Madame Chrysantheme

Pierre Loti

Madame Chrysantheme, by Pierre Loti

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Madame Chrysantheme, by Pierre Loti This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
Title: Madame Chrysantheme
Author: Pierre Loti
Release Date: March 12, 2005 [EBook #15335]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1

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Madame La Duchesse,
Allow me to crave your acceptance of the following work, as a respectful tribute of my attachment.
I felt some hesitation in offering it, for its main incident cannot be deemed altogether proper; but I have striven that in its expression at least, it should not sin against good taste, and I trust that my endeavours have been successful.
It is the diary of a summer of my life, in which I have changed nothing, not even the dates, thinking as I do, that in our efforts to arrange matters we often only succeed in disarranging them. Although the most important r?le may appear to devolve on Madame Chrysantheme, it is very certain that the three principal personages are myself, Japan, and the effect produced on me by that country.
Do you remember a certain photograph--rather ridiculous I must admit--representing that big fellow Yves, a Japanese girl and myself, grouped closely together as we were placed side by side by a Nagasaki artist? You smiled when I assured you that the carefully combed little creature placed between us two, had been one of our neighbours. Kindly welcome my book with the same indulgent smile, without seeking therein a meaning either good or bad, in the same spirit that you would receive some quaint bit of pottery, some grotesquely carved ivory idol, or some preposterous trifle brought back for you from this singular fatherland of all preposterousness.
Believe me with the deepest respect, Madame la Duchesse,
Your affectionate

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
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