Madame La Duchesse,
Allow me to crave your acceptance of the following work, as a respectful tribute of my attachment.
I felt some hesitation in offering it, for its main incident cannot be deemed altogether proper; but I have striven that in its expression at least, it should not sin against good taste, and I trust that my endeavours have been successful.
It is the diary of a summer of my life, in which I have changed nothing, not even the dates, thinking as I do, that in our efforts to arrange matters we often only succeed in disarranging them. Although the most important role may appear to devolve on Madame Chrysantheme, it is very certain that the three principal personages are myself, Japan, and the effect produced on me by that country.
Do you remember a certain photograph—rather ridiculous I must admit—representing that big fellow Yves, a Japanese girl and myself, grouped closely together as we were placed side by side by a Nagasaki artist? You smiled when I assured you that the carefully combed little creature placed between us two, had been one of our neighbours. Kindly welcome my book with the same indulgent smile, without seeking therein a meaning either good or bad, in the same spirit that you would receive some quaint bit of pottery, some grotesquely carved ivory idol, or some preposterous trifle brought back for you from this singular fatherland of all preposterousness.
Believe me with the deepest respect, Madame la Duchesse,
At sea, about two o’clock in the morning, on a clear night, under a star-lit sky.
Yves stood near me on the bridge, and we were talking of the country, so utterly unknown to us both, to which the chances of our destiny were now wafting us. As we were to cast anchor the following day, we enjoyed the state of expectation, and formed a thousand plans.
“As for me,” I said, “I shall at once marry.”
“Ah!” returned Yves, with the indifferent air of a man whom nothing can surprise.
“Yes—I shall choose a little yellow-skinned woman with black hair and cat’s eyes. She must be pretty. Not much bigger than a doll. You shall have a room in our house. A little paper house, in the midst of green gardens, prettily shaded. We shall live among flowers, everything around us shall blossom, and each morning our dwelling shall be filled with nosegays, nosegays such as you have never dreamt of.”
Yves now began to take an interest in these plans for my future household; indeed, he would have listened with as much confidence, if I had manifested the intention of taking temporary vows in some monastery of this new country, or of marrying some island queen and shutting myself up with her in a house built of jade, in the middle of an enchanted lake.