Dish Manor(日本落语)

  There once was a man who rich and cruel. In his house was a servant girl whose name was Okiku, and she was so beautiful that her master fell in love with her at first sight.

  He told her that he loved her. He told her that he wanted to be with her for the rest of his life. He told her he would kill himself if she refused him. 

  Okiku told him to keep his hands to himself.

  The master was furious. He couldn't believe a woman ---particularly a woman so beautiful --- could refuse him. He vowed revenge.

  He brought out the family's collection of priceless dishes. There were ten dishes, and they were very old and very beautiful. He ordered Okiku to clean them, and told her if she broke one, he would kill her.

  And so Okiku set to work with the utmost care, and when she wasn't looking, the master took one of the dishes and hid it away. He then went to Okiku and demanded she show him all the dishes. She laid them out, one by one. "One, two, three, and four ..." she counted.

  But once she reached the ninth plate, she couldn't find the tenth. The master accused Okiku of stealing a dish and took out his sword. Sobbing, she told him that she hadn't stolen the dish. But he wouldn't listen. He killed her, and threw her body down the well.

  The following night, the master was settling down to sleep when he heard a sad, ghostly voice: "One, two ..." it said.

  "Who's there?" the master cried, terrified.

  "Three, four ..." continued the voice.

  The master tore open the screen door but there was no one there.

  "Five, six ..." said the voice.

  The master ran out into the garden.

  "Seven, eight ..." said the voice.

  The master found himself near the well. He saw something black floating out of it. It was human hair. The master fell back in horror. There was a woman coming out of the well.

  "Nine ..." said the voice.

  "Okiku!" screamed the master, and the next morning his servants found him dead.

  Every night after that, the ghost of Okiku would rise from the well, counting the dishes, and it was said that whoever listened to her count to nine would die instantly.

  In less than a month she became a nationwide sensation. 

  People now came from far and wide to see Okiku float out of her well and count her plates. "One, two, three," she would moan, and the crowd pressed around, watching her. When she reached "seven," someone would shout, "Run!" And the crowd would rush out of the garden, because they knew if they heard her count to nine, they would die.

  She became more and more popular. Soon the crowds became so big that ticket booths were set up outside the house. People had to book months in advance to get in. Stalls appeared, selling everything from Okiku dolls and Okiku cake, to Okiku plates, tea sets and fans with "I survived Okiku" written on them.

  There were songs about her, poems about her, plays about he. Other cities created their own ghosts to rival her. Experts argued about which of the 10 plates --- all on exhibition in a local museum --- was the Tenth. Women dressed like Okiku, and girls had to be rescued from wells after throwing themselves in because they wanted to be like her.

  But fame did not affect Okiku. She continued to appear each night, unfazed by the crowd, looking the same as she did when she first floated out of the well --- although some complained that she wasn't counting like she used to. ("It's just routine now," said one disappointed fan. "Nothing like the pure emotion when I first saw her.")

  Then one night something strange happened. Okiku appeared as usual, everyone cheered, and she started counting: "One, two ... atchoo! " asked someone from the audience.

  "Just a little cold," said Okiku, wiping he nose. "Nothing to worry about. Three, four ... atchoo!"

  And when she reached "Seven," the crowd yelled and tried to run out of the garden. But because there were more people than usual, they got stuck in the gate. They couldn't get out.

  "Eight," said Okiku.

  The crowd struggled to get out. "We're going to die!" screamed a woman hysterically.

  "Nine," said Okiku.

  The crowd froze.

  "Ten," said Okiku. "Eleven. Twelve."

  "What's going on?" someone asked, and Okiku said, "It's this blasted cold. I'm tomorrow night off so I thought I'd do nine more plates in advance."

Benjamin Woodward  《英語で読む古典落語》The Japan Times

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