Mr Purcell and his Noisy Shop
Mr Purcell was a small and fussy man. He had red cheeks and a tight little stomach. He owned a pet shop, which sold cats, dogs, monkeys and birds. He also sold fish food and bird seeds along with showy and gilded cages. He considered himself to be a professional man.
With so many pets and caged birds, there was an all pervading noise in Mr Purcell’s shop: whispered twitters, sly rustling; squeals, cheeps and sudden squeaks. The customers who came to the shop would not mind the noise for they found several cute birds behind the cages. Mr Purcell could not but be proud of his collection.
The Day the Stranger Customer Came to his Shop
On the day when the strange customer came to the shop, Mr Purcell had followed the same old routine. It was a cold morning and the air was thick with a grey frost. Mr Purcell was sitting on his high stool, reading his newspaper, when the strange customer entered the shop. Unlike the usual days, he did not hear the bell over the door jingle. Despite various noises in his shop, it had never happened that Mr Purcell did not hear the bell ring; the bell always jingled when a customer entered.
Every morning, after having opened the shop, Mr Purcell would place himself on a high stool and read the daily newspaper, In accordance with the different news items, Mr Purcell’s face would reflect myriad emotions and expressions.
The Strange Customer
The moment the strange customer entered the shop, Mr Purcell knew that the customer disliked him. The man wore shiny shoes, but his suit though new was ill-fitted and cheap. He ignored the owner of the shop and cast a quick glance over the contents placed on the shelves. On being asked by Mr Purcell, the man said that he wanted “Something in a cage. Something that was small.” Not being very clear about what he wanted, Mr Purcell offered him a white rat. However, he turned it down saying that he wanted something that had wings.
The Price of the Bird and the Strange Questions
Mr Purcell, then, indicated birds and he selected two doves. On being asked about the price of the doves, Mr Purcell informed him that they were on sale for “fifty-five.” The customer, however, brought out a five dollar notes and told Mr Purcell that was all he had. Mr Purcell realising that it was still a profitable deal, agreed to it. Mr Purcell handed over the cage with a pair of doves to his customer.
The strange customer, then, asked a very strange question to Mr Purcell. He asked Mr Purcell if he would know how much time he spent to earn five dollars. Mr Purcell, unable to answer, asked the customer to provide the details. The strange man told Mr Purcell that it took him ten years of hard labour to earn those five dollars. The man went on to say that in the place where he spent that time, one only manages to earn five dollars and a cheap suit along with a warning to never be caught again.
The Strange Act
Finally, Mr Purcell breathed a sigh of relief as his customer left. At the same time, staring out of the window, he saw his customer holding the cage above his shoulders and unlocking it. Mr Purcell saw his customer release both the doves, one after the other. Mr Purcell was shocked. A little while ago the customer had desperately wanted the doves and was negotiating so as to attain them. In the next moment, he released them, without a reflection. Mr Purcell could not understand this strange act, but felt vaguely insulted.
|Word||Meaning in English||Word||Meaning in English|
|Uncanny||unusual||Monotonous||lacking in variety|
|a small, bright yellow bird noted for its singing||Materialised||to take physical form|
|Musty||having a stale odour||Instinctively||by instinct|
|Haunted||a location frequented by ghosts||Shuttling||that moves repeatedly to and fro|
|Abandoned||to give up||Volunteered||offering service of one’s free will|
|Genial||friendly and cheerful||Clamped||a fastener or holder|
|Gilded||having the colour of gold||Snapped||a sudden break|
|Sly||artfully cunning||Hastened||to move quickly|
|Squeals||a high pitched sound||Crestfallen||depressed|
|Cheeps||a chirping tone||Hesitantly||with nervousness|
|Scampered||a quick high turn||Magnanimously||noble and generous|
|Frantic||in a state of panic||Tottered||an unsteady movement|
|Bewildered||confused||Scurry||to run away with quick steps|
|Briskly||fast; quickly||Mopped||an implement for cleaning surfaces|
|Proprietor||the owner||Waddled||to walk with short steps|
|Frown||an impression indicating displeasure||Haunched||a lamp|
|Reflectively||thinking||Puckered||to pinch wrinkle|
|Chirping||sound of birds||Perplexed||to cause to feel baffled|
CHECK (NCERT Pages 38 and 39)
- Write ‘True’ or ‘False’ against each of following statements.
(i) Mr Purcell sold birds, cats, dogs and monkeys …….
(ii) He was very concerned about the well-being of the birds and animals in his shop. …….
(iii) He was impressed by the customer who bought the two doves. …….
(iv) He was successful shopowner, though insensitive and cold as a person …….
Ans. (i) True (ii) True (iii) False (iv) True
- Why is Mr Purcell compared to an owl?
Ans. Mr Purcell was compared to an owl because of his large glasses that magnified his eyes.
- From the third paragraph pick out
(i) words associated with cries of birds,
(ii) words associated with noise,
(iii) words suggestive of confusion and fear.
(i) Twitters, squeals, squeaks and cheeps.
(ii) Scampered, twittered, rustling.
(iii) Frantic, frightened, bewildered.
- “…Mr Purcell heard it no more than he would have heard the monotonous ticking of a familiar clock.” (Read para beginning with “It was a rough day…”)
(i) What does ‘it’ refer to?
(ii) Why does Mr Purcell not hear ‘it’ clearly?
(i) ‘It’ refers to the noise created by various birds and animals, such as chirping, squeaking and mewing.
(ii) Mr Purcell did not hear ‘it’ clearly because he was now used to these sounds. These sounds for Mr Purcell, therefore, were no different from the monotonous ticking of a familiar clock.
(NCERT Page 42)
- Do you think the atmosphere of Mr Purcell’s shop was cheerful or depressing? Give reasons for your answer.
Ans. The atmosphere of Mr Purcell’s shop was quite depressing. Words such as ‘frantic’, ‘frightening’, ‘bewildered’ and so on are indications of something fearful.
Also, the narrator’s voice draws a contrast between the atmosphere of the shop and what the customers believed it to be.
- Describe the stranger who came to the pet shop. What did he want?
Ans. The stranger who came to the pet shop was a strange man who wore a new suit, but his suit was ill-fitted and cheap.
He was also impervious to the presence of the shop owner. He wanted to buy something small and something in a cage. Finally, he liked the pair of doves.
It seemed that this strange customer had just been released from the jail.
- (i) The man insisted on buying the doves because he was fond of birds. Do you agree?
(ii) How had he earned the five dollars he had?
(i) The man insisted on buying the doves because he wanted something small and something that was caged. The chapter however, does not showcase the man’s fondness of doves because he was unclear about what he wanted to buy.
(i) According to the man, he had earned the five dollars through a lot of hard labour done over ten years. It seemed that the man had earned this money in prison.
- Was the customer interested in the care and feeding of the doves he had bought? If not, why not?
Ans. No, the man was not interested in the care and feeding of the doves he had bought. When Mr Purcell offered to explain him what he should be feeding the doves, he dismissed his advice. Moreover, immediately after stepping out of the shop, he unlocked the doves from the cage and let them fly.
Exercises (NCERT Page 42)
Discuss the following topics in groups.
- Why, in your opinion, did the man set the doves free?
Ans. The man set the doves free probably because he did not wish to see them behind bars. It seemed that he himself was behind prison for ten years. Therefore, the idea of being free was very dear to him and this is how he wished to express his happiness after coming out of the prison; by letting free ‘something caged.’
- Why did it make Mr Purcell feel ‘vaguely insulted’?
Ans. Mr Purcell felt insulted because he had given the pair of doves to the man at a lower price. Since, the man had desperately desired the doves but did not have enough money to buy them, Mr Purcell had agreed to let him have them at a lower profit. Mr Purcell could not comprehend why he had bargained desperately if he had to let them go.
Questions and Answers
Very Short Answer Type Questions
- What did the owner of the pet shop consider himself to be?
Ans. The owner of the pet shop considered himself to be a professional man.
- What unusual event occurred on the day the strange customer came to Mr Purcell’s shop?
Ans. The bell over the door of the shop always jingled whenever a customer entered. That particular day, for the first time, the bell had failed to ring.
- What was Mr Purcell’s habit on seeing a customer?
Ans. Out of habit, Mr Purcell, on seeing a customer would rub his hands briskly together, smile and nod to welcome his customers.
- What was the first thing Mr Purcell offered to his customer?
Ans. Mr Purcell showed a white rat to the customer when he asked for “something small, something caged.”
Short Answer Type Questions
- “They give you five dollars…and tell you not to get caught again.” Who were the “they”?
Ans. The piece of advice, “not to get caught again” is usually given by police to the prisoners who have completed their term in the jail. The man also referred to having earned five dollars in ten years for hard labour. This labour could be the work prisoners did in the prison. ‘They’ could be the police.
- What was peculiar about the customer who bought the doves?
Ans. The man, after stepping out of the shop, stared at his purchase for a few moments and then let loose both the doves.
This was quite a peculiar act as he had bought them at a reduced price by showing his eagerness for them, but then he suddenly let them go.
Long Answer Type Question
What was the atmosphere in Mr Purcell’s pet shop?
Ans. There was a sense of foreboding in Mr Purcell’s pet shop. The movement of the birds in his shop was described as frantic, frightening, bewildered and unusual. The shop also had less light. The strange customer’s visit in the shop is described as casting a gaze around the “shadowy shop”. After the customer left, it seemed that the uncanny act of the customer had added on to the haunted aspect of the shop.