Madame Chrysanthème, by Pierre Loti

Chapter 37


At first it was only to Chrysanthème’s guitar that I listened with pleasure now I am beginning to like her singing also.

She has nothing of the theatrical, or the deep, assumed voice of the virtuoso; on the contrary, her notes, always very high, are soft, thin, and plaintive.

She often teaches Oyouki some romance, slow and dreamy, which she has composed, or which comes back to her mind. Then they both astonish me, for on their well-tuned guitars they will pick out accompaniments in parts, and try again each time that the chords are not perfectly true to their ear, without ever losing themselves in the confusion of these dissonant harmonies, always weird and always melancholy.

Usually, while their music is going on, I am writing on the veranda, with the superb panorama before me. I write, seated on a mat on the floor and leaning upon a little Japanese desk, ornamented with swallows in relief; my ink is Chinese, my inkstand, just like that of my landlord, is in jade, with dear little frogs and toads carved on the rim. In short, I am writing my memoirs — exactly as M. Sucre does downstairs! Occasionally I fancy I resemble him — a very disagreeable fancy.

My memoirs are composed of incongruous details, minute observations of colors, shapes, scents, and sounds.

It is true that a complete imbroglio, worthy of a romance, seems ever threatening to appear upon my monotonous horizon; a regular intrigue seems ever ready to explode in the midst of this little world of mousmes and grasshoppers: Chrysanthème in love with Yves; Yves with Chrysanthème; Oyouki with me; I with no one. We might even find here, ready to hand, the elements of a fratricidal drama, were we in any other country than Japan; but we are in Japan, and under the narrowing and dwarfing influence of the surroundings, which turn everything into ridicule, nothing will come of it all.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57