Thomas Hardy: Incident in Mr Crookhill’s Life

June 6, 2009

I reread this story in a book of short stories entitled “Country” (ed. James Gibson, John Murray,  1982). It is one in The Short Story Series.

Mr Crookhill, a farmer on way  to the market in a village, comes across another farmer in an impressive dress riding on a good strong horse. He makes friends with him. After proceeding for some more distance, they decide to stay overnight in an inn. Early in the morning Crookhill quietly dresses himself in his recent acquaintance’s dress and departs after getting the latter’s horse saddled for himself.

Thus begins a charade. Is this robber punished? If not, why not?  And what happened to the one who was  robbed?

The initial para strongly reminded me of an incident in Kalki’s classic  “Sivakamiyin Sabadham” which I am rereading now. It is someone on a slow horse admiring another on a strong horse and drawing level with him and making friends with him and staying overnight in an inn. There the resemblance ends.


Note: Ignore the last six paras after “…hindrance than aid.” They are irrelevant.


Before they fell asleep they talked across the room about one thing and another, running from this to that till the conversation turned upon disguises, and changing clothes for particular ends. 

Note to friends: I am taking a break now. Will try to resume the series later.


Mark Twain: A Ghost Story

June 5, 2009

A man takes up lodgings in a large room in a huge old building where the upper-floor storeys had been unoccupied for years. 

He retires for the night but soon strange things happen as the building is haunted by a ghost. After some sleepless moments the man gets up and lights the gas.

This ghost story has humour like in “The Canterville Ghost”. Here the man even talks with the ghost seated opposite him! 

I read the story in a book titled Tales from Beyond the Grave (Gallery Books, 1982) pulled out from my bookshelf.



… and as I turned a dark angle of the stairway and an invisible cobweb swung its slazy woof in my face and clung there, I shuddered as one who had encountered a phantom.

Saki: The Image of the Lost Soul

June 4, 2009

I have read and reread many Saki stories but I must admit I have never read this before. After I went through it, I felt the need to check whether it was indeed written by him and whether there was any mistake on the website where I read it (though it is highly unlikely). For there were no domineering aunts  or presumptuous uncles, no mischievous or prodigious children or any similar hallmarks of his writing.

It is a moralistic fable much in the mould of Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Happy Prince’ or ‘The Selfish Giant’.

A songbird comes flying to the parapets of an imposing cathedral and tries to find a resting place in one of the crevices there. But other birds already nesting there discourage it and so the newcomer is forced to resort to a niche in a particularly grotesque figure among the carvings there.



(ignore mistake in the title in the link above)


Every day, through the long monotonous hours, the song of his little guest would come up in snatches to the lonely watcher, and at evening, when the vesper-bell was ringing and the great grey bats slid out of their hiding-places in the belfry roof, the brighteyed bird would return, twitter a few sleepy notes, and nestle into the arms that were waiting for him.

Dorothy Parker: A telephone call

June 3, 2009

I read this story for the second or third time today. Let me assure you that when once you start reading it, you will reach the end in breathless pace.

I am not going to give you any synopsis of the story even in the sketchy manner that I have been rendering in the case of other narratives.

This romantic story takes us back to a bygone era when communications facilities were not in such an advanced stage as they are at present.

Young men and women who fall in love today (I was going to write boys and girls, but even if I do I might be nearer the truth) have a myriad ways of keeping in touch with each other even if their bodies are removed from one another.

It is sickening to find young people using their mobile phones while walking on the roads – even when crossing – even while negotiating dangerous corners with vehicles going pell-mell. (I always wonder whether one should be mobile while talking on a cell phone.)

Yesterday I would not have walked some 100 metres when I came across five young women with their mobile phones glued to their bejewelled ears in this kind of insouciant situation.

With whom would they have been chatting away?



If I didn’t think about it, maybe the telephone might ring. Sometimes it does that. If I could think of something else. If I could think of something else.

Alphonse Daudet: The Last Lesson

June 2, 2009

A short story that I read for the first time today. One that tugs at the reader’s heart. One that makes us understand how strong, powerful and compulsive the love for one’s mother tongue can be. One that lets us see in the right perspective the feelings of Tamil chauvinists when they launched and took part in the anti-Hindi agitations in Tamil Nadu in the late 1960s.

Alphonse Daudet  (1840-1897) was a French writer. It is said he was admired by Charles Dickens and Henry James. 


(Please scroll down to locate the story)


“Every day we have said to ourselves: ‘Bah! I’ve plenty of time. I’ll learn it tomorrow.’ And now you see where we’ve come to.”

Jerome K. Jerome: The Dancing Partner

May 29, 2009

I must have read this long ago, but, unlike other stories, I realised the fact only after I was a little while through it.

A bunch of young girls talk about the scarcity of dancing partners and the affectedness and the utter stupidity of some of them that they have encountered.

They wish that they had had an ideal dancing partner who won’t complain.

This is overheard by the father of one of the girls. A maker of mechanical toys, he sets out to create Lt. Fritz, answering to the the girls’ desideratum.

And with what results – or consequences?

Find the story here:

Charlie Fish: Death by Scrabble

May 28, 2009

A short story that I read today for the first time and one that is available online.

A husband and wife play a Scrabble game at home.

The husband, who hates his wife, goes through a welter of emotions as he places tiles on the board.

As the game proceeds, it takes a weird turn.

Is there a mysterious power behind the game?

Read it and write your thoughts.