John Luther Long originally wrote the short story “Madame ButterflyLoading...,” which was published in Century Magazine in 1898.
It was then turned into a one-act play by David Belasco, who collaborated with Long. The play premiered in New York's Herald Square Theatre on March 5th, 1900.
The play caught Giacomo Puccini's attention, and he would go on to compose the famous opera Madame ButterflyLoading..., based on both the play and Long's short story. The opera in two acts premiered February 17th, 1904.
The serialization you are about to read here is a seventeenth-century re-imagining of the original, replacing the American officer Mr. Pinkerton with the fictitious Dutch merchant Mister Jan Joosten van LodensteynLoading... and moving the location from Nagasaki to the Dutch HiradoLoading... trading post. A notable change the editor made was to how Madame ButterflyLoading... speaks.
The story is not far from the truth: only having to do something when a ship arrived — which didn't happen very often — Dutch merchants were bored at the HiradoLoading... outpost, and they did marry Japanese women.
Jan JoostenLoading... had just come from the Mediterranean.
“For lack of other amusement,” Melchior continued, with a laugh, “you might get yourself married and —”
Jan JoostenLoading... interrupted him with a savage snort.
“You are usually merely frivolous, Melchior, but today, you are silly.”
Without appearing to be offended, Melchior went on:
“When I was out here in 1607—”
“The story of the Pink Geisha?”
“Well—yes,” Melchior admitted, patiently.
“Excuse me, then, until you are through.” And with that, he turned to go below.
“Heard it, have you?”
“A thousand times from you and others.”
Melchior laughed good-naturedly at the gallant exaggeration and passed Jan JoostenLoading... his cigarette-case.
“Ah—ever heard who the man was?”
“No.” He lighted his cigarette. “That has been your own little mystery—apparently.”
“Yes. We all knew it was you.”
“It wasn’t,” Melchior said, steadily. “It was my brother.”
He looked away.
“I'm sorry. You never told us that.”
“He went back and couldn’t find her.”
“And you advise me also to become a subject for remorse? That’s good of you.”
“It is not quite the same thing. There is no danger of you losing your head for—” he glanced uncertainly at Jan JoostenLoading..., then ended lamely “anyone. The danger would probably be entirely with—the other person.”
“Thanks,” laughed Jan JoostenLoading...; “that’s more comforting.”
“And yet,” Melchior mused, “you are hard to satisfy— humanly speaking.”
Jan JoostenLoading... smiled at this simple but quite exact characterization of himself.
“You are,” continued Melchior, hesitating for the right word—“impervious.”
“Exactly,” Jan JoostenLoading... said as he laughed. “I don’t see much danger to myself in your advice. You have put it in rather an attractive light. The idea could not be entirely disreputable if your brother Jack used it. We lower-class fellows used to call him Agamemnon, you remember.”
“It is not my advice,” said Melchior, briefly, as he left the deck.