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The Violet Fairy Book

Schippeitaro
It was the custom in old times that as soon as a Japanese boy reached manhood he should
leave his home and roam through the land in search of adventures. Sometimes he would
meet with a young man bent on the same business as himself, and then they would fight
in a friendly manner, merely to prove which was the stronger, but on other occasions the
enemy would turn out to be a robber, who had become the terror of the neighbourhood,
and then the battle was in deadly earnest.
One day a youth started off from his native village, resolved never to come back till he
had done some great deed that would make his name famous. But adventures did not
seem very plentiful just then, and he wandered about for a long time without meeting
either with fierce giants or distressed damsels. At last he saw in the distance a wild
mountain, half covered with a dense forest, and thinking that this promised well at once
took the road that led to it. The difficulties he met with--huge rocks to be climbed, deep
rivers to be crossed, and thorny tracts to be avoided--only served to make his heart beat
quicker, for he was really brave all through, and not merely when he could not help
himself, like a great many people. But in spite of all his efforts he could not find his way
out of the forest, and he began to think he should have to pass the night there. Once more
he strained his eyes to see if there was no place in which he could take shelter, and this
time he caught sight of a small chapel in a little clearing. He hastened quickly towards it,
and curling himself up in a warm corner soon fell asleep.
Not a sound was heard through the whole forest for some hours, but at midnight there
suddenly arose such a clamour that the young man, tired as he was, started broad awake
in an instant. Peeping cautiously between the wooden pillars of the chapel, he saw a troop
of hideous cats, dancing furiously, making the night horrible with their yells. The full
moon lighted up the weird scene, and the young warrior gazed with astonishment, taking
great care to keep still, lest he should be discovered. After some time he thought that in
the midst of all their shrieks he could make out the words, 'Do not tell Schippeitaro! Keep
it hidden and secret! Do not tell Schippeitaro!' Then, the midnight hour having passed,
they all vanished, and the youth was left alone. Exhausted by all that had been going on
round him, he flung himself on the ground and slept till the sun rose.
The moment he woke he felt very hungry, and began to think how he could get
something to eat. So he got up and walked on, and before he had gone very far was lucky
enough to find a little side-path, where he could trace men's footsteps. He followed the
track, and by-and-by came on some scattered huts, beyond which lay a village. Delighted
at this discovery, he was about to hasten to the village when he heard a woman's voice
weeping and lamenting, and calling on the men to take pity on her and help her. The
sound of her distress made him forget he was hungry, and he strode into the hut to find
out for himself what was wrong. But the men whom he asked only shook their heads and
told him it was not a matter in which he could give any help, for all this sorrow was
caused by the Spirit of the Mountain, to whom every year they were bound to furnish a
maiden for him to eat.
'To-morrow night,' said they, 'the horrible creature will come for his dinner, and the cries
you have heard were uttered by the girl before you, upon whom the lot has fallen.'
 
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