Kerala State Board New Syllabus Plus One English Textbook Answers Unit 2 Chapter 2 The Price of Flowers Text Book Questions and Answers, Summary, Notes.
Kerala Plus One English Textbook Answers Unit 2 Chapter 2 The Price of Flowers (Short Story)
The Price of Flowers Textual Questions and Answers
Plus One English Unit 2 Questions And Answers Question 1.
Why was the narrator’s attention drawn to the English girl?
The narrator’s attention was drawn to the English girl because she had been watching him with interested surprise. But she turned her eyes away as soon as he looked at her. She was 13 or 14 years old. From her clothes one could guess she was a poor girl. She had large eyes which had a sad expression.
Plus One English Textbook Activity Answers Unit 2 Question 2.
What is your impression of the girl?
She is a teenager from a poor family. She had large eyes with a sorrowful expression. When she saw the narrator, some ideas came to her mind and that is why she watches him so closely. Then she tries to find out if he is an Indian and if he comes to that particular restaurant all the time. Something about Indians has got into her mind and she is trying to clarify her doubts. She is a polite girl who thanks people even when some small service is given to her.
Plus One English Chapter 2 Question Answer Question 3.
How do you know that the girl was interested in knowing the identity of the narrator?
I know that the girl was interested in knowing the identity of the narrator from the fact that she watched him with interested surprise. Later she asks the cashier whether the narrator was an Indian and whether he comes to the restaurant every day.
Hss Guru Plus One English Notes Question 4.
What do you understand about the probable financial condition of the girl?
The girl is from a poor family and that we can guess from the dress she is wearing. She has large eyes which have a sad expression. The waitress says that she comes to the restaurant only on Saturdays for her lunch because Saturday is the pay day. On the other days she does not take lunch because she has no money. She is working in a nearby shop, maybe for a very small pay. As she is a teenager nobody would hire her for a big salary.
Plus One English The Price Of Flowers Question Answer Question 5.
Why was the narrator curious about the girl? What did he do to meet her?
The narrator was curious about the girl because he found she was curious about him. She asked the cashier if he was an Indian and if he came to the restaurant every day. From the waitress he had come to know that the girl works in a nearby shop. So to meet her he looked into the shops on the streets near St. Martin’s Lane and the shops on the Strand. But he could not trace her. Then he met her in the restaurant again on the next Saturday during lunch time.
Hsslive Guru Plus One English Notes Question 6.
Why did the narrator go to the restaurant again ?
The narrator went to the restaurant again in the hope of meeting the young English girl. He was told by the waitress that the girl came to the restaurant on Saturdays for lunch.
Plus One English Chapter The Price Of Flowers Question 7.
What impression did the girl have about India?
The girl thought that India was a dangerous country full of tigers, snake and fevers. This is the impression she got from people.
Plus One English Price Of Flowers Question 8.
Was Maggie satisfied with her job? If not why?
Maggie was not satisfied with her job. It was a mechanical job. She wanted to have job to make use of her head, her brain. She would like to be a secretary.
Hsslive Plus Two English Character Sketch Question 9.
What do you understand by brain work’?
By ‘brain work’ I understand those types of work which need some thinking. We in India often call ‘brain work’ as white collar jobs.
Plus One English Unit 2 Chapter 1 Question 10.
Why did Maggie ask the narrator whether he was a vegetarian?
Maggie asked the jjarrator whether the narrator was a vegetarian to fifid out if he was a yogi. She had heard that yogis do not eat meat and they have occult (magical) powers.
Hss Live Guru Plus One English Notes Question 11.
Why did Mr Gupta go to Maggie’s house?
Mr Gupta went to Maggie’s house because she invited him. She wanted to introduce him to her mother, who wanted to meet an Indian to find out the truth about the stories she had heard about India. Moreover, Mr. Gupta had developed some liking and sympathy towards Maggie and was willing to help her in any way possible.
The Price Of Flowers Activities Answers Question 12.
What do you understand about the living conditions of Maggie and her mother?
The living conditions of Maggie and her mother were very poor. They lived in a small house in the Lambeth area where poor peopled lived. Here the streets are above the ground. Kitchens are often below street level. They had very cheap furniture and that too was very little. The carpet was very old and torn in many places. Maggie’s mother baked cakes and sold them for a living.
Class 11 English Unit 2 Notes Question 13.
Why is Saturday special to Maggie and her mother?
Saturday is special to Maggie and her mother for two reasons. It is Maggie’s pay day, on which she can enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Saturday night is a time of festivity in poor neighbourhoods like Lambeth. It is a day when the poor are able to spend a little as they receive their wages. Maggie’s mother bakes cakes and sells them on Saturdays and that is how they make a living. So Saturday is special to both of them.
The Price Of Flowers Maggie Character Sketch Question 14.
How did Mr. Gupta describe India to Mrs. Clifford?
Mr. Gupta said that India was a beautiful country. It is not cold like England, but is somewhat hot. Of course there are tigers and snakes in India but they live in the jungles. If they came into the places where people live they get killed. There are fevers in some places in India. But they differ with the places and seasons.
Plus One English Price Of Flowers Question And Answer Question 15.
Who is Francis? What do you know about him?
Francis or Frank is the brother of Maggie and son of Mrs. Clifford. They both love him dearly. He is in the Punjab, in the regiment fighting on the Northwest Frontier. He loves his mother and sister. He has sent her sister a book of pictures of Simla and the surrounding mountain country. He is superstitious. He also sent her a crystal ring saying that it was given to him by a yogi. The yogi had told him it was a magical ring. If somebody looked into the crystal, thinking of a person who is far away, he can see the person and what he is doing. Maggie and Mrs. Clifford often looked into the crystal ring but they never saw Francis. Finally we come to know that Francis was killed in war and was buried at Fort Monroe, near Dera- Ghazi-Khan. Maggie wants the narratorto place some flowers on her brother’s grave when he goes to India and she pays him a shilling for that. It is from this sacrificial act of hers that the story gets its title.
What is your opinion about superstitions? Do you believe in any?
Superstitions are bad. But they are rampant in the society. Superstitions are often connected with religious beliefs and some unscrupulous people exploit the believers by feeding them with superstitions. Some people believe that if a black cat crosses your way, the work for which you are going will not be done. It is stupid to believe in superstitions. I don’t believe in any. I believe in God but not in the superstitions traded in his name.
Describe the incident that touched the narrator deeply.
Maggie had a violin and she learned to play some songs with her own efforts. She could not go to any teacher to learn violin because of the lack of money. Her mother knows that Maggie has talent for playing violin. She tells the narrator that if ever their circumstances improved she would send Maggie to have violin lessons. This incident deeply touched the narrator’s heart.
Why was Maggie unable to go to work?
Maggie was unable to go to work because her mother was seriously sick. Since there was nobody in the house to look after her sick mother, she could not go for work.
Why did Mr. Gupta take some money with him when he went to see Mrs. Clifford?
Mr Gupta took some money with him when he went to see Mrs. Clifford because his hostess told him that since Maggie had not gone for work for a week and had not received any pay, it was possible they were in financial trouble. In the letter Maggie wrote to him she had mentioned that her mother was very ill and she was not able to go to work for a week. She had not asked for any financial help but the hostess to whom the gprrator spoke about the letter thought that Maggie1 and her mother might need financial assistance.
Why did Mr. Gupta and Maggie tiptoe into the sitting room?
Mr Gupta and Maggie tiptoed into the sitting room because Maggie wanted to talk to him in private. They did not want to disturb the sick woman with their talk.
What request did Maggie make to Mr. Gupta?
Maggie wanted Mr. Gupta to gaze into the crystal and tell her mother that Franks was alive and well even if he did not see anything in the crystal. Her mother was seriously sick and her sickness is aggravated by her worries about Frank from whom she hasn’t heard for long. If Mr.’ Gupta tells her that Frank is alive and well, it will help her to recover.
Why was the crystal ring so special to Mrs. Clifford?
The crystal ring was so special to Mrs. Clifford becaqse it was sent by her son Frank from India. Frank had written that the crystal ring was given to him by a yogi. The yogi had told him that the crystal ring was a magical one. If somebody looked into the crystal thinking of a person who was even far away, he could see the person and what he was doing. Mrs Clifford believed her son’s words.
What made Mrs. Clifford recover?
Mrs. Clifford’s illness was aggravated because of her worries about her son Frank from whom she had not heard for long. She did not know if he was alive and well. Maggie requested Mr. Gupta to look into the crystal ring and tell her mother that Frank was alive and well even if he saw nothing in the crystal ring. Gupta did accordingly and this made Mrs. Clifford recover from her illness.
Why was Mr Gupta ashamed to face Mrs. Clifford?
Mr. Gupta was ashamed to face Mrs. Clifford because Frank had been dead some days when he told her that he was alive and well. Since he had told her a lie, he was ashamed to face her.
What was the promise given to Maggie?
The promise given to Maggie was that the narrator (Mr. Gupta) would visit the grave of her brother at Mort Monroe, near Dera-Ghazi-Khan when he goes to India.
Why did Maggie give a shilling to Mr.Gupta?
Maggie gave a shilling to Mr. Gupta to buy flowers and place them on her brother’s grave at Mort Monroe, near Dera-Ghazi-Khan when he goes to India.
Explain the reason why Mr. Gupta accepted the shilling?
Initially Mr. Gupta wanted to give back the Shilling to Maggie telling her that there were plenty of flowers in India and he could get some flowers free to place them on her brother’s grave. But this would deprive the girl of the joy of sacrifice she was making for her dead brother. So Mr. Gupta accepted the shilling. The grief in her heart would lessen with the sacrifice she was making. To earn a shilling she had to do a lot of work.
Activity -1 (Read and respond)
’It is neither the same everywhere nor the same all the year round in India. ’ Why?
India is a vast country with different climate zones and it is not the same everywhere nor is it the same all the year-round.
Why did the narrator decide to take the shilling given by Maggie?
The narrator decided to take the shilling from Maggie just to make her happy. She has sacrificed a lot to give him the shilling to buy flowers for her brother’s grave. She will feel consoled when she has done something nice for her brother.
What is the role of faith in the story?
Faith plays an important role in the story. Mrs Clifford believes that Indians can see things in a crystal. When the narrator tells her that he can see her son alive and well in the crystal she recovers from her illness.
Activity – II (Discussion)
Discuss the significance of the title ‘The Price of Flowers’.
The story has aptly titled the price of flowers. A young girl impoverished and miserable sacrifices a shilling for flowers to place on her brother’s grave. The narrator does not want to destroy the kind gesture that the girl makes for he knows it brings her a lot of consolation.
Activity – III (Character Sketch)
Pick out the words used by the author to describe the character of Maggie.
Full name Alice Margaret Clifford, a young English girl, 13 or 14 years old, poor clothes, hair bung in a heavy stream down her back. Large eyes with a sad expression, works in nearby shop, comes onl^on Saturday for lunch, believes India is full ofligers, snakes and fevers; her knowledge about yogis, her believes in the stories of magic, lives in a small house, loves her mother and brother dearly, her sacrifice. Establish the above points with the help of related evidence from the text and sketch the character of Maggie.
Maggie’s full name is Full name Alice Margaret Clifford. She is a young English girl. She is 13 or 14 years of age. When we see her first she is wearing poor clothes showing she is very poor. Her hair hung in a heavy stream down her back. She had large eyes with a sad expression. She works in a shop close the restaurant where she met the writer. She goes to the restaurant only on Saturdays because Saturday is pay day. Maggie is a hardworking girl. She lives with her old mother in a small house. Her only brother Francis is in the army and he is in India. She loves her brother very much and he too loves her.
She loves her mother. She nurses her when she is sick. She is superstitious. That is why she believes in the story told by her brother that by looking into the crystal ring one could see people who are far and what they are doing, if one thinks of them and looks into the ring carefully. She is very disciplined. She has polite manners and this is clearly shown in her behaviour.
Maggie is ambitious and she is not happy with her work in the shop. She says it is a mechanical job. She wants to do a job where her brain can be used. When she gets a better job she will rent o a better house and take her motherthere. It shows much she cares for her mother. When her mother is in a critical condition she even asks Mr. Gupta to tell her mother a lie about her brother so that the mother feels better by hearing that her son is alive and well in India. Maggie is a very fine girl.
She wants Mr. Gupta to go to the grave of her brother who is buried in India and gives one shilling to him. A shilling is a lot of money for a poor girl like her. To get that, she has to work hard for many days. Her action shows how much she loved her brother. Her sacrifice brings tears to the eyes of Mr. Gupta and we too are moved to tears when we see such selfless love of a teenage girl for her dead brother. I can easily say that Maggie is a model for girls of her age.
Activity – IV (Web diagram)
See the diagram on below:
There are two empty place in it. The words that can go in can be: LORE and PARABLE.
Question Now match the following:
1. Story – c – an imaginative story, especially one that is full of action and adventure.
2. Anecdote – g – an interesting or amusing story about a real person or event.
3. Tale – b – a story from ancient times ….
4. Folk tale – a – a very old traditional story from a particular place
5. Fable – f – a traditional short story that teaches a moral lesson ….
6. Fairy tale – e – a story about magic or fairy tales ….
7. Fiction – h – a type of literature ….
8. Myth – d – a description of events and people ….
Which category does the story ‘The Price of Flowers’ belong to? Discuss.
The story The Price of Flowers’ belongs to the category of ‘Anecdote’. It is an interesting story about a real event.
Activity – V (Write-up)
‘I won’t work that will make me use my head, brain work.’
How far can you relate this statement to your life? What kind of profession do you like? Why? Prepare a write-up.
I also want work that will make me use my head. I want to do work that needs my brain, my thinking powers.
I like to be a teacher as teaching is supposed to be the noblest profession. A teacher always makes impressions on the minds of hundreds of students. He/ She has to be intelligent and understanding so as to help the students learn. As students have different abilities the teacher uses a variety of skills to constantly invent and make the classroom an interesting place so as to encourage learning. Teachers are role models and many of them make a lasting impression on the lives of students.
Teachers have to be smart as well as intuitive so as to understand the needs of their students. Teachers mould the minds of the students. Therefore nation-building is ultimately in the hands of the teachers. Dr. Abdul Kalam said that no nation can rise above its teachers. The quality of a nation depends on the quality of its teachers. So I want to be a teacher and use my brain to develop the brains of my students.
Activity – VI (Letter)
“When I go to that part of the country, I shall visit your brother’s grave and write to you. ’ A few weeks after the narrator’s departure, Maggie receives a letter from him. What might be the content of the letter? Draft the letter, assuming that you are the narrator?
India, PIN 600-002
2 January 1946
I’m sorry that I could not write to you earlier because I was busy with the £Anl Service training and the formalities connected with it. I hope you and your mother are fine. I am okay here. I am trying to cope with my new responsibilities.
I went to Fort Monroe, near Dera-Ghazi-Khan to visit your brother’s grave. As desired by you, I placed some beautiful rose flowers on his grave. When I was standing there I thought of you and your mother and imagined how you must have felt when you heard about Franks’ untimely death. I met two soldiers from the Regiment to which Frank belonged and they told me what a fine lad Frank was. They also told me that he often talked to them about you and your mother. In fact he had bought some Indian clothes to give both of you when he returned home.
But destiny sometimes plays cruel jokes. I feel extremely sorry that you lost such a fine brother and your mother such a marvelous son. I pray for his soul. May his soul rest in peace!
Please greet your mother on my behalf. The cake she gave me was delicious.
I keep remembering you and I speak about you to my friends. When I visit England next time, I will definitely come and see you people.
With lots of love,
Yours lovingly, (Gupta Narain)
Activity – VII (Role Play)
Maggie reads the letter. She cannot sleep for many days. Imagine that one day Mr. Gupta receives a call from her. What would she say? Discuss with your friend, and prepare a likely conversation between them. Enact the scene by taking up different roles.
Maggie: Hello! Is that Mr. Gupta there? This is Maggie from England.
Mr. Gupta: Hello Maggie! How nice to hear from you!
Maggie: I got your letter, Mr. Gupta. Thank you very much for taking the trouble of placing flowers on my brother’s grave. My mother also wants to thank you. She said it was so good of you to do such a thing.
Mr. Gupta: It was nothing. I realized how much you loved Frank. Sorry, Maggie that you lost such a fine brother.
Maggie: What can we do? Fate has been very cruel to us. My father dies and now my brother, leaving my poor mother and me to fend for ourselves.
Mr. Gupta: Maggie, don’t grieve. Life is like that. Remember, there are more miserable people than you in this world.
Maggie: I understand that. That is how I console myself. Mother has become better and I am now regularly going to work.
Mr. Gupta: Good to hear that. Be cheerful and optimistic. By the way, do you play the violin often?
Maggie: Yes, I do. I am practicing a new number. When you come next time, I will play it for you.
Mr. Gupta: Very happy to hear that. Say Hi to your mother. And take care!
Maggie: You too Mr. Gupta. Bye for now!
Activity – VIII (Review)
Read the story again and discuss the following with your friends: the theme, style of narration, language, the impact of words and expression, location, characterization, dialogue, the opening and the ending of the story.
Now, attempt a critical review of the story.
The Price of Flowers’ is an excellent story by Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay. The main theme of the story is the love of a girl for her dead brother. There are also other themes like the hardships of the poor people, the dangers of war, unfulfilled desires and dreams of ordinary people and superstitions.
The style of narration has been very simple. The story is moved forward through the dialogues among the three main characters of the story – Maggie, her mother and Mr. Gupta. The language used is lucid and easy to understand. The words and expressions used make a fine impact on our minds. The story takes place in London but in the end we see the narrator placing some flowers at the grave of Frank, the brother of Maggie, at Fort Monroe. Characterization has been superb.
The character of Maggie is drawn in an exemplary manner, The poor girl of 13 or 14 with her large, sad eyes, her hair streaming .down her neck, wearing shabby clothes, living in an uncomfortable house with her old mother and working in a shop for small wages is portrayed exquisitely. She is so poor that she eats her lunch only on Saturday, the payday.
Her inquisitive nature, her ideas about India, her superstition, her love for her brother and mother, etc. are powerfully pictured. The dialogues are short and sweet. There are no lengthy and boring dialogues. The story is moved forward through apt dialogues. There s fine imagery in the story. No person with a compassionate heart can end reading the story without shedding a tear. Mukhopadhyay through his ‘Price of Flowers’ has proved that he is a fine storyteller.
Activity – IX : (Reporting)
Read the material given on
The following sentences are from the story ‘The Price of Flowers’. Read them.
She asked, ‘Are you an Indian?’
‘Excuse me, are you a vegetarian?’
‘Why do you ask that? ‘
‘I have heard that most Indians are vegetarians.’
‘How is it that you know anything about India?’
‘My elder brother is in India. He is a soldier.’
The very next day the narrator told his friend about the girl and their conversation.
Read and find out how he presented it.
The girl asked me whether I was an Indian.
I answered in the affirmative.
Then she asked me politely if I was a vegetarian.
I enquired why she asked that.
She said (that) she had heard that most Indians were vegetarians.
I further asked her how it was that she knew anything about India.
She replied that her elder brother was in India and added that he was a soldier.
see the difference between direct speech and reported speech. Study the notes given there. Rewrite the following sentences in reported speech: “Shall I call you work of a secretary.”
The narrator asked the girl if he should call her Miss Clifford or Alice. She replied saying that she was not grown up and he might call her what he liked. She laughingly added that she was usually called Maggie. The narrator then wanted to know if she was anx¬ious to grow up. Her answer was yes. He then wanted to know why she wanted to grow up. He said that when she would be grown she would be paid more for her work and her mother was old. The narrator wanted to know if the work she was doing was to her liking. She said she did not like the work as it was very mechanical. She wanted some work that needed the use of her brain. She wanted to be a secretary.
Read and Enjoy
Deeds speak louder than words. Good deeds will be remembered forever. The following poem tells us about the glory of deeds.
The Price of Flowers (Short Story) About the Author:
– Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay
Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay (1873-1932) was one of the best short-story writers in Bengali literature. He was also a novelist. His short stories are mainly based on real-life situations and his characters belong to middle-class families. Their hopes and aspirations, their joys and sorrows are nicely woven into his tales.
The Price of Flowers (Short Story) Summary
It was nearly 1 o’clock and I was feeling very hungry.
I went to a nearby vegetarian restaurant, in St. Martin’s Lane. Lunch hours in London were not so crowded those days. I found 3 or 4 people sitting in the room. I sat at a table, and opened the newspaper.
A waitress came and waited for my order. I looked up from the paper, glanced at the menu and told her what I wanted. She said, Thank you’ and went quickly away without making any noise.
At that time my attention turned to a table not far from mine. A young English girl was sitting there. She had been watching me with interested surprise. But when I looked at her, she turned her eyes away. The girl was 13 or 14. From her clothes, I could see that she was poor. Her hair hung in a heavy stream down her neck. She had large eyes. They had a sad expression. I watched her when she was not looking and so she did not notice my watching her. My lunch was brought as she was finishing hers. The waitress brought the bill. Bills are paid at the desk as one goes out. The desk is near the door.
The girl stood up. I again watched her. As she paid the bill, she asked the cashier in a low voice whether I was an Indian. The cashier said she thought so. Then the girl wanted to know if I went there all the time. The cashier said she did not remember me going there before. The girl thanked the cashier, looked at me once more with some kind of surprise and went out.
I was also surprised. Here interest in me aroused my interest in her. When I finished my lunch I asked the waitress if she knew the girl who just finished her lunch and went away. The waitress said she did not know her. But she came to take her lunch there on Saturdays. I wanted to know if she did not come on other days. The waitress said she had never seen her on other days. I wanted to know who she was. The waitress said that she might be a worker in a nearby shop. I wanted to know how she knew that. The waitress then said that Saturday is payday. It is then the girl comes. On other days she couldn’t afford lunch. She does not earn much.
I felt sorry for the poor girl.
My curiosity about the girl persisted. Who was she? Why had she asked about me? Was some mystery the cause of her interest? I continued thinking of her. On Sundays, all London shops are closed. So I would go out to look for her after breakfast on Monday morning.
S I looked into the shops on the streets near St. Martin’s Lane and the shops on the Strand. But I did not see her.
The week passed. Saturday came again. I went to the vegetarian restaurant once more. As I entered I saw her sitting at the same table as before. She was eating.
I took a chair opposite hers and said ‘Good afternoon!’ She greeted me back. Slowly I started a conversation. Finally, she asked me if I was an Indian. I said ‘Yes’. Then she wanted to know if I was a vegetarian. I asked her why she wanted to know that. She said she had heard that most Indians are vegetarians. I wanted to know how she knew things about India. She said her elder brother, a soldier, was in India. I told her that I was not a vegetarian but I enjoyed a vegetarian meal now and then. The girl seemed disappointed by my reply.
I came to know that her only guardian was her elder brother. She lived with her old widowed mother. I asked her if she often heard from her brother. She said they did not have a letter from her brother for a long time. Her mother was worried. People have told her that India was full of tigers, snakes, and fevers. She thinks something has happened to him. The girl wanted to know from me if India was full of tigers, snakes, and fevers.
I told her ‘No’. How^ould people live there if it were full of these things? the girl was happy. She said her mother wanted to ask an Indian to know the truth. From her look, I knew she wanted me to talk with her mother. But she did not have the courage to ask me to go with her to her home. I wanted to see this mother. I had no opportunity to visit a poor English home. I wanted to know how the poor lived there and what they thought.
I told her of my plan to visit her home someday. She was thankful to me. She asked me if I could go with her right there and then. I readily agreed. She wanted to know if such a visit would interfere with my work. I told her I was free, The girl was happy. We finished our lunch and got up together.
On our way to her home I asked her name. She gave her full name: Alice Margaret Clifford. She asked me if it would be difficult for me to walk. I said ‘No’. She said she walked home every day. I wanted to know if she came that way often. She said she did as she works as typist in the Civil Service stores. Every afternoon she goes home that way. Today being Saturday she is going home early.
I asked her if I should call her Miss Clifford or Alice. She said she was not grown up and so I could call her whatever I liked. She laughingly said she was usually called Maggie. I asked her if she was eager to grow up. She said ‘Yes’. I wanted to know why she wanted to grow up fast. She said if she was grown up she would be paid more and her mother was getting old. I wanted to know if she liked her work. She said ‘No’. It is mechanical work. She wanted to have some work that needed her brain. She wanted to be a secretary.
We arrived at Lambeth, an area where poor people lived. She told me that if she became a secretary she would take her mother away from that place. I asked her if her father called her Maggie or Mugsy. She said that when he was very affectionate he called her Magsy. She wanted to know how I knew that. I jokingly told her that Indians know about the future and all kinds of magic. She said she had heard such things said about Indians.
I wanted to know what she had heard. She said she has heard that many Indians have occult (magic) powers and they are called yogis. She thought I was not a yogi.
I asked her the reason for thinking like that. She said yogis don’t eat meat. Then I asked her whether that was the reason for her asking me if I was a vegetarian or not. She did not answer but just smiled.
We reached a narrow doorway. Maggie opened the door with a small key. She invited me in. When I entered, she closed the door. Then she called her mother asking her where she was. The mother said she was in the kitchen below. She asked her to go down into the kitchen. London streets are above ground. Kitchens are often below street level. Maggie asked me if I could go with her. I agreed, and together we went down to the kitchen. She told her mother that an Indian gentleman was there to see her. Maggie introduced me to her mother telling her, “This is Mr. Gupta, mother” and her mother to me.
I said ‘How do you do?’ and held out my hand. The mother said, “Excuse me” and held out her hands for me to see. They were covered with flour. She said that it being Saturday she was making cakes. People would come in the evening to buy them and sell them on the streets. That was the way they made their living. It was a hard life.
Saturday night is the celebration time in the areas where poor people lived. All kinds of things are sold from pushcarts. The streets are more crowded then than on any other day. It is on Saturday the workers receive their pay and so they can spend a little.
All the ingredients for making the cake – flour, sugar, fat, raisins, eggs – were ready on the kitchen table. There were several freshly baked cakes in tins. Mrs. Clifford told me that sitting in such a poor kitchen won’t be pleasant for me. She has almost finished her work. She asked Maggie to take me to the sitting room. She would come soon. I said it was okay with me sitting there. I congratulated her for making such excellent cakes. Mrs. Clifford thanked me.
She asked me what kind of a country India was. I told her it was a beautiful country. She wanted to know if was safe to live there. I said it was. India was not cold like England, but hot. She asked me if India had too many snakes and tigers that killed people. I told her not to believe such things. Snakes and tigers are in the jungles. They get killed if they come to places where people live. Then she wanted to know about fevers. I told her that in some places in India there were more fevers than in other places. It is not the same everywhere and in every season.
She said her son was in Punjab. He is a soldier. She wanted to know what kind of place Punjab was. I told her Punjab was a fine place. There is no fever there. It is a healthy place. Mrs. Clifford was happy. When she finished her baking, she asked Maggie to take me upstairs. She would join me after washing her hands. She also would bring some tea.
Maggie showed me to their sitting room. The furniture was cheap and it was not much. The carpet was torn in places. But everything was clean. Maggie drew the curtains back and opened the windows. There was a glass bookcase and I stood in front of it.
Mrs. Clifford came bringing the tea tray. All traces of the kitchen had gone from her person. As we drank tea, we spoke about India. Mrs. Clifford showed me a photograph of her son. It was taken before he left. His name was Francis or Frank. Maggie brought out a book of pictures that he had sent her on her birthday. There were many pictures of Simla and the mountainous places around it. Mrs. Clifford asked Maggie to show me the ring. I wanted her to shgIN me the ring to find out what kind of a ring it was. itfaggie said it was a magic ring which a yogi had given to Frank. She wanted to know if I could see the past and the future in it. I had heard about crystal gazing. A crystal was set on the ring. I examined it.
Mrs. Clifford said that when he sent the ring Frank wrote that if you concentrated on a distant person when you look into the crystal, you could see him and what he was doing. This is what the yogi had told Frank. Maggie and she had been looking at it, again and again, but they have not been able to see anything. She wanted me to try. Since I was a Hindu I could see something, she thought!
I realized that superstition was not limited to India. I did not want to tell them that the ring was nothing much, a piece of brass with an ordinary piece of glass stuck into it. They believed that Frank had sent them a magical thing from dream India. I did not want to shatter their faith. Urged by them I took the ring and looked into it for a long time. I told them I could not see anything. They were disappointed. There was a violin there. To change the subject I asked her if it was Maggie’s. Mrs. Clifford said it was Maggie’s and Maggie played it well. She asked her daughter to play something for me. Maggie was shy and she protested. Then I pleaded with Maggie saying that I liked the violin very much. I told her that my sister who has of her age used to play for me at home. Maggie said she was not a good player.
Finally, she agreed to play and asked me what I wanted to hear. I told her she could play what she chose. She brought out an old music book bound in black leather. I opened it. It contained many simple songs. Some were good but old-fashioned. There were several Scotch songs. I selected The Blue Bells of Scotland’ and returned the book to her. Maggie played it and I hummed the tune. When she finished playing I thanked her very much. Mrs. Clifford said that Maggie did not have the opportunity to learn the violin. She learned to play the violin herself. She added that if their circumstances improved she would arrange for some music lessons for Maggie. As I was returning home, the incident touched my heart deeply.
Three months passed. I visited Maggie and her mother many times and once I took Maggie to see the Zoo. She rode the elephant and she was very happy.
No news came from her brother. Urged by Mrs. Clifford I went to India House and made enquiries. I was told the regiment to which Frank belonged was fighting in the Northwest Frontier. Mrs. Clifford was very worried. One day I got a postcard from Maggie saying that her mother was very ill. She has not been able to go to work for a week. She wanted me to go and see them. I had spoken to the family with whom I lived about Maggie and her mother. At breakfast, I spoke of the letter. My hostess told me that when I went to see Maggie I should take some money with me. Since the girl has not gone to work, they will be in problems. I took some money and went to their house. Maggie opened the door.
She was looking weak. Her eyes were hollow and ringed. She thanked me. I asked about her mother. Maggie said that her condition was serious. She was sleeping. The doctor said that her condition was aggravated because of her worry about Frank. There was no news from him. She may not live. I tried to console Maggie. Maggie controlled herself with an effort and told me she had a request to make. I asked her to tell me what she wanted. She asked me to go into the sitting room where she would tell me about her request.
We went into the sitting room quietly. I asked Maggie what she wanted. She looked into my eyes. Then as I was waiting for her answer, she covered her face and started crying. I was in a fix. What could I say to comfort her? Her brother was on the war front. Nobody knew if he was dead or alive. Her mother was her only support on earth. If she lost her, where would this young girl of 13 or 14, go?
I pulled her hands away from her face. I asked her what she wanted me to do for her. She was hesitant to come out with her request and asked me to forgive her if the request was wrong. I asked her to tell me what she wanted. She then said that the whole day yesterday her mother was telling her that if I went to her house and looked into the crystal, I might be able to know something about her son, as I am a Hindu. But she thought I may not go to their house. That is why she wrote to me. I told her if she wanted me to try once more she should fetch me the ring. She then was worried what would happen if I did not see anything. I could not give her any proper answer.
She further told me that she had read in books that Hindus are extremely truth loving. After looking into the crystal, she wanted me to tell her mother that Frank was alright and he was alive. Would that be too much of a lie? Would that be wrong? As she spoke she was crying.
I thought it over. I am not a saint. I decided to do it. It would not be a big offence. I told Maggie to get the ring.
I told her I would look very carefully this time. Even if I didn’t see anything I would tell the mother as she had told me. God would forgive if it was wrong. Maggie brought the ring. I asked her to check if her mother was awake. She came back after 15 minutes and told me she was awake. She had told her mother that I was there.
Maggie took me to her mother’s bedside. The ring was in my hand. I told Mrs. Clifford that her son was alive and well. She wanted to know if I saw him in the crystal. Without hesitation, I told her I did see him there. Tears of happiness filled her eyes. She wished me God’s blessings.
Mrs. Clifford recovered.
It was time for me to return to India. I wanted to go to Lambeth to say goodb^ to Maggie and her mother. But the family was in mourning. Frank had been killed in the fighting. A month ago, Maggie had sent me a card with a black border. I calculated from the date and found that Frank had been dead some days when I told him he was alive and well. I felt ashamed to face Maggie’s mother. So I wrote them a letter, informing them of my going away and bidding them good-bye.
It was the morning of my last day in London. I was to leave before night. I was breakfasting with the host family. There was a knock at the door. The maid came and said that Miss Clifford has come to see me. I had not finished my breakfast. Maggie had come to say good¬bye. I got up from the table. Maggie was standing in the hall. She was wearing black. I took her to the library and made her sit down.
She asked me if I was leaving that day. I said ‘Yes.’ She wanted to know how long I would take to reach my country. I said a little more than 2 weeks. She asked me where I lived. I then told her that I had entered the Punjab Civil Service. I would not know when exactly I would reach there after my posting. She wanted to know if the Frontier was far from there. I told her it was not far. She told me that Frank was buried at Fort Monroe, near Dera-Ghazi- Khan. Her eyes were filled with tears. I told her that I would visit her brother’s grave and write to her. When I assured her that I would visit the place, her face filled with gratitude. She took a shilling out of her pocket and put it down on the table in front of me. With that money I was to buy flowers and place them on her brother’s grave.
In my emotion, I lowered my eyes. She had earned that shilling with so much hard work. I wanted to return the money to her saying that in India a lot of wildflowers grew and one does not have to pay money to get some. But I thought again. I would deprive her of the joy of sacrifice if I did not take the money. The grief of her heart would lessen by the sacrifice she was making. I took the shilling. I assured her that I would buy flowers with it and put them on her brother’s grave.
She said she did not know how to thank me. She would be late for work and so she wanted to go. She reminded me to write to her. I took her hand and pressed it to my lips. Maggie left. I wiped a tear or two from my eyes. I went upstairs to pack my bags.
– (Translated from Bengali by Lila Ray)
The Price of Flowers (Short Story) Glossary