knows that her aunt is far too poor to be given credit for the gift, but she is intent on keeping it. She goes to a pawnbroker and pawns the coat for £50. The pawnbroker gives her a pawn ticket, which she declines to mark with any kind of name or description. The ticket guarantees her right to claim the coat at any time. She tells her husband that she found the pawn ticket in the taxi, and he decides it would be best if he redeemed the ticket, in spite of Mrs. Bixby's objections.

The next day, Mr. Bixby goes to the pawn shop to redeem the ticket and claim the object it stands for. Mrs. Bixby is excited about it and rushes to her husband's office after he's claimed it. Just before she opens her eyes to see it, he says, "It's real mink!" She then opens her eyes to find it is mink, but that it is merely a small, mangy stole, and not her coat.

Mrs. Bixby is initially angry at the pawnbroker, thinking that he cheated her and kept the coat. But as Mrs. Bixby leaves her husband's office a few moments later, Miss Pulteney, the secretary, walks proudly out of the office, wearing the rare, black mink coat that the Colonel gave to Mrs. Bixby. It is implied that Mr. Bixby is having an affair with Miss Pulteney and decided to give her the coat, and buys a stole for his wife instead. As she cannot demand the coat back without revealing her own affair, she is hoist with her own petard.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents version[edit]

This short story was filmed as an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and was the Season 6 opener, originally broadcast on 27 September 1960 and directed by Alfred Hitchcock himself. Mrs. Bixby was played by Audrey Meadows.

Other Versions[edit]

Tales of the Unexpected (TV series) did a version as their second episode starring Richard Greene, Michael Hordern, and Julie Harris, March 1979.