The Smoking Husband

Translated from Konjaku Monogatari

A man from Yamato province had a daughter, who was in love with a skillful flute-player from Kawauchi province.  The two were married, and they lived together for two years that were full of love and happiness.

Sadly, the husband was struck by a sudden illness and died.

The woman was overcome with sadness, and would do nothing but cry and mourn her husband.  Other men came to her earnestly and with good intentions, but she would not even distain to look at them, and filled her life only with memories of her dead husband.

Three years passed in this way, until one summer night when the woman lay crying at home, she thought she heard faint strains of the flute music her husband once played.  Listening closely, she heard a voice from the next room, saying “Please open this door and let me in.”  There was no mistake.  It was her husband’s voice.

The woman peeked through a gap in the boards of the door, and saw her dead husband standing there.  He was playing a song that he had composed for her long ago.

He looked exactly as he had when he was still alive, and when seeing him the woman was chilled to the bone and overcome with fear.  She looked closer, and saw smoke escaping from the folds of his hakama trousers that covered his kimono, even where they were bound by a cord.  When the husband spoke, more smoke came from his mouth.

“What is this?  You were so sad and weeping and longing for me that I could get no rest!  But now that I have come back to see you, you sit there shivering in fear?  If that is the kind of greeting I get then I will just go back.  For this I withstood the scorching heat of Hell?”

And with that said, the man disappeared.

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