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ICSE Class 10 Poems and Short Stories An Angel in Disguise (T.S. Arthur)

An Angel in Disguise Synopsis and Important Questions


‘An Angel in Disguise’ is a beautiful heart-touching story written by American author Timothy Shay Arthur in 1851. The author has contributed greatly towards social and moral responsibilities required of people by writing a number of newspaper articles, poems, stories and novels. Arthur wrote stories with compassion and sensitivity. In this story too, he describes the transformative and restorative power of selfless love. It relates to the advent of Maggie, a frail young orphan into the lives of wheelwright Joe Thompson and his wife Jane. The child’s presence had a miraculous effect on the lives of Mr and Mrs Thompson. They thought they are helping her by adopting her; however, Maggie turned out to be the one who took away the negativity from their lives and brought them happiness.

There lived a poor woman in a village. She had three children. She was hated by everyone in the village. She was often despised, scoffed and spoken angrily about by people in her neighbourhood. One day, she fell upon her door in a drunken fit and passed away right in front of her children.

The old woman left behind three children—John, Kate and Maggie. Despite the hatred for the woman, everyone in the village pitied the children as there was nobody to take care of them. The old woman's death roused the neighbour's pity and they arranged for her burial. Everyone came forward to help the children. John, a 12-year-old boy, was the eldest and was adopted by farmer Jones. Mrs Ellis was looking for a maid, so she adopted Kate a girl between 10 and 11 whom she could groom easily to be of help. The youngest of the three kids was Maggie who had injured her spine two years ago and was crippled for life. She was not wanted by anyone. However, the ladies in the neighbourhood brought her discarded clothes and cleaned her after the death of her mother. Maggie was not able to do anything on her own owing to her spine injury. Maggie’s innocent looks attracted everybody but no one dared to take her in.

After a lot of discussions, it was decided that Maggie should be sent to the poorhouse. It was a sad place for a child to be but for Maggie, it would be like a blessing where she could be taken care of, kept clean, given healthy food and be under medical observation whenever necessary.

On the day of the burial, John and Kate were taken away by their new families but poor little Maggie was left alone. The siblings bid each other a sobbing farewell and Maggie was left alone and ignored by most of the villagers. Joe Thompson who was a wheelwright was one of the last people leaving. He felt it was cruel to leave behind Maggie in that state. When he entered the hut, Maggie was lying up straight and looked at him with pleading eyes. Maggie was feeling sad so she requested Mr Thompson to not leave her alone.

Joe Thompson wrapped her gently in clean clothes, lifted her in his arms and took her to his home. As Joe held Maggie close to his chest, he formed a bond of affection with her.

Mr and Mrs Thompson did not have any children. Joe was worried about the reaction of his wife. Over the years, she had turned bitter and unkind. On seeing her husband bring a diseased child home, Mrs Thompson grew angry. She kept questioning Joe about why he did not drop her to the poorhouse directly. Normally, Joe kept quiet when his wife Jane Thompson got angry or had a difference of opinion with him. But this time, he kept a firm countenance and explained his point of view. He informed his wife that Maggie was left alone in the hut by all the villagers. Her siblings were adopted by farmer Jones and Mrs Ellis, but nobody wanted to pick up the poor child. Everyone decided that she be dropped at the poorhouse, but nobody was willing to take her there. Joe said that she needed to be carried to the poorhouse and he could take her there. It would require a couple of days and till then Joe wanted her to stay at their house. He requested Jane to be kind and polite with her since she had suffered a great loss of her mother and was separated from her siblings. He wanted his wife to consider Maggie’s loneliness, her pain and sorrow, and he asks his wife to take care of Maggie for some time.

Jane Thompson considered her husband's request and looked after the poor and suffering child. She was very kind to her and she realised her pain of losing her mother and being separated from her siblings. Years of loneliness had made her hard-hearted and ill-tempered, but she comforted little Maggie and took care of her.

That night when Joe came home after completing his work, he noticed that the little chamber where he had placed Maggie was illuminated. It caught Joe’s attention. Jane was sitting beside Maggie talking to her. This was a positive sign for Joe. He observed both of them and was relieved that everything was fine. There were no signs of bitterness.

Joe went into the chamber to meet Maggie. He had a little conversation with Maggie. He asked her about her health and if she had any pain. Maggie was very grateful to him. She pleasantly answered all his questions. Her answers reflected sweetness and thankfulness.

Jane has also developed tender feelings for Maggie. At the time of supper, she told Joe that Maggie was very weak and therefore should not be sent to the poorhouse for a couple of days.

Joe considered Jane’s thought and he did not see the Guardians of the Poor that day or any other day in the future.

They never sent Maggie away. She had become a part of their house and was taken care of as their own child. She became an angel in disguise for the childless Thompsons. She brought back the happiness and fulfilment. Now, they had someone to shower their love, care and affection. Joe Thompson was happy as his house was no more a dull and sad place.

They lived their lives happily and with love.

Short Answer Questions

  1. What hard luck hit the children?
    Ans. In a village, there lived a woman who had three children, John, Kate and Maggie. These children were completely dependent on their mother for food and basic needs. One day she died due to excessive drinking right in front of her children at the threshold of her own door. The children were devastated and scared at the sight of their mother’s death. This story tries to showcase their hard luck.

  2. What kind of relations did the old woman have with the other villagers?
    Ans. The people hated the dead woman while she was alive because she devoted herself not to hard work but to idleness. Despite having three children to look after, the woman spent her days drinking alcohol and troubling people around. Therefore, she was often scoffed at and angrily denounced by almost everyone in the village. People hated her as she did no hard work for the well-being of her children. She had managed to stay in an old tumble-down hut.

  3. Describe the old woman's children.
    Ans. The old woman had three children. John, the oldest, a boy of twelve, was a stout lad capable to earn his living with any farmer. Kate who was between ten and eleven was a bright, active girl, out of whom something clever could be made. Maggie was the youngest of all. She had a spine injury and hence was completely bedridden.

  4. What was the fate of the children after the death of their mother?
    Ans. After the mother’s death, the chief question was “What is to be done with the children?” The dead mother would be buried soon and she would be free from all the care or concern of the villagers, but the children would starve. After considering the matter and having discussed with his wife, farmer Jones decided to take John with him. Mrs Ellis who was looking out for a bound girl did charity on her part by making a choice of Katy, although she was too young to be useful to her. Only Maggie was left.

  5. Why was nobody willing to take Maggie’s responsibility?
    Ans. Maggie was the dead woman’s third child. Two years ago, she had fallen from a window and injured her spine and was thus bed-ridden. Since then she had not been able to leave her bed except when lifted in the arms of her mother. She was crippled for life and nobody wanted to take her home as she would turn out to be a burden for anyone. Her innocent looks attracted everyone but no one was ready to take her.

  6. What did Mrs Thompson see when Joe came home? Explain the phrase ‘ruffling feathers’.
    Ans. When Mrs Thompson sees her husband approaching with Maggie in his arms, she impatiently came out to stop her husband from bringing her into the house. She was shocked to see that Joe brought her home instead of dropping her directly at the poorhouse. She could not wait for an explanation from him on entering the house. The phrase ‘ruffling feathers’ means with great or extreme anger.

  7. What was Joe Thompson’s reaction to his wife's anger? How did he try to subdue her?
    Ans. When Mrs Thompson insisted that her husband should go at once and get the permit for the poorhouse, he subdued his wife with an impressive tone and reminded her that there was much written in the Bible about little children. He reminded her of how the Saviour rebuked the disciples who would not receive children, how he took them up in his arms and blessed them and how he said that whosoever gave them even a cup of cold water would not go unrewarded.

  8. What was a good omen for Joe Thompson?
    Ans. Jane Thompson was not very happy with Maggie’s arrival at her home. However, Joe tries to subdue her anger by making her understand Maggie’s helplessness and sorrow. Jane considered his point and took care of Maggie and was kind to her. When Joe returned from work, his attention was caught by a light shining from the chamber where he had kept Maggie. He could deduce that Jane was with her and they were having a conversation. This brought Joe a sigh of relief and was a good omen.

  9. What sight did Joe see after returning home from work?
    Ans. Joe came home and he saw that Maggie’s chamber had a shining light. He saw her laying raised on the pillow such that the lamp was shining completely upon her. Jane was sitting by the bed talking to Maggie. Maggie’s eyes were fixed upon Jane. Her expressions were sad and tender but there was no sign of bitterness or pain. This brought a sigh of relief to Joe.

  10. How did Maggie catch Joe’s attention after he went into her chamber?
    Ans. After Joe freshened up, he went to Maggie’s chamber. A pair of large bright eyes looked at him from the snowy bed. Her look was full of pleasure and gratefulness. She looked at Joe with pleading and tender eyes. This filled his heart with compassion and concern about Maggie’s well-being. Her face was full of childish sweetness whose suffering had not been wiped out.

  11. Describe Jane’s change in behaviour.
    Ans. Mrs Joe Thompson was childless. She was neither a woman of saintly temper nor was much given by her to the self-denial for others’ good. Joe was well aware of his wife's bitter nature and he had well-grounded doubts touching the manner of greeting he would receive on his arrival at home with Maggie. She was bereft of motherly feelings, but Maggie’s innocent looks evoked tender maternal feelings. The love for the child changed her. The sweetness of the sick child, looking ever to her in love, patience and gratitude brought a change in Mrs Thompson and she wholeheartedly accepted Maggie as her child. The sweetness of the sick child was like honey to her soul.

  12. What did Jane suggest? Did Joe agree to it?
    Ans. Jane spent a day with Maggie and she also developed a bond of affection and concern with her. She suggested keeping Maggie for a couple of days more as she was very weak and needed assistance. Joe did not mind, but he wanted to be sure of Jane’s opinion. Jane assured him that keeping Maggie for a couple of days more will not be of harm in any way. Joe agreed with Jane’s thought and did not see the Guardians of the Poor the next day or any other day in the future. Maggie completed their family, and they took care of her like their own child.

Long answer questions

  1. Death touches the spring of our common humanity. Explain the reference of this statement.
    Ans. In the story ‘An Angel in Disguise’, author T.S. Arthur has touched the hearts of the reader using the value of humanity. He has described how acts of humanity bring happiness to both doer and receiver.
    The old woman who had three children was hated by the villagers because she did not work hard but spent her time in idleness and in drinking alcohol. When the neighbours discovered that she died at the threshold of her own door in the presence of her three children, they rushed to her tumble-down hut. The dead woman was despised, mocked and condemned by almost every member of the village. But when she died, everybody gathered around her house. They were worried about her children more than her, and despite pitying her, they were angry with her.
    The people of the neighbourhood came with grave-clothes for the decent burial of the body and some came with food for the half-starving children. Women in the neighbourhood showed compassion towards Maggie because of her innocent looks and brought discarded clothes and dressed her in clean clothes. The people’s hatred towards the dead woman did not stop them from helping her children. This justifies the given statement.

  2. What happened on the day of the woman's burial?
    Ans. The old woman had three children—John, Kate and Maggie. Farmer Jones said that he would take John who was 12 years old and do well by him. Mrs Ellis, who had been looking out for a bound girl, concluded that she would be charitable and take Kate, even though she was too young to be of much use. However, nobody was ready to take Maggie because she had a spine injury and was completely bedridden.
    Everyone in the village decided that it was best to leave her at the poorhouse, but no one was willing to take the responsibility of taking her there. When the blacksmith’s wife told Joe, the wheelwright, to leave Maggie in the poorhouse, he paused and exclaimed that it would be a cruel thing to do something like that. Maggie, on hearing this, cried aloud with terror and pleaded with Mr Thompson not to leave her there all alone. Joe felt it unfair and cruel to leave the little girl all alone. Therefore, he turned back and went into the hovel again. He convinced the terrified child with a tenderness that she will not be left alone. He wrapped her with the gentleness almost of a woman and took her to his house.

  3. What did Joe Thompson quote from the Bible? Why?
    Ans. In the story ‘An Angel in Disguise’, the writer T.S. Arthur has described how selfless efforts bring content to oneself. When Maggie was left alone by everyone, Joe Thompson did not leave her and took her to his own house. He knew his wife would not approve of this decision. Mr and Mrs Thompson were childless, and years of loneliness had Mrs Thompson vinegar tempered. She showed her disdain and darted a sharp question towards her husband, who had brought the sick brat home. Poor Maggie could do nothing but shrink against the apathy showed by Mrs Thompson. Joe did not reply except giving a pleading and cautionary look. He asked his wife to wait for a moment for explanations and be gentle. He dropped Maggie in a chamber and then explained to Jane that she was left alone by all the villagers. She cannot go to the poorhouse alone as someone should carry her there. He exclaimed that his arms were strong enough to do so. He refers to the Bible to soften her heart and says that he read in the Bible and found that much is said about little children—how the Saviour rebuked the disciples who would not receive them, how he took them up in his arms and blessed them and how he said that whosoever give them even a cup of cold water would not go unrewarded. He warns his wife to be kind and caring towards Maggie. This is how he convinced his wife to be gentle towards Maggie.

  4. Describe the conversation between Joe and Maggie.
    Ans. Joe Thompson tried his best to subdue his wife’s anger. She was angry after she saw Joe bring Maggie home. He explained to her Maggie’s situation and requested her to be kind and polite towards her. Jane Thompson spent some time with her and developed compassion towards her too. When Joe came back from work, he saw that the chamber where he has kept Maggie was illuminated. He saw her talking with Jane. There were no signs of bitterness and sadness, and thus, Joe felt relieved. He then went into her chamber and spoke to her. He asked her about her sickness. He asked if the doctor visits her frequently. Maggie responded to Joe in a low patient tone. She told him that it had been a long while since the doctor visited her. Joe asked her if she was in any pain. She answered saying that it pained when Joe carried her in the morning. But she did not experience any pain since she was laid on the soft bed. She exclaimed that she liked being in the soft bed. Her tone had a sense of gratitude and sweetness. It made Joe’s heart blossom. He felt contented talking to her.

  5. Why does the writer say that Joe Thompson drank the precious wine of life?
    How did life blossom for Joe and Jane Thompson?
    Ans. After the death of the old woman, nobody was ready to take Maggie’s responsibility because she was diseased. Finally, Mr Thompson took her home. He sympathised with her and felt it forbidding leaving her alone. His wife was not happy with Joe bringing Maggie home. She was very bitter and angry about it. Joe subdued her by quoting from the Bible and appealed to her to be compassionate and polite with Maggie. Jane too eventually developed a bond of affection with Maggie and suggested to delay sending her to the poorhouse. Mr and Mrs Thompson never sent her to the poorhouse and took care of Maggie as their own child.
    Maggie proved to be an angel in disguise. Mrs Thompson has understood the true meaning of compassion, kindness and love. For Joe Thompson, an angel had come into his house disguised as a sick, helpless and miserable child and filled all its dreary chambers with the sunshine of love. Thus, the writer tries to convey that not only does Maggie need the care of another to survive but Mrs Thompson also had Maggie to extend her care and love, to live a happy and purposeful life. They lived a contented blossomed life, and therefore, the writer exclaimed that they drank the precious wine of life every day.

  6. Why did Joe Thompson not see the Guardians of the Poor ever?
    Ans. Author T.S. Arthur has justified the miraculous effect that a child’s presence has on a woman’s character. While Joe is out at work, his wife spent the day with Maggie and develops compassion for Maggie. Soon she grows fond of Maggie. She ends up keeping Maggie who becomes a blessing for both of them. She suggested keeping her for a couple of days more as she is very weak and needed to be taken care of. Joe agreed and did not see the Guardian for the next day or on any other day. They never met them at all. They had both developed affection towards her. Before Maggie comes into their home, the couple’s life had been dark, dull and miserable. Since Mrs Thompson had nothing to love and care for, she had become irritable and ill-tempered. She had someone whom she could shower her love and care. Now the sweetness of the sick child looking ever to her in love, patience and gratitude was like honey to her soul and she carried her in her heart as well as in her arms like a precious burden. Their lives blossomed in the presence of the child.

  7. Describe the character sketch of Maggie.
    Ans. Maggie is the youngest of the three orphans who left in a desolate state after the death of their mother due to drunkenness. She is a bedridden child. Maggie was hopelessly diseased. Two years ago, she had fallen from a window and hurt her spine. Thereafter, she could not stand on her own and had to be carried in her mother's arms.
    She touched many hearts and disturbed them with thoughts of well-being. That is why many women in the neighbourhood brought discarded garments and dressed Maggie in clean clothes.
    In the story, there was no one who wanted to bear her responsibility. However, Maggie proved that the societal assumption about her was not entirely true. She was well-behaved and well-mannered. When her brother and sister left, she was patiently waiting for someone to come to her rescue though she was afraid to be left alone all by herself. She always spoke to Mr Thompson in a very respectable manner.
    With her childlike innocence, she managed to arouse love and compassion in Mrs Thompson’s heart. Even the hard-hearted and ill-tempered Mrs Thompson could not remain untouched by her gentleness.
    Maggie always had a gesture of thankfulness, pleasantry and gratitude. This can be seen from the way she interacted with Mr and Mrs Thompson. Society believed her to be a burden. She was, in reality, a blessing to the Thompsons. It appears that more than Maggie, it was the Thompsons who were in need of her. The innocence of Maggie’s heart lit their house forever, and she was truly an angel in disguise.

  8. What kind of a person is Joe Thompson?
    Who is the perfect character for describing humanity?
    Ans. The character of Mr Thompson, a man with rough appearance but having a tender heart, is perfect for describing the message of humanity. His character is articulated perfectly by T.S. Arthur to be denoted as a symbol of selflessness and unconditional love.
    He is concerned for Maggie. He finds it cruel to leave Maggie all by herself after the death of her mother and having separated from her brother and sister. Knowing that poorhouses are not good places and do not offer much comfort to children, he is not convinced to leave Maggie in one such place. Therefore, despite knowing the temper of his wife, he decides to take her to his house to provide her love and comfort.
    The depth of his love can be understood in the firm tone he adopts while speaking to his wife about Maggie’s stay with them. The conviction in his tone puts an end to Mrs Thompson’s questions about Maggie. He seems to be following the message of the Bible and explains to his wife the love and compassion of the Saviour Jesus Christ towards children. He is no less than a saviour for Maggie.
    Although Mr Thompson is described as a rough man in the story, his humanity proves him to be a very kind man and his decision to bring Maggie home proves noble for both Maggie as well as for him and his wife. His decision transformed their home from a dark, cold and miserable place to an abode of love, happiness and joy.

  9. Draw the character sketch of Jane Thompson.
    Ans. The narrator introduces Mrs Thompson as a childless woman. As one who does not have a very amiable temper. She is hard-hearted, ill-tempered and irritable. Mr Thompson, therefore, has well-placed doubts about taking Maggie to his home. Not to her husband’s surprise, on seeing Maggie, Mrs Thompson becomes furious and asks her husband to drop her at one of the poorhouses. As the story progresses, we see a very different Mrs Thompson. On being reminded by her husband that Maggie had just lost her mother, has been separated from her siblings and on having received a few quotations from the Bible, Mrs Thompson’s heart melts too. Soon she is seen conversing with the child, comforting her, getting her food and water and so on.
    The tender motherly feelings that had remained buried deep within her heart are soon aroused by Maggie and to such an extent that she no longer wishes to be separated from Maggie. In Mrs Thompson, Maggie is able to find the comfort she found in her mother's arms, for Mrs Thompson’s temper has been completely transformed. Her bitterness has now changed into a pleasant one. All the love, care, concern and affection that Mrs Thompson had in her now has a way to be given. Maggie’s nature of patience and gratitude brought a change of heart in Mrs Thompson and she wholeheartedly accepted Maggie as her child.

  10. How has the author shown that selflessness and compassion bring happiness not only for others but also for oneself?
    Ans. Selfishness versus selflessness is one of the main themes of the story. Farmer Jones and Mrs Ellis depict selfishness and Joe Thompson depicts selflessness. The mother of three children John, Kate and Maggie dies. Farmer Jones and Mrs Ellis take in John and Kate for selfish reasons. Farmer Jones takes in John to look after his farms, whereas Mrs Ellis takes Kate as a maid. Nobody in the village agrees to take in the invalid Maggie. One of the villagers suggests that she should be taken to the poorhouse, but Mr Thompson out of compassion takes Maggie home along with him. Mr Thompson’s selflessness is thus reflected. He does not leave Maggie alone but takes the precious burden home and faces his wife's anger.
    The story also portrays the redeeming power of love through the character of Mrs Thompson. Joe Thompson’s wife Jane is hard-hearted at the beginning of the story. She is furious for bringing an invalid child home, but she is transformed in the end. It appears as if the woman had turned bitter earlier because of being childless, but as soon as the love of the child touches her, she is transformed.
    Joe’s selfless efforts towards the child has got him happiness and fulfilment. His dull, bitter and unhappy life changed into a blossomed, compassionate and peaceful one. His decision of bringing Maggie home has not only given Maggie a better life but also brought contentment in his and Jane’s life.

  11. Justify the title of the story ‘An Angel in Disguise’.
    Ans. ‘An Angel in Disguise’ is the most appropriate title for the story. Maggie, the youngest of three children, brings joy and happiness in the lives of a childless couple—Mr and Mrs Thompson. She proves to be an angel for them. Mrs Thompson’s attitude and behaviour changed and she shows a drastic change of heart. From a rude, ill-tempered and self-afflicting woman, Mrs Thompson is now a loving and caring figure. The sick and helpless child brings light and happiness to Thompson’s house. She is a blessing for them. For a long period of time, it has been dark, cold and miserable because Mrs Thompson had no one to take care of or to love. That is why she became sore, irritable and an ill-tempered and self-afflicting woman. Now the sweetness of that sick child who was thirsty for love is honey to her soul as she carries her in her heart as well as arms. Maggie comes as an angel in disguise and fills their dreary chambers with love.