Madame Butterfly : Chapter II


BUT Pinkerton not only got himself married; he provided himself with an establishment--creating his menage in quite his own way and entirely for his own comfort.

With the aid of a marriage-broker, he found both a wife and a house in which to keep her. This he leased for nine hundred and ninety-nine years. Not, he explained to his wife later, that he could hope for the felicity of residing there with her so long, but because, being a mere "barbarian," he could not make other legal terms. He did not mention that the lease was determinable, nevertheless, at the end of any month, by the mere neglect to pay the rent. Details were distasteful to Pinkerton; besides, she would probably not appreciate the humor of this.

Some clever Japanese artisans then made the paper walls of the pretty house eye-proof, and, with their own adaptations of American hardware, the openings cunningly lockable. The rest was Japanese.

Madame Butterfly laughed, and asked him why he had gone to all that trouble--in Japan!

"To keep out those who are out, and in those who are in," he replied, with an amorous threat in her direction.

She was greatly pleased with it all, though, and went about jingling her new keys and her new authority like toys,--she had only one small maid to command,--until she learned that among others to be excluded were her own relatives.

There had been what her husband called an appalling horde of these at the wedding (they had come with lanterns and banners and disturbing evidences of good will ), and he asked her, when she questioned him, whether she did not think they would be a trifle wearisome.

"You thing so?" she asked in turn.

"Emphatically," said her husband

She grew pale; she had not expected quite such an answer. A Japanese would have said no, but would have left an interrogation in one's mind.

He laughed consolingly.

"Well, Ane-San" (which meant only "elder sister": there are no terms of endearment in the Japanese language), "you will have to get along without ancestors. Think of the many people who would like to do that, and be comforted."

"Who?" She had never heard of such a thing.

"People, for instance, whose` ancestors have perished on the gallows, or, in America, have practised trades."

She did not understand, as often she did not, and he went on:

"I shall have to serve in the capacity of ancestors,--let us say ancestors-at-large,--and the real ones will have to go--or rather not come."

Again he had the joke to himself; his wife had gone away to cry.

At first she decided to run away from him. But this, she reflected, would not probably please her relatives, since they had unanimously agreed upon the marriage for her. Besides, she preferred to remain. She had acquired a strange liking for Pinkerton and her new way of life. Finally she undertook a weak remonstrance--a very strong one, in fact, for a Japanese wife; but Pinkerton encouraged her pretty domestic autonomy. Her airs of authority were charming. And they grew more and more so.

"Mr. B. F. Pikkerton,"--it was this, among other things, he had taught her to call him,--"I lig if you permit my august ancestors visit me. I lig ver' moach if you please permit that unto me."

Her hair had been newly dressed for the occasion, and she had stuck a poppy in it. Besides, she put her hand on his arm (a brave thing for her to do), and smiled wistfully up at him. And when you know what Cho-Cho-San's smile was like,--and her hand--and its touch,--you will wonder how Pinkerton resisted her. However, he only laughed at her,--goodnaturedly always,--and said no.

"We can't adopt a whole regiment of back numbers, you know. You are back number enough for me."

And though he kissed her, she went away and cried again; and Japanese girls do not often cry.

He could not understand how important this concession was to her. It must be confessed that he did not try to understand. Sayre, with a little partizanship, explained to him that in Japan filial affection is the paramount motive, and that these "ancestors," living and dead, were his wife's sole link to such eternal life as she hoped for. He trusted that Pinkerton would not forget this.

He would provide her a new motive, then, Pinkerton said,--perhaps meaning himself,--and a new religion if she must have one--himself, again. So when she, at his motion, diffidently undertook to clothe the phantoms which made up her "religion," Pinkerton expounded what he called the easier Western plan of salvation--seriously, too, considering that all his communications to her were touched with whimsy. This was inevitable--to Pinkerton. After all, she was quite an impossible little thing, outside of lacquer and paint. But he struck deeper than he knew; for she went secretly to the church of the missionary who served on the opposite hill, and heard the same thing, and learned, moreover, that she might adopt this new religion at any time she chose--even the eleventh hour.

She went out joyously; not to adopt his religion, it is true, but to hold it in reserve if her relatives should remain obdurate. Pinkerton, to his relief, heard no more of it.

John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly (1898). Previous Chapter: Sayre's Prescription. Next Chapter: A Moon-Goddess Truly

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