Seated upon my veranda, my eyes wandered over the temples and cemeteries spread at my feet, over the woods and the green mountains, over Nagasaki lying bathed in the sunlight. The cicalas were chirping their loudest, the strident noise trembling feverishly in the hot air. All was calm, full of light and full of heat.
Nevertheless, to my taste, it is not yet enough so! What, then, can have changed upon the earth? The burning noondays of summer, such as I can recall in days gone by, were more brilliant, more full of sunshine; Nature seemed to me in those days more powerful, more terrible. One would say this was only a pale copy of all that I knew in early years—a copy in which something is wanting. Sadly do I ask myself—Is the splendor of the summer only this? Was it only this? or is it the fault of my eyes, and as time goes on shall I behold everything around me fading still more?
Behind me comes a faint and melancholy strain of music—melancholy enough to make one shiver—and shrill, shrill as the song of the grasshoppers, it began to make itself heard, very softly at first, then growing louder and rising in the silence of the noonday like the diminutive wail of some poor Japanese soul in pain and anguish; it was Chrysantheme and her guitar awaking together.
It pleased me that the idea should have occurred to her to greet me with music, instead of eagerly hastening to wish me good-morning. At no time have I ever given myself the trouble to pretend the slightest affection for her, and a certain coldness even has grown up between us, especially when we are alone. But to-day I turn to her with a smile, and wave my hand for her to continue. “Go on, it amuses me to listen to your quaint little impromptu.” It is singular that the music of this essentially merry people should be so plaintive. But undoubtedly that which Chrysantheme is playing at this moment is worth listening to. Whence can it have come to her? What unutterable dreams, forever hidden from me, surge beneath her ivory brow, when she plays or sings in this manner?
Suddenly I hear some one tapping three times, with a harsh and bony finger, against one of the steps of our stairs, and in our doorway appears an idiot, clad in a suit of gray tweed, who bows low. “Come in, come in, Monsieur Kangourou. You come just in the nick of time! I was actually becoming enthusiastic over your country!”
M. Kangourou brought a little laundry bill, which he wished respectfully to hand to me, with a profound bend of the whole body, the correct pose of the hands on the knees, and a long, snake-like hiss.
Pursuing the path that winds past our, dwelling, one passes a dozen or more old villas, a few garden-walls, and then sees nothing but the lonely mountain-side, with little paths winding upward toward the summit through plantations of tea, bushes of camellias, underbrush, and rocks. The mountains round Nagasaki are covered with cemeteries; for centuries and centuries they have brought their dead up here.