I, however, who have a great respect for strength and agility, much appreciate this new relative of mine. His legs are undoubtedly the best in all Nagasaki, and whenever I am in a hurry, I always beg Madame Prune to send down to the djin stand, and engage my cousin.
I arrived unexpectedly to-day at Diou-djen-dji, in the midst of a burning noonday heat. At the foot of the stairs lay Chrysantheme’s wooden clogs and her sandals of varnished leather.
In our rooms, up above, all was open to the air; bamboo blinds lowered on the sunny side, and through their transparency came warm air and golden threads of light. To-day, the flowers Chrysantheme had placed in our bronze vases were lotus, and my eyes fell, as I entered, upon their great rosy cups.
According to her usual custom, she was lying flat on the floor enjoying her daily siesta.
What a singular originality these bouquets of Chrysantheme always have: a something difficult to define, a Japanese slimness, a mannered grace which we should never succeed in imparting to them.
She was sleeping flat on her face upon the mats, her high headdress and tortoiseshell pins standing out boldly from the rest of the horizontal figure. The train of her tunic prolonged her delicate little body, like the tail of a bird; her arms were stretched crosswise, the sleeves spread out like wings,—and her long guitar lay beside her.
She looked like a dead fairy; or still more did she resemble some great blue dragon-fly, which, having alighted on that spot, some unkind hand had pinned to the floor.
Madame Prune, who had come upstairs after me, always officious and eager, manifested by her gestures her sentiments of indignation on beholding the careless reception accorded by Chrysantheme to her lord and master, and advanced to wake her.
“Pray do nothing of the kind, my good Madame Prune, you don’t know how much I prefer her like that!” I had left my shoes below, according to custom, by the side of the little clogs and sandals; and I entered on the tips of my toes, very, very softly, to go and sit awhile under the verandah.
What a pity this little Chrysantheme cannot always be asleep; she is really extremely decorative seen in this manner,—and like this, at least, she does not bore me. Who knows what may perchance be going on in that little head and heart! If I only had the means of finding out! But strange to say, since we have kept house together, instead of pushing my studies in the Japanese language further, I have neglected them, so much have I felt the utter impossibility of ever interesting myself in the subject.
Seated under my verandah, my eyes wandered over the temples and cemeteries spread at my feet, over the woods and green mountains, over Nagasaki lying bathed in the sunlight. The cicalas were chirping their loudest, the strident noise trembling feverishly in the hot air. All was calm, full of light and full of heat.