CSSE 2002 English

CSSE 2002 English Paper

Click on “MATERIALS” above to see the comprehension text.
The passage is from “Far From The Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy.
To the left of each line you will see the lines have been numbered.
This will help you when answering the questions.
Spend about 8 minutes reading the text.
You will have 40 minutes to complete the test.

The following passage is from Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. It is set in the countryside in the south of England, in the 19th century. Gabriel Oak is walking in the country one evening intending to seek work in the next village, when he comes across a fire in a rick-yard. A ‘rick’ or ‘stack’ is a large block of stored wheat, grain or hay. A ‘rick’ would have a pointed thatched roof to protect the harvest from rain. Ricks where built in a special ‘rick-yard’ near to each farm.

  1.    He was about to walk on, when he noticed on his left hand an unusual light—

  2.    appearing about half a mile distant. Oak watched it, and the glow increased.

  3.    Something was on fire.

  4.    Gabriel again mounted the gate and, leaping down on the other side upon what he

  5.    found to be ploughed soil, made across the field in the exact direction of the fire. The

  6.    blaze, enlarging in a double ratio by his approach and its own increase, showed him as

  7.    he drew nearer the outlines of ricks beside it, lighted up to great distinctness. A rick-yard

  8.    was the source of the fire. His weary face now began to be painted over with a rich

  9.    orange glow, and the whole front of his smock-frock and gaiters was covered with a

  10.    dancing shadow pattern of thorn-twigs—the light reaching him through a leafless

  11.    intervening hedge—and the metallic curve of his sheep-crook shone silver-bright in the

  12.    same abounding rays. He came up to the boundary fence, and stood to regain breath. It

  13.    seemed as if the spot was unoccupied by a living soul.

  14.    The fire was issuing from a long straw-stack, which was so far gone as to preclude a

  15.    possibility of saving it. A rick burns differently from a house. As the wind blows the fire

  16.    inwards, the portion in flames completely disappears like melting sugar, and the outline

  17.    is lost to the eye. However, a hay or a wheat-rick, well put together, will resist combustion

  18.    for a length of time, if it begins on the outside.

  19.    This before Gabriel’s eyes was a rick of straw, loosely put together, and the flames

  20.    darted into it with lightning swiftness. It glowed on the windward side, rising and falling

  21.    in intensity, like the coal of a cigar. Then a superincumbent bundle rolled down, with a

  22.    whisking noise; flames elongated, and bent themselves about with a quiet roar, but no

  23.    crackle. Banks of smoke went off horizontally at the back like passing clouds, and behind

  24.    these burned hidden pyres, illuminating the semi-transparent sheet of smoke to a

  25.    lustrous yellow uniformity. Individual straws in the foreground were consumed in a

  26.    creeping movement of ruddy heat, as if they were knots of red worms, and above shone

  27.    imaginary fiery faces, tongues hanging from lips, glaring eyes, and other impish forms,

  28.    from which at intervals sparks flew in clusters like birds from a nest.

  29.    Oak suddenly ceased from being a mere spectator by discovering the case to be more

  30.    serious than he had at first imagined. A scroll of smoke blew aside and revealed to him

  31.    a wheat-rick in startling juxtaposition with the decaying one, and behind this a series of

  32.    others, composing the main corn produce of the farm; so that instead of the straw-stack

  33.    standing, as he had imagined comparatively isolated, there was a regular connection

  34.    between it and the remaining stacks of the group.

  35.    Gabriel leapt over the hedge, and saw that he was not alone. The first man he came to

  36.    was running about in a great hurry, as if his thoughts were several yards in advance of

  37.    his body, which they could never drag on fast enough. Other figures now appeared

  38.    behind this shouting man and among the smoke, and Gabriel found that, far from being

  39.    alone he was in a great company—whose shadows danced merrily up and down, timed

  40.    by the jigging of the flames, and not at all by their owners’ movements. The assemblage

  41.    set to work with a remarkable confusion of purpose.

  42.    “Stop the draught under the wheat-rick!” cried Gabriel to those nearest to him. The

  43.    wheat stood on stone supports, and between these, tongues of yellow hue from the

  44.    burning straw licked and darted playfully. If the fire once got under this stack, all would

  45.    be lost.

  46.    “Get a tarpaulin—quick!” said Gabriel.

  47.    One was brought, and they hung it like a curtain across the channel. The flames

  48.    immediately ceased to go under the bottom of the wheat-rick, and stood up vertical.

  49.    “Stand here with a bucket of water and keep the tarpaulin wet.” said Gabriel again.

  50.    The flames, now driven upwards, began to attack the angles of the huge roof covering

  51.    the wheat-rick.

  52.    Oak seized the cut ends of the sheaves, and digging in his feet, and occasionally

  53.    sticking in the stem of his sheep-crook, he clambered up. He at once sat astride the very

  54.    apex, and began with his crook to beat off the fiery fragments which had lodged

  55.    thereon, shouting to the others to get him a bough and a ladder, and some water.

  56.    Billy Smallbury by this time had found a ladder, which Mark Clark ascended, holding

  57.    on beside Oak upon the thatch. The smoke at this corner was stifling, and Clark, a nimble

  58.    fellow, having been handed a bucket of water, bathed Oak’s face and sprinkled him

  59.    generally, whilst Gabriel, now with a long beech-bough in one hand, in addition to his

  60.    crook in the other, kept sweeping the stack and dislodging all fiery particles.