A Proud Linguist
Once upon a time there was an Austrian emperor
who made it a rule to interview every one of his soldiers once a year.
During the interviews he invariably asked three questions- "How old
are'you?", "How long have you been in my army?" and
"Are you satisfied with your pay and the food you get?" -in that
One year, the day before the imperial interviews, a
Frenchman got himself enlisted in the Austrian army. Since he knew no
German he was on tenterhooks. Now there was an old soldier in his unit who
knew a little French and was anxious to help. In fact he knew just about
enough French to be able to teach his young friend the shortest possible
answers, in the proper order , to the imperial questions.
The day arrived with all the sound and colour that
befitted it. The Emperor in all his splendour was seated on the throne,
his entourage attending respectfully in. the background. The soldiers
filed past him, each taking barely half a minute during which time the
questions were asked and the answers reverently provided.
When the Frenchman's turn came, far from being nerous
he was sure of himself, havi.ng recited the answers, in the proper order,
he did not know how many times. The Emperor looked at him long and hard
and suddenly took it into his head that he had seen the young man
somewhere before. He began, a little out of the usual order, with the
"How long have you been in my army ?"
"Twenty-one years , " replied the Frenchman ,
not without some pride in his ability to learn a foreign language so
quickly and so well.
The monarch was surprised, for the young man did not
look very much older than that , but he went on to ask:
"Then how old are you?"
"One day," came the answer.
That was too much for the Emperor, who sat back and
"Well , well. That beats me. It seems either
you're mad or I am. "
Positive that that was the last of the imperial
questions, the proud linguist stepped forward and with a smile said:
"Both, your majesty. "
Question on Text B
7. Read the following passage once. Underline the key words while
and retell the story to your partner.
Adventure at Midnight
Long ago there 1 ived two brothers who were
very poor. They lived in tiny huts at opposite sides of their large wheat
field. At the end of each summer, when harvest time came, the brothers
divided the grain they had grown into two equal parts. Some of it they
took to be milled into flour, from which they baked bread. The rest was
sold for money, with which they bought shoes, clothing, and tools.
Although they toiled from sunup to sundown, six days a
week, they hardly had enough to eat. In spite of this, they were happy
because of their great love for one another.
But one year, Sirnon, the younger brother. felt a great
His wife said, "Tell me what is making you so blue? You no longer
sing while you work, and the twinkle is gone from your eye. "
"You are right , dear wife. I am worried about my
older brother , Ruben. He is alone in the world, with neither wife nor
children. Who will care for him when he gets old and can no longer work?
If only he had some money to save for his old age! It isn't fair that we
share the harvest equally. But he is proud and will not accept gifts from
me. What shall I do?"
"Would you take food from your own children?
" She asked in astonishment. "There is nothing you can do,
"'she said. "So forget it. "
Simon knew that his wife was right , but he was
determined to help Ruben, come what might.
Meanwhile, Ruben was sitting under a tree, thinking deeply. When he
noticed a bird on the way to its winter home, he said, that bird and I are
fortunate because we are free. Neither of us has a wife and children
always needing to be fed. But my poor brother, Simon, is burdened with a
"Itisn't fair that we share the harvest equally.
Surely he deserves more than I! But he is very proud and will not accept
gifts from me. What can I do? In several days we'll take our harvest to
town. If I don't think of a plan soon, it will be too late. "
That night. when the moon was high in the sky, Ruben
went quietly to his barn where he filled a sack with wheat'?and put in on
his shoulder. Then he crossed the empty field to his brother's hut and
secretly placed his wheat with Simon's.
"Ah." he said when he had finished,
"this is better. Now my dear younger brother will have more than I.
Ruben went happily back to his hut and slept soundly
for the first time in wceks.
An hour later, Simon woke up with a start. He had
dreamed of a marvelous plan. He crept out of bed, got dressed, and went to
his barn. Filling a sack with wheat., walking across the field to Ruben's
hut, and placing it there took very little time. Before long, he was back
in bed, pulling up the covers.
"Now I can sleep peacefully," he thought,
"because Ruben will have a little extra to save for his old age.
The next morning Ruhen and Simon were amazed. How could
this be? 'hheir piles were equal, yet each knew he had secretly given
wheat to his brother. Something must have gone wrong.
So that night Ruben waited until midnight, when he
again took Simon some of his grain. "There! Now I am fully awake and
I'm sure I put it on his pile. Tomorrow mine will be smaller and his
larger, as it should be. "
A short time later, Simon did the same. He, too, was
sure that all would be well this time.
But when day dawned, each brother saw that his share
was exactly half the harvest. Ruben and Simon were desperate. Tomorrow
they were to go to town to sell their grain. Tonight was their last
Midnight came again. But this time Ruben and Simon
chose the same moment to carry out their mission of brotherly love. Each
placed a sack of wheat on his shoulders and began to walk across the
field. Halfway across they met.
"Ruben! What are you doing out so late at
night?" cried Simon in dismay. He tried to hide his sack.
Startled, Ruben dropped his bundle. Then he saw Simon's
sack and they both began to laugh. When they finished laughing, they
hugged each other tightly. Their hearts were full of love for each other
and they were content.