Madame Chrysantheme

Language: English
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At sea, about two o'clock in the morning, on a clear night, under a star-lit sky.

Yves stood near me on the bridge, and we were talking of the country, so utterly unknown to us both, to which the chances of our destiny were now wafting us. As we were to cast anchor the following day, we enjoyed the state of expectation, and formed a thousand plans.

"As for me," I said, "I shall at once marry."

"Ah!" returned Yves, with the indifferent air of a man whom nothing can surprise.

"Yes—I shall choose a little yellow-skinned woman with black hair and cat's eyes. She must be pretty. Not much bigger than a doll. You shall have a room in our house. A little paper house, in the midst of green gardens, prettily shaded. We shall live among flowers, everything around us shall blossom, and each morning our dwelling shall be filled with nosegays, nosegays such as you have never dreamt of."

Yves now began to take an interest in these plans for my future household; indeed, he would have listened with as much confidence, if I had manifested the intention of taking temporary vows in some monastery of this new country, or of marrying some island queen and shutting myself up with her in a house built of jade, in the middle of an enchanted lake.

In reality I had quite made up my mind to carry out the scheme I had unfolded to him. Yes, actually, led on by ennui and solitude, I had gradually arrived at dreaming of and looking forward to this absurd marriage. And then, above all, to live for awhile on land, in some shady nook, amid trees and flowers. How tempting it sounded after the long months we had been wasting at the Pescadores (hot and arid islands, devoid of freshness, woods, or streamlets, full of faint odors of China and of death).

We had made great way in latitude, since our vessel had quitted that Chinese furnace, and the constellations in the sky had undergone a series of rapid changes; the Southern Cross had disappeared at the same time as the other austral stars; and the Great Bear rising on the horizon, was almost on as high a level as it is in the French sky. The fresh evening breeze soothed and revived us, bringing back to us the memory of our summer night watches on the coast of Brittany.

What a distance we were, however, from those familiar coasts! What a terrible distance!








At dawn of day we sighted Japan.

Precisely at the foretold moment Japan arose before us, afar off, like a clear and distinct dot in the vast sea, which for so many days had been but a blank space.

At first we saw nothing in the rising sun but a series of tiny pink-tipped heights (the foremost portion of the Fukai islands). Soon, however, appeared all along the horizon, like a thick cloud, a dark veil over the waters, Japan itself; and little by little out of the dense shadow arose the sharp opaque outlines of the Nagasaki mountains.

The wind was dead against us, and the strong breeze, which steadily increased, seemed as if the country were blowing with all its might against us, in a vain effort to drive us away from its shores....