Nevertheless, to my taste, it is not yet enough so! What then can have changed upon the earth? The burning noon-days of summer, such as I can recall in days gone by, were more brilliant, more full of sunshine; Nature seemed to me in those days more powerful, more terrible. One would say this was only a pale copy of all that I knew in early years,—a copy in which something is wanting. Sadly do I ask myself,—Is the splendor of the summer only this? was it only this? or is it the fault of my eyes, and as time goes on shall I behold everything around me paling still more?
Behind me a faint and melancholy strain of music,—melancholy enough to make one shiver,—and shrill, shrill as the song of the grasshoppers, began to make itself heard, very softly at first, then growing louder and rising in the silence of the noonday like the diminutive wail of some poor Japanese soul in pain and anguish; it was Chrysantheme and her guitar awaking together.
It pleased me that the idea should have occurred to her to greet me with music, instead of eagerly hastening to wish me “Good morning.” (At no time have I ever given myself the trouble to pretend the slightest affection for her, and a certain coldness even has grown up between us, especially when we are alone.) But to-day I turn to her with a smile, and wave my hand for her to continue. “Go on, it amuses me to listen to your quaint little impromptu.” It is singular that the music of this essentially merry people should be so plaintive. But undoubtedly that which Chrysantheme is playing at this moment is worth listening to. Whence can it have come to her? What unutterable dreams, forever hidden from me, fly through her yellow head, when she plays or sings in this manner?
Suddenly: Pan, pan, pan! Some one knocks three times, with a harsh and bony finger against one of the steps of our stairs, and in the aperture of our doorway appears an idiot, clad in a suit of gray tweed, who bows low. “Come in, come in, M. Kangourou. How well you come, just in the nick of time! I was actually becoming enthusiastic over your country!”
It was a little washing bill, which M. Kangourou respectfully wished to hand to me, with a profound bend of the whole body, the correct pose of the hands on the knees, and a long snake-like hiss.
Following the road which climbs past the front of our dwelling, one passes a dozen or more old villas, a few garden walls, and then there is nothing but the lonely mountain side, with little paths winding upwards towards the summit through plantations of tea, bushes of camellias, underwood and rocks. The mountains round Nagasaki are covered with cemeteries; for centuries and centuries past it is up here they have brought their dead.