We speak, first of all, of the order for departure, which may arrive at any moment, for China or for France. Soon we shall have to leave this easy and almost amusing life, this Japanese suburb where chance has installed us, and our little house buried among flowers. Yves perhaps will regret all this more than I. I know that well enough; for it is the first time that any such interlude has broken the rude monotony of his hard-worked career. Formerly, when in an inferior rank, he was hardly more often on shore, in foreign countries, than the sea-gulls themselves; while I, from the very beginning, have been spoiled by residence in all sorts of charming spots, infinitely superior to this, in all sorts of countries, and the remembrance still haunts me pleasurably.
In order to discover how the land lies, I risk the remark:
“You will perhaps be more sorry to leave little Chrysantheme than I.”
Silence reigns between us.
After which I go on, and, burning my ships, I add:
“You know, after all, if you have such a fancy for her, I haven’t really married her; one can’t really consider her my wife.”
In great surprise he looks in my face.
“Not your wife, you say? But, by Jove, though, that’s just it; she is your wife.”
There is no need of many words at any time between us two; I know exactly now, by his tone, by his great good-humored smile, how the case stands; I understand all that lies in the little phrase: “That’s just it, she is your wife.” If she were not, well, then, he could not answer for what might happen—notwithstanding any remorse he might have in the depths of his heart, since he is no longer a bachelor and free as air, as in former days. But he considers her my wife, and she is sacred. I have the fullest faith in his word, and I experience a positive relief, a real joy, at finding my stanch Yves of bygone days. How could I have so succumbed to the demeaning influence of my surroundings as to suspect him even, and to invent for myself such a mean, petty anxiety?
We never shall even mention that doll again.
We remain up there very late, talking of other things, gazing at the immense depths below, at the valleys and mountains as they become, one by one, indistinct and lost in the deepening darkness. Placed as we are at an enormous height, in the wide, free atmosphere, we seem already to have quitted this miniature country, already to be freed from the impression of littleness which it has given us, and from the little links by which it was beginning to bind—us to itself.
Seen from such heights as these, all the countries of the globe bear a strong resemblance to one another; they lose the imprint made upon them by man, and by races; by all the atoms swarming on the surface.
As of old, in the Breton marshes, in the woods of Toulven, or at sea in the night-watches, we talk of all those things to which thoughts naturally revert in darkness; of ghosts, of spirits, of eternity, of the great hereafter, of chaos—and we entirely forget little Chrysantheme!