Higher secondary first year part II english



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in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.
‘If Jim doesn’t kill me,’ she said to herself, ‘ before he takes a second look

at me, he’ll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do-oh,

what could I do with a dollar and eighty seven cents?’
At 7o’ clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of

the stove, hot and ready to cook the chops.


23

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat

on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she

heard his step on the stairway down on the first flight, and she turned white

for just a moment. She had a habit of saying little silent prayers about the

simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: ‘Please, God, make him

think I am still pretty.’
The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and

very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two - and to be burdened

with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.
Jim stepped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of

quail. His eyes were fixed on Della, and there was an expression in them

that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise,

nor disapproval, nor horror, not any of the sentiments that she had been

prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression

on his face.


Della wriggled off the table and went for him.
‘Jim, darling,’ she cried, ‘ don’t look at me that way. I had my hair cut

off and sold it because I couldn’t have lived through Christmas without

giving you a present. It’ll grow out again - you won’t mind, will you? I just

had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say “Merry Christmas!” Jim, and

let’s be happy. You don’t know what a nice-what a beautiful, nice gift I’ve

got for you.’


‘You’ve cut off your hair?’ asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not

arrived at that patent fact yet, even after the hardest mental labour.


‘Cut it off and sold it,’ said Della. ‘Don’t you like me just as well,

anyhow? I’m me without my hair, ain’t I?


Jim looked about the room curiously.
‘You say your hair is gone?’ he said, with an air almost of idiocy.
‘You needn’t look for it,’ said Della. It’s sold. I tell you-sold and

gone, too. It’s Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you.

Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered,’ she went on with a sudden

serious sweetness, ‘but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I

put the chops on, Jim?’
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Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della.

For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential

object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year-what is

the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer.

The Magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark

assertion will be illuminated later on.
Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the

table.
‘Don’t make any mistake, Dell,’ he said, ‘about me. I don’t think there’s

anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me

like my girl any less. But if you’ll unwrap that package you may see why you

had me going awhile at first.’
White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an

ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! A quick feminine change to hysterical

tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting

powers of the lord of the flat.


For there lay The Combs-the set of combs, side and back, that Della

had worshipped for long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure

tortoise-shell, with jewelled rims-just the shade to wear in the beautiful

vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had

simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession.

And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted

adornments were gone.
But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look

up with dim eyes and a smile and say: ‘ My hair grows so fast, Jim!’


And then Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, ‘Oh, Oh!’
Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly

upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection

of her bright and ardent spirit.
‘Isn’t it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You’ll have to

look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to

see how it looks on it.’
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands

under the back of his head and smiled.


25

‘Dell,’ said he, ‘let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep’em

awhile. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the

money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on.’


The Magi, as you know, were wise men-wonderfully wise men-who

brought gifts to the Babe in the manger.They invented the art of giving Christmas

presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the

privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have

lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat

who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their

house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all

who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts,

such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the Magi.
FOR READERS’ PRACTICE
I. Answer the following questions:

1. How did Della save the money she needed for buying the Christmas

gift?

2. How did Della make full use of the Pier-glass?



3. What kind of present had Della planned to buy for Jim?

4. What were the proud possessions of the Dillinghams?

5. What did Della decide to present Jim? Why?

6. How did Jim react on entering the house?

7. How did Della convince Jim who was visibly upset?

8. Were the couple leading a happy life?

9. Why was Jim unable to digest the fact that Della had sold her hair?

10. ‘True love builds its edifice on sacrifice’-Explain.

11. Who were the Magi?

12. What is the irony in the story?

II. Read the following passage and answer the questionso given below:

One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it

was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer

and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the

silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied.
26

Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the

next day would be Christmas.
There was clearly nothing left to do but flop down on the shabby little

couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that

life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first

stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per

week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on

the lookout for the mendicancy squad.


In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would

go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring.

Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name ‘Mr James

DillinghamYoung’.


The ‘Dillingham’ had been flung to the breeze during a former period

of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now when

the income was shrunk to $20, the letters of Dillingham looked blurred, as

though they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and

unassuming D. But whenever Mr.James Dillingham Young came home

and reached his flat above he was called ‘Jim’ and greatly hugged by Mrs James

Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very

good.
1. How were the precious pennies saved?

2. Why did Della count the money thrice?

3. Were the Dillinghams leading a life of comfort?

4. Did the decrease in income upset the couple?

5. What is the author’s reflection on life?

SELF EVALUATION

I. Rearrange the following sentences in the correct sequence:

1. The gift was a set of combs.

2. Jim reached home late.

3. Della held out to Jim the platinum fob chain.

4. Jim was shocked when he looked at Della.

5. Della found that she did not have enough money to buy her husband a

Christmas gift.


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6. Jim suggested to keep away the gifts for a while.

7. Jim said that he had sold his watch to buy the gift.

8. Della sold her hair and bought a platinum fob chain.

9. Della said that her hair would grow fast.

10. Jim gave Della his gift.

II. Write an essay on ‘True love and sacrifice’ by developing the hints

given below:

Jim and Della - ideal couple - humble living - life - a combination

of sobs and smiles - two proud possessions - Jim’s gold watch - Della’s

hair - Della’s Christmas gift - wishes - most valuable gift - sells her hair -

buys - Platinum chain - Jim sells his watch -buys combs for Della - both

the gifts meaningless now - but remain a symbol of true love - sacrifice

being - the edifice - Jim and Della - wisest Magi.


28

REFLOWERING

Sundara Ramaswamy
Amma was lying on the cot and I was curled up on the floor right next

to it. Amma and I were free to get up as late as we pleased. We had made it

our habit over the years. We had to put up a battle of sorts to win it. Ours is

a family that takes pride in the fact that we safeguard the dharma of the

early-riser. For generations now, we’ve all bathed before sunrise. But then,

Amma and I were invalids. Amma had asthma and I suffered from joint

pains. Both could create problems early in the morning.
Outside, there was sounds of the horse shaking its mane, of its bells

jangling. The horse buggy was ready. This meant that Appa had picked up

the bunch of keys for his shop. It also meant that the clock was inching

towards eight-thirty. He would now put on his slippers. Kweech. Kweech.

Then, once downstairs, the abrupt impatient sound of the umbrella opening,

closing. The daily umbrella-health-test, that.


The door opened slightly. A thin streak of sunlight pranced into the

room, a shifting glass-pipe of light, dust swirling inside it. Appa! I see him

in profile-one eye, spectacles, half a forehead streaked with vibhuti and a

dot of chandanam paste, golden-yellow, topped by a vivid spot of red

kumkumam.
‘Boy!Ambi! Get up!’Appa said.
I closed my eyes. I did not move a limb. As if I were held captive by

deep sleep.


‘Ai! Get up. You good-for-nothing,’Amma said. ‘Appa’s calling.’
On the sly I looked at Appa. He looked affectionate, even gentle.As if

I were being roused from heavy slumber, I opened my eyes with pretended

difficulty.
‘Get ready,Ambi. Eat and then go to Aanaipaalam,’ said Appa.
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‘Go and bring Rowther to the shop straightaway. I’ll send the buggy

back for you.’
I looked at Appa, then at Amma. I had told her about the squabble

between Appa and Rowther in the shop the previous day.


‘Can you or can you not manage without him?’ asked Amma.
‘This farce has gone on far too long,’ she said. ‘Making up one day

and parting the next!’


Appa’s face reddened. It seemed as if, if it grew any redder, blood

might start dribbling from the tip of his nose.


‘Onam is round the corner. You can come to the shop and make the

bills,’ he screamed. Anger twisted his lips, slurred and flattened out the words.


‘Is Rowther the only person in this whole world who knows how to

make bills?’asked Amma.


‘Shut your mouth!’ yelled Appa. Abruptly he turned to me. ‘Get up,

you!’ he ordered.


I sprang up from my bed and stood taut as a strung bow.
‘Go. Do what I told you to,’ he growled.As if someone unseen had

tugged at the wheels attached to my feet, I moved swiftly out of the room.

I heard the horse buggy leave the house. I got ready in double quick

time. What briskness! I wore-as I usually didn’t-a dhoti over my half pants,


and a full-sleeved shirt, all in the hope that it would make me speak up with

some confidence. I didn’t feel my usual anger with Appa. I didn’t feel sad

either. It seemed as if even some little fondness seeped through. Poor thing!

He had got himself into a fix. On an impulse, he’d spoken harshly to Rowther.

He could have been more calm. Now, if a person is merely short tempered,

one can talk of calmness. But if he is anger personified?


Excited by this paradox, I went and stood before Amma. I looked her

straight in the face and I said, ‘If he is anger personified where is the question

of calmness?’Amma laughed; almost at once, she made her face stern and,

‘Smart, aren’t you?’ she asked. ‘ Now, if you are a clever boy, you’ll go take

Rowther to the shop.’ Placing her right hand over her heart she said, ‘Tell

him whatever he may have said, I apologise for it.’


30

I went and climbed into the buggy.


I too thought that we could not manage the Onam festival sales without

Rowther. Who could do sums like him? He was lightning quick in mental

arithmetic. Five people sitting in a row, with paper and pencils, would not be

equal to one Rowther and his brain. Remarkable. Even regular buyers who

flocked round him to have their bills tallied were amazed. ‘Is this a mere

human brain?’ many wondered aloud. ‘If the man can be this fast just by

listening to the figures, what would he not do if he’d been granted sight?’

And to think that Rowther has only studied up to the third class. That’s two

grades less than Gomathi who works in the shop, fetching and cleaning. The

dispute between Appa and Rowther had started mildly enough the previous

evening. ‘Look here, Rowther, what are you going to do if you let your debts

keep mounting like this?’ Appa asked. Rowther had chosen all the clothes

he wanted, piled them up by his side, before thinking of asking Appa for

credit. It was quite clear that Appa did not like this.


‘What can I do, Ayyah? My house is full of women. My sons are

useless. My sons-in-law are useless. Four sons, four daughters-in-law, eight

granddaughters, eight grandsons. How many is that? Just one piece of cloth

each, and the cost goes up.’


Appa was staring at Rowther, as if thinking. The man is getting out of

hand. I must cut him to size. Right away.


‘Kolappa, wrap up the clothes and give me the bill,’ said Rowther.
How dare he take the things before permission had been granted?

Appa’s face reddened. ‘It is not possible for me to give you credit this time,’

he said.
‘So, you’re saying you don’t want our relationship to continue, no,

Ayyah?All right. Girl, take me home.’


Rowther stood up. Gomathi took his right arm placed it on her left

shoulder. They went down the steps. When the shop closed in the evening,

he would usually look in the direction of my father and take permission to

leave. That particular evening he did not take permission. That is, he had

taken leave.
31

I thought I would first pick up Gomathi and take her with me to

Rowther’s house. That would perhaps lessen his hurt. But Gomathi was not

at home. ‘Rowther had sent word that he was not coming. She’s just left for

the shop,’ her mother said.
I took a shortcut through the grove, and reached Rowther’s house

through a narrow lane. A tiled house, the roof low. In the front yard there

was a well on the right hand side, its parapet wall, stark, unpainted, broken.

Velvet moss sprang around it in bright patches. Stone steps led to the house.

A strip of gunny bag hung from the main door.
‘It’s me, Ambi!’ I announced my arrival loudly.
A little girl came out followed by another who was obviously her twin.
‘Who is it, child?’ came Rowther’s voice from inside the house.
‘It’s me. Ambi,’ I said.
‘Come! Come! Said Rowther. His voice bubbled with happiness.
I pushed aside the sack curtain and went inside. The floor had been

swabbed smooth with cowdung. Rowther was sitting cross-legged, like a

lord. His arms reached out for me. ‘Come, come,’ his mouth kept saying.
I went and knelt in front of him. He put his arms around me. His eyes

stared and stared, as if trying to recapture the vision they had lost long ago.

He pressed me down by my shoulders, dragged me towards him and sat me

down beside him. His emotions seemed to overwhelm him.


‘Ah! You seem to be wearing a dhoti today!’ he said.
‘Just felt like it.’
‘What’s the border like?’
‘Five-striped.’
‘Just like Ayyah, uhn? The boys in the shop tell me that you look just

like your father, too. It is my misfortune that I can’t see you.’


He ran his fingers over my face, my nose, my mouth, my neck, my

eyes, my ears, my forehead. ‘Everything in place, thank the Lord.’ He laughed.


32

I thought that this was the right moment to tell him why I had come.

But words stuck in my throat, as if held there by an unseen hand.
‘Amma….’ I started to say, making a tentative start.
Rowther interrupted me. ‘ How is madam’s health now?’
‘As usual.’
‘I have Thuthuvalai, Khandankattri leghiyam. No better medicine for

asthma. Only, Ayyah likes to see English labels on his medicine bottles. I

don’t have English here. Only medicines,’ he said, enjoying his own joke

hugely.
This was the right moment to tackle him.


‘Amma wants me to take you to the shop. She wants me to tell you

that she is very sorry if Appa has said anything to hurt you. You are not to

misunderstand him. She says please don’t turn down her request.’
Rowther’s face visibly brightened. He raised his hands in salute.
‘Mother, you are a great woman,’ he called out, ‘Get up, let’s go to

the shop at once,’ he said.


That year the sales during Onam were very good. Rowther was in his

element. With great elan he supervised the shop boys who constantly jostled

around him. He looked like Abhimanyu in the Mahabharata fighting a whole

battalion, single-handedly. He would state the price as soon as the cost and

quantity of the material were mentioned to him. Only the good Lord knew

what spark it was in his brain, what genius that did not need even a minute

to calculate? A brain that could multiply and total up the cost of sixteen

different items in a trice to announce, ‘Item sixteen. Grand total - 1414

rupees 25 paise,’ how could that be called an average brain? Even if the

whole thing were written down on the blackboard, I would have easily taken

half an hour to work it out. But for him, answers slipped forth like lightning.

He had never till now made a single mistake. Amma has told me that in the

early years of their association, Appa used to sit up half the night, checking

Rowther’s calculations. It seems he’d say, ‘That man is getting beside

himself. I must find at least an error or two.’ But he never could. He just

lost a good night’s sleep.


33

One day, a cart drawn by a single bullock, heavily curtained on both

sides, stopped in front of the shop. From inside came the wailing of women

and children.


‘Sounds like the females from my household,’ Rowther said.
Rowther’s house had come up for public auction! Apparently amina

was taking all the household things and flinging them on to the street.


Rowther started crying like a child and called on God to help him out.

Even as he was emoting, Kolappan came with a bill saying, ‘45 metres and

70 centimetres at 13 rupees and 45 paise.’ Rowther stopped his keening for

a moment and said to him, ‘Write this down, 614 rupees and 66 paise.’ He

turned to my father who sat at the cash counter and sobbed. ‘Ayyah. I have

to pay the court the loan and the interest on it, more than five thousand

rupees. Where will I go for the money?’
Appa took Rowther in the horse buggy to see a lawyer.
Rowther did not show up for work the next day. Kolappan said he

had with his own eyes seen Rowther, reciting the bills in Chettiar’s shop.


‘What injustice! I have just come back after paying the court the entire

amount for his debts. He’s let me down, the ungrateful wretch!’ Appa

shouted.
The shop assistant Kolappan also whipped himself into a fury.
‘He knows how to calculate, but he’s a senseless idiot. Wait, I’ll go

this minute and drag him here by his hair,’ he said as he jumped onto his

bicycle.
Appa sat down on the floor, devastated. He started to mumble.
‘This is a wicked world,’ he said. ‘These days you can’t even trust

your own mother.’


In a little while, Kolappan returned. Rowther was sitting behind him,

on the carrier. He marched stone like Rowther to the cash-counter.


‘I lost my head, Ayyah,’ said Rowther as he stood before Appa, his

hands folded in supplication.


‘A time will come when you will be cut down to size,’ said Appa.
34

‘Please don’t say such things, Ayyah,’ pleaded Rowther. ‘Come work

for me and I’ll pay your debts, the Chettiar said. And I lost my head.’
Appa only repeated, ‘The time will come when you will be cut down

to size.’


And, surprise of surprises, things soon happened that made it look as

if Appa was going to be right after all. When Appa returned from Bombay

that year after seeing his wholesalers, he brought back a small machine and

showed it to Amma. ‘This can do calculations,’ he said


‘A machine?’
‘It can.’
Amma made up a sum. Appa pressed a few keys. The machine gave

the answer.


I quickly worked it out on a piece of paper. ‘The answer is correct,

Amma!’ I shouted.


‘Have they transformed Rowther’s brain into a machine?’ asked my

mother.
That whole day I kept trying out the calculator. That night, I kept it by

my side when I slept. I gave it the most difficult sums I could think of. Its

every was right. I remembered something Gomathi had once told me.

‘Thatha! How can you do sums in a nimit?’ she had asked Rowther, mixing

up as she always did, the Tamil and the common English word. It seems

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