In the language of this exquisitely polite people, terms of abuse are totally wanting; when very angry, one is obliged to be satisfied with using the ‘thou’, a mark of inferiority, and the familiar conjugation, habitually used toward those of low birth. Sitting upon the table used for weddings, among the flurried little policemen, I opened the conversation in the following terms:
“In order that thou shouldst leave me in peace in the suburb I am inhabiting, what bribe must I offer thee, oh, little beings more contemptible than any mere street porter?”
Great and general dismay, silent consternation, and low bows greet my words.
They at last reply that my honorable person shall not be molested, indeed, they ask for nothing better. Only, in order to subscribe to the laws of the country, I ought to have come here and given my name and that of the young person that—with whom—
“Oh! that is going too far! I came here for that purpose, contemptible creatures, not three weeks ago!”
Then, taking up myself the civil register, and turning over the pages rapidly, I found my signature and beside it the little hieroglyphics drawn by Chrysantheme:
“There, idiots, look at that!”
Arrival of a very high functionary—a ridiculous little old fellow in a black coat, who from his office had been listening to the row:
“What is the matter? What is it? What is this annoyance put upon the French officers?”
I state my case politely to this personage, who can not make apologies and promises enough. The little agents prostrate themselves on all fours, sink into the earth; and we leave them, cold and dignified, without returning their bows.
M. Sucre and Madame Prune may now make their minds easy; they will not be disturbed again.
BUTTERFLIES AND BEETLES
The prolonged sojourn of the Triomphante in the dock, and the distance of our dwelling from the town, have been my excuse these last two or three days for not going up to Diou-djen-dji to see Chrysantheme.
It is dreary work in these docks. At early dawn a legion of little Japanese workmen invade us, bringing their dinners in baskets and gourds like the workingmen in our arsenals, but with a poor, shabby appearance, and a ferreting, hurried manner which reminds one of rats. Silently they slip under the keel, at the bottom of the hold, in all the holes, sawing, nailing, repairing.
The heat is intense in this spot, overshadowed by the rocks and tangled masses of foliage.
At two o’clock, in the broad sunlight, we have a new and far prettier invasion: that of the beetles and butterflies.
There are butterflies as wonderful as those on the fans. Some, all black, giddily dash up against us, so light and airy that they seem merely a pair of quivering wings fastened together without any body.