LITTLE SILVER'S DREAM
ITTLE SILVER was a girl who did not care for strange stories of animals, so much as for those of wonder-creatures in the
form of human beings. Even of these, however, she did not like to dream, and when the foolish old nurse would
tell her ghost stories at night, she was terribly afraid they would appear to her in her sleep.
To avoid this, the old nurse told her to draw pictures of a tapir on the sheet of white paper which was
wrapped around her tiny pillow. These small pillows, you must know, are used by every Japanese girl in order
to keep her well-dressed hair from being mussed or rumpled. The nurse told her what many old folks
believe,—that if you have a picture of a tapir under the bed, or on the paper pillow-case, you will not
have unpleasant dreams, as the tapir is said to eat them. So strongly do some people believe this that they
sleep under quilts figured with the device of this long-snouted beast. If in spite of this precaution one
should have a bad
 dream, he must cry out on awaking, "Tapir, come eat, tapir, come eat!" Then the tapir will swallow the dream,
and no evil results will happen to the dreamer.
Little Silver listened with open mouth to this account of the tapir, and then making the picture and wrapping
it around her pillow, she fell asleep. I suspect that the red rice of which she had eaten so heartily at
supper time, until her waist strings tightened, had something to do with her travels in dreamland.
She thought she had gone down to Osaka, and there got on a junk and sailed far away to the southwest, through
the Inland Sea. That night the waters seemed full of white ghosts of men and women. Some of them were walking
on, and in, the water. Some were running about. Here and there groups appeared to be talking together. Once in
a while the junk would run against one of them; and when Little Silver looked to see if he were hurt or
knocked over, she could see nothing until the junk passed by, when the ghost would appear standing in the same
place, as though the ship had gone through empty air.
Occasionally a ghost would come up to the
 side of the ship, and in a squeaky voice ask for a dipper. While she would be wondering what a ghost wanted to
do with a dipper, a sailor would quietly open a locker, take out a dipper having no bottom, and give one every
time he was asked for them. Little Silver noticed a large bundle of these dippers ready. The ghosts would then
begin to bail up water out of the sea to empty it in the boat. All night they followed the junk, holding on
with one hand to the gunwhale, while they vainly dipped up water with the other, trying to swamp the boat. If
dippers with bottoms in them had been given them, the sailors said, the boat would have been sunk. When
daylight appeared the shadowy host of people vanished.
In the morning they passed an island, the shores of which were high rocks of red coral. A great earthen jar
stood on the beach, and around it lay long-handled ladles holding a half-gallon or more, and piles of very
large shallow red-lacquered wine cups, which seemed as big as the full moon. After the sun had risen some
time, there came down from over the hills a troop of the most curious looking people. Many were short, little
 folks, who looked very old; or rather, they seemed old before they ought to be. Some were very aged and
crooked, with hickory-nut faces, and hair of a reddish gray tint. All the others had long scarlet locks
hanging loose over their heads, and streaming down their backs. Their faces were flushed as if by hard
drinking, and their pimpled noses resembled huge red barnacles. No sooner did they arrive at the great earthen
jar than they ranged themselves round it. The old ones dipped out ladles full, and drank of the wine till they
reeled. The younger ones poured the liquor into cups and drank. Even the little infants guzzled quantities of
the yellow saké,
from the shallow cups.
Then began the dance, and wild and furious it grew. The leather-faced old sots tossed their long reddish-gray
locks in the air, and pirouetted round the big saké jar. The younger ones of all ages clapped their hands,
knotted their hand-kerchiefs over their foreheads, waved their dippers or cups or fans, and practiced all
kinds of antics, while their scarlet hair streamed in the wind or was blown in their eyes. The dance over,
they threw down their cups and
 dippers, rested a few minutes and then took another heavy drink all around.
"Now to work!" shouted an old fellow whose face was redder than his half-bleached hair, and who having only
two teeth looked just like an imp. As for his wife, her teeth had long ago fallen out and the skin of her face
seemed to have added a pucker for every year since a half century had rolled over her head.
Then Little Silver looked and saw them scatter. Some gathered shells and burned them to make lime. Others
carried water and made mortar, which they thickened by a pulp made of paper, and a glue made by boiling fish
skin. Some dived under the sea for red coral, which they hauled up by means of straw ropes, in great sprigs as
thick as the branches of a tree. They quickly ran up a scaffold, and while some of the scarlet-headed
plasterers smeared the walls, others below passed up the tempered mortar on long shell shovels, to the hand
mortar-boards. Even at work they had casks and cups of saké at hand, while children played in the empty kegs
and licked the gummy sugar left in some of them.
 "What is that house for?" asked Little Silver of the sailors.
"Oh, that is the storehouse in which the King of the Demons lays up all the treasures of life and health and
happiness and property, which men throw away or exchange for the saké he gives them. This is what they lose by
making funnels of themselves."
"Oh, yes," said Little Silver to herself, as she remembered how her father had said of a certain neighbor who
had lately been drinking hard, "He swills saké like a Demon."
She also understood why picnic or "chow-chow" boxes were often decorated with pictures of these imps, with
their cups and dippers. For, at these picnics, many men get drunk; so much so indeed, that after a while the
master of the feast orders very poor and cheap wine to be served to the guests. He also replaces the delicate
wine cups of eggshell porcelain, with big thick teacups or wooden bowls, for the guests when drunk are liable
to shatter the others. Besides they do not know the difference.
She also now understood why it was commonly said of a Mr. Matsu, who had once been very rich
 but was now a poor sot, "His property has all gone to the Demons."
Just then the ship in which she was sailing struck a rock, and the sudden jerk woke up Little Silver, who
cried out, "Tapir, come eat; tapir, come eat!"
No tapir came that she could see, but if he had appeared I fear Little Silver would have been more frightened
than she was by her dream of the ghosts; for, the next morning, she laughed to think how they had all their
work a-dipping water for nothing. But she never forgot the Demon's treasure-house of lost gold and happiness,
whenever she saw any one drinking more than was good for him.