Class 12th Free Reading Comprehension

1-A Busy Morning

One fine morning Jack discovered, on the other side of the hedge, an apple tree bearing tempting fruit; and he immediately broke through the hedge and climbing the tree, he plucked the fairest of the apples, and did eat.

“I say, you, sir. What are you doing there?” said a rough voice. Jack looked down and saw a stout, thickset person, in a grey coat and red waistcoat, standing underneath him.

“I’m eating apples,” replied Jack. “Shall I throw you down a few?”

Those apples are mine and I’ll trouble you to come down “Thank you kindly. The fewer that are pulled the better. as fast as you please. When you’re down, we can settle our accounts,” continued the man, shaking his stick. “I’ve lost plenty of apples and have long wanted to find out the robbers. Now I’ve caught one, I’ll take good care he doesn’t escape without apple sauce. So come down, you young thief, come down directly or it will be the worse for you.” “Thank you,” said Jack, “but I am very well here. I will, if you please, argue the point from where I am.”

“I’ve no time to argue the point, my lad. I’ve plenty to do, but don’t think I’ll let you off. If you don’t choose to come down, why then, you may stay there and I’ll answer for it, as soon as my work is done I’ll find you safe enough.”

“He’ll not find me here when he comes back, I’ve a notion,” thought Jack. But in this Jack was mistaken. The farmer walked to the hedge and called to a boy, who took his orders and ran to the farmhouse. In a minute or two, a large bulldog was seen bounding along the orchard to his master.

“Mark him Caesar,” said the farmer to the dog. “Mark him.” The dog crouched down in the grass, with his head up and eyes glaring at Jack. “I can’t wait here. But Caesar can and I’ll tell you as a friend, that if he gets hold of you, he’ll not leave a limb of you together. When work’s done, I’ll come back.” So saying, the farmer walked off, leaving Jack and the dog to argue the point, if they felt like doing so.

After a while, the dog laid his head down and closed his eyes as if asleep. But Jack observed that at the least movement on his part, one eye was seen to be unclosed partly. So Jack, like a prudent boy, resolved to stay where he was. He picked a few more apples, for it was his dinner time and as he chewed he thought.

Jack had been but a few minutes thinking and chewing when he was interrupted by another chewing animal, nothing less than a bull, which had been turned out with full possession of the orchard and now advanced, bellowing occasionally and tossing his head at the sight of Caesar, which he considered to be as much a trespasser as his master had considered our hero.

Caesar started up and faced the bull, which advanced pawing, with its tail in the air. When within a few yards the bull made a rush at the dog, which avoided it and attacked it in turn.

Thus did the warfare continue until the two animals were at some distance from the apple tree. Jack prepared for immediate flight, but unfortunately the combat was carried on by the side of the hedge at which Jack had made his way in. “Never mind,” thought Jack. “There are two sides to every field. At all events I’ll try it.”

He was slipping down the trunk when he heard a tremendous roar. The bulldog had been tossed by the bull. He was then high in the air and Jack saw him fall on the other side of the hedge. Upon this, Jack, seeing that he was relieved from his sentry, slipped down the rest of the tree and took to his heels.

Unfortunately for Jack, the bull saw him and flushed with victory, immediately set up another roar and bounded after him. Jack saw his danger and fear gave him wings. Not only did he fly over the orchard; he flew over the hedge, which was about five feet high, just as the bull drove its head into it.

“Look before you leap” is an old proverb. Had Jack done so he would have fared better. But as there were very good reasons why he didn’t look, we will excuse him. We will merely state that when Jack got to the other side of the hedge, he found he had pitched upon two beehives and upset t them. The bees were not pleased with Jack for disturbing them and he hardly had time to get to his feet before he found them very busily stinging him in all parts. All that he could do was to run for it.

But the bees flew faster than he could run and he was mad with pain when he stumbled, half-blinded, over the brickwork on a well. He could not stop himself, but he seized the iron chains as it struck him in the face. Down he went and round went the windlass and after a rapid descent of fifty feet, our hero found himself underwater and no longer troubled with the bees.

Jack rose from the water and seized the rope to which the chain of the bucket was made fast-it had all been unwound from the windlass and enabled him to keep his head above the surface. After a few seconds he felt something against his legs. It was the bucket, about two feet underwater. He put his feet into it and found himself fairly comfortable; for the water, after the sting of the bees and the heat he had been put into by the bees, was quite cool and refreshing.

“At all events,” thought Jack, “if it had not been for the bull I should have been watched by the dog and then thrashed by the farmer. But then again, if it had not been for the bull, I should not have tumbled among the bees. And if it had not been for the bees, I should not have tumbled down the well. But if it had not been for the chain, I should have been drowned.”

“However, I’ve got rid of the farmer and the dog and the bull, and the bees. But how am I to get out of this well?”

After he had been there about fifteen minutes, his teeth began to chatter and his limbs to tremble. He felt numb all over. At first he did not call for help because he was afraid of being pulled up to encounter the farmer. But he was just thinking of shouting when he felt the chain being pulled up and he slowly emerged from the water. Then he heard complaints about the weight of bucket, at which he was not surprised. At last his head appeared about the low wall, and he was just about to take hold of it when those who were working the windlass beheld him. It was a farmhand and a maidservant.

“Thank you,” said Jack. The girl screamed and let go. Then man also was startled and did not holdfast. The handle slipped from the grasp. whirled around, struck him under the chin, and threw him headlong before the “Thank you” was fairly out of Jack’s lips. Down like lightning went Jack again to the bottom Fortunately for him he had not let go the chain; otherwise he might have struck the sides and been killed. As it was he was merely soused a second time and in a minute or two was back again in his former position. “This is mighty pleasant, thought Jack, “but, at any rate, they know that I’m here.” Meanwhile the girl ran into the kitchen and fell on the floor in a faint and rolled on some heaps of dough which were laid there before the fire. “Mercy on me, what’s the matter with Susan?” exclaimed the farmer’s wife. “Where’s Mary? Where’s John?” John soon followed, holding his underjaw in his hand. He looked very dismal, because he thought his jaw was broken and he looked very frightened, because he thought he had seen the Devil.

“Mercy on us, what’s the matter?” exclaimed the farmer’s wife again. “Mary, Mary, Mary!” screamed she, beginning to be frightened herself; for with all her efforts she should not move Susan off her bed of dough, where she lay in a swoon. Mary answered her mistress’s loud appeal, and together they raised Susan (but as for the bread, it never rose a “Why don’t you come and help, John?” cried Mary. again).

“Aw-yaw-aw!” remarked John, holding his jaw. “What’s the matter here, missus?” exclaimed the farmer. coming in. “Hoighty-toity, what ails Susan? And what ails you, John? Bless me! Everything seems to go

wrong today.

First, there be the apples stolen. Then there be the bees turned topsy-turvy in the garden. Then there be Caesar with his flank opened by the bull. Then there be the bull broken through the hedge and tumbled into the sandpit. And now, when I come to get more help to drag him out, I find Susan dead-like and John looks as if he had seen a ghost.”

“Aw-yaw-aw!” replied John, nodding his head. At this moment Susan open her eyes, and came to her senses. “Oh, oh, ma’am! The well, the well!” she cried.

“The well?” said the farmer. “Something wrong there, I suppose. Well, I’ll go and see.”

The farmer trotted off to the well. He saw the bucket was at the bottom and all the rope out. He looked about him and then he looked into the well.

“Here I am,” cried Jack. “Get me up quick, or I shall be dead.” What he said was true. He was quite done up with being down so long, although his courage had not failed him.

“Confound it, but there be somebody fallen into the well,” cried the farmer; “no end to mishaps this day. Well, we must get a Christian out of a well before we get a bull out of a sandpit, so I’ll go and call the men.”

In a very short time, the men at the sandpit were brought to the well.

“Down there below, hold on now!” cried the farmer. “Never fear,” answered Jack.

Round went the handle and soon Jack could see about him again. As soon as he was at the top, the men hauled him over the bricks and laid him on the grass, for his strength had failed him.

“Mercy on us, if it ain’t the chap who was on my apple tree!” cried the farmer. “However, he mustn’t die for stealing apples. Lift him up, lads, and take him in. He’s dead with cold, and no wonder.” The farmer led the way and the men carried Jack into the house, where he was given a hot drink and in a short time was all right again.

After Jack had told the farmer all that had happened, the latter enquired, “What may your name?” “My name is Easy,” replied Jack.

“What! Be you the son of Mr Easy, of Forest Hill?”

“Yes,” said Jack.

“Hang it, he be my landlord and a right good landlord, too. Why didn’t you say so when you were up in the apple tree? You might have picked the whole orchard, and welcome,” said the farmer.

From Mr Midshipman Easy, by Captain Marryat 

Interesting Facts about South Asian Crops

  1. Everyone must eat in order to live and therefore it is essential that plenty of good and proper food should be easily available. Various kinds of food are produced on farms and as these foods are necessary to maintain our health and strength, the farmers’ work is of prime importance.
  2. There are many kinds of farms such as (a) arable farms (growing crops) (b) dairy farms (harvesting animal milk) (c) livestock farms (raising cattle and sheep) (d) hill farms (grazing sheep) (e) orchards (growing fruits and nuts) and (f) poultry farms (rearing egg laying birds). However, most farmers grow a variety of grain and vegetable crops and also rear cattle, sheep and hens.
  3. The most common South Asian grain crops are rice, wheat, maize and millets. Rice is the staple food of almost one-half of the world population. Rice cultivation needs plenty of water, so it is well-suited for countries with high rainfall. It is an annual which has long and flattened leaves. The seeds are planted in moist soils. The seeds usually grow up to a height of 7 inches in about a month. The harvesting time depends on the variety of seeds, climate and soil type. On an average the crop duration is 130-135 days. The rice kernel known as “paddy” is enclosed in husk. Farmers mill the husk to make the rice edible. Sometimes, the rice is further processed to remove the edible seed coat. The rice with the seed coat called “brown rice”, which has high nutritional value. The rice obtained after the removal of the rice coat is called “white rice”. grass
  4. Wheat is a tall plant with slender leaves and spikes which grow up to an average height of four feet. Wheat plants grow several side shoots called “tillers” from a crown, just below the ground level. Each of these tillers grows long stems with a flower head at its top. The flowers are grouped together in spikelets. Around 20 to 100 flowers grow on each spikelet. Some of these flowers are fertilized, producing grains.

These grains store starch and protein in them. The wheat kernel has a longitudinal crease on it. Wheat flour is used to make flatbreads such as chapatti, puri, roti and naan and many other dishes. China is the largest producer of wheat in the world and India comes second.

  1. Known also as “corn”, maize is the most produced grain crop in the world. It is a quick-growing grass with broad, long leaves and grows to a height of six to nine feet. The ears (cobs) in which the rows of seed or grain are borne are sheathed on many layers of husk. They are usually between five and nine inches long. The ears are borne midway up the stalk. A single stalk carries two or more ears. One ear of maize contains 800 maize kernels in almost 16 rows. There are many varieties of maize. The tender maize which is popularly known as “baby corn” is eaten both raw and cooked. Maize harvested at an immature, milky stage is known as “sweet corn” which is consumed as a vegetable. People use the flour obtained from ground maize to make several dishes.
  2. Millets are a group of small-seeded grasses. They are fast-growing crops that are mostly grown in dry climate and less fertile soils. Millets are used as human food and also to feed cattle and birds. Pearl millet, foxtail millet and finger millets (also called ragi) and little millet are some varieties that are grown in South Asia. Millets usually grow up to a height of 1 to 4 feet. The top part of the grass is like spikes on which flowers grow on stalks. Millets are somewhat strong in taste and they are not used to make leavened breads. They are mainly consumed as flatbreads and porridges. India is the world’s largest producer of millets.
  3. The common farm-grown vegetables in South Asia are potatoes, beetroot, cabbages, bell peppers, tomatoes, onion, okra (ladies fingers), cauliflower and broccoli. All these fresh vegetables are important because of their high food value.
  4. South Asian countries also produce roots such as yams and sweet potatoes.

Yams are portions of underground stems known as tubers. The upper portion of the yam plant is a climbing vine which dies after each growing season. The tuber stores up food and other materials to start growth for the following season. Only a part of the tuber is used for planting as the greater part is used for food. These parts are called “sets” or “heads” and are usually taken from the part of the tuber from which the vine springs. In some varieties whole yams are cut up in bits for planting. Yam tubers are generally reaped whole at the time when the vines begin to turn yellow and die; “heads” are cut off and are kept for some days. The “heads” are then allowed to sprout. The sprouting is best done in a cool, dark place. Yams require good soil and proper tillage. The land in which they are to be planted must be plowed or forked and be worked into hills or into continuous banks of earth.

  1. The common farm-grown fruits of South Asia include bananas, mangoes, papaya, jackfruit and pineapple. Bananas thrive best in a hot, moist atmosphere. The banana suckers are separated from the mother plant and the old and broken roots and leaves on the suckers are removed. The suckers are planted in deep furrows, about 18 inches from the ground level. The plants need a lot of water, but care must be taken to ensure that moisture does not collect around the roots. It takes at least six weeks for the plants to settle down and make new growth. Plenty of fertilizers are fed every month and the props are used to avoid toppling of the plant due to strong winds or the weight of the fruit bunch. It takes almost a year to harvest the bananas after planting the suckers.
  2. A native to South Asia, the mango is one of the most widely cultivated fruits in the tropics. This delicious fruit has been cultivated in this region for nearly 6000 years. Mangoes don’t need any particular type of soil to grow, but they can’t stand severe frost. Mango trees grow up to a height of 35-40 meters and some trees live more than 200 years. The ripe mango has a hard seed inside surrounded by the sweet, pulpy flesh. The color of the mango fruit varies from yellow, orange or red to green and the size differs depending on the variety. While some small varieties are just the size of a lemon, some others weigh more than 2.3 kilograms. The smell and the flavors also differ according to the variety. Alphonso, Kesar and Chaunsa are some popular varieties of mango.
  3. Sugarcane can be grown wherever the climate is warm and there is a good supply of water. The stem cuttings are planted at different angles in furrows. These begin to sprout in about a week. About a month after planting, all the buds should show signs of growth and the sugarcane stalks grow into tall upright plants, up to 3 to 7 meters in height. The sugarcanes will be ready for harvesting in 10-14 months. The juice from the sugarcane is either used as a beverage or processed to make cane sugar, jaggery, etc.
  4. Coconut trees grow best in a loamy soil which allows water to drain away from the roots. For that reason the finest coconut groves are found on the sea coast. The dry, husked nuts are planted at a horizontal angle in nursery beds and they take about three months to sprout. Six months after planting, when the shoots are about nine inches tall, the seedlings, with nuts attached, are transplanted. At this stage it is important to protect the young trees from drought. At harvest time the nuts should be picked regularly every two months. Tender coconut water is a refreshing drink. The oil obtained from the dry coconut is used for cooking and to nourish skin and hair. Having many different uses, coconut is called kalpa vriksha, meaning “wish-fulfilling tree”.
  5. Citrus fruits are acidic and high in nutrition. The chief citrus fruits grown in South Asia include grapefruits, oranges, pomelo, mandarins and lime. These fruits flourish in well-drained, loamy soil and the groves or orchards must be manured at regular intervals. The fruit should not be gathered in the early morning when it is easily damaged. Citrus fruits can be eaten raw or processed Citrus is an important export and great care is needed in harvesting and packing the fruit so that it arrives overseas in good condition. The aromatic flowers of some of these fruits are processed to make perfumes. to make beverages.

Questions on the Story

  1. What was the boy’s first name?
  2. What was he doing on the tree? 
  3. Describe the farmer.
  4. What was the dog’s name?
  5. What kind of dog was he?
  6. What other animal decided to take full possession of the orchard? 
  7. How did the unequal combat between the two creatures end?
  8. What did Jack do when he was relieved of his sentry? 
  9. How was the lad most unfortunate in his escape from the orchard?
  10. What punishment did the angry insects inflict upon the intruder?
  11. What accident helped him to escape their unwelcome attention?
  12. How did he keep from drowning? 
  13. Why did he not call for help?
  14. Who received a shock when they saw him appear out of the well?
  15. Why was the farmer’s wife frightened by Susan, the housemaid?
  16. Who came to the assistance of the farmer’s wife? 
  17. Describe how Jack was eventually rescued from the well. 
  18. What was Jack’s surname?
  19. Why was the farmer greatly surprised when he heard the boy’s name?
  20. From the farmer’s point of view, give in order, the unusual events of the morning.

Questions on the Interesting Facts

  1. Make a list of South Asian countries.
  2. Why is the farmer’s work very important?
  3. What are the different kinds of farms?
  4. What are the common grain crops cultivated in South Asia? 
  5. What is the difference between “brown rice” and “white rice”?
  6. Which country is the largest producer of wheat in the world?
  7. What is the name of the side shoots of a wheat plant?
  8. What are spikelets?
  9. How are seeds arranged in a maize plant?
  10. What is “sweet corn”? 
  11. (a) What are millets?

(b) What are the different kinds of millets grown in South Asian countries? What are the common farm-grown vegetables in South Asia?

  1. (a) What are yams?

(b) What part of the yam is is it called? used for planting? What What are the climatic and soil conditions required for the cultivation of yams?

  1. What are the common farm-grown fruits in South Asia?
  2. How are the banana suckers prepared for plantation?
  3. Why is it necessary to prop up the banana plant? 
  4. Which country is the world’s largest producer of mangoes?
  5. Name a few popular varieties of mango. 
  6. (a) How is sugarcane planted?

(b) What is the average height of a sugarcane plant? 

  1. Why is a sea coast considered the best place for coconut cultivation?
  2. (a) List a few uses of the coconut.

(b) What does kalpa vriksha mean?

 Development Exercises

  1. Apples grow on trees.

Name (a) three fruits which grow on trees. (b) three fruits which grow on bushes.

  1. Caesar was the farmer’s bulldog.

(a) What other kinds of dogs can be useful around a farm?

(b) What helpful work could they do?

  1. Complete the following:

Bull cow calf

Stallion _____ ______

Boar ______ ______

Cock ______ _______

Drake ______ _______

Gander ______ ______

  1. Explain the difference between:

(a) hay – straw

(b) hill-mountain

(c) spade – shovel

(d) pond-lake

  1. Rice, wheat, maize and millet are important South Asian crops. for food. Name other cereals which are grown for food.
  2. Name the homes of the following creatures. Example: horse-stable.

cow, dove, hen, dog, bee

  1. What is apiculture? Can you name some of the uses of the item harvested by this process?

2-The Echoing Green

The sun does arise,

And make happy the skies.

The merry bells ring

To welcome the spring.

The skylark and thrush,

The birds of the bush,

Sing louder around,

To the bells’ cheerful sound,

While our sports shall be seen

On the Echoing Green.

Old John, with white hair

Does laugh away care,

Sitting under the oak,

Among the old folk.

They laugh at our play,

“Such, such were the joys,

When we all girls and boys,

In our youth-time were seen,

On the Echoing Green.”

Till the little ones weary,

No more can be merry,

The sun does descend,

And our sports have an end.

Round the laps of their mothers,

Many sisters and brothers,

Like birds in their nest,

Are ready for rest,

And sport no more seen,

On the darkening Green.

William Blake

3-The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The following extract is taken from Tom Sawyer- a story which relates the many everyday adventures of an American boy. This very popular yarn was written by the famous humorist, Samuel L. Clemens, abs used the pen-name of “Mark Twain”.


No answer.


No answer.

“Where is that boy, I wonder? You, Tom!”

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud enough for the furniture to hear:

“Well, if I get hold of you, I’ll – “

She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath to punctuate the punches with. She found nothing but the cat.

“I never did see the like of that boy!”

She went to the open door and stood in it, and looked out among the tomato vines and tall weeds that constituted the garden. No Tom. So she lifted up her voice and shouted: “Tom!”

There was a slight noise behind her, and she turned just in time to seize a small boy by his belt and arrest his flight. “There! I might have thought of that cupboard. What have you been doing in there?”


“Nothing! Look at your hands, and look at your mouth. What is that mess?”

“I don’t know, Aunt.”

“Well, I know. It’s jam, that’s what it is. Forty times I’ve said that if you didn’t let that jam alone I’d skin you. Hand me that switch.”

The switch hovered in the air – the peril was desperate.

“My! Look behind you, aunt!”

The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high board fence, and disappeared over it. His Aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into a gentle laugh.

“Hang it, can’t I ever learn anything? Hasn’t he played me tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for them by this time? But my goodness, he never plays them alike two days, and how is a body to know what’s coming. I’ll just be obliged to make him work tomorrow, to punish him. It’s mighty hard to make him work on Saturdays, when all the boys are having a holiday, but he hates work more than he hates anything else, and I’ve got to do some of my duty by him.”

Saturday morning came and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young, the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face, and a spring in every the blossoms filled the air…. Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and the gladness went out of nature, and a deep melancholy settled down over his spirit. Thirty yards of fence nine feet high It seemed to him that life was hollow and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box, discouraged. Jim came skipping out at the gate with a tin pail, and singing “Buffalo Gals”. Bringing water from the town pump had always been a hateful work in Tom’s eyes before, but now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there was company at the pump. White, mulatto and negro’ boys and girls were always there waiting their turns, resting, trading playthings, quarreling, fighting, skylarking. And he remembered that although the pump was only a hundred and fifty yards away Jim never got back with a bucket of water under an hour; and even then somebody generally had to go after him. Tom said: “Say, Jim; I’ll fetch the water if you’ll whitewash some.” Jim shook his head, and said:

“Can’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis she tole me I got to go an’ git dis water an’ not stop foolin’ round with anybody. She say she spec’ Mars Tom gwine to ax me to so she told me go ‘long an’ ‘tend to my own business – she ‘lowed she’d ‘tend to de whitewashin’.”

she always talks. Gimme the bucket – I won’t be gone only a minute. She won’t ever know.” “Oh, I didn’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis she take an’ tar de head off’n me. ‘Deed she would.” “Shel She never licks anybody whacks ’em over the head with her thimble, and who cared for that, I’d like to know? She talks awful, but talk don’t hurt-anyways, it don’t if she don’t cry. Jim, I’ll give you a marble. I’ll give you a white alley!”

Jim began to waver.

“White alley, Jim; and it’s a bully taw.”

“My, dat’s a mighty gay marble, I tell Tom, I’s powerful ‘fraid ole missis_ you. But, Mars

But Jim was only human – this attraction was too much for him. He put down his pail, and took the white alley. In another minute he was flying down the street with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye.

But Tom’s energy did not last. He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the free boys would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work – the very thought of it burnt him like fire. He got out his worldly wealth and examined it – bits of toys, marbles and trash; enough to buy an exchange of work, maybe, but not enough to buy so much as half-an hour of pure freedom. So he returned his straitened means to his pocket, and gave up the idea of buying the boys. At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him. Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration. He took up his brush and went tranquility to work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently; the very boy of all boys whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop, skip and jump – proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a deep-toned impersonating long, melodies whoop at intervals, followed by a ding dong dong, ding dong dong, for he was a steamboat. As he drew near he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to starboard, and rounded-to ponderously, and with laborious pomp and circumstance, for he was impersonating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat, and captain, and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane deck giving the orders and executing them….

Tom went on whitewashing – paid no attention to the steamer. Ben stared a moment, and then said: “Hi-Yi! You’re up a stump, ain’t you?”

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist; then he gave his brush another gentle sweep, and surveyed the result as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said: “Hello, old chap; you got to work, hey?”

“Why, it’s you, Ben! I wasn’t noticing.” “Say, I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work, wouldn’t you? ‘Course you would!”

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said: “What do you call work?”

“Why, ain’t that work?”

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know is, it suits Tom Sawyer.” “Oh, come now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”

The brush continued to move.

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth – stepped back to note the effect – added a touch here and there – Ben watching every move, more and more absorbed. Presently he said: “Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.”

Tom considered; was about to consent; but he altered his mind: “No, no; I reckon it wouldn’t hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly’s awful particular about this fence-right here on the street, you know – but if it was the back fence, I wouldn’t mind, and she wouldn’t. Yes, she’s awful particular about this fence; it’s got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain’t a boy in a thousand that can do it in the way it’s got to be done.”

“No-is that so? Oh, come now; lemme just try, only just a little. I’d let you, if you was me, Tom.”

“Ben, I’d like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly – well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn’t let him. If you was to tackle this fence, and anything was to happen to it – “

“Oh shucks; I’ll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say – I’ll give you the core of my apple.”

“Well, here. No, Ben; now don’t; I’m afeard_ “I’ll give you the whole of it!”

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his heart. And while the last steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There were no lack of material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash.

By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in; and so on; and so on; hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor, poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had, besides the things I have mentioned, twelve marbles, parts of a jew’s harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool-cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles six firecrackers a brass door lock dog-collar – but no dog – the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel and a dilapidated old window sash. He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while – plenty of company and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn’t run out of whitewash, he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world after all. He had discovered a great law of human nature, without knowing it, namely, that, in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.

From Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Interesting Facts about the United States of America

  1. The United States of America, popularly called “The States”, “USA”, “The Land of Liberty” and “The Land of the Free”, is a vast country stretching across the middle of North America. This country, which was at one time inhabited by Native Americans, is now the home of a “nation of nations”, as people from every part of the world have gone to live in this land of wealth and promise. These settlers met, mingled and worked with great enterprise, and as a result of their efforts, the United States has become one of the most important countries in the world.
  2. In 1620 the Pilgrim Fathers, a band of Puritans in England who sought freedom of worship, set forth for America in the sailing-ship Mayflower. Three months after leaving Plymouth Harbour, they reached the shores of what is now called New England. Although they often had difficult times with the Native American tribes, the colony soon prospered and more and more settlers joined them. The Native Americans used a new kind of grain, which the settlers called “Indian corn” (now termed maize) and they ate strange birds called turkeys. On the last Thursday of November the Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day with the feast of turkey and Indian corn.
  3. A great many emigrants went from European countries to America and thirteen colonies were formed, all of them under English rule. The government in England, however, took little interest in the American colonies, except from the point of view of trade. When certain taxes and laws were ordered by the English Parliament, the colonists opposed them and the bitter feeling, as illustrated the “Boston Tea Party”, gradually led to war. At first the colonists fared badly, but later they rallied and eventually won the final victory, under the able leadership of George Washington.
  4. The American Declaration of Independence was signed on 4 July, 1776. This day is still celebrated as the “birthday” of this nation, and is called Independence Day. The leaders of the new country decided they would form a republic, which would have no king but would have a president, chosen every four years by a vote of all the people. George Washington, who had led them so successfully in the war, became the first president and was called “The Father of the United States”.
  5. The “Americans” dwelt in the eastern part of the country, but many of them decided to explore further inland, and settle on the rich farming land there. These pioneers traveled in covered wagons or prairie schooners, which rocked and rolled their way westward over the open, flat country. Each vehicle carried the settler’s family and equipment, and was his home and when on the move, a place wherein to sleep at the end of a long day’s journey, and a barricade against unfriendly Indians. The Frontier Scouts and Plainsmen were the trailblazers and fighters, who gave advice and acted as escorts to the settlers when traveling in dangerous territory.
  6. Shortly after Columbus discovered the route to the Americas, many Spaniards traveled northward from Mexico and settled along the western coast of America. That is why many places in this region such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Santa Barbara have Spanish names. In 1849 the chance discovery of gold brought many people to California and numerous mining towns sprang up in a very short time. “The Golden Gate” (the channel connecting the harbor of San Francisco with the Pacific Ocean) was so called because many of the seekers of the precious yellow metal passed this way to and from the rich goldfields.
  7. In the lower basin of the Missouri (the longest river in the USA) stretch the great cotton plantations, once tilled by black slaves taken forcibly from Africa. The northern states of America did not use them as slaves like the cotton states of the south, and they tried to stop this evil practice. In 1861, while Abraham Lincoln was President, a dreadful Civil War broke out. After four years of bitter fighting, the southern states were defeated and slavery was abolished. During this war the famous song “John Brown’s body lies a moldering in the grave” was composed and it became the marching song of the northern troops.
  8. American cities have huge buildings (skyscrapers). The national capital of the United States is Washington and the White House is the home of the President. The famous Statue of Liberty in New York harbor was a gift from France. The following table gives a rough idea of the value of the money used in America:

A cent (1 ȼ)

A nickel (5 ȼ)

A dime (10 ȼ)

A quarter (25 ȼ)

A half (50 ȼ)

A dollar ($1.00)

  1. While English is the national language of the country, some immigrants have continued the manners, customs and even the tongue of their homeland.

Here are some common British English words for which the Americans have different names: sweets – candies, shop store, motor-car- automobile, lorry truck, tram – streetcar, pavement – sidewalk, petrol – gas, lift – elevator, dustbin – garbage can, holiday – vacation, trousers – pants, waistcoat – vest, laces – shoe-ties, tin – can, jug – pitcher.

There are also differences in the spelling of certain words: color – color, honor – honor, program. program.

  1. The national banner of the United States of America, commonly known as “The Stars and Stripes” or “Old Glory”, is a flag bearing 50 stars and 13 stripes.

Each star represents a present-day state and each stripe stands for one of the original colonies. The national anthem is “The Star-Spangled Banner”, and the national bird is the bald eagle. The national be said to be baseball. 

 Questions on the Story

  1. What was the pen name of the author of the story? 
  2. Where did Tom hide from his aunt?
  3. What was his aunt’s name?
  4. Why was Tom in hiding?
  5. How did he escape immediate punishment?
  6. What kind of day was the following Saturday?
  7. What work had Tom been ordered to do? 
  8. What was the little black boy’s name?
  9. On what errand had he been sent?
  10. What did Tom give him for an exchange of work?
  11. How were their plans upset?

12 Whose ridicule had Tom been dreading most of all? 

  1. What was this lad eating and at what game was he playing?
  2. How did Tom make him want to whitewash the fence? 
  3. What reward did the lad offer Tom?
  4. What happened when the other boys came along?
  5. Name other boys mentioned in the story.
  6. Give a list of four things which the boys traded to Tom.
  7. How many coats of whitewash did the fence receive?
  8. What law of human nature did Tom discover?

Questions on the Interesting Facts

  1. Give a popular name for the United States of America.
  2. (a) Who were the original natives? 

(b) Who were the first white settlers?

(c) What is “Indian com”?

  1. Who led the victorious forces of the colonists against the British?
  2. (a) When was the American Declaration of Independence signed? 

(b) What is a republic?

  1. (a) What was a “covered wagon”?

(b) Who were the (i) Frontier Scouts (ii) Plainsmen? 

  1. Give three American west coast towns with Spanish names.
  2. (a) Which is the longest river in the United States? 

(b) Who were employed as slave labor on the cotton plantation?

(c) Who was President when the American Civil War broke out?

  1. (a) What are the huge buildings erected there called?

(b) What is the national capital of the United States? 

(c) What famous monument stands at the entrance of the New York harbor?

  1. (a) Name four American coins.

(b) Give three common British English words for which the Americans have

(i) different names.

(ii) different spellings.

  1. In the United States, what is the national

(a) banner?

(b) bird?

(c) sport?

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