Deal Me In, Week 14 ~ “The Hungry Stones”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“The Hungry Stones” by Rabindranath Tagore

Card picked: Ace of Diamonds
From: Masterpieces of Terror and the Unknown, ed. by Marvin Kaye

Thoughts: “The Hungry Stones” is a strong “classic” ghost story. We start with a narrator telling us of the time he was told a story while waiting for a train. I love framing devices… In this case, the storyteller is a collector of cotton duties and a bit of a know-it-all. The narrator, traveling back to Calcutta, somewhat snarkily notes: “As we had never stirred out of our homes before, the demeanor of the man struck us dumb with wonder.”

Our duty collector relates an experience he had in Barich. While working there, he was put up in an abandoned palace. He is warned by the locals that it’s a fine place to inhabit during the day, but that he should really find somewhere else to sleep at night. At first the duty collector’s nights are quiet since he arrives back at the palace after dark and immediately goes to sleep. But when he has a little idle time, he relaxes at twilight, enjoying his beautiful surroundings, and imagines he hears a group of ladies frolicking in a fountain. It’s such a lovely fantasy that he begins to rush home from work and spend his evenings wandering the palace and dreaming. It’s only the morning cries of the local madman yelling, “Stand back! Stand back! All is false! All is false!” that wakes him.

When the duty collector realizes that he’s in way too deep, the locals tell him that only the madman has resisted the palace. You see, it all began 250 years ago with a young Persian girl and a heart-rending tragedy, but unfortunately it is right about then when the late train arrives…

About the Author: If you look up polymath in the dictionary, you should probably find a picture of Rabindranath Tagore. In addition to writing novels, short stories, and poetry, the Bengali-born Targore was a musician, actor, painter, and politician. He won a Nobel in literature and turned down a knighthood. Yet, I kind of wonder if he’s poking a little fun at himself with his know-it-all duty collector.

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