Tears, Idle Tears by Tennyson– Meaning Stanza by Stanza

Tears, Idle Tears
By Alfred Tennyson


Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depth of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn-fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.
Meaning.. In Autumn, the fields are ready for harvest. Summer begins to recede and winter begins to set in. The speaker scans the fields idly and begins to reminisce. As memories sweep through his mind, he is overwhelmed with some unexplained sadness. His eyes well up as his heart pines for the joys of the past. He realizes the happy bygone days will not return.


Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more.
Meaning … It is clear the speaker fondly remembers his friends who are no more on earth. He imagines that these dead friends are returning to earth on a ship whose sail lights up when the first sunshine of the morning falls on it. This thought, so unreal, but so balmy, fades away in moments. In its place, comes the apparition of a ship laden with his friends heading to embrace death. The deep orange light of the setting sun’s rays fall on its sails just as the ship disappears into the horizon. It signals the death of the speaker’s near and dear friends. Thus, the day that brought so much delight and excitement to the speaker ends engulfing his mind in sorrow and despair.


Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.
Meaning .. The dawn in summer present a scene of contrast. A dying man lying on his bed hears the chirping of the birds, and the sun’s early rays come into his room. The window looks brighter and brighter as the morning progresses. But, due to obvious reasons, these joyful signs of Nature fail to lift the dying man’s spirits. For the man about to breathe his last, it is an inexorable slide to doom. These thoughts fill the speaker’s mind with gloom and awe. He grieves remembering the happy times that are gone.


Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!
Meaning … A lover thinks of his kisses on the lips of a woman he loves, but can not marry due to certain circumstances. The woman marries someone else plunging the lover to insufferable grief. For the speaker, it is lying remembering the romantic moments with a woman who is already dead. It was the gush of excitement of a young man’s first romantic encounter with a girl, but the liaison does not come to fruition. Such are the ways of the world. Such short-lived happiness amounts to enduring death-like sorrow while one is alive and well. The author laments the passing of the happy times.

The Comedy of Errors by William Skakespeare

The Comedy of Errors
(Page 217 –237)
There was a lot of bad blood between two city-states – Syracuse & Ephesus. The duke of Ephesus passed a law that virtually closed the gates of his dukedom to the traders from the rival Syracuse. The law stipulated that any trader from Syracuse apprehended inside Ephesus would be sent to the gallows for his transgression. However, he could pay a ransom amount of a thousand marks and get a reprieve.
Aegeon, an old trader from Syracuse fell victim to this draconian law. He was taken to custody and brought before the Duke of Ephesus. Aegeon was unable to pay the steep fine. So, hanging awaited him. Before ordering the execution, the Duke desired to know from Aegeon what made Aegeon to venture into Ephesus to face such fatal consequence.
The old merchant with death penalty on his head said that he was not afraid to die. The misery and sorrow he had endured in his lifetime had robbed him of all zest for life. Death would bring him the deliverance from such insufferable travails, he declared. Saying this, he proceeded to narrate his life history.

He said he was born into a merchant’s family in Syracuse. At the ripe age, he married and lived happily. On one occasion, he had to go to Epidamnum on some business work. As the work didn’t get over in time, he had to extend his stay there. He felt it necessary to send for his wife.
Soon on arrival, the lady gave birth to twins in the lodge where Aegeon was staying. The two male babies looked deceptively similar to each other. Quite strangely, around the same time, a maid servant in the lodge also gave birth to twins who, like the two babies of Aegeon, looked strikingly similar to each other. The maid and her husband were too poor to rear their two new-born sons. Aegeon bought the two sons assuming that they will attend upon his own two sons in coming years.

After some time, the wife pleaded with her merchant husband to return home. Aegeon reluctantly agreed. Arrangements were made for the departure of the family along with the two other ‘bought’ babies. Unaware that the time was in auspicious, the family set sail for their homeward journey aboard a ship. Only a short distance from the port, a violent storm raged. Soon it looked so gloomy for Aegeon’s ship as the howling winds shook the ship dangerously. Seeing the impending danger, the sailors on board the ship got into small life boats and fled abandoning the Aegeon family in the ship.
The storm blew with no respite. The four babies little understood the perils of the sea. Nonetheless, they cried in unison as they do normally. Their mother, however, was to nervous to restrain herself. She cried uncontrollably as the fear of the impending disaster gripped her. All this noise frayed Aegeon’s nerves.
Page 219 ..
Aegeon pulled himself up and began to think of ways to confront the danger. He tied his youngest son to a mast. To the other end of the mast, he tied the other youngest of the ‘slave’ sons. Having secured the two young babies, Aegeon instructed his wife to tie the two elder sons to another mast. After this, the husband and the wife tied themselves to the masts so that they are not thrown off into the water by the violently shaking sea.
Hardly had the duo completed this act, the inevitable happened. The storm wrecked the ship at the middle. The vessel sank. Luckily, the wooden masks to which the Aegeon family were tied remained afloat preventing the two seniors and the four toddlers from drowning. The wife and the two children near her drifted away despite Aegeon’s efforts to hold them back. Some boatmen were nearby in their fishing crafts. They picked up Aegeon’s wife and the two toddlers to safety.
After sometime, Aegeon and the two toddlers in his custody wre sighted by a ship whose crew happened to know him. With great welcome and warmth, he was taken aboard their ship. He made his way back to Syracuse. But, tragedy began thereafter. Despite all his efforts to trace his wife and the two toddlers, he failed to trace them.
The father and his youngest son and the ‘slave’son grew up. The memory of the missing half of the family haunted them. When his son reached the age of eighteen, he proposed that he along with the slave boy should go on a mission to trace the mother and the two boys, one his own brother and the other, the slave.
Page 220 ..

When Aegeon has abandoned all hopes of mobilizing the one thousand marks needed to save his life. At this time, it emerged that his two sons were in Ephesus. Their two slaves were living with them.

Because of their nearly perfect resemblance to one another, they were given a common name – Antipholous. In the same way, their salves, also looking identical, were given the name Dromio.

By a strange coincidence, the youngest son of Aegeon, known as Antipholous of Syracuse had arrived in Syracuse on the same day Aegeon, his own father had arrived to face arrest and subsequent death penalty. Luckily for Antipholous, one of his friends warned him of the new law barring traders from Syracuse and the possible death penalty for those who did not obey the law. The friend also narrated how an old trader from Syracuse had landed himself in dire trouble by sneaking in to Ephesus. Antipholous did not know that the man held captive was indeed his own father. As per his friend’s advice, he described himself as a trader of Epidamnum.

The older son was called Antipjolous of Ephesus to avoid mix-up between the two sons. He was an affluent businessman having made a lot of money from trading. He had lived in Ephesus for twenty years. If he knew that it was his father who was in such distress, he could have paid the ransom demand of 1000 marks without any difficulty. Because of the long time gap, he had only faint memories of his childhood and his father.

He also remembered that the fisherman who had rescued his mother, him and his slave had forcibly separated the mother from them. His intention was to sell the duo off as slaves. He did sell the two young boys to the Duke of Menaphon. He was a great warrior and was the uncle of the Duke of Ephesus.

On a visit to Ephesus, the Duke of Menaphon took the two boys as slaves to the his nephew – the Duke of Ephesus. The latter developed a liking for the young Antipholous and employed him in the army. Later, Antipholous proved to be a gallant officer and became a trusted favourite of the Duke of Ephesus. In o0ne battle he saved the Duke from certain death. The Duke was immensely pleased with Antipholous and had him married to Adriana, a rich lady of Ephesus.



[To be continued]


ICSE English –HUNGER explanation

by Nasira Sharma

Introduction ….  The story is set in Afghanistan. This cursed country has been embroiled in coups, big power rivalry, internecine warfare, internal strife, and religious chauvinism for a very long time. The unending conflict has plagued the country for nearly 50 years causing large scale destruction, poverty, and deprivation. The interminable struggle to fight hunger and want has robbed the people of their hopes, vigor, and humanism. Looting, robbery, kidnapping for ransom, and abuse of women and children are rife. With so many ills stalking the country, the land has become unlivable.
Story … Rizwan & Kasim are the two characters in the story. Rizwan is a wannabe journalist. Kasim hawks old clothes to make a living. Hunger and poverty have gripped them both, but Rizwan, with his education in journalism, is better off than Kasim. Kasim with no land, no education and no skill has fallen into a bottomless pit. His body is worn with the daily grind and his mind has become a parched land where no seed of hope can sprout. He is virtually at the end of the tether.
Rizwan is on the verge of getting a reporter’s job in a local daily, but for that he has to conduct three interesting interviews and file the stories.
Rizwan sets out to the market place looking for someone he could interact with. In a land where criminals and petty thieves outnumber decent citizens, everyone in the street is wary of a stranger. No one is willing to talk freely. Strangely in the market, stores overflow with consumer goods. It is clear, the destitute and the deprived living in the fringes of the society can not patronize these shops.
Rizwan stands near a shop and looks around to spot a person he could interview. His eyes fall on Kasim who carries a load on his head. Rizwan approaches him with uncertain steps. Soon he discovers that his target, a middle-aged man, goes by the name Kasim. He earns his bread selling old clothes. The profession fetches him a paltry five hundred rupees a month.
Rizwan struggles to draw Kasim out. The latter is reticent and wary of talking to a stranger. It emerges that Kasim is a shelter-less landless person who has left his family back in his village.
Rizwan attempts to start a conversation with his target, but meets with limited success. Rizwan mentions about a government scheme to assist landless citizens like Kasim stand on their feet again. Kasim evinces little interest in thos information. Rizwan continues to coax him to reveal more about his background. Kasim says how his family has been battling poverty for generations. His father and grandfather had no land to till. So, they toiled as landless labourers till their limbs failed. The long legacy of want and impoverishment had made Kasim a cynic. Life has been very hard for him thus far. He has a small boy as son. He would assist his father in the hawking business as soon as he turns five. Kasim can’t even dream of sending him to school. Illiteracy will continue to choke Kasim’s young son as it has done to his forefathers.
Kasim is even unaware of the legendary Afghan king Mohammed Zahir Shah whose rule ended with a coup plunging the country to total turmoil that continues to bedevil Afghanistan till this day. This surprises Rizwan who is educated enough to know Shah.
Rizwan wants to extend the conversation. He says he can arrange for a loan for Kasim to start farming. Even he could get some government land allotted. None of these inducements has any effect on Kasim. He shrugs off the loan offer saying that he is already in debt, and does not want to increase the burden.
Kasim recalls how some people made similar offers during last election time. All those offers vanished in thin air soon. On one day of electioneering, Kasim did a lot of slogan shouting for a whole day at the behest of a politician. He got nothing in return. He remained hungry that day. With such bitter memories fresh in his mind, Kasim’s offers were doomed to be ignored. Kasim has lost all appetite for the comforts of living.
Rizwan can retain Kasim no longer. The latter walked off saying he could spot some buyers for his warm clothes among the labourers near the bridge. Rizwan pleaded with him to give his address. He disclosed that he had no house: he lived like a tramp. Rizwan suggests that they could meet the next day. Kasim says he is going to his village the next day.
Dusk is approaching. The darkness makes Rizwan gloomier. His cup of woes is full with a home beset with problems. His widowed mother is ill. His two younger brothers have stopped going to school. Hunger and want cast their long shadow over his family. It is six in the evening. He has barely an hour to reach the newspaper office and file his report. He is hungry. Yet, he manages to trudge towards the newspaper office.
At the newspaper’s office, he slumps on to a chair. A staff of the office asks him to write his name on his day’ report and leave it on the table.
For Kasim, it is a job well done. Despite the all round gloom, he sees a ray of hope. He can come to the newspaper’s the next day. However, he has to spot another ‘Kasim’ the next day! With tired steps and a stomach wrenched with hunger, the small ray of hope enables Rizwan to reach home.

Characterization of Kusum and Rizwan

Kasim and Rizwan are the two victims of the protracted strife and anarchy in Afghanistan. Poverty, deprivation and lack of hope seem to stare both in their eyes. However, Rizwan seems better equipped to face the situation than Kasim ashe is educated and young. He can work as a journalist or any such white-colour job. As he is just about to start his career, his mind has hope and youthfulness. Optimism has not deserted him despite hunger stalking him at every step.
Kasim, on the other hand, is middle-aged, with a family to feed. Kasim’s forefathers did not go to school, and so, had no recourse to climb in the social ladder. They slogged all their life to eke out a living. No wonder, they passed on this in-built inadequacy to Kasim in full measure. Kasim makes a paltry amount hawking second hand clothes. He has a young son living with him, and a family in the village. The son, true to the family’s legacy of illiteracy, has not gone to school. Kasim is too poor to afford schooling for him.
Despite everything else arrayed against him, Kasim prods on, holding on to his old-clothes trade as his lifeline. He is frustrated, and angry, but at the same time, stoic, and determined. For him, every dawn unfolds a daunting day, but he faces them with remarkable resilience. Very incredulous of the political class, he treats Rizwan’s offer of government assistance with disdain. Unbearably hard life has made him glum, suspicious, and gruff. In the midst of so much suffering and pessimism, he stands like a hero. He toils hard, never thinks of giving up, and has not taken to crime despite the lure money in that dark world. Sadly, he will fall one day, and carry his despair  to the grave.



Mother’s Day by J. B. Prestley

Mother’s Day


Page 33,34 and 35 …

Mrs. Pearson’s well-appointed house has a living room having furniture, doors and a fireplace –all in the right places. At the centre there is a table with four chairs, two on either side. Mrs. Fitzgerald has dropped in for a quiet causerie with the landlady, Mrs. Pearson. Although she is the mistress of the house, Mrs. Pearson is weighed down by the burden of running the household. Her harried face bears testimony to her inner torment. On the contrary, Mrs. Fitzgerald is cool, and confident. The two ladies sit down over tea to play cards. The visitor has come to show off her skill as a clairvoyant.
Mrs. Peterson starts the conversation gracefully, wondering if the visiting friend had learnt her sooth-saying skills in the East.
Mrs. Fitzgerald says that she had learnt the skill while living in the East with her husband – a senior army officer. It had taken the duo 12 years to master the craft. In a boastful way, she says she is ahead of her husband in this craft.
Mrs. Fitzgerald knows her friend’s owes. She knows how an insensitive household is robbing her of the dignity she deserves as the key anchor of the family. Mrs. Fitzgerald implores her friend to assert her position in the family and not tolerate the slights, barbs, and aloofness of other family members.
Mrs. Peterson is a soft, loving and docile person. Doing anything acerbic to others simply does not come to her. She, therefore, has chosen to take the humiliation lying down.

 Mrs. Fitzgerald belongs to a different breed. She is forthright and superbly confident of herself. She loves Mrs. Peterson very much. She can’t stand the way her friend has been at the receiving end all her life – unable to counter the emotional torture inflicted by her near and dear ones. So, Mrs. Fitzgerald persists. She coaxes her friend to be determined once and for all, and put a strong foot down to stop the hurtful behavior of her family members.
Mrs. Fitzgerald is unrelenting in her persuasion. She tells Mrs. Peterson how her husband, grown-up son and daughter take her for granted. They expect the senior-most woman in the family to fetch things, cook food, do the chores, and keep an eye on the house when the others go out to have fun. It should be the other way round, argues Mrs. Fitzgerald. She presses her point further saying that a husband should know that his ageing wife needs rest, and the children must learn to share the burden of the house with their mother.
Mrs. Peterson is, as expected meek and feeble in her reply. She says that she has in fact brought her plight to the notice of her indifferent family members.
It annoys Mrs. Fitzgerald to see her friend’s inscrutable submissiveness. She demands that Mrs. Peterson deal with the situation more sternly to force her near and dear ones to mend their ways.
Mrs. Peterson agrees to her friend’s strong suggestion. But, she says she does not like any unpleasantness in the family that can result from her asserting her authority. She says she has many times decided to bring up the issue with her family members, but, on the spur of the moment, has stepped back choosing to remain silent. Mrs. Peterson looks at her watch and jerks herself to action. She remembers she has to cook food for the family so that she could serve them promptly as soon as they arrive home. In case they plan to go out, any slight delay in eating their food must not inconvenience them, feels Mrs. Peterson. She begins to get up. Mrs. Fitzgerald is indeed as surprised as she is sorry. She gets up to pin her friend down onto her chair.
Mrs. Fitzgerald is unusually adamant. She asks her friend to listen to her first even if others come and find no cooked food. Let them fend for themselves, says she.
Mrs. Peterson is in a quandary. She can’t be rude to her sympathetic friend whose heart weeps at her predicament. Nor she can summon the courage to precipitate matters so that her family members change their attitude towards her. She dreads offending them in any way. She values harmony in the family much more than her own wellbeing. She pleads with Mrs. Fitzgerald to appreciate her helplessness, and not harp on the matter.

 Her meek resignation to her fate upsets Mrs. Fitzgerald. She is a dour and determined woman. She says that she would confront Mrs. Peterson’s family members herself.

 Mrs. Fitzgerald’s strident stance leaves her mild-mannered friend aghast. She is horrified at the prospect of the intervention of an outsider in her family matter of such delicate nature. Exasperated with the suggestion, Mrs. Peterson pleads with her friend to desist from intervening in the matter. She tells her friend that her husband and children would never listen to her. Instead, the confrontation could lead to very undesirable consequences.
Mrs. Fitzgerald chuckled to see her friend’s predicament. She comes forward with a novel solution that flummoxes her friend still trying to regain her composure.
She says that through a sleight of hand she will impersonate Mrs. Peterson by interchanging their external looks. This trick will be just for one day. As a result, Mrs. Fitzgerald will have her friend’s exterior shrouding her own steely interior, and vice versa. Mrs. Peterson is incredulous, and utterly confused.
Mrs. Fitzgerald coolly proceeds to clear the air. She says she learnt such magic when she was in the East. Mrs. Peterson is still convinced about how the trick would work out practically and ethically.

Page 36, 37, 38, 39, 40

Mrs. Fitzgerald proceeds to demonstrate her magical prowess. She holds her friend’s hand and utters some very unintelligible rhyming words. On being queried by Mrs. Peterson clarifies that these are some magic mantras that she learned in the East.
The magic casts a spell on both of them. Both are benumbed as if life has deserted them. But, the spell soon fades. They come back to life looking radically different. Mrs. Peterson looks like Mrs. Fitzgerald, and vice versa.
Mrs. Peterson is no longer Mrs. Peterson—the meek, sulking character. She has become the assertive Mrs. Fitzgerald. She snatches the cigarette from her friend’s hand.
Mrs. Fitzgerald is quite taken aback at the way the magic worked. She sighs in relief.
Quite strangely, Mrs. Peterson, in her new avatar, is cool and not the least disconcerted.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (with Mrs. Peterson’s body and soul) appears nervous. She dreads the prospect of facing George and the children.

Mrs. Peterson, in the garb of Mrs. Fitzgerald, is nonchalant. She says she will deal with them effortlessly.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (as Mrs. Peterson) is apprehensive and wary. She asks her friend if they could swimmingly revert to their own forms smoothly. Otherwise, the consequence could be disastrous.

Mrs. Peterson (as Mrs. Fitzgerald) is relaxed. She advises her friend that changing back would be easier. With a suppressed chuckle, she says that her life is not un-livable, after all. It would be more enjoyable, she advises.

After a bit of chat, Mrs. Fitzgerald (as Mrs. P) prepares to take on George and the children, advising her friend to hang around stealthily.

As expected, Mrs. Fitzgerald (as Mrs. P) is nervous and Mrs. Peterson (as Mrs. F) is confident.

The former makes a quick exit out of the house, and the latter, quite uncharacteristically) puffs away her cigarette, and sits down to play cards.

Doris Pearson, the pampered twenty-plus pampered daughter comes in and asks her mother (Mrs. F in disguise) to iron her yellow silk dress which she would wear that night. However, she is taken aback to see her mother indolently sitting at the card table.

She finds her mother surprisingly assertive as the latter replies firmly that she is doing something, after all.

Doris can’t fathom the sight of her mother smoking. She protests. Her mother is unapologetic.

Doris asks if they were going to have tea in the kitchen. She gets angry to see her mother the least interested in making tea.

Mrs. Peterson ( The real Mrs. F) says she had had her tea and could go out for dinner at the Clarendon.

It rattles Doris. She finds her ever-obliging mother rather unusual and a bit arrogant.

The mother stands her ground and behaves as if she does not care.

Doris is upset. She chides her mom for being so recalcitrant. She demands her tea and her yellow dress ironed.

Doris is angry because she can’t go out with her man Charlie Spence with the yellow silk dress.

She says she has every right to go out with Charlie, and her mother can have no objection to it. Instead, she must do her duty, and iron the silk dress.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) decides to rub salt on Doris’s wounds by speaking derisively about Charlie referring to his buck teeth and coarse intelligence.

Doris protests vigorously.

The mother continues her tirade against Charlie saying in her young age, she would never have fallen for a guy like Charlie.

Doris explodes in indignation and rage. She storms out.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) is unruffled. She continues to play cards.

Page 39 …Cyril comes in to ask if his tea is ready.

As expected, he hears a ‘No’.

Cyril wants to know if his mother is indisposed or something.

Mrs. Peterson is calm and gives an impression that she does not care. She says she feels really good, as she had never felt in her life.

Cyril wants to jerk his mom to action and commands her to make tea. He says he is in haste, and prepares to leave the place when Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) stop him.

Cyril again reminds her that he has a busy night ahead. He inquires if she has taken out his clothing.

Mrs. Peterson (as Mrs. F) acts as if she is hardly concerned.

Cyril sternly reminds her mother that he had told her in the morning itself to take out his clothes and check them if they needed any mending.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) says she no longer likes mending.

Cyril is irritated. He his back saying such rudeness would invite more rudeness from other members of the family.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) is adamant. She says she can’t be forced to do chores she does not like. Just as Cyril’s Union protects his right to refuse jobs he dislikes, she has decided not to do things she loathes.

Cyril is confused to see his mother talking so assertively.

Doris comes in with a crest-fallen face and sullen mood. She wears an ordinary dress.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) comments that even a dull man like Charlie wouldn’t like his girl to wear such an un-attractive dress.

Doris is hurt and distraught. She blames her mother for spoiling her mood.

Unaware of what had gone on between his sister and mother some time ago, he asks Doris if anything was wrong. Doris asks him to stay off.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) gets up to look for some stout (a very strong beer) in the kitchen. Cyril is quite surprised to see his mother, otherwise a very sober lady, craving for such hard drink.
Both Doris and Cyril are surprised to see their mother behave so unusually. They exchange notes about their strange experience with their mother. It was so un-motherly!
Both the siblings are totally confused to find their soft, patronizing and obliging mother behave so differently and indifferently, refusing to do the tasks she had been doing for years.
Doris wonders if she is having a hang-over of some hard drink she had earlier.
The brother and sister laugh loudly imagining how their daddy would react on seeing their mother with such a strange demeanour.
Around that time, Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) enters the scene with the bottle of stout and a half-filled glass. Doris and Cyril instantly fall silent.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) appears aloof and conceited. She chides her two grown-up children to stop behaving like kids and do things themselves. Saying this, she sits down on the sofa contentedly.
The siblings protest mildly. They say why they can not share a laugh. The mother retorts saying they can always do so if they can make their mother share the fun.
Doris says she wouldn’t understand the jokes of young folks.

Page 42, 43, 44 and 45

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) has more scorn to pour on her children. She says their jokes are stale and boring.
It irritates Doris more (as intended).
The mother says she can’t be at their beck and call all the time.
Cyril is annoyed. He says if she does not make him a cup of tea, he will manage it anyway.
His mother, sipping the stout, asks him to go ahead and do his things himself.
Cyril protests saying it was insensitive as he had been at work all day.
Doris claims she too was busy the whole day.
Cyril rubs the point again saying he had worked for eight long hours.
The mother says she too had already put in eight hours.
Both her son and daughter are not ready to give her the credit.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) asserts it is going to be 40-hour week for her too from now on. She says she would be resting and enjoying her time this week end – like her ‘working’ son and daughter.
The mother’s stern declaration stuns Doris and Cyril. They exchange glances and gape at their mother. The latter is unruffled.
Cyril goes into the kitchen to get something to eat. He is resentful and resigned to his fate.
Doris is baffled by the unfolding scenario. She proceeds to her mother and demands to know if indeed she was going to keep away from chores on Saturday and Sundays.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) gets the opportunity she was looking for. She says she can do some small chores like doing up the bed etc., but only if she is asked very politely and thanked sincerely for her magnanimity. Any indication of ordering or demanding would see her going out of the house for two days for outdoor recreation, she averred.
Doris is completely flummoxed to hear her mother threatening to go out for two complete days.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) refuses to change her stand. She maintains she is as entitled to her weekly offs as anyone else in the family.

It leaves Doris more worried. She is apprehensive about her mother’s strange new ways. Quite perplexed, she demands to know where her mother would go and with whom.

The mother snapped she would choose her place and her companion the same way Doris chooses.

Doris contends that she is young, and so, she deserves the freedom.

Her mother counters it saying her age and experience in life enables her to make the right decision about the place and the friend for the outing. Doris’s lack of maturity could make her err and then repent for choosing a wrong person to go out with.

Doris asks inquisitively if she (her mother) had ‘hit’ (found) a companion.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) shows her true colours. She blurts out that she would ‘hit’ Doris with something if she didn’t stop asking such silly questions.

The rudeness of her mother hits Doris like a storm. She is as perplexed as she is humiliated. Doris protests strongly.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) reprimands her daughter strongly. She says if Doris considers herself matured to choose Charlie Spence, she should show the same maturity in behaving decently with her mother.

George, the father and master of the house, appears in the scene. He wonders why there are so many sparks flying.

Doris sobs to invite sympathy from him.

George tries to understand why there was so much rancor between the mother and the daughter.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) bluntly asks him to find out from his daughter.

George looks around vacantly until his eyes fall on the bottle of stout in his wife’s hand.

Page 44 ..

George is puzzled. He wants to know why she was drinking stout at such an odd time of the day.

His wife says she just likes it.

Addressing his wife by her first name Annie, George says it was so unusual for her to drink stout like this.

She declares that it is going to be her habit from then on.

George does no attempt to conceal his utter disgust at Annie’s (Mrs. Peterson) new fad.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) retorts that he should not expect her to be perfectly agreeable always.

George can’t understand what his wife means.

She decides to rub her point further saying he is in for nastier surprises.

George says he dislikes being subjected to surprises. Then he proceeds to say that due to some function in thye club, he was not going to drink tea.

Pat comes the reply from his wife that there was no tea, after all.

George is somewhat surprised. He asks if she had not made tea for her.

Mrs. Peterson has no apologies for not making tea.

George is hurt and unable to figure out his wife’s reply. He wants to know if he had needed tea, what would have happened.

Mrs. Peterson virtually explodes with disapproval. She unilaterally abrogates the family’s right to make tea for each of them, including George, the master of the house. She asks her husband if he could expect such blind compliance at his club. She says his getting annoyed at tea being kept ready for him (when he didn’t want it) was totally uncalled for. His club people would not like such show of anger, she quipped.

George is distraught.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) fires another salvo at her husband reeling from her earlier show of defiance. She says such bad temper would invite more ridicule for him at the club – worse than what he is facing now.

Page 45…

George does not believe that his club people will have any occasion to laugh at him.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) makes a deliberate attempt to belittle her husband. She says that they call him all sorts of names behind his back because they don’t like his pompous and bloated personality. She even says that they call him Mr. Pompy-ompy Pearson.
George protests quite visibly.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) does not cease4 her tirade. She wonders why her husband spends such long hours at the club. Even she accuses him of going with another woman.
Soon Cyril enters the scene with a glass of milk and a cake on a plate.
George uses his son as a witness to counter his wife’s derogatory assertions. He urges his son to tell his mother that the club people never ridicule him either openly or covertly.
Cyril makes a startling revelation. He states that they, in fact, they do caricature him at times.
George leaves in a huff. His son’s statement comes as a bolt from the blue. He is indeed very hurt.
After his father leaves, Cyril pulls up his mother for having broached the matter so insensitively.
His mother has no sense of guilt. On the contrary she exudes happiness at having called a spade a spade. Quite snidely, she says that his father is inviting ridicule at the club by hanging around there too long and too often.
Cyril does not quite agree.
Page 46 ..
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) takes a pot shot at his son. She says he is too flippant a character to merit much recognition. She accuses him of spending too much time and money on silly pastimes like dog races and dirt tracks etc.
Cyril resents his mother’s critical remarks. He maintains that he needs some avenue for his own recreation.
His mother, however, is convinced that such entertainment is worthless and vacuous.
Some vigorous knocking at the door is heard.
Cyril says it could be for him and hurries off.
He renters saying it was Mrs. Fitzgerald, their neighbor. He wonders why the woman wants to come in.
He is pulled up by his mother for being so offensive towards her good friend. She asks him to be more respectful towards her wise friend.
Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) comes in and says she wants to know if everything is fine.
Cyril replies in the negative.
His mother asks him to shut up. She hurls very nasty abuses to Cyril.
Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) appears a bit embarrassed and sorry for Cyril.
Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) sternly tells her friend Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) to stop intervening in her family matters.
Cyril is almost at breaking point after such pummeling from his mother.
Page 47 …

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) recoils in horror on seeing the salvos her friend is firing and the rancor being created in the household because of that.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) is not the least worried. She assures her friend that she is undoing what she has done for years trying to pander to everyone’s wishes.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) boastfully tells her friend how she reproached her husband George for frequenting the club so often despite being called names at his back.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) is nervous to hear this.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) brushes aside her friend’s apprehensions and asserts that all her family members will soon be cut to size and soon capitulate before her meekly.

George enters the scene. He looks angry and unhappy. He is somewhat discomforted to see his neighbor seated by his wife.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) continues to behave as rudely as she could. It is a deliberate attempt to humiliate her husband as much as she can. Quite derisively, she asks George if he considers himself as the Duke of Edinburgh.

George blurts out the list of insulting behavior his wife has shown to him and Doris.

Page 48 …

Utterly embarrassed, and unprepared for the position she has found herself, Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) breaks down.

She faces the fury of George who asks her to leave.

As she prepares to leave, Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) stops her. She tells very sternly to George that he must show minimum courtesy to her friends when they come. He can not be rude to them.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) continues her belligerent stance towards George. She taunts her husband suggesting that he should go off the club that evening and stay there overnight. The people in the club can entertain themselves at his cost by passing derogatory comments.

George is hurt and humiliated. Shedding all his inhibitions, he growls at his wife and asks her why she has been so abrasive in her manners towards everyone in the family.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) roars back at her angry husband. Countering fire with fire, she threatens to slap her husband if he continues his aggressive manners.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) intervenes to calm things down. Inadvertently, she calls her friend as Mrs. Fitzgerald instead of Mrs. Peterson. This gaffe leaves George angrier. He tells his wife to behave herself.

Page 49

There is no remission in Mrs. Pearson’s (Mars. P) thunder. She throws a counter challenge at her husband.

George is on the point of exploding.

Doris enters and is greeted by the visitor. She is crestfallen.

As if adding insult to injury, Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) asks if she is going out with Charlie Spence that night.

She protests only to be pulled up by Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F). She sharply rebukes her daughter for being so uncouth to the elderly neighbor.

Doris looks at her father for sympathy. In despair, he says he has already given up.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) admonishes her daughter, Doris. With a very commanding voice, she makes Doris to speak to Mrs. Fitzgerald politely. Doris says she had to abandon her plan to go out with her boyfriend as her mother spoiled her mood by criticizing her boyfriend. She gets the customary sympathy from the visitor.

A verbal duel erupts between the two elderly women as Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) intervenes on Doris’s behalf. The two ladies exchange sharp words over this matter.

George wants to pull up his wife for her coarse behavior towards her friend.

Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F) targets her jibe at her husband. Quite sarcastically, she advises George to go to club where he can spend his leisure. She cautions Doris to stop whining.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) stands up in disgust. She says she has had enough.

Doris and her father look perplexed.

Page 50

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) stares at George and Doris. She says she wants to have some private conversation with her friend Mrs. Peterson (Mrs. F). While saying this, she was about to call her friend as Mrs. Fitz.., but corrected herself in the nick of time.

George looks relieved to find that the unbearable situation could come to an end through the neighbour’s help. Doris also leaves.

Now the two ladies sit together at the table.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) is restless to go back to her original form. She feels she things have come to a head, and they must retrace their path.

Her friend feels the family members are already reeling under the onslaught, but need some more dressing down.

Mrs. Fitzgerald (Mrs. P) pleads with her friend to see the all round misery, and return to their original forms. She coaxes her friend to agree.

Finally, her friend relents. The two ladies chant the magic mantras to undo their conversion. They return to their original avatars smoothly.

Mrs. Fitzgerald cautions her docile friend not to re-adopt her earlier soft attitude to her family members.

Page 51 …

Mrs. Fitzgerald feels that the family members were let off too soon. Some more drubbing was in order, she quips.

Mrs. Peterson hopes her husband and children will mend their manners, but she worries thinking how she will explain what has happened that far.

Mrs. Fitzgerald reprimands her friend and virtually commands her not to let the cat out of the bag. Now that they have been cut to size, Mrs. Peterson must not let them ride roughshod over her feelings, suggested Mrs. Fitzgerald.

Mrs. Fitzgerald advises her good-natured friends to let her family members do some chores themselves and give her a helping hand in cooking. In the free time, she could do anything to please herself – like playing rummy.

With her firm advice to assert her authority in the household, Mrs. Fitzgerald begins to leave the house.

George, Doris and Cyril walk in calmly looking apprehensively at the mistress of the house.

Page 52 …

Chastened by her earlier brush with her mother, Doris begins to talk softly and warmly to her mother.

Mrs. Peterson reciprocates the new warmth and tells her about the work she could do as she is staying back in the house.

Mrs. Fitzgerald gives a stern parting glance to her friend to remind her.

Mrs. Peterson proposes to play a game or two of rummy with her family members after which the son and daughter could prepare supper. She says she has to talk to their father.

All of them agree without a whimper. Good humour seems to pervade the family.

Mrs. Fitzgerald leaves as all of them bid her a warm good bye.






ICSE English — My Lost Dollar

My Lost Dollar
by Stephen Leacock

Introduction .. This short story bristles with subtle humour. Writing with an intention to amuse the reader, the story mixes comical expressions, moralizing, and self pity to weave a story around a friend’s failure to repay a loan of just one dollar. The author who has lent the dollar is too decent to ask for refund, but finds it hard to write it off from his mind. Resigned to his loss of the one dollar loan, the author relapses to introspection. The result – a hilarious ending to the saga of the ‘Lost Dollar’.
Gist of the story .. The author’s close friend is going on a sojourn to Bermuda. Just before his departure, he wants some small change to pay off the taxi. He asks the author to lend him a dollar. The latter gives it readily. Todd departs for Bermuda.
Todd writes a letter to the author from Bermuda, but there is no dollar bill inside the envelope.
Twelve months go by. Todd has returned from Bermuda, but has not bothered to return the one dollar to the author. The lender is too decent to offend his friend by demanding his dollar back. He tries many ways to remind Todd about the dollar he owed, but due to some inexplicable reasons, the memory of the unpaid dollar refuses to enter Todd’s mind.
The author lists out the ways he attempted to remind his friend. First he went to the railway station to receive Todd when he returned from Bermuda. Todd was as cheerful as ever, but not the least embarrassed. The author’s agony mounts.
On another occasion, during an evening chat, the author broaches the subject of the American dollar by asking if it is circulation in Bermuda too. Todd replies, but the suggestion fails to kindle his memory about the ‘unpaid dollar’.
The author meets Todd almost every day in the Club, but Todd never mentions about his debt. Todd even says that he no longer remembers much about his Bermuda trip. The author is exasperated. He feels resigned to the loss of his dollar.
In desperation, he writes off the dollar. He adds Todd’s name to his list of people who have similarly defaulted in repaying their one-dollar loans. The author remains as friendly with Todd as before.
On another day, the author met Todd over dinner. Todd mentioned disapprovingly how Poland had defaulted in its debts. To the author’s distress, Todd did not appear to think of his own un-paid debt.
With his wounded feelings, the author begins a period of introspection. He feels, if forgetting loans is so human, he himself could have taken such loans and not repaid it. This realization unsettles him.
The feeling of moral guilt haunts the author. He wants his creditors to come forward and claim their refunds.
So disturbed the author is about this malaise of loan defaults that he wants to start a “Back to Honesty’ campaign. He is convinced that honesty should be the bedrock of all nations aspiring to greatness.
While concluding, the author wants his ‘forgetful’ friend Todd not to know of the torment the non-payment has caused to him. Comically, he wants the readers not to bring the copies of this story to the University Club Montreal frequented by Major Todd.


Question 1 .. Why was the author reluctant to ask Todd to return the amount?

Answer .. The author felt that asking his dear friend Todd for the return of the ‘one dollar’ loan could look mean and greedy. Todd could get offended by such a request. So, the author stepped back from making such a request.

Question 2  .. Why do you think Todd didn’t pay back the one dollar he owed the author?

Answer .. It would be reasonable to assume that Todd had forgotten about the loan. He was a major in the army, and was not short of funds. The second assumption is that he felt was too small to be refunded.

Question 3 .. What sort of person the author was?

Answer .. The author was a man of principle. He was sensitive, courteous, and had a sense of self-respect. Despite his nagging indignation at Todd’s failure to return the dollar, the author didn’t allow the loss to affect their friendship. While pointing finger at  others, he was ready to look within to search for his own follies. This is why he thought that he might have failed to return small loans taken from others.

Question 4 .. What sort of feeling you get after reading the story?

Answer … The story makes excellent reading, when one looks for something comical, non-serious and light. It is pure, undiluted fun to see the torment suffered by the author when his friend didn’t return the money.

Question 5 .. Write the story in 150 words.

Answer .. Write yourself.

Some more questions with answers ...

1.Who is Todd ? What kind of relationship exists between Todd and the narrator?

Answer .. Major Todd is a friend of the narrator. They are good friends with mutual respect for one another.
2.When and why Tod borrow a dollar from the narrator ? How much time has passed since then?

Answer ..Todd wanted some small change to pay off the taxi. He didn’t have any. So, he borrowed it from his friend, the narrator. Twelve months elapsed, but Todd was yet to refund the one dollar loan.
3.Why Todd has failed to return a loan ? What does it tell us about him?

Answer .. Apparently, Todd felt the one-dollar loan to be too small to be repaid to his dear friend. The other reason could be that Todd was forgetful in nature. Anyway, the reader does not take the lapse not very approvingly.

  1. As far as the memory is concerned, how do the borrowers differ from the lenders ? Give an example from the story to support your opinion.

Answer .. It is safe to assume that borrowers, in many cases, do not take their repayment obligations very seriously. On the other hand, lenders seldom forget the loans that they have given, however trifling the amount could be. The very fact that the narrator found it hard to write-off the one-dollar loan given to his dear friend underlines such observation.

  1. Relying on what is said in the story, does the narrator have any hope of being paid back ? Why?

Answer .. The narrator is resigned to the fact that the one-dollar loan would ever be redeemed. He has vainly tried all decent tricks to remind his friend about the outstanding loan, but Todd has, quite intriguingly, refused to remember the loan he took. Later the narrator has tried to console himself thinking how he too had similar failing. He too had not paid the club dues in time. [Check this fact from the book.]



ICSE English literature —–The Inchcape Rock

Inchcape Rock by Robert Southey (1820)


No stir in the air, no stir in the sea,
The Ship was still as she could be;
Her sails from heaven received no motion,
Her keel was steady in the ocean.


Meaning .. The sea was calm and the water was placid. The ship stood still as the wind blew too slowly to add any thrust to its sails. The ship’s keel was upright. On the whole, there was nothing ominous for the crew to worry about.


Without either sign or sound of their shock,
The waves flow’d over the Inchcape Rock;
So little they rose, so little they fell,
They did not move the Inchcape Bell.


Meaning … The Inchcape Bell anchored to the undersea Inchcape Rock had fallen silent too as the sedate waves had no power to rock the bell. Naturally, the Bell could make no sound.


The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.
When the Rock was hid by the surge’s swell,
The Mariners heard the warning Bell;
And then they knew the perilous Rock,
And blest the Abbot of Aberbrothok


Meaning … The Abbot of Aberbrothok, being a spiritual man, knew the danger posed by the submerged rock for the passing ships. It could catch the unsuspecting captain of a ship off-guard. A collision of the keel with the rock could cripple and sink it. In order to forewarn the sailors, he had placed a large bell atop a buoy and had it anchored to the rock with a chain. The sea waves relentlessly rocked the bell back and forth. The sound from the large bell reverberated all around warning the passing ships to steer clear of the rock. It was a simple arrangement to avert disasters. Mariners invariably praised the Abot for this kind act of placing the warning device on the rock.


The Sun in the heaven was shining gay,
All things were joyful on that day;
The sea-birds scream’d as they wheel’d round,
And there was joyaunce in their sound.


Meaning … It was a cheerful sunny day. The sea birds flew past the ship in their typical raucous manner. The mood aboard the ship was buoyant.


The buoy of the Inchcape Bell was seen
A darker speck on the ocean green;
Sir Ralph the Rover walk’d his deck,
And fix’d his eye on the darker speck.


Meaning .. Sir Rover, the Captain of the ship paced along the ship’s deck in a relaxed mood. His eyes fell on the buoy of the Inchcape Bell visible from a long distance. It was a tiny dark piece with the green ocean’s waters. He observed the bell carefully.


He felt the cheering power of spring,
It made him whistle, it made him sing;
His heart was mirthful to excess,
But the Rover’s mirth was wickedness.


Meaning … The Spring season lifted his spirits. He felt unusually joyous as magic of the cheerful weather gripped his mind. He whistled and sang in delight as his heart swayed in joy. Sadly, the joy rekindled the devil inside him.


His eye was on the Inchcape Float;
Quoth he, “My men, put out the boat,
And row me to the Inchcape Rock,
And I’ll plague the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”


Meaning .. The Satan inside him made him to cook up a very nasty plan. He wanted the good work of the Abot to be destroyed due to no apparent reason. The intent was so clearly wicked. By destroying the Bell, he could engineer many more fatal collisions of passing ships with the hidden treacherous rock. It was so sinful an idea, but Rover felt impelled to carry it out. He ordered his men to lower a small boat from the ship so that he could row to the Bell’s proximity to uproot it. The warning signal could be gone forever.


The boat is lower’d, the boatmen row,
And to the Inchcape Rock they go;
Sir Ralph bent over from the boat,
And he cut the bell from the Inchcape Float.


Meaning … In no time, Rover approached the Bell. From his boat, he bent over to cut the chain of the buoy, thus destroying the device.


Down sank the Bell with a gurgling sound,
The bubbles rose and burst around;
Quoth Sir Ralph, “The next who comes to the Rock,
Won’t bless the Abbot of Aberbrothok.”


Meaning … With the buoy separated, the Bell sank to the bed of the sea. The sound died and the bubbles vanished. Rover rejoiced at what he had done. He knew the peril will soon ravage many ships and there will be none to shower their gratitude on the Abot!


Sir Ralph the Rover sail’d away,
He scour’d the seas for many a day;
And now grown rich with plunder’d store,
He steers his course for Scotland’s shore.


Meaning .. Having done the despicable act, Rover sailed away on his voyage. It was a long voyage that took him from place to place. He was a pirate who amassed his wealth through banditry on the high seas. He attacked other ships and looted their wealth at gunpoint. Finally, he headed towards Scotland.


So thick a haze o’erspreads the sky,
They cannot see the sun on high;
The wind hath blown a gale all day,
At evening it hath died away.


Meaning .. On one occasion, the sea became rough, windy, and dark. A thick haze descended on the waters like a shroud. Visibility was very poor. The atmosphere was gloomy. The howling winds of the day, however, had slowed down by dusk.


On the deck the Rover takes his stand,
So dark it is they see no land.
Quoth Sir Ralph, “It will be lighter soon,
For there is the dawn of the rising Moon.”


Meaning … Rover stood in the deck a little concerned, and scanned the horizon. The darkness made it impossible to sight any land. Sir Ralph wanted to remain optimistic. He thought things would return to normalcy with the day’s passing. Moon had appeared in the night sky.


“Canst hear,” said one, “the breakers roar?
For methinks we should be near the shore.”
“Now, where we are I cannot tell,
But I wish we could hear the Inchcape Bell.”


Meaning .. A sailor onboard the ship stood on the deck clueless about the position of the ship. The roar of the waves were somewhat muted. Someone guessed they were close to land. At that moment, the sailor wished he could hear the Inchcape Bell’s warning (and comforting) knells.


They hear no sound, the swell is strong,
Though the wind hath fallen they drift along;
Till the vessel strikes with a shivering shock,
“Oh Christ! It is the Inchcape Rock!”


Meaning … The sea became more worrisome. The sailors tried to trace the Inchcape Bell’s sound, but heard nothing of the sort. The sea drifted listlessly. Then came the thud and the sound all sailors dread. It was the shock caused by the ship running into the infamous Inchcape Rock. The ship was doomed.


Sir Ralph the Rover tore his hair,
He curst himself in his despair;
The waves rush in on every side,
The ship is sinking beneath the tide.


Meaning .. It was the day of reckoning for the hideous Ralph. He had fallen into the ditch he had dug for others. As water gushed in from all sides, Sir Ralph knew the end was near. He cursed himself over and over again in anger, disgust and frustration. The ship was heading towards its watery grave.


But even in his dying fear,
One dreadful sound could the Rover hear;
A sound as if with the Inchcape Bell,
The Devil below was ringing his knell.


Meaning …. In the moments preceding his death, Sir Rover heard a sound that must have sent a chill down his spine. It was the sound of the sunken Inchcape Bell. Apparently, the devils in the deep sea were ringing the Bell to tell Ralph that it was sweet revenge!



The Inchcape Rock Questions and answers … 

Question 1 .. Why had the Abbot of Aberbrothok placed the Bell on the Inchcape Rock?

The Inchcape Rock posed real danger to the shipping in the area lying to the south-east of Scotland. When the sea was calm, the upper portion of the Rock was visible to the passing ships as the water level remained low. The captain would see the Rock and steer clear of it with ease. But, when the sea became turbulent, the water would rise and submerge the Rock. The unsuspecting Captain would run into the hidden Rock wrecking his ship.

To avert such disasters, the Abbot of Aberbrothok, a kind man with an altruistic mind, had tethered a large brass warning bell to the tip of the rock. When a storm blew, the Bell would sway with the choppy water and give out a loud sound. The sound alerted the passing ships of the hidden danger and made them to bypass the perilous rock. Many shipwrecks were thus preempted.


Question 2 .. Why did Ralph cut off the Bell?

Ralph was a wicked-minded, and jealous person. He made his riches through piracy. Ships in distress were easy preys for Ralph. The Inchape Bell helped to avert many shipwrecks. Thus the Bell, a great boon to many sailors, was an impediment to Ralph.

Apart from this, Ralph was a devilish person. He couldn’t tolerate the way sailors showered their gratitude on the Abbot for having installed the Inchcape Bell atop the Rock. Jealousy against the Abbot drove him to cut off the bell.


Question 3 … What sort of man the Abbot of Aberbrothok was?

He was an Abbot. That explains why he was so spiritual, benign, and compassionate. He was distressed to see ships meeting their end due to the hidden rock in the sea. Installing the Bell was a clever way to warn the sailors to steer clear of danger.


Question 4 .. Describe the dying moments of Ralph.

When Ralph realized that he along with his men was doomed, his mind became a maelstrom of anger, disgust and frustration. He cursed himself as it dawned upon him that the missing Bell had been the cause of his tragedy. As the death drew nearer, he heard the same sound that the sinking bell had made while falling down to the sea bed. The sound grimly reminded him of his sin of dislodging the Bell.






ICSE English Literature — India’s Heroes

India’s Heroes

The students in Mrs. Baruah’s class swiftly straightened up in their seats as she entered the class room. Excitement was in the air as the Class 8A students knew it was going to be different that day. An eloquence practice was scheduled. All of them had been told to come prepared with their speeches.
Mrs. Baruah repeated the topic for the speech. It was ‘Who would you like to be when you grow up?’ In other words, the students had to choose one person from among the best and brightest Indians whom they adored most, and would like to emulate.
From the number of hands that went up, it became apparent that nearly everyone was eager to speak. Such response gladdened her. She knew the topic had fired the imagination of her students.
She proceeded to explain the scope of the topic a little more. ‘The students could cite an illustrious person, and even certain highly laudable traits and qualities in ordinary men and women’, Mrs. Baruah clarified.
The students hastened to arrange the rough sheets of paper on which they had jotted down the points.
It was Ajit Basu who spoke first. He was a die-hard Tendulkar fan. No doubt, he idolized him. Then spoke Gayatri Chhabra, who wanted to devote her life to social work following the footsteps of her mother. Sanjay Damle spoke of her passion for aviation and his dream of soaring into the sky to fly among the clouds one day.
The entire class listened carefully as one after another of their peers stood up to explain the ideals and persons that had stirred them.
It was Kabeer’s turn. He got up as if he shouldered a big load. He was a bundle of nerves. His face wore that look. Perhaps, he was facing the class for the first time to speak to them in a loud enough voice.
Despite his shortcomings, Kabeer had braced for the challenge by preparing for his speech quite assiduously. The ideas came from deep within his inner self. The speech was a cut above the others. It dealt with not just a single great man or a single virtue, but a collage of them. Many eminent persons, and many astounding good qualities of very ordinary people around him had left a deep impression on his mind.
‘When I grow up, I would like to be like Major Unnikrishnan, the NSG commando who laid down his life fighting in Mumbai in November, 2008,’ said Kabeer in a voice that resonated in the whole class. His words seemed to benumb everyone.
Kabeer proceeded to elaborate the brave Major’s feet. The hero had made up his mind to be a soldier when he was just a eight-year-old lad studying in class 3. Finally, on reaching the appropriate age, he joined the armed forces and received training in counter –terrorism and counter-insurgency operations. Then, he joined the NSG in January, 2007. The day he had so eagerly waited all his life arrived. He was deployed to flush out the terrorists from the besieged Taj Hotel in Bombay.
He was locked in a fierce gunfight with the terrorists as soon as he entered the hotel building. One of his commandos got injured, and Major Unnikrisnan had him evacuated. Undaunted by the terrorists virtually controlling the hotel, the brave Major decided to evict them by any means. He took them on frontally. He knew, death lurked at every corner of the building, but he pressed on.
Ordering his colleagues to stay behind,  Major Unnikrishnan decided to surge ahead himself. A fierce gunfight ensued. Major Unnikrishnan was fatally wounded. In an extreme show of defiance, he tried to save the life of his colleague Gajendra Singh, despite being just moments away from his death. At last, Major Unnikrishnan breathed his last – a hero in the line of fire.
Kabeer paused for a while. He had gripped the entire class’s attention. Emotion, grief and admiration for the fallen hero swept through everyone’s heart. It was Kabeer’s one-minute speech that held the entire class spellbound.
Outside the class, life was as usual. Children of junior classes capered around, birds chirped and traffic moved along.
Kabeer moved to his next hero—Vishnu Dattaram Zende, the announcer in the CST platform. It was November 26. Ignoring the terrorists who had by then gone on a shooting spree, he continued to guide the passengers to safety through the PA system. He did not flee his position, despite the fact that the terrorists would soon target him. He was a sitting duck. Although he knew he would soon be killed, he stayed put to continuously make his announcements warning the passengers of the terror gang. Thousands of commuters escaped death because of Zende’s words of caution. Finally, the terrorists opened fire on him, but luckily, the bullets missed him. Perhaps, God wanted him alive.
Then, Kabeer proceeded to another hero of his –Karmabir Singh Kang, the General Manager of the besieged Taj Hotel. His whole family happened to be in the Hotel at the time the terrorists struck. He paid no heed to their or his safety.
 Instead, he got busy with emergency efforts to save as many of the guests of the Hotel as possible. The whole hotel was aflame as a result of indiscriminate firing by the terrorists. The room in which his family rested was on fire too. He knew fire would soon swallow them, but he concluded saving the guests was more important to him at that moment. Sadly, none from his family survived the fire, and suffocated to death in the obnoxious gasses. Not a single member survived.
True to his name, Karmabeer did not run to rescue his family, but did everything possible to save the guests. Karmabeer did not desert his post even after such a huge tragedy, and stayed on his duty to expedite the restoration work of the charred hotel.
Kabeer’s depiction of his heroes had moved a few of his classmates to tears. The stories had hit Swati hard. Kabeer, as the narrator, was also overwhelmed with emotions. He didn’t like to give vent to the grief that had overtaken him. Resolutely, he continued his speech. He averred, “When I grow up, I want to be like Hemant Karkare, the Anti-Terrorism Squad chief who laid down his life while chasing the intruders near Cama Hospital. DIG Ashok Kamte and Vijay Kalaskar were Hemant Karkare’s colleagues who were also felled by enemy bullets.”
Hemant Karkare haf worked in Austria for eight years as a RAW official. He had distinguished himself as an intelligence officer par excellence.
All the three officers fought terror with all the might and ingenuity at their command. They confronted the terrorists so that we don’t have to confront them. Through their sacrifice, they ensured our security.
Mrs. Baruah was moved to tears by the poignant portrayal of the martyrs. She struggled to hold back her tears.
Kabeer proceeded to narrate the case of Taufeeq Sheikh – the ‘Chhotu Chaiwala’. He had a tiny tea stall outside the CST terminus. The young lad swung into action on seeing the injured. He made arrangements to have the injured taken to the nearby St. George’s hospital. Through his timely intervention, he saved the lives of those hit by the enemy fire.
Kabeer’s list of heroes was not complete yet. He spoke about Sandra Samuel who saved the life of a 2-year-old toddler Moshe Holzberg. She was the boy’s nanny. The grisly murder of the boy’s parents at Nariman House could not be averted.
Lastly, Kabber came to shower his adulation on the innocuous keepers of the Kabristan—the Muslim burial ground. They were so repelled by the hideous terrorists that they refused to bury them in the burial ground. They thought, the attackers’ barbarism had been too un-Islamic to bear.
Kabeer drew down his speech. He had stirred the whole class with his powerful narration of both important and ordinary people who responded to the call of duty with such dedication. As Kabeer ended, the whole class gave him a standing ovation. Kabeer had touched a raw nerve in all their hearts.
Mrs. Baruah was convinced her pupils would grow up imbibing the values of tolerance, peace, and altruism. They would make their motherland an abode of peace – a beckon to the whole world.


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ICSE English — The Tiger in the Tunnel

The Tiger in the Tunnel

Thembu’s father, Baldeo, was a small-time employee in the railways. His job demanded working at night. No matter how cold or wet the night was, he had to brave the elements to go out of his hut for duty. His humble dwelling was beside a jungle.
On one occasion, Thembu was awake in his bed when his father got ready to step out. It was a dark, quiet and forbidding night. The stillness was broken by the shrill cry of the cicadas. One could even hear the faint tik tak sounds of the woodpeckers, digging into barks of trees with their beaks. A mild breeze blew. The grunt of a wild boar digging out its delicious roots punctuated the pervasive silence of the jungle.
Baldeo worked as a watchman in the railways. He lay awake as he had to go out on his night duty. He removed the thick shawl from his body rather reluctantly. The cold was biting. The midnight’s cold was unforgiving. The station he was attached to was very rudimentary set-up where trains stopped only occasionally. There was a long tunnel ahead, and the trains needed to be flagged in due to safety considerations. This was the reason why the trains slowed down briefly as they went past the station to enter the tunnel.
On Baldeo’s shoulders lay the responsibility of inspecting the tunnel for any possible obstruction of the track. He would signal the trains in only if there was no hindrance to obstruct the train. Baldeo used to stand guard at the tunnel entrance and manually wave the train in by his hand-crafted signal. Despite, the basic nature of this arrangement, Baldeo’s contribution to the safe passage of the train was critical.
On that fateful night, the young boy Thembu wanted to accompany his father. His curiousity got the better of his comfort in the warm bed. But, Baldeo didn’t want his son to be exposed to that night’s cold. Thembu was asked not to venture out.
Thembu was a 12-year-old then. He had to extend a helping hand to his mother and young sister in household chores and in the work in the family farm. This robbed him of the opportunity to sleep in the station beside his father, Baldeo. From the station to their hut that stood bordering the tribal village, it was a three mile trek. Baldeo’s salary from the railways, although meager, came in handy to meet his family’s needs. The paltry income from their paddy farm fell well short of their needs. Baldeo, had thus managed to avoid grinding poverty. His love for the railways and the Khalasi job he did was, therefore, understandable.
Baldeo, with sleep weighing down his eye lids, struggled to rise. It took him some effort to find the match box he wanted to light the lamp. Undeterred by the darkness and the cold, he stepped out of his hut and set off for the station treading the same solitary jungle path which he used every night on his way to duty. Thembu had fallen asleep again in the meanwhile.
Baldeo was not sure if the lamp in the signal post was alight. Wrapping the shawl around his body, he trudged forward along the track in the chill. It was not a pleasant job, but he did it each night dutifully. But, he loved to return to the warmth of his hut.
The hills on either towered over the rail track. An uncanny feeling of fear seemed to grip the desolate area. The wild animals were there around the place. Baldeo had to be very alert to their presence. He had heard many stories about the man-eaters that stalked the tunnel, but he consciously brushed these tales as nothing but figments of imagination. Till that night, he had not encountered any wild animal.
Some panthers, obviously, were there. One such cat was killed by the villagers. Their spears pierced its body to death. Panthers had stayed clear of Baldeo’s hut so far.
Baldeo, undaunted by the looming danger of wild animals in the area, walked forward confidently. His tribal blood had trained him to defy the fears. He carried a small axe, which he could use to deadly effect when the need rose. He used it to chop off trees, and as a bulwark against the jungle animals’ possible attack.
On one occasion, he had killed a boar with the same axe. His family feasted on its meat for three days. The axe was a precious family possession. It had belonged to his father who had wrought its steel blade quite deftly over charcoal fire. The blade’s shine had remained intact over the years. In the hand of Baldeo, it was a formidable weapon against any attack. On occasions, railway officials had offered good money to buy the weapon, but Baldeo was too proud of it to part with it.
Baldeo, finally, reached the tunnel. It was a frightening sight as the dark interior seemed to awe any intruder.
Baldeo’s concern was the lamp. It had stopped burning. Had it run dry? He wanted to ascertain if there was enough oil left in it. If not, he would have to rush home to fetch some. The train was due soon. He lowered the lamp using its chain.
As he ran his hand over his body to get hold of the match box, he could hear the shriek of a deer from afar. He heard a big thud from nearby undergrowth. It made Baldeo’s hairs stand on their roots. Luckily for him, there was some oil left in the lamp. That saved him the trouble of going back to his hut. He lit the lamp, put it in position, and looked around apprehensively.
Not losing any more time, he went on his inspection tour of the tunnel’s passageway. The lamp on his hand swung as he walked briskly. The shadows danced to and fro on the wall. The tunnel was clear. Baldeo paced back to the entrance and waited for the train’s approach.
The train was late. Baldeo wrapped himself up tightly to kkeep warm and sat down. Soon, he dozed off, forgetting the unusual sounds he had heard some time earlier.
In the hut, the rumbling sound of the train set the environment alive. Thembu woke up from his sleep, and thinking that he was beside his father, blurted out, ‘Father, it is time to light the lamp.’ Soon, he discovered that his father had left much earlier leaving him on the warm bed of the hut. He lay wide awake hoping to see his father back from duty after the train departed.
Baldeo was woken up hearing the frightening grunt of a jungle cat very close to him. Bracing up for the danger, Baldeo grabbed his axe firmly, and wanted to figure out the location from which the sound came. An ominous silence lasted for a while. Was it the lull before a storm?
A few pebbles came cascading down the slope preceded by a thump. The tiger had arrived at Ground Zero!
Baldeo knew for certain it was a tiger, but he did not know the direction in which it was moving.
‘Was the tiger heading towards his hut, where his son Thembu was asleep?’ wondered Baldeo.
Just about a minute after, the majestic animal unveiled itself within yards of where Baldeo stood. I t was coming straight at him. The tiger’s shone brightly with their piercing gaze. Baldeo’s sense told him the futility of fleeing. Outpacing a tiger on the prowl is humanly impossible, he reasoned. With the signal post at his back, Baldeo stood still frozen fear as the tiger approached.
The tiger was a man-eater. He knew how feeble humans were against its might. Expecting no great fight-back from his prey, the tiger assumed a frightening aggressive posture with its right paw forward.
Baldeo moved swiftly to evade the paw and swung back at his attacker with his axe. The axe landed on the tiger’s shoulder. The enraged tiger charged against Baldeo with full fury. Baldeo again hit back at it with his axe. The axe inflicted a deep cut on the tiger’s leg, almost chopping it off. Unfortunately, the axe remained stuck in the tiger’s body leaving Baldeo without his only weapon of defence. Baldeo became utterly vulnerable now.
The tiger, seething in pain, pounced upon Baldeo with savage vengeance, and tore his body apart in no time. For Baldeo, the end came swiftly. He felt an excruciating pain on his back before falling silent for good. He had perished.
The tiger retreated to a distance and licked its limb. The pain of the cut made him to grunt intermittently. The tiger was also shaken by the encounter. It could not hear the sound of the approaching train. The Overland Mail came in majestically with its furnace aglow and smoke and sparks shrouding the engine as it struggled to climb up the incline.
Just before entering the tunnel, the driver blew the steam whistle, as was customary. The intent was to ward off obstructions from the track. The train kicked up a big noise inside the narrow tunnel. After a while, it emerged triumphantly at the other end. The din in the forest died down fast. Everything fell silent as if nothing had happened.
As a routine practice, the driver halted the train to re-charge water into the engine. He got down for unwinding a bit, and inspecting the headlamp. But, what he saw sent a shiver down his spine. He had never see anything like this before.
The tiger’s mangled body was stuck just above the cowcatcher of the engine. Obviously, the tiger had been mauled by the steel giant.
People soon gathered around the place. They gaped at the carcass, and made their own judgments in shock and wonder.
Thembu had arrived on the spot where the deadly encounter with the tiger had ended his father’s life. The poor boy sobbed as he looked on with his tear-filled eyes at what remained of his dead father. He sat there, undeterred by the approaching darkness. He wanted to guard his father’s dead body from the jungle animals who relished human flesh. The relief watchman came in due course.
For two complete days a pall of gloom hung over Thembu, his sister and the mother. The grief almost numbed them into silence.
But, life had to go on, regardless of the misfortune. On Thembu’s shoulder fell the responsibility of earning a living. Just three nights after the ghastly incident involving his father, Thembu was there at the tunnel doing exactly what his dead father did. It was a legacy he was proud of.
To cut the boredom, Thembu sang silently to himself as he waited for the incoming train. His father had fought valiantly winning everyone’s acclaim. The tiger’s death was sweet revenge for Thembu’s family. Besides, he had inherited the legendary axe that had inflicted such a fatal cut on the tiger. He felt proud.

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