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A Proud Linguist

2006-08-11 15:16

  Lesson 35

  Text A

  A Proud Linguist

  Once upon a time there was an Austrian emperor who made it a rule to interview every one of his soldiers once a year. During the interviews he invariably asked three questions- "How old are'you?", "How long have you been in my army?" and "Are you satisfied with your pay and the food you get?" -in that order.

  One year, the day before the imperial interviews, a Frenchman got himself enlisted in the Austrian army. Since he knew no German he was on tenterhooks. Now there was an old soldier in his unit who knew a little French and was anxious to help. In fact he knew just about enough French to be able to teach his young friend the shortest possible answers, in the proper order , to the imperial questions.

  The day arrived with all the sound and colour that befitted it. The Emperor in all his splendour was seated on the throne, his entourage attending respectfully in. the background. The soldiers filed past him, each taking barely half a minute during which time the questions were asked and the answers reverently provided.

  When the Frenchman's turn came, far from being nerous he was sure of himself, havi.ng recited the answers, in the proper order, he did not know how many times. The Emperor looked at him long and hard and suddenly took it into his head that he had seen the young man somewhere before. He began, a little out of the usual order, with the second question;

  "How long have you been in my army ?"

  "Twenty-one years , " replied the Frenchman , not without some pride in his ability to learn a foreign language so quickly and so well.

  The monarch was surprised, for the young man did not look very much older than that , but he went on to ask:

  "Then how old are you?"

  "One day," came the answer.

  That was too much for the Emperor, who sat back and muttered .

  "Well , well. That beats me. It seems either you're mad or I am. "

  Positive that that was the last of the imperial questions, the proud linguist stepped forward and with a smile said:

  "Both, your majesty. "

  Text B

  What Am I Going to Do?

  Mr Davidson is standing outside his house. He has forgotten to bring his key with him. Henry Black and John Field walk past and they say "Hello" to Mr Davidson. MR DAvIDSON:   Hello, boys. Can you help me? I've forgotten my key and I can't get in.

  JOHN AND HENRY:   We'll try our best , Mr Davidson.

  MR DAVIDSON:   You're both taller than me, aren't you?

  JoHN:   Yes , I'm over five foot ten. I'm the tallest of the three of us.

  HENRY:   But I'm almost as tall as John.

  MR DAVIDSON:   Can you climb on John's shoulders and reach that window?

  HENRY:   All right. (He climbs on John's shoulders. ) What shall I do now?

  MR DAVIDSON:   Open the window, please, and climb through it into the house.

  HENRY:   Oh dear , I can't move it . It's fastened in side.

  MR DAVIDSON:   Can you break the window?

  JOHN:   Look ! There's a policeman ! He's coming towards us.

  Question on Text B

  7. Read the following passage once. Underline the key words while reading and retell the story to your partner.

  Adventure at Midnight

  Long ago there 1 ived two brothers who were very poor. They lived in tiny huts at opposite sides of their large wheat field. At the end of each summer, when harvest time came, the brothers divided the grain they had grown into two equal parts. Some of it they took to be milled into flour, from which they baked bread. The rest was sold for money, with which they bought shoes, clothing, and tools.

  Although they toiled from sunup to sundown, six days a week, they hardly had enough to eat. In spite of this, they were happy because of their great love for one another.

  But one year, Sirnon, the younger brother. felt a great sadness.

  His wife said, "Tell me what is making you so blue? You no longer sing while you work, and the twinkle is gone from your eye. "

  "You are right , dear wife. I am worried about my older brother , Ruben. He is alone in the world, with neither wife nor children. Who will care for him when he gets old and can no longer work? If only he had some money to save for his old age! It isn't fair that we share the harvest equally. But he is proud and will not accept gifts from me. What shall I do?"

  "Would you take food from your own children? " She asked in astonishment. "There is nothing you can do, "'she said. "So forget it. "

  Simon knew that his wife was right , but he was determined to help Ruben, come what might.

  Meanwhile, Ruben was sitting under a tree, thinking deeply. When he noticed a bird on the way to its winter home, he said, that bird and I are fortunate because we are free. Neither of us has a wife and children always needing to be fed. But my poor brother, Simon, is burdened with a family.

  "Itisn't fair that we share the harvest equally. Surely he deserves more than I! But he is very proud and will not accept gifts from me. What can I do? In several days we'll take our harvest to town. If I don't think of a plan soon, it will be too late. "

  That night. when the moon was high in the sky, Ruben went quietly to his barn where he filled a sack with wheat'?and put in on his shoulder. Then he crossed the empty field to his brother's hut and secretly placed his wheat with Simon's.

  "Ah." he said when he had finished, "this is better. Now my dear younger brother will have more than I. "

  Ruben went happily back to his hut and slept soundly for the first time in wceks.

  An hour later, Simon woke up with a start. He had dreamed of a marvelous plan. He crept out of bed, got dressed, and went to his barn. Filling a sack with wheat., walking across the field to Ruben's hut, and placing it there took very little time. Before long, he was back in bed, pulling up the covers.

  "Now I can sleep peacefully," he thought, "because Ruben will have a little extra to save for his old age. "

  The next morning Ruhen and Simon were amazed. How could this be? 'hheir piles were equal, yet each knew he had secretly given wheat to his brother. Something must have gone wrong.

  So that night Ruben waited until midnight, when he again took Simon some of his grain. "There! Now I am fully awake and I'm sure I put it on his pile. Tomorrow mine will be smaller and his larger, as it should be. "

  A short time later, Simon did the same. He, too, was sure that all would be well this time.

  But when day dawned, each brother saw that his share was exactly half the harvest. Ruben and Simon were desperate. Tomorrow they were to go to town to sell their grain. Tonight was their last chance.

  Midnight came again. But this time Ruben and Simon chose the same moment to carry out their mission of brotherly love. Each placed a sack of wheat on his shoulders and began to walk across the field. Halfway across they met.

  "Ruben! What are you doing out so late at night?" cried Simon in dismay. He tried to hide his sack.

  Startled, Ruben dropped his bundle. Then he saw Simon's sack and they both began to laugh. When they finished laughing, they hugged each other tightly. Their hearts were full of love for each other and they were content.

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