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'In the pantheon of great
writers, of profound voices, Milton stands second only to
Shakespeare,' Miss Wilcox said, her boot heels making pok
pok noises on the bare wood floor as she crossed and recrossed
the room. 'Now, of course one may argue that Donne deserves…'
'Psst, Mattie! Mattie, look!'
I slid my eyes off the book
I was sharing with Weaver, toward the desk on my left. Jim
and Will Loumis had a spider on a piece of thread. They were
letting it crawl back and forth on its leash, giggling like
idiots. Bug taming was a Loumis specialty. First, Jim would
pull a piece of thread from his shirt hem and painstakingly
fashion it into a tiny noose. Then Will would snatch up a
spider or a fly when Miss Wi1cox`s back was turned. He would
hold his victim in cupped hands and shake it until it was
stunned. Then, as Will held the bug, Jim would slip the noose
over its head. When the bug regained its senses, it became
the star attraction in the Loumis Brothers Circus, which,
depending on the time of year, might also feature a three-legged
bullfrog, a crayfish, a blue jay or a squirrel.
I rolled my eyes. At sixteen
I was too old to be attending the Inlet Common School. The
leaving age was fourteen, and most didn't make it that far.
But our old teacher, Miss Parrish, told Miss Wilcox about
Weaver and myself before she left. She said that we were smart
enough to earn high school diplomas and that it was a shame
that we couldn't. The only high school in the area, though,
was in Old Forge, a proper town ten miles south of Eagle Bay.
It was too far to travel every day, especially in winter.
We would have had to board with a family there during the
week, and neither of us could afford to. Miss Wilcox said
she would teach us the course work herself if we wanted to
learn it, and she did. She had taught in a fancy girls' academy
in New York City, and she knew plenty.
She had come to my house last
November to talk with my parents about my getting a diploma.
Mamma made us all wash before she came - even Pa - and had
Abby make a gingerbread and me do the girls' hair. Mamma couldn't
get downstairs that day, and Miss Wilcox had to go see her
in her bedroom. I don't know what Miss Wilcox said to her,
but after she left, Mamma told me I was to get my diploma
even though Pa wanted me to leave school.
Weaver and I spent most of
the year preparing for our exit examinations. We were going
to take the hardest ones - the Board of Regents - in English
composition, literature, history, science and mathematics.
I was particularly worried about mathematics. Miss Wilcox
did her best with algebra, but her heart wasn't in it. Weaver
was good at it, though. Sometimes Miss Wilcox would just give
him the teacher's guide. He would puzzle through a problem,
then explain it to me and Miss Wilcox.
The Columbia University was
a serious and fearsome place, and a condition of Weaver's
acceptance there was that he earn B-pluses or better on all
of his exams. He'd been studying hard, and so had I, but that
day in the schoolhouse, struggling with Milton, I wasn't sure
I'd bothered. Weaver had received his letter from the university
back in January, and though it was now the beginning of the
second week of April, no letter had come for me.
A15At the beginning
of the text, Miss Wilcox was
l) talking about who she regarded as being the greatest writers.
2) asking the class for their opinions of writers.
3) trying to get the whole class to pay attention to her.
4) addressing her comments particularly to Mattie.
A16What do we learn
about what the Loumis brothers did with the spider?
1) They did it to annoy Miss Wilcox.
2) It followed their usual routine with bugs.
3) It involved a lot of noise.
4) Miss Wilcox pretended not to notice it.
A17What was Mattie's
opinion of the Loumis brothers?
1) She was glad that they provided some amusement.
2) She felt they were a bad influence on other children.
3) She admired them for their skills.
4) She thought they were too childish for her.
A18Why was Mattie still
at the Inlet Common School?
1) She and Weaver were having special lessons with Miss Wilcox.
2) The cleverest pupils usually stayed there after the age
3) She had been unable to get a place at the high school in
4) Her previous teacher had persuaded her to stay there.
A19What do we learn
about Miss Wilcox`s visit to Mattie's house?
1) It resulted in an argument between Mattie's parents.
2) Mattie had been worried about what the result of it would
3) It caused Mattie's mother to make a decision about her
4) The whole family had been looking forward to it.
A20What does Mattie
say about algebra?
1) Miss Wilcox wasn't an expert on it.
2) Weaver asked for extra work on it.
3) She made little progress with it.
4) Miss Wilcox didn't think it was an important subject.
A21What does Mattie
say about Columbia University?
1) She was surprised that it had made an offer to Weaver.
2) She didn't think she or Weaver would get the grades required
3) She didn't know if it was worth studying for a place at
4) She felt that it would suit Weaver more than her.
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