In the middle class and the people, the ugliness is more pleasant and sometimes becomes a kind of prettiness. The eyes are still too small and hardly able to open, but the faces are rounder, browner, more vivacious; and in the women there remains a certain vagueness in the features, something childlike which prevails to the very end of their lives.
They are so laughing, so merry, all these little Niponese dolls! Rather a forced mirth, it is true, studied and at times with a false ring in it; nevertheless one is attracted by it.
Chrysantheme is an exception, for she is melancholy. What thoughts can be running through that little brain? My knowledge of her language is still too restricted to enable me to find out. Moreover, it is a hundred to one that she has no thoughts whatever. And even if she had, what do I care?
I have chosen her to amuse me, and I would really rather she should have one of those insignificant little thoughtless faces like all the others.
When night closes in, we light two hanging lamps of a religious character, which burn till morn, before our gilded idol.
We sleep on the floor, on a thin cotton mattress, which is unfolded and laid out over our white mats. Chrysantheme’s pillow is a little wooden block, scooped out to fit exactly the nape of the neck, without disturbing the elaborate head-dress, which must never be taken down; the pretty black hair I shall probably never see undone. My pillow, a Chinese model, is a kind of little square drum covered over with serpent skin.
We sleep under a gauze mosquito net of somber greenish blue, dark as the shades of night, stretched out on an orange-colored ribbon. (These are the traditional colors, and all the respectable families of Nagaski possess a similar gauze.) It envelops us like a tent; the mosquitoes and the night-moths dance around it.
* * * * *
This sounds very pretty, and written down looks very well. In reality, however, it is not so; something, I know not what, is wanting, and it is all very paltry. In other lands, in the delightful isles of Oceania, in the old lifeless quarters of Stamboul, it seemed as if mere words could never express all I felt, and I vainly struggled against my own incompetence to render, in human language, the penetrating charm surrounding me.
Here, on the contrary, words exact and truthful in themselves seem always too thrilling, too great for the subject; seem to embellish it unduly. I feel as if I were acting, for my own benefit, some wretchedly trivial and third-rate comedy; and whenever I try to consider my home in a serious spirit, the scoffing figure of M. Kangourou rises up before me, the matrimonial agent, to whom I am indebted for my happiness.