After the Erzurumis leave, Butterfly walks into the coffeehouse and looks around the chaos left behind. There are bodies all over the floor; Black joins him inside, and they notice that the Erzurumis killed the storyteller. They go out into the night and Black says that he wants to search Butterfly’s house, even though Butterfly tells him it has already been searched. As they approach, Butterfly speaks loudly in order to warn his beautiful wife that he is not alone. Black mentions that the final page of the book is missing, and that whoever killed Enishte stole it. He questions Butterfly suspiciously, asking why he frequented the coffeehouse. Butterfly admits that after he was recognized as the best miniaturist, others became jealous and accused him of being an Erzurumi. He went to the coffeehouse to disprove these accusations. Black repeats Master Osman’s words about Butterfly’s “flaws,” and Butterfly is hurt. He accuses Black and Enishte of treachery for their embrace of the European style.
This passage confirms the fact that Butterfly is almost pathologically eager to please others. Rather than simply ignoring the other miniaturists’ jealous accusation that he is an Erzurumi, Butterfly starts going to the coffeehouse in order to prove that he is not, in fact, a religious zealot. Meanwhile, Black’s questioning of Butterfly is executed in a rather unsophisticated fashion. It is not clear why it is necessary to bring up Master Osman’s cruel words about Butterfly, and in doing so Black risks alienating Butterfly and jeopardizing the chance of Butterfly assisting Black as they track down the murderer.
Butterfly goes into this next room, where his wife tosses her silk nightgown at him. He conceals a sword inside the fabric and returns to Black. While Black’s back is turned, Butterfly pins him to the ground, pointing the sword at his neck. Butterfly lies on top of him and asks if they look beautiful; Black replies that he doesn’t know. Butterfly thinks of his wife looking in from the next room and is tempted to bite Black’s ear. Black asks Butterfly to describe how Master Osman used to caress and beat him, and Butterfly does so with enthusiasm. Butterfly insists that, in spite of the brutality of the beatings, he still loves Osman. Black tells Butterfly all about his and Osman’s search to find the murderer, adding that while the stylistic clue pointed to Olive, Osman remained convinced the culprit was Stork. Butterfly suspects both Olive and Stork are guilty, and suggests that he and Black raid their houses, starting with Olive. They go to Olive’s house, which is dirty and cheaply furnished, and search through his things. Black asks who drew the horse with the slit nostrils; Butterfly replies Stork would know, and then concludes it was Stork who drew it.
The confrontation between Butterfly and Black is strangely erotic, a manifestation of the intense, romantic attachment that the miniaturists developed during their youth. However, it is not only the fact that Butterfly lies on top of Black and asks him if they look beautiful—thereby establishing a parallel between their scuffle and the act of having sex—that makes this scene so remarkable. Arguably the most striking and unusual element is the fact that Butterfly imagines himself performing for his wife, who is watching from the other room. On one level, this seems to be another example of Butterfly’s obsession with other people’s opinions about him and his desire to please. At the same time, it also emphasizes the idea that the miniaturists always think of themselves as being watched, like subjects in a painting.