It is with a certain pleasure that I see once more this Japanese home, which I wonder to find still mine when I had almost forgotten its existence. Chrysantheme has put fresh flowers in our vases, spread out her hair, donned her best clothes, and lighted our lamps to honor my return. From the balcony she had watched the Triomphante leave the dock, and, in the expectation of our now prompt return, she had made her preparations; then, to while away the time, she was studying a duet on the guitar with Oyouki. Not a question or reproach did she make. On the contrary:
“We quite understood,” she said, “how impossible it was, in such dreadful weather, to undertake so lengthy a crossing in a sampan.”
She smiled like a pleased child, and I should be fastidious indeed if I did not admit that to-night she is charming.
I announce my intention of starting off for a long stroll through Nagasaki; we will take Oyouki-San and two little cousins who happen to be there, as well as some other neighbors, if they wish to; we will buy the funniest toys, eat all sorts of cakes, and amuse ourselves to our hearts’ content.
“How lucky we are to be here, just at the right moment,” they exclaim, jumping with joy. “How fortunate we are! This very evening there is to be a pilgrimage to the great temple of the Jumping Tortoise! The whole town will be there; all our married friends have already started, the whole set, X——, Y——, Z——, Touki-San, Campanule, and Jonquille, with the friend of amazing height.” And those two, poor Chrysantheme and poor Oyouki, would have been obliged to stay at home with heavy hearts, because we had not yet arrived, and because Madame Prune had been seized with faintness and hysterics after her dinner.
Quickly the mousmes must deck themselves out. Chrysantheme is ready; Oyouki hurries, changes her dress, and, putting on a mouse-colored gray robe, begs me to arrange the bows of her fine sash—black satin lined with yellow—sticking at the same time in her hair a silver top-knot. We light our lanterns, swinging at the end of little sticks; M. Sucre, overwhelming us with thanks for his daughter, accompanies us on all fours to the door,—and we go off gayly through the clear and balmy night.
Below, we find the town in all the animation of a great holiday. The streets are thronged; the crowd passes by,—a laughing, capricious, slow, unequal tide, flowing onwards, however, steadily in the same direction, towards the same goal. There arises therefrom an immense but light murmur in which dominate the sounds of laughter, and the low-toned interchange of polite speeches. Then follow lanterns upon lanterns. Never in my life have I seen so many, so variegated, so complicated, and so extraordinary.
We follow, drifting with the surging crowd, borne along by it. There are groups of women of every age, decked out in their smartest clothes, crowds of mousmes with aigrettes of flowers in their hair, or little silver top-knots like Oyouki,—pretty little physiognomies, little narrow eyes peeping between slit lids like those of a new-born kitten, fat pale little cheeks, round, puffed-out, half-opened lips. They are pretty, nevertheless, these little Niponese, in their smiles and childishness.