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While we were still gloating over the rare bird that we had caught, our guide reappeared in a great flurry of water and mosquitoes to tell us excitedly that he had finally found the snake. It was about half a kilometer away, lying on the mat of water-plants on the surface of the swamp, quite close to the edge. He explained in great detail that we would have to take it by surprise, for it was so close to the tree that it might take cover there, and once in the thorny thickets, it would be difficult to find. We set off hopefully. Our mission was to capture the rare species and we had been fruitless for the past two nights. We had captured the strange bird by chance, and our focus had been temporarily diverted until the guide turned up. Until then our morale was rather low. I told the other members that if our effort was futile again, we would call it quits.

We tried to move as fast as we could. Despite the short distance, we had the ubiquitous mosquitoes and leeches for company. While we could manage the former with some tolerance, we were greatly mindful of the sneaky and seemingly invisible bloodsucking worms. That explained why all of us had a lighted cigarette in readiness. The smoke would drive the mosquitoes away while the ash would do the job if a leech stuck onto your body. when we finally reached the spot that the guide said was close to the reptile, we sent the cart off to a suitable vantage-point on the right, while we ploughed steadily forward. The water here was fairly shallow, but the bottom was uneven, and we kept stumbling. each time we stumbled, we made a lot of noise. The guide kept on signaling us to keep quiet, and we seemed to break the quietness unavoidably. At this rate, we will never catch the reptile, I mumbled to myself.

Sure enough, the snake saw us before we saw it. The guide suddenly uttered a sharp cry and pointed ahead. About fifteen meters away, in a clear patch of water, I could see ripples heading rapidly towards the forest edge. Uttering a brief prayer that the snake would be of a suitable size for one person to handle, I grabbed a sack and leapt down into the water. Running in the water up to my knees was indeed quite exhausting. But I struggled on, the sweat pouring profusely. I was some ten meters away when the snake hauled its glossy yellow and black body out of the water and started to glide into the tall grass. as I rushed forward in a desperate spurt, I tripped and fell flat on my face in the water. When I got to my feet, the snake had disappeared. I waded ashore, cursing bitterly and walked into the tall grass where it had vanished, to see if I could follow its trail.

I had only walked about three meters when a blunt head with open mouth struck at me from a small bush, making me leap almost instantaneously. Under the bush lay a few snakes -- not one but five of them ! Taken completely by surprise, I was terrified. It was then that the instinct of self-preservation made me accomplish what even today I find unbelievable. My pistol was spitting bullets, hitting one snake after another. then the pistol was silent -- empty. In a last gesture of exasperation, I threw it at the remaining snakes and decided to come back later. By the time the guide and the others arrived, the snakes had gone, leaving three dead behind. the guide looked half amused and half puzzled. I was supposed to catch live snakes, not dead ones. The other members thought I had come across some ferocious animals and had to shoot at them for protection.

When I told the guide that there were some snakes that had escaped and could be nearby, he asked us to take a breather while he would go ahead to scout for them. It was a rest that I much needed. I began to feel pain all over my body. As most of us felt hungry, we decided to make a quick meal. I was sure that the guide would come back soon. He had been a good guide and an experienced snake catcher. we would have accomplished our mission if we had followed his instructions strictly. As t was, we had blundered twice, and embarrassingly, I had been the culprit on both occasions. Suddenly I felt nervous about the whole thing. what if I failed again ? I would be the laughing stock of the other members. No, I must not fail again. I can't be that unlucky for the third time. With that in mind, I braced myself for another attack when the guide returned.

From paragraph 1 :
  1.

(a) Where had the guide been ?

(b) Why was he excited ?

   

From paragraph 1 :

  2.

(a) Explain the expression 'call it quits'.

(b) Why did they have to call it quits ?

    From paragraph 2 :
  3.

(a) Why did the writer and his hunting group had a lighted cigarette each ?

(b) How did they react to

   i. the mosquitoes, and

   ii. the leeches ?

    From paragraph 4 :
  4.

What did the writer do as a result of his 'instinct of self-preservation' ?

    From paragraph 5 :
  5.

(a) Why was the writer embarrassed ?

(b) Why was he nervous ?

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Answers
 

1.

(a) He had been scouting for the rare snake.

(b) He had finally found it half a kilometer away.

 

2.

(a) It means 'to give up' the attempt to catch the snake.

(b) They had failed to catch the snake for the past two nights and their morale was low.

 

3.

(a) It was to chase away the mosquitoes and get rid of the leeches on their body.

(b) (i) They could manage the mosquitoes with some tolerance.

     (ii) They disliked the leeches and took great care to avoid them.

 

4.

He shot at the snakes with his pistol.

 

5.

(a) He was embarrassed for blundering twice in his attempt to catch the snake.

(b) He was nervous because he might fail again in his third attempt.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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