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 to-morrow. Was not at home when I was there to-day. Expect to join you Wednesday week per Kioto Maru. May I bring him along?
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 all that 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."
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