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To give a faithful account of those evenings, would require a more affected style than our own; and some kind of graphic sign would have also to be expressly invented and scattered at haphazard amongst the words, indicating the moment at which the reader should laugh,—rather a forced laugh, perhaps, but amiable and gracious. The evening at an end; it is time to return up there.
Oh! that street, that road, that we must clamber up every evening, under the starlit sky, or the heavy thunder-clouds, dragging by the hand our drowsy mousme in order to regain our home perched on high half-way up the hill, where our bed of matting awaits us.
The cleverest amongst us has been Louis de S——. Having formerly inhabited Japan, and made a marriage Japan fashion there, he is now satisfied to remain the friend of our wives, of whom he has become the Komodachi taksan takai, the very tall friend (as they say on account of his excessive height and slenderness). Talking Japanese more freely than we can, he is their confidential adviser, disturbs or reconciles at will our households, and has infinite amusement at our expense.
This very tall friend of our wives enjoys all the fun that these little creatures can give him, without any of the worries of domestic life. With brother Yves, and little Oyouki (the daughter of Madame Prune, my landlady,) he makes up our incongruous party.
M. Sucre and Madame Prune,[D] my landlord and wife, two perfectly unique personages but recently escaped from the panel of some screen, live below us on the ground floor; and very old they seem to have this daughter of fifteen, Oyouki, who is Chrysantheme’s inseparable friend.
[Footnote D: In Japanese: Sato-san and Oume-San.]
Both of them are entirely absorbed in the practices of Shintoist devotion: perpetually on their knees before their family altar, perpetually occupied in murmuring their lengthy orisons to the Spirits, and clapping their hands from time to time to recall around them the inattentive essences floating in the atmosphere;—in their spare moments they cultivate in little pots of gayly-painted earthenware, dwarf shrubs and unheard-of flowers which smell deliciously in the evening.
M. Sucre is taciturn, dislikes society, looks like a mummy in his blue cotton dress. He writes a great deal, (his memoirs, I fancy) with a paint-brush held in his finger-tips, on long strips of rice-paper of a faint gray tint.
Madame Prune is eagerly attentive, obsequious and rapacious; her eye-brows are closely shaven, her teeth carefully lacquered with black as befits a lady of gentility, and at all and no matter what hours, she appears on all fours at the entrance of our apartment, to offer us her services.