Noiselessly we step across the apartment of our landlord and landlady. Chrysantheme drags me by the hand, and I allow myself to be led. There they are, sleeping in a row under their blue gauze tent, lighted by the night-lamps burning before the altars of their ancestors. Ha! I observe that they are arranged in an order which might give rise to gossip. First comes Mdlle. Oyouki, very taking in her attitude of rest. Then Madame Prune, who sleeps with her mouth wide open, showing her rows of blackened teeth; from her throat arises an intermittent sound like the grunting of a sow. Oh! poor Madame Prune! how hideous she is!! Next, M. Sucre, a mere mummy for the time being. And finally, at his side, last of the row, is their servant, Mdlle. Dede!!!
The gauze hanging over them throws reflections as of the sea upon them; one might suppose them victims drowned in an aquarium. And withal the sacred lamps, the altar crowded with strange Shintoist symbols, give a mock religious air to this family picture.
Honi soit qui mal y pense, but why is not that servant-girl rather laid by the side of her mistresses? Now, when we on the floor above offer our hospitality to Yves, we are careful to place ourselves under our mosquito-net in a more correct style.
One corner, which as a last resort we inspect, inspires me with a certain amount of apprehension. It is a low, mysterious loft, against the door of which is stuck, as a thing no longer wanted, a very old pious image: Kwanon with the thousand arms, and Kwanon with the horses’ head, seated among clouds and flames, and horrible both of them to behold, with their spectral grin.
We open the door, and Chrysantheme starts back uttering a fearful cry. I should have thought the robbers were there, had I not seen a little grey creature, rapid and noiseless, rush by her and disappear; a young rat that had been eating rice on the top of a shelf, and, in its alarm, had dashed in her face.
Yves has dropped his silver whistle in the sea, the whistle so absolutely indispensable for the maneuvers; and we search the town through all day long, followed by Chrysantheme and Mdlles. La Neige and La Lune, her sisters, in the endeavor to procure another.
It is, however, very difficult to find such a thing in Nagasaki; above all, very difficult to explain in Japanese what is a sailor’s whistle of the traditional shape, curved and with a little ball at the end to modulate the trills and the various sounds of official orders. For three hours we are sent from shop to shop; at each one they pretend to understand perfectly what is wanted and trace on tissue-paper, with a paint-brush, the addresses of the shops where we shall without fail meet with what we require,—away we go, full of hope, only to encounter some fresh mystification, till our breathless djins get quite bewildered.