Yves, astonished, gazes at them, saying, in his boyish manner: “Oh, I saw such a big one just now, such a big one, it quite frightened me; I thought it was a bat attacking me.”
A steersman who has captured a very curious specimen carries it off carefully to press between the leaves of his signal-book, like a flower. Another sailor, passing by, taking his small roast to the oven in a mess-bowl, looks at him quizzically and says:
“You had much better give it to me. I’d cook it!”
Nearly five days have passed since I abandoned my
little house and
Since yesterday we have had a tremendous storm of rain and wind (a typhoon that has passed or is passing over us). We beat to quarters in the middle of the night to lower the topmasts, strike the lower yards, and take every precaution against bad weather. The butterflies no longer hover around us; everything tosses and writhes overhead: on the steep slopes of the mountain the trees shiver, the long grasses bend low as if in pain; terrible gusts rack them with a hissing sound; branches, bamboo leaves, and earth fall like rain upon us.
In this land of pretty little trifles, this violent tempest is out of harmony; it seems as if its efforts were exaggerated and its music too loud.
Toward evening the dark clouds roll by so rapidly that the showers are of short duration and soon pass over. Then I attempt a walk on the mountain above us, in the wet verdure: little pathways lead up it, between thickets of camellias and bamboo.
Waiting till a shower is over, I take refuge in the courtyard of an old temple halfway up the hill, buried in a wood of century plants with gigantic branches; it is reached by granite steps, through strange gateways, as deeply furrowed as the old Celtic dolmens. The trees have also invaded this yard; the daylight is overcast with a greenish tint, and the drenching torrent of rain is full of torn-up leaves and moss. Old granite monsters, of unknown shapes, are seated in the corners, and grimace with smiling ferocity: their faces are full of indefinable mystery that makes me shudder amid the moaning music of the wind, in the gloomy shadows of the clouds and branches.
They could not have resembled the Japanese of our day, the men who had thus conceived these ancient temples, who built them everywhere, and filled the country with them, even in its most solitary nooks.
An hour later, in the twilight of that stormy day, on the same mountain, I encountered a clump of trees somewhat similar to oaks in appearance; they, too, have been twisted by the tempest, and the tufts of undulating grass at their feet are laid low, tossed about in every direction. There was suddenly brought back to my mind my first impression of a strong wind in the woods of Limoise, in the province of Saintonge, twenty-eight years ago, in a month of March of my childhood.