As for Madame Prune’s comb, I confess it left me indifferent, and I turned a deaf ear, thinking it very insignificant and expensive. Then Chrysantheme answered, mournfully:
“No, thank you, I don’t want it; take it away, dear Madame Prune.”
And at the same time she heaved a deep sigh, full of meaning, which plainly said:
“He is not so fond of me as all that.—Useless to bother him.”
I immediately made the wished-for purchase.
Later when Chrysantheme will have become an old monkey like Madame Prune, with her black teeth and long orisons, she, in her turn, will retail that comb to some fine lady of a fresh generation.
On another occasion the sun had given me a headache; I lay on the floor resting my head on my snake-skin pillow. My eyes were dim; and everything appeared to turn around: the open veranda, the big expanse of luminous evening sky, and a variety of kites hovering against its background. I felt myself vibrating painfully to the rhythmical sound of the cicalas which filled the atmosphere.
She, crouching by my side, strove to relieve me by a Japanese process, pressing with all her might on my temples with her little thumbs and turning them rapidly around, as if she were boring a hole with a gimlet. She had become quite hot and red over this hard work, which procured me real comfort, something similar to the dreamy intoxication of opium.
Then, anxious and fearful lest I should have an attack of fever, she rolled into a pellet and thrust into my mouth a very efficacious prayer written on rice-paper, which she had kept carefully in the lining of one of her sleeves.
Well, I swallowed that prayer without a smile, not wishing to hurt her feelings or shake her funny little faith.
TWO FAIR ARISTOCRATS
Today, Yves, my mousme and I went to the best photographer in Nagasaki, to be taken in a group. We shall send the picture to France. Yves laughs as he thinks of his wife’s astonishment when she sees Chrysantheme’s little face between us, and he wonders how he shall explain it to her.
“I shall just say it is one of your friends, that’s all!” he says to me.
In Japan there are many photographers like our own, with this difference, that they are Japanese, and inhabit Japanese houses. The one we intend to honor to-day carries on his business in the suburbs, in that ancient quarter of big trees and gloomy pagodas where, the other day, I met the pretty little mousme. His signboard, written in several languages, is posted against a wall on the edge of the little torrent which, rushing down from the green mountain above, is crossed by many a curved bridge of old granite and lined on either side with light bamboos or oleanders in full bloom.
It is astonishing and puzzling to find a photographer perched there, in the very heart of old Japan.