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Title: A Ghost Story and others
Author: Lafcadio Hearn
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eBook No.: 0605741.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
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A Ghost Story and others
Lafcadio Hearn



Table of Contents

A Ghost Story
The Cedar Closet
Chin Chin Kobokama




A GHOST STORY

There are certain beliefs as old as the world, that have encountered
more or less scepticism in all ages, and nevertheless endure to-day,--
beliefs based upon observations so excellently authenticated, and so
strongly interresembling, whether made before Christ or in the present
age of rail-roads and electricity, that the admission of their
testimony in the great trial which metaphysical theories are
undergoing in the court of Common Sense, cannot be refused. We refer
especially to the belief in warnings,--premonitions of death,--
wraiths,--doubles,--all those singular superstitions connected with
sudden decease, all those apparitions of inexplicable voices by which
people at vast distances from home are weirdly informed of the loss of
friends, or relatives, to whom they are particularly attached. An
immense number of extraordinary books have been written upon this
subject; and an enormous bulk of modern testimony collected in regard
to it,--so much, indeed, that people have long since become more or
less weary of the theme, the more so because every new statement
obtained bears a tiresome resemblance to others familiar from
childhood. Nevertheless, while we have all read about such things,
very few of us believe in them; and although there are probably few
adult readers of this paper who have not occasionally met with some
one claiming to have had ghostly experience, there are also few who
are willing to place credence in such assertions.

Nor does it matter much how generally trustworthy in other respects
the person who makes the statement may be; in this particular matter
either his veracity is apt to be doubted, or the soundness of his
mental condition called into question. Finally, the numerous
scientific explanations of mental and sensory delusions have been
received with zeal by the public at large, who find in them a ready
apology for summary condemnation of all weird experiences as totally
unworthy of serious attention. It is possible, folks are apt to say,
it is quite possible such things have appeared to certain persons, but
only as musical or visual spectra--the results of diseased conditions
of the nervous system.

But it would seem, from the tenor of a curious recent article in the
London Daily Telegram, that certain forms of hallucination not only
demand, but are actually receiving, a thorough and totally novel
scientific investigation. The investigators, indeed, are men who do
not believe in ghosts; but they are also men unwilling to accept the
cut-and-dried explanation of all visual or auditory hallucinations by
nervous disorder. They do not seem to think, for example, that an
unhealthy condition of mind could alone account for the following
story related by Lieut. Col. Jones of Her Majesty's Service, which is
but one of a thousand equally well-authenticated narratives:

"In 1845 I was stationed with my regiment at Moulmein, in Burmah. In
those days there was no direct mail, and we were dependent upon the
arrival of sailing vessels for our letters, which sometimes arrived in
batches, and occasionally we were months without any news from home.
On the evening of the 24th of March, 1845, I was, with others, dining
at a friend's house, and when sitting in the veranda after dinner,
with the other guests, in the middle of a conversation on some local
affairs, I all at once distinctly saw before me the form of an open
coffin with a favorite sister of mine, then at home, lying in it
apparently dead. I naturally ceased talking, and every one looked at
me with astonishment, and asked what was the matter. I mentioned, in a
laughing manner, what I had seen, and it was looked upon as a joke. I
walked home later with an officer very much my senior--the late Major
Gen. Geo. Briggs, retired, Madras Artillery, then Capt. Briggs--who
renewed the subject, and asked whether I had received any news as to
my sister's illness. I said no, and that my last letters from home
were dated some three months prior. He asked me to make a note of the
circumstance, as he had before heard of such occurrences. I did so,
and showed him the entry I made opposite the day of the month in an
almanac. On the 17th of May following I received a letter from home
announcing my sister's death as having taken place on that very day--
viz.: the 24th of March, 1845."

Our readers are doubtless familiar with numberless stories of a
similar character; and probably most persons who do not believe such
things could occur except by fortuitous coincidences, doubt because
they have not seen. Now the scientific and impartial writer of the
article in the English journal before us, well remarks that although
millions die and "make no sign,"--although such experiences must be
comparatively rare, we must also remember that other mental powers, of
whose existence there can be no doubt whatever, are equally rare. For
instance there are persons capable of powerfully impressing or
influencing other persons without touching or speaking to them; and
there are persons peculiarly sensitive to the unexpressed will of
strong minds. Both powers are uncommon--that of conveying impression
or of receiving it; and (leaving all theories of mesmerism out of the
question) there must even in such cases be a bond of affection or
sympathy,--"a moral relationship" as the editor calls it,--between the
two. Under such circumstances it is not impossible that mind should
affect mind to an extraordinary degree; and perhaps the narrative of
the English officer might be accepted on the theory that his dying
sister thought of her absent brother so intently as to form that image
in his mind which he saw. How far the influence of mind may thus reach
is certainly still unknown; science is obliged to confess its
inability to tell us precisely what mind is. The other day, in
discussing the subject of electrical phenomena in human beings, we
stated on tolerably good authority, that only two or three cases of
such electrical prodigies are recorded by physiologists.

That they have been seen and studied is beyond dispute; and while we
grant the existence of mysterious powers of one sort on such rare
testimony, we cannot reasonably reject the existence of other powers
still more incomprehensible, but equally well authenticated.

It is easy enough to recognize the power of mind upon mind, when the
recipient and the deliverer of the impression are in each other's
presence; but it is difficult to comprehend the extension of such
influence half-way round the world,--unless we force ourselves to
accept a theory like that old Greek story about threads of invisible
gold spun by the Fates, which bind lives to lives without ever
snapping, till the scissors of death cuts them. Yet again we must
believe in other things quite as hard to understand! Who can
comprehend the specialized sense by which a hound follows a zig-zag
trail for miles through woods, fields, prairies, or even through the
crowded streets of a great city, where the trail is crossed by others
innumerable and equally fresh or fresher?

If the faculty of conveying or receiving such singular impressions as
those related in Lieut.-Col. Jones' narrative, is only an example of
some specialized sense, we might suppose that in the course of time
such powers would become more generally developed in mankind; and the
evolutional theory again presents us with startling possibilities,--
the realization of old mythological fancies,--the reading of secret
thought,--the silent exchange of sympathy across the face of the
world,--and even the final annihilation of deception by the absolute
impossibility of veiling a purpose or of concealing a hate.




THE CEDAR CLOSET

It happened ten years ago, and it stands out, and ever will stand out,
in my memory like some dark, awful barrier dividing the happy, gleeful
years of girlhood, with their foolish, petulant sorrows and eager,
innocent joys, and the bright, lovely life which has been mine since.
In looking back, that time seems to me shadowed by a dark and terrible
brooding cloud, bearing in its lurid gloom what, but for love and
patience the tenderest and most untiring, might have been the bolt of
death, or, worse a thousand times, of madness. As it was, for months
after "life crept on a broken wing," if not "through cells of
madness," yet verily "through haunts of horror and fear." O, the
weary, weary days and months when I longed piteously for rest! when
sunshine was torture, and every shadow filled with horror unspeakable;
when my soul's craving was for death; to be allowed to creep away from
the terror which lurked in the softest murmur of the summer breeze,
the flicker of the shadow of the tiniest leaf on the sunny grass, in
every corner and curtain-fold in my dear old home. But love conquered
all, and I can tell my story now, with awe and wonder, it is true, but
quietly and calmly.

Ten years ago I was living with my only brother in one of the quaint,
ivy-grown, red-gabled rectories which are so picturesquely scattered
over the fair breadth of England. We were orphans, Archibald and I;
and I had been the busy, happy mistress of his pretty home for only
one year after leaving school, when Robert Draye asked me to be his
wife. Robert and Archie were old friends, and my new home, Draye's
Court, was only separated from the parsonage by an old gray wall, a
low iron-studded door in which admitted us from the sunny parsonage
dawn to the old, old park which had belonged to the Drayes for
centuries. Robert was lord of the manor; and it was he who had given
Archie the living of Draye in the Wold.

It was the night before my wedding day, and our pretty home was
crowded with the wedding guests. We were all gathered in the large
old-fashioned drawing-room after dinner. When Robert left us late in
the evening, I walked with him, as usual, to the little gate for what
he called our last parting; we lingered awhile under the great walnut-
tree, through the heavy, somber branches of which the September moon
poured its soft pure light. With his last good-night kiss on my lips
and my heart full of him and the love which warmed and glorified the
whole world for me, I did not care to go back to share in the fun and
frolic in the drawing-room, but went softly upstairs to my own room. I
say "my own room," but I was to occupy it as a bedroom to-night for
the first time. It was a pleasant south room, wainscoted in richly-
carved cedar, which gave the atmosphere a spicy fragrance. I had
chosen it as my morning room on my arrival in our home; here I had
read and sang and painted, and spent long, sunny hours while Archibald
was busy in his study after breakfast. I had had a bed arranged there
as I preferred being alone to sharing my own larger bedroom with two
of my bridesmaids. It looked bright and cozy as I came in; my favorite
low chair was drawn before the fire, whose rosy light glanced and
flickered on the glossy dark walls, which gave the room its name, "The
Cedar Closet." My maid was busy preparing my toilet table, I sent her
away, and sat down to wait for my brother, who I knew would come to
bid me good-night. He came; we had our last fireside talk in my
girlhood's home; and when he left me there was an incursion of all my
bridesmaids for a "dressing-gown reception."

When at last I was alone I drew back the curtain and curled myself up
on the low wide window-seat. The moon was at its brightest; the little
church and quiet churchyard beyond the lawn looked fair and calm
beneath its rays; the gleam of the white headstones here and there
between the trees might have reminded me that life is not all peace
and joy--that tears and pain, fear and parting, have their share in
its story--but it did not. The tranquil happiness with which my heart
was full overflowed in some soft tears which had no tinge of
bitterness, and when at last I did lie down, peace, deep and perfect,
still seemed to flow in on me with the moonbeams which filled the
room, shimmering on the folds of my bridal dress, which was laid ready
for the morning. I am thus minute in describing my last waking
moments, that it may be understood that what followed was not creation
of a morbid fancy.

I do not know how long I had been asleep, when I was suddenly, as it
were, wrenched back to consciousness. The moon had set, the room was
quite dark; I could just distinguish the glimmer of a clouded,
starless sky through the open window. I could not see or hear anything
unusual, but not the less was I conscious of an unwonted, a baleful
presence near; an indescribable horror cramped the very beatings of my
heart; with every instant the certainty grew that my room was shared
by some evil being. I could not cry for help, though Archie's room was
so close, and I knew that one call through the death-like stillness
would bring him to me; all I could do was to gaze, gaze, gaze into the
darkness. Suddenly--and a throb stung through every nerve--I heard
distinctly from behind the wainscot against which the head of my bed
was placed a low, hollow moan, followed on the instant by a cackling,
malignant laugh from the other side of the room. If I had been one of
the monumental figures in the little churchyard on which I had seen
the quiet moonbeams shine a few hours before I could not have been
more utterly unable to move or speak; every other faculty seemed to be
lost in the one intent strain of eye and ear. There came at last the
sound of a halting step, the tapping of a crutch upon the floor, then
stillness, and slowly, gradually the room filled with light--a pale,
cold, steady light. Everything around was exactly as I had last seen
it in the mingled shine of the moon and fire, and though I heard at
intervals the harsh laugh, the curtain at the foot of the bed hid from
me whatever uttered it. Again, low but distinct, the piteous moan
broke forth, followed by some words in a foreign tongue, and with the
sound a figure started from behind the curtain--a dwarfed, deformed
woman, dressed in a loose robe of black, sprinkled with golden stars,
which gave forth a dull, fiery gleam, in the mysterious light; one
lean, yellow hand clutched the curtain of my bed; it glittered with
jeweled rings;--long black hair fell in heavy masses from a golden
circlet over the stunted form. I saw it all clearly as I now see the
pen which writes these words and the hand which guides it. The face
was turned from me, bent aside, as if greedily drinking in those
astonished moans; I noted even the streaks of gray in the long
tresses, as I lay helpless in dumb, bewildered horror.

"Again!" she said hoarsely, as the sounds died away into indistinct
murmurs, and advancing a step she tapped sharply with a crutch on the
cedar wainscot; then again louder and more purposeful rose the wild
beseeching voice; this time the words were English.

"Mercy, have mercy! not on me, but on my child, my little one; she
never harmed you. She is dying--she is dying here in darkness; let me
but see her face once more. Death is very near, nothing can save her
now; but grant one ray of light, and I will pray that you may be
forgiven, if forgiveness there be for such as you."

"What, you kneel at last! Kneel to Gerda, and kneel in vain. A ray of
light; Not if you could pay for it in diamonds. You are mine! Shriek
and call as you will, no other ears can hear. Die together. You are
mine to torture as I will; mine, mine, mine!" and again an awful laugh
rang through the room. At the instant she turned. O the face of malign
horror that met my gaze! The green eyes flamed, and with something
like the snarl of a savage beast she sprang toward me; that hideous
face almost touched mine; the grasp of the skinny jeweled hand was all
but on me; then--I suppose I fainted.

For weeks I lay in brain fever, in mental horror and weariness so
intent, that even now I do not like to let my mind dwell on it. Even
when the crisis was safely past I was slow to rally; my mind was
utterly unstrung. I lived in a world of shadows. And so winter wore
by, and brought us to the fair spring morning when at last I stood by
Robert's side in the old church, a cold, passive, almost unwilling
bride. I cared neither to refuse nor consent to anything that was
suggested; so Robert and Archie decided for me, and I allowed them to
do with me as they would, while I brooded silently and ceaselessly on
the memory of that terrible night. To my husband I told all one
morning in a sunny Bavarian valley, and my weak, frightened mind drew
strength and peace from his; by degrees the haunting horror wore away,
and when we came home for a happy reason nearly two years afterward, I
was as strong and blithe as in my girlhood. I had learned to believe
that it had all been, not the cause, but the commencement of my fever.
I was to be undeceived.

Our little daughter had come to us in the time of roses; and now
Christmas was with us, our first Christmas at home, and the house was
full of guests. It was a delicious old-fashioned Yule; plenty of
skating and outdoor fun, and no lack of brightness indoors. Toward New
Year a heavy fall of snow set in which kept us all prisoners; but even
then the days flew merrily, and somebody suggested tableaux for the
evenings. Robert was elected manager; there was a debate and selection
of subjects, and then came the puzzle of where, at such short notice,
we could procure the dresses required. My husband advised a raid on
some mysterious oaken chests which he knew had been for years stowed
away in a turret-room. He remembered having, when a boy, seen the
housekeeper inspecting them, and their contents had left a hazy
impression of old stand-alone brocades, gold tissues, sacques, hoops,
and hoods, the very mention of which put us in a state of wild
excitement. Mrs. Moultrie was summoned, looked duly horrified at the
desecration of what to her were relics most sacred; but seeing it was
inevitable, she marshaled the way, a protest in every rustle and fold
of her stiff silk dress.

"What a charming old place," was the exclamation with variations as we
entered the long oak-joisted room, at the further end of which stood
in goodly array the chests whose contents we coveted. Bristling with
unspoken disapproval, poor Mrs. Moultrie unlocked one after another,
and then asked permission to retire, leaving us unchecked to "cry
havoc." In a moment the floor was covered with piles of silks and
velvets.

"Meg," cried little Janet Crawford, dancing up to me, "isn't it a good
thing to live in the age of tulle and summer silks? Fancy being
imprisoned for life in a fortress like this!" holding up a thick
crimson and gold brocade, whale-boned and buckramed at all points. It
was thrown aside, and she half lost herself in another chest and was
silent. Then--"Look, Major Fraudel This is the very thing for you--a
true astrologer's robe, all black velvet and golden stars. If it were
but long enough; it just fits me."

I turned and saw--the pretty slight figure, the innocent girlish face
dressed in the robe of black and gold, identical in shape, pattern and
material with what I too well remembered. With a wild cry I hid my
face and cowered away.

"Take it off! O, Janet--Robert--take it from her!"

Every one turned wondering. In an instant my husband saw, and catching
up the cause of my terror, flung it hastily into the chest again, and
lowered the lid. Janet looked half offended, but the cloud passed in
an instant when I kissed her, apologizing as well as I could. Rob
laughed at us both, and voted an adjournment to a warmer room, where
we could have the chests brought to us to ransack at leisure. Before
going down, Janet and I went into a small anteroom to examine some old
pictures which leaned against the wall.

"This is just the thing, Jennie, to frame the tableaux," I said,
pointing to an immense frame, at least twelve feet square. "There is a
picture in it," I added, pulling back the dusty folds of a heavy
curtain which fell before it.

"That can be easily removed," said my husband, who had followed us.

With his assistance we drew the curtain quite away, and in the now
fast waning light could just discern the figure of a girl in white
against a dark background. Robert rang for a lamp, and when it came we
turned with much curiosity to examine the painting, as to the subject
of which we had been making odd merry guesses while we waited. The
girl was young, almost childish--very lovely, but, oh, how sad! Great
tears stood in the innocent eyes and on the round young cheeks, and
her hands were clasped tenderly around the arms of a man who was
bending toward her, and, did I dream?--no, there in hateful
distinctness was the hideous woman of the Cedar Closet--the same in
every distorted line, even to the starred dress and golden circlet.
The swarthy hues of the dress and face had at first caused us to
overlook her. The same wicked eyes seemed to glare into mine. After
one wild bound my heart seemed to stop its beating, and I knew no
more. When I recovered from a long, deep swoon, great lassitude and
intense nervous excitement followed; my illness broke up the party,
and for months I was an invalid. When again Robert's love and patience
had won me back to my old health and happiness, he told me all the
truth, so far as it had been preserved in old records of the family.

It was in the sixteenth century that the reigning lady of Draye Court
was a weird, deformed woman, whose stunted body, hideous face, and a
temper which taught her to hate and vilify everything good and
beautiful for the contrast offered to herself, made her universally
feared and disliked. One talent only she possessed; it was for music;
but so wild and strange were the strains she drew from the many
instruments of which she was mistress, that the gift only intensified
the dread with which she was regarded. Her father had died before her
birth; her mother did not survive it; near relatives she had none; she
had lived her lonely, loveless life from youth to middle age. When a
young girl came to the Court, no one knew more than that she was a
poor relation. The dark woman seemed to look more kindly on this young
cousin than on any one that had hitherto crossed her somber path, and
indeed so great was the charm which Marian's goodness, beauty and
innocent gayety exercised on every one that the servants ceased to
marvel at her having gained the favor of their gloomy mistress. The
girl seemed to feel a kind of wondering, pitying affection for the
unhappy woman; she looked on her through an atmosphere created by her
own sunny nature, and for a time all went well. When Marian had been
at the Court for a year, a foreign musician appeared on the scene. He
was a Spaniard, and had been engaged by Lady Draye to build for her an
organ said to be of fabulous power and sweetness. Through long bright
summer days he and his employer were shut up together in the music-
room--he busy in the construction of the wonderful instrument, she
aiding and watching his work. These days were spent by Marian in
various ways--pleasant idleness and pleasant work, long canters on her
chestnut pony, dreamy mornings by the brook with rod and line, or in
the village near, where she found a welcome everywhere. She played
with the children, nursed the babies, helped the mothers in a thousand
pretty ways, gossiped with old people, brightening the day for
everybody with whom she came in contact. Then in the evening she sat
with Lady Draye and the Spaniard in the saloon talking in that soft
foreign tongue which they generally used. But this was but the music
between the acts; the terrible drama was coming. The motive was of
course the same as that of every life drama which has been played out
from the old, old days when the curtain rose upon the garden scene of
Paradise. Philip and Marian loved each other, and having told their
happy secret to each other, they, as in duty bound, took it to their
patroness. They found her in the music room. Whether the glimpses she
caught of a beautiful world from which she was shut out maddened her,
or whether she, too, loved the foreigner, was never certainly known;
but through the closed door passionate words were heard, and very soon
Philip came out alone, and left the house without a farewell to any in
it. When the servants did at last venture to enter, they found Marian
lifeless on the floor, Lady Draye standing over her with crutch
uplifted, and blood flowing from a wound in the girl's forehead. They
carried her away and nursed her tenderly; their mistress locked the
door as they left, and all night long remained alone in darkness. The
music which came out without pause on the still night air was weird
and wicked beyond any strains which had ever before flowed even from
beneath her fingers; it ceased with morning light; and as the day wore
on it was found that Marian had fled during the night, and that
Philip's organ had sounded its last strain--Lady Draye had shattered
and silenced it forever. She never seemed to notice Marian's absence
and no one dared to mention her name. Nothing was ever known certainly
of her fate; it was supposed that she had joined her lover.

Years passed, and with each Lady Draye's temper grew fiercer and more
malevolent. She never quitted her room unless on the anniversary of
that day and night, when the tapping of her crutch and high-heeled
shoes was heard for hours as she walked up and down the music-room,
which was never entered save for this yearly vigil. The tenth
anniversary came round, and this time the vigil was not unshared. The
servants distinctly heard the sound of a man's voice mingling in
earnest conversation with her shrill tones; they listened long, and at
last one of the boldest ventured to look in, himself unseen. He saw a
worn, traveled-stained man; dusty, foot-sore, poorly dressed, he still
at once recognized the handsome, gay Philip of ten years ago. He held
in his arms a little sleeping girl; her long curls, so like poor
Marian's, strayed over his shoulder. He seemed to be pleading in that
strange musical tongue for the little one; for as he spoke he lifted,
O, so tenderly, the cloak which partly concealed her, and showed the
little face, which he doubtless thought might plead for itself. The
woman, with a furious gesture, raised her crutch to strike the child;
he stepped quickly backward, stooped to kiss the little girl, then,
without a word, turned to go. Lady Draye called on him to return with
an imperious gesture, spoke a few words, to which he seemed to listen
gratefully, and together they left the house by the window which
opened on the terrace. The servants followed them, and found she led
the way to the parsonage, which was at the time unoccupied. It was
said that he was in some political danger as well as in deep poverty,
and that she had hidden him here until she could help him to a better
asylum. It was certain that for many nights she went to the parsonage
and returned before dawn, thinking herself unseen. But one morning she
did not come home; her people consulted together; her relenting toward
Philip had made them feel more kindly toward her than ever before;
they sought her at the parsonage and found her lying across its
threshold dead, a vial clasped in her rigid fingers. There was no sign
of the late presence of Philip and his child; it was believed she had
sped them on their way before she killed herself. They laid her in a
suicide's grave. For more than fifty years after the parsonage was
shut up. Though it had been again inhabited no one had ever been
terrified by the specter I had seen; probably the Cedar Closet had
never before been used as a bedroom.

Robert decided on having the wing containing the haunted room pulled
down and rebuilt, and in doing so the truth of my story gained a
horrible confirmation. When the wainscot of the Cedar Closet was
removed a recess was discovered in the massive old wall, and in this
lay moldering fragments of the skeletons of a man and child!

There could be but one conclusion drawn, the wicked woman had
imprisoned them there under pretense of hiding and helping them; and
once they were completely at her mercy, had come night after night
with unimaginable cruelty to gloat over their agony, and, when that
long anguish was ended, ended her odious life by a suicide's death. We
could learn nothing of the mysterious painting. Philip was an artist,
and it may have been his work. We had it destroyed, so that no record
of the terrible story might remain. I have no more to add, save that
but for those dark days left by Lady Draye as a legacy of fear and
horror, I should never have known so well the treasure I hold in the
tender, unwearying, faithful love of my husband--known the blessing
that every sorrow carries in its heart, that

"Every cloud that spreads above

And veileth love, itself is love."




CHIN CHIN KOBOKAMA

Once there was a little girl who was very pretty, but also very lazy.
Her parents were rich, and had a great many servants; and these
servants were very fond of the little girl, and did everything for her
which she ought to have been able to do for herself. Perhaps this was
what made her so lazy. When she grew up into a beautiful woman, she
still remained lazy; but as the servants always dressed and undressed
her, and arranged her hair, she looked very charming, and nobody
thought about her faults.

At last she was married to a brave warrior, and went away with him to
live in another house where there were but few servants. She was sorry
not to have as many servants as she had had at home, because she was
obliged to do several things for herself, which other folks had always
done for her. It was such trouble to her to dress herself, and take
care of her own clothes, and keep herself looking neat and pretty to
please her husband. But as he was a warrior, and often had to be far
away from home with the army, she could sometimes be just as lazy as
she wished. Her husband's parents were very old and good-natured, and
never scolded her.

Well, one night while her hushand was away with the army, she was
awakened by queer little noises in her room. By the light of a big
paper-lantern she could see very well; and she saw strange things.
What?

Hundreds of little men, dressed just like Japanese warriors, but only
about one inch high, were dancing all around her pillow. They wore the
same kind of dress her husband wore on holidays,--(Kamishimo, a long
robe with square shoulders),--and their hair was tied up in knots, and
each wore two tiny swords. They all looked at her as they danced, and
laughed, and they all sang the same song, over and over again,--

"Chin-chin Kobakama.

  Yomo fukasoro,--

  Oshizumare, Hime-gimi!--

  Ya ton ton!"--

Which meant:--"We are the Chin-chin Kobakama:--he hour is late;--
Sleep, honorable noble darling!"

The words seemed very polite; but she soon saw that the little men
were only making cruel fun of her. They also made ugly faces at her.

She tried to catch some of them; but they jumped about so quickly that
she could not. Then she tried to drive them away; but they would not
go, and they never stopped singing "Chin-chin Kobakama, ... ." and
laughing at her. Then she knew they were little fairies, and became so
frightened that she could not even cry out. They danced around her
until morning;--then they all vanished suddenly.

She was ashamed to tell anybody what had happened--because, as she was
the wife of a warrior, she did not wish anybody to know how frightened
she had been.

Next night, again the little men came and danced, and they came also
the night after that, and every night--always at the same hour, which
the old Japanese used to call the "Hour of the Ox:" that is, about two
o'clock in the morning by our time. At last she became very sick,
through want of sleep and through fright. But the little men would not
leave her alone.

When her husband came back home, he was very sorry to find her sick in
bed. At first she was afraid to tell him what had made her ill, for
fear that he would laugh at her. But he was so kind, and coaxed her so
gently, hat after a while she told him what happened every night.

He did not laugh at her at all, but looked very serious for a time.
Then he asked:--"At what time do they come?" She ansvered:--"Always at
the same hour--the 'Hour of the Ox."

"Very well," said her husband,--"to-night I shall hide and watch for
them. Do not be frightened."

So that night the warrior hid himself in a closet in the sleeping
room, and kept watch through a chink between the sliding doors.

He waited and watched until the "Hour of the Ox." Then, all at once,
the little men came up through the mats, and began their dance and
their song:--

"Chin-chin
  Kobakama.
  Yomo fuk
  Soro......"

They looked so queer, and danced in such a funny way, that the warrior
could scarcely keep from laughing. But he saw his young wife's
frightened face; and then remembering that nearly all Japanese ghosts
and goblins are afraid of a sword, he drew his blade, and rushed out
of the closet, and struck at the little dancers. Immediately they all
turned into--what do you think?

Toothpicks!

There were no more little warriors--only a lot of old toothpicks
scattered over the mats.

The young wife had been too lazy to put her toothpicks away properly;
and every day, after having used a new toothpick, she would stick it
down between the mats on the floor, to get rid of it. So the little
fairies who take care of the floor-mats became angry with her, and
tormented her.

Her mother one night sat up to watch, and saw them, and struck at
them,--and they all turned into plumstones! So the naughtiness of that
little girl was found out. After that she became a very good girl
indeed.

* * *
There is also a story told about a lazy little girl, who used to eat
plums, and afterward hide the plum-stones between the flor-mats. For a
long time she was able to do this without being found out. But at last
the fairies got angry and punished her.

For every night, tiny, tiny women--all wearing bright red robes with
very long sleves,--rose up from the floor at the same hour, and
danced, and made faces at her and prevented her from sleeping.

Her husband scolded her, and she was so ashamed that she did not know
what to do. A servant was called, and the toothpicks were taken away
and burned. After that the little men never came back again.



THE END



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