Madame Chrysanthème, by Pierre Loti

Introduction

We were at sea, about two o’clock in the morning, on a fine night, under a starry sky.

Yves stood beside me on the bridge, and we talked of the country, unknown to both, to which destiny was now carrying us. As we were to cast anchor the next day, we enjoyed our anticipations, and made a thousand plans.

“For myself,” I said, “I shall marry at once.”

“Ah!” said Yves, with the indifferent air of one whom nothing can surprise.

“Yes — I shall choose a little, creamy-skinned woman with black hair and cat’s eyes. She must be pretty and not much bigger than a doll. You shall have a room in our house. It will be a little paper house, in a green garden, deeply 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 dreamed 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 expressed 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.

I had quite made up my mind to carry out the scheme I had unfolded to him. Yes, led on by ennui and solitude, I had gradually arrived at dreaming of and looking forward to such a 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 sky above France. The 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 tremendous distance!

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