The two little friends return to their seats on the mats, and once more take up their melancholy duet. An orchestra, discreetly subdued but innumerable, of crickets and cicalas, accompanies them in an unceasing tremolo,—the immense far-reaching tremolo, which, gentle and eternal, never ceases on Japanese land.
During the hour of siesta, the abrupt order arrives to start to-morrow for China, for Tchefou (a horrid place in the gulf of Pekin). It is Yves who comes to wake me in my cabin to bring me the news.
“I must positively get leave to go on shore this evening,” he says, while I endeavor to shake myself awake, “if it is only to help you to dismantle and pack up there.”
He gazes through my port-hole, raising his glance towards the green summits, in the direction of Diou-djen-dji and our echoing old cottage, hidden from us by a turn of the mountain.
It is very nice of him to wish to help me in my packing; but I think he also counts upon saying farewell to his little Japanese friends up there, and I really cannot find fault with that.
He gets through his work, and does in fact get leave without help from me, to go on shore at five o’clock, after drill and manoeuvres.
As for myself, I start off at once, in a hired sampan. In the vast flood of midday sunshine, to the quivering noise of the cicalas, I mount up to Diou-djen-dji.
The paths are solitary, the plants drooping in the heat. Here, however, is Madame Jonquille, taking the air, in the bright sunshine of the grasshoppers, sheltering her dainty figure and her charming face under an immense paper parasol, a huge circle, closely ribbed and fantastically striped.
She recognizes me from afar, and laughing as usual, runs to meet me.
I announce our departure, and a tearful pout suddenly contracts her childish face. After all, does this news grieve her? Is she going to shed tears over it? No! it turns to a fit of laughter, a little nervous perhaps, but unexpected and disconcerting,—dry and clear, pealing through the silence and warmth of the narrow paths, like a cascade of little mock pearls.
Ah, there indeed is a marriage tie which will be broken without much pain! But she fills me with impatience, poor empty-headed linnet, with her laughter, and I turn my back upon her to continue my journey.
Up above, Chrysantheme sleeps, stretched out on the floor; the house is wide open, and the soft mountain breeze rustles gently through it.
That same evening we had intended to give a tea-party, and by my orders flowers had already been placed in every nook and corner of the house. There were lotus in our vases, beautiful rose-colored lotus, the last of the season, I verily believe. They must have been ordered from a special gardener, out yonder near the Great Temple, and they will cost me dear.