Active vocabulary

1 prosperous



2 to deserve (happiness, praise, love, punishment)



3 wrinkle

to wrinkle



4 to court somebody


5 steady



6 to go (away) to sea

7 now and then

8 to amuse



9 to regret something



10 to make a fortune


11 to boast (of, about)

12 boaster

13 boastful

14 shrewd



after W.S. Maugham

George Meadow, the master of a prosperous farm, was now a man of fifty, and his wife was a year or two younger. Their three daughters were lovely and their two sons were handsome and strong. They were merry, industrious and kindly. They were happy and deserved their happiness. But the real master of the house was not George, it was his mother. She was about 70, tall, with grey hair and though her face was wrinkled, her eyes were dark, bright and shrewd.

I knew the story of Georges mother and his uncle, whose name was also George. About fifty years ago uncle George and his younger brother Tom had both courted Mrs. Meadow when she was Emily Green. George was a good-looking fellow, but not so steady as his brother, thats why Emily chose Tom. George had gone away to sea. For twenty years now and then he sent them presents. Then there was no news of him. When Tom died Mrs. Meadows wrote George about it but they never got an answer and decided that he must be dead...

Some days ago to their greatest surprise they got a letter, which informed them that George Meadows, who was ill and felt that he had not much longer to live wanted to see the house in which he had been born. I was invited to come and see him.

It goes without saying that I accepted the invitation. I found the whole family in the kitchen. I was amused to see that Mrs. Meadows wore her best silk dress. I was introduced to the old captain. He was very thin and his skin hung on his bones like an old suit that was too large for him. He had lost nearly all his teeth. It was strange to see those two old people and to think that half a century ago he had loved her and she had loved another.

Have you ever been married, Captain Meadows? I asked. Not me, he said and added: I said I would never marry anyone but you, Emily, and I never have. There was some satisfaction in his voice.

Well, you might have regretted it if you had, Mrs. Meadows said smiling.

I talked a little with the old man about China.

Theres not a port in China that I dont know better than you know your coat pocket. Where a ship can go Ive been. I could keep you sitting here all day long for six months and not tell you half the things Ive seen in my day.

Well, theres one thing youve not done, George, said Mrs. Meadows, the smile still in her blue eyes, and thats to make a fortune.

I am not a man to save money. But one thing I can say for myself: if I had a chance of going through my life again Id take it. And not many men can say that.

No, indeed, I said.

I looked at him with admiration and respect. He was a toothless, penniless old man, but he had made a success of his life, for he had enjoyed it.

When I came to see him the next day I learned that Captain Meadows had died in his sleep. Mrs. Meadows told me that he had talked about all the things that had happened to him in his long life. He was happy to be back and boasted he would live another twenty years. But death had put the full stop in the right place.

Well, Im glad he came back, said Mrs. Meadows with a faint smile, after I married Tom and George went to sea I was never sure that I had married the right man.

Exercise 1. Find in the text the sentences in which the following word-combinations are used. Use them in the sentences of your own.

deserve happiness coat pocket

wrinkled face save money

not so steady make a success of

accept the invitation he boasted

Exercise 2. Read the following statements and determine whether they are true or false.

1. George Meadows lived a lonely life at his prosperous farm.

2. His children were industrious and kindly.

3. Georges mother still looked young and attractive.

4. About 50 years ago two brothers courted the same girl.

5. The elder brother had gone away to sea because he didnt want to marry Emily.

6. Uncle George had been absent from his home for half a century, thats why he decided to come back there.

7. He told them unbelievable stories that had happened during his life.

8. He was a wealthy man now and was satisfied with his life.

Exercise 3. Answer the following questions:

1. What does the author tell us about this family?

2. What were their children like?

3. Why did they deserve happiness and love?

4. Who was the real master of the house? Describe her.

5. Why did Emily marry Tom and not George?

6. Why did George go to sea?

7. Why was it a surprise for the family to get Georges letter?

8. Why did he want to return to his hearth and home?

9. Why did Emily Meadows wear her best silk dress that evening?

10. What did Captain Meadows look like?

11. What did the Captain fail to do?

12. Why couldnt the author help admiring the captain?

13. Why was Mrs. Meadows happy to see the captain back?

14. What do you think of captain Meadows?

15. Had Mrs. Meadows married the right man?