THE BLONDE WOMAN
A WOMAN entered.
"Mr. Sharpless -- the American consul?" she asked, while crossing the threshold.
The consul bowed.
"Can you reach my husband at Kobe -- by telegraph?"
"I think so.  Who is your husband?"
He took up a writing-pad as he spoke.
"Lieutenant Pinkerton of the -- "
"One moment, for God's sake!"
It was too late. The eyes of the little woman in the chair were fixed on his. They even tried to smile a little, wearily, at the poor result of his compassionate lying. She shook her head for silence.
"I beg your pardon; I'm -- I am -- ready -- " said the consul, roughly.  He made no other explanation.  "Proceed."
"I should like you to send this telegram: 'Just saw the baby and his nurse.  Can't we have him at once?  He is lovely.  Shall see the mother about it tomorrow.  Was not at home when I was there to -- day.  Expect to join you Wednesday week per Kioto Maru.  May I bring him along?  ADELAIDE.'"
As she advanced and saw Cho-Cho-San, she stopped in open admiration.
"How very charming -- how lovely -- you are, dear!  Will you kiss me, you pretty -- plaything!"
Cho-Cho-San stared at her with round eyes -- as children do when afraid.  Then her nostrils quivered and her lids slowly closed.
"No," she said, very softly.
"Ah, well," laughed the other, "I don't blame you.  They say you don't do that sort of thing -- to women, at any rate.  I quite forgive our men for falling in love with you.  Thanks for permitting me to interrupt you.  And, Mr. Sharpless, will you get that off at once?  Good day!"
She went with the hurry in which she had come.  It was the blonde woman they had seen on the deck of the passenger-steamer.
They were quite silent after she was gone -- the consul still at his desk, his head bowed impotently in his hands.
Cho-Cho-San rose presently, and staggered toward him.  She tried desperately to smile, but her lips were tightly drawn against her teeth.  Searching unsteadily in her sleeve, she drew out a few small coins, and held them out to him.  He curiously took them on his palm.
"They are his, all that is left of his beautiful moaney.  I shall need no more.  Give them to him.  I lig if you also say I sawry -- no, no, no! glad -- glad -- glad!"  She humbly sighed.  "Me?  I -- I wish him that happiness same lig he wish for himself -- an' -- an' -- me.  Me?  I shall be happy -- mebby.  Tell him I -- shall be -- happy."  Her head drooped for a moment.
When she raised it she was quite emotionless, if one might judge from her face.
"Thang him -- that Mr. B.F. Pikkerton -- also for his kineness he have been unto me.  Permit me to thang you, augustness, for that same.  You -- you" -- she could smile a little now at the pretty recollection -- then the tears came slowly into her eyes -- "you -- the mos' bes' nize man -- in all the -- whole -- worl'."
She closed her eyes a moment, and stood quite still.
The consul said below his breath:
" -- -- Pinkerton, and all such as he!"
"Goon night," said Cho-Cho-San, and at the door looking back, "Sayonara," and another tired smile.
She staggered a little as she went out.
"ALAS, you also have seen her!" wailed the intuitive little maid, as she let her mistress in.
"An' she is more beautiful than the Sun-Goddess," answered Cho-Cho-San.
The maid knelt to take off her shoes.
"She -- she thing me -- jus' a -- plaything."
She generously tried to smile at the maid, who was weeping.  She touched her hair caressingly as she knelt.
"Don' weep for me, liddle maiden -- account I disappoint -- a liddle -- disappoint -- Don' weep for me.  That liddle while ago you as' me to res -- peace -- sleep," she said after a while, wearily.  "Well, go 'way, an' I will -- res'.  Now I wish to res' -- sleep.  Long -- long sleep.  An' I pray you, loog, when you see me again, whether I be not again beautiful -- again as a bride."
The maid did not go.  Once more she understood her mistress.
"But -- I thing you loave me?"
The girl sobbed.
"Therefore go -- that I suffer no more.  Go, that I res' -- peace -- sleep.  Long -- beautiful sleep!  Go, I beg."
She gently took her hands and led her out.
"Farewell, liddle maiden," she said softly, closing the shoji.  "Don' weep."