In the previous episode, the Dutch merchant Jan Joosten van LodensteynLoading... travels to Japan to do trade, but he does not relish the thought of the boredom he will experience there. Someone on board convinces him he should “marry” a Japanese woman. He decides to do so.
With the aid of a marriage-broker, he found both a wife and a house in which to keep her. The house he leased for nine hundred and ninety-nine years. Not, he explained to his wife later, that he could hope for the felicity of residing there with her for so long, but because, being a mere “barbarian,” he could not make other legal terms.
He did not mention that the lease could be terminated at the end of any month if he merely neglected to pay the rent.
Details were distasteful to Jan JoostenLoading..., and besides, she would probably not appreciate the humor of this.
Some skilled Japanese artisans then made the paper walls for the pretty house eye-proof, and, with their own adaptations of Dutch hardware, the openings cunningly lockable. The rest was Japanese.
Madame ButterflyLoading... laughed and asked him why he had gone to all that trouble—in Japan!
“To keep out those who are out, and in those who are in,” he replied, with a romantic threat in her direction.
She was much pleased with it all, though, and went about jingling her new keys and her new authority like toys—she had only one small maid to command— until she learned that among those to be excluded were her own relatives.
There had been what her husband called an appalling horde of these at the wedding. They had come with lanterns and banners and disturbing pieces of evidence of their good intentions, and he had asked her, when she questioned him, whether she did not think they would be a bit tiresome.
“Do you think so?” she asked in turn.
“Emphatically,” her husband said.
She grew pale. She had not expected quite so direct an answer. A Japanese would have said no but would have left a question in one’s mind.
He laughed consolingly.
“Well, Ane-San” (which only meant “elder sister,” an expression he used because there are no terms of endearment in the Japanese language), “you will have to get along without ancestors. Think of the many people who would like to do that, and be comforted.”
She had never heard of such a thing.
“People, for instance, whose ancestors have perished on the gallows, or who, in the Netherlands, have practiced certain trades.”
She did not understand, as often she did not, and he went on:
“I shall have to serve in the capacity of ancestors,— let us say ancestors-at-large,—and the real ones will have to go—or rather not come.”
Again he had the joke to himself; his wife had gone away to cry.
At first, she decided to run away from him. But this, she reflected, would probably not please her relatives, since they had unanimously agreed upon the marriage for her.
Besides, she preferred to remain. She had acquired a strange liking for Jan JoostenLoading... and her new way of life. Finally, she undertook a weak protest—a very strong one, in fact, for a Japanese wife, but Jan JoostenLoading... encouraged her pretty domestic autonomy. Her airs of authority were charming. And they grew more and more so.
“Mister Jan Joosten van LodensteynLoading...,” — it was this, among other things, he had taught her to call him — “ I would like it if you would permit my honorable ancestors to visit me. I would like it very much if you would please give me that permission.”
Her hair had been newly dressed for the occasion, and she had stuck a poppy in it. Besides, she put her hand on his arm (a brave thing for her to do) and smiled wistfully up at him. And when you know what Cho-Cho-SanLoading...’s smile was like — and her hand — and its touch — you will wonder how Jan JoostenLoading... could resist her.
However, he only laughed at her — good-naturedly as always — and said no.
And though he kissed her, she went away and cried again.
And Japanese girls do not often cry. He could not understand how vital this concession was to her. It must be confessed that he did not try to understand. Melchior, with a little partisanship, explained to him that in Japan filial affection is the paramount motive and that these “ancestors,” living and dead, were his wife’s sole link to such eternal life as she hoped for. He trusted that Jan JoostenLoading... would not forget this.
He would provide her a new motive, then, Jan JoostenLoading... said — perhaps meaning himself — and a new religion if she must have one — himself, again. So when she, at his motion, diffidently undertook to clothe the phantoms which made up her “religion,” Jan JoostenLoading... expounded what he called the more convenient Western plan of salvation — seriously, too, considering that all his communications to her were touched with whimsy.
This was inevitable — to Jan JoostenLoading.... After all, she was quite an impossible little thing, he thought.
But he struck deeper than he knew, because she secretly went to the church of the missionary who served on the opposite hill, and heard the same thing, and learned, moreover, that she might adopt this new religion at any time she chose — even at the eleventh hour. She went out joyously, not to adopt his faith, to be sure, but to hold it in reserve if her relatives should remain obdurate. Jan JoostenLoading..., to his relief, heard no more of it.