Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/24

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was just looking for some sort of shelter when he caught sight of a little, half-ruined hut. Drawing nearer, he found that it was a sort of watch-house, such as the peasants build near the rice-fields in order to protect the growing grain. Overjoyed at having found even this poor shelter, the postman entered the little hut, and, throwing himself on a heap of dried grass, was soon fast asleep. Perfect silence reigned over the sterile plain; only now and again the far-off hoot of an owl or the mournful cry of some night bird broke the stillness of the night.

Several hours had passed, when the sleeper was suddenly awakened by the deep, sonorous note of a bell. The sound seemed to come from the western portion of the field, and all at once the startled sleeper heard a tramping as of many feet, and a confused murmur of Buddhist chants and prayers. Nearer and nearer came the crowd of people, to the listener's great astonishment. "There are no houses in the field," thought he, "and anyhow no one would think of going at midnight to such a deserted and ill-omened spot." The stars were shining brightly, but no moon illumined the scene, so that the trembling postman could only see objects very near him. Nevertheless he peeped cautiously out of his hiding place and saw, to his unbounded surprise, a long procession of men bearing torches and lanterns. In front of all marched a tall priest, reciting the Buddhist invocation, Namu Amida Butsu, in a clear, loud voice. "It is a funeral procession!" thought the frightened listener, and crept farther back into the shadows of the hut.

As soon as the mournful procession had reached the little hut a halt was made, and the coffin-bearers stepped forward. Scarcely five paces from the hut the grave was dug, and the coffin placed in it. The priest then threw the earth back into the grave and built a little mound above it, and finally placed a few sticks covered with Buddhist characters in one end of the mound. Without further word the somber procession turned back, and moved slowly away in the same solemn and impressive manner, leaving the postman in a most pitiable frame of mind. It was quite bad enough to be compelled to spend the night in such an uncanny and grewsome spot; but the late hour, mysterious burial, and the proximity of the freshly dug grave were enough to frighten the bravest heart.

As if chained to the spot by some evil spell, the postman kept staring at the little mound before him. Suddenly, while he was gazing fixedly at the grave, it began to rock slowly from side to side. Quicker and quicker became the rocking, while the involuntary spectator underwent an agony of terror. Faster and faster still rocked the mound, until it fell over with a great shock, and a naked, horrid thing jumped from the grave and ran toward the