A poor woman who was hated during her life by nearly everyone in her village, dies while intoxicated and leaves two daughters and a son behind to fend for themselves. The towns people pitied these children, and the two oldest were taken in by new families, but the youngest Maggie, who was crippled, was left alone because nobody wanted to deal with her disability. A man named Joe Thompson decided to take her in for the night but planned on bringing her to the poor house the next morning, because he knew his wife would not approve of her. When Joe brought Maggie home in his arms, his wife Mrs. Thompson was enraged that he brought that “sick brat” into her house.
“Death touches the spring….old tumble-down hut…”
Question (i): Which woman is referred to here? How did she die?
Answer (i): The ‘woman’ referred to here is Maggie’s mother. She died of excessive alcoholism. She had fallen upon the threshold of her own door in a drunken fit and died in the presence of her three children.
Question (ii): What kind of relations did the woman have with others? Why do you think it was so?
Answer (ii): The woman had very bitter relationship with the village folks because she had been despised and scoffed. They did so because she had very bad habit of drinking.
Question (iii): What did the neighbours take to the old hut?
Answer (iii): The neighbours took the dead woman to the old hut.
Question (iv): What kind of living conditions were the woman and her children subjected to?
Answer (iv): The woman and her children did not get any food to eat, they did not have clothes to wear.
Question (v): What was the prospective future of the children after the death of their mother?
Answer (v): John a boy of twelve year age was a stout lad who could earn his living by working with any farmer and was eagerly adopted by farmer Jones. Kate aged between ten and eleven, being a bright active girl was taken by Mrs. Ellis to work in her house as a maid. Maggie the youngest of the siblings was bed-ridden due to a spinal injury and was pitied by everyone. Nobody was willing to adopt her as she was considered of no use and would be dependent on others forever. She was adopted by a childless compassionate man named Mr. Thomson.
“Pitying glances were cast….who wanted a bed-ridden child?”
Question (i): Who was glanced at with pity? Why?
Answer (i): Maggie was glanced at with pity because she was crippled and bed-ridden since two years due to spinal injury and she appeared pale and thin.
Question (ii): Give the meaning of:
(a) “her wan and wasted form.”
Answer (a): Maggie’s pale and thin form.
(b) “even knocked at them for entrance.”
Answer (b): Maggie’s appearance arouse intense feelings of pity and sadness in the hearts of neighbours and disturbed them with the thoughts of her well-being.
Question (iii): Which incident made the child bed-ridden?
Answer (iii): Two years before Maggie had fallen from a window and her spine got injured. She had not been able to leave her bed since, except when lifted in the arms of her mother.
Question (iv): Which shelter was suggested by one of the neighbours for the “bed-ridden” child? Why?
Answer (iv): One of the neighbours suggested that Maggie should be sent to the poorhouse as no one was willing to take trouble for raising a child who could not perform any household work due to her disability.
Question (v): What role does the child play in the life of:
(a) Joe Thompson
Answer (a): The moment Joe held Maggie in his arms, he felt affectionate towards her. He could immediately connect with her as a father figure and felt as if love had sprung back into his dull life.
(b) Jane Thompson
Answer (b): Being a childless woman, Jane had become ill-tempered, irritable and desolate, with nobody to take care of. But Maggie’s presence aroused motherly feelings in her and brought back happiness and joy in her life.
“It’s cruel thing to leave….into her thin white face”
Question (i): Who are having a conversation in the above extract? What is the main topic of their conversation?
Answer (i): The wheelwright man named Joe Thompson and blacksmith’s wife is having a conversation. The main topic of their conversation is about the fate of the orphaned and disable child named Maggie. The villagers instead of helping her only mouthed verbal sympathy for the disabled child and left her alone in the hovel. Joe felt that villagers showed cruelty on her by leaving her alone in the hovel.
Question (ii): Why was Maggie’s effort to raise herself painful?
Answer (ii): Two years ago Maggie had injured her spine and because of the injury she had become bed-ridden. She could leave her bed only when lifted in arms of her mother. After her mother’s death she had to raise herself to an upright position and sat on the bed without anybody’s help. The effort of raising herself from bed caused her lot of pain.
Question (iii): What thought terrified Maggie? What did she exclaim to Mr. Thompson?
Answer (iii): The thought of being left alone and helpless in the hovel terrified Maggie. Maggie exclaimed to Mr. Thompson pitifully begging him not to leave her all alone in the hovel.
Question (iv): Why do you think the man stood with a “puzzled air”? What did he do when he went into the hovel?
Answer (iv): The man stood with a “puzzled air” because he was confused and unable to decide whether to leave Maggie alone in the hovel or take he with him. If he took her with him then his wife would not accept Maggie and treat her badly.
When he went into the hovel he assured Maggie that he is not going to leave her alone. He then wrapped her body in the clean bedclothes and lifted her in his strong arms and took her home.
Question (v): What kind of man was Joe Thompson? How can you say so?
Answer (v): Joe Thompson was a kind hearted and a compassionate man.
We can say so because it was only he who chose to adopt helpless and disabled Maggie and take care of her whereas everybody in the village wanted her to be sent to a poorhouse.
“Mrs. Thompson saw him approaching … love was springing into life.”
Question (i): Whom did Mrs. Thompson see approaching? What “precious burden” was he carrying? Why is the burden precious?
Answer (i): Mrs. Thompson saw her husband Mr. Joe Thompson approaching towards their house.
He was carrying Maggie, who was an orphaned and disabled child, in his arms.
The moment Mr. Thompson held the little girl Maggie in his arms, he felt affectionate towards her. Being a childless man, parental feelings for Maggie developed in his heart. The burden is precious because he held Maggie so close to his bosom just like a father would carry his own sick child.
Question (ii): What did Mrs. Thompson ask her husband? How did Joe Thompson react to it?
Answer (ii): Mrs. Thompson asked her husband what he was carrying in his arms.
Joe expected Mrs. Thompson would be angry to see Maggie with him. He pleaded her to be gentle with him and Maggie and wait a little for his explanations.
Question (iii): Describe Joe Thompson’s behaviour, since the day he brought the sick child home?
Answer (iii): Usually Joe Thompson got out of his wife’s way, or kept rigidly silent and non-combative when she fired up on any subject. Since he brought Maggie home, Joe Thomson’s behaved in tactful and assertive manner with his wife. He faced her with firmly-set countenance and a resolute pair of eyes.
Question (iv): What reason did Joe Thompson give his wife for bringing the child home?
Answer (iv): Joe Thompson reasoned that the child being disabled could not walk by herself to the poorhouse so he decided to bring her home because his arms were strong enough to carry her.
Question (v): What was the reaction of Mrs. Thompson when the sick child was brought in? How did her attitude change later?
Answer (v): Mrs. Thompson was known to be a very cruel and harsh person. She reacted with anger and astonishment when the sick child was brought in. Initially she displayed little compassion for Maggie, and called her a “sick brat”. Later on, after spending time with Maggie, Mrs. Thompson got transformed and her attitude toward Maggie became that of a caring and considerate person. Mrs. Thompson ends up falling in love with Maggie, and finds purpose in taking care and looking after her.
“Mrs, Thompson did not reply, but presently turned … it was a good omen.”
Question (i): What made Mrs. Thompson move towards Maggie in the little chamber?
Answer (i): Joe begged Mrs. Thompson to “look at her kindly, speak to her kindly”. He invoked compassion in her by making her think of Maggie’s dead mother, and the loneliness, the pain, the sorrow the disable child had to suffer all throughout her life. He quoted texts from the Bible to appeal to Jane’s compassion. The tone of Joe’s voice was so impressive that it subdued his wife. The “trembling of his voice and moisture in his eyes” were effective in melting her heart and compelled her to move towards Maggie in the little chamber.
Question (ii): Why did Joe consider light shining through the window a good omen?
Answer (ii): Joe was worried about the uncertainty of Maggie’s future. On his way back home, the very first object which attracted his attention was light shining through little chamber windows. In some tradition, seeing light as first object in the evening is considered a good omen, in this case for Joe’s family.
Question (iii): What did Joe see when he came back home from his shop?
Answer (iii): Joe saw Maggie laying a little raised on the pillow with the lamp shining full upon her face. Mrs. Thompson was sitting by the bed talking to the child with her back towards the window.
Question (iv): What did Joe gather from Maggie’s facial expression? To what extent, did it relieve him?
Answer (iv): Maggie’s facial expression showed that she was sad and tender but Joe did not notice any sign of bitterness or pain. Joe gathered that his wife Jane’s kind and considerate behaviour towards Maggie was being reflected in her expressions. Joe was relieved and he felt as if a weight had lifted from his heart.
Question (v): How did Joe behave on coming back from his shop? What did he ask his wife?
Answer (v): On coming back, Joe did not go immediately to the little chamber where Maggie was kept but went straightaway into the kitchen. He behaved as if it was just another usual day. He asked his wife how soon the supper would be ready.