Before that, however, she will have risen at least three times to smoke: having yawned like a cat, stretched herself, twisted in every direction her little amber arms, and her graceful little hands, she sits up resolutely, with all the waking groans and half words of a child, pretty and fascinating enough: then she emerges from the gauze tent, fills her little pipe, and breathes a few puffs of the bitter and unpleasant mixture.
Then comes pan, pan, pan, pan, against the box to shake out the ashes. In the resounding sonority of the night it makes quite a terrible noise, which wakes Madame Prune. This is fatal. Madame Prune is at once seized also with a longing to smoke which may not be denied; then, to the noise from above, comes an answering pan, pan, pan, pan, from below, exactly like it, exasperating and inevitable as an echo.
More cheerful are the noises of the morning: the cocks crowing, the wooden panels all round the neighborhood sliding back upon their rollers; or the strange cry of some little fruit-hawker, patrolling our lofty suburb in the early dawn. And the grasshoppers absolutely seem to chirp more loudly, to celebrate the return of the sunlight.
Above all, rises to our ears from below the sound of Madame Prune’s long prayers, ascending through the floor, monotonous as the song of a somnambulist, regular and soothing as the splash of a fountain. It lasts three-quarters of an hour at least; it drones along, a rapid flow of words in a high nasal key; from time to time, when the inattentive Spirits are not listening, it is accompanied by a clapping of dry palms, or by harsh sounds from a kind of wooden clapper made of two discs of mandragora root; it is an uninterrupted stream of prayer; its flow never ceases, and the quavering continues without stopping, like the bleating of an old nanny-goat in delirium.
"After having washed the hands and feet" say the sacred books, "the great God Ama-Terace-Omi-Kami, who is the royal power of Japan, must be invoked; the manes of all the defunct Emperors descended from him must also be invoked; next, the manes of all his personal ancestors, to the furthest generation; the Spirits of the Air and Sea; the Spirits of all secret and impure places; the Spirits of the tombs of the district whence you spring, etc., etc."
“I worship and implore you,” sings Madame Prune, “Oh Ama-Terace-Omi-Kami, royal power. Cease not to protect your faithful people, who are ready to sacrifice themselves for their country. Grant that I may become as holy as yourself, and drive from my mind all dark thoughts. I am a coward and a sinner; purge me from my cowardice and sinfulness, even as the north wind drives the dust into the sea. Wash me clean from all my iniquities, as one washes away uncleanness in the river of Kamo. Make me the richest woman in the world. I believe in your glory, which shall be spread over the whole earth, and illuminate it forever for my happiness. Grant me the continued good health of my family, and above all, my own, who, oh Ama-Terace-Omi-Kami, do worship and adore you, and only you, etc., etc.”