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As we walked back to the longhouse, Chabok, who was in front of me, suddenly stopped on the track and raised his blowpipe, quickly inserting a dart into the mouthpiece and packing the end with a small twist of raw cotton. To one side and above him, about twelve meters away, a squirrel was scampering on a branch. I wanted to see Chabok bring it down with a dart but at the same time I had an almost uncontrollable urge to cry out and frighten the animal away. It seemed such a small squirrel. Chabok aimed his blowpipe, and I felt myself holding my breath until he shot. 'Thip!' went the dart as it left the end of the tube, and I didn't see it go. The squirrel stayed on the branch unmoved, and I was sure that he had missed and called to him, "You've missed it! You've missed!" and he began to run forward shouting, "I haven't, Master! I haven't! I haven't!" And as he ran, the squirrel toppled over like a rag doll and hit the ground with a soft thud. It was still alive when Chabok picked it up - he poisoned splinter sticking right through its neck - but it was quite paralyzed and unable to move. It died some minutes later. On the way back to the longhouse Chabok sang happily for the first time since leaving the River Yai and in the evening, everyone had a small piece of squirrel meat. My own piece, no more than a mouthful, tasted like stringy rabbit.

The Temiar blowpipe is normally some two meters long and made from one single length of bamboo. It has a slender inner tube inside the outer covering so that one length warps against the other and it always remains true. From it they shoot a small dart, a splinter of wood some twenty or twenty-five centimeters in length; a pith cone at one end, the other sharpened end tipped with poison. Most aborigines are extremely accurate with a blowpipe up to a range of nine to ten meters, though for some reason they are more accurate if the target is moving vertically than if it moves horizontally. Several times I have put a cigarette on end in a tree and watched it be pinned to the bark by a blowpipe dart but a cigarette placed parallel to the ground is missed seven times out of ten.

The poison with which the darts are smeared is a mixture of poisonous saps from jungle trees and creepers. The sap is tapped from the trees and creepers with knives and is collected in small bamboo cups. This is then stirred together and boiled. The darts are dipped in the boiled mixture and allowed to dry in the sun. Any surplus is left to cool and solidify and it can then be stored away for a considerable period - allegedly as long as two years. When next needed, it is soaked in fresh water and reboiled; but for some reason the water must be fresh and water which has been standing for several days in a bamboo container cannot be used. The strength of the poison can be varied according to the strength of the mixture. Usually the tips of the darts are one of three colors. The red - procured from a fully-grown poisonous tree in its prime - is the strongest and once in the bloodstream, is fatal after about six or seven minutes. The black - which is from an old poisonous tree - is effective after half an hour, and the white - from a young sapling tree - does not take effect until after a lapse of an hour or more.

Answer the following questions in complete sentences.

1. Who do you think Chabok probably was?

2. Why was the writer torn between wanting to see Chabok shoot the squirrel with his blowpipe and wanting to frighten it away?

3. Why was Chabok singing happily all the way back to the longhouse?

4. What does a Temiar blowpipe look like?

5. What conclusion did the writer draw from his observation that a cigarette placed parallel to the ground is missed seven times out of ten?

6. What was the tip of colour of the dart used by Chabok to kill the squirrel?

7. According to the passage, how do the aborigines make poisonous darts?

Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.

8. The doctors removed a ______ of glass from the eye of the accident victim.

9. The hunter aimed accurately at the ______ before firing his shotgun.

10. "The accused was ______ seen behaving suspiciously near the vicinity of the deceased house," the prosecutor argued.

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Comprehension 1


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