A Shady Plot (Extra Qu.)


A Shady Plot   ( Elsic Brown)

EXTRACTS BASED QUESTIONS

Read the extracts given below and answer the questions that follow :
1. “I am going back to my grandmother. My lawyer will communicate with you later ?” (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61008)
(a) Who speaks the above lines ?
(b) Why is she going back to her grandmother ?
(c) What effect does the above extract have on the listener ?
Ans1. (a) Lavinia.
1.(b) She has learnt that her husband is carrying on a clandestine love affair.
1.(c) He is devastated; his marriage is on the rocks.

2. “Well, I was not in a position to contradict Jenkins.”(CBSE SA-2–2012–61023)
(a) Why was the narrator not in a position to contradict Jenkins ?
(b) Who was Jenkins ?
(c) What had Jenkins asked the narrator to do ?
Ans2. (a) Because his magazine had been the only one to print his stuff.
(b) He was the publisher of the magazine.
(c) He wanted him to write a ghost story.

3. “I sat staring at it and presently noticed something just taking shape. It was exactly like watching one of these moving picture cartoons being put together.”(CBSE–SA-2–2012–2018)
(a) What was the narrator staring it?
(b) How was the figure taking shape?
(c) Who was gradually taking a definite shape part by part?
Ans3. (a) The narrator John Hallock was staring at the shadow that started taking a definite shape.
(b) The shape was like one of these moving picture cartoons being put together.
(c) Helen’s ghost was gradually taking a definite shape.

4. “………. I just came to tell you stop bothering us for assistance; You ain’t going to get it. We are going on strike!” (CBSE–SA-2–2012–2049)
(a) Who is the speaker of these lines?
(b) Who does ‘you’ refer to ?
(c) What does the speaker threaten to do ?
Ans4. (a) The ghost, Helen
(b) John/ Narrator
(c) to go on strike

5. “I had hardly seated myself at the desk when there came a tap at the door and a white slip of paper slid under it. I unfolded it and read : …………..” (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61004)
(a) Who is ‘I’ ?
(b) Who had written the slip of paper ?
(c) What was written on it ?
Ans5. (a) John Hallock
(b) His wife, Lavinia
(c) She was going away – would seek a divorce.

6. So I went home and sat down before my desk and sucked at the end of my pencil and waited, but nothing happened. Pretty soon my mind began to wander off on other things.
(a) Where was the author coming back from?
Ans. (a) The author was coming back after a meeting with Jenkins.
(b) What was the author waiting for to happen?
Ans. The author was waiting for an idea of a plot to write a ghost story.
(c) What do you mean by wander off? Where did the author’s mind begin to wander?
Ans. Wander off means to walk around in a casual way without intending to go in any particular direction. The author’s mind began to wander on the material things like his wife’s shopping and how he was going to cure her alarming tendency to take every new fad that came along.
7. “This writing business is delightful, isn’t it?” I said sarcastically at last, out loud, too. You see, I had reached the stage of imbecility when I was talking to myself
(a) What does the narrator mean by writing business?
Ans (a) By writing business the narrator means writing ghost stories.
(b) Which word has the narrator used sarcastically?
Ans. The narrator uses the word ‘delightful’ sarcastically.
(c) What does the word ‘imbecility’ mean here?
Ans. The word ‘imbecility’ here means stupidity.
8. “You know I bought the loveliest thing this afternoon. Everybody’s wild over them.”
(a) Who is the speaker?
Ans. Lavinia Hallock, wife of the narrator and John is the speaker.
(b) What did she/he buy?
Ans. She had bought an Ouija board
(c) What do you mean by the phrase ‘wild over them’?
Ans.Wild over them’ means to be very excited on something i.e. Lavinia is very excited to buy Ouija board.
9. “I ain’t stayin’ round no place ‘long wid dem Ouija board contraptions. I’se skeered of hoodoos. I’s done gone, I is.”
(a) Who is the speaker?
Ans. Gladolia, the maid, servant is the speaker.
(b) What is the speaker scared of?
Ans. She was afraid of the spirits communicating through Ouija boards.
(c) Who is hoodoo?
Ans. Hoodoo is placing curses and charms to bring bad luck.
10. I hadn’t the shade of an idea, but at the time that didn’t worry me in the least. You see, I had often been like that before and in the end things had always come my way — I didn’t in the least know how or why. It had all been rather mysterious?
(a) On which shade does the passage show the narrator?
Ans. The narrator looks overconfident that will find a new plot for his story.
(b) What do you mean by the word ‘mysterious’?
Ans. Secretive
(c) In which field is the narrator not a specialist?
Ans. The narrator is not a specialist of writing ghost stories.
11. Curious how that idea for a plot had come to me out of nowhere after I had chased inspiration in vain for months. It is healthy to contradict Jenkins.
(a) Who was Jenkins?
Ans. Jenkins used to publish John’s stories in his magazine.
(b) Why does John depend on Jenkins?
Ans. He depends on Jenkins for financial help.
(c) What do you mean by the phrase ‘in vain’?
Ans. Without success.

12. “You’re to exert your influence. Get all your friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board and then we’ll start helping you to write”.
(a) Who is the speaker and of what help is she talking about?
Ans. Helen is the speaker. She is talking about to help John to write a ghost story.
(b) Why does she want to stop his friends and acquaintances to stop using Ouija board?
Ans. She says so because people trouble the ghosts by calling them through Ouija board.
(c) What do you mean by ‘exert’?
Ans. It means in a strong and determined way.
13. “I groaned and clutched my hair. The very idea of that horrible scarecrow so much as touching me”.
(a) Why did the speaker groan and clutch his hair?
Ans. The speaker groaned and clutched his hair because he was totally shocked and confused.
(b) Who is the scarecrow?
Ans. Helen, the ghost is the scarecrow.
(c) What do you mean by scarecrow?
Ans. A scarecrow is an object in the shape of a person, which it is put in a field where crows are growing in order to frighten birds away.
14. “Don’t forget the strike, “she repeated, while her lower jaw began to disintegrate, and as my Lavinia crossed the room to me the last vestige of her ear faded into space”.
(a) Who is ‘she’?
Ans. Helen.
(b) Of which strike is ‘she’ talking about?
Ans. ‘The writer’s Inspiration Bureau’ of ghosts would go on strike and the writers like John would not get any help to write their stories.
15. “I don’t know, John — they are awfully thrilling”.
(a) Who is the speaker?
Ans. Lavinia.
(b) What is awfully thrilling?
Ans. Ouija boards.
(c) What do you mean by ‘awfully thrilling’?
Ans. Extremely exciting

II. SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS
Answer the following questions in about 50-60 words :

Ques1. Bring out the irony in the statement: ‘I did not specialize in ghost stories, but more or less, they seemed to specialize in me’. (CBSE–SA-2–2012–2046)
Ans. The narrator was a writer who used to work for Jenkins, a publisher. He wanted the narrator to write ghost stories because they were in more demand. The narrator did not want to write ghost stories out of his choice. He wanted to write stories of other genres, but his ghost stories were popular. It was the ghost of Helen, who helped him to write ghost stories.

Ques2. Why does John want the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene ?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–2017, 61024)
Ans. John did not want his wife to see Helen as the thought she would create troubles for him. Lavinia was subject to hysterics. John thought if she would see Helen, the ghost,she might start laughing or crying loudly. Moreover he was afraid of getting more misunderstanding between them.

Ques3. What made Lavinia buy a Ouija board? How did the narrator react to her doing?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61029)
Ans. Lavinia bought a Ouija board because it was at a bargain sale. She found it duckliest and darlingest thing and couldn’t resist to buy it. Hallock asked her to exchange it for something else. He got scared of the upcoming danger, of the anger of the ghost,Helen. Secondly John was protective of Lavinia and did not want her to get into any kind of trouble.

Ques4. What is your impression of Mrs. Lavinia? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61022)
Ans. Mrs. Lavinia was a spendthrift. She was unconcerned about John’s financial problems. She didn’t bother that her husband was a writer and supplement his income by his writings. She was not amenable to suggestions, hence refuses to get rid of the Ouija board even though her husband insist on it. She was fond of parties. She didn’t use to think much before reacting.

Ques5. How did the narrator react to the appearance of the ghost?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61028)
Ans. The narrator’s attitude towards ghosts and horror stories was quite humorous.The narrator and the second sherriff went ahead on horseback when they were being chased. Suddenly the sound of the gunshot echoed in the air. Second sheriff groaned and slumped back against him. He made the story interesting and refreshing.

Ques6. Why was Helen, the ghost going on strike? What condition did she lay for providing help? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61030)
Or
Why was the ghosts angry with the Ouija board fanatics? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61027)
Ans. Helen and the other ghosts were very fanatics about the Ouija board because people keep on calling up on ghosts to answer questions all the time. They were exhausted and needed rest. Helen wanted the narrator to exert his influence and get all his acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board.

Ques7. What did the ghost tell us about herself before she became a ghost?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61018)
Ans. Helen told the narrator that when she was a human, she had worked as a reader on a magazine. The quality of stories and other work had life difficult for her.When she died she found other ghosts who had suffered similarly and they organized ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau’ to help writers who were looking for inspiration.

Ques 8. What condition did the ghost put forth for providing continued help to John Hallock?Why? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61021)
Or
Why did Helen trouble the narrator of ‘A Shady Plot’? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61001)
Ans. The narrator was very desperate for inspiration. Helen found his mind soft enough to accept impression and helped him. She was going on strike because the new fad of Ouija boards had people calling up on ghosts to answer questions all the time. She was exhausted and needed rest. She wanted the narrator to exert his influence and get all his acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board.

Ques 9. Why was the narrator not in a position to contradict Jenkins?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61017)
Ans. Jenkins was the publisher of the magazine which printed the ghost stories written by the narrator. It was the only magazine that printed his stuff and hence he could not contradict Jenkins. Secondly, the narrator was in need of money. Therefore, it was more a necessity for him to come up with good stories whenever Jenkins demanded them.

Ques10. ‘Hallock’s ‘ghosts’ were ‘live propositions’. How could he pen down ghost-special stories? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–2043)
Ans. John Hallock was a ghost story writer for Jenkins. He was not a specialist in ghost stories but suddenly every time an idea would come mysteriously to his mind and he would write a story. Helen told him that ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau’ used to help writers who were without ideas and had a soft mind on what to write.

Ques 11. How did Helen look when she first visited the narrator of ‘A Shady Plot’?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61002)
Ans. John was sitting to write down a ghost story. He was searching his mind for inspiration but couldn’t find it. Suddenly, he heard a voice in the room and a figure materialised out of thin air. It was the ghost of Helen. She had long angular fishy eyes having spectacles, her hair were tied in a tight wad and had a solid jaw. She seemed angry with him.

Ques 12. Why did Gladiola decide to leave her job at the Hallocks?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61004)
Ans. Gladiola was the narrator’s cook. She decided to leave her job at the Hallocks because she was fed up and scared of Ouija boards and Loodos. She was scared of ghosts and spirits in the house. Lavinia, hence asked her to burn the Ouija board.

Ques13. Why couldn’t John Hallock give his whole time to writing?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–61033)
Ans. John Hallock was in need of money as he had many responsibilities. In order to fulfill his needs he was doing the job of a book keeper in a lumbar company. Thus he couldn’t give his whole time to writing.

Ques14. What has the ghost got against Ouija boards? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61008)
Ans. The ghosts were fed up with the Ouija boards because people who use Ouija boards keep them terribly busy answering all sorts of questions. The ghosts didn’t like to be controlled by them and hence wanted to get rid of those Ouija boards.

Ques15. Why did John’s wife want to go to her grandmother’s house?(CBSE–SA-2–2012–2045)
Ans. Lavinia, Mrs. John was angry with John because she suspected her husband having an affair with a lady called Helen. She thought he was cheating on her as he kept receiving calls from Helen frequently. This aroused her suspicion on him of doing something wrong. Hence she decided to leave him and go to her grandmother’s house.

Ques16. What did Jenkins ask John Hallock to do and why? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61026)
Ans. Jenkins wanted John Hallock to write a ghost story for the magazine because the public were eager to read ghost stories and the narrator’s skill in writing such stories was exceptional. Jenkins thought his ghosts were live propositions and were more life like than mere story characters.

Ques17. What is an Ouija Board? How does it work? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61016)
Ans. Ouija Board is a board on which are marked letters of Alphabet. Answers to questions are spelt out by a pointer or glass held by finger tips of participants. Ouija board is supposedly worked by spiritual forces who come out with the solutions of a problem.

Ques18. How did Lavinia face the ghost? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–2042)
Ans. Lavinia suspected her husband having an affair with a woman named Helen. When she came to see him for the last time, she thought he was hiding some woman in the room. Prepared for the worst she felt relieved on realizing that it was only the ghost. She gave a broad satisfied smile. She fell forgivingly into Hallock’s arm.

19. Why could John Hallock not give his whole time to writing?
Ans.John  could not give his whole time to writing, as he was working in a lumber company as a book keeper. He had to do this job because there were grocery bills and his wife Lavinia’s fancied shopping.
20. Why is the narrator hesitant to be a partner to Laura Hinkle during the Ouija board party?
Ans.Narrator was hesitant to be a partner to Laura Hinkle during the party as she was a flirt and she grinned like a flirtatious crocodile. She took a lot of freedom with John and poor John was forced to become her partner much against his will.
21. Why does John want the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene?
Ans. John knew his wife Lavinia was very sensitive. She was so nervous that she could not bear to see the sight of a mouse. So how she would face the ghost. Moreover, she was very suspicious as well.
22. How did the narrator react to the appearance of the ghost?
Ans. The narrator could not believe that it was all real. He sat there feeling quite helpless. He did not know how to react to the presence of the ghost in his room. He was confused.
23. Why was Helen the ghost going on a strike? What condition did she lay for providing help?
Ans. Helen and the other ghosts were being disturbed quite often by the Ouija board players. They were called very often and were asked the most stupid questions. As a result, they had all decided to go on a strike. If only the narrator could influence his friends and acquaintances to give up the use of Ouija boards, they would help him to write again.
24. Why is John’s wife angry? What does she decide to do?
Ans. John’s wife Lavinia was angry, because she thought he was flirting with a woman named Helen on the Ouija board. Next morning, she decides to leave and go to her grandmother. She also conveys through a letter that her lawyer would communicate with him later.
25. Why did Lavinia decide to leave her husband and what made her change her mind later?
Ans. Lavinia was angry as she thought her husband was flirting with another woman named Helen. But when she finds that Helen was no woman but only a ghost, she heaves a sigh of relief and changes her mind.
26. “John’s apprehensions about his wife’s reaction to her encounter with the ghost are unfounded.” Justify.
Ans. Lavinia was very sensitive and nervous too. She could not stand the sight of a mouse. But when she encounters the , she talks quite bravely. She heaved a sigh of relief that it was a mere ghost and not a woman.

27. Why does the ghost appear before the narrator?

Ans. The ghost of Helen had been sent to ask the narrator to make his wife give up using the Ouija board.

28. Hallock’s ghosts were live-propositions? How could he pen down ghost-special stories? Ans. The ghost created by Hallock in his ghost stories appeared real to his readers. Public found his ghost-stories very interesting and craved for them. He was being fed with ideas and inspiration to write, actually by a ghost.

III. LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS
Answer the following questions in about 120-150 words :

Ques1. Why did Lavinia decide to leave John Hallock? Describe the circumstances leading
to her decision? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61002)
Ans. John Hallock was a ghost-story writer. Lavinia, his wife was very angry and felt jealous when the Ouija board showed her husband a ‘traitor’. She thought that John had been cheating on her with a woman named Helen. She suspected him of doing something wrong and hence decided to leave John Hallock and go to her grandmother’s house. Helen, the ghost was forcing the narrator to convince people to stop using Ouija’s boards. But when his own wife held an Ouija party at home, he got scared of the ghost’s anger. He knew that if Lavinia had the sight of the ghost she would get scared. But his apprehensions of being protecting his wife proved the other way. Next morning when vinia came to John’s room to say goodbye she found that he was trying to hide someone in the room. She became more furious. But when she came face to face with Helen, she felt relieved and a contentment spilled over her face on realizing that Helen was just a ghost.

Ques2. What role does the supernatural play in the lives of the Hallocks (John and Lavinia)? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61022)
Ans. At the Ouija board party at Lavinia’s house, Mrs. Laura’s Ouija board reveals that a women by the name of Helen wants to communicate with John. The Ouija boards of other women make a similar revelation. Helen’s attempt to communicate with John (she wants him to tell his wife to get rid of the Ouija board) is misconstrued as a proof of Liaison with Helen. Lavinia is smitten with jealousy; she decides to divorce her husband. The ghost thus becomes the unwitting cause of a serious rift between husband and wife. The situation takes a dramatic turn. Lavinia enters John’s room to tell him that she was leaving for good. John’s furtive glances and strange gestures aroused her suspicion that he is hiding somebody. It can be none other than Helen, she thought. In a furious mood she pushed her husband to confront Helen. She was pleasantly surprised to find that Helen was a ghost and not a woman of ravishing beauty for whom her husband hasfallen. Her fears were allayed and she fell in the arms of her husband.      The guest this time saved their marriage and reunited them.

Ques3. John Hallock writes a letter to his friend, describing to him how Helen, the ghost had almost ruined his domestic life, at the same time provided him with a plot for writing a ghost story. (CBSE–SA-2–2012–2044)
Ans.
243-B
Chelsea House
London
Dear Ark,
How are you? I hope this letter of mine finds you in good health and high spirits.Last week Jenkins had asked me to write another ghost story. I was without inspiration.Suddenly, I heard a sound in the room and a figure materialized out of thin air. It was a ghost whose name was Helen. She seemed angry and warned me about the recent trend of Ouija boards. She said these boards had proved tiring for the ghosts as it calls them to answer their questions and hence troubles them. She asked me to ask my friends to refrain from using Ouija boards. But my wife Lavinia bought a Ouija board and arranged for an Ouija board party. In the party all the boards screamed my name and said me a traitor. Lavinia suspected me of having an affair with someone. Angrily she decided to leave me. My cook also left the house. I was blaming Helen for ruining the happiness of my family. Suddenly, Lavinia entered in the room and saw Helen; I thought she would scream with fear but she understood everything and my life became normal once again.And now I got a very good plot for my next story. I will tell you about my story in mynext letter. Till then Bye.
Your friend
John Hallock

1. Describe the Ouija board party and how did it affect the domestic life of John and Lavinia Hallock?
Ans. Lavinia and a number of her other friends, who were also members of the Book Club had organised the Ouija board party. It was to be held at Lavinia’s place among the invited members, most of them were elderly ladies. They were divided in different groups as pairs, to be seated opposite one another with the board in the middle. Laura Hinkle’s partner did not turn up, so John was pulled in to be her partner: He hesitatingly sat in front of her, Laura Hinkle being a coquette of the first order, he was uneasy and uncomfortable. On a number of boards, Helen’s name appeared who wished to communicate with John. All started gossiping, at which John turned red and fled from the room. When Lavinia came to know of it, she of course grew very angry that her husband was having an affair with a woman called Helen. She decided to leave the next morning and go to her grandmother. She also conveyed to John that her lawyer would communicate with him later.
2. Imagine you are Gladolia. Describe the happenings in the Hallock household to your friend.
Ans. Oh dear! It has been a terrible time in my master’s household. My mistress got the Ouija board and the troubles began. She invited her friends for a session of calling the spirits and all that hoodoo, which I never approved of But she never listened to anyone. During the party, there was this ghost sending messages to my master. It was very embarrassing for him. I myself did not wish to continue in the household anymore and decided to leave. When mistress came to know, she ordered to burn the board. I decided to stay and work for them.
3. Write a brief account of the incident at the Ouija board party as seen by one of the members of the Book Club.
Ans. We all were invited to the Ouija board party at Lavinia Hallock’s place, which turned out to be rather interesting, quite strangely. The . session of calling the spirits began. Mr. Hallock was also present, sitting opposite Laura Hinkle whose partner had not turned up. Most of us were quite elderly women and we were surprised when messages were flashed on the board calling John a traitor. Eyebrows were raised, when the.messenger’s name appeared on the board. It was some Helen. All the women starting whispering in hushed tones. Lavinia, naturally appeared quite upset and angry, but what is the reality is not clear. John did behave and looked suspicious. But there definitely is a mystery. I’m curious.

IV. QUESTIONS BASED ON VALUES AND KEY MESSAGES
Ques1. What is the central idea of the story, ‘A Shady Plot’?
Ans. The story is about a writer’s struggle to find inspiration for his ghost stories.He needs a plot, a storyline and the inspiration is hidden. As the events unfold, the readers realise that the ghosts have been providing him with ideas and plotlines. The story then moves forward to a point where the writer’s wife suspects him of having an affair with a lady. The story reaches its finale when Lavinia comes face to face with the ghost (the lady) and maintains her composure. The plot of the story is riveting and has unexpected twists and turns. The author surprises the reader a number of times and much humour arises out of the situations. Because of the shady nature of the plot, the story manages to hold the interest of the reader. The title of the story is quite apt and compliments the story beautifully. It does not reveal the plot or give an indication but helps the author to keep the surprise element. It also directs the reader’s expectation in a positive manner.

Ques2. John wants the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene. What impressions of his wife’s character do you form from his words?
Ans. John was very protective of Lavinia, his wife. He knew that the sight of a ghost in the house would scare her out of her senses. Hence he wanted the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene. He wished to protect Lavinia from the fear of seeing a ghost. His apprehension revealed that his wife was a fragile, sensitive person who cannot face fear. She seemed to be a vulnerable person but it was not so. Lavinia did not shriek or scream when she saw the ghost. She talked to the ghost and kept hold of her nerves. She was quite confident when talking to her. She displayed a strength which John never dreamt of. Besides these characterics, Lavinia was a suspicious, jealous and a manipulative person.

Ques3. Do you agree that the supernatural beings in “A shady plot” are benign, harmless creatures? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61006)
Ans. The supernatural beings in ‘A Shady Plot’ are benign creatures. The ghosts were trying to help writers starved of new ideas for their stories. They were very empathic because in their other life they were also writer’s and hence better understood the plight of the writers. They founded ‘The Writer’s Bureau’ with the specific purpose of assisting writers. These good creatures are harrassed by Ouija board fanatics who call them out of their beds a little too ten of and ask all sorts of questions. Helen asked John to ask his wife to get rid of her Ouija board so that the ghost could help him with a good idea for his story. The ghost can’t be blamed for causing a rift between John and his wife. It is the women who is misinterpreted. Helen’s intentions should not be misunderstood. She was the one who cleared the cloud of suspicion between John and Lavinia and reunited them. Helen was a benign ghost who was always ready to help a writer.

4. What is crucial for anyone to give expression to his creativity? How can we attain that single-pointedness of the mind to create beautifully and meaningfully?
Ans. Every intelligent being is endowed with something exceptional that sets him apart from the rest and gives him his special place in God’s plan for this world. Therefore, it is the duty to seek it out and give expression to that blessing from the Almighty. First of all, it is the divine blessing that must be sought, to be able to identify what lies within and then give vent to it. Single-mindedness of the mind, purity of purpose, truthfulness and honesty with one’s own self are some of the important ingredients. Unless one has truth, success can never come to him. Carefulness in choosing the means to attain one’s end is also very essential otherwise spiritual happiness keeps eluding in spite of the material gains and comforts. To have a clear conscience is important, as it will make our life a celebration! Discipline and time management come later and can be cultivated. Then success comes following to kiss the feet of such a man. Creativity begins to flower and we can become the inhabitants of the domain of permanent happiness and bliss!
5. What is the central idea of the story, ‘A Shady Plot’?
Ans. The story is about a writer’s struggle to find inspiration for his ghost stories. He needs a plot, a storyline and the inspiration is hidden. As the events unfold, the readers realise that the ghosts have been providing him with ideas and plotlines. The story then moves forward to a point where the writer’s wife suspects him of having an affair with a lady. The story reaches its finale when Lavinia comes face to face with the ghost (the lady) and maintains her composure. The plot of the story is riveting and has unexpected twists and turns. The author surprises the reader a number of times and much humour arises out of the situations. Because of the shady nature of the plot, the story manages to hold the interest of the reader. The title of the story is quite apt and compliments the story beautifully. It does not reveal the plot or give an indication but helps the author to keep the surprise element. It also directs the reader’s expectation in a positive manner.

6. John wants the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene. What impressions of his wife’s character do you form from his words?
Ans. John was very protective of Lavinia, his wife. He knew that the sight of a ghost in the house would scare her out of her senses. Hence he wanted the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene. He wished to protect Lavinia from the fear of seeing a ghost. His apprehension revealed that his wife was a fragile, sensitive person who cannot face fear. She seemed to be a vulnerable person but it was not so. Lavinia did not shriek or scream when she saw the ghost. She talked to the ghost and kept hold of her nerves. She was quite confident when talking to her. She displayed a strength which John never dreamt of. Besides these characterics, Lavinia was a suspicious, jealous and a manipulative person.

7. Do you agree that the supernatural beings in “A shady plot” are benign, harmless creatures? (CBSE–SA-2–2012–61006)
Ans. The supernatural beings in ‘A Shady Plot’ are benign creatures. The ghosts were trying to help writers starved of new ideas for their stories. They were very empathic because in their other life they were also writer’s and hence better understood the plight of the writers. They founded ‘The Writer’s Bureau’ with the specific purpose of assisting writers. These good creatures are harrassed by Ouija board fanatics who call them out of their beds a little too ten of and ask all sorts of questions. Helen asked John to ask his wife to get rid of her Ouija board so that the ghost could help him with a good idea for his story. The ghost can’t be blamed for causing a rift between John and his wife. It is the women who is misinterpreted. Helen’s intentions should not be misunderstood. She was the one who cleared the cloud of suspicion between John and Lavinia and reunited them. Helen was a benign ghost who was always ready to help a writer.

SOME IMPORTANT QUESTION
1. “I was merely waiting for you to tell me why you had come. And excuse me, but do you always come in sections like this? I should think your parts might get mixed up sometimes.”
You reflect upon your experience of meeting something strange on a lonely road. Write a spine-chilling diary entry of what you saw and what you learnt from it. [Value Based Question]
Ans. 20 January, 2013 Dear Diary, I am still out of breath, shivering with terrible fear and drenched in perspiration. It is 2 o’clock (am. not pm!) and I’ve been running for almost an hour. I must pen down what I saw before. I forget the details. I, a writer of ghost stories, terrified by a ghost. Let me start with the time I left the editor’s house at 11 p.m. I had handed over to him my latest short story about two children, who saw a ghost every night. I decided to walk home, as it was a full moon night, with pleasant cool air blowing, my house only a mile away. After five minutes, I had an eerie feeling, somebody or something was following me. I looked around — no one in sight — the long lonely mad, stretched behind and ahead of me. Then I felt my hair rise on my arms as I heard short rapid steps, a grumbling sound. I walked faster, the steps followed me faster I started running with my heart beathing like a drum, my bones chilled by fear. A loud sound of laughter made me turn and I turned to stone, struck dumb by the sight I saw two children, covered with blood, horrible, glowing eyes like embers, anger in every line of their faces, glowering at me, chanting horrible curses. As they tried to pounce on me, I came to life and ran. Fear gave me wings and I landed in my bedroom. Why did this happen to me? I feel there is a message in it for me. Why did I write ghost stories? Why did I write about children harmed by them? Why didn’t I write inspiring stories about good people, noble people, who helped to make the world a better place. What values was I teaching By Since Helen was there in the room, the narrator tried to get her to leave. Just then the door opened and Gladolia announced she was leaving because she would not stay in a place where there were Ouija boards. Lavinia told her to burn the Ouija board. She then suspiciously asked him who was hiding in the room. Helen spoke to Lavinia. She introduced herself as Helen of Troy, New York. And saying so, she left, waving a hand in farewell. Lavinia forgave her husband who declared he had the best plot for a ghost story.
Type 8 Questions (Reference to the Context)
Read the following passages taken from ‘A Shady Plot’ and answer the given questions:
1. ‘Hallock,’ he had said to me, ‘give us another on the supernatural this time. Something to give ’em the horrors; that’s what the public wants, and your ghosts are live propositions.’
(a) Who is ‘he’?
Ans. ‘He’ is Jenkins, the editor of a magazine.
(b) What does he want Hallock to do?
Ans. Jenkins wants Hallock to write a ghost story for the magazine.
(c) Why does he want Hallock to do it?
Ans. Jenkins wants Hallock to write the story because his ghost stories are popular with the readers.
2. ‘Jenkins always seemed to have an uncanny knowledge as to when the landlord or the grocer were pestering me, and he dunned me for a ghost.’
(a) Who is ‘he’?
Ans. ‘He’ is Jenkins, the editor of the magazine for which Hallock writes.
(b) Why is Jenkin’s knowledge uncanny?
Ans. Jenkin always knew, as if through some mysterious powers, when the narrator needed money.
(c) Explain ‘he dunned me for a ghost.
Ans. ‘ The editor persistently asked the narrator to write a ghost story for the magazine.
3. ‘She was long and angular, with enormous fishy eyes behind big bone-rimmed spectacles, and her hair in a tight wad at the back of her head…’
(a) Who was she? What was her name?
Ans. She was a ghost. When alive her name had been Helen of Troy, New York.
(b) Why had she appeared to the narrator?
Ans. Helen of Troy wanted the narrator to get his friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board.
(c) How had she helped the narrator in the past?
Ans. Helen of Troy had helped the narrator by putting ideas for ghost stories in his head.
4. ‘But my ghosts aren’t a bit like you…’
(a) Who says this and to whom?
Ans. John Hallock, the narrator, says this to the ghost, Helen.
(b) Why does he say this?
Ans. The ghost had claimed that she was the one who had suggested the plots of the ghost stories that the narrator wrote.
(c) What does the listener reply?
Ans. Helen of Troy said the readers wouldn’t believe him if the ghosts were like her.
5. ‘The very idea of that horrible scarecrow so much as touching me! And wouldn’t my wife be shocked!’
(a) Who is the scarecrow?
Ans. The scarecrow referred to here is Helen, the ghost.
(b) Why does the scarecrow touch the speaker?
Ans. The ghost had told the narrator that she had often leant over his shoulder while he was writing to give him ideas.
(c) Why would the narrator’s wife be shocked?
Ans. The narrator’s wife being sensitive, and scared even of a mouse, would be terrified of the ghost and become hysterical.
6. ‘There was a time when we had nothing much to occupy us and used to haunt a little on the side, purely for amusement, but not anymore.’
(a) Who is the speaker?
Ans. The speaker is Helen, the ghost.
(b) What does she not like to do anymore?
Ans. The ghost does not wish to sit at a desk and answer questions on the Ouija board any more.
(c) Why does she not have time for any longer?
Ans. Helen of Troy does not have time to haunt any longer.
7. ‘I remembered her craze for taking up new fads and a premonitory chill crept up the back of my neck’
(a) Who is the speaker? Who is the ‘her’?
Ans. The narrator is the speaker. ‘Her’ is the speaker’s wife.
(b) What premonition does the speaker get?
Ans. Matlock feels that his wife may have got an Ouija board.
(c) Why does he feel so?
Ans. Hallock’s wife likes to follow the latest fads and Ouija boards were the latest craze.
8. ‘Misto Hallock, de Missus sho rinks you’s lost! She say she done ‘phone you dis mawnin’ to be home early, but fo’ de lawd’s sake not to stop to argify now, but get ready fo’ de company an’ come on down.’
(a) Who is the speaker?
Ans. The speaker is the narrator’s cook, Gladolia.
(b) Why had the listener’s wife tried to call him?
Ans. The listener’s wife had called him to tell him they had guests coming over in the evening and he should be home on time.
(c) What advice does the speaker give?
Ans. Gladolia tells him not to argue with his wife but to change his clothes and come down.
9. ‘Then it began to fly around so fast that I gave up any attempt to follow it. My companion was bending forward and had started to spell out loud: ‘T-r-a-i-t-o-r.’ Traitor! Why, what does she mean?’
(a) Who is being called a ‘Traitor’?
Ans. The narrator, John Hallock, is being called a traitor.
(b) Who is calling him a traitor?
Ans.The ghost is calling him a traitor.
(c) Why is he being called a traitor?
Ans. The ghost had wanted the narrator to get his friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board but he was using the Ouija board himself.
10. ‘Misto Hallock,’ came from the hall outside, ‘Misto Hallock, l’s gwine t’ quit. I don’t like no hoodoos.’ And the steps retreated.’
(a) Who is the speaker?
Ans. The speaker is the narrator’s cook, Gladolia.
(b) What is the speaker saying?
Ans. Gladolia says that she is going to leave the job.
(c) What reason does the speaker give?
Ans. Gladolia tells him that she does not wish to stay where people placed charms and curses on others.

Type 9 Questions (Short Answers)
1.What genre of stories does Jenkins want the narrator to write? Why?
Ans. Jenkins wants the narrator to write a ghost story because readers want to read his ghost stories, and his ghosts are well-defined characters like living beings.
2. Bring out the irony in the statement: ‘I didn’t specialise in ghost stories, but more or less they seemed to specialise in me.
Ans.The narrator did not write ghost stories out of choice. He wanted to write other genres. But it was his ghost stories that were popular and so he got into writing ghost stories. Ironically, it was the ghost, Helen, who helped him write these stories.
3.Does the narrator like writing ghost stories? Or does he feel he is being exploited by the editor? Support your answer with evidence from the story.
Ans. The narrator did not particularly like to write ghost stories. He does feel that the editor is exploiting him as he says, ‘Well, I was in no position to contradict Jenkins, for, as yet, his magazine had been the only one to print my stuff.’
4. What does the narrator mean by ‘And I had never found it healthy to contradict Jenkins’?
Ans. The narrator said that he had realised that when Jenkins gave him work to do, it was better to agree to what he said. He could not risk Jenkins getting angry and withdrawing the offer or not giving him any work in the future.
5. Though the narrator did not particularly like writing ghost stories, why did he do so?
Ans. The narrator’s ghost stories were popular with his readers and Jenkins preferred him to write ghost stories. Moreover, no other magazine was ready to publish his writing. He needed this extra income from writing to pay the rent or the grocer’s bill.
6. What was the narrator’s attitude towards his writing ability? Was his attitude justified?
Ans.The narrator had become overconfident and cocky about his writing ability. He did not realise that the plots were being put in his mind by the ghost.
7. Briefly describe the ghost.
Ans. The ghost was long and angular, with enormous fishy eyes behind big bone-rimmed spectacles, with her hair in a tight wad at the back of her head and a solid jaw. She wore a stiff white shirtwaist and a plaid skirt.
8. Why did the ghost materialise?
Ans. The narrator had not been able to think of a plot for his story and had been calling on heaven and earth all afternoon to help him write a story. The ghost had materialised as a result of his call for help to tell him that no help would be forthcoming as the ghosts were going on strike.
9. Why had Helen, the ghost, been helping the narrator write ghost stories? Why was she going 7 on strike?
Ans. Helen had been a writer before she died. So she and other writers who were ghosts now, had formed ‘The Writer’s Inspiration Bureau’. They scouted around until they found a writer without ideas and with a mind soft enough to accept impressions. The case was brought to the attention of the main office, and one of the ghosts was assigned to it. Helen had been assigned to the narrator. She had come to tell him that they were going on strike.
10. Why were the ghosts created by Helen in the narrator’s mind different from her? Do you think her estimation was correct?
Ans. Helen felt that if she created ghosts like herself, the readers may not like them. She was correct because the narrator’s ghost stories are very popular.
11. What condition did she place on the narrator for providing him help?
Ans. Helen wanted the narrator to get the fanatics using Ouija boards to stop asking questions. The ghosts have had to give up haunting almost entirely as they were really busy answering questions the Ouija board users were asking.
12. What is the narrator’s view about his ability to write ghost stories? How does the ghost’s estimation of his abilities differ from his?
Ans. The narrator was overconfident and cocky about his ability to write ghost stories. He felt his stories were well appreciated by the readers. On the other hand, the ghost told him he had a mind soft enough to accept impressions and that it was they who had been putting ideas in his head.
13. What impression do you form of Lavinia before you meet her?
Ans. We learn that Lavinia, John’s wife likes to go shopping. She also had an upsetting tendency to take on every new fad that came along and perform it so often that people became tired of it. We also learn that she was very sensitive.
14. ‘Why does John want the ghost to disappear before his wife appears on the scene? What impression of his wife’s character do you form from his words?
Ans. John says that his wife is very sensitive. The sight of the ghost in her house may drive her to hysterics. Also she may not like the presence of a woman in the house, even if the woman was a ghost. Lavinia leaves the impression of a self-centred and flighty woman, given to jealousy and hysteria.
15. What was the narrator’s reaction when he was nervous or excited? When does Lavinia encounter this reaction?
Ans. When the narrator was nervous or excited, a muscle in his face twitched pulling up one corner of his mouth into an idiotic grin. He had managed to conceal this affliction from Lavinia. But when Helen sent a message to him on all the Ouija boards, he felt his face twitch in the spasm of that idiotic grin.
16. What new fad had Lavinia adopted? What was the irony in this?
Ans. Lavinia had picked up an Ouija board from a bumper sale as they were the latest craze. The Ouija board was her latest whim. This was ironic because the ghost had just told John to get his friends and acquaintances to stop using the Ouija board.
17. In what way did Lavinia think that the Ouija board would be helpful to John?
Ans. Lavinia thought the Ouija board would help him write his stories. If he wanted to write a historical novel, he would not have to research old books in the public library. All he would have to do would be to get out his Ouija board and talk to Napoleon, or William the Conqueror, or Helen of Troy. He would have all the local colour he needed, without a speck of trouble.
18. Though at first Lavinia mentions Helen of Troy as one of the possible subjects of his novels, she quickly dismisses her? What does this show about her?
Ans. Lavinia says the Ouija board would help him John research heroes of history like Napoleon, or William the Conqueror, or Helen of Troy. She quickly dismisses Helen of Troy as a subject for a novel. This shows she is possessive of John and jealous if he pays attention to another woman, even if the woman is a ghost.
19. Why did Lavinia refuse to return the Ouija board?
Ans. Lavinia said the Ouija board was bought at a bumper sale and so was non-returnable. She also said she believed in the hereafter and the messages conveyed through the board.
20. Why was the narrator late as he came home that Saturday? Why did Gladolia warn John?
Ans. Friday had been a half holiday, and of course when John went to office on Saturday the work had piled up pretty high. Gladolia told him that as he was late, Lavinia was likely to be angry as she had invited people over for a party. She had called John’s office and conveyed a message for him to return early. Gladolia advised John not to argue with his wife.
21. What party had Lavinia organised? What feelings did this evoke in John?
Ans. Lavinia had called her friends for an Ouija board party. John was anxious and looked around with trepidation as he expected the ghost of Helen to materialise. He was worried how his wife would react.
22. Whom did John have to partner? Why?
Ans. Lavinia told John to partner Laura Hinkle as her partner Mrs William Augustus Wainright had called up at the last moment to say that she could not possibly come. As a result Laura Hinkle had no partner.
23. Why does the narrator compare Laura Hinkle to a ‘flirtatious crocodile’?
Ans. The narrator’s wife had told him to partner Laura Hinkle as her partner, Mrs William Augustus Wainright had not come. When the narrator approached, Laura looked at him with a flirtatious smile that implied danger for him as she was untrustworthy.
24. Why did John wish Laura Hinkle was cheating on the Ouija board? Did his fears come out true?
Ans. When the narrator noticed some force tugging the board about, he hoped it was Laura Hinkle who was cheating with that board. He did not want the ghost, Helen, to send a message. His fears came true as Helen was the one who was sending the message.
25. What message did the ghost convey to the assembled group? What was their reaction to the message?
Ans. he ghost called John a traitor and asked the Ouija board users to ask him why she was calling him that. The people using the Ouija boards all reported that they had received a similar message and began talking about it.
26. The narrator calls the assembled group ‘manipulators’. Are they manipulators or are they being manipulated? If so, by whom and why? Why does the narrator call them manipulators?
Ans.The narrator calls the people at the Ouija boards manipulators as they were moving the boards around to get messages from the other world. But the Ouija boards were being manipulated by the ghost, Helen. She was the one who was sending a message to the narrator. Despite her telling him to stop his friends from using Ouija boards, he was using one too.
27. Why is John’s wife angry? What does she decide to do? How does he take her 1Communication?

Ans. The narrator’s wife was angry because she felt her husband had been trying to flirt with Laura Hinkle who had partnered him at the Ouija board. She decides to go to her grandmother’s house and communicate with him through a lawyer. The narrator is upset and is angry with the ghost, Helen.
28. Why does the ghost return the day after the incident of the Ouija board?
Ans. The ghost arrives as the other ghosts have sent her there to find out when the narrator’s wife was going to get rid of that Ouija board.
29. Why had John not wanted his wife to encounter the ghost? Was his reasoning correct? Why/ Why not?
Ans. John felt that his wife was so sensitive that she could not bear to have a mouse say ‘boo’ to her. Seeing a ghost in her own living-room would drive her to hysterics. His fears were unfounded as she smiled at the ghost, relieved she was not Helen of Troy.
30. What do you think would be the plot for the narrator’s next story?
Ans. The plot of John’s next story would be about his encounter with the ghost of Helen.

31. Write a brief character sketch of John Hallock.
Ans. He was cocky and overconfident about his ability to write ghost stories and he did not believe in Helen and he is sceptical about ghosts. He is creative as he is able to write stories and is also protective of his wife. He is gentle and kind with Gladolia.
32. Write a brief character sketch of Lavinia Hallock.
Ans. She is whimsical and loves novelty and thrills. She picks up fads with enthusiasm. She is also suspicious and jealous and gets upset with John and Laura. She is manipulative and does not let John have his way. She is strong as a person and takes the appearance of the ghost in her stride.
33. Imagine that you are Gladolia. Write a letter to your friend describing the events at the Hallock household.
Ans. The mistress got an Ouija board and called her friends over for a session. The ghosts began sending messages through the Ouija board. I wanted to leave as the Ouija board contraptions and hoodoos scare me. Thankfully the mistress burnt the board and I think I will stay here for now.
34. Imagine you are one of the members of the Book Club. Write a brief account of the incident of the Ouija boards.
Ans. I was invited to Lavinia Hallock’s place for a session with Ouija board. The session started and the message ‘traitor’ appeared on it. I wanted to ask John Hallock the reason behind this message as I found that he behaved in a suspicious manner. I am sure there is a mystery behind this message.
35. Imagine that you are the ghost of Helen of Troy. Report to the others how you have got Lavinia Hallock to get rid of the Ouija board.
Ans. I think that ouija board is a new fad which is catching on really fast. Ghosts waste lot of time answering questions from these people. I had warned John Hallock to stop his friends and acquaintances from using Ouija board as it is an utter waste of our time. But he took part in this session with his wife. The message which appeared on the Ouija board called him a traitor. His wife was angry and I met her and she was convinced that the board should be burnt.
36. You are a regular reader of the magazine John Hallock writes for. Review his story ‘A Shady Plot’ The name of the story is ‘A Shady Plot’.
Ans.The story is about a writer of ghost stories who is helped by a ghost to write his plots. His wife gets an Ouija board and is warned by the ghost to get rid of it. A ghost sends messages during an Ouija board session and she gets rid of the Ouija board. Amongst the characters, John is shown to be a man who loves his wife Lavinia and is tolerant of her foibles. Lavinia is shown to be a whimsical, jealous and suspicious person. The character of the ghost is interesting and she materialises at times. The story is an interesting read as it has humorous touches.
37. You are John Hallock. Write a diary entry after the day’s events are over and your wife has burnt the Ouija board.
Ans.The day started badly. Lavinia slept in the guest room as she was angry and even threatened me with divorce. Next was the appearance of the ghost and she was angry too.
Gladolia warned me against using hoodoos and magic. Lavinia encountered Helen and finally decided to get rid of the Ouija board and now things are back to normal.
8. You are Lavinia Hallock. Write a diary entry on the day’s events when your friends come for the Ouija board party.
Ans. I bought an Ouija board as it is the latest craze and my friends came over for a party. I was bothered by John and his behaviour. Lately his behaviour has been suspicious and I found him talking to himself. He has been returning late from office. In the Ouija board session I had told him to partner Laura Hinkle and he tried to flirt with her. I think I will divorce him and then he can do what he wants. I will sleep in the guest room or I will leave him and go to grandmother’s place.
Value Based Question
1. What lesson does John Hancock learn from his encounter with the ghost?
Ans. John Hancock, a reluctant writer of ghost stories, starts getting cocky about his ability to bring forth ghost stories at his will. One day, he is visited by a ghost, who is part of a writers’ inspiration bureau, members of which inspire authors like Hancock to write. The ghost demands a favour from him. She tells the writer that they are on a strike because of constant use of ouija boards and requests the writer to stop people from using the board. Later, Hancock’s wife brings an ouija board, and hosts an ouija board party. The writer is forced to use the board by his wife. The angry ghost then plays havoc with his married life, leading to a big dispute with his wife. Hancock realises his ideas come as inspiration from the ghosts and writes about the incident. The value that one can derive from this story is that one should not be overconfident about one’s own ability.