Madame Butterfly: Chapter IX
ONE day she took her courage, and the maid's too, for that matter, in both hands, and called upon the American consul. She saw the vice-consul. There was a west wind, and it was warm at Nagasaki. He was dozing. When he woke, Madame Butterfly was bowing before him. At a little distance was the maid with the blond baby strapped to her back. He was unable to account for them immediately.
"Goon night," said Cho-Cho-San, smiling amiably.
The consul glanced apprehensively about. "Night! Not night, is it?"
They both discovered the error at the same instant.
"Ah! no, no, no! Tha' 's mis-take. Me--I 'm liddle raddle'. Aexcuse us. Tha' 's not nize, mak' mis-take. We got call you good morning, I egspeg, or how do? What you thing?"
"Whichever you like," he answered, without a smile.
Then Cho-Cho-San waited for something further from the consul. Nothing came. She began to suspect that it was her business to proceed instead of his.
"I--I thing mebby you don' know me?" she questioned, to give him a chance.
"Oh, yes, I do," declared the consul. In fact, everybody knew her, for one reason and another--her baby, her disowning, her beauty, her "American" marriage. "You are O Cho-Cho-San, the daughter--" he forgot her father's name, though he had often heard it. "You used to dance, did you not?"
"Aha! See! Tha' 's what I thing. You don' know me whichaever. I nobody's daughter; jus' Missus Benja--no ! Missus Frang-a-leen Ben-ja-meen--no, no, no! Missus Ben-ja-meen Frang-a-leen Pikkerton. Aeverybody else outcast me. Aha, ha, ha! I liddle more raddle'."
"Oh!" The consul was genuinely surprised, and for the first time looked with interest at the child. Cho-Cho-San, to aid him, took Trouble from the maid. Finally he politely asked her what he could do for her.
"I got as' you a thing."
She returned the baby to the maid.
"Proceed," said the consul.
"You know 'bout birds in your country?"
"Ah! tha' 's what I thing. You know aeverything. Tha' 's why your country sen' you here--account you ver' wise."
"You do me too much honor," laughed the consul.
She was distinctly alarmed.
"Everything? No; only a few things."
"But you know 'bout birds--robins--jus' liddle robins?"
Her inflections denounced it a crime not to know. He was not proof against this, or against these. "Oh, yes," he said; "of course."
"Aha! Of course. Tha' 's what I all times thinging. Tha' 's mis-take by you?"
They could laugh together now.
"Ah ! Tell me, then, if you please, when do those robin nest again? Me? I thing it is later than in Japan, is it not? Account--jus' account the robin nesting again jus' now in Japan."
The consul said yes because the girl so evidently desired it--not because he knew.
"Aha ! Tha' 's what I thing. Later--moach later than in Japan, is it not?"
Again her fervid emphasis obliged him to say yes, somewhat against his conscience.
"An' sa-ay! When somebody gitting marry with 'nother body at your America, don' he got stay marry?"
"Usually--yes; decidedly yes; even sometimes when he does n't wish to."
"An' don' madder where they live?"
"Not at all."
"Ah-h-h! How that is nize! Sa-ay; you know all 'bout that. What you thing?"
"Well, I know more about that than about ornithology. You see, I've been married, but I've never been a--a robin."
The joke passed quite unnoticed. She put her great question:
"An' no one can't git divorce from 'nother aexcep' in a large court-house full judge? "
"Yes," laughed the consul; " that is true."
"An' that take a ver' long time? "
"Yes; nearly always. The law's delay--"
"An' sometimes they git inside a jail ? "
She was so avid that she risked the very great discourtesy of an interruption--and that, too, without a word of apology. Suzuki was, for an instant, ashamed for her.
"Occasionally that happens, too, I believe."
Every doubt had been resolved in her favor.
"An' if they got a nize bebby yaet--don' they--ah, don' aeverybody lig that?"
"I did, very much. Mine is a fine boy."
"Sa-ay! He loog lig you--purple eye, bald hairs, pink cheek? "
"I'm afraid he does."
"Oh! 'Fraid mean glad? Yaes. Tha' 's way Mr. B. F. Pikkerton talking--don' mean what he say an' don' say what he mean--ezag'."
The consul laughed, but he could not quite understand the drift of her questioning.
"If people have a nize bebby alig that, they don' give him away, not to nob'y--nob'y--they don' lig? What you thing?"
"I should think not!" For a moment he looked savage as a young father can.
Cho-Cho-San's face glowed. She stood consciously aside, that the consul might the better see the baby on Suzuki's back. He understood, and smiled in the good- fellowship of new parenthood. He made some play with the child, and called him a fine fellow.
"Ah! You naever seen no soach bebby, I egspeg?"
In the largess of his fellowship he declared that he had not. He had only recently been engaged in putting the same question to his friends. She had hoped, indeed, that he would go on from that and say more, the subject so abundantly merited it; but she now remembered that, in her haste to satisfy her doubts, she had neglected all those innumerable little inquiries which go to make up the graceful game of Japanese courtesy. Though she might neglect them with Pinkerton, she must not with a stranger who was obliging her.
John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly (1898).
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