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A Mysterious Visit. Reading Comprehension (the 11th form)

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Key Words:

  • the first visitor;
  • branch of business;
  • particular;
  • to appear ignorant;
  • his customers;
  • we began talking;
  • presence of mind;
  • to find out all about his business;
  • my lecturing money;
  • income from;
  • nearly;
  • any mistake.

A Mysterious Visit

The first visitor that came to see me was a gentleman who said he was an assessor, and connected with the U.S. Internal Revenue Department. I said I had never heard of his branch of business before, but I was very glad to see him. Would he sit down? He sat down. I did not know anything particular to say, and I asked him if he was opening his shop in our neighbourhood.

He said he was. (I did not wish to appear ignorant, but I hoped he would say what he was going to sell.)

I asked him, “How was trade?” And he said, “So-so”.

I then said we would visit him and become his customers.

He said he thought we would like his establishment.

I do not know how it happened, but we began talking.

We talked, and talked, and talked — and we laughed, and laughed, and laughed. But all the time I had my presence of mind about me. I decided to find out all about his business – and thought I would have it out of him without his suspecting what I wanted. I would tell him all about my own business, and he would naturally forget himself, and tell me all about his affairs. I said:

“Now you never would guess what I made lecturing this winter and last spring?”

“No — I could not. Say seventeen hundred, maybe?”

“Ha! I knew you couldn’t! My lecturing money for last spring and this winter were fourteen thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars.

“Why, it is amazing — perfectly amazing, even this wasn’t all?”

“All! Why, bless you, there was my income from the newspaper for four months eight thousand dollars, for example?”

“Eight thousand! I’ll make a note of it”.

“There’s my book, The Innocents Abroad — price from $3.50 to $5. Listen to me. During the last four months and a half, we’ve sold ninety-five thousand copies of that book. Average four dollars a copy. It’s nearly four hundred thousand dollars, my son. I get half”.

“My God! Fourteen — seven — fifty — eight — two thousand”.

“Possible! If there’s any mistake it’s the other way. Two hundred and four­teen thousand, cash, is my income for this year if I know arithmetic”.

After Mark Twain

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