That, the first storm of wind my eyes ever beheld sweeping over the landscape, blew in just the opposite quarter of the world,—and many years have rapidly passed over that memory,—since then the best part of my life has been spent.
I refer too often, I fancy, to my childhood; I am foolishly fond of it. But it seems to me that then only did I truly experience sensations or impressions; the smallest trifles I then saw or heard were full of deep and hidden meaning, recalling past images out of oblivion, and reawakening memories of prior existence; or else they were presentiments of existences to come, future incarnations in the land of dreams, expectations of wondrous marvels that life and the world held in store for me,—for later, no doubt, when I should be grown up. Well, I have grown up, and have found nothing that answered to my undefinable expectations; on the contrary, all has narrowed and darkened around me, my vague recollections of the past have become blurred, the horizons before me have slowly closed in and become full of a gray darkness. Soon will my time come to return to eternal rest, and I shall leave this world without having understood the mysterious wherefore of these mirages of my childhood; I shall bear away with me a lingering regret, of I know not what lost home that I have failed to find, of the unknown beings ardently longed for, whom, alas, I have never embraced.
With many affectations, M. Sucre has dipped the tip of his delicate paint-brush in Indian ink and traced a couple of charming storks on a pretty sheet of rice-paper, offering them to me in the most gracious manner, as a souvenir of himself. They are here, in my cabin on board, and whenever I look at them, I can fancy I see M. Sucre tracing them in an airy manner, with elegant facility.
The saucer in which M. Sucre mixes his ink, is in itself a little gem. Chiselled out of a piece of jade, it represents a tiny lake with a carved border imitating rockwork. On this border is a little mama toad, also in jade, advancing as though to bathe in the little lake in which M. Sucre carefully keeps a few drops of very dark liquid. The mama toad has four little baby toads, equally in jade, one perched on her head, the other three playing about under her.
M. Sucre has painted many a stork in the course of his lifetime, and he really excels in reproducing groups and duets, if one may so express it, of this kind of bird. Few Japanese possess the art of interpreting this subject in a manner at once so rapid and so tasteful; first he draws the two beaks, then the four claws, then the backs, the feathers, dash, dash, dash,—with a dozen strokes of his clever brush, held in his daintily posed hand, it is done, and always perfectly well done!