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Title: A Ghost Story and others Author: Lafcadio Hearn * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 0605741h.html Language: English Date first posted: August 2006 Date most recently updated: August 2006 This eBook was produced by: Richard Scott Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
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Table of Contents
A Ghost Story
The Cedar Closet
Chin Chin Kobokama
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.
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."
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,--
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:--
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?
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.
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