Here is a Spooky Halloween Story to Read with your BFFs:
Based on Shippeitaro by Mary F. Nixon-Roulet
Once upon a time there was a brave soldier maiden who was seeking her fortune in the wide, wide world. One day she lost her way in a pathless forest, and wandered about until she came at length to a small clearing in the midst of which stood a ruined temple. The huge trees waved above its walls, and the leaves in the thicket whispered around them. No sun ever shone there, and no human being lived there.
A storm was coming up, and the soldier maiden took refuge among the ruins.
“Here is all I want,” said she. “Here I shall have shelter from the storm-god’s wrath, and a comfortable place to sleep in.”
So she wrapped herself in her cloak, and, lying down, was soon fast asleep. But her slumbers did not last long. At midnight she was wakened by fearful shrieks, and springing to her feet, she looked out at the temple door.
The storm was over. Moonlight shone on the clearing. And there she saw what seemed to be a troop of monstrous cats, who like huge phantoms marched across the open space in front of the temple. They broke into a wild dance, uttering shrieks, howls, and wicked laughs. Then they all sang together:
“Whisper not to Shippeitaro That the Phantom Cats are near – Whisper not to Shippeitaro, Lest she soon appear!”
The soldier maiden crouched low behind the door, for brave as she was she did not wish these fearful creatures to see her. But soon, with a chorus of wild yells, the Phantom Cats disappeared as quickly as they had come, and all was quiet as before.
Then the soldier maiden lay down and went to sleep again, nor did she waken till the sun peered into the temple and told her that it was morning. She quickly found her way out of the forest and walked on until she came to the cottage of a peasant.
As she approached she heard sounds of bitter weeping. A handsome young lad met her at the door, and his eyes were red with grief. He greeted her kindly.
“May I have some food?” said she.
“Enter and welcome,” he replied. “My parents are just having breakfast. You may join them, for no one passes our door hungry.”
Thanking him the maiden entered, and his parents greeted her courteously but sadly, and shared their breakfast with her. She ate heartily, and, when she was finished, rose to go.
“Thank you many times for this good meal, kind friends,” said she, “and may happiness be yours.”
“Happiness can never again be ours!” answered the old man, weeping.
“You are in trouble, then,” said the maiden. “Tell me about it – perhaps I can help you in some way.”
“Alas!” replied the old man, “There is within yonder forest a ruined temple. It is the abode of horrors too terrible for words. Each year a demon, whom no one has ever seen, demands that the people of this land give him a handsome lad to devour. He is placed in a cage and carried to the temple just at sunset. This year it is my son’s turn to be offered to the fiend!” And the old man buried his face in his hands and groaned.
The soldier maiden paused to think for a moment, then she said:
“It is terrible, indeed! But do not despair. I think I know a way to help you. Who is Shippeitaro?”
“Shippeitaro is a beautiful dog, owned by our lord, the prince,” answered the old man.
“That is just the thing!” cried the maiden. “Only keep your son closely at home. Do not let him out of your sight. Trust me and he shall be saved.”
Then the soldier maiden hurried away, and found the castle of the prince. She begged that she might borrow Shippeitaro just for one night.
“You may take him upon the condition that you bring him back safely,” said the prince.
“Tomorrow he shall return in safety,” answered the maiden.
Taking Shippeitaro with her, she hurried to the peasant’s cottage, and, when evening was come, she placed the dog in the cage which was to have carried the lad. The bearers then took the cage to the ruined temple, and, placing it on the ground, ran away as fast as their legs would carry them.
The lad, laughing softly to himself, hid inside the temple as before, and so quiet was the spot that he fell asleep. At midnight he was aroused by the same wild shrieks he had heard the night before. He rose and looked out at the temple door.
Through the darkness, into the moonlight, came the troop of Phantom Cats. This time they were led by a fierce, black Tomcat. As they came nearer they chanted with unearthly screeches:
“Whisper not to Shippeitaro That the Phantom Cats are near – Whisper not to Shippeitaro, Lest he soon appear!”
With that the great Tomcat caught sight of the cage and, uttering a fearful yowl, sprang upon it, With one blow of his claws he tore open the lid, when, instead of the dainty morsel he expected, out jumped Shippeitaro!
The dog sprang upon the Tomcat, and caught him by the throat – while the Phantom Cats stood still in amazement. Drawing her sword the maiden hurried to Shippeitaro’s side, and what with Shippeitaro’s teeth and the lad’s hard blows, in an instant the great Tomcat was torn and cut into pieces. When the Phantom Cats saw this, they uttered one wild shriek and fled away, never to return again.
Then the soldier maiden, leading Shippeitaro, returned in triumph to the peasant’s cottage. There in terror the lad awaited her arrival, but great was the joy of himself and his parents when they knew that the Tomcat was no more.
“Oh, madam,” cried the lad, “I can never thank you! I am the only child of my parents, and no one would have been left to care for them if I had been the monster’s victim.”
“Do not thank me,” answered the maiden. “Thank the brave Shippeitaro. It was he who sprang upon the great Tomcat and chased away the Phantom Creatures.”
Special thanks to apples4theteacher for this printable tale!