They remained on their best behavior all through the visit. But when the moment of departure came, Chrysantheme, who would not go away without seeing Yves, asked for him with a thinly-veiled persistency which was remarkable. Yves, for whom I then sent, made himself particularly charming to her, so much so, that this time I felt a shade of more serious annoyance; I even asked myself whether the laughably pitiable ending, which I had hitherto vaguely foreseen, might not, after all, soon break upon us.
I met yesterday, in an old and ruined quarter of the town, a perfectly exquisite mousme, charmingly dressed; a fresh note of color against the dark background of decayed buildings.
It was quite at the farthest end of Nagasaki, in the most ancient part of the town. In this region are trees centuries old, ancient temples of Buddha, of Amiddah, of Benten, or Kwanon, with steep and pompous roofs; monsters carved in granite sit there in courtyards silent as the grave, where the grass grows between the paving-stones. This deserted quarter is traversed by a narrow torrent running in a deep channel, across which are thrown little curved bridges with granite balustrades eaten away by lichen. All the objects there wear the strange grimace, the quaint arrangement familiar to us in the most antique Japanese drawings.
I walked through it all at the burning hour of midday, and saw not a soul, unless indeed, through the open windows of the bonze-houses, I caught sight of some priests, guardians of tombs or sanctuaries, taking their siesta under their dark-blue gauze nets.
All at once this little mousme appeared, a little above me, just at the point of the arch of one of these bridges carpeted with gray moss; she was in full light, in full sunshine, and stood out in brilliant clearness, like a fairy vision, against the background of old black temples and deep shadows. She was holding her dress together with one hand, gathering it close round her ankles to give herself an air of greater slimness. Over her quaint little head, her round umbrella with its thousand ribs threw a great halo of blue and red, edged with black, and an oleander full of flowers growing among the stones of the bridge spread its glory beside her, bathed, like herself, in the sunshine. Behind this youthful figure and this flowering shrub all was blackness. Upon the pretty red and blue parasol great white letters formed this inscription, much used among the mousmes, and which I have learned to recognize: Stop! clouds, to see her pass by. And it was really worth the trouble to stop and look at this exquisite little person, of a type so ideally Japanese.
However, it will not do to stop too long and be ensnared,—it would only be another take-in. A doll like the rest, evidently, an ornament for a china shelf, and nothing more. While I gaze at her, I say to myself that Chrysantheme, appearing in this same place, with this dress, this play of light, and this aureole of sunshine, would produce just as delightful an effect.