Friday, April 23, 2010

"The Exact Science of Matrimony" by O. Henry, from VOA.

Now, the VOA Special English program AMERICAN STORIES. Our story today is called “The Exact Science of Matrimony.” It was written by O. Henry. Here is Barbara Klein with the story.


BARBARA KLEIN: Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker could never be trusted. One day, the two men decided to open a marriage business to make some quick and easy money. The first thing they did was to write an advertisement to be published in newspapers. Their advertisement read like this:

“A charming widow, beautiful and home-loving, would like to remarry. She is only thirty-two years old. She has three thousand dollars in cash and owns valuable property in the country. She would like a poor man with a loving heart. No objection to an older man or to one who is not good-looking. But he needs to be faithful and true, can take care of property and invest money with good judgment. Give address, with details about yourself. Signed: Lonely, care of Peters and Tucker, agents, Cairo, Illinois.”

When they finished writing the ad, Jeff Peters said to Andy Tucker: “So far, so good. And now, where is the lady?”

Andy gave Jeff an unhappy look. “What does a marriage advertisement have to do with a lady?” he asked.

“Now listen,” Jeff answered. “You know my rule, Andy. In all illegal activities, we must obey the law, in every detail. Something offered for sale must exist. It must be seen. You must be able to produce it. That is how I have kept out of trouble with the police. Now, for this business to work, we must be able to produce a charming widow, with or without the beauty, as advertised.”

“Well,” said Andy, after thinking it over, “it might be better, if the United States Post Office should decide to investigate our marriage agency. But where can you hope to find a widow who would waste her time on a marriage proposal that has no marriage in it?”

Jeff said that he knew just such a woman.

“An old friend of mine, Zeke Trotter,” he said, “used to work in a tent show. He made his wife a widow by drinking too much of the wrong kind of alcohol. I used to stop at their house often. I think we can get her to work with us.”


Missus Zeke Trotter lived in a small town not far away. Jeff Peters went out to see her. She was not beautiful and not so young. But she seemed all right to Jeff.

“Is this an honest deal you are putting on, Mister Peters?” she asked when he told her what he wanted.

“Missus Trotter,” said Jeff, “three thousand men will seek to marry you to get your money and property. What are they prepared to give in exchange? Nothing! Nothing but the bones of a lazy, dishonest, good-for-nothing fortune-seeker. We will teach them something. This will be a great moral campaign. Does that satisfy you?”

“It does, Mister Peters,” she said. “But what will my duties be? Do I have to personally reject these three thousand good-for-nothings you speak of? Or can I throw them out in bunches?”

Jeff explained that her job would be easy. She would live in a quiet hotel and have no work to do. He and Andy would take care of all letters and the business end of the plot. But he warned her that some of the men might come to see her in person. Then, she would have to meet them face-to-face and reject them. She would be paid twenty-five dollars a week and hotel costs.

“Give me five minutes to get ready,” Missus Trotter said. “Then you can start paying me.”

So Jeff took her to the city and put her in a hotel far enough from Jeff and Andy’s place to cause no suspicion.

Jeff Peters and Andy Tucker were now ready to catch a few fish on the hook. They placed their advertisement in newspapers across the country. They put two thousand dollars in a bank in Missus Trotter’s name. They gave her the bank book to show if anyone questioned the honesty of their marriage agency. They were sure that Missus Trotter could be trusted and that it was safe to leave the money in her name.

Their ad in the newspapers started a flood of letters – more than one hundred a day. Jeff and Andy worked twelve hours a day answering them. Most of the men wrote that they had lost their jobs. The world misunderstood them. But they were full of love and other good qualities.

Jeff and Andy answered every letter with high praise for the writer. They asked the men to send a photograph and more details. And they told them to include two dollars to cover the cost of giving the second letter to the charming widow.

Almost all the men sent in the two dollars requested. It seemed to be an easy business. Still, Andy and Jeff often spoke about the trouble of cutting open envelopes and taking the money out.

A few of the men came in person. Jeff and Andy sent them to Missus Trotter and she did the rest. Soon, Jeff and Andy were receiving about two hundred dollars a day. One day, a federal postal inspector came by. But Jeff satisfied him that they were not breaking the law.


After about three months, Jeff and Andy had collected more than five thousand dollars, and they decided it was time to stop. Some people were beginning to question their honesty. And, Missus Trotter seemed to have grown tired of her job. Too many men had come to see her and she did not like that.

Jeff went to Missus Trotter’s hotel to pay her what she was owed, and to say goodbye. He also wanted her to repay the two thousand dollars that was put into her bank account.

When Jeff walked into the room she was crying, like a child who did not want to go to school.

“Now, now,” he said. “What’s it all about? Somebody hurt you? Are you getting homesick?”

“No, Mister Peters,” she said. “I’ll tell you. You were always a good friend of my husband Zeke. Mister Peters, I am in love. I just love a man so hard I can’t bear not to get him. He’s just the kind I’ve always had in mind.”

“Then take him,” said Jeff. “Does he feel the same way about you?”

“He does,” Missus Trotter answered. “But there is a problem. He is one of the men who have been coming to see me in answer to your advertisement. And he will not marry me unless I give him the two thousand dollars. His name is William Wilkinson.”

Jeff felt sorry for her. He said he would be glad to let her give the two thousand dollars to Mister Wilkinson, so that she could be happy. But he said he had to talk to his partner about it.

Jeff returned to his hotel and discussed it with Andy.

“I was expecting something like this,” Andy said. “You can’t trust a woman to stick with you in any plan that involves her emotions.”

Jeff said it was a sad thing to think that they were the cause of the breaking of a woman’s heart. Andy agreed with him.

“I’ll tell you what I am willing to do,” said Andy. “Jeff, you have always been a man of a soft and generous heart. Perhaps I have been too hard and worldly and suspicious. For once, I will meet you half-way. Go to Missus Trotter. Tell her to take the two thousand dollars out of the bank and give it to this Wilkinson fellow and be happy.”

Jeff shook Andy’s hand for a long time. Then he went back to Missus Trotter. She cried as hard for joy as she had done for sorrow.


Two days later, Jeff and Andy prepared to leave town.

“Wouldn’t you like to go meet Missus Trotter once before we leave?” Jeff asked Andy. “She’d like to express her thanks to you.”

“Why, I guess not,” Andy said. “I think we should hurry and catch the train.”

Jeff was putting all the money they had received in a belt he tied around his body. Then Andy took a large amount of money out of his pocket and asked Jeff to put it together with the other money.

“What’s this?” Jeff asked.

“It’s Missus Trotter’s two thousand dollars,” said Andy.

“How do you come to have it?” Jeff asked.

“Missus Trotter gave it to me,” Andy answered. “I have been calling on her three nights a week for more than a month.”

“Then you are William Wilkinson?” Jeff asked.

“I was,” Andy said.


STEVE EMBER: “The Exact Science of Matrimony” was written by O.Henry. It was adapted for Special English by Shelley Gollust and produced by Lawan Davis. Your storyteller was Barbara Klein. You can read and listen to other AMERICAN STORIES on our Web site, I’m Steve Ember.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Celebrating Earth Day, 2010.

Welcome to the Mission Language Lab and ESL Listening. In recognition of Earth Day, we'll read and listen to six articles about nature. All six articles point to both nature's fragility and great strength and power. You can find the articles by clicking on the links. They are:

1. Mysterious Changes in the Forest, from Edcon publishing.

2. Natural Wonders of the World, from Voice of America.

3. Yosemite National Park, from Voice of America.

4. Antarctica. A Scientific Laboratory Like No Other in the World, from Voice of America.

5. The Grand Canyon: a True Wonder of the World, from Voice of America.

6. Death Valley, a Beautiful but Dangerous Place, from Voice of America.

7. PBS video, American Experience, "Earth Days": The story of the beginning of Earth Day and the important message of conservation and environmentalism it is intended to convey.

8. People in America: Rachel Carson, the author of "Silent Spring". This is the book that launched the environmentalist movement. From Voice of America.

In addition, you can enjoy this film clip from the great B.B.C. series,
Planet Earth.

You're welcome to write a comment at the end of this post. Also, if you'd like to write something about how nature has touched you personally, you're welcome to submit an essay of any length. Just enclose your essay in an email and send it to Your essay will be edited and published in the New Mission Journal with an appropriate photo from you or from the internet.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Eleanor Roosevelt. She Was the Most Influential Wife of Any American President. From VOA.

I'm Steve Ember.

And I'm Shirley Griffith with People in America in VOA Special English. Today, we tell about the woman who was the most influential wife of any American president, Eleanor Roosevelt.


Eleanor Roosevelt was the wife of America's thirty-second president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She helped her husband in many ways during his long political life. She also became one of the most influential people in America. She fought for equal rights for all people -- workers, women, poor people, black people. And she sought peace among nations.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born in New York City in eighteen eighty-four. Eleanor's family had great wealth and influence. But Eleanor did not have a happy childhood. Her mother was sick and nervous. Her father did not work. He drank too much alcohol. He was not like his older brother, Theodore Roosevelt, who was later elected president. When Eleanor was eight years old, her mother died. Two years later, her father died. Eleanor's grandmother raised the Roosevelt children.  Eleanor remembered that as a child, her greatest happiness came from helping others.


In the early nineteen hundreds, many people were concerned about the problems of poor people who came to America in search of a better life. Eleanor Roosevelt could not understand how people lived in such poor conditions while she and others had so much wealth.

After she finished school, Eleanor began teaching children to read in one of the poorest areas of New York City, called "Hell's Kitchen." She investigated factories where workers were said to be badly treated. She saw little children of four and five years old working until they dropped to the floor. She became involved with other women who shared the same ideas about improving social conditions.
Franklin Roosevelt began visiting Eleanor. Franklin belonged to another part of the Roosevelt family. Franklin and Eleanor were married in nineteen-oh-five. In the next eleven years, they had six children.


Franklin Roosevelt began his life in politics in New York. He was elected to be a state legislator. Later, President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to be assistant secretary of the Navy. The Roosevelts moved to Washington in nineteen thirteen.
It was there, after thirteen years of marriage, that Eleanor Roosevelt went through one of the hardest periods of her life.  She discovered that her husband had fallen in love with another woman. She wanted to end the marriage. But her husband urged her to remain his wife. She did. Yet her relationship with her husband changed. She decided she would no longer play the part of a politician's wife. Instead, she began to build a life with interests of her own.

In nineteen twenty-one, Franklin Roosevelt was struck by the terrible disease polio. He would never walk again without help. His political life seemed over, but his wife helped him return to politics. He was elected governor of New York two times.


Eleanor Roosevelt learned about politics and became involved in issues and groups that interested her. In nineteen twenty-two, she became part of the Women's Trade Union League. She also joined the debate about ways to stop war. In those years after World War One, she argued that America must be involved in the world to prevent another war.
"Peace is the question of the hour," she once told a group of women. "Women must work for peace to keep from losing their loved ones."
The question of war and peace was forgotten as the United States entered a severe economic depression in nineteen twenty-nine. Prices suddenly dropped on the New York stock market. Banks lost their money. People lost their jobs.

(MUSIC: "Happy Days Are Here Again")


Franklin Roosevelt was elected president in nineteen thirty-two.  He promised to end the Depression and put Americans back to work.

Missus Roosevelt helped her husband by spreading information about his new economic program. It was called the New Deal. She traveled around the country giving speeches and visiting areas that needed economic aid.

Missus Roosevelt was different from the wives of earlier presidents. She was the first to become active in political and social issues. While her husband was president, Missus Roosevelt held more than three hundred news conferences for female reporters. She wrote a daily newspaper commentary. She wrote for many magazines. These activities helped spread her ideas to all Americans and showed that women had important things to say.


One issue Missus Roosevelt became involved in was equal rights for black Americans. She met publicly with black leaders to hear their problems. Few American politicians did this during the nineteen thirties and nineteen forties. One incident involving Missus Roosevelt became international news.

In nineteen thirty-nine, an American singer, Marian Anderson, planned a performance at Constitution Hall in Washington. But a conservative women's group refused to permit her to sing there because she was black.


Missus Roosevelt was a member of that organization, the Daughters of the American Revolution. She publicly resigned her membership to protest the action of the group. An opinion study showed that most Americans thought she was right. Eleanor Roosevelt helped the performance to be held outdoors, around the Lincoln Memorial.  More than seventy thousand people heard Marian Anderson sing.  Missus Roosevelt was always considered one of its strongest supporters of the civil rights movement.


The United States was forced to enter World War Two when Japanese forces attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in nineteen forty-one. Missus Roosevelt made many speeches over the radio praising the soldiers she saw on her travels. She called on people to urge their government to work for peace after the war was over.
Franklin Roosevelt died in nineteen forty-five, soon after he was elected to a fourth term as president. When his wife heard the news she said: "I am more sorry for the people of this country than I am for myself."


Harry Truman became president after Franklin Roosevelt died. World War Two ended a few months later. The leaders of the world recognized the need for peace. So they joined together to form the United Nations. President Truman appointed Missus Roosevelt as a delegate to the first meeting of the UN. A newspaper wrote at the time: "Missus Roosevelt, better than any other person, can best represent the little people of America, or even the world."

Later, Missus Roosevelt was elected chairman of the U.N. Human Rights Commission. She helped write a resolution called the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That declaration became an accepted part of international law.


Missus Roosevelt spent the last years of her life visiting foreign countries. She became America's unofficial ambassador. She returned home troubled by what she saw. She recognized that the needs of the developing world were great. She called on Americans to help the people in developing countries.
A few years before she died, Eleanor Roosevelt spoke about what she believed in life. This is what she said.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT: "This life always seems to me to be a continuing process of education and development. What we are preparing for, none of us can be sure. But, that we must do our best while we are here and develop all our capacities is absolutely certain. We face whatever we have to face in this life. And if we do it bravely and sincerely, we're probably accomplishing that growth which we were put here to accomplish."


Eleanor Roosevelt gave the best she had all through her life. People around the world recognized their loss when she died in nineteen sixty-two.



This program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Lawan Davis. I'm Shirley Griffith.


And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for People in America in VOA Special English.