Madame Butterfly: Chapter IV

TROUBLE--MEANING JOY

AND after his going, in the whimsical delight they had practised together, she named the baby, when it came, Trouble. Every Japanese baby begins with a temporary name; it may be anything, almost, for the little time. She was quite sure he would like the way she had named him Trouble--meaning joy. That was his own oblique way. As for his permanent name,--he might have several others before,--that was for him to choose when he returned. And this event was to happen, according to his own words, when the robins nested again

And spring and the robins had come.

ALL this to explain why Madame Butterfly and her baby were reclining on the immaculate mats in attitudes of artistic abandon, instead of keeping an august state, as all other Japanese mothers and babes were at this moment doing. American women, we are told, assume more fearless attitudes in the security of their boudoirs than elsewhere. Japanese women, never. Their conduct is eternally the same. It must be as if some one were looking on--always. There is no privacy for them short of the grave. They have no secure boudoirs.

But Madame Butterfly (through the courtesy of her American husband) had both these. It will therefore be argued, perhaps, that she is not a typical Japanese woman. But it is only Lieutenant Pinkerton's views about which we are presently concerned. He called her an American refinement of a Japanese product, an American improvement in a Japanese invention, and so on. And since he knew her best, his words concerning her should have a certain ex-cathedra authority. I know no more.

AND she and the maid, and the baby too, were discussing precisely the matters which have interested us hitherto--Pinkerton, his baby, his imminent return, etc.

View Illustration "But--he is a miracle. Yes!" http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/LONG/images003.html

Cho-Cho-San, with a deft jerk that was also a caress, brought the baby into her lap as she sat suddenly up.

"Ah, you--you think he is just like any other baby. But--he is a miracle! Yes!" she insisted belligerently. "The Sun-Goddess sent him straight from the Bridge of Heaven! Because of those prayers so early--oh, so very early in the morning. Oh, that is the time to pray!" She turned the baby violently so that she might see his eyes. "Now did any one ever hear of a Japanese baby with purple eyes?"

She held him over against the dwarfed wistaria which grew in a flat bronze koro at the tokonoma, full of purple blossoms. She addressed the maid Suzuki, who stood by, happy as herself, apparently aware that this subject must always be discussed vehemently.

"As purple as that! Answer me, thou giggler; is it not so? Speak! I will have an answer! "

Then the maid laughed out a joyous no. If she cherished the Eastern reservations concerning blue eyes and pink cheeks, it was a less heinous offense to lie about it a little than to assert it impolitely. Besides, neither she nor any one else could resist the spirits of her pretty mistress. And these spirits had grown joyously riotous since her marriage and its unfettering.

"Nor yet so bald of his head? Say so! Quickly!" she insisted, with the manner of Pinkerton--such is example!

The maid also agreed to this.

And then Cho-Cho-San flung the kicking youngster high above her, turned abandonedly over on her back (in charming, if forbidden, postures), and juggled with him there.

"But ah! you will have hair, will you not?--as long and glittering as that of the American women. I will not endure thee else." She became speciously savage. "Speak, thou beggar, speak!"

"Goo-goo," said the baby, endeavoring diligently to obey.

She shook him threateningly.

" Ah-h-h! You making that nonsenze with your parent? Now what is that you speaking with me? Jap'nese? If it is, I--" She threatened him direly. But he had evidently already learned to understand her; he gurgled again. "Listen! No one shall speak anything but United States' languages in these house! Now! What you thing? You go'n' go right outside shoji firs' thing you do that!" She resumed her own English more ostentatiously,--she forgot it herself sometimes,--and pretended to pitch the baby through the fragile paper wall.

"Also, tha' 's one thing aeverybody got recomleck--account it is his house, his wife, his bebby, his maiden, his moaney--oh,--aeverything is his! An' he say, those time he go'n' 'way, that aexcep' we all talking those United States' languages when he come, he go'n' bounce us all. Well! I don' git myself bounce, Mr. Trouble! An' you got loog out you don', aha! Sa-ay, me? I thing if we doing all those thing he as' us, he go'n' take us at those United States America, an' live in his castle. Then he never kin bounce us, aha!"


John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly (1898). Previous Chapter: A Moon-Goddess Truly. Next Chapter: A Song of Sorrow -- And Death -- And Heaven

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