Tom Sawyer – Part Sixty-four

Before you read the text, read the following comprehension questions.

1. How did the teacher’s attitude to the students change as the summer break drew closer?

2. How does the writer describe the teacher’s head?

3. Whose help did the boys ask for while planning their revenge on Mr. Dobbins?

4. Where was Mr. Dobbins staying?

5. Was the speech that Tom gave successful?

Now read the text and answer the questions.

The summer holiday break was getting close. The schoolmaster, always strict, became stricter and more severe than ever. He wanted the school to have good results on "Examination" day.

His stick and his temper were very active now, at least among the smaller pupils. Only the biggest boys, and young ladies of eighteen
and twenty, escaped a beating.

Mr. Dobbins' beatings were very violent ones, too. Even though, under his wig, his head was totally bald and shiny, he had only reached middle age, and there was no sign of weakness in his arm muscles.

As the great day approached, all the evil that was in him came to the surface. He seemed to take pleasure in punishing the smallest of misbehaviour. The consequence was, that the smaller boys spent their days in terror and suffering and their nights in planning revenge.

They threw away no opportunity to get their own back on the teacher. But he kept ahead all the time. Whatever revenge the boys planned was always punished more severely than they could have predicted.

At last, they conspired together and came up with a plan that promised a clear victory. They included the sign-painter's son, told him the plan, and asked for his help.

He had his own reasons for being delighted. The teacher rented a room in his father's house and this had given the boy more than enough reasons to hate him.

The teacher's wife would go on a visit to the country in a few days, and there would be nothing to interfere with the plan. The teacher always prepared himself for important occasions by drinking too much alcohol, and the sign-painter's son said that when the ‘target’ had reached the proper level of intoxication on the evening before Examination Day, he would "manage the thing" while he slept in his chair. Then he would wake him up at the right time and rushed to the school.

Time passed and the important day arrived. At eight in the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lit, and decorated with flowers, plants and lots of colour. The teacher sat like a king on his great chair on a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him.

He was looking very calm and relaxed. Three rows of seats on each side and six rows in front of him were occupied by important people of the town and by the parents of the pupils.

To his left, behind the rows of citizens, was a large temporary platform upon which were seated the scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the Evening. There were rows of small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort. Rows of tall, thin, big boys, lines of girls and young ladies dressed in their best clothes and very conscious of their bare arms, their grandmothers' jewellery, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and the flowers in their hair.

All the rest of the house was filled with non-participating scholars.
The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and shyly said, "You wouldn’t expect a boy of my age to speak in public on the stage," etc. His speech was punctuated by painfully exact and spasmodic gestures which a machine might have used. Especially if the machine wasn’t working properly. But he got through it safely, though cruelly scared, and was applauded when he made his manufactured bow and sat down.Diccionario online

A little girl softly recited, "Mary had a little lamb," etc., got her applause, and sat down, red-faced and happy.

Tom Sawyer stepped forward with confidence and loudly started the "Give me liberty or give me death" speech. His attacked the verse with energy and frantic gesticulation, and stopped in the middle of it.

He was hit with horrible stage fright, his legs felt weak under him and his mouth went dry. True, he had the sympathy of the audience but he had their silence, too, which was even worse than its sympathy. The teacher looked at him with disappointment, and this completed the disaster. Tom struggled for a while and then sat down, completely defeated. There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.

"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed. Also "The Assyrian Came Down," and other typical classics. Then there were reading exercises, and a spelling competition.

The small Latin class recited with honour.

... to be continued!

* The text has been adapted from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain

  Download the original book for free

*Consulta un PDF con la información y resumen de 100 libros en inglés
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Tom Sawyer – Part Sixty-five

Before you read the text, read the following comprehension questions.

1. What was the worst thing about the presentations that the girls made?

2. What is the name of the first presentation that was given?

3. Did the audience show appreciation for the girls’ presentations?

4. How long was the prize-winning presentation that was given by the girl with dark skin and dark hair?

5. What removed the teacher’s wig from his head?

Now read the text and answer the questions.
The main feature of the evening was now due. Original "compositions" by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the front of the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with a coloured ribbon), and proceeded to read, with fixed attention to "expression" and punctuation.

The themes were the same that had been spoken about on similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers and, without doubt, all their ancestors in the female line as far back as the Crusades.

"Friendship" was one, "Memories of Other Days", "Religion in History", "Dream Land", "The Advantages of Culture", "Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted", "Melancholy", "Filial Love", "Heart Longings," etc., etc.

A prevalent feature in these compositions was a focused melancholy and sadness. Another was an overuse of "fine language". Another was a tendency to use particularly prized words and phrases until they were worn out entirely, and something that was more annoying than all this was the inclusion of a religious lesson that was at the end of each one of them.

No matter what the subject might be, all effort was made to squeeze it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could morally contemplate. The obvious insincerity of these sermons has never been, nor perhaps never will be, enough reason not to hear them in schools.

There is no school in all the country where the young ladies do not feel an obligation to close their compositions with a sermon. And you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and the least religious girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious.

But enough of this. The truth is sometimes hard to hear.

Let us return to the "Examination." The first composition that was read was called "Is this, then, Life?"

Perhaps the reader can suffer to read part of it:

"In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the youthful mind look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity!

Imagination is busy sketching rose-tinted pictures of joy. In fancy, the voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the festive throng, 'the observed of all observers.' Her graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes, is whirling through the mazes of the joyous dance; her eye is brightest, her step is lightest in the gay assembly.

"In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by, and the welcome hour arrives for her entrance into the Elysian world, of which she has had such bright dreams. How fairy-like does everything appear to her enchanted vision! Each new scene is more charming than the last. But after a while she finds that beneath this goodly exterior, all is vanity, the flattery which once charmed her soul, now grates harshly upon her ear; the ball-room has lost its charms; and with wasted health and imbittered heart, she turns away with the conviction that earthly pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!"

And so forth and so on. There were some noises of gratification from time to time during the reading, and occasional whispers of "How sweet!" "How eloquent!" "So true!" etc., and after the thing had closed with a peculiarly afflicting sermon the applause was enthusiastic.

Then a slim, melancholy girl stood up, whose face had the "interesting" paleness that’s caused by pills and indigestion, and read a "poem." Two verses of it will be enough:


"Alabama, good-bye! I love you so much! But for a while I leave you now! Sad, yes, sad thoughts of you my heart explodes, And burning memories trouble me! I have wandered through your flowery forests; I have walked and read near Tallapoosa's stream; I have listened to Tallassee's floods, And loved on Coosa's side Aurora's beam.

"But I am not ashamed and have a full heart, I do not blush behind my tearful eyes; It’s from no stranger land I now must leave, it’s to no strangers left I give these sighs. Welcome and home were mine within this State, whose valleys I leave, whose churches fade fast from me and cold must be my eyes, and heart, and tete, when, dear Alabama! they turn cold on thee!"

There were very few there who knew what "tete" meant, but the poem was very satisfactory, nevertheless.

Next, a dark-skinned, black-eyed, black-haired young lady appeared, who paused for an impressive moment, put on a tragic expression, and began to read in a low, solemn tone:


Dark and tempestuous was night.
Around the throne on high not a single star quivered; but the deep
intonations of the heavy thunder constantly vibrated upon the ear; whilst the terrific lightning revelled in angry mood through the cloudy chambers of heaven, seeming to scorn the power exerted over its terror by the illustrious Franklin!

Even the boisterous winds unanimously came forth from their mystic homes, and blustered about as if to enhance by their aid the wildness of the scene.
"At such a time, so dark, so dreary, for human sympathy my very spirit sighed; but instead thereof, "'My dearest friend, my counsellor, my comforter and guide. My joy in grief, my second bliss in joy,' came to my side. She moved like one of those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks of fancy's Eden by the romantic and young, a queen of beauty unadorned save by her own transcendent loveliness. So soft was her step, it failed to make even a sound, and but for the magical thrill imparted by her genial touch, as other unobtrusive beauties, she would have glided away un-perceived, unsought. A strange sadness rested upon her features, like icy tears upon the robe of December, as she pointed to the contending elements without, and bade me contemplate the two beings presented."

This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and ended with a sermon so destructive of all hope to the non-religious that it took the first prize. This composition was considered to be the very finest effort of the evening.

The mayor of the village, in giving the prize to the author of it, made a warm speech in which he said that it was by far the most "eloquent" thing he had ever listened to, and that Daniel Webster himself might well be proud of it.

It may be said, in passing, that the number of compositions in which the word "beauteous" was overused, and human experience referred to as "life's page," was well above the usual average.

Now the teacher, as content as he could be, put his chair aside, turned his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of America on the blackboard, to test the geography class.

But he made a mess of it with his unsteady hand, and laughter began to spread around the schoolhouse. He knew what the problem was, and tried to correct it. He rubbed out lines and redrew them, but he only distorted them more than ever and made the map worse. The laughter was now noticeably louder.

He threw all of his attention into his work, now, as if determined not to be made a fool of. He felt that all eyes were fixed on him. He imagined he was succeeding, but the laughter continued. It even increased.

And for good reason! There was a small cupboard above the blackboard, it had doors, but they were partly open and out of this cupboard came a cat, suspended around the legs by a string. She had some cloth tied around her head and mouth to stop her meowing and making a noise.

She slowly descended lower and lower. She tried to reach the string with her claws and then clawed at the air. The laughter increased and the cat was within six inches of the teacher's head. Down and down she came, a little lower, until she reached his wig with her desperate claws, clung to it, and was immediately lifted back up into the cupboard with her prize still in her possession!

And how the light reflected brightly from the teacher’s bald held, because the sign-painter's son had painted it gold!

That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Summer holidays had arrived.

... to be continued!

* The text has been adapted from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain

  Download the original book for free

*Consulta un PDF con la información y resumen de 100 libros en inglés
que puedes descargar en 1 único archivo.


  Haz click para comprobar las soluciones

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