Chapter 1 The Best Christmas Present in the World
Question and Answers Class 8 – English – Honeydew
|The Best Christmas Present in the World
|Class 8 English NCERT Solutions
Question 1 What did the author find in a junk shop?
Answer The author found a very old 19th century roll-top desk in a junk shop. It was made of oak and was in a bad condition. One of its legs was clumsy. The top was broken into several pieces and there were scratch marks on one side. So it was being sold at a cheap price.
Question 2 What did he find in a secret drawer? Who do you think had put it in there?
Answer In a secret drawer of the roll-top desk, the author found a small tin box. There was a letter in that box. There was a piece of lined newspaper pasted on the box. On it, these words were written: “Jim’s last letter received January 25, 1915. To be buried with me when the time comes.” This clearly indicated that it was placed there by the addressee. The address on the envelope revealed that it was for Mrs. Jim Macpherson of 12, Copper Breeches Bridport, Dorset.” So Connie, the wife of Jim Macpherson must have put it there.
Question 1 Who had written the letter, to whom, and when?
Answer Jim Macpherson was a captain of the British army. He wrote this letter while fighting the German forces. The letter was dated December 26, 1914. It was addressed to his wife Connie.
Question 2 Why was the letter written? what was the wonderful thing that had happened?
Answer The letter was written to describe a wonderful incident. It occurred on the Christmas Day of 1914. The wonderful thing was that the two armies fighting against each other had celebrated Christmas together. The initiative was taken by the Germans. First they shouted ‘Happy Christmas’ to the English from the no man’s land. The English responded with “same to you”. This encouraged the Germans. They waved a white flag and crossed the no man’s land to reach the English camp. Once together, they were very happy. They ate, drank and played a football match. Ultimately when they parted, they did so with a heavy heart.
Question 3 What jobs did Hans Wolf and Jim Macpherson have when they were not soldiers?
Answer Hans Wolf played the cello in the orchestra when he was not a soldier. Jim Macpherson was a teacher in Dorset. Both were not soldiers in their normal life.
Question 4 Had Hans Wolf ever been to Dorset? Why did he say he knew it?
Answer No. Hans Wolf had never been to Dorset. He had been reading English books. Hardy was his favourite author. Hardy’s novel ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ was his favourite book. This book describes Dorset. So Hans Wolf said he knew Dorset well.
Question 5 Do you think Jim Macpherson came back from the war? How do you know this?
Answer The sellotaped note paper was the last that was written by Jim last letter. Hence it was likely that he didn’t come back from the war. His wife never received any more letters from him after that and Connie knew about his death. That was why she kept the letter in a tin box. She wrote on the top of the box that it was Jim’s last letter.
Question 1 Why did the author go to Bridport?
Answer The author was guilty that he opened the letter inside the drawer and read it. The author went to Bridport in search of Mrs. Jim Macpherson. He wanted to give her back her important letter.
Question 2 How old was Mrs. Macpherson now? Where was she?
Answer Mrs. Macpherson was now 101 years old. Mrs. Macpherson was in a nursing home in Burlington home, on Dorchester Road on the other side of the town.
Question 1 Who did Connie Macpherson think her visitor was?
Answer Connie Macpherson thought that her visitor was her husband Jim Macpherson.
Question 2 Which sentence in the text shows that the visitor did not try to hide his identity?
Answer The sentence in the text is—“I explained about the desk, about how I found it.”
Working with the Text
Question 1 For how long do you think Connie had kept Jim’s letter? Give reasons for your answer.
Answer Connie had kept Jim’s letter for a long time. She had received it on January 25, 1915. Jim had written it on December 26, 1914. At that time Jim was an officer, a captain in the English army. A captain in the army is always a young man. It means that Jim’s wife Connie must have also been young. In the story she is 101. It means the letter was about 7075 years old. The table containing the letter was found in a junk shop. Again it indicates its oldness.
Question 2 Why do you think the desk had been sold, and when?
Answer The desk must have been sold when Connie’s house had burnt. The table had been damaged by fire as well as water.
Question 3 Why do Jim and Hans think that games or sports are good ways of resolving conflicts? Do you agree?
Answer While playing games, nobody dies at the end of it. No woman becomes a widow and no child loses their father. Jim and Hans did think that games or sports are a good way of resolving conflict. Wars only cause destruction and death, and nothing is gained after that. The way the soldiers celebrated Christmas by playing football in no man’s land was such a beautiful incident to show that wars are a useless way to show dominance and its humanity that wins at last.
Question 4 Do you think the soldiers of the two armies are like each other, or different from each other? Find evidence from the story to support your answer.
Answer The soldiers of the two armies are like each other. They like to greet each other. They play football. They eat and drink together. The two captains talk affectionately about their lives away from the field. Jim even shared the cake he was sent over by his wife. At night they even exchanged carols and ended Christmas merrily. The soldiers of both armies are eager for the war to end. They want to go back to their families. Thus, there is much which is common between them.
Question 5 Mention the various ways in which the British and the German soldiers become friends and find things in common at Christmas.
Answer It was the Christmas that made the British and German soldiers friends. The Germans waved a white flag and wished the British a happy Christmas. The British responded with ‘same to you.” They were surprised when the Germans moved further towards them without arms. Then they came close and shook hands. The Christmas and the ways of celebrating it were common between the two. They played, they ate and they sang carols. The two captains talked of their families. They talked of their own fields of activity when there was no war. They also talked about the books they liked, and they played a match of football together They had the same tender feelings about life. They did not want to fight. They wanted peace. They wanted to be with their families as soon as possible.
Question 6 What is Connie’s Christmas present? Why is it “the best Christmas present in the world”?
Answer Connie mistook the narrator as her husband when he came to return the box and her letter. Due to old age, she eventually lost her memory and mistook the narrator to be her husband. She thought that he had returned back. The narrator, even though it was an illusion of her husband, became her best Christmas present ever. In the letter, Jim wrote that he would come back on Christmas and when the narrator came to meet her on Christmas, she felt that her husband kept his promise and came back on Christmas. His visit would have made him extremely happy and content.
Question 7 Do you think the title of this story is suitable for it? Can you think of any other title(s)?
Answer The title of the story is quite suitable. ‘The Best Christmas Present in the World’ refers to the present for the old lady. Otherwise also the story is woven around Christmas. However, it is always possible to find alternate titles. For example, ‘War’ can be another title. The story is after all an anti-war story. ‘Christmas’ could also be a title because the story narrates two important Christmas days.
Working with Language
Question 1. Look at these sentences from the story.
I spotted it in a junk shop in Bridport… The man said it was made in the early nineteenth century… This one was in a bad condition…
The italicised verbs are in the past tense. They tell us what happened in the past, before now.
(i) Read the passage below and underline the verbs in the past tense.
A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.
(i) A man got on the train and sat down. The compartment was empty except for one lady. She took her gloves off. A few hours later the police arrested the man. They held him for 24 hours and then freed him.
Now look at these sentences.
The veneer had lifted almost everywhere. Both fire and water had taken their toll on this desk.
Notice the verb forms had lifted, had taken (their toll).
The author found and bought the desk in the past.
The desk was damaged before the author found it and bought it.
Fire and water had damaged the desk before the author found it and bought it.
– We use verb forms like had damaged for an event in the ‘earlier past’. If there are two events in the past, we use the ‘had…’ form for the event that occurred first in the past.
– We also use the past perfect tense to show that something was wished for, or expected before a particular time in the past. For example, I had always wanted one…
– Discuss with your partner the difference in meaning in the sentences below.
When I reached the station, the train left.
When I reached the station, the train had left.
(ii) Fill in the blanks using the correct form of the verbs in brackets.
My little sister is very naughty. When she __________ (come) back from school yesterday, she had __________ (tear) her dress. We __________ (ask) her how it had __________ (happen). She __________ (say) she __________ __________ (have, quarrel) with a boy. She __________ __________ (have, beat) him in a race and he __________ __________ (have, try) to push her. She __________ __________ (have,tell) the teacher and so he __________ __________ (have, chase) her, and she __________ __________ (have, fall) down and __________ __________ (have, tear) her dress.
(ii) My little sister is very naughty. When she came (come) back from school yesterday, she had torn(tear) her dress. We asked (ask) her how it had happened (happen). She said (say) she had quarrelled (have, quarrel) with a boy. She had beaten (have, beat) him in a race and he had tried (have, try) to push her. She had told (have, tell) the teacher and so he had chased (have, chase) her, and she had fallen (have, fall) down and had torn (have, tear) her dress.
(iii) Underline the verbs and arrange them in two columns, Past and Earlier past.
(a) My friends set out to see the caves in the next town, but I stayed at home, because I had seen them already.
(a) My friends set out to see the caves in the next town, but I stayed at home because I had seen them already.
(b) When they arrived at the station, their train had left. They came back home, but by that time I had gone out to see a movie!
(b) When they arrived at the station, their train had left. They came back home, but by that time I had gone out to see a movie
(c) So they sat outside and ate the lunch I had packed for them.
(c) So they sat outside and ate the lunch I had packed for them.
(d) By the time I returned, they had fallen asleep!
(d) By the time I returned, they had fallen asleep!
Question 2 Dictionary work
By the end of the journey, we had run out of drinking water.
Look at the verb run out of in this sentence. It is a phrasal verb: it has two parts, a verb and a preposition or an adverb. Phrasal verbs often have meanings that are different from the meanings of their parts.
Find these phrasal verbs in the story.
Write down the sentences in which they occur. Consult a dictionary and write down the meaning that you think matches the meaning of the phrasal verb in the sentence.
Question 3 Noun phrase
Read the following sentence.
I took out a small black tin box.
The phrase in italics is a noun phrase.
It has the noun — box — as the head word, and three adjectives preceding it.
Notice the order in which the adjectives occur — size (small), colour (black) and material (tin) of which it is made.
We rarely use more than four adjectives before a noun and there is no rigid order in which they are used, though there is a preferred order of modifiers/adjectives in a noun phrase, as given below
|modifier 1 (opinion, feeling)
|modifier 2 (size, shape, age)
|modifier 3 (colour)
|modifier 4 (material)
|tall/ round/ old/young
|woman/ man/ table/chair
Question 4. The table below contains a list of nouns and some adjectives. Use as many adjectives as you can to describe each noun. You might come up with some funny descriptions!
|circular, striped, enormous, multicoloured, round, cheerful,
wild, blue, red, chubby,
large, medium-sized, cold
|enormous, striped, wild, large, cheerful
|round, cheerful, chubby
|circular, large, multicoloured
Question 1 In groups discuss whether wars are a good way to end conflicts between countries. Then present your arguments to the whole class.
Answer War means bloodshed, hate and destruction. It shows the animalism in man. Even the animals fight for some sound reason. But nations go to war to settle some petty dispute or in the name of religion. War solves no problem. Understanding alone can end differences. All religions condemn greed and bloody quarrels. Wars are never a good way to end conflicts between countries. It is because wars are devastating. They ruin humanity. They can only harm us. A large number of men and women are killed. Many families are destroyed. If we try to find a peaceful solution of the conflicts, the countries would flourish. There would always be peace. Countries will be strong.
Question 2 What kind of presents do you like and why? What are the things you keep in mind when you buy presents for others? Discuss with your partner. (For example, you might buy a book because it can be read and re-read over a period of time.)
Answer Whenever we buy presents we keep various factors in mind. First its utility, then durability and then price. We also think of giving the maximum benefit of the present to the person concerned.
Question 1 Imagine that you are Jim. You have returned to your town after the war. In your diary record how you feel about the changes you see and the events that occur in your town. You could begin like this
25 December, 1919
It’s Christmas today, but the town looks….
Suppose you are the visitor. You are in a dilemma. You don’t know whether to disclose your identity and disappoint the old lady or let her believe that her dear Jim has come back. Write a letter to a friend highlighting your anxiety, fears and feelings.
Question 2 Given below is the outline of a story. Construct the story using the outline. A young, newly married doctor _______________ freedom fighter _______________ exiled to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands by the British _______________ infamous Cellular Jail _______________ prisoners tortured _______________ revolt by inmates _______________ doctor hanged _______________ wife waits for his return _______________ becomes old _______________ continues to wait with hope and faith.
Answer This story belongs to the early 20th century. The young Indians wanted to be free. Ironically, most of them had had Western and English education. One such person was a young doctor. He was married and had a good practice. One day he came in contact with freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Chandra Shekhar Azad. He joined their party. The struggle required money. So he was involved in an attack on a government bank. He was caught. He was tried in court and sent to exile in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Together with others of his type, he was kept in infamous Cellular Jail. There the prisoners were tortured. The doctor could not stand it. He revolted against the prison authorities. He was hanged there. Back in India, his wife knew nothing. Meanwhile the country became free in 1947. The lady expected her husband to come back but how could he? She is now very old. Still she is convinced that he would come back. She continues to wait with hope and faith.