“It can be arranged, sir!” repeats Kangourou again, who at this moment appears to me a go-between of the lowest type, a rascal of the meanest kind.
Only, he adds, we, Yves and I, are in the way during the negotiations. And, while Mdlle. Chrysantheme remains with her eyelids lowered, as befits the occasion, while the various families, on whose countenances may be read every degree of astonishment, every phase of expectation, remain seated in a circle on my white mats, he sends us two into the verandah, and we gaze down into the depths below us, upon a misty and vague Nagasaki, a Nagasaki melting into a blue haze of darkness.
Then ensue long discourses in Japanese, arguments without end. M. Kangourou, who is washerman and low scamp in French only, has returned for these discussions to the long formulas of his country. From time to time I express impatience, I ask this worthy creature whom I am less and less able to consider in a serious light:
“Come now, tell us frankly, Kangourou, are we any nearer coming to some arrangement? is all this ever going to end?”
“In a moment, sir, in a moment;” and he resumes his air of political economist seriously debating social problems.
Well, one must submit to the slowness of this people. And, while the darkness falls like a veil over the Japanese town, I have leisure to reflect, with as much melancholy as I please, upon the bargain that is being concluded behind me.
* * * * *
Night has closed in, deep night; it has been necessary to light the lamps.
It is ten o’clock when all is finally settled, and M. Kangourou comes to tell me:
“All is arranged, sir: her parents will give her up for twenty dollars a month,—the same price as Mdlle. Jasmin.”
On hearing this, I am possessed suddenly with extreme vexation that I should have made up my mind so quickly to link myself in ever so fleeting and transient a manner with this little creature, and dwell with her in this isolated house.
We come back into the room; she is the center of the circle and seated; and they have placed the aigrette of flowers in her hair. There is actually some expression in her glance, and I am almost persuaded that she—this one—– thinks.
Yves is astonished at her modest attitude, at her little timid airs of a young girl on the verge of matrimony; he had imagined nothing like it in such a marriage as this, nor I either, I must confess.
“She is really very pretty, brother,” said he; “very pretty, take my word for it!”
These good folks, their customs, this scene, strike him dumb with astonishment; he cannot get over it, and remains in a maze. “Oh! this is too much,” and the idea of writing a long letter to his wife at Toulven, describing it all, diverts him greatly.
Chrysantheme and I join hands. Yves too advances and touches the dainty little paw;—after all, if I wed her, it is chiefly his fault; I should never have remarked her without his observation that she was pretty. Who can tell how this strange arrangement will turn out? Is it a woman or a doll? Well, time will show.