They were on their best behavior throughout the visit. But when the moment of departure came, Chrysantheme, who would not go away without seeing Yves, asked for him with a thinly veiled persistency which was remarkable. Yves, for whom I then sent, made himself particularly charming to her, so much so that this time I felt a shade of more serious annoyance; I even asked myself whether the laughably pitiable ending, which I had hitherto vaguely foreseen, might not, after all, soon break upon us.
AN ORIENTAL VISION
Yesterday I encountered, in an ancient and ruined quarter of the town, a perfectly exquisite mousme, charmingly dressed; a fresh touch of color against the sombre background of decayed buildings.
I met her at the farthest end of Nagasaki, in the most ancient part of the town. In this region are trees centuries old, antique temples of Buddha, of Amiddah, of Benten, or Kwanon, with steep and pompous roofs; monsters carved in granite sit there in courtyards silent as the grave, where the grass grows between the stones. This deserted quarter is traversed by a narrow torrent running in a deep channel, across which are thrown little curved bridges with granite balustrades eaten away by lichen. All the objects there wear the strange grimace, the quaint arrangement familiar to us in the most antique Japanese drawings.
I walked through it all at the burning hour of midday, and saw not a soul, unless, indeed, through the open windows of the bonze-houses, I caught sight of some few priests, guardians of tombs or sanctuaries, taking their siesta under dark-blue gauze nets.
Suddenly this little mousme appeared, a little above me, just at the point of the arch of one of these bridges carpeted with gray moss; she was in full sunshine, and stood out in brilliant clearness, like a fairy vision, against the background of old black temples and deep shadows. She was holding her robe together with one hand, gathering it close round her ankles to give herself an air of greater slimness. Over her quaint little head, her round umbrella with its thousand ribs threw a great halo of blue and red, edged with black, and an oleander-tree full of flowers, growing among the stones of the bridge, spread its glory beside her, bathed, like herself, in the sunshine. Behind this youthful figure and this flowering shrub all was blackness. Upon the pretty red and blue parasol great white letters formed this inscription, much used among the mousmes, and which I have learned to recognize: ’Stop! clouds, to see her pass!’ And it was really worth the trouble to stop and look at this exquisite little person, of a type so ideally Japanese.
However, it will not do to stop too long and be ensnared—it would only be another delusion. A doll like the rest, evidently, an ornament for a china shelf, and nothing more. While I gaze at her, I say to myself that Chrysantheme, appearing in this same place, with this dress, this play of light, and this aureole of sunshine, would produce just as delightful an effect.