One would say that Nagasaki is ascending at the same time as ourselves; but yonder, and very far away, is a vapory mist which seems luminous against the blackness of the sky, and from the town rises a confused murmur of voices and laughter, and a rumbling of gongs.
The summer rain has not yet refreshed the atmosphere. On account of the stormy heat, the little suburban houses have been left open like sheds, and we can see all that is going on. Lamps burn perpetually before the altars dedicated to Buddha and to the souls of the ancestors; but all good Nipponese have already lain down to rest. Under the traditional tents of bluish-green gauze, we can see whole families stretched out in rows; they are either sleeping, or hunting the mosquitoes, or fanning themselves. Nipponese men and women, Nipponese babies too, lying side by side with their parents; each one, young or old, in his little dark-blue cotton nightdress, and with his little wooden block on which to rest the nape of his neck.
A few houses are open, where amusements are still going on; here and there, from the sombre gardens, the sound of a guitar reaches our ears, playing some dance which gives in its weird rhythm a strange impression of sadness.
Here is the well, surrounded by bamboos, where we are wont to make a nocturnal halt for Chrysantheme to take breath. Yves begs me to throw forward the red gleam of my lantern, in order to recognize the place, for it marks our halfway resting-place.
And at last, at last, here is our house! The door is closed, all is silent and dark. Our panels have been carefully shut by M. Sucre and Madame Prune; the rain streams down the wood of our old black walls.
In such weather it is impossible to allow Yves to return down hill, and wander along the shore in quest of a sampan. No, he shall not return on board to-night; we will put him up in our house. His little room has indeed been already provided for in the conditions of our lease, and notwithstanding his discreet refusal, we immediately set to work to make it. Let us go in, take off our boots, shake ourselves like so many cats that have been out in a shower, and step up to our apartment.
In front of Buddha, the little lamps are burning; in the middle of the room, the night-blue gauze is stretched.
On entering, the first impression is favorable; our dwelling is pretty this evening; the late hour and deep silence give it an air of mystery. And then, in such weather, it is always pleasant to get home.
Come, let us at once prepare Yves’s room. Chrysantheme, quite elated at the prospect of having her big friend near her, sets to work with a good will; moreover, the task is easy; we have only to slip three or four paper panels in their grooves, to make at once a separate room or compartment in the great box we live in. I had thought that these panels were entirely white; but no! on each is a group of two storks painted in gray tints in those inevitable attitudes consecrated by Japanese art: one bearing aloft its proud head and haughtily raising its leg, the other scratching itself. Oh, these storks! how tired one gets of them, at the end of a month spent in Japan!