Again a hissing bow, and Kangourou-San, understanding my agitation, begins to pass in feverish review all the young persons at his disposal in Nagasaki.
“Let us see—there was Mademoiselle Oeillet. What a pity that you did not speak a few days sooner! So pretty! So clever at playing the guitar! It is an irreparable misfortune; she was engaged only yesterday by a Russian officer.
“Ah! Mademoiselle Abricot!—Would she suit you, Mademoiselle Abricot? She is the daughter of a wealthy China merchant in the Decima Bazaar, a person of the highest merit; but she would be very dear: her parents, who think a great deal of her, will not let her go under a hundred yen—[A yen is equal to four shillings.]—a month. She is very accomplished, thoroughly understands commercial writing, and has at her fingers’-ends more than two thousand characters of learned writing. In a poetical competition she gained the first prize with a sonnet composed in praise of ’the blossoms of the blackthorn hedges seen in the dew of early morning.’ Only, she is not very pretty: one of her eyes is smaller than the other, and she has a hole in her cheek, resulting from an illness of her childhood.”
“Oh, no! on no account that one! Let us seek among a less distinguished class of young persons, but without scars. And how about those on the other side of the screen, in those fine gold-embroidered dresses? For instance, the dancer with the spectre mask, Monsieur Kangourou? or again she who sings in so dulcet a strain and has such a charming nape to her neck?”
He does not, at first, understand my drift; then when he gathers my meaning, he shakes his head almost in a joking way, and says:
“No, Monsieur, no! Those are only geishas,—[Geishas are professional dancers and singers trained at the Yeddo Conservatory.] —Monsieur—geishas!”
“Well, but why not a geisha? What difference can it make to me whether they are geishas or not?” Later, no doubt, when I understand Japanese affairs better, I shall appreciate myself the enormity of my proposal: one would really suppose I had talked of marrying the devil.
At this point M. Kangourou suddenly calls to mind one Mademoiselle Jasmin. Heavens! how was it he had not thought of her at once? She is absolutely and exactly what I want; he will go to-morrow, or this very evening, to make the necessary overtures to the parents of this young person, who live a long way off, on the opposite hill, in the suburb of Diou-djen-dji. She is a very pretty girl of about fifteen. She can probably be engaged for about eighteen or twenty dollars a month, on condition of presenting her with a few costumes of the best fashion, and of lodging her in a pleasant and well-situated house—all of which a man of gallantry like myself could not fail to do.