Madame Butterfly: Chapter X

GENTLE LYING

"AH! How is that health? Also, I am sawry I woke you up, excellent, an' that I interrup' your languages. That is not a happy for the most exalted health--to be wake up an' interrup'. Therefore, I pray your honorable pardon. An'--how is that health?"

The consul said that he was quite well.

"Ah, how that is nize! An' you always sleeping well, most honorable?"

He nodded.

"Yaes--I hear you sleep. Oh ! Tha' 's not joke! No, no, no!"

He had laughed, but she would never do that.

"But I do--snore, I believe--sometimes."

He was not proud of even this, of course.

"Oh! jus' lig gen-tle bree-zes."

He said that he could not do better than adopt this charming euphemism.

"Also, how ole you gitting ver' soon?"

"Thirty."

A Japanese always adds a few years. She therefore thought him younger, and her veneration abated accordingly. But he was in fact older.

View Illustration "Res' is beauty" http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/LONG/images005.html

"Tha' 's also nize--ver' nize. I wish I so ole. That Mr. B. F. Pikkerton he lig me more if I older, I thing." She sighed.

"I don't know about that. The American point of view differs." But he would not meddle. "How old are you, pray?"

This was only the proper return for her courtesy. Besides, the consul was enjoying the usually dull game of decorum to-day. The girl was piquant in a most dazzling fashion.

"Me ? I 'bout--'bout--" (what he had said made her doubt a little the Japanese idea) "'bout 'mos' twenty-seven when the chrysanthemum blooms again."

She was seventeen.

" Yaes, 'bout 'mos'--twenty-seven "--with a barely perceptible rising inflection.

He acquiesced in the fiction, but smiled at the way she hung her head and blushed; this was not the Japanese way of telling one's age (or any other gentle lie).

"You got a grandmother?" she proceeded.

"Two," alleged the consul.

"Tha' 's ver' splen-did. An' is she well in her healths also?"

"Which one?"

She passed the joke, if she saw it. No Japanese will make his parent the subject of one.

"The ole one--always the ole one firs'."

The consul felt queerly chidden.

"She was well at last accounts."

"Tha' 's nize. An' the young one?"

"The same. And now, about yours?"

"Alas ! I have not that same happiness lig you. I got not ancestors whichever. They all angery account that Mr. B. F. Pikkerton, so they outcast me out the family. He don' lig that they live with him, account they bag nombers. He an' me go'n' be only bag nomber, he say. He big boss bag nomber, me jus' liddle boss bag nomber. Me? I don' got ancestors before me nor behine me now. Hence they don' show me the way to Meido when I die. Well, me? I don' keer whichever. I got hosban' an' bebby tha' 's mos' bes' nize in Japan, mebby in the whole world An' I kin go at Nirvana by 'nother road, aha! if I moast."

The kindly consul better than she understood both the effect of this separation of her from her " ancestors," and the temperament of Pinkerton. He undertook, notwithstanding his resolution not to meddle, a tentative remonstrance. She listened politely, but he made no impression.

"You must not break with your relatives. If Pinkerton should not, should--well, die, you know, you would indeed be an outcast. If your own people would have nothing to do with you, nobody else would. It must, of course, be known to you that your--marriage with Pinkerton has put you in unfortunate relations with everybody; the Japanese because you have offended them, the foreigners because he has. What would you do in such a case?"

"Me? I could--dance, mebby, or--or die?"

But she laughed as she said it. Then she acknowledged his rebuking glance.

"Aexcuse me, tha' 's not--nize? Well, it is not so easy to die as it was--bifore he came." She sighed happily.

The consul was curious.

"Why?" he asked.

"Why?--He make my life more sweet."

"But that is no reason for quarreling with your family."

" But they don' wan' me, because my hosban' don' wan' them! Hence forth I got go 'way from my hosban' if I wan' them; an' if I wan' him more bedder, I got go 'way from them. No madder whichever, I got go 'way from some one. Well, I wan' those hosban' more bedder than any. Sa-ay! Tha' 's a foanny! They make me marry with him when I don' wish him; now I am marry with him, they don' wish him. Jus', after my father he kill his self sticking with short sword, tha' 's how we gitting so poor--oh, ver' poor! Me? I go an' dance Diddle, so we don' starve. Also, I thing if somebody wish me I git married for while, account that grandmother got have food an' clothings. Well, those ver' grandmother she as' the ole nakodo 'bout it; she lig me git marry with some one. He say mans jus' as' him other day kin he git him nize wife, an' he don' know none nizer."

She paused to let the consul make sure of this fact, which he did, and then acknowledged the appreciation she had provoked with a charming smile.

" Whichever, he say he thing I don' lig him, account he America-jin, he also remarking with me that he a barbarian an' a beas'. Well, me?--I say I don' wan' him. I 'fraid beas'. But aevery one else they say yaes--yaes, ah, yaes--he got moaney, an' for jus' liddle while I got endure him. So I say, 'Bring me that beas'.' An' lo! one day the ole nakodo he bringing him for look-at meeting. Well!--"

She paused to laugh, and so infectious was it that the consul adventurously joined her.

" At firs' I thing him a god, he so tall an' beautiful, and got on such a blue clothes all full golden things. An' he don' sit 'way, 'way off, an' jus'--talk ! "

She laughed abandonedly.

"He make my life so ver' joyous, I thing I nae ver been that happy."

She had an access of demureness.

"Oh, jus' at firs' I frighten'; account he sit so close with me--an' hol' my han'--an' as' if it made satin. Aha, ha, ha! Satin! Loog! "

View Illustration "Pitiful Kwannon" http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/LONG/Pitiful_Kwannon.html

She gave them both to him. They were deliciously pretty; but the consul was embarrassed by his possession of them. She began slowly to withdraw them, and then he let them go with regret.

"I beg your august pardon. I jus' thinging in the inside me, an' speaking with the outside. Tha' 's not nize. You don' keer nothin--'bout that--those?"

"What?"

He thought she meant the hands--and perhaps she did.

"Jus' those--liddle--story."

"Yes, I do," declared the consul, with some relief; "it is a charming story." And it was, for Cho-Cho San's eyes and hands took part in its telling as well as her lips.

"You mean--you lig hear more?"

"Yes."

She reflected an instant.

"I thing there is no more. Jus'--yaes, jus' after while I naever git frighten' no more--no madder how close, nor how he hol' my hand."

"But then you--I beg pardon--you were married? I think you said so?"

"Oh, yaes," she replied, as if that had made little difference in their situation; "I marry with him."

"I think his ship was then ordered to--'

She nodded.

"Alas ! he got go an' serve his country. But he go'n' come back, an' keep on being marry with me. What you thing?"

The consul contrived to evade the interrogation.

"Is that why you asked about the robins?"

"Yaes; he go'n' come when the robins nest again. He? He don' naever egspeg we got this nize bebby, account I don' tell him. I don' kin tell him. I don' know where he is. But--me? I don' tell if I know, account he rush right over here, an' desert his country, an' henceforth git in a large trouble--mebby with that President United States America, an' that large Goddess Liberty Independence! What you thing?"


John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly (1898). Previous Chapter: "'Bout Birds". Next Chapter: "The Mos' Bes' Nize Man"

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