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Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 405 pages of information about Tales of Old Japan.

THE VAMPIRE CAT OF NABESHIMA

There is a tradition in the Nabeshima[75] family that, many years ago, the Prince of Hizen was bewitched and cursed by a cat that had been kept by one of his retainers.  This prince had in his house a lady of rare beauty, called O Toyo:  amongst all his ladies she was the favourite, and there was none who could rival her charms and accomplishments.  One day the Prince went out into the garden with O Toyo, and remained enjoying the fragrance of the flowers until sunset, when they returned to the palace, never noticing that they were being followed by a large cat.  Having parted with her lord, O Toyo retired to her own room and went to bed.  At midnight she awoke with a start, and became aware of a huge cat that crouched watching her; and when she cried out, the beast sprang on her, and, fixing its cruel teeth in her delicate throat, throttled her to death.  What a piteous end for so fair a dame, the darling of her prince’s heart, to die suddenly, bitten to death by a cat!  Then the cat, having scratched out a grave under the verandah, buried the corpse of O Toyo, and assuming her form, began to bewitch the Prince.

[Footnote 75:  The family of the Prince of Hizen, one of the eighteen chief Daimios of Japan.]

But my lord the Prince knew nothing of all this, and little thought that the beautiful creature who caressed and fondled him was an impish and foul beast that had slain his mistress and assumed her shape in order to drain out his life’s blood.  Day by day, as time went on, the Prince’s strength dwindled away; the colour of his face was changed, and became pale and livid; and he was as a man suffering from a deadly sickness.  Seeing this, his councillors and his wife became greatly alarmed; so they summoned the physicians, who prescribed various remedies for him; but the more medicine he took, the more serious did his illness appear, and no treatment was of any avail.  But most of all did he suffer in the night-time, when his sleep would be troubled and disturbed by hideous dreams.  In consequence of this, his councillors nightly appointed a hundred of his retainers to sit up and watch over him; but, strange to say, towards ten o’clock on the very first night that the watch was set, the guard were seized with a sudden and unaccountable drowsiness, which they could not resist, until one by one every man had fallen asleep.  Then the false O Toyo came in and harassed the Prince until morning.  The following night the same thing occurred, and the Prince was subjected to the imp’s tyranny, while his guards slept helplessly around him.  Night after night this was repeated, until at last three of the Prince’s councillors determined themselves to sit up on guard, and see whether they could overcome this mysterious drowsiness; but they fared no better than the others, and by ten o’clock were fast asleep.  The next day the three councillors held a solemn conclave, and their chief, one Isahaya Buzen, said—­

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