Текст рассказа сокращён и условно разделён на несколько частей для удобства работы в классе. После каждой части следуют вопросы на понимание, а в конце - вопросы для обсуждения рассказа в целом.

A. Read and translate the definition.

Point of view: The Frame Story

The point of view of a work of fiction is the position from which the characters and action are seen by the author. One special means of creating a point of view is a frame story, a story in which another story takes place. The author begins with one story and one character or set of characters. Then, within that story, the author introduces another story and another character or set of characters. Frequently a character in the frame story narrates the story it contains.
One advantage of the frame story is that it provides a writer with a kind of double voice: both the frame story and the inner story can express the theme. Each story can comment on the other and can thus reinforce and deepen the overall meaning.

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One morning the old Water-rat put his head out of his hole. He had bright beady eyes and stiff grey whiskers, and his tail was like a long bit of black indiarubber. The little ducks were swimming about in the pond, looking just like a lot of yellow canaries, and their mother, who was pure white with real red legs, was trying to teach them how to stand on their heads in the water.

'You will never be in the best society unless you can stand on your heads,' she kept saying to them; and every now and then she showed them how it was done. But the little ducks paid no attention to her. They were so young that they did not know what an advantage it is to be in society at all.

'What disobedient children!' cried the old Water-rat; 'they really deserve to be drowned.'

'Nothing of the kind,' answered the Duck; 'every one must make a beginning, and parents cannot be too patient.'

'Ah! I know nothing about the feelings of parents,' said the Water-rat: 'I am not a family man. In fact, I have never been married, and I never intend to be. Love is all very well in its way, but friendship is much higher. Indeed, I know of nothing in the world that is either nobler or rarer than a devoted friendship.'

'And what, pray, is your idea of the duties of a devoted friend?' asked a green Linnet, who was sitting on a willow-tree hard by, and had overheard the conversation.

'Yes, that is just what I want to know,' said the Duck; and she swam away to the end of the pond, and stood upon her head, in order to give her children a good example.

'What a silly question!' cried the Water-rat. 'I should expect my devoted friend to be devoted to me, of course.'

'And what would you do in return?' said the little bird, swinging upon a silver spray, and flapping his tiny wings.

'I don't understand you,' answered the Water-rat.

'Let me tell you a story on the subject,' said the Linnet.

'Is the story about me?' asked the Water-rat. 'If so, I will listen to it, for I am extremely fond of fiction.'

'It is applicable to you,' answered the Linnet; and he flew down, and alighting upon the bank, he told the story of The Devoted Friend.

'Once upon a time,' said the Linnet, 'there was an honest little fellow named Hans.'

'Was he very distinguished?' asked the Water-rat.

'No,' answered the Linnet, 'I don't think he was distinguished at all, except for his kind heart, and his funny, round, good-humoured face. He lived in a tiny cottage all by himself, and every day he worked in his garden. […] Little Hans had a great many friends, but the most devoted friend of all was big Hugh the Miller. Indeed, so devoted was the rich Miller to little Hans, that he would never go by his garden without leaning over the wall and plucking a large nosegay, or a handful of sweet herbs, or filling his pockets with plums and cherries if it was the fruit season.

"Real friends should have everything in common," the Miller used to say, and Little Hans nodded and smiled, and felt very proud of having a friend with such noble ideas.

B. Answer the questions.

  1. Who are the characters of the frame story?
  2. What do we learn about them? How do their actions and words characterize them?
  3. Which of the characters tells a story? What is the subject of his story?
  4. Why does he tell the story? Why is the Water-rat eager to listen to it?
  5. Who are the main characters of his story? What is the author’s attitude to them?
  6. Find examples of verbal irony.

[...] "But could we not ask little Hans up here?" said the Miller's youngest son. "If poor Hans is in trouble I will give him half my porridge, and show him my white rabbits."

"What a silly boy you are!" cried the Miller; "I really don't know what is the use of sending you to school. You seem not to learn anything. Why, if little Hans came up here, and saw our warm fire, and our good supper, and our great cask of red wine, he might get envious, and envy is a most terrible thing, and would spoil anybody's nature. I certainly will not allow Hans' nature to be spoiled. I am his best friend, and I will always watch over him, and see that he is not led into any temptations. Besides, if Hans came here, he might ask me to let him have some flour on credit, and that I could not do. Flour is one thing, and friendship is another, and they should not be confused. Why, the words are spelt differently, and mean quite different things. Everybody can see that."

"How well you talk!" said the Miller's Wife, pouring herself out a large glass of warm ale; "really I feel quite drowsy. It is just like being in church."

"Lots of people act well," answered the Miller; "but very few people talk well, which shows that talking is much the more difficult thing of the two, and much the finer thing also;" and he looked sternly across the table at his little son, who felt so ashamed of himself that he hung his head down, and grew quite scarlet and began to cry into his tea. However, he was so young that you must excuse him.'

'Is that the end of the story?' asked the Water-rat.

'Certainly not,' answered the Linnet, 'that is the beginning.'

'Then you are quite behind the age,' said the Water-rat. 'Every good storyteller nowadays starts with the end, and then goes on to the beginning, and concludes with the middle. That is the new method. I heard all about it the other day from a critic who was walking round the pond with a young man. He spoke of the matter at great length, and I am sure he must have been right, for he had blue spectacles and a bald head, and whenever the young man made any remark, he always answered "Pooh!" But pray go on with your story. I like the Miller immensely. I have all kinds of beautiful sentiments myself, so there is a great sympathy between us.'

'Well,' said the Linnet, hopping now on one leg and now on the other, 'as soon as the winter was over, and the primroses began to open their pale yellow stars, the Miller said to his wife that he would go down and see little Hans.

"Why, what a good heart you have!" cried his Wife; "you are always thinking of others. And mind you take the big basket with you for the flowers." […]

С. Answer the questions.

  1. What is the Miller’s idea of friendship?
  2. Why is the Miller disappointed with his son?
  3. What is the Linnet’s opinion of the Miller and his wife? Does he express it directly?
  4. Does the Water-rat approve of the Linnet’s way of telling the story? Why?
  5. What does the Water-rat think of the Miller? Why?

[…]"Good morning, little Hans," said the Miller, "and how have you been all the winter? We often talked of you during the winter and wondered how you were getting on. How lovely your flowers are looking!"

"They are certainly very lovely," said Hans, "and it's a most lucky thing for me that I have so many. I am going to take them to the market and sell them, and buy back my wheelbarrow and other things with the money. I was obliged to sell some things because the winter was a very bad time for me, and I really had no money at all to buy bread with."

"Hans," said the Miller. "I will give you my wheelbarrow. It is not in very good repair; but in spite of that I will give it to you. I know it is very generous of me, and many people would think me extremely foolish for parting with it, but I am not like the rest of the world. I think that generosity is the essence of friendship, and, besides, I have got a new wheelbarrow for myself."

"Well, really, that is very generous of you," said little Hans, "I can easily repair it, as I have a plank of wood in the house."

"A plank of wood!" said the Miller; "that is just what I want for the roof of my barn. There is a very large hole in it. How lucky you mentioned it! It is quite remarkable how one good action leads to another. I have given you my wheelbarrow, and now you are going to give me your plank. Of course, the wheelbarrow is worth far more than the plank, but true friendship never notices little things like that."

"Certainly," said little Hans and he ran to the shed and came back carrying a large plank.

"And now, as I have given you my wheelbarrow," the Miller went on, "I am sure you would like to give me some flowers in return. Here is a basket, and mind you fill it quite full."

"Quite full?" said little Hans, rather sorrowfully, for it was really a very big basket, and he knew that if he filled it he would have no flowers for the market, and he was very anxious to get his things back.

"Well, really," answered the Miller, "as I have given you my wheelbarrow, I don't think that it is much to ask you for a few flowers, I may be wrong, but I think that friendship, true friendship, is quite free from selfishness of any kind."

"My dear friend, my best friend," cried little Hans, "you are welcome to all the flowers in my garden." And he ran and picked all his pretty flowers, and filled the Miller's basket.

The next day when little Hans was working in his garden he heard the Miller's voice. The Miller had a large sack of flour on his back.

"Dear little Hans," said the Miller, "would you mind carrying this sack of flour for me to market and selling it for me? As I am going to give you my wheelbarrow, I don't think you will refuse."

"Oh, no, no," cried little Hans and he went to the market. He had waited there for some time and at last sold the sack of flour at a very good price.

"It has certainly been a hard day," he said to himself as he was going to bed, "but I am glad I did not refuse the Miller, he is my best friend and, besides, he is going to give me his wheelbarrow."

Early the next morning the Miller came down to get the money for his sack of flour, but little Hans was so tired that he was still in bed.

"You are very lazy," said the Miller. "Really, I think you ought to work harder. Idleness is a great sin, and I certainly don't like my friends to be idle. You must not mind my speaking quite plainly to you. But what is the good of friendship if one cannot say exactly what one means? Anybody can say nice things and try to please and to flatter, but a true friend always says unpleasant things, and does not mind giving pain."

"I am very sorry," said little Hans, "but I was so tired that I thought I would lie in bed for a little while."

"Well, I am glad of that," said the Miller, "for I want you to come up to the mill as soon as you are dressed and mend my barn roof for me."

Poor little Hans was very anxious to go and work in his garden, for his flowers had not been watered for two days, but he did not like to refuse the Miller, as he was such a good friend to him. So he jumped out of bed, and dressed himself, and went up to the barn.

"There is no work so delightful as the work one does for others," the Miller used to say. So little Hans worked away for the Miller, and the Miller said all kinds of beautiful things about friendship.

D. Answer the questions.

  1. What work does Hans do for the Miller? Why?
  2. How does the Miller persuade Hans to do the work?
  3. Find in parts B-D the general moralizing statements the Miller makes and explain how he interprets them.

One rainy evening little Hans was sitting by his fireside when a loud knock came at the door. "It is some poor traveller," said little Hans to himself, and he ran to the door. There stood the Miller.

"Dear little Hans," cried the Miller, "I am in great trouble. My little boy has fallen off a ladder and hurt himself. I thought that it would be much better if you went for the Doctor instead of me. You know I am going to give you my wheelbarrow, and so it is only fair that you should do something for me in return."

"Certainly", cried little Hans, "but you must lend me your lantern, as the night is so dark that I am afraid of falling into the ditch."

"I am very sorry," answered the Miller, "but it is my new lantern, and it would be a great loss to me if anything happened to it."

"Well, never mind, I will do without it," cried little Hans and started off.

What a terrible storm it was! The night was so black that little Hans could hardly see, and the wind was so strong that he could hardly stand. However, he was very courageous, and after he had been walking about three hours, he arrived at the Doctor's house. The Doctor immediately rode off towards the Miller's house.

Little Hans was walking behind him. The storm grew worse and worse, and he could not see where he was going. At last he lost his way and wandered off in the moor, which was a very dangerous place as it was full of deep holes, and there poor little Hans was drowned.

Everybody went to little Hans' funeral, as he was so popular, and the Miller was the chief mourner.

"As I was his best friend," said the Miller, "it is only fair that I should have the best place;" so he walked at the head of the procession in a long black cloak, and every now and then he wiped his eyes with a big pocket-handkerchief.

"Little Hans is certainly a great loss to everyone," said the Blacksmith, when the funeral was over, and they were all seated comfortably in the inn, drinking spiced wine and eating sweet cakes.

"A great loss to me at any rate," answered the Miller; "why, I had as good as given him my wheelbarrow, and now I really don't know what to do with it. It is very much in my way at home, and it is in such bad repair that I could not get anything for it if I sold it. I will certainly take care not to give away anything again. One certainly suffers for being generous." '

'Well?' said the Water-rat, after a long pause.

'Well, that is the end,' said the Linnet.

'But what became of the Miller?' asked the Water-rat.

'Oh! I really don't know,' replied the Linnet; 'and I am sure that I don't care.'

'It is quite evident then that you have no sympathy in your nature,' said the Water-rat.

'I am afraid you don't quite see the moral of the story,' remarked the Linnet.

'The what?' screamed the Water-rat.

'The moral.'

'Do you mean to say that the story has a moral?'

'Certainly,' said the Linnet.

'Well, really,' said the Water-rat, in a very angry manner, 'I think you should have told me that before you began. If you had done so, I certainly would not have listened to you; in fact, I should have said "Pooh," like the critic. However, I can say it now;' so he shouted out 'Pooh,' at the top of his voice, gave a whisk with his tail, and went back into his hole.

'And how do you like the Water-rat?' asked the Duck, who came paddling up some minutes afterwards. 'He has a great many good points, but for my own part I have a mother's feelings, and I can never look at a confirmed bachelor without the tears coming into my eyes.'

'I am rather afraid that I have annoyed him,' answered the Linnet. 'The fact is that I told him a story with a moral.'

'Ah! that is always a very dangerous thing to do,' said the Duck.

And I quite agree with her.

E. Answer the questions.

  1. What happened to Little Hans?
  2. How did it happen?
  3. What are the Miller’s feelings? How can you characterize the Miller?
  4. Why did the Linnet tell the story to the Water-rat? Has he reached his purpose?
  5. What conclusions does the Water-rat make about the story and the story-teller?
  6. What annoys the Water-rat? How does he behave?
  7. What does the author say he agrees with? Why does he say it?
  8. What is the author’s attitude to his characters? How is this attitude expressed?
  9. What is the general tone of the tale?
  10. What is the main idea of the tale?
  11. What does the author manage to achieve by using the frame story?