Everything looked OK except the youngest boy. He was a real problem for the family. He was not strong enough to help his father. The family needed someone strong because the work should be shared. But, he was very intelligent and could learn things easily. He knew much more then his sisters and brothers. People in the village said he would never be strong and he would always be small. Because of this, his mother and father thought it would be better if he became a churchman, and not a farmer.
So, the family decided to take the boy to the village church, and asked the good old churchman there to teach him all a churchman should know. The churchman was very kind to the boy, but he asked him very hard questions. The little boy gave such clever answers that the churchman agreed to teach the little boy.
The boy learnt quickly what the old churchman taught. What was wrong with the little boy was his interest to painting. He liked to paint pictures of cats during the time he was studying. And he often painted cats in places where he should not have painted them. Whenever he was alone or he found a spare minute, he made pictures of cats. He made them on the edges of the pages in his study books; he made them on the walls of the church, and he made them on the tall round stones that held the church up. A few times he was told not to make cats. He had all the talents of a genius of an artist, so he would never make a good churchman.
One day after he had painted many cats pictures on some paper, the churchman called him and said, “My boy you’ll never be a good churchman. You must leave the church at once. There is no need to stay here. Perhaps you’ll become a good artist one day. But, before you go let me give you a piece of advice, be sure you’ll never forget it and it will be a guide for you. Stay away from big places at night, stay in the small places.”
The boy could not understand anything from the churchman’s words. “Stay away from big places at night; stay in the small places.” He thought and thought as he picked up all his clothes to leave the church. But, he would not understand the words at all.
He thought to ask to the churchman what he had wanted to mean, but he was afraid. He just said “Good bye” and left the church. But, he left with his heart filled with sorrow. He wondered what he should do. If he went home, he was sure his father would punish him for not obeying the churchman, and instead painting cats all the time. As he walked away from the church, he remembered that there was a big church in the next village. He had heard that there were many churchman there. He decided to go to the church and ask them if he could study there and become a churchmen. Now, the church had been closed for a long time, but the boy did not know this.
The reason it had been closed was because a bad goblin, an evil spirit, had frightened the churchmen away and made the church his home. Some brave people had gone to church later to kill the goblin, but they had never been seen alive again. No one had ever told all this to the boy, so he walked all the way to the village, hoping to be treated kindly by the churchmen.
When he was at the village, it was dark, and all the people were sleeping in their beds. He saw the light inside the church. (People who tell the story say the bad goblin used the light to make travellers think someone lived in the church.)
As the boy saw the light in the church, he went towards it and knocked the door. There was no voice inside. He knocked and knocked again, but still he could get no answer. At last, he pushed the door, and he became very happy when it opened. He went in, hoping to find a churchman who ran that church. There was only the burning light. He thought the churchmen would come very soon, and he sat down to wait. Then, he saw that the church was covered with dust. All the seats were the same, filled with thin shiny dust. He thought he had to stay there. It was certain that the churchmen needed a young boy to help him to keep the church clean.
As he looked round, he wondered why the churchmen had let their church get so drity. He looked up at the walls and saw some clean white places. This pleased him. He was very tired after his long walk, but wanted to paint some cats. He got up and looked for a painting box. He finally found one and made some ink, so he could paint cats on the white walls. He painted many cats, then he began to get very sleepy.
He was going to lie down near one of the white walls under the cats he had painted, but suddenly he remembered the words of the old churchman: “Stay away from big places at night; stay in small places.” The church was very big, and he was all alone. And as he thought of those words, he began to feel afraid for the first time. He really did not understand them, but the big church seemed to fit the words, “Stay away from big places.”
He looked round the church to find a small place to sleep in. He found a little wood box that had a door in it. It looked like a place to keep things. It was just big enough for him to lie down in and sleep. He got in and closed the door. Soon, he was fast asleep.
A noise like fighting or screaming woke him up in the middle of the night. It was so fearful that he was afraid to open the door a little and look to see what was going on outside. He could not move, just lay very still and quiet. He almost stopped breathing, he was so frightened. The light in the church went out, but the terrible sounds continued and became more terrible. The walls of the church seemed to shake.
After a long time, there was silence, but he was still too afraid to get out of his box. He did not move until the sun shone into the box through the little space where the door was fastened to the box. Then, he got out of his hiding place very slowly and carefully.
He looked around. The first thing he saw was that the floor of the church was covered with blood, and then he saw lying dead in the middle of the floor a great big monster rat-a goblin rat bigger than a cow. But, who or what could have killed it? There was no man or animal around.
Suddenly, the boy saw that the mouths of all the cats he had painted the night before were red and wet with blood. Then, he knew the goblin rat had been killed by the cats which he had painted. And then also, for the first time, he understood why the wise old church man had to him, “Stay away from big places at night, stay in small places.”
Afterwards, the boy became a very famous artist. Some of the cats he painted are still shown to travellers in Japan.