Madame Chrysanthème, by Pierre Loti

Chapter 5

A Fantastic Marriage

July 10, 1885.

Three days have passed since my marriage was an accomplished fact.

In the lower part of the town, in one of the new cosmopolitan districts, in an ugly, pretentious building, which is a sort of registry office, the deed was signed and countersigned, with marvellous hieroglyphics, in a large book, in the presence of those absurd little creatures, formerly silken-robed Samurai, but now called policemen, dressed up in tight jackets and Russian caps.

The ceremony took place in the full heat of midday; Chrysanthème and her mother arrived together, and I alone. We seemed to have met for the purpose of ratifying some discreditable contract, and the two women trembled in the presence of these ugly little men, who, in their eyes, were the personification of the law.

In the middle of their official scrawl, they made me write in French my name, Christian name, and profession. Then they gave me an extraordinary document on a sheet of rice-paper, which set forth the permission granted me by the civilian authorities of the island of Kiu-Siu, to inhabit a house situated in the suburb of Diou-djen-dji, with a person called Chrysanthème, the said permission being under the protection of the police during the whole of my stay in Japan.

In the evening, however, in our own quarter, our little marriage became a very pretty affair — a procession carrying lanterns, a festive tea and some music. All this seemed quite necessary.

Now we are almost an old married couple, and we are gently settling down into everyday habits.

Chrysanthème tends the flowers in our bronze vases, dresses herself with studied care, proud of her socks with the divided big toe, and strums all day on a kind of long-necked guitar, producing sweet and plaintive sounds.

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 22:36