On his way to Japan, the merchant Jan Joosten van LodensteynLoading... decides to avoid the boredom he will experience at the Dutch HiradoLoading... trading post in Japan by marrying a Japanese woman when he arrives there.
He promptly marries Cho-Cho-SanLoading... and sets her up in a little home, making sure her family can not visit her anymore. This distresses her.
This was their oblique way of saying that it was unsatisfactory. They pointed out with patience and gravity that he would thus limit his wife’s opportunities of reappearing on earth in a higher form of life.
Jan JoostenLoading... smilingly remarked that he was not sure that it would be best for his wife to reappear on earth in a higher form. She would probably accomplish mischief enough in this very charming one as she was in fact doing.
“Do you know,” he continued to the spokesman, “that you look exactly like a lacquered tragedy mask I have hanging over my desk?”
One must have seen one of these masks to appreciate the insult this implied. But they all laughed good-naturedly, as their host had planned, and they completely forgot their errand.
And Pinkerton labored that they should remember it no more.
This was quite Japanese. In the politest way possible, he made them drink his liquors and smoke his tobacco (in the generous Western fashion), either of which was guaranteed to make a Japanese person very ill.
This was thoroughly like Jan JoostenLoading....
They protested a deal of friendship for Jan JoostenLoading... that night. But at the final conference, where Cho-Cho-SanLoading... was solemnly disowned, none were more gloomily unfriendly than they who had eaten and drunken with him.
“I did the very best I could for you, little moon-goddess,” Jan JoostenLoading... said to his wife, “but they were proof against my best wine and tobacco.”
She bent her head in reflection for a moment.
“Ah, I am beginning to understand you, Mister Jan Joosten van LodensteynLoading...! You mean they were not proof. Aha!”
And Jan JoostenLoading... delightedly embraced her.
“You are no longer a back number,” he said.
“Aha! That’s what I think. Now I bet you I know what bag number is!”
“People like I used to be.”
“But not people like I am now?”
“No. Now, you are up-to-date.”
“I expect I ought to be sorry?” She sighed hypocritically.
“And why is that, moon-shine?”
“Because they excommunicated me. Everybody thinks of me as the most wicked woman in all of Japan. Nobody speaks to me anymore. They all outcast me, except for you. That’s why I ought to be sorry.”
She burst into a reckless laugh and threw herself upon him like a child.
“But that’s exactly why I am not! What’s the use of lying? I do not have it in me to be sorry. Me? I’m the happiest woman in all of Japan and maybe in the whole world even. What do you think?”
He said in all honesty that he thought she was, and he took honest credit for it.