MADAME BUTTERFLY


XI

"THE MOS' BES' NIZE MAN"



IT was quite superfluous to point out such of her ideas as had birth in the fertile brain of Pinkerton. Certainly he had enjoyed his married life with her, but it was for another reason than hers. The consul could observe, he thought, how exquisitely amusing it had been. It was, too, exactly in Pinkerton's line to take this dainty, vivid, eager, formless material, and mold it to his most wantonly whimsical wish. It was perhaps fortunate for her that his country had had need of him so soon after his marriage.

However, the consul informed her that her fears of trouble for Pinkerton from the sources mentioned were entirely groundless. But this, to his surprise, was not pleasing intelligence. She liked to believe (as he had let her believe) that Pinkerton occupied a large space in the affairs of his country; that he was under the special patronage of the President, and the God dess of Liberty was, perhaps, her own corollary. But it fitted his character as she had conceived it. To her he was a god, perhaps. But let it be understood that a Japanese god is neither austere nor immaculate.

"Well, whichever," she said, in some disappointment, " tha' 's a so'prise on him when he come. He all times joking with me; I make one joke upon him. Tha' 's good joke. What you thing?"

The consul shook his head. The matter began to have a sinister look. But the girl's faith was sublime.

" Ah-h-h ! You ?" Her inflection was one of pity for his ignorance. " Tha' 's account you don' know him, you shaking your nize head. He joking all times. Sometime I dunno if he joking, aexcep' he stop, look solemn, an' laugh. Then he make the house raddle! Oh, mebby you thing I don' joke too, also? Well, tha' 's mis-take. I make joke jus' lig him--jus' bad. One time I make joke with him 'bout run 'way to that grandmother, account I don' keer for him no more. Well--what you thing ? He say, ' 'Ello ! Less see how you kin run fas'.' Aha, ha, ha! Tha' 's liddle joke upon me. Now I go'n' have the larges' joke upon him. Sa-ay you got tell him, if you please, augustness, that I could n't wait, it was so long--long--long! I got tire'. So--I am marry with a great an' wise prince name' Yamadori Okyo, an' live in a huge castle with one thousan' servants, an'--an' all my hearts kin wish ! Aha, ha, ha ! Also, that I go'n' away to his castle with his purple- eye' bebby, to naever return no more--naever. You go'n' tell him that? "

" I would prefer not to have a hand in any further--that is, any deception," the consul objected gravely.

The girl was amazed and reproachful.

" Ah-h-h! Don' you lig joke? I thing aevery American do. Tha' 's not nize for me. I got be sawry I tell ing you all those. Alas! How that would be nize for you! You see him git angery so quick." She smote her hands together. " An' then he say those remark 'bout debbil an' hell, an' rush up the hill this away."

She again lifted her kimono, and acted it recklessly across the apart ment.

" But, my dear madame--"

She came at him with a voice and movement that were resistlessly ca ressing. He perceived how useless it would be to protest further. He ac knowledged her protean fascination,

" Ah-h-h ! Please, augustness, to tell him? It will be that nize for me! Ah, you go'n' do it?--Yaes? Say so! "

The consul had capitulated to her voice and eyes. This was evident to her.

"Ah--thangs, most excellent. You the mos' bes' nize man in the worl'--"

She paused guiltily; even this purely Japanese euphemism might be conjugal treason.

" Except? " laughed the consul.

" Aexcep'," confessed the girl, with drooping head.

A smile began to grow upon her lips; when she raised her face it was a splendid laugh.

" How we have fun seeing him rush up that hill at the hous you kin run fas'.e"--she was frankly dissembling--"so!" She illustrated again--back and forth across the apartment. " After that--ah--after that--well--I make aeverything correc'."

She was radiantly certain that she could.

The consul remembered the saying of the professor of rhetoric that no comedy could succeed without its element of tragedy. Well, Pinkerton might have meant to return to her. Any other man probably would. He would not have been quite certain of himself. Only, that stuff about the robins sounded like one of his infernal jokes. He probably supposed that she knew what he meant--farewell; but she had not so construed it. Unless Pinkerton had changed, he had proba bly not thought of her again--except as the prompt wife of another man. He never explained anything. It was his theory that circumstances always did this for one; it was therefore a sav ing of energy to permit circumstances to do it. There was a saying in the navy that if any one could forget a played game or a spent bottle more quickly than Pinkerton, he had not yet been born. Providing her with a house and money meant nothing. He would probably have given her all he had, whether it were a dollar or a thousand. But, on the other hand, if she had been one of the sudden and insane fancies which occasionally visited him, the case was altogether different, and altogether like Pinkerton; for in the person of a fascinating woman the emotion might survive the absence in question. For himself, he was quite sure--had he been Pinkerton, of course--that it would have survived something greater. And finally his own views prevailed with him as if they were Pinkerton's, and he believed that he would be delighted to return and resume his charming life with her on Higashi Hill.

He thereupon told her that Lieutenant Pinkerton's ship was under orders to stop at Nagasaki, the government rendezvous for the navy, about the first of September, to observe and report the probabilities of war with China; and he was instantly glad that he had told her.

The girl's superb joy was expressed in a long, indrawn sigh, and then silence.

But something had to be said--or done.

" I--I lig as' you 'nother thing--" again dissembling, as if the talk were still at the trivialities where it began.

" Certainly," said the consul, with a smile. " But won't you have a chair ? "

He had noticed that she was trembling. She sat up unsteadily on the edge of it. And then she forgot what she meant to ask !

" Sa-ay! " She was still at sea. But suddenly a thought flashed in her eyes. " All bebbies at your America got those purple eye? "

" A--yes, very many of them," said the consul, with a little surprise at her direction.

"An'--an' also bald of their head? "

" All of them, I believe, at first."

He smiled, and the girl smiled back at him engagingly.

" Sa-ay, augustness, he go'n' come for see those bebby ? What you thing? " Her words were like caresses.

But the rapture growing surely in the girl's face now was not reflected in that of the consul. Concern for her outweighed her fascinations for the moment.

" I--I hope so--"

She cut off his doubting incontinently.

" Sa-ay! Mebby you also don' thing he go'n' take us live in his large castle at United States America?" she challenged reproachfully.

" Did he tell you that he would--that he had one ? "

" No; he don' tell me--nawthing. He laugh, when I as' him, lig the house go'n' fall down. But--what you thing? "

The consul answered her quite briefly. He knew that he hurt her, but his impotent anger was at Pinkerton; he had not thought him capable of that.

" If I were to advise, I should ask you to consider seriously Yamadori's proposal, if he has really offered himself. It is a great and unusual opportunity for you--for any girl--in--in Japan."

" You--thing--those--? You?"

She looked at him for an amazed and reproachful instant; then gathered her kimono in her hand, and pushed her feet into her clogs.

"Go before, Suzuki," she said gently to the maid; to the consul, sorrowfully, " Goon night."

At the door she turned with a ceremonial sweep of her draperies, looked, and came hurrying back. All the joy had returned to her face at the sincere regret--almost pain--she saw upon his. She impulsively grasped his hands--both of them.


View the illustration "They hid behind the shoji"

" Once more--different--goon night, augustness." And her voice was very soft. "Aha, ha, ha! Me? I jus' a foo-el--yaes. You?--you the mos' bes' nize man in all the whole worl'--"

She paused--smiling up at him. He understood that she wished to repeat their pretty play upon the phrase.

" Except ? "

She nodded and laughed.

"Aexcep'--Ha, ha, ha!"

She hurried after the maid, laughing back at him confessingly as she went.

And, after all, the consul was glad it had ended thus. For joy is better than sorrow--always and everywhere.


WHEN they again reached the pretty house on the hill, Cho-Cho-San looked ruefully back over the steep road they had come.

" Oh, how that was tiresome, Suzuki ! But he--when he comes, it will be jus'--one--two--three great strides! How he will rush up that hill it cost us so much sweat to climb! Lig storm with lightening and thunder! Flash! flash! flash ! Boum! boum! boum! An' here he is--all for jus' liddle me! Then how he will stamp about--not removing his boots--spoiling the mats--smashing the fusuma--shaking the house lig earthquake animal! ' Where is she ? Hah ! Mans tole me she gone an' marry with a fool Yamadori! Gone me my purple-eye' bebby away.' Then I jump roun' his neck bifore he gitting too angery, an' hole his han', an' say, close with his ears: 'How do, Mr. B. F. Pikkerton? ' Aha, ha, ha ! What you thing, Suzuki ?"

And Suzuki said, in English, too:

" Tha' 's mos' bes' nize thing I aever see! "


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