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.‘You must be growing restless in this small house; there is so little opportunity for you to exercise your talents.Really, Suzuki, I must apologise.’She reached for the towel the maid held out.‘Sharpless-san was telling me about a family newly arrived from Italy; they have one of the big houses the other side of the harbour.’The father was in the silk business and would be spending some time inspecting factories in the province.The Italian wife was looking for someone to help with two small children.‘Sharpless-san could provide an excellent reference for you.This could be a fine opportunity.’ And so forth.The maid’s smooth, square face remained expressionless.She nodded.Suzuki needed no lessons in the nuances of social deviousness.She expressed her gratitude to Cho-Cho-san, and indeed to Sharpless-san for his kindness in mentioning the Italian family.‘I will make enquiries without delay.’ She broke off to take the baby and prepare him for sleep.She knew what her employer was really saying, and Cho-Cho knew that she knew.But the form had been observed.A few days later Suzuki announced that she had found work.Not with the Italian family, but in a silk-reeling factory on the outskirts of town.She was grateful to Sharpless-san: his mention of the Italians had been of help to her.This was an excellent opportunity; she was grateful to Cho-Cho-san for drawing her attention.And so forth.Then, a hesitation; a diffidence: it would be a great kindness if Cho-Cho-san were to permit Suzuki to occupy her usual sleeping space at the back of the house – for a while.‘Luckily the factory shifts are quite long so I will not be in your way.’ And so forth.Cho-Cho knew what her maid was really saying and Suzuki knew that she knew.Nothing was spoken, all was understood, and the transition was made: Suzuki would continue to spread her futon in a corner of the house, and asked permission to make ‘a trivial contribution’ to the household expenses.Cho-Cho insisted that she must stay until she found more comfortable lodgings.It was, of course, they agreed, a temporary arrangement.Next day, Suzuki put on her thick cotton work clothes and went out into the pre-dawn mist and the unknown territory of her new life.After the silk farmers had gathered the bulging cocoons from mulberry trees stripped bare to feed the ravenous larvae, they took them to the factory.Suzuki joined the line of girls waiting to take charge of the loaded baskets and carry them indoors to the cauldrons of boiling water, where the process began.When she stumbled home from the factory long after dark, too exhausted to eat, an odd reversal of roles took place: it was Cho-Cho who persuaded her to nibble a few grains of rice; who undressed and washed the dazed girl and helped her to the futon spread out for her while, half asleep, she tried to describe her day.‘Poor worms! They work so hard, spinning threads, wrapping themselves in their fat cocoons, and then they’re tipped into cauldrons and boiled alive.I have to pick out any that have become moths—’‘But why?’‘They crack open the cocoon, to get out.The thread is broken, useless.’ She yawned, too tired to cover her mouth.‘When the cocoons are soft, we scoop them out of the water and very carefully start to wind the threads on to iron reels.They’re beautiful, as fine as cobwebs.’‘It sounds difficult.’‘Yes,’ she murmured.‘Difficult.I have acquired a skill.’But when Suzuki spoke of the awesome size of the silk workshop; the long lines of tables where the women worked; the impressive quantity of thread produced – ‘the thread from one cocoon can measure from the door to the shore’ – she said nothing of the boiling vats that spilled over, scalding her arms, the fingertip testing of water temperature, the dangers of unstable machinery.When she came home one night with bleeding hands, she shrugged away Cho-Cho’s alarmed questions.‘Machinery can break down.Girls are injured.’Cho-Cho, distraught, spread healing ointment on the damaged fingers.‘You must take greater care.’Together the two women clung to a precarious existence, and in the small house on the hillside Suzuki could still inhabit another world, one where a baby learned to crawl and then to walk.Where the air was fragrant with steaming rice and shoyu and where clean clothes flapped on the line outside the door.Alongside her at the workbench were girls who slept in cramped, airless dormitories, who had to line up for baths, moving from factory to sleeping quarters like prisoners.She pitied them; she considered herself blessed.Occasionally Sharpless visited, bringing a tactful gift, small enough to be acceptable, slipping an additional offering to Suzuki, who could discreetly add it to the household store.Cho-Cho welcomed his visits; he was a link with her father, with life as it had once been, and with Pinkerton.He trod warily, conscious of his privileged status, careful never to overstep the mark.He was behaving, he hoped, in a properly Japanese way.At least on the surface.But then, to the Japanese, he reminded himself, the surface was the reality.He felt reassured.One day, as he was complimenting Cho-Cho on the precocious intelligence of her child, she committed the social indiscretion of cutting in, her voice barely above a whisper; attempting English, as she often did with him, for practice.‘Sharpless-san, where is my husband?’Where was Pinkerton? He had no idea, but he attempted a vague explanation of the difficulties of maritime life.The lieutenant could be anywhere.‘Ah.So I will wait.’Sharpless learned to be devious.Back in town, he quietly arranged to extend again the lease of the house, telling the landlord that the money had been sent from America.The marriage broker had been biding his time, keeping an eye on the house above the harbour.One morning he came knocking, all smiles, to tell Cho-Cho he had a proposition, a customer.She slid the shoji door closed without a word.‘Be realistic!’ he called.Pinkerton was gone, swallowed into the ocean as far as they were all concerned.‘Luckily there are plenty more fish where he came from, you can pick and choose.’But for Cho-Cho there was only Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton; she already had a husband.‘Obstinacy is not a virtue in a woman!’ the broker exclaimed, exasperated.He was heading for the road when the door opened and Cho-Cho called to him.Beaming, he hurried back.‘I have some good offers for you.’But it was she who had an offer, for him.‘Young women in Nagasaki who “marry” gaijin will be more valued if they can speak a few words of English.’She could give them lessons for a small fee.She could also teach them about American culture, which would please their temporary husbands.The marriage broker felt he could be frank: vocabulary and culture were not uppermost in the minds of visiting foreign customers.Passing on social skills to other young potential ‘wives’ would not necessarily increase their charms.On the other hand, the charms she had to offer.Cho-Cho closed the door.Even when he returned a few days later to tell her a respectable elderly gentleman, a local merchant in need of an heir, was prepared to offer her a genuine marriage, a permanent arrangement, Cho-Cho remained unmoved [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]