Besting the Ghost
To fall in love with someone special and then plan to share a life time with them through a bond of marriage is ideal. Often however considerations other than love come into play in marriages. In fact, it is still the custom for families in many countries to have an arranged marriage in order to augment political or economic status. But I digress. Let us just say, in the olden days this arranged marriage business was often the norm.
There was once a young couple who, after pomp and ceremony, settled in to live comfortably in a fine house with lots of land at the edge of town. As beloved children their families had seen to it that the couple would be compatible before they were married. Unfortunately many hidden vices surfaced after the marriage to disrupt their harmony. In time they were no more than two strangers barely speaking to each other but still living under one roof for the sake of appearances.
They thought they would be miserable forever, if only there were children to bridge this growing gap. But fate had other designs and before long, the couple’s strained but seemingly mundane life was seriously rocked with the onset of a grave illness that beset the young wife. Finally, after failed attempts to cure her, on the verge of expiring, the wife whispered to her husband in his feigned distress: “Dear husband, despite all your bad characteristics I still love you very much… Alas our time together was so cruelly interrupted.” She gasped a painful breath before resuming, “But marriage should be forever, here and in the hereafter…Promise me, after I leave you do not hasten from me to another woman. If you do, I shall find no rest and shall certainly return as a ghost and cause you endless trouble.”
Soon after this implied threat, the wife passed away. The husband at first respected her last wish and stayed celibate for some time, three months and two days to be exact. But then the loneliness drove him to seek the company of another. Chancing on an exquisite beauty at a small gathering, he became smitten at once. At first he observed her from afar in other social gatherings, and then he pushed for an introduction and gained a chance to converse with her. She was every bit as intelligent and artistic as she was beautiful. He could not help but fall deeply in love with her. This time through his own will they became engaged to be married. Immediately after the engagement party however a ghost appeared in his quarters that very night and continued on every night after that, with accusing words and gestures, blaming him for his breach of promise. The ghost was determined and angry as she related exactly what transpired between him and his new fiancé. Whenever he gave his new beloved a present or a token of their love, the ghost would describe in detail the particulars. She related, word for word all their private conversations. This so perturbed him that he suffered from a persistent case of insomnia. One of his close confidents advised him to take this problem to the local priest who lived in a seminary close to his home. He resisted this notion at first but as the problems persisted, he at long last went to the Priest seeking his help.
“Your former wife became a ghost and knows everything you do,” thoughtfully commented the Priest. “Whatever you do or say, whatever you give your fiancé, she knows of, you say? Hmm. She must be a very wise ghost. Really you should admire such a resourceful apparition. Here’s an idea; the next time she manifests, try bargaining with her. Tell her that, since she is so knowledgeable, you can obviously hide nothing from her and that if she can answer you one question, you will promise to break off the engagement immediately and content yourself thereafter to remaining single. “
“What is the question I must ask?” inquired the man.
“The Priest smiling replied: “Take a large handful of rice and ask her exactly how many grains of rice you hold in your hand. I she cannot tell you, you will know that she is only a figment of your imagination and upon this realization your trouble with the ghost should be no more.”
On the subsequent night, when the ghost again manifested, the man at first flattered her and told her that he was overawed that she knew everything.
“Indeed,” replied the ghost,” and furthermore, I also know that you went to see that Priest today.”
“I relent; but since you know so much,” demanded the man, “pray tell me how many grains of rice am I holding in my hand?”
There was no answer. The apparition simply vanished and from then on he saw no more ghost.