Always, over, in, and through everything, rises day and night from this Japanese landscape the song of the cicalas, ceaseless, strident, and prodigious. It is everywhere, and never-ending, at no matter what hour of the burning day, what hour of the cool and refreshing night. In the midst of the roads, as we approached our anchorage, we had heard it at the same time from the two shores, from both walls of green mountains. It is wearisome and haunting; it seems to be the manifestation, the noise expressive of the special kind of life peculiar to this region of the world. It is the voice of summer in these islands; it is the song of unconscious rejoicing, always content with itself and always appearing to inflate, to rise upwards, in a greater and greater exultation at the sheer happiness of living.
It is to me the noise characteristic of this country,—this, and the cry of the falcon, which had in like manner greeted our entry into Japan. Over the valleys and the deep bay sail these birds, uttering from time to time their three cries, “Han! han! han!” in a key of sadness, which seems the extreme of painful astonishment. And the mountains around re-echo their cry.
Yves, Chrysantheme, and little Oyouki have struck up a friendship so great that it amuses me: I even think, that in my home life, this intimacy is what affords me the greatest entertainment. They form a contrast which gives rise to the most absurd jokes, and most unforeseen situations. He brings into this fragile little paper house, his sailor’s freedom and ease of manner, and his Breton accent; side by side with these tiny mousmes of affected manners and bird-like voices, who, small as they are, rule the big fellow as they please; make him eat with chopsticks; teach him Japanese “pigeon-vole,”—and cheat him, and quarrel, and almost die of laughter over it all.
Certainly he and Chrysantheme take a pleasure in each other’s company. But I remain serenely undisturbed, and cannot imagine that this little chance doll with whom I play at married life, could possibly bring a serious trouble between this “brother” and myself.
My family of Japanese relations, very numerous and very conspicuous, is a great source of diversion to those of my brother officers who visit me in my villa on the hill,—most especially to komodachi taksan takai (the immensely tall friend).
I have a charming mother-in-law—quite a woman of the world,—little sisters-in-law, little cousins, and aunts who are still quite young.
I have even a poor cousin, twice removed, who is a djin. There was some hesitation in owning this latter to me; but, behold! during the ceremony of introduction, we exchanged a smile of recognition, it was number 415.
Over this poor 415, my friends on board crack no end of jokes,—one in particular, who, less than any one has the right to make them, little Charles N——, for his mother-in-law was once a porter, or something of the kind, at the gateway of a pagoda.