Madame Butterfly: Chapter XII


FROM that time until the seventeenth of September not a ship entered the harbor but under the scrutiny of the glass that Lieutenant Pinkerton had left at the little house on Higashi Hill to read his signals aboard. And there were very many of them, for the war was imminent. Faith had begun to strain a little with unfaith, after the first. It was very long; but on the seventeenth his ship came into the bay. So like a great bird did she come that the glass did not find her until her white-and-gold mass veered to make an anchorage. Then, all at once, the gilt name on her bow was before Cho-Cho-San's eyes. It was tragically sudden. With a hurtling cry, she fell to the floor. The little maid, with Eastern intuition, understood; but she said nothing, and did--what was best. Both she and her mistress--and all the world, for that matter--knew the comfort of this speechless, sympathetic service. And presently she was better, and could talk.

"I--I di'n' know I so--glad," softly laughed Cho-Cho-San.

But the maid had known what to expect.

"You go'n' res' liddle now, please, Oku-San! You go'n' sleep liddle--please, jus' liddle--res'--sleep? "

She drew her mistress's eyelids down, and lightly held them. Cho-Cho-San shook her off, and sprang up, revivified.

"Res'! Sleep! Not till he come!"

"Res'--peace--sleep--beauty," chanted the maid, persuasively. But her mistress would not.

"Now, hasten lig you got eagle's wings an' a thousan' feet! It will not be one hour--not one half--till he will be here. My pink kimono--widest obi--kanzashi for my hair--an' poppies. I will be more beautiful than I have aever been. Flowers--alas ! there are no cherry-blossoms. How that is sad! Seem lig we cannot be gay without them. In the month of the cherry-blossoms we were marry ! But chrysanthemums--all of them ! An' lanterns if it be black night--'mos' one thousan' ! Aha, ha, ha ! His house shall be gayer than it has aever been. There shall naever again be such good occasion."

"Res' is beauty," urged the maid, holding up the mirror to her.

"Ah, Suzuki ! I am beautiful--as beautiful as when he went away? "

The maid was silent--the Japanese silence which is not assent.

Cho-Cho-San snatched the metallic mirror out of her hand.

"I am!" she cried. "Say so!"

She brandished the heavy mirror over the girl's head.

"I as' you to res--peace--sleep. Tha' 's way git beautiful once more."

"Oh-h-h ! 'Once more'!" The mirror crashed to the floor, and she burst into tears.

"Jus'--you been too trouble'. Now you go'n' res' liddle," urged the comforting maid.

"Oh, all the gods ! I cannot!--I cannot till he come. I shall die bifore."

She sorrowfully recovered the mirror.

"No--no; pitiful Kwannon, I am no longer beautiful! Waiting an' doubting make one soon sad an' old. An' how long we have wait!--how long! Oh, Shaka! But now I am happy--happier than I have aever been. Therefore shall I be more beautiful than I have aever been again. For happiness also is beauty. Ah, Suzuki, be kine with me!" She got on her knees to the maid, and laid her head at her feet. An ecstatic thought came to her. "Suzuki, you shall make me beautiful to-day, an' to-morrow the gods shall. Now we have not even time to pray them--not time to res'. Will you not? Can you not? Ah-h-h! You moast!"

She pulled the girl down to her, and whispered the last words in her ear--with her arms about her.

And the girl did. Let us not inquire how. She had never yet withstood that tone and that caress. There was a certain magic in her deft fingers, and her mistress had it all. No daintier creature need one ever wish to see than this bride awaiting anew the coming of her husband.

And when it was all done, they each took a final delighted look into the mirror. It was too small to show the whole figure, but they moved it up and down and round about until every portion had been seen. They both pronounced it very good.

"Stan' jus' that way," begged the maid, going the length of the apartment to observe. "Jus' lig those new porcelains of Kinkozan! " she declared.

"Jus' lig those ole picture of Bunchosai!" retorted Cho-Cho-San--meaning anything but that.

View the illustration "She lighted the andon"

But--in the way of women the world over--a few more touches were necessary--and it was finished.

"Now the flowers for his room! Take them all--oh, aevery one! We shall not need them again. Go--go--go! Aha, ha, ha! An' Trouble--make a picture of him! He will be Trouble no longer after to-day. He go'n' git new name--mebby Joy!--Joy!"

HER commands were obeyed. Within the appointed hour the house was decked as for a festival, and not a flower remained upon its stem. The baby had indeed become a picture; and so had Cho-Cho-San and the maid and the house.

Then they hid behind the shoji, recklessly making peep-holes with their dampened fingers, as they had planned. There was one very low down for the baby, so that he could sit on the mats,--which he did not choose to do,--and one each for the others.

Cho-Cho-San sang as she fixed herself at her peep-hole--so as not to disarrange her finery:

"Rog-a-by, bebby, off in Japan,

You jus' a picture off of a fan."

The maid tossed the baby like a ball into her lap.

"Aha, ha, ha!" laughed Madame Butterfly once more.

Everything was at last quite as they had planned it.

"Now let him come," she said, in a charming defiance--"let him come --quickly--an'--then--"

The hour passed. Then two--four. Night fell. They ceased to chatter. Later came perfect silence; then that other silence of the dead of the night. The pulses of terror quickened. Suzuki noiselessly lighted the lanterns. Later, at a shivering gesture from her mistress, she lighted the andon in their room; then the hibachi. She had grown very cold. All night they watched. He had the careless habit of the night. But he did not come.

And all the next day they watched, and many after, quite silent now, always. The baby wondered at this, and would look inquiringly from one to the other. It was very strange to him, this new silence. The house had been full always of their laughter and chatter--the patter of their feet--the sighing of the shoji. They did nothing now but watch--and eat a little, sleep a little--less and less of these. Finally Cho-Cho-San could no longer hold the glass. She lay on the mats with the baby, while the faithful handmaid watched. Every day the faded flowers were replaced by purchased ones--cheaper and cheaper ones. Their last money went for this and the candles which renewed the lights of the lanterns each night. These were not a thousand--were not a dozen--now.

She did not think of going to him. In destroying her Japanese conventions this was the one thing that had been left. In "Onna Yushoku Mibea Bunko" ("The Young Ladies' Old Book of Decorum") she had read that the only woman who seeks a male is a yujo, a courtezan.

IN a week a passenger-steamer came into the bay. They took no interest in her. But the next day, quite by accident, they saw him for the first time. He was on the deck of the strange ship. A blonde woman was on his arm. They watched quite sleeplessly all that night. A few more lanterns were lighted.

On the following morning the warship had disappeared from the harbor.

Cho-Cho-San was frightened. The sinking at her heart she now knew to be black doubt. Her little, unused, frivolous mind had not forecast such a catastrophe. There might have been a reason, she had conceived, for his detention aboard his ship. He was never very certain. She had not been sure that he was with her until the day before; the position of the vessel had been unfavorable for observation.

John Luther Long's Madame Butterfly (1898). Previous Chapter: "The Mos' Bes' Nize Man". Next Chapter: The Good Consul's Compassionate Lying