In the fashionable tea-houses, where we finish our evenings, the little serving-maids now bow to us, on our arrival, with an air of respectful recognition, as belonging to the fast set of Nagasaki. There we carry on desultory conversations, full of misunderstandings and endless ’quid pro quo’ of uncouth words, in little gardens lighted up with lanterns, near ponds full of goldfish, with little bridges, little islets, and little ruined towers. They hand us tea and white and pink-colored sweetmeats flavored with pepper that taste strange and unfamiliar, and beverages mixed with snow tasting of flowers or perfumes.
To give a faithful account of those evenings would require a more affected style than our own; and some kind of graphic sign would have also to be expressly invented and scattered at haphazard among the words, indicating the moment when the reader should laugh—rather a forced laugh, perhaps, but amiable and gracious. The evening at an end, it is time to return up there.
Oh! that street, that road, that we must clamber up every evening, under the starlit sky or the heavy thunder-clouds, dragging by the hands our drowsy mousmes in order to regain our homes perched on high halfway up the hill, where our bed of matting awaits us.
Our “Very tall friend”
The cleverest among us has been Louis de S-------. Having formerly inhabited Japan, and made a marriage Japanese fashion there, he is now satisfied to remain the friend of our wives, of whom he has become the ‘Komodachi taksan takai’ ("the very tall friend,” as they say, on account of his excessive height and slenderness). Speaking Japanese more readily than we, he is their confidential adviser, disturbs or reconciles our households at will, and has infinite amusement at our expense.
This “very tall friend” of our wives enjoys all the fun that these little creatures can give him, without any of the worries of domestic life. With brother Yves, and little Oyouki (the daughter of Madame Prune, my landlady), he makes up our incongruous party.
OUR PIOUS HOSTS
M. Sucre and Madame Prune, my landlord and his wife, two perfectly unique personages recently escaped from the panel of some screen, live below us on the ground floor; and very old they seem to have this daughter of fifteen, Oyouki, who is Chrysantheme’s inseparable friend.
Both of them are entirely absorbed in the practices of Shinto religion: perpetually on their knees before their family altar, perpetually occupied in murmuring their lengthy orisons to the spirits, and clapping their hands from time to time to recall around them the inattentive essences floating in the atmosphere. In their spare moments they cultivate, in little pots of gayly painted earthenware, dwarf shrubs and unheard-of flowers which are delightfully fragrant in the evening.