The next day the rain came down in torrents, a regular downpour, merciless and unceasing, blinding and drenching everything,—a thick rain so dense that it was impossible to see through it from one end of the vessel to the other. It seemed as though the clouds of the whole world had amassed themselves in Nagasaki bay, and had chosen this great green funnel to stream down to their hearts’ content. And it rained, it rained, it became almost as dark as night, so thickly did the rain fall. Through a veil of crumbled water, we still perceived the base of the mountains, but the summits were lost to sight among the great somber masses weighing down upon us. Above us shreds of clouds, seemingly torn from the dark vault, draggled across the trees, like vast gray rags,—continually melting away in water, torrents of water. There was wind too, and it howled through the ravines with a deep-sounding tone. The whole surface of the bay, bespattered by the rain, flogged by the gusts of wind that blew from all quarters, splashed, moaned and seethed in violent agitation.
What wretched weather for a first landing, and how was I to find a wife through such a deluge, in an unknown country!
* * * * *
No matter! I dressed myself and said to Yves, who smiled at my obstinate determination in spite of unfavorable circumstances:
“Hail me a ‘sampan,’ brother, please.”
Yves then, by a motion of his arm through the wind and rain, summoned a kind of little white wooden sarcophagus which was skipping near us on the waves, sculled by a couple of yellow boys stark naked in the rain. The craft approached us, I jumped into it, then through a little trap-door shaped like a rat-trap that one of the scullers throws open for me, I slipped in and stretched myself at full length on a mat in what is called the “cabin” of a sampan.
There was just room enough for my body to lie in this floating coffin, which is moreover scrupulously clean, white with the whiteness of new deal boards. I was well sheltered from the rain, that fell pattering on my lid, and thus I started off for the town, lying in this box, flat on my stomach, rocked by one wave, roughly shaken by another, at moments almost over-turned; and through the half-opened door of my rat-trap I saw, upside down, the two little creatures to whom I had entrusted my fate, children of eight or ten years of age at the most, who, with little monkeyish faces, had however fully developed muscles like miniature men, and were already as skillful as any regular old salts.
* * * * *
They began to shout; no doubt we were approaching the landing-place. And indeed, through my trap-door, which I had now thrown wide open, I saw quite near to me the gray flag-stones on the quays. I got out of my sarcophagus and prepared to set foot for the first time in my life on Japanese soil.