The fact is, that to-day is the third and last day of the great pilgrimage to the temple of the Jumping Tortoise, of which we saw the commencement yesterday, and all Nagasaki is at this time given over to amusement.
At the tea-house of the Indescribable Butterflies, which is also full to overflowing, but where we are well-known, they have had the bright idea of throwing a temporary flooring over the little lake,—the pond where the gold-fish live, and it is here that our meal is served, in the pleasant freshness of the fountain which continues its murmur under our feet.
After dinner, we follow the faithful and ascend again to the temple.
Up there we find the same elfin revelry, the same masks, the same music. We seat ourselves, as before, under a gauze tent and sip odd little drinks tasting of flowers. But this evening we are alone, and the absence of the band of mousmes, whose familiar little faces formed a bond of union between this holiday-making people and ourselves, separates and isolates us more than usual from the profusion of oddities in the midst of which we seem to be lost. Beneath us, lies always the immense blue background: Nagasaki illumined by moonlight, and the expanse of silvered, glittering water, which seems like a vaporous vision suspended in mid-air. Behind us is the great open temple, where the bonzes officiate to the accompaniment of sacred bells and wooden clappers,—looking, from where we sit, more like puppets than anything else, some squatting in rows like peaceful mummies, others executing rhythmical marches before the golden background where stand the gods. We do not laugh to-night, and speak but little, more forcibly struck by the scene than we were on the first night; we only look on, trying to understand. Suddenly, Yves turning round, says:
“Hullo! brother, your mousme!!”
Actually there she is, behind him; Chrysantheme almost on all fours, hidden between the paws of a great granite beast, half tiger, half dog, against which our fragile tent is leaning.
“She pulled my trousers with her nails, for all the world like a little cat,” said Yves, still full of surprise, “positively like a cat!”
She remains bent double in the most humble form of salutation; she smiles timidly, afraid of being ill received, and the head of my little brother-in-law, Bambou, appears smiling too, just above her own. She has brought this little mousko[I] with her, perched astride on her back; he looks as absurd as ever, with his shaven head, his long frock and the great bows of his silken sash. There they both stand gazing at us, anxious to know how their joke will be taken.
[Footnote I: Mousko is the masculine of mousme, and signifies little boy. Excessive politeness makes it mousko-san (Mr. little boy).]
For my part, I have not the least idea of giving them a cold reception; on the contrary, the meeting amuses me. It even strikes me that it is rather pretty of Chrysantheme to come round in this way, and to bring Bambou-San to the festival; though it savors somewhat of her low breeding, to tell the truth, to have tacked him on to her back, as the poorer Japanese women do with their little ones.