The Triomphante, which has been lying in the roadsteads almost at the foot of the hill on which stands my house, enters the dock to-day to undergo repairs rendered necessary by the long blockade of Formosa.
I am now a long way from my home, and obliged to cross by boat the whole breadth of the bay when I wish to see Chrysantheme; for the dock is situated on the shore opposite to Diou-djen-dji. It is sunk in a little valley, narrow and deep, midst all kinds of foliage,—bamboos, camellias, trees of all sorts; our masts and spars, seen from the deck, look as if they were tangled among the branches.
The situation of the vessel—no longer afloat—gives the crew a greater facility for clandestine escapes from the ship at no matter what hour of the night, and our sailors have made friends with all the girls of the villages perched on the mountains above us.
These quarters and his excessive liberty, give me some uneasiness about my poor Yves; for this country of frivolous pleasure has a little turned his head. Moreover, I am more and more convinced that he is in love with Chrysantheme.
It is really a pity that the sentiment has not occurred to me instead, since it is I who have gone the length of marrying her.
Notwithstanding the increased distance, I continue my daily visits to Diou-djen-dji. When night has fallen, and the four couples who compose our society have joined us, as well as Yves and the amazingly tall friend,—we descend again into the town, stumbling by lantern light down the steep stairways and slopes of the old suburb.
This nocturnal stroll is always the same, and accompanied always by the same amusements: we pause before the same queer stalls, we drink the same sugared drinks served to us in the same little gardens. But our troop is often more numerous: to begin with, we chaperon Oyouki who is confided to our care by her parents; then we have two cousins of my wife’s—pretty little creatures; and lastly friends—guests of sometimes only ten or twelve years old, little girls of the neighborhood to whom our mousmes wish to show some politeness.
Oh! what a singular company of tiny beings forms our suite and follows us into the tea-gardens in the evenings! The most absurd faces, with sprigs of flowers stuck in the oddest fashion in their comical and childish heads! One might suppose it was a whole school of mousmes out for an evening’s frolic under our care.
Yves returns with us, when time comes to remount our hill,—Chrysantheme heaves great sighs like a tired child, and stops on every step, leaning on our arms.
When we have reached our destination he says good-night, just touches Chrysantheme’s hand, and descending once more, by the slope which leads to the quays and the shipping, he crosses the roadstead in a sampan, to get on board the Triomphante.