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COURTESY OF ATIKA SCHOOL
Read the passage below and then answer questions 26 to 38
All his life Charles Dickens, one of the greatest novelists in the world, would remember a particular day when he was nine years old, and something his father said. They were out walking together and had stopped, as they often did, to admire a handsome brick house. With its lovely windows and neat lawn, it seemed as grand as a palace.
Then John Dickens told his son that if he worked very hard, someday he might live in that house. The thought took Charles’ breath away. The sort of person who would live in that house would be a distinguished man of taste and education. His father believed that Charles could someday be like that. All he had to do was work hard.
He could not have known on that day how far he would fall and how high he would rise, and that he really would live in that house, and that he would die there.
When Charles looked back on his childhood, these were happy years. They lived in a small house which had a little garden and, across the road; there was a playground for the children. He had a nursemaid, Mary. Who comforted his childish sorrows? She also terrified him with blood-curdling horror stories that he adored, though they gave him nightmares. He spent wonderful hours in his tiny room reading from his father’s set of novels. He went for days imagining himself to be one of his storybook heroes.
But when Charles was ten, his father was transferred to London, and his happy childhood came to a sudden end. His father had many wonderful qualities. He worked hard at his job and was loving to his wife and children. He had many friends and loved to invite them to the house in the evening for a bowl of steaming porridge and lively conversation. But he had one terrible fault: he spent more money than he made.
In the ten years of Charles’ life, the family had lived in six different houses, each poorer than the one before. And as the number of mouths to feed kept growing, the family fell deeper and deeper into debt.
When they reached London, Charles was shocked to learn that he would not be sent to school -they couldn’t afford it. He stayed at home and made himself useful by cleaning his father’s boots and minding the younger siblings. His parents seemed to have forgotten him and all his ambitions.
Two days after his twelfth birthday, Charles was sent to work at a factory. From eight in the morning till eight at night, he worked in a dark room, covering pots of boot polish and pasting on labels. Other children worked there, too, but they were not like his old friends. They were poor boys with rough manners who referred to him scornfully as the “young gentleman.”
Worse still, two weeks later his father was arrested for debt and sent to prison, where he had to stay until his debts were paid. His wife and children were allowed to join him there. The whole family living in one room- everyone, that is, except Charles. The factory was too far from the prison for him to get back before the gates were shut at night. So he lived in a cheap boarding house. From Monday morning to Saturday night, he was on his own with “no advice, no counsel, no encouragement. no consolation, no support from anyone”.
At night he wandered through the dark city. His clothes were shabby. He had no friends. Instead of growing into a fine gentleman, he had descended to the streets.
The memory of that time was so painful that, even as a grown man. Charles could not walk through those streets without the sting of tears coming to his eyes. And years later, when he became a famous writer, his stories were filled with orphaned and abandoned children, debtors’ prisons, factories, and the grim and degrading lives of the poor.
Maurice A. Nyamoti is a teacher by profession and has passion for assisting students improve performance
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