On the floor are spread out all the fine silver dollars which, according to our agreement, I had given her the evening before. With the competent dexterity of an old money-changer she fingers them, turns them over, throws them on the floor, and armed with a little mallet ad hoc, rings them vigorously against her ear, singing the while I know not what little pensive bird-like song which I daresay she improvises as she goes along.
Well, after all, it is even more completely Japanese than I could possibly have imagined it—this last scene of my married life! I feel inclined to laugh. How simple I have been, to allow myself to be taken in by the few clever words she whispered yesterday, as she walked beside me, by a tolerably pretty little phrase embellished as it was by the silence of two o’clock in the morning, and all the wonderful enchantments of night.
Ah! not more for Yves than for me, not more for me than for Yves, has any feeling passed through that little brain, that little heart.
When I have looked at her long enough, I call:—
She turns confused, and reddening even to her ears at having been caught at this work.
She is quite wrong, however, to be so much troubled, for I am, on the contrary, delighted. The fear that I might be leaving her in some sadness had almost given me a pang, and I infinitely prefer that this marriage should end as it had begun, in a joke.
“That is a good idea of yours,” I say; “a precaution which should always be taken in this country of yours, where so many evil-minded people are clever in forging money. Make haste and get through it before I start, and if any false pieces have found their way into the number, I will willingly replace them.”
However, she refuses to continue before me, and I expected as much; to do so would have been contrary to all her notions of politeness, hereditary and acquired, all her conventionality, all her Japanesery. With a disdainful little foot, clothed as usual in exquisite socks with a special hood for the great toe, she pushes away the piles of white dollars and scatters them on the mats.
“We have hired a large covered sampan,” she says to change the conversation, “and we are all going together,—Campanule, Jonquille, Touki, all your mousmes—to watch your vessel set sail. Pray sit down and stay a few minutes.”
“No, I really cannot stay. I have several things to do in the town, d’you see, and the order was given for every one to be on board by three o’clock in time for muster before starting. Moreover, I would rather escape, as you can imagine, while Madame Prune is still enjoying her siesta; I should be afraid of being drawn into some corner, or of provoking some heartrending parting scene.”
Chrysantheme bows her head and says no more, but seeing that I am really going, rises to escort me.
Without speaking, without the slightest noise, she follows me as we descend the staircase and cross the garden full of sunshine, where the dwarf shrubs and the deformed flowers seem, like the rest of the household, plunged in warm somnolence.