For Chrysantheme is pretty, there can be no doubt about it. Yesterday evening, in fact, I positively admired her. It was quite night; we were returning with the usual escort of little married couples like our own, from the inevitable tour of the tea-houses and bazaars. While the other mousmes walked along hand in hand, adorned with new silver top-knots which they had succeeded in having presented to them, and amusing themselves with playthings, she, pleading fatigue, followed, half reclining, in a djin carriage. We had placed beside her great bunches of flowers destined to fill our vases, late iris and long-stemmed lotus, the last of the season, already smelling of autumn. And it was really very pretty to see this Japanese girl in her little car, lying carelessly among all these water-flowers, lighted by gleams of ever-changing colors, as they chanced from the lanterns we met or passed. If, on the evening of my arrival in Japan, any one had pointed her out to me, and said: “That shall be your mousme,” there cannot be a doubt I should have been charmed. In reality, however, no, I am not charmed; it is only Chrysantheme, always Chrysantheme, nothing but Chrysantheme: a mere plaything to laugh at, a little creature of finical forms and thoughts, that the agency of M. Kangourou has supplied me with.
In our house, the water used for drinking, making tea, and lesser washing purposes, is kept in large white china tubs, decorated with paintings representing blue fish borne along by a swift current through distorted rushes. In order to keep them cool, the tubs are placed out of doors on Madame Prune’s roof, at a place where we can, from the top of our projecting balcony, easily reach them by stretching out the arm. A real godsend for all the thirsty cats in the neighborhood on the fine summer nights is this corner of the roof with our bedaubed tubs, and it proves a delightful trysting-place for them, after all their caterwauling and long solitary rambles on the top of the walls.
I had thought it my duty to warn Yves the first time he wished to drink this water.
“Oh!” he replied, rather surprised, “cats do you say? they are not dirty!”
On this point Chrysantheme and I agree with him: we do not consider cats as unclean animals, and we do not object to drink after them.
Yves considers Chrysantheme much in the same light. “She is not dirty, either,” he says; and he willingly drinks after her, out of the same cup, putting her in the same category with the cats.
Well, these china tubs are one of the daily preoccupations of our household: in the evening, when we return from our walk, after the clamber up which makes us thirsty, and Madame L’Heure’s waffles, which we have been eating to beguile the way, we always find them empty. It seems impossible for Madame Prune, or Mdlle. Oyouki, or their young servant Mdlle. Dede,[J] to have forethought enough to fill them while it is still daylight. And when we are late in returning home, these three ladies are asleep, so we are obliged to attend to the business ourselves.