Madame Chrysantheme by Pierre Loti


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Page 1

_Believe me with the deepest respect, Madame la Duchesse,_

_Your affectionate_

PIERRE LOTI.




INTRODUCTION

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!




MADAME CHRYSANTHEME




MADAME CHRYSANTHEME

I.


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.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Sun 25th Aug 2019, 20:50