MADAME BUTTERFLY


VIII

THE BRIGHT RED SPOT IN CHO'S CHEEKS

THE look-at meeting came about as planned.  There was a distinct air of state about Madame Butterfly's house on that day.  The baby, and all the frivolities that attended him, were in banishment.  The apartment had been enlarged by the rearrangement of the shoji.  At the head of it, statuesque in her most brilliant attire, sat Cho-Cho-San.  Japanese women are accomplished actresses; and looking in upon Cho-Cho-San just at the moment of Yamadori's arrival, one would not have known her.  She was as unsmiling, as emotionless, as the Dai-Butsu.

The grave ceremonies attending the advent of a candidate for matrimony went forward with almost no recognition from Cho-Cho-San until they had come to the point where they might seat themselves before her, to inspect and be inspected.  Then she struck her fan against her palm, and Suzuki appeared, and set the tobaco-bon between them.

Yamadori suggested somewhat the ready-made clothier -- inevitable evidence of his transformation; otherwise he was the average modern Japanese, with high-gibbeted trousers, high collar, high hat, and eye-glass.  He might not converse directly with Cho-Cho-San, especially concerning the business in hand; but he was not prohibited from conferring with the nakodo about it in her presence.  The rule of decorum for such an occasion simply decreed that she should be blind and deaf concerning what went on.  The convenience of the arrangement is obvious.  The nakodo, the representative of both parties, was happily permitted, on the part of the one, to regard what was happening as if it had not happened, and, on the part of the other, as if it had.

"She is quite as beautiful as you said," remarked Yamadori, after a careful inspection with his glass.  The nakodo nodded virtuously, and filled his pipe.  His client lighted a cigarette.

Cho-Cho-San did not even smile.

"And her father, you say, was on the emperor's side in the Satsuma rebellion?

The marriage-broker satisfied his client to the last particular of her father's bloody sacrificial end at Jokoji.

"And you have told her faithfully of me?"  He paused on the last word to note its effect upon Cho-Cho-San.  There was none, and he hastened to add cumulatively, "And my august family?"  He paused again.  But again there was no sign from the lady of the house.  She was staring out over his head.  "And have offered her my miserable presents?"

To each of these the broker answered lugubriously yes.

"Then why, in the name of the gods, does she wait?"

The nakodo explained with a sigh that she had declined his presents.

"I will send her others.  They shall be a thousand times more valuable.  Since I have seen her I know that the first must have been an affront."

She kept her eyes up, but Yamadori unquestionably smiled in the direction of Cho-Cho-San -- as if she were a woman of joy!

The light of battle came into the stony eyes of the girl.  She clapped her hands almost viciously.  The little maid appeared.

"Tea!" she said.

The maid brought the tea; and with that splendid light of danger still in her eyes, Cho-Cho-San served it.  With the air of a princess she put on in an instant all the charms of a mousmee.  She gave back smile for smile now, and jest for jest.  She begged Yamadori, with the most charming upward inflections, to put away his cigarette and take her shippo pipe, and he did it.  That was Japanese, she said, her cigarettes were not.  Was it not so? -- with a resistless movement toward him.  She let him touch her hands in the passage of the cups.  She enveloped him with the perfume of her garments.  She possessed him wholly in one dizzy instant.

"I will give her a castle to live in," said Yamadori, breathlessly.

The nakodo sighed.  Cho-Cho-San refilled his pipe with an incomparable grace.

"Ah!" she permitted her lips to breathe -- very softly.

"She shall have a thousand servants."

There was no audible response from the nakodo, but his eyes gleamed avidly.

Cho-Cho-San returned the pipe, smiling dazzlingly.  It seemed almost yes with her.

"Everything her heart can wish!" cried Yamadori, recklessly.

The nakodo turned beseechingly toward the girl.  She lifted her eye brows.  He did not understand.  As she passed him she laughed.

"Is it enough?"

Still he did not understand.

"Have we earned the present?" she whispered.

"I will give a solemn writing," added Yamadori, fervidly.

"She still fancies herself perhaps married to the American," sighed the nakodo.

Yamadori laughed disagreeably.

"If your Excellency would condescend to explain -- "

"Oh, she is not serious.  A sailor has a sweetheart in every port, you know."

Cho-Cho-San whispered something to the nakodo.  She still smiled.

"But she is perhaps his wife," answered he, obediently.

"Yes," said Yamadori, as if they were the same.

Cho-Cho-San whispered again.

"But the child -- there is a most accomplished child?" said the nakodo.

"Yes," said the traveled Japanese, with the same smile and the same intonation.

There was a distinct silence.  Cho-Cho-San smiled more vividly.  But her nostrils moved rapidly in and out.  The nakodo grew anxious.  Yamadori cast his eyes toward the ceiling, and continued:

" A sailor does not know the difference.  In no other country are children esteemed as they are here.  In America it is different.  People sometimes deny them.  They are left in a basket at some other person's door.  But the person does not receive them.  They are then cared for by the municipality as waifs.  It is shameful to be such a child.  There are great houses and many officers in each city for the care of these.  They are an odious class by themselves, and can never rise above their first condition."

The nakodo glanced askance at his client.  He had not the slightest objection to a man who would lie a little to win his cause, but to lie too much was to lose it.

"I myself knew a man whose child became a cripple.  He sent him to the mayor of the city, saying that as the cars of the city had injured him, the city must bring him up.  He was sent to the poorhouse, and afterward to the stone-quarries.  It was a most piteous sight."

Cho-Cho-San bent again to the ear of the old man.  There was a tremor in her voice now.

"Had he eyes of purple?" asked the nakodo.

"He was beautiful of face; but surely eyes of purple are not desirable?"  Yamadori brought his own down from the ceiling and leveled them at Cho-Cho-San.  She still smiled, but there was a bright-red spot in each cheek now.  "But he was misshapen, and he was never known to laugh.  I saw many such.  I saw a child whose father had deserted it, and the mother -- "

Madame Butterfly clapped her hands again.  The maid appeared promptly; she had expected the summons.

"Suzuki -- good Suzuki, the excellent gentlemen -- the august" -- she swept a royal gesture toward them -- "who have done us the honor to call, they wish to go hurriedly.  Their shoes -- will you not hasten them?"

With a final brilliant smile she turned her back upon them and left the room.


"YOUR story of the rejected child did it," reproached the nakodo, on the way.

"I had not got to the worst," said his client, ruefully.  "I meant to cite an example exactly to suit her own case."

"Lucky she turned us out when she did, then."

"What do you mean, sir?" demanded the suitor, in sudden wrath.

"Oh, said the broker, in polite haste, "I was beginning to feel -- ill."

The irony of this escaped the client.  Still, Goro would have had a less opinion of Yamadori if, having lied once, he had not lied again in defense of the first.

Though Yamadori came no more, he had brought the serpent to Madame Butterfly's Eden.


Chapter 9

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