MADAME BUTTERFLY


XV

WHEN THE ROBINS NEST AGAIN

SHE sat quite still, and waited till night fell.  Then she lighted the andon, and drew her toilet-glass toward her.  She had a sword in her lap as she sat down.  It was the one thing of her father's which her relatives had permitted her to keep.  It would have been very beautiful to a Japanese, to whom the sword is a soul.  A golden dragon writhed about the superb scabbard.  He had eyes of rubies, and held in his mouth a sphere of crystal which meant many mystical things to a Japanese.  The guard was a coiled serpent of exquisite workmanship.  The blade was tempered into vague shapes of beasts at the edge.  It was signed, "Ikesada."  To her father it had been Honor.  On the blade was this inscription:

        To die with Honor
        When one can no longer live with Honor.

It was in obscure ideographs; but it was also written on her father's kaimyo at the shrine, and she knew it well.

"To die with honor -- "  She drew the blade affectionately across her palm.  Then she made herself pretty with vermilion and powder and perfumes; and she prayed, humbly endeavoring at the last to make her peace.  She had not forgotten the missionary's religion; but on the dark road from death to Meido it seemed best now to trust herself to the compassionate augustnesses, who had always been true.

Then she placed the point of the weapon at that nearly nerveless spot in the neck known to every Japanese, and began to press it slowly inward.  She could not help a little gasp at the first incision.  But presently she could feel the blood finding its way down her neck.  It divided on her shoulder, the larger stream going down her bosom.  In a moment she could see it making its way daintily between her breasts.  It began to congeal there.  She pressed on the sword, and a fresh stream swiftly overran the other -- redder, she thought.  And then suddenly she could no longer see it.  She drew the mirror closer.  Her hand was heavy, and the mirror seemed far away.  She knew that she must hasten.  But even as she locked her fingers on the serpent of the guard, something within her cried out piteously.  They had taught her how to die, but he had taught her how to live -- nay, to make life sweet.  Yet that was the reason she must die.  Strange reason!  She now first knew that it was sad to die.  He had come, and substituted himself for everything; he had gone, and left her nothing -- nothing but this.


THE maid softly put the baby into the room.  She pinched him, and he began to cry.

"Oh, pitiful Kwannon!  Nothing?"

The sword fell dully to the floor.  The stream between her breasts darkened and stopped.  Her head drooped slowly forward.  Her arms penitently outstretched themselves toward the shrine.  She wept.

"Oh, pitiful Kwannon!" she prayed.

The baby crept cooing into her lap.  The little maid came in and bound up the wound.


WHEN Mrs. Pinkerton called next day at the little house on Higashi Hill it was quite empty.


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