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Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas
for Semester 2 Reading Lessons...
Reading: Speed Reading - "The American Pepper"
Read the story in the
time given then answer the questions without looking at the story
Mummy!" shouted little Murna racing from the front door through
to the kitchen. "There's a parcel. The postman's brought a
Her mother, Savni, looked at her in
surprise. She had no idea who could have sent them a parcel. Maybe
it was a mistake. She hurried to the door to find out. Sure enough,
the postman was there, holding a parcel about the size of a small
"From America, madam," he
said. "See! American stamps."
It was true. In the top right-hand
corner of the brown paper parcel were three strange-looking stamps,
showing a man's head. The package was addressed to Savni, in big,
clear black letters.
"Well, I suppose it must be from
Great-Aunt Pasni," said Savni to herself, as the postman went
on his way down the street, whistling. "Although it must be
twenty years since we heard anything from her. I thought she would
have been dead by now."
Savni's husband Jornas and her son
Arinas were just coming in from the garden, where Murna had run to
tell them about the parcel. "Well, open it then!" said
Arinas impatiently. "Let's see what's inside!"
Setting the parcel down in the middle
of the table, Savni carefully began to tear open the paper. Inside,
there was a large silver container with a hinged lid, which was
taped shut. There was also a letter.
"What is it? What is it?"
demanded Murna impatiently. "Is it a present?"
"I have no idea," said
Savni in confusion. "I think it must be from Great-Aunt Pasni.
She went to America almost thirty years ago now. But we haven't
heard from her in twenty years. Perhaps the letter will tell
us." She opened the folded page cautiously, then looked up in
dismay. "Well, this is no help!" she said in annoyance.
"It's written in English! How does she expect us to read
English? We're poor people, we have no education. Maybe Pasni has
forgotten her native language, after thirty years in America."
"Well, open the pot,
anyway," said Jornas. "Let's see what's inside."
Cautiously, Savni pulled the tape
from the neck of the silver pot, and opened the lid. Four heads
touched over the top of the container, as their owners stared down
"Strange," said Arinas.
"All I see is powder." The pot was about one-third full of
a kind of light-grey powder.
"What is it?" asked Murna,
"We don't know, darling,"
said Savni, stroking her daughter's hair. "What do you
think?" Murna stared again into the pot.
"I think it's coffee," she
announced, finally. "American
"It's the wrong colour for
coffee, darling," said Jornas thoughtfully. "But maybe
she's on the right track. It must be some kind of food." Murna,
by now, had her nose right down into the pot. Suddenly, she lifted
her head and sneezed loudly.
"Id god ub by doze," she
"That's it!" said Arinas.
"It must be pepper! Let me try some." Dipping a finger
into the powder, he licked it. "Yes," he said, "it's
pepper all right. Mild, but quite tasty. It's American pepper."
"All right," said Savni,
"we'll try it on the stew tonight. We'll
have American-style stew!"
That evening, the whole family agreed
that the American pepper had added a special extra taste to their
usual evening stew. They were delighted with it. By the end of the
week, there was only a teaspoonful of the grey powder
left in the silver container. Then Savni called a halt.
"We're saving the last bit for
Sunday. Dr. Haret is coming to dinner, and we'll let him have some
as a special treat. Then it will be finished."
The following Sunday, the whole
family put on their best clothes, ready for dinner with Dr. Haret.
He was the local doctor, and he had become a friend of the family
many years before, when he had saved Arinas's life after an
accident. Once every couple of months, Savni invited the doctor for
dinner, and they all looked forward to his entertaining stories of
his youth at the university in the
During dinner, Savni explained to the
doctor about the mysterious American pepper, the last of which she
had put in the stew they were eating, and the letter they could not
"Well, give it to me, give it to
me!" said the doctor briskly. "I speak English! I can
translate it for you."
Savni brought the letter, and the
family waited, fascinated, as the doctor began to translate.
"Dear Savni: you don't know me,
but I am the son of your old Great-Aunt Pasni. She never talked much
to us about the old country, but in her final illness earlier this
year, she told us that after her death, she wanted her ashes to be
sent back home to you, so that you could scatter them on the hills
of the country where she was born. My mother died two weeks ago, and
her funeral and cremation took place last week. I am sending her
ashes to you in a silver casket. Please do as she asked, and spread
them over the ground near where she was born. Your cousin, George
Questions – “The American Pepper”
1. Where does this
story take place?
d) The text doesn't say
2. How was the parcel
a) in brown paper
b) in silver paper
c) in grey paper
d) in tape
3. Who was Savni?
a) a little girl
b) the Great-Aunt
c) the mother of the family
d) the son of the family
4. Why don't the
family read the letter?
a) They are too impatient to look in the container.
b) It is addressed to the doctor.
c) It is in English.
d) It is missing.
5. What does Murna
think is in the pot?
6. Why does Arinas
think that the powder is pepper?
a) It tastes very hot.
b) It makes Murna sneeze.
c) It is written on the pot.
d) The letter says so.
7. What does the
family do with the powder?
a) They keep it to give to the doctor.
b) They send it back to America.
c) They make drinks with it.
d) They put it on their food.
8. Why does Savni
save the last bit of the powder?
a) as a souvenir
b) for Dr. Haret
c) to analyse it
d) to spread it on the hills
9. How does Dr. Haret
solve the mystery?
a) He analyses the powder.
b) He recognizes the powder.
c) He is a friend of Pasni.
d) He translates the letter.
10. What was really
in the pot?
b) Great-Aunt Pasni
d) special American pepper