Again a hissing bow, and Kangourou-San catching my agitation, begins to pass in feverish review, all the young persons at his disposal in Nagasaki.
“Let us see—there was Mdlle. OEillet. What a pity that I had not spoken a few days sooner! So pretty! So clever at playing the guitar. It is an irreparable misfortune; she was engaged only yesterday by a Russian officer.”
“Ah! Mdlle. Abricot!—Would she suit me, Mdlle. Abricot? She is the daughter of a wealthy China merchant in the Decima Bazaar, a person of the highest merit; but she would be very dear: her parents, who think a great deal of her, will not let her go under a hundred yen[A] a month. She is very accomplished, thoroughly understands commercial writings, and has at her finger ends more than two thousand characters of learned writing. In a poetical competition she gained the first prize with a sonnet composed in praise of ’the blossoms of the black-thorn hedges seen in the dew of early morning.’ Only, she is not very pretty: one of her eyes is smaller than the other, and she has a hole in her cheek, resulting from an illness of her childhood.”
[Footnote A: A yen is equal to four shillings.]
“Oh no! on no account that one! Let us seek amongst a less distinguished class of young persons, but without scars. And how about those on the other side of the screen, in those fine gold-embroidered dresses? For instance, the dancer with the specter mask, M. Kangourou? or again she who sings in so dulcet a strain and has such a charming nape to her neck?”
He does not, at first, understand my drift; then when he gathers my meaning, he shakes his head almost in a joking way, and says:
“No, sir, no! Those are only Guechas,[B] sir—Guechas!”
[Footnote B: Guechas are professional dancers and singers trained at the Yeddo Conservatory.]
“Well, but why not a Guecha? What odds can it be to me, whether they are Guechas or not?” Later on, no doubt, when I understand Japanese affairs better, I shall appreciate myself the enormity of my proposal: one would really suppose I had talked of marrying the devil.
At this point M. Kangourou suddenly calls to mind one Mdlle. Jasmin. Heavens! how was it he did not think of her at once; she is absolutely and exactly what I want; he will go to-morrow or this very evening, to make the necessary overtures to the parents of this young person who live a long way off, on the opposite hill, in the suburb of Diou-djen-dji. She is a very pretty girl of about fifteen. She can probably be engaged for about eighteen or twenty dollars a month, on condition of presenting her with a few dresses of the best fashion, and of lodging her in a pleasant and well-situated house,—all of which a man of gallantry like myself could not fail to do.