Chinua Achebe, excerpted from Chike and the River

achebe-300.jpgAfter the incident of the leopard skin Chike lost some of his eagerness for crossing the Niger. He did not see how he could obtain one shilling without stealing or begging. His only hope now was that some kind benefactor might give him a present of one shilling without his begging for it. But where was such a man, he wondered. Perhaps the best thing was to take his mind off the River Niger altogether; but it was not easy.

On the last day of term, all the pupils were tidying up the school premises. The boys cut the grass in the playing fields and the girls washed the classrooms. Chike’s class was working near the mango tree with all the tempting ripe fruit which they were forbidden to pick. They sang an old prisoners’ work song and swung their blades to its beat. The last day of term was always a happy, carefree day; but it was also a day of anxiety because the results of the term’s examination would be announced. Still an examination was an examination and nobody liked to fail.

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