‘On Haunted Hill there was little to stop the Wind’

Who . . . whoo . . . whooo, cried the wind as it sweptdown from the Himalayan snows. It hurried over the hills and passes, and hummed and moaned through the tall pines and deodars.

Published: 16th January 2019 01:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th January 2019 01:42 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

Who . . . whoo . . . whooo, cried the wind as it sweptdown from the Himalayan snows. It hurried over the hills and passes, and hummed and moaned through the tall pines and deodars.
On Haunted Hill there was little to stop the wind—only a few stunted trees and bushes, and the ruins of what had once been a small settlement. On the slopes of the next hill was a small village. People kept large stones on their roofs to prevent them from blowing away. There was nearly always a wind in these parts. Even on sunny days, the doors and windows rattled, chimneys choked, clothes blew away.

Three children were standing beside a low stone wall, spreading clothes out to dry. They placed a rock on each garment. Even then the clothes fluttered like flags and pennants. Usha, dark-haired and rosy-cheeked, struggled with her grandfather’s long, loose shirt. She was eleven or twelve. Her younger brother, Suresh, was doing his best to hold down a bed sheet, while Binya, a slightly older girl, Usha’s friend and neighbour, was handing them the clothes one at a time.

Once they were sure everything on the wall was firmly held down by rocks, they climbed on to the flat stones and sat there for a while, in the wind and the sun, staring across the fields at the ruins on Haunted Hill.

‘I must go to the bazaar today,’ said Usha. 
‘I wish I could come too,’ said Binya. ‘But I have to help with the cows and the housework. Mother isn’t well.’

‘I can come!’ said Suresh. He was always ready to visit the Landour bazaar, which was three miles away, on the other side of Haunted Hill.

‘No, you can’t,’ said Usha. ‘You must help
Grandfather chop wood.’ Their father was in the army, posted in a distant part of the country, and Suresh and his grandfather were the only men in the house. Suresh was eight, chubby and almond-eyed.
‘Won’t you be afraid to come back alone?’ he asked.
‘Why should I be afraid?’

‘There are ghosts on the hill.’ ‘I know, but I will be back before it gets dark. Ghosts don’t appear during the day.’
‘Are there many ghosts in the ruins?’ asked Binya.
‘Grandfather says so. He says that many years ago—over a hundred—British people lived on the hill. But it was a bad spot, always getting struck by lightning, and they had to move to the next range to build new houses.’

‘But if they went away, why should there be any ghosts?’
‘Because—Grandfather says—during a terrible storm, one of the houses was hit by lightning and
everyone in it was killed. Everyone, including the children.’
‘Were there many children?’

‘There were two of them. A brother and sister. Grandfather says he has seen them many times, when he has passed through the ruins late at night. He has seen them playing in the moonlight.’
‘Wasn’t he frightened?’
 
Excerpted from The Wind On The Haunted Hill by Ruskin Bond, published by Penguin Random House. 

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