With a few gentle taps of a fan I awake my surprised mousme; and, curious to catch her first impressions, I announce my departure. She starts up, rubs her eyelids with the back of her little hands, looks at me, and hangs her head: something like an expression of sadness passes in her eyes.
This little sinking at the heart is for Yves, no doubt.
The news spreads through the house.
Mdlle. Oyouki dashes upstairs, with half a tear in each of her babyish eyes; kisses me with her full red lips, which always leave a wet ring on my cheek; then quickly draws from her wide sleeve a square of tissue-paper, wipes away her stealthy tears, blows her little nose, rolls the bit of paper in a ball, and throws it into the street on the parasol of a passer-by.
Then Madame Prune makes her appearance; in an agitated and discomposed manner she successively adopts every attitude expressive of utter dismay. What on earth is the matter with the old lady, and why will she keep getting closer and closer to me, till she is almost in my way?
It is wonderful all I still have to do this last day, and the endless drives I have to make to the old curiosity shops, to my tradespeople, and to the packers.
Nevertheless before my rooms are dismantled, I intend making a sketch of them, as I did formerly at Stamboul. It really seems to me as if all I do here is a bitter parody of all I did over there.
This time, however, it is not that I care for this dwelling; it is only because it is pretty and uncommon, and the sketch will be an interesting souvenir.
I fetch, therefore, a leaf out of my album, and begin at once, seated on the floor and leaning on my desk, ornamented with grasshoppers in relief, while behind me, very, very close to me, the three women follow the movements of my pencil with an astonished attention. Japanese art being entirely conventional, they have never before seen anyone draw from nature, and my style delights them. I may not perhaps possess the steady and nimble touch of M. Sucre, as he groups his charming storks, but I am master of a few notions of perspective which are wanting in him; and I have been taught to draw things as I see them, without giving them ingeniously distorted and grimacing attitudes; and the three Japanese are amazed at the air of reality thrown in my sketch.
With little shrieks of admiration, they point out to each other the different things, as little by little their shape and form are outlined in black on my paper. Chrysantheme gazes at me with a new kind of interest: “Anata itchi-ban!” she says (literally “Thou first!” meaning: “You are really quite a swell!”) Mdlle. Oyouki is carried away by her admiration and exclaims in a burst of enthusiasm:
"Anata bakari!" ("Thou alone!” that is to say: “There is no one like you in the world, all the rest are mere rubbish!”)
Madame Prune says nothing, but I can see that she does not think the less; her languishing attitudes, her hand that at each moment gently touches mine, confirm the suspicions that her look of dismay a few moments ago awoke within me: evidently my physical charms speak to her imagination, which in spite of years has remained full of romance! I shall leave with the regret of having understood her too late!!