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Hearts and Hands by O. Henry is a story about two acquaintances who meet on a train. When Mr. Easton encounters Miss Fairchild, he is handcuffed to another man. Miss Fairchild gets excited when she learns that her old friend from Washington has become a marshal. One passenger on the train, however, realizes that things are not as they seem.


Extract I

“As they passed down the aisle … accustomed to speak and be heard.”

Question (i): Which coach is referred to in this extract? How can you conclude that the coach was crowded?

Answer (i): The coach of the eastbound B&M Express is referred to in this extract. The only vacant seat left was a “reversed one facing the attractive woman”. This tells us that the coach was crowded.

Question (ii): Name the young woman in the coach. What is said about her just before the extract?

Answer (ii): The young woman in the coach is named Miss Fairchild. She is described as an elegantly dressed, pretty young woman who had all the luxuries and who loved travelling.

Question (iii): Which linked couple is referred to in the extract above? In what way were they linked?

Answer (iii): The linked couple referred to in the extract is Mr. Easton and marshal. They were handcuffed together.

Question (iv): Describe the reaction of the young woman on seeing the two men.

Answer (iv): At first, she saw them indifferently with a ‘distant, swift disinterest’. As soon as she recognized Mr Easton she smiled at them and started conversing.

Question (v): What was the relationship between Mr. Easton and the young woman?

Answer (v): Mr. Easton and the young woman were old friends.


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Extract II

“It’s Miss Fairchild … from his keen, shrewd eyes”.

Question (i): Who said, “It’s Miss Fairchild”? Which hand of his was engaged? How?

Answer (i): Mr. Easton said “It’s Miss Fairchild”. Mr Easton’s right hand was engaged as it was handcuffed to the left hand of the marshal.

Question (ii): Why did the young lady’s look changed to bewildered horror? What changes were seen in her due to horror?

Answer (ii): As soon as the young lady saw Mr Easton handcuffed to another man, the glad look in her eyes changed to bewildered horror. She got upset, ‘the glow faded from her cheeks and her lips parted in a vague, relaxing distress’.

Question (iii): What did the glum-faced man say about the marshal? As per the context here where was the glum-faced man being taken? Why?

Answer (iii): The glum-faced man had been keenly observing the countenance of Miss Fairchild change from glad to horror when she saw her old friend Mr Easton handcuffed. To bring her some relief he said that he was a convict and Mr. Easton was a marshal who was taking him to Leavenworth prison on charges of counterfeiting .

Question (iv): With reference to question (iii) above explain what happened in reality.

Answer (iv): In reality, the glum-faced man was the marshal and Mr Easton was the convict. Mr Easton was handcuffed to the marshal and was being taken to prison. The marshal came to know in the train that Mr. Easton and Miss Fairchild were old friends. To save Mr. Easton from humiliation in front of old friend and at the same time to assure Miss Fairchild, the marshal introduced himself as a convict.

Question (v): Explain the significance of ‘hands’ in the story.

Answer (v): The real marshal presented himself as a convict to save Mr. Easton from humiliation in front of old friend Miss Fairchild. He also dispelled her doubts when he lied about Mr. Easton being a marshal. An astute passenger who was sitting nearby noticed that Mr Easton right hand was handcuffed. A marshal would never handcuff his right hand to the left hand of a convict, and in fact Mr Easton was the convict and not the glum-faced man who posed himself as convict. The handcuffed ‘hands’ were significant for revealing the true identities of Mr. Easton and the marshal.


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Extract III

“Oh! said the girl, with deep breath … position as that of ambassador, but–“

Question (i): Why did Miss Fairchild call Easton, a marshal? What was he in reality?

Answer (i): Miss Fairchild called Easton a Marshal because the real marshal made her believe so by lying for him. In reality, Easton was a convict and was being taken to prison by the real marshal on charges of counterfeiting.

Question (ii): Explain why Easton was going to Leavenworth.

Answer (ii): Easton was going to Leavenworth prison because he was convicted of counterfeiting.

Question (iii): Give the meaning of:

(a) Money has a way of taking wings unto itself.

Answer (a): Mr. Easton is referring to the idea that money goes away too quickly and their lives in Washington were expensive.

(b) to keep step with our crowd.

Answer (b): Mr. Easton is referring to the idea that money is required to attract dignity and acceptance among the wealthy upper class of Washington.

Question (iv): What did Easton say he was doing in the past?

Answer (iv): Easton said that he was making money in the past but it was not enough to keep up with high society in Washington that is why he took up the position of a marshal in the West.

Question (v): What did Fairchild say about Easton’s life in Washington? Why was she not likely to see Easton in Washington soon?

Answer (v): Fairchild was surprised to learn that Easton had discarded his adventurous life in Washington to become a duty-bound marshal out West. She was not likely to see Easton in Washington soon because she believed that he was now a responsible marshal and the nature of his duty would not allow him to travel to East when he wished.


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