* * * *
The two men walked the path from Chemulpo to Seoul.
“The messenger from court arrived in Kanggye ten days ago,” said the hunter.
“Mun and the men were terrified and told him that we were traveling somewhere to
the southwest. The messenger left word for us to report to the foreign affairs
ministry in Seoul as soon as soon as you were located.”
“How much do they really know about me?” Asked Tubert anxiously, walking
slowly, with effort. He felt trapped for the first time in years, not daring to ignore
the summons, yet aware that he could well be walking to his own execution. There
had been no return of the fever and sickness. Three days before, he had started to
consume food, taking quantities of bitter herbal mixtures to speed his recovery. For
the first time, he openly entered the city of seven hills that afternoon, without
wearing a farmer’s conical straw hat to conceal his facial features. Despite the
uncertainty, he had cashed one of the ten small bars of gold, placing Mun next to his
cache in the hut. Kwan Il would deal with the posang already beginning to stop by
the side hut, with orders to inform old T’ang, if the Chinese returned before he could
return to the growing fishing port, if he lived to return, to keep any firearms aboard
his sampan until they could determine the nature of Yi Chaoshien’s renewed interest
“You still have your head,” observed Pak, shrugging, nonetheless mistrusting the
summons of the decadent southern regime. “Pae Sung Ip, the youthful official who
masterminded saving you at Kangwha-do, and thrusting your unwelcome mandate
on us, told you that he was your project officer before he sickened of the corruption
in Seoul. Pray, Soldier Brother, that they know little of you. Most of all, pray that
Pae has been recalled to Seoul to handle whatever purpose they summon you for.”
Late that cool spring afternoon, they were ushered into a great government hall near
Chongno. Before them was a more heavily bearded Pae, summoned temporarily to
Seoul from his Taesong dong home to receive the barbarian whose life he had
advocated sparing years earlier, when no other Corean officials wanted to
contaminate their careers by involving themselves with a live barbarian. At one side
of the hall stood four other expressionless Corean officials. In a corner were a
distinctly different small group of Coreans Tubert knew to be royal eunuchs, here to
observe, report, and who would generate intrigue from whatever transpired.
Tubert and the hunter silently approached Pae, who coldly watched their approach
without emotion, wisely giving no indication that he had frequently had the pair as
houseguests in recent years.
They kowtowed at the waist before him.
“Thank you for responding to the summons from the kingdom,” said Pae, in the
Hangul of the common classes. He was thirty-years-old now, with a black beard.
“We hope that the years have been pleasant for you.”
“Sir,” said the foreigner in his best Corean, concentrating on the correct words and
important inflections needed when speaking to a superior, immediately sensed the
need for a facade of unfamiliarity with Pae and that his future destiny would rest on
this moment. “Thanks to the mercy of this benevolent kingdom, I have come to
know and love Yi Chaoshien. It is with humility that I respond to the summons.” He
saw a fleeting look of relief in the eyes of Pae Sung Ip. To the sides, hushed voices
sounded at the barbarian’s ease with the language.
“We would talk with you about such love for Chaoshien,” said Pae, his voice
slightly less rigid, relieved that the foreigner and the blank-faced stoic hunter next to
him had the sense to be formal before the representatives of the other ministries and,
in particular, before Yi the Eunuch, a master manipulator from King Kojong’s
personal foreign ministry staff. Which, if any of them, knew the story behind the
pouch suspended from the foreigner’s shoulder? Thank heavens, thought Pae, these
political bureaucrats are so detached from Chaoshien’s grassroots level. “We have
food, a modest evening meal. Shall we first speak frankly of why we have invited
“Whatever pleases thee, Pae sang nim, venerable Pae,” said Tubert in flawless
Corean, with feigned, solicitous tones and another deferential and exaggerated bow.
There were more murmurs on both sides, this time more relaxed. Despite their
varied agendas, their anxiety levels lessened with the knowledge that the captive
Food? Tubert exhaled, all senses alert. One had to have one’s head on one’s
shoulders to consume food.
“We’ll be joined by Chaoshien’s most capable officials,” said Pae, walking to
Tubert, grasping his forearm, leading him and the hunter and the entourage towards a
lighted room where a long, lacquered table was set with sumptuous food. “I’m sure
you are hungry. We can talk while we eat.”
Pae introduced the handful of governmental officials seated around the table.
“Hello,” Tubert said to each of them, not remembering a single name or title, except
for the eunuch who, even with his official headgear and robes, resembled a fat, bald
Buddha. Next to him sat the hunter, looking and feeling totally out of place among
these hated, dangerous southern bloodsuckers.
As they ate, Pae related that a United States Government body called a “senate” had
passed a resolution to use Japan to negotiate a treaty with Yi Chaoshien, but it had
never emerged from the barbarian nation’s committee on foreign affairs in 1878, the
same year the U.S. Navy sent an American commodore named Shufeldt with the
USS Ticonderoga to Asian countries.
Tubert nodded gravely, eyes fixed ahead on nothing, slowly sipping the meat soup
‘What the hell,’ his mind raced, ‘is a senate? Why are they telling this to one who
was a mere human mascot with the Yankee fleet?’
Shufeldt now had orders to explain to Chaoshien the reasons for the American
assaults on the Kangwha Island forts, which had so unceremoniously cast their guest
on Chaoshien’s shores. And this commodore, Pae said, was hoping to negotiate for
an opening of commerce.
‘Your nation’s state department has directed the American minister in Japan to use
the Japanese Government to aid Shufeldt,” said Pae, summarizing the situation for
the seated intriguers as much as to enlighten the Soldier Brother. He watched the
foreigner and the north Corean draw spoons from pockets, rather than using the
eating utensils before them. “The Japanese have given letters from the American
commodore to our officials at the port of Pusan. We know of this Shufeldt. It was
he who investigated the burning of the General Sherman on the Taedong River at
Pyongyang in 1866, and sent an inquiry letter to the king. Our monarch responded
with a letter, explaining that the crew had landed and had started to rape and ransack,
and were killed by a mob, despite calls from our officials not to kill. Just three years
ago, this same Shufeldt wrote another letter to propose a treaty, which we declined.”
Tubert’s expression remained wooden.
‘Do they think I’ve drawn an American commodore back here?’ He thought, with
inward panic. Without expression, he nodded.
“It is the kingdom’s desire that you go to Pusan to help our officials deal with this
Shufeldt, who is one of your own kind,” said Pae. The remark dumbfounded Tubert.
To his side, Pak stopped pretending to be chewing food, his face frozen. “That may
not be easy, for we will quarantine the American vessel as soon as it arrives, thus
preventing American sailors from creating problems ashore. Communications will
be essential, the intent of Chaoshien not to be misconstrued. It is vital that our
interests be clear at all times.”
“I no longer feel a subject of any other nation but Chaoshien, venerable Pae,” said
Tubert, mindful that the American navy had brought him to Chaoshien for precisely
the same thankless purpose.
‘He’s mad,’ thought Tubert inwardly. ‘Send me to help a southern prefect governor
deal with Americans from a gunship? Jes-u tugs me full circle.’
“I am unfit for such trust.”
He glanced at Pae and the waiting officials. Colors and embroidered animals on
their silk robes indicated offices, eaves on their black, horsehair hats, displaying their
They were coldly serious, awaiting more positive response.
They did not expect him to accept this mission without reward or recognition,
readying to negotiate incentives, but only if necessary. This round-eyed survivor of
the Kangwha Battle had learned to use silence and self-effacing word choices as
“The mandate that kept you moving and prevented you from entering Seoul is
lifted. These are men of your own race and nation. It may be time that our proud
kingdom deals with the West,” said Pae, carefully, mindful that his words would be
carried to other halls that night by the eunuchs and officials, and quite possibly be
misconstrued. “We ask you to go there in a capacity as an unofficial advisor and
translator to the Tongnae governor. In return, you will tell us what you desire as
reward for such service. Whatever encounter occurs will not be easy for us, and you
are needed to prevent another misunderstanding such as the one that cast you upon
The out-of-place hunter beside the barbarian was motionless, his breathing
suspended, only his unblinking eyes flashing discomfort.
‘Accept,’ Pak’s mind raced. ‘The mandate that at once pampered but punished you
is ended! Accept, so myself and our beloved village are at last free of the yoke that
bound us to you. You have no choice. Do not play with these clever, scheming
court dogs, lest the street dogs of Seoul feed upon thy dismembered body parts this
very night. If you accept, you will be taken from us, the years of plenty you have
brought to our homes will end. But say yes, so we may all keep our heads!’
Tubert, seated cross-legged Corean-style before the table, felt pain run through his
leg from the Kangwha wound of almost a decade before. He willed aside his pain,
anxiety and weakness.
The officials at the table stared coldly at him, except for the eunuch from the king’s
royal staff, who eyed the barbarian as a hawk diving towards a hare.
“I know only, care only, for Chaoshien,” said the striking foreigner in Corean garb,
with perfect pronunciation. “My soul is here, my identification, all that I know. I
would not wish that to change, but to have status as a Corean subject for life.”
Thoughts and emotions flickered in the eyes of the Coreans at the table. Pae
glanced at the ministry eunuch.
Yi the eunuch cleared his throat, his voice effeminate. Was this human
approximation so stupid as to be blind to the fact that his request was without
precedence? What if the Miguks, the Americans, might claim him as a citizen of
their wild, savage country?
“Our desire is to no longer have conflict with the powers of the West. Will not
your own nation reward you?”
“Westerners have never clamored to embrace me,” said the barbarian ruefully, an
edge in his voice. “As you know, they abandoned me here. There will be no cries to
claim me. No compensation will come from them.”
‘So you are the one the hide-clad one commoners call the “Soldier Brother”,’
thought Yi, with a faint smile and a nod of his head. ‘Supposedly, the one who
furnished arms to the recent revolt, so bloodily crushed. Do you seriously think that
we don’t know of the petty smuggling you and this vile cat hunter beside you have
been up to for years? Iii-gu, had I not suggested using you against the approaching
great gun ships of the West that now lay off our coasts, an investigation would have
destroyed you last winter for arming rebels! Timing is everything.’
“Then, tentatively, yes. If you do not hear otherwise before dawn, the royal couple
will have accepted your condition,” said the foreign ministry clerk, hoping to parry
any attempt for greater reward, knowing that the king would approve of such a
request, and that the pro-Western iron-willed Queen Min would not block his
request. And bells now happily chimed in the heart of the manipulative eunuch,
since the anti-Western regent, taiwongun, the king’s father who would have
destroyed all traces of this devil’s existence, had retired and, hopefully, no longer
needed to be contended with. Any smart man would exploit such a request from the
Pae Sung Ip nodded, knowing that the crafty eunuch was manipulating the
situation. Jes-u that this Soldier Brother fall into the hands of this dark-souled man-
shell, Pae thought. Sad, but unavoidable. ‘And as soon as I can conclude this effort, I
can slip from this vicious, self-serving eunuch and court, back to my ancestor’s
tranquil home and farmlands to the north.’
“So,” said Pae, anxious to be done with this politically charged meeting, “we are
agreed. And you will go south and help the kingdom deal with your kind.”
“Not quite, sang-nim,” said the foreign-devil, the voice suddenly calculating,
shattering their contented expressions. “We’ve talked only of what I pledge to give,
and pledge to do. The weight of such a mission calls for more.”
Eyes widened. Jaws dropped. The tiger hunter’s shoulders drooped, and he turned
and stared in wide-eyed disbelief at his former charge.
“I’ve lived in snow and cold, floods and mountain passes, sleeping in caves, being
treed by tigers, while traveling between provincial seats, only to receive resentful,
inferior food and accommodations and heavy-handed hints that I should be moving
on,” said Tubert. “Anytime I strayed from the old mandate, it could have cost me
my head and the heads of the northern hunters and their families.”
Satisfaction faded from the eunuch’s face. The sack-less one's mouth drooped.
“What is it you wish?” Said Pae, the barbarian’s unexpected remark shocking him,
ruining his meal, suddenly clogging his digestive tract.
“That I no longer have to travel, forbidden to form bonds, and be banned from sight
of the coasts and from entering Seoul.”
“Done, Soldier Brother, as soon as this meeting finishes, providing that you render
your services in Pusan. You will have to leave tomorrow.”
“But that means that after I return from Pusan the kingdom shall no longer provide
food, warmth and shelter, correct?”
“That is correct,” replied Pae, uncomfortable, glancing at the ice-faced eunuch.
“Then I’ll need a plot of land at Chemulpo, my own place where I can try to earn a
livelihood,” said Tubert. “I wish a plot of land, not far from the shores of the sea,
around a small hut not far from a restaurant at Chemulpo. Ceded to me, in writing,
for as long as the Yi Dynasty shall stand.”
“What land, Soldier Brother?” Asked the eunuch.
Tubert told them of a hut, next to a restaurant within sight of the shore at
Chemulpo. He wished for a square of land, one hundred and fifty paces, around the
abandoned ramshackle hut.
“That will be exceedingly difficult,” said the eunuch, his voice shrill, his mind
racing. You could have escaped from Chaoshien a dozen times, you foreign ape!
Thought Yi. Why didn’t you? But yes, I can work with, and profit from, this. “What
you ask amounts to this kingdom recognizing you, individually, as being a sovereign
entity onto thyself.”
“All land belongs to the crown,” countered the barbarian, his voice casual. “To be
given at the pleasure of Yi Chaoshien, correct? I want a concession, a trading post to
deal with foreign merchants, Corean merchants and any others. Immunity from all,
yet all privileges of a Corean subject.”
“I will champion your request, foreigner,” said Yi, choosing his words carefully.
“It will be best accomplished before any foreign treaties are signed. Quietly, without
officially informing either foreigners or the Corean populace. To be given to you, if
certain ministries concur, after your successful return from Pusan. Give me your
proper foreign name, if you have one.”
“Then I’ll go south,” said Tubert, anxious to finish the meeting before the powers at
the table had time to further contemplate his request. “I can be ready to board a
customs junk in two days. Within a week, I’ll be at the prefect’s side in Pusan.”
“Travel by sea is, unfortunately, not an option,” said the eunuch, glancing at the
hide pouch suspended by a strap from the stranger’s shoulder, having made it his
business in recent days to hear the rumors that the Japanese sought the chance to
destroy this creature. Yi turned his cold reptile-like gaze back upon this cagey
barbarian. “It is unsafe for you. You have enemies in Chaoshien.” The trace of a
smile formed on the lips of the eunuch. “The Japanese have protested your presence
here for years. We have denied your existence, of course. But you must travel
With satisfaction, Yi saw a flash of emotion cross the stony expression on the
foreign devil’s face.
The coarse, fidgeting northern hunter with the four-inch tiger claws suspended from
a necklace, who had the unmitigated gall to follow this damned mongrel ape into the
hall, gulped visibly. It was obvious to the eunuch which one had led the other
around the peninsula.
‘The guards were to take their weapons!’ Thought the eunuch, with alarm. ‘One
move of that hunter’s hand with one of those claws could rip a man’s throat out or be
impaled in one’s brains. Tomorrow, I’ll have the sergeant of today’s guard banished
to a remote northern province.’
The poker faced barbarian returned Yi’s stare, wisely not commenting on the
potential Japanese threat, and said, “Then I want a half dozen soldiers, each with
horses, provisions for all, here at mid-morning. Not tomorrow. Aside from having a
Westerner’s face seated on Chaoshien’s side of the table, is there any specific
mission I am to accomplish in Pusan?”
“The languages of any agreement with America shall be written in Chinese, and in
English,” replied Yi. “You speak both, as well as our language, do you not?”
“You will use all three to ensure that communications are clear” said the eunuch.
“You are to be in the background, a helper to all parties, but present to clarify
Chaoshien’s concerns about a treaty. Among those, no opium to be brought into
Corean land or waters. No diversion of rice goods from our land. And no provision
for western missionaries to bring the false god of the West into this kingdom.”
Pae glanced at the nodding government eunuch and the defense representative.
“Done! Time to relax,” said Pae, concealing his worry that his forced stay in Seoul
might be prolonged, yet pleased and amazed at the forceful negotiating skills of the
As host, Pae clapped his hands. Seven kisaeng girls wearing elegant yellow and
blue flowing chogoris entered the room with trays of cups and containers of rice-
wine and Japanese brewed beer. A kisaeng seated herself beside each man, pouring
rice wine into a cup that would not be permitted to become empty, feeding him
“We celebrate, Soldier Brother,” said Pae, relaxing, offering a toast, noting the
interest the barbarian took in the females. “To a peaceful meeting with the
Westerners in Pusan!” Around the table, the representatives of the various
government offices said bottoms-up and drained their cups.
“You will excuse me, please,” said the eunuch, the look on his face one of a man
who had much on his mind. “I have a great deal to accomplish, and I must depart.
May I tell the royal family that you will have the mounted escort to Pusan here for
“I will,” said a military department colonel arising unhappily, entirely opposed to
any dealings with outsiders, including the beaming, long-nosed kogeng-ii at the
table. His department head and the formidable taiwongun, the ex-regent, were not
going to like any of this. “I, too, have much to coordinate.”
Cups were refilled three times and then only Pae, Tubert and the hunter remained in
Pae Sung Ip exhaled and sighed with relief. He ordered the kisaeng to immediately
leave the room.
“Masterfully done, Soldier Brother,” he said in low tones. “I’ll try to remain in this
court of deceptions until your Pusan mission is a success. But don’t for a moment
trust that damned eunuch. Will you require a place to spend the night?”
“No, I have a place,” said Tubert, walking with the recalled official to the entrance-
way where guards returned. “So sorry that you must stay here for weeks to come. In
the future, you will be my guest in my home at Chemulpo. My thanks, venerable
“Imagine, a visit to your home,” grinned Pae, turning from them and walking down
a street towards his temporary quarters. “Who would have thought my work to spare
your life long ago would pull me back to government service? Just hurry back from
When the official was no longer in sight, the hunter turned to his younger brother
and said, with a strained voice.
“Do you realize what you have done?” He said, the enormity of the ending of the
mandate that bound this foreigner to them suddenly weighing heavily on the hunter.
“You have buried yourself in the behinds of the carrion-eating southerners! And you
have cut the ties with those who have cared for you, and served you, for all these
“I have not,” replied Tubert, sharply, surprised at the hunter’s worry, refusing to
allow the older brother’s moodiness to destroy his euphoria. “You’re sounding like
an old woman! Now we can begin to make real money, live like real men, not slink
behind trees and guess where we’ll sleep in the coming week.”
“I heard what you said,” said the hunter, accusingly. “With your own place, you
have no further need of us.”
“I swear, you should wear a cloth to stop the blood flow between thy legs, and
another between thy ears!” Shouted Tubert, with exasperation, clenching and waving
his hands in excitement. Then he lowered his hands, and his voice. People on the
street were staring at them. “Now we begin. You are free of me, but free to join me
at a trading station that will only further enrich all of us.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want you to hurry back to Chemulpo and send Mun to Grandfather Song, asking
for ten men immediately, to remain at my settlement for up to one year at a time,
some, upon my selection, indefinitely. Kwan Il to work with old T’ang and the
posing. You at all times to guard my gold. Mun to take two small bars of gold to
convert to cash for commissions, to be divided among you and our hunters. And
measure a square around the hut and shed, one hundred and fifty paces on four sides.
Use some of my cash to have coolies dig the ground near level, but slightly sloped
for drainage. Buy materials to buy a ten foot high wall around my compound, with
storage sheds to be built against the wall inside, and living quarters for our hunters,
who will permanently man my settlement. I want a gate, a big, impressive gate with
a sturdy walkway for sentries and defense, facing Madam Ahn’s inn and the sea. A
store in a rear corner, with my living quarters within, and my own private gate
through the wall. You must return to Chemulpo immediately. I’m free, Old Brother,
and we’re going to be rich! Or at least comfortable.”
“You’re not free. You’re dealing with royal snakes,” said Pak, glumly, but his
“You are right,” said Tubert. “But among the snakes will be foreign snakes. And
I'll be the snake tamer.”
“Are you not returning to Chemulpo with me? And I must go south with you.”
“I have a place to stay tonight, and you must start work at my settlement
immediately,” said Tubert. “Madam Ahn has made arrangements for me.”
“Eh? You let that money-grubbing old whore tell you where to stay?” Protested
Pak with sudden vehemence, jealous at any influence over this barbarian who no
longer was part of them. “You have no regard for those who have nurtured you.”
“What would have happened had I refused the court’s request?” Asked Tubert,
setting aside his elation for a minute. It was dusk, and now invisible Corean ladies
borne in closed sedan chairs passed by with running coolies pulling them. Invisible,
but watchful through the bamboo screens of their box-like conveyances gliding
through the throngs of Seoul. The women of better families remained hidden from
public sight, except for the hours of darkness. “Would my head on a pike be enough
regard for you? Are my greatest dangers from them or from you?”
“Iii-gu! You have the worst mouth and temper of anyone I have ever known, except
fir my wife!” Pak exclaimed, sensing another skirmish to dominate Soldier Brother
slipping from his hands. “Very well, all is your way. Shall we prepare for July’s trek
to the Russian and that Chinese brigand?”
“Five of our experienced hunters will take our goods into Manchuria this year,” said
Tubert. “Our dealings with Zakuff and Feng are already sour, and they’ll worsen as
soon as Henri learns that foreign powers are entering Chaoshien. He might react
violently if he learns of my role, so our men shall tell him that I am ill. But we’ll try
one more trip, and spread the word to posang along the northern border that we now
have a post in Chemulpo, and that the Soldier Brother will deal in items no one else
can offer. One last thing, very important; I want T’ang in Pusan in two weeks with
his boat, to quickly transport me back to Chemulpo, no matter what the eunuch says
about overland travel. Stop worrying, brother!”
“All right,” said Pak, with resignation readying for the walk west to Chemulpo.
“Even the darkness feels different with your release. I’m no longer used to walking
“Go quickly, brother,” said Tubert, stifling a smile. “It’s already dusk, but you can
reach Chemulpo tonight, if you hurry.”
Pak moved quickly through the city with long strides, disliking the capital of the
oppressive, decadent regime. He spotted squads of soldiers armed with long, plumed
lances and antiquated single shot muskets, the cullings of European armies of a
decade earlier, some with arms they had only months earlier slipped to Kim for
immense profits. For greater safety, the hunter noted, the Corean troops in the city
carried no ammunition, although the long, slender bayonets attached to the firearms
remained fixed. Most of the weapons already appeared to be inoperable. Outside of
the gate, a score of insurgent heads still rested on stakes, but as soon as the tall, hide-
clad hunter exited the city gate, his mood lifted. Soldier Brother, from his courage,
rather than cunning, had gotten away with supplying the insurgents with firearms.
Pak grudgingly missed the scheming, ruthless foreign demon at his side.
‘Is that because the prosperity of the northern village rests with him?’ Wondered
Pak. ‘Or because he has grown closer than any friend or family I have? I don’t
know; without him, I may well have warmed a tiger's innards years ago. And he
needs us as much as we need him. He’s so gullible; not good for him to be out of our
sight for that long. Still, there’ll be plenty of time to get back control over him when
he returns, before anyone can divert his allegiance from us.”
Tubert walked for more than an hour through the streets of Seoul, for the first time,
free to move openly in the city forbidden to all western outsiders. During the warm
seasons, innumerable flowering shrubs and forsythia drooped over the walls of
Seoul’s homes. The Coreans called the shrubbery “canari”.
He walked along the base of Namsan Mountain, the South Mountain, which had
started to don a wreath of fresh, green leaves embroidered with fragrant flowers.
Beyond were the outlines of other hills and notched peaks, range after range. He saw
the outlines of the hills around the ancient city, blushing with azaleas, red and pink
hidden in the darkness. The valleys were etched with tints of innumerable greens,
yellows, and dark paddies and silver streams flowing noiselessly along to join the
magnificent Han River. Birds were singing, pheasants calling and spotted violets
peeped out from beds of moss and ferns.
As darkness fell, he stood on projecting rocks, his eyes straining to spot a
neighborhood market below where, Ahn Madam told him, he could be directed to the
incredibly exciting and skilled kisaeng, Chrysanthemum. For minutes, Tubert gazed
at the panorama of the city’s palaces, houses, streets and the throngs of the evening’s
white-clad crowds. Far above him, on the hilltop, rested one of the beacons which
flashed war, peace and other messages of national concern from mountain top to
mountain top through a network kingdom-wide.
“At last, I’m part of you!” He proclaimeded loudly in English. Then he dropped to
his knees to be nearer to the earth and wept in gratitude. “You can no longer deny
me,” he said, in Corean, rising to his feet, and descending the hill.
The neighborhood market, on the southern edge of the city in the area known as
Yongsan, was a developing area of homes and shops of Japanese traders and
Coreans. Tubert walked from the hill to the open-air street-side market stalls, lit by
torches, passing a Corean tailor shop and most important a nearby Japanese tailor
shop specializing in the newly fashionable Western clothing that was growing in
popularity with some of the Japanese. He inquired at a grain store about the
whereabouts of Madam Ahn’s former employee and within ten minutes was being
escorted by an old female shop owner through narrow alleyways off the muddy main
thoroughfare. She led him through the modest wooden gate into the courtyard of a
newly constructed Corean home. In the courtyard, dressed in an exquisite while silk
gown with blue flowers embroidered on it, stood the most strikingly beautifil female
Tubert had ever seen.
“Welcome,” said Chrysanthemum, bowing, knowing that this tall barbarian had
been sent by Proprietress Ahn, who had consorted with her father, a comfortable fish
merchant, before the anti-Christian purge had taken his head and those of all of her
family for being suspected converts twelve years earlier, when she was but eight-
years-old. It was the madam who had brought the hapless girl from neighbors, and
taught the girl the skills that men paid great sums for. The middle-aged woman had
instructed the distraught child in the erotic and deceptive wiles so essential to a
kisaeng and five years earlier had fed her to the aged Corean minor official who had
put her up in the small old one-room house, sitting ownerless within sight of the
restaurant and brothel near the beach. Last year, the old Corean man had expended
his entire fortune on her, selling family lands, rendering his own family destitute.
His use to the passionate young mistress ended, the girl had secretly, cold-bloodedly,
plied him with aphrodisiacs and wine one night, crying for him to please her, that
enough was not enough. She enticed him to mount her a fifth time before he
collapsed upon her, dead as a dried fish, his heart no longer throbbing. A supreme
sense of satisfaction had instantly filled Chrysanthemum. Then she had paid her
debt to madam, declining offers to find a new benefactor, and had moved to Seoul.
“How may I help you?” She now asked the exotic, towering foreigner before her.
“Ahn Madam of Chemulpo asked me to stop and to relay her regards,” said Tubert,
suddenly aware of his unkempt appearance before this tall, elegant woman with the
long, graceful slender neck, the smoky Topaz eyes, and shapely dimples in her
cheeks and jaw. “I’m known as gu-nin o-rab-ee, the Soldier Brother. She said you
might help me with a place to sleep.”
“Ah, yes. She has spoken of you. I know the house you are living in,” said the
woman, changing her mind about the invitation to join a Japanese trader at his
nearby house, curious to measure the foreign devil’s stamina, intelligence and
wealth. “Will you please come in?” She gently grasped Tubert’s left sleeve, while
commanding the servant to bring them tea. As he removed his boots, she was
overcome for a second by the sheer size of this barbarian. The Westerner was
proportionately larger, in all visible physical ways, than any male she had ever
encountered. His dust-covered, sweat-stained clothing were those of a wandering
commoner, but how could one know for certain about a dragon-tongued foreign
“Thank you,” said Tubert. “But I can only stay a moment. I need to have Western
clothing made quickly at a Japanese tailor shop in this town for a trip I must make to
Pusan tomorrow. She said you might help me.” He noticed a huge Japanese wooden
bath behind the tiled compact house in a roofed pavilion reached by a walkway of
flat stones from the side of the modest home to the rear, the entire property
surrounded by an eight-foot high wall of mortared stone. The small floor-heated
room was covered with waxed paper, and modestly but tastefully furnished. In a
corner, he spotted a Corean stringed instrument, a kayagum, and, next to it, a
Japanese stringed instrument.
“I can help you,” said the graceful, calculating kisaeng, as her shriveled old female
servant placed a tray with two small cups and a pot of tea before them and quickly
left. “Relax a few minutes, then I’ll take you down the street to the new Japanese
tailor,” she said, pouring tea, her movements and voice fascinating. “You must stay
here tonight. We’ll bathe later, Japanese-style. Would you like something to eat
now or perhaps later?”
“I wish not to impose,” liedd Tubert, fully intending to impose, but sensing that it
was best not to show his lust to the physical and emotional fangs of this intoxicating,
and surely expensive, beautiful serpent. “But I celebrate, this night. I am a free
“Is that so?” Remarked the young woman, focusing her attention on him, watching
the lust rise in his all too readable face. No matter race and culture, the face of a
male communicated all. “A free man. Please tell me what that means?”
He did, expansively, for the next twenty minutes. He omitted mention of how he
had avenged himself on the Japanese pirate, but he said nothing of his clandestine
trips north of the border. Even though he lay relaxed on one elbow on his side,
responding to her seductive questions, accepting two more cups of tea, he said not a
word of the fortune in gold from gun-running.
“So you spent your childhood in China? And now, you are one of us! What an
adventurous life, Soldier Brother,” remarked Chrysanthemum sweetly, detesting his
clipped north Corean accent and dialect. She had entertained tight-wadded
merchants before madam had found her a wealthy old benefactor. So stingy,
mistrustful; never a clear stream like this innocent foreign bull. ‘But you are alone
on earth, without family, and thus vulnerable,’ she thought. ‘For surely that village
of skin-clad northern hunters does not truly regard you as one of their own.’
There came sound of the ringing of a bell within the city. It was the great Chongno
Bell, eight feet, seven inches high, cast more than four hundred years before.
“They’re the nearest I’ve ever had to family. I suppose I’m alone, but soon to be a
man of means. What's that bell?"
“Each night, it is struck twenty-eight times by a log suspended on chains, signifying
the twenty-eight principal stars in the heavens said to influence the destinies of
men,” said the most alluring, seemingly friendly woman he had ever encountered.
“It rings for you, tonight. But its dark, Soldier Brother, and we must have you
measured for clothes suitable to a Western man of the upper classes if you want them
after tomorrow. I owe no less to a friend of Madam Ahn. Come with me.” She
clapped her hands, and the servant appeared.
“Order Japanese sake,” she instructed the servant. “And turn any of my patrons
away. I want hot bowls of noodles waiting when we return. And begin filling the
wooden tub with steaming hot water.” Then she took him down the street, her arm
shamelessly entwined in his, rubbing her ample breast against his elbow, to the
tailorshop, where the proprietors gasped at his measurements. There were more
gasps when he removed his Manchurian-made hide boots to have a pair of western
shoes made and they discovered the missing toes on his right foot.
The woman was about to lead him back to her house, but the tall foreigner asked to
be taken to a Corean tailorshop where he casually ordered a complete set of clothing
such as those worn by the wealthy Corean aristocracy. Iii-gu! The ease with which
this ox-eyed devil ordered clothing confirmed to her that he would indeed pay well
for whatever pleased him. Then they returned to her small tile-covered home,
Coreans and a few Japanese along the torch-lit street halting, pointing at him as they
walked past. In the sitting room, next to her bedroom, Chrysanthemum sat closer to
the exuberant, exotic creature, pouring sake, sticking her smiling face close to his,
welcoming his caresses and laughter, knowing that she had snared him. When he
had removed all of her garments, the perfectly proportioned kisaeng led him along
the stone path to the back of the house and helped him to remove his soiled clothing,
handing them to her servant.
“Wash and boil these. I want them dry by sunrise,” she ordered, slipping into
the near scalding hot water, three feet deep, that her Japanese clients so loved,
relishing the sensation heightened by alcohol and the proximity to the well-muscled
male next to her. Soon, the waters in the tub were splashing on the straw mats
around the wooden tub. Later, she led him to the mattress in her room, where
throughout the night they exhausted one another, sending each other to heights that
almost equaled the unbridled intensity of raging monsoonal river floods.
Early that morning, the Chongno Bell awakened Tubert. The majestic bell rang
thirty three rings for the thirty-three heavens of Buddhism, and signified dawn and
the opening of the city gates. He opened his eyes, and felt weak from his recent
illness and his unprecedented exertions throughout the night. The naked girl at his
side on the heated floor lay still asleep, wrapped in a blanket, her back next to him.
Tubert raised the blanket to glance appreciatively at her perfect, supple form. Next
to the floor mattress was his knife, revolver and the hide pouch.
“Jes-u. Freedom, and now the finer things in life. And the ability to pay for them,’
he thought aloud contentedly.
“This morning, we’ll go and pick up your clothes,” said the radiant kisaeng. “The
tailors worked through the night.”
“I won’t have time to exchange this,” said the contented foreign devil, pulling a
small bar of gold from the hide pouch at his side. “Can you arrange for that, and
cover the costs of my clothes, and for this and future visits?”
Her eyes widened at the small bar in his hand, then narrowed. The female’s right
hand moved forward, pretending to flick something from his collar. Tubert glanced
down, and a nimble finger shot upward, playfully snapping the tip of his nose and
“I can, of course,” she replied, brightly, accepting the bar. “And,” her voice
thickening, even her eyes seeming to change color. “The night you return from
Pusan, there’ll be no rest.”
* * * *
They covered one-hundred li, thirty miles, before nightfall, when their feverish,
oversized barbarian fell from his pony and had to be transported to a room in the
nearest inn. The travelers ate heartily in the straw thatched, lice ridden inn, too
exhausted to pay any attention to the serving girls. They slept soundly, until Tubert,
still wobbly and almost too weak to stand, called for their officer to awaken them
and, grumbling unhappily at four in the morning, they began moving south again.
The half-dozen Corean soldiers and their lieutenant made a point out of barely talk-
ing to their chalk-faced guest.
A leisurely overland trip to Pusan took three weeks, hurried trips ten days. At noon
that second day, the still weak foreigner tied himself to his saddle to prevent falling
off, but, by the third day his health and strength was returning. That day, the Corean
lieutenant, happy to be away from the drudgery and petty stresses and politics of
duties in Seoul, had every intention of stretching out this journey for as long as
possible. The officer ordered the party to halt before a trailside inn at mid-noon.
“Why the halt?” Asked the foreigner, riding forward from the rear. “We can still
travel for four more hours. It is important that we get to Pusan quickly.”
“Who do you think you are questioning?” Demanded the young officer, determined
to set the tone and pace, and teach this burdensome devil nonentity a lesson in caste,
discipline and protocol. How he wished he could reverse this assignment from Major
Im Sik Hae, a slithering manipulator who had been with the forces that had so
completely routed the Yankees a decade earlier at Kangwha, and had been promoted
for slaughtering rebels during the uprising just the other year. “I set the pace, and I
am tired. From now on, don’t address me directly unless I give you permission!”
Tubert glanced at the six troops behind them. They were dismounting their horses,
joking with one another. There was not the slightest hint of urgency to the mission.
The village innkeeper was already welcoming them, and the Coreans troops were
smiling, their heads bobbing, until they saw the foreigner gallop past them.
“Where do you think you are going?”
“To Pusan without you,” the uncooperative foreigner shouted back at them. “I’ll
let them know you are resting!”
For two minutes, the soldiers watched Tubert disappear, no longer joking, their
kibun, their mood of euphoria, evaporating.
“Very Well!” Exclaimed the displeased lieutenant. “We’ll tie that impertinent dog
up with rope.” Not only was the foreigner’s behavior insubordinate, but this entire
mission had an unsavory halo to it, if taken too seriously. And besides, the long-
nosed idiot was riding straight down the peninsula, rather than veering to the right,
and taking the longer, less mountainous western coastal route that would allow more
“I don’t think the royal family would like that,” said his sergeant, a seven-year
military veteran who had helped suppress the winter’s bloody rebel revolt. “And I
don’t think this insolent kogeng-ii long-nose would let us tie him up.”
“If he keeps this up, he might not get to Pusan,” said the leader bitterly, hastily
remounting. Unhappily, the Corean troops followed their leader into saddles. “It’s
bad enough to have Western non-persons yapping at Chaoshien's doors, and not
everyone in Seoul wants this unruly kogeng-ii to join other barking foreign dogs in
the south. I won’t put up with his misbehavior!”
But for three hours, they followed Tubert, the officer riding sullenly in the rear.
“Tell that fiend that our path lay to the west, along the coast,” he told the sergeant.
Soon the man returned.
“He said he knows shortcuts across the central mountains and along the Kum River
behind Taejon!” Whined the nervous sergeant. “He believes going over the central
highlands and through Northern Kyongsang Province will get him to Pusan in six
“If we need to follow this scoundrel into those rugged mountains, he’ll feed the fish
in the Kum,” hissed the officer, lowly, his jaw clenching, the whites of his eyes
showing. “We can’t be faulted if he happens to drown.”
Only at sundown did the ox-eyed rascal allow them to seek the miserable comfort
of a poor inn. Before dawn, they heard the hooves of his horse moving from the
wretched country inn. They scurried from their rooms, saddling their horses, cursing
because there would be no time for breakfast.
That fourth day, Tubert led them on a brisk pace south, continuing past Taejon until
nearly dark. Now the escorting troops behind and their officer openly cursed him.
“We need to stop, you demented fool!” Called the exhausted lieutenant, in the
approaching darkness hearing the roar of a tiger nearby. “There’s no place to stay
overnight in those mountains! Dangerous to be on the road past dusk. Besides, you
can’t enter Pusan without us.”
“I don't need and don't want any of you with me and I know the trails to Pusan
blindfolded, but you're right, there is a tiger nearby. There's a farmer's inn up ahead.
We'll ask them to let us sleep within their fence this night.”
The next morning, the despicable fiend shouted for the band to roll out from their
cozy inn rooms, and that morning he allowed them to eat. By midday, they were
again saddlesore, making their way up torturous trails deep in the mountains south of
the city of Taejon. Late that afternoon, the foreigner before them halted, allowing
his mount to drink from the fast flowing waters of the Kum, noticing the spoor of at
least three great cats during the past hour. It was then that the lieutenant, mindful that
his superiors secretly intended for this hellion to reach Pusan too late to render any
help, opted to impose his will and authority over the unruly brigand. The six soldiers
fell upon the foreign devil, pinioning him to the bank along the river.
“I’m in command,” said the black-bearded young lieutenant, slapping the barbarian
in the face several times and then kicking the struggling, round-eyed ape for good
measure. “Who do you think you are, leading us into wilderness without even a roof
over our heads at night? You’ll do as I say, or I will have you bound until we reach
Pusan. Don't irritate me further, or you will not live to see Pusan.” With satisfaction,
he saw the foreigner cease his struggles to resist. The officer watched for a
submissive look in those deformed, overgrown devil eyes, but saw instead a calm,
strangely cold and focused look as Tubert almost imperceptively nodded his head.
“Much better,” murmured the officer, motioning them to release the beaten,
“That’s showing him, sir,” said the sergeant and the troops, gathering about the
immensely satisfied lieutenant, not noticing the foreigner, who stood with the ponies,
pull his knife and make a small cut in the officer’s mount just under the right saddle.
“But it will be dark in an hour. Too late to go back and find a village inn. Now
“Iii-gu, Oh!” Whined the lieutenant. “These mountains will be cold, and we have
to sleep on the ground. No meals with warm rice, and not even rice-wine! It’s cold
rice and dried squid and mountain water tonight, but we can build a camp fire on
level ground up ahead. Dung-stuffed, dog-defiled foreigner! Mount up.”
The knife nick to the officer’s steed stopped bleeding, and the disgruntled lieutenant
barely noted the blood that coated the right inner thigh of his white cotton trousers
They secured the ponies in a small canyon with perendicular walls next to a river,
and built a campfire before nightfall. Tubert took his blanket and sat away from
them, further inside of the tiny canyon.
“He’s too contented, too accepting,” said the sergeant, worried, shuddering from the
cold, to the lieutenant. “He looks like he’s waiting for something. Maybe listening
“He accepts who his masters are,” said the officer snidely. “It’s just a matter of
breaking his spirit. Make a fire. Post a sentry and let's get some sleep.” With
blankets, the exhausted Coreans dropped to the ground and slept.
Two hours later, the sentry screamed. A male tiger charged past him into the camp.
The shout from the sentry diverted the great cat from the scent of the whinnying
blood-caked pony. The animal turned, snarling at the scrambling men near the
campfire, outraged at the fire and the shouts. Then it lunged for the nearest human
with the smell of blood, locking the screaming lieutenant’s bloodstained leg in its
great jaws and carrying the thrashing officer into the darkness. The shaken troops
huddled together in sleepless terror that night.
“Anyone else want a test of wills?” Asked the smiling foreigner brightly at dawn.
There were no takers. Eight days after leaving Seoul, the weary travelers left the
great Kimhae Valley, with some of the richest soil in Northeast Asia, and crossed the
Over the hills lay Pusan.
* * * *
The great floating wooden hulk had towering masts and cannon on deck pointed
towards the city, sails drawn, rested like a dark, malevolent spirit between Yongdo
Island and the shore of Pusan Bay. A handful of Chinese sampans and a score of
Japanese sea-craft mixed with more than one hundred Corean fishing boats between
shore and the American vessel.
All of them, by royal order, were enforced by a cordon of royal Corean Naval boats,
gave the USS Ticonderoga a wide, uneasy berth in the busy harbor.
“I trust this order to treat with barbarians less and less,” said the bearded, middle-
aged province prefect nervously. Three boats were rowing towards shore from the
huge Western vessel commanded by Commodore Robert W. Shufeldt. The
American officer had arrived on the flagship in hopes of writing a friendship treaty
with Chaoshien, one of the Asian nations the United States still had no official
relations with. The Chinese had pushed the Corean court and the westerners
together, and the treacherous, in-bred Japanese swore they had been tricked by the
foreign demons into delivering documents to Corean officials. Next to the robed
prefect stood two officials from the foreign ministry, the Corean and Chinese
interpreters, and the incorrigible, unproven and unwelcome barbarian Soldier
‘But perhaps our foreign cat sticker who speaks our language with a northern accent
and dialect, will allow us to maneuver, to balance barbarian interests, and even dilute
Japanese aggressiveness here. Why this happening in my lifetime?’
“Interrupt as soon as you see or hear anything going wrong, Soldier Brother,” said
the nervous provincial prefect.
“Be assured, I will, sir,” replied Tubert, hiding his uneasiness, doing his best to
sound loyal and groveling. He knew his presence back in the port city was already
reported to China Kang, and that the Japanese in Pusan had already expressed
outrage that he would be involved in official negotiations. Tubert towered over
them, garbed in the finest of Corean court dress, wearing a horse-hair hat, his dark
foreign hair tied in a topknot to lend the appearance of maturity and authority and,
above all, to appear as close to the Corean norm as possible.
“Good to have you back in Kyongsang-do,” lied the province head, who had no
choice over the years but to obey the orders on the cursed scroll and, at times, to feed
and shelter this sly alien fox and his low-born northern hunter escort. The official
knew that Tubert was popular among some of the lower classes. Like other
provinces, officials here had secretly had the powerfully built barbarian rogue
covertly followed during the early years of his wanderings, but he had shown no
inclination to make secret contact with outlawed Christians, nor to make contacts
with other Westerners. Oh, how the Japanese clamored for his immediate
destruction! The prefect, who was aware of this foreign scoundrel’s petty
contraband business, had years earlier yielded to Japanese cries for his capture. The
Corean customs patrol he dispatched was under his secret orders to never capture
Tubert, thus averting some embarrassment to the central government. The Japanese
who had screamed loudest for his death for the murder of the senior Mihashi brother
had been unable to cause a diplomatic row in the capital.
What howls of anguish and indignation sounded when this adventurer had instead
captured and skinned his Japanese betrayer! And were the claims of the royal troops
who had straggled with him into Pusan, that this devil had summoned a beast to
attack and consume their officer, to be believed?
‘Iii-gu! Demons dance on the ground at my very feet,’ thought the prefect. ‘Or
perhaps it’s the ghosts of countless ancestors, stirring in their tombs wailing at him
and the contaminating approach of other barbarians.’
‘ Unthinkable to defy a mandate of Chaoshien, but also unwise to alienate the
powerful Japanese firms who so generously slip me bribes not to see the contraband
they themselves smuggle into our country,’ thought the prefect. ‘Even more than
this foreboding warship in our harbor, assignment here of this ill-thought out ward of
the kingdom is gunpowder with a smoking fuse! What if the Western savages about
to land grow angry at the presence of this outcast? How do I quickly return him to
the Seoul bureaucrats who inflicted this dog upon me?’
Yesterday, agreement had been reached for the balding American commodore with
the short-cropped gray hair and neatly trimmed beard to come ashore at ten o’clock
and begin face-to-face treaty discussions. Standing next to the edgy, pouting Corean
officials, Tubert saw the short, stocky American officer with the face of a banker, his
braided stars on the shoulders of his immaculate blue uniform, in the lead boat being
rowed towards shore. In the boat were translators and more foreign military men.
The forward boat contained an honor guard of armed American sailors and marines.
Tubert, with relief, at first did not recognize any of the troops. But an American in
the rank of lieutenant commander sat next to the American commodore, towering
over the mission head. The figure was somehow familiar to Tubert.
Aboard the approaching rowboats, the commodore turned to his assistant.
“By heavens, Jewell,” Shufeldt said quietly. “That looks like a white man standing
“It is, sir,” said Theodore Jewell, lowering his glasses. “We’re not sure where they
got him, but they want him present during the talks. We are all to use him if
translations get confusing..”
Jewell had gained rank and ten pounds since the Kangwha Battle. The tall Texan
had pulled shore duty assignments in Hong Kong and Nagasaki, and served aboard
ships in ever decreasing numbers. The ships reflected America’s growing disinterest
in the Navy and were more obsolete with each passing year. Now, after more than a
decade in Asia, Jewell’s reputation as a decision maker, risk taker and quick study,
and especially his involvement with the Kangwha debacle, had landed him these
diplomatic duties with this dogged commodore. He had pinned on his promotion
insignia four months earlier over in Hong Kong. Not bad for a youth from Texas
who had sailed from a landdrained from civil war. Especially not bad, since that
nation had allowed its ships and Navy and promotions to wither.
‘Important that the Coreans become familiar with my name and face,’ thought
Jewell with resignation. ‘For if all goes well, this commodore will have me shuttling
dispatches to and from Chaoshien as treaty coordination progresses, and, likely, one
day I’ll find myself in Corean waters, commanding a vessel to watch over American
interests. My own ship, at last.’
Who was that standing next to the Coreeans ashore?
“Could be a renegade white man of Shanghai’s coastal pirates, though I don’t know
how he could have gotten into this land alive,” mused the commodore, elated at the
serendipitous timing that was actually allowing him to negotiate for an opening of
this hidden kingdom. What pressure it took to goad the Japanese into presenting the
American papers to the Coreans! And China, who had not given a half-wit’s baker’s
dozen about Chaoshien in the past, was clearly worried about the Japanese presence
and thus, suddenly supportive yet not cooperative. “If there’s trickery, we’ll know
soon enough. We must prepare for the worst.”
Renegades abound in Asia, thought Jewell, nodding as the craft closed towards the
Pusan shore. He had sailed many a trip escorting American merchant vessels past the
island of Formosa, where attacks from the great Japanese and Taiwanese pirate fleets
still posed threats to foreign shipping, the Japanese sphere of interest and influence
dominating the southern half of that island. French forces had actually occupied part
of Formosa a few years back for several months, but decided to withdraw because a
continued presence sapped resources they needed elsewhere in Asia.
‘No choice but to come back into Corean waters on a mission of peace,’ thought the
tall Naval officer. ‘What else since we’ve become the runt of Western fleets in Asia,
puny and obsolete compared to the British, French, German, Japanese and even the
Chinese fleets? It’s been downhill since Kangwha. But can Shufeldt accomplish
with peace and diplomacy what no efforts of any foreign nation has been able to
achieve by force?”
Jewell suddenly rose in the boat, with shock, recognizing the features of the
swarthy, Asian-clad Westerner on shore whose stoic facial expression, although not
facial features, bore a startling resemblance to those of the Asians beside him.
“My God, is that you, Timothy?” He called, as the party prepared to put foot on
“It’s me, Lieutenant Jewell,” replied the Westerner, evenly. “Welcome back to
“Thank God you’re alive, son!” Said the massive foreign officer clasping Tubert on
both shoulders, impulsively shaking his one time ship mascot, the joy in seeing the
former galley assistant genuine and concealing his shock at seeing the mutilated ears
of this grown man. “The world thought you were dead.”
“The world was supposed to, Mister Jewell,” said Tubert, sensing his face rising
before the Corean officials, surprised that the old bonds between them were still
intact, relieved at the familiar face among the arriving foreigners. “Good to see you,
sir. We’ll talk later. Excuse me, I’ve got to stay close to the prefect.”
The opening session consisted of introductions and agreements on protocols and
procedures, Tubert frequently being called upon to interpret before the long-winded
official Chinese translators could render their flowery versions of what was being
said. The first break was two hours later.
“Thank you for the help, Mister Tubert,” said the commodore, approaching the odd
Westerner in the refreshments tent next to the meeting hall. “Unexpected blessing,
finding one of our own here. These Coreans are certainly clear about what they
don’t want: no opium, no missionaries, and no Corean rice goods to be taken from
“Yes, the prefect has guidance from the court,” said Tubert, sipping a cup of boiled
barley water, his strained English coming back with difficulty. “Drink,
“What is it? Looks like mud water,” said the American officer, his head level with
of Tubert’s chin.
“Barley tea. Boiling it rids it of all impurities. It’s delicious, and safe.”
The American naval officer accepted the cup and gamely sipped, staring sideways
at the outrageous caucasian in the ornate garb of a minor Corean official, outline of
a six-shot revolver in a leather pouch suspended from his shoulder at his side.
Through a horse hair hat, he saw the man wore his hair in a top knot, an indication
that he was married and, Corean officals hoped, projected an air of maturity. The
Chinese interpreters and translators were incensed to discover Tubert spoke fluent
Chinese and Corean.
“Hmm. Not bad. Listen, son, I have a reception for the prefect and his staff aboard
ship tonight,” said Schufelt, standing next to Jewell. “Beer, whiskey, wine, bread,
roast beef, potatoes and Marine band music. Evidently the quarantine they’ve
slapped on us does not prevent us from inviting them aboard ship. Why don’t I send
a boat for you? Join us. You seem free to move around between all parties. About
time you got back with your own kind.”
“Coreans are my own kind, commodore.”
“So it appears, Tubert,” said the commodore in a low voice. “You've been out here
nearly ten years.”
Rowboats took them to the American warship. After a half hour of a translated
overview of points to be covered they took a break.
“Must have been horrid, being left behind here,” Schufeld said. “Turned out that
Kangwha was an unnecessary battle. Even before Low and Belo sailed their task
force that stranded you on these shores, an earlier American shipwrecked crew and
cargo had been courteously transported to China from Korea. And Berson,
commander of the General Sherman, was an irresponsible damned adventurer with
one Englishman and a crew of Chinese and Malays, their cargo contraband guns.
Unfortunate that the letter King Kojong wrote reached me two years later, back in
the states, and more unfortunate that I was not in Asia, to prevent your task force
from attacking Kangwha. But I swear to you, Mister Tubert, my dream of opening
Chaoshien ever since I sailed from Hong Kong to investigate the General Sherman
disaster will come to pass now. I have exclusive authority from the secretary of the
Navy and the State Department to make this happen. Meanwhile, son, it might serve
you better if you at least dress like a Westerner. Where’s your family at in
“No one knows, and I could care less. No kin has ever showed to find me. I was
born in Asia, sir. Shanghai as a street boy, then the American ships. Here, they
made me a ward of their kingdom. I’ll never serve on your ships again, admiral.”
“Relax, son,” said Shufeldt reassuringly, feeling his blood pressure rise, sensing
that he had discovered a fear and weakness in this unbalanced misfit. “No one will
ever expect you to. But I want to hear anything you’re comfortable telling me about
this land. I’ve got to deal indirectly with Corean officials through the manipulating
Chinese officials in the court in Tienstin, which is bewildering. Whenever there is
an unfavorable incident, China has sworn it has no influence or interest in Corea, yet
now they suddenly insist that Corea is subordinate to China, and we’ve got our hands
full trying to prevent them from forcing a treaty favorable only to China. Murky
relationships, Tubert, but I’m going to carve a treaty that recognizes the sovereignty
of Corea. Help me keep these testy Coreans in good spirits.”
“Meeting’s about to continue,” said Tubert nodding toward the cabin’s table.
“Chinese have been flocking to the ports of Chemulpo, Chinampo and Sinuiju ever
since their treaty with Chaoshien the other year, but there's no love between the
Chinese and Coreans. Commodore, I’m here representing my own interests, not
America’s, and damned sure not the Middle Kingdom’s. I depend on you for
nothing, but you can trust me, sir.”
That afternoon, two clauses were tentatively slipped into the treaty discussions
which the Coreans showed little concern with. Shufeldt was adamant about
extraterritoriality, a clause in which American envoys and American foreign traders
would not be under Corean law until Corean law resembled American legal
practices. Another provision that the Coreans voiced no concern with, because it
was not within their scheme of thinking, was the commodore’s insistence of a “most
favored nation clause,” which would grant Americans rights superior to any future
treaty that another nation might forge with Chaoshien.
“That is,” clarified the naval officer, watching for expressions on the faces of those
around him, and seeing not a flicker except for a quizzical glance from Tubert, “there
can be no other treaty granting other countries benefits exceeding those between the
United States and Chaoshien.”
The prefect later called the Soldier Brother to his side.
“I don’t understand why the Americans desire this most favored thing,” said the
Corean official, quietly, not waiting for the Chinese interpreter to finish. “Is there
significance to this?”
“I think not, sang nim,” said Tubert, with a shrug. “I suspect Russia, Britain,
France, Germany and those obnoxious Japanese are still in political tugs-of-war in
China.. They are concession-hungry wolves, out to impose their wills and interests,
sir, with never-ending claims and demands. And you can add the Chinese now
flowing into Chaoshien to that group. It could be a good idea to allow, even require,
these strangers to be dominant.”
Toward the end of that first meeting, Jewell motioned to Tubert, watching the
man’s curious gait as the Corean-garbed westerner approached him.
“I notice you walk with a hobble, Timothy. Have you been hurt?”
“I took an arrow in the leg at Kangwha, commander. That’s why I never made it
back to the ships.”
“I wanted to come back for you, son, but wasn’t allowed. Listen, we’re hosting a
party for the Corean officials tonight aboard ship,” said the human behemoth. “Will
you join us? I’ll send a boat special for you. We could talk, Timothy.”
“I’ll be there,” replied Tubert evenly to the one of only Westerners he had trusted as
a boy. Of course, the Pusan prefect would require him to accompany them to the
Ticonderoga, but a separate boat from the barbarians just for him would boost his
prestige before these Corean officials. “At your request, Theodore. But not at the
Late that afternoon, after the opening talks had ended and the Americans had
returned to the ship, Tubert returned to the beach and dressed in western clothing but
still wore his hair in a topknot, his revolver in the hide sack over his shoulder. Along
this part of the shore, ancient Pusan stood apart, distinct from the booming con-
struction, with its ruined and crumbling walls, testimony to past glories of an ancient,
earlier dynasty. He quietly stared at the massive Yankee ship in the harbor, aware
that passing Japanese behind him were pointing at him, babbling. Reality was that
the Japanese knew that the only Westerner in Chaoshien had slain one of them, while
Corean officials protected yet denied his existence even as he stood before them.
Tubert made no effort to conceal the weapon or the pouch that so evoked their
Pusan’s Japanese consul general administered law to some ten thousand Japanese,
half of them among the floating population whose sole business was fishing. The
valuable fisheries laying off the coast and in the adjacent archipelago were turning an
annual yield of ten million herring, and half a million cod.
He overheard the contemptuous words “bakka” for crazy, and “gaijin” for
barbarian, from the passing Japanese.
‘Mihashi's younger brother has done a masterful job with his posters, pledging to
destroy me on the streets here and, more recently, in Chemulpo, though my unclear
status protects me,’ Tubert thought, smiling, deriving satisfaction from a reputation
for deadliness among these supposedly reformed warrior-bandit intruders, patting the
hide bag in view of the people who approached no closer than fifty paces. ‘Good for
these back-stabbing pirates to see my trophy of justice and revenge. I hope it
continues to keep them at a distance and thinking twice before coming at me.’
He was early for that day’s meeting Corean officials not yet visible for the trip to
the American ship. Tubert watched junks and sampans in the harbor’s waters, aware
that crews and water craft of China Kang were among them, and that only his status
as a liaison between the foreign devils and Corean officials prevented Kang’s people
coming at him for turning his back to the Corean smuggler years earlier. Then his
thoughts turned to the night he had seen the beautiful, nude Corean sea goddess on
the smuggler’s boat coming to shore, and the sweetness of her memory saddened
‘I’m past the age when most Corean males marry,’ thought Tubert. ‘And the best
years are surely past. But there’s been no time, and no family, to arrange that and the
operations have prevented even Crane from marrying. The permanent ground at
Chemulpo should change that. That kisaeng in Seoul is as beautiful as the girl Pae
was years ago, but the kisaeng will never be as sweet and is dangerous. I can’t go
without female companionship forever. Somehow, someday, I'll have my place, my
fortune and my own woman.’
He drove the scent and memory of the kisaeng from his mind.
Tubert idly watched the tumble down Japanese steamers running between the ports
of Chaoshien moving behind the American flagship. Within two days, Shufeldt
would sail from Pusan, and begin coordinating the papers and efforts that would
That day or the next, Tubert knew, T’ang and his sampan would arrive here for
him. He brushed aside the vision of his future trading post and home, and the
enjoyed with pleasure the thought of Pak chaffing that he was not here in Pusan, at
The sight of the immense vessel, one hundred and sixty feet in length, and looming
almost twenty feet above the water line, overwhelmed him, and once again, although
he was uncertain why, Tubert knew he could never be truly a part of the Western
world and for some minutes the thought saddened him. Shufeldt had told him the
secretive negotiations would continue for perhaps two years before the treaty, to be
ratified by the American government, could actually be signed at Chemulpo. But
already, Tubert knew, his world had changed.
‘With wealth and my own place, I shall invite Grandfather Song to spend a year
with us before he is too old to travel,’ Tubert promised himself, pleased at the idea of
introducing salt water fishing into their special world, and showering the venerable
old ally and parental figure with hospitality and comfort.
Two hundred paces to his right, the provincial magistrate and seven Corean
officials arrived and boarded a Corean craft which would take them to the reception
awaiting them aboard the Ticonderoga. The prefect stared for a moment at the lone
Westerner along the beach, in his strange western garb his hair combed and free of a
topknot, and nodded to Tubert. The American envoy had expressed gratitude for the
treatment accorded to the white ward of Chaoshien, and had requested the Soldier
Brother’s presence in Chemulpo for the treaty signing.
Tubert saw a rowboat make for him from the ship and heard a Marine band play
martial music as the Coreans ahead of him boarded the foreign vessel and were es-
corted by Robert Shufeldt into the officers’ mess.
“Mister Tubert?” Queried a petty officer in the rowboat.
“I’m Tubert, sailor.”
“Commander Jewell sends us, sir! We’re to take you aboard.”
Minutes later, Tubert scaled the side ladder, the feel of the ship beneath his feet felt
familiar but intimidating. The deck was immaculate, and a Marine sergeant saluted
him as he came on deck. Tubert nodded, but did not return the salute.
“Welcome aboard, sir! Commander Jewell’s waitin’ for you. Follow me, please.”
Twelve men were in the well-lit mess, were being served seasoned mutton, smoked
ham, ship’s bread, potatoes and gravy, and brandy, rum and beer. Empty glasses
from a champagne toast were cleared from the table by a half dozen mess stewards.
At the head of the stationary wooden table, in the captain's chair, sat Shufeldt, his
Chinese interpreter to his left, the Corean prefect just to his right, with the Corean
official’s Chinese interpreter next to the uneasy prefect, both Chinese again visibly
upset at the entry of Tubert. Around them the seats were staggered, with each
American officer having a Corean official seated next to him.
“Timothy, over here, next to me,” said Jewell, standing, waving to him, noticing the
resentful glances the Chinese shot at Tubert. “Seems for the moment we can consider
you with the Corean party.”
“Iii-gu, Soldier Brother,” said the bearded prefect, nauseated from the sight and
scent of the barbarian food and faces, revolted at the sight of the foreign-devils
forking the chunks of smelly, grease covered meat and tasteless vegetables into their
mouths. “How much must I endure to discharge the will of Seoul? Help us to
deflect attention, for we cannot consume their slop.”
“This is history in the making,” said Shufeldt, his enthusiasm forced, busy with the
mutton, not noticing that his Corean guests were but politely picking at their food,
pretending to nibble at the bread pieces. Shufeldt was pleased to see that they were
thirstily gulping cups of rum.
‘What a subservient bastard they think they have serving us,’ thought the outwardly
smiling commodore, inwardly seething at Tubert's misplaced inappropriate
allegiance. ‘How to pull him over to our side?’
“Bit different than what I was used to when I sailed with you,” said Tubert to
Jewell, joining his old friend. He devoured the heavy food, sipping a cup of beer.
Shufeldt had Havana cigars from his private stock handed out to the red-faced,
hard-drinking Corean guests. Tubert rose from the table, his stomach heaving, and
rushed from the mess and up the stairs, just in time to heave the grease-laden
American food over the side of the ship.
“You never were much for ship’s food,” said Theodore Jewell, behind him, handing
the gasping man a cup of rum. “Ah, Timothy, it’s good to have you back. Here, sip
this, it will settle your stomach.”
“Thanks, commander,” said Tubert, breathing deeply, feeling the sensation of the
alcohol moving into his stomach. “One of the things I’ve never missed is Western
“You’ll get used to it,” said Jewell, “I want you to come back to your own kind,
Timothy. So does the commodore. You are owed however much time it takes and
so much more. Your knowledge of this land could make you a fortune in the days to
“Not if the knowledge would be used to carve Chaoshien into concession pieces
like foreign powers have done in China,” said Tubert. “This is my home, Theodore,
and these people are my own kind. I'm earning a fortune just for being here.”
“I meant what I said, Timothy,” said Jewell, seating himself, motioning to a space
next to the Westerner who had grown into a man even more abstract than the boy he
had once saved from flogging, but was unable to save from being abandoned on
these shores, so many years before. “You’re a man now. I could find a place in the
fleet for you.”
“And how is the American Asiatic Fleet? How's Lieutenant McKee?”
“Hugh was killed by a Corean spear during the charge of The Citadel, Timothy.”
“Lieutenant McKee dead?" Said Tubert, stunned, his face tautening, jaw dropping,
feeling as though the memory of an old friend and benefactor had just been plucked
from his soul.
“Killed on Kangwha. I was on the Bund at Shanghai when his flag covered coffin
went to the wharf, other boats with guards of honor, the crowd and cortege with his
shipmates and with representatives from every European country. Men-of-war from
all foreign warships in Shanghai sailed down the harbor to the old Pacific Mail
Steamship Company's Line. His body now rests back in Kentucky. McNamara and
I think Hayden are still out here with the fleet. You'll see them when the treaty is
signed. And your old friend Cooky is still cooking dishes for admirals and diplomats
from Yokohama port.”
The immense Westerner missed the look of hatred flash in the eyes of Coreanized
former shipmate at the mere mention of the perverted and abusive Navy cook.
“I'll have incense burned. I will have McKee mourned. Be good to see Hayden and
“We’re down to six ships, though we’ve never been more than eight,” said the
lieutenant commander. “The flag ship is usually a modern cruiser, but most of the
other ships are past their prime. You’ll be seeing the Palos and the Monocacy
“The Monocacy? You mean that damned old condemned river steamer is still with
the fleet?” Laughed Tubert, his stomach hurting.
“It is. Now we’ve added the small, obsolete Omaha, a converted tugboat. Timothy,
Japan’s fleet could blow us out of the water,” Jewell said, gravely, relieved to see
some spark of interest in the man. “McNamara and Hayden and a few of the other
old hands are still out here, but most of the Kangwha troops you knew have gone
home. We still have a rear admiral. Patrolling an area stretching from Ceylon to the
Bering Sea, with consuls and missionaries everywhere crying for ships, tends to keep
our admiral miserable. You know, Low and Admiral Rogers wouldn’t allow a party
to fight its way back into Kangwha Island to find you, and that has haunted me until
now. I’m so sorry, Timothy.”
“Don’t be,” said Tubert, sorting his feelings, thinking hard. “You and McKee were
the only one’s who ever tried to befriend me. You know, I had no future in the fleet,
but neither on the streets of Shanghai. I’ve found my place here. Jes-u. Destiny.”
“What destiny, man?” Said Jewell quickly, appalled that the grown Tubert had gone
even more bamboo than as a boy. “This will be no different from China, after the
opening. There’ll be a few years of them tolerating the presence of Westerners, then
they’ll try to drive us out and our canon will grind them into submission for another
handful of years until the cycle erupts again. Flogging us with the right hand,
embracing us with the left. It’ll be a life of straddling guns and upheavals and
hypocrisy in a no-man’s land between East and West. You’ve got the blood of a
white man, Timothy. You never can truly fit with these people.”
“Funny thing about blood, Mister Jewell. It is indistinguishable among races,” said
Tubert, quietly. “I’ve shed enough, both my own and that of others, to know. And
belonging is an internal thing, lives inside each of us. Has to do with the heart, with a
man’s soul, and it comes from challenges met, experiences shared, life lived. The
crossing of thought and spirit. You used to call it culture. Works for me.”
“Perhaps. What do you got in that damned pouch? You wear it even when you
dress in Western clothing.”
“Oh, this? I got it some years ago, from a Japanese,” said Tubert, opening the flap.
“It has money, and dried squid, my spoon, and twenty rounds of ammunition, should
I get attacked.”
“Attacked by whom, Timothy?”
“Japanese,” said Tubert, breathing deeply, easily, the nausea gone. “They’ve been
less than pleased about my presence here. Or hungtse, Manchurian bandits. I’d like
to go ashore now. They're drunk and I’m not needed downstairs, and I don’t feel
easy about being on a ship of the line. Tell you what, commander; tomorrow night is
the reception ashorea by the Corean side. The next night, before you sail from
Pusan, I want you to be my guest ashore.”
“We’re quarantined to the ship when we’re not in talks ashore, Timothy.”
“You’re in Chaoshien, Mister Jewell. What’s said and what’s done are anywhere
from two to ten different things.”
“Be my pleasure,” said Jewell, rising, waving at a crew of American sailors
standing by. “Take this man ashore.”
T’ang and his sampan arrived the next morning with news from Chemulpo.
“Great amounts of logs and building supplies now surround your hut at Chemulpo,”
said the Chinese sampan skipper. “The hunters guard the hut and a growing heap of
goods, and supervise crews of coolies leveling the grounds.There is much curiosity
ofrom passerbys and much to the alarm and displeasure of Madam Ahn, who for
years dreamed of one day developing the fallow land. Pak, in his Corean gibberish,
indicated that you have arranged to obtain the land. What an irascible savage that
hunter is; he does not like you being out of his sight. And rumors are flying in
Chemulpo. They say that Chaoshien will soon open to the West.”
“It will. These Americans will soon leave, and you’ll sail me up the coast,” said the
Soldier Brother. “Then I’ll have that land. As soon as the settlement is built, I’m
buying a junk. If you wish, you’ll captain it for a salary plus commission. Give this
old decrepit wood heap to your nephews or sell it. Take care not to let any Japanese
or Coreans board your vessel, for by now they’ve figured out we have a working
arrangement. Smugglers are bolder down here, even in the harbor. Now take me
back to shore. The Corean side is hosting today’s reception for the Americans.”
“Thank you, Soldier Brother.”
The following day, final discussions ended with fourteen provisions tentatively
agreed upon for the eventual treaty. Tubert quietly advised Jewell that they would
cruise Pusan Harbor aboard a Chinaman’s vessel that evening. At Five O'clock,
Jewell came over the side of the Ticonderoga to the sampan.
There were Corean women divers, who only recently cladthemselves in skimpy
cotton clothing, returning to the surface of the sea along Yongdo Island as Tubert
had the Chinese skipper sail eastward along the harbor. The near nude women
disappeared below the sea, resurfacing with fresh mussels and clams, which were
then either sliced and served raw to visitors, or were transported for sale in the
markets of the city. Japanese fishing people in tiny craft moved through the waters
nearby, bartering for the freshly caught seafood with hand signals and a few words of
The Corean women, bobbing in the waters, loudly protested the approaching
sampan, until Tubert called to them that he wished to purchase some of their catch.
In two minutes, they were off, moving again eastward.
“Timothy,” said the American officer, sampling a raw seafood snack with Tubert.
“I need to ask you, where do your loyalties lay? With Chaoshien, or with your own
“I repay a debt I owe to this kingdom for not killing me, and for a charmed
existence, after your great ships and great country left me here for dead,” said
Tubert, candidly. “With whom do you think my loyalties should lay?”
The giant American officer grew silent, profound sadness and guilt lining his face.
“I understand, but I may be the only Westerner who ever will. You know, my
young brother was killed by the goddamed Comanches at home, in Texas, before I
met you? Killed by a pack of savages, just like these,” said the powerful naval
officer, his voice trailing. “What you owe me is the chance to make up for not being
able to save you from what happened to you. Penance for me, in a way. When push
comes to shove, and it will, Timothy, I’ll be here for you,” said Jewell, declining
another raw mussel, watching T’ang and his crew devour the raw seafood and the
cha barley water as they skirted the coastline. On shore, a particularly high mountain
named Changsan loomed.
“Thank you, Mister Jewell. But no one owes me a thing. See that mountain?”
“I see it. An impressive mountain. Is the entire country filled with mountains?”
“Much of it, and that's a small one. It is named Changsan. Fires are lit at sunset,
the day’s report flashed from a beacon to other mountaintop sites all the way to
Seoul to update the Corean king on the state of Chaoshien,” said Tubert. “Five lines
radiate out from, and back to Seoul. The basic codes are one for peace, two for
anything suspicious, three for possible threat, four to tell of extreme peril. Five
signals for military invasion. So one always knows what the royal family is being
told. The system is seven-hundred years old. And Chaoshien’s royal family at all
times has their pulse on the state of the kingdom.”
The wizened old Chinaman tacked the sails, expertly capturing the evening breeze
that propelled the sampan along the pretty coast hundreds of yards from the
shoreline, beating eastward, towards hotsprings that bubbled from the ground near
the long, magnificent half crescent white sand beach of Haeundae. At dusk, they
anchored one hundred yards from the shore. Tubert called to a small Corean fishing
boat that rowed him, Jewell and the Chinese captain to the shore lapped by gentle
A few hundred feet inland, among a path lined by one-story inns and rice-wine
houses, hot springs bubbled gently from the rocks. Tubert led the apprehensive
foreign giant and the nervous Chinese into an alley with eateries, entering the
courtyard of the largest restaurant and inn complex that surrounded the hot springs,
where a middle-aged Corean woman approached them, kowtowing. She evidently
“Bowls of rice, and bulgo-gi steak strips,” said Tubert, the broiled soy sauce
marinated steak strips that were palatable to non-Coreans. “Plenty of fried mandoo.
And hot soup. Do you have eel and shark steaks?”
“Assuredly, Soldier Brother,” said the proprietess, noticing the freshly healed
wound on the edge of the barbarian’s scalp that had never been there before. “Of the
freshest, finest quality! We’ve not seen you in three years.”
“The blind girl is still here?”
“Yes, the sightless one with healing hands is still with us, and many of the others.
Would you like her now?”
“My friends need relaxation. We’ll soak in the hot springs. Then a massage,
followed by food in your small pavilion, and lots of cold Japanese beer.”
“And the honorable hunter?”
“He stays in the Chemulpo, but sends you his best regards.”
The woman in the white baggy skirt and blouse led them through a passageway of
tiny rooms that formed a circle around a twenty-five foot wide hot spring, the water
bubbling and steaming in the cool of that idyllic early spring evening.
“Strip,” said Tubert, in English to Theodore Jewell, and in Mandarin to T’ang,
removing his clothing, placing his revolver close to the edge of the pool.
“Er, I don’t think so, Timothy,” said Jewell, spotting the Corean woman leading
three young Corean females, one being led by the hand, towards them. “I mean, I
bathe twice a month, and...”
“Not for cleanliness, Theodore,” said Tubert, cocking his head, his eyebrows
arching in amusement. “For health, and for pleasure. Later, we’ll feast.”
“No, no, old brother,” said Tubert, taking the hand of a slender Corean female
dressed in a white cotton robe and entering the tepid waters. In Asia, many of the
blind masseuses wandered city streets at night, calling out their services. Some of
them were thieves and not blind. “These girls won’t steal from us. Get in the
“For God’s sake, Tubert,” said Jewell. He was nude, as the delicately featured,
nubile, smiling and sightless young female touched his right triceps, gasping at his
great height and physique, pulling him into the waters.
“Just relax, commander,” said Tubert. “Communicating is done by touch. Not
They sank two feet into the steaming waters.
“We’re barbarians,” Tubert called to the Corean girls. “So don’t scrape our skin
hard, or my friends will think you’re trying to kill them.”
Later, each female took a man to one of the tiny rooms just fifteen feet from the
pool, drawing the door closed to each room. On the heated floor was a fresh, clean
blanket-mattress. Quietly, the pretty Corean girl changed from the soaking robe into
a scanty dry white cotton robe, Jewell was entranced by her graceful movements and
nearly hairless, perfectly proportioned body. She motioned to Jewell to lay on his
stomach on the floor, and was again astounded that his six feet seven inch frame
required him to stretch cross-cornered.
“I’m sorry,” he began to say, “but this room is...”
Smiling, her teeth beautiful, her features clean cut, she knelt quickly, touched her
finger her finger to his lips, shaking her head and holding a finger to her pursed lips
for him to be silent as her right hand began to knead the back of his neck. For more
than an hour, the tips of her fingers slid sensuously over his entire body, searching,
finding old hurts and strains, her expert hands and fingers suddenly and knowingly
turning into incredible powerful vises upon sites of forgotten old pains, pinching,
rubbing, caressing, kneading, causing his joints to creak. Then she turned him over
on his back, working on his scalp, forehead, cheeks, jaw, neck, shoulders and arms,
using her entire body to enhance the pressures. Theodore Jewell, for the first time,
closed his eyes in the presence of an Asian and allowed himself to moan with
pleasure. The girl moved down to his heels, soles, and toes, and ankles, then worked
the largest muscles in his thighs, not resisting his occasional caress. Finally, her
hands were on his chest, exploring muscles he never knew he had, and as she worked
downward to his stomach and beyond, she murmured, smiling appreciatively, about
his immense size. Later, when he had dressed, she accompanied the madam who led
him just beyond the periphery of the rooms circling the springs to a wooden platform
eight feet in diameter where Tubert already sat, cross-legged Corean-style, as food
“I have never experienced anything like that in my life,” said the officer appre-
ciatively, sliding next to Tubert and the amused Chinese sampan skipper.
The stunning blind girl rendered a report.
“She says you are as large as the mountains, and that you must have been moving
mountains, for your shoulders, arms and back have known knots and great strains,”
“I’m a sailor,” replied the commander, touched by the note of concern and
familiarity and in the remarkable girl’s voice. It was the first time an Asian had ever
touched him, other than a handshake, the first time he had ever intimately touched an
Asian. Suddenly, overcome by this simple, blind young woman’s beauty, magic and
charisma, he desperately wished this special person could see. “Tell her, years ago, I
had to work very hard. I was wounded as a boy at Gettysburg.”
The girl listened.
“She promises to again take all tenseness out of you any time you return.”
The girl and the madam bowed, then turned and walked back towards the hot
“Magnificent creature,” said Jewell, turning, trying to sit cross-legged like Tubert
and the Chinese. “So this is what kept you in Corea so long? You got a female
hidden away? I mean, you had the run of this land for years. No wonder you never
“Chaoshien has many charms,” said Tubert, smiling, his mind returning to the
kisaeng waiting for him in Seoul. Did he want her as something rather than
someone? “But I have no interest in any of these females. There’s another. She’s up
north. Waiting for me. And I had nothing to escape from, Mister Jewell. Tell me
what you think of these steak strips.”
“Delicious!” Remarked their guest, taking a spoonful of rice to go with the meat,
the chopsticks awkward. With the intoxicating physical presence of the blind girl,
the officer fought the sweetness of being immersed in and seduced by this heathen
culture, struggling to remind himself of the superiority of Western race, culture and
civilization. Jewell speared another piece of bulgo-gi marinated steak strips. “Now
tell me, Timothy; are you still dumping potatoes on superiors that displease you?”
Both men laughed at the memory of the day Jewell had approached Tubert. The
laughs were deep and full. T’ang paused from eating, glancing at the chattering,
laughing, feng-qua. Then the Soldier Brother explained to the old Chinese the cause
of their laughter, and the old Chinaman joined them.
“T’ang says I have no superiors, but I am still very volatile and prone to violent
They returned to the meal, sipping cups of cold Japanese beer, enjoying the night
view of the harbor, the lights along the shore, the signal fires on top of the mountain.
Later, they boarded T’ang’s sampan and sailed back towards the Ticonderoga, the
lanterns of hundreds of fishing boats, and thousands of lights ashore enhanced the
harbor’s beauty that unforgettable spring night.
“I’ll say this once, and never again. The Chinese tried to kill you and the Coreans
put an arrow through your leg. I still think you should leave them. Let the
commodore line you up with the western trading companies that will be clamoring to
get in here,” said Jewell, making one final attempt to ease his guilt as he prepared to
climb aboard the American vessel. “The prefect told Shufeldt that you are free to
sail back with us, if you so please.”
Tubert’s eyes narrowed. He masked the look of alarm.
“I was born to walk in two cultures,” said Tubert, thoughtfully. “Leaving here is
not part of my jes-u, my destiny. One of my dreams, when I can one day afford it, is
to make a pilgrimage to Mount Paektu, the volcanic mountain that is the spiritual and
mythical home of these people, to venture ever further into the very soul of
Chaoshien, but never out, Theodore. I can’t afford to leave now. I’ll have my own
place built at Chemulpo, you’ll see it when you arrive there. The land was given to
me by the kingdom for helping them meet you.”
“Always marching to your own canon blasts, which only you can hear, eh,
shipmate?” Shrugged Jewell, almost envying the younger man next to him. And
pitying him. With surprising agility, the heavy-set naval officer scaled the side
ladder up to the deck. “I’ll be stopping by Chemulpo frequently from now on to drop
off and pick up coordinating documents. Don’t spit into the wind, Timothy. See you
in weeks to come!
* * * *
The barbarian and the hunter made their way towards Kyongbok Palace, the Palace
of Shining Happiness, to request an audience with Pae Sung Ip and obtain the
document sealing Tubert’s right to the ground at Chemulpo. At the south end of the
palace area stood the main gate, the Kwanghwa-mun, the Gate of Transformation by
Light, in front of which was a broad avenue lined on either side with the various
government department buildings leading up from Chongno.
Two large stone haetae, chiseled stone creatures that guarded the palace against
fire, stood before the Gate of Transformation by Light. It was said the mythical
animals were remarkable beings, similar to deer, wild oxen and mystic sheep.
Coreans compared them to lions with one horn. The haetae were supposedly able to
tell right from wrong, destroy evil they met and devour fire.
“Let’s hope those stone lions are vigilant today,” murmured Tubert. He had
returned three days earlier to Chemulpo to find Madam Ahn enormously agitated at
the construction materials strewn about the hut and shed. He decided the second day
that it was unwise to wait for Seoul to deliver the document ceding the ground near
her ramshackle eatery and inn and brothel rooms, lest the upset madam attempt
mischief. “I have a feeling we’re going to need the haetae’s benevolent powers.”
“Seeking ground here in the south, near the intrigue-infested court was a stupid
move,” said Pak, detesting this city of southern decadence and power, swearing to
himself that his newly born son in the north would never bear the injustices of his
generation. “The Chinese say the haetae are also a symbol of justice. Those of us
from the remote north, and far southern provinces, know better than to seek justice
from the rotten pack of scheming liars here in Seoul. Much better had you sought
land up along the border.”
“Stop singing about justice,” remarked the foreign brother, turning onto the great
avenue leading from the gate, wishing that Pak would have stayed in Chemulpo to
help deal with the posang that were already beginning to trickle into the area where
he was building his home and trading station. But until the treaty was signed and the
Westerners arrived, it was wise to appear to be still escorted in Corean cities. “True
justice would have our heads on a stake before Kwanghwa-mun for gun-running.
All I want is the ground promised to me.”
“Oh, I know what you want,” replied Pak, resentful, not privy to precisely what was
said and done between this wild young brother and his countrymen in Pusan.
“You’re so blind, so stubborn, in many ways. Wait until you see what you get.”
The wide street was lined with the kingdom’s seven main government departments,
known as the Yukcho-ap. They walked on the eastern side of the avenue, towards the
civil departments. On the opposite side of the thoroughfare was the Yijo, the
personnel department, the Hojo, the Finance and Census Office, and their
destination, the Yejo, the Department of Diplomacy and Education where they had
met with Pae and the other Corean officials. Not far distant was the Euijungbu, or
State Department, Pyungjo, War Department, the Hyungjo, Chaoshien’s law
department and Kongjo, Department of Public Works.
Four frowning guards headed by a scowling sergeant whose expression actually
resembled those of the thick-featured stone haetae, blocked the entrance to the Yejo
“I am the Soldier Brother and I have performed a service for the kingdom. Please
inform the honorable Pae Sung Ip that I have returned from Pusan,” he bid the
guards. The sergeant, at five-feet five-inches tall and weighing a stout one hundred
and sixty pounds, disappeared into the building, returning within three minutes to
inform the cheeky barbarian that there was no such man within the building.
“Don’t play with me, or I’m going to make a lot of trouble,” said Tubert, his temper
slipping. “What do you mean no such man is here? Just weeks ago, I accepted an
assignment from him in this very building.”
“I know nothing of it,” said the guard, following the orders of the eunuch inside.
“No one knows of this. And no one cares.”
“I’ve just traveled two thousand li for this kingdom, and I’ll be happy to fight my
way past you and seek him myself. Find him!”
The Corean sergeant stared at the tall, angry kojeng-ii, and the glowering hunter
clutching a long-bladed hunting lance next to him. He stared at the outline of the
deadly modern revolver in the pouch at the barbarian’s side, and longed to order his
guards to swing their fighting axes and end the agitation.
‘We don’t get paid enough to put up with this,’ thought the Corean soldier. ‘We
haven’t been paid for months, in fact, and our families find sand in the rice sacks of
food rations we’re issued. This loud-mouthed, wide-eyed foreign monkey looks like
a beggar, but surely the eunuch is squeezing plenty from him. By Tangun’s balls,
I’m going to get my share!’
“Stay here, you running foreign dog,” snapped the haetae man, vanishing again into
the complex. Minutes later, he was back.
“This man Pae was relieved of all duties and has returned to his home, north of the
Imjin River. However, your return, oddly enough, is anticipated and tomorrow the
eunuch will be here to receive you at noon.”
“That displeases me, you illegitimate, stone-faced son of a dog” said Tubert. “And
mind your manners, or I’ll feed you feet first back into your mother’s womb! I may
have my foreign brothers turn their great canon once again on the shores of a land
that cannot keep promises.”
“Be damned to your cow-faced, offal-breathed barbarian brothers!” blustered the
portly sergeant, stammering nervously. The four guards with war axes fidgeted,
awaiting an order to lunge at Tubert and the hunter. “Another word, and I’ll send
you to the dog heaven of your mongrel ancestors!”
“An official, you say? I’ll be here for breakfast, and I expect your fat, seedless
paper shuffling eunuch to not only to provide it, but to be here,” said Tubert, nodding
to Pak, turning his back from the confrontation as if dismissing them and walking
back to the street. “Tell him he’d best have the paper to my land and that I arise
Pak walked next to him, his shoulders slumped.
“Men without honor, all of them! Do you really have such influence with the
“Of course not,” chuckled Tubert. “I’m rolling dung uphill, that’s all. Might as
well make the best of it and enjoy today and tonight in Seoul.”
“Enjoy this city of southern connivers? We’re not welcome here. They hate the
people of the north, almost as much as they hate you. Let’s get out of those gates,
and sleep overnight in the countryside.”
“I’m not sleeping under a tree or on open hillsides anymore, got it? No more
leftover handouts from provincial kitchens. I’ve got a place for us to stay. Found it
the night before I left for Pusan.”
“Amazing the things you find, especially without me,” observed the hunter
cynically, shaking his head, following the man into the newly built Itaewon Town
where Japanese were thriving. Tubert knocked on the gate of a modest Corean home
near the top of a hill.
“Tell me,” said the hunter, coolly, scanning the path behind them. “When you
found this place, were you also followed by that Yejo sergeant? We have company
behind us. The haetae faced sergeant and two whispering Japanese have been
shadowing us since we entered this district.”
“Doesn’t surprise me,” replied Tubert. “Don’t worry, we’re behind a solid gate and
a stone-mortar wall. Easily defended, brother. Wait until you see this place.”
An old Corean female servant opened the gate and invited the foreigner to enter.
“Well, don’t just stand there, older brother. I’ve all but bought this place. Come
The hunter’s jaw dropped. His eyes bulged. A woman in brilliantly colored
flowing robes only worn by high-class whores strode sensuously from the cozy,
tiled-roof home to Tubert’s side.
“This is Chrysanthemum,” said Tubert, sensing the immediate distrust and dislike
between Pak and the elegant kisaeng. She stiffly bowed before them, her face
anything but pleased with the hide-clad northern lout this naive Westerner called
older brother. “From now on, when I’m in Seoul, I shall be staying with her.”
“Is that so?” Said the hunter, lamely, controlling his voice, struggling to keep from
cursing the woman who instinctively glared at him, knowing that the crusty north-
erner with the glistening lance was a formidable, dangerous rival for influence over
this foreign, spend-thrift fool.
This will never do, Pak’s mind screamed. A young brother simply does not link
with a female without an elder’s approval. Especially, thought Pak, with this lethal,
“Welcome to my home, hunter,” said the girl, her eyes unconsciously fixated on the
sensuous, phallic-like, two inch thick shaft tipped with a slender, razor-sharp metal
blade. It was quite likely that this uncouth hunter, who smelled as an unwashed
animal, had almost certainly heard the talk of men in rice shops and, perhaps, the
wag of Madam Ahn’s loose tongue! How many animals, and humans, had that spear
penetrated? “This stranger came to me seeking assistance. I have made him
“That’s obvious,” said the hunter, his voice flat, wondering how much gold this
scheming, deadly wench had fleeced from the Soldier Brother. Everyone in
Chemulpo, from coolies and butchers to tax-collectors, knew of this female man-
eater who had torn the wealth of a well-to-do old Corean from the man’s family, then
mounted and killed him with the intensity of her unquenchable lust, passion, and
greed. With the pending arrival of the unwelcome barbarians and the enormous
funds pouring into Chemulpo instead of the northern village, and now with Soldier
Brother’s interest in a sophisticated tart so much more clever than him, Pak knew
they had lost their adopted foreigner. But much more than him would be lost, for the
northern families had saved little of their profits from following this foreign devil.
‘I’ve left him wife-less too long,’ Pak thought wretchedly. He knew that by winter,
the hunters and their families could well be back to the starvation level. All because
of this young brother’s biological urges. Had he stupidly lost the chance to find him
a wife and, in the process, at last bring this hot-blooded devil-brother under control
through a proper wife?
‘But who’d marry him? He didn't come to us until he was beyond the normal age
of marriage. No, this is not my fault, but what behavior is this?’ The hunter inwardly
asked himself, disgusted at the apparently comfortable arrangement between younger
brother and the painted harlot before him. ‘The old mandate, that bittersweet cover
for our operations and prosperity, is gone because he wanted his freedom! Now the
corrupt court plays with him. They’ll never live up to their promise. Has he brought
me here to show me his penchant for dallying with this venomous plaything of the
virtueless wealthy and powerful? Iii-gu,’ thought Pak, in despair, allowing himself
to be led by them into the sitting room that late spring afternoon, ‘We’re lost. Now
there’s nothing. The world is ending, and look where he brings me! Who else would
bed him but a low-caste woman? But why must he fall for a deadly one?’
“I’ve known only sleepless nights since you left!” Exclaimed the girl, her voice
tinny, her concern gallingly false to the hunter. But not, he noted with a frown, to
the happily smiling Soldier Brother, whose eyes were already disrobing her. “How
could you leave me alone this long?”
“We’ll make up for that shortly. Think you could feed us first?”
The stunning kisaeng shouted imperiously, ordering the servant to have bowls of
noodles and condiments sent to the cottage from a nearby eatery. With great show,
she ordered the scrambling old woman to prepare rice, roasted fish and broiled
taegee-gogi, marinated pork strips, as she brought a tray of barley tea, cups and cut
fruit, and poured tea. She ordered that the panting, scurrying servant begin filling the
huge wooden tub under a pavilion between the rear of the building and the encircling
wall, with hot water.
She didn’t even have the decency to keep shut the painted hole below her powdered
nose, thought the inwardly seething hunter. Pak’s conscience churned, envisioning
Tubert under the same lashing voice, bleeding and henpecked from it. Not for a
moment did it occur to the tall northerner that he had largely escaped a similar fate
with his northern village wife a decade earlier. Indeed, the birth of son a few years
earlier had not been enough to lure him back to her.
“Can I order rice wine?” She asked the both of them, her sweetness suddenly
returning. “Or perhaps cold Japanese beer?”
“I don’t want any,” said Pak tiredly, eyeing the forty-foot radius of the fenced com-
pound, noting that the two thick wooden doors to the seven foot high wall were
immediately visible from the sitting room. The followers, he noted uneasily,
scanning the alley outside, the Corean haetae man as well as the two short Japanese,
were no longer in sight. “Perhaps I can rest on this sitting room floor? For tonight, I
must sleep lightly.”
He saw the kisaeng and his infatuated younger brother exchange delighted glances.
“Yes, honorable hunter,” said the girl, virtually springing to her feet. “It will be
more than an hour before the meal is served. I’ll get you a pillow and blankets. By
all means, Honorable Elder Brother, rest your travel weary body! I'll be awake.” As
soon had Pak’s head touched the pillow, Tubert and the girl lowered their voices to
hushed, laughing whispers. Pak forced himself into disgusted slumber, blotting out
the silk rustle as Tubert began pawing at the receptive female. Minutes later, from
her bedroom next to the sitting room, he heard the younger brother’s grunts, and her
soft gasps, and irritably turned in his sleep.
Sometime later, he heard water splashing. Through the side door of the room, he
saw the old servant pour a pail of steaming hot water into the Japanese style water
tub, in which lay Tubert, the exotic naked kisaeng astride him in the water, her
slender hands massaging his broad, well-muscled neck.
“You come back to Seoul on adventure, but with no money,” cooed the
magnificently proportioned tart. “How can I afford you, Soldier Brother?”
“Mmm,” Pak heard Tubert murmur contentedly. “Your hands are magic,
‘Iii-gu!’ The hunter violently wrenched his position back to facing the bedroom,
turning from the couple rutting in the open like ponies. Behind him, he heard pants
and loudly splashing water. ‘Have they no shame? They’re on round two, and we
haven’t even had a meal yet.’
The meal was quiet and sumptuous, served at sunset expertly by the prostitute and
her servant. Tubert was dressed in trim new Western trousers and a white shirt with
a brown leather vest and the curious leather pouch. The girl sat between them,
giving superficial attention to ensure the hunter had plenty of side-dishes within
reach, but her real attention was doting on her soup-slurping foreigner, whom Pak
noted, she watched like a swooping hawk eyeing a rabbit.
They belched with satisfaction as the two women cleared the room of the meal. A
lantern was brought to the sitting room, another to the young woman’s bedroom.
“Ah,” sighed Tubert, reclining on the sitting room floor. “We’ve never had it so
“We’re not safe here,” said the hunter, nodding towards the gate, “Someone is out
“Were those who followed us still visible?”
“No,” said Pak. “But someone is out there. I sense it.”
“So do I,” said Tubert, his voice lowering, turning serious. “Until we get closer to
the treaty signing, I won’t be safe anywhere. I’m sure the land has been set aside for
me, that the royal couple will not risk the integrity and good faith of the coming
treaty by knowingly allowing me to be robbed. Japan will continue to dominate
Pusan, so the main treaty port for Westerners will be Chemulpo, and the ground I
have asked for will soon be worth a fortune. Would Pae cheat me?”
“No, not Pae,” said the hunter, lowering his voice as the smiling kisaeng outside
walked towards the room. “Even though he’s a southerner, his code is of honor,
which is why he cannot stand Seoul. Yet it could be that someone is trying to grab
the ground set aside for you Everyone is suspect, Madam Ahn, even the Japanese,
or,” said Pak, pointedly, “this ill-mannered, painted harlot of yours. But I think it is
As darkness fell and the lights of the city came to life around them, Chrysan-
themum produced pots of rice wine, and took a stringed kayagum from the corner,
elegantly seating herself next to her bedroom door, and for more than an hour,
strummed and sang a medley of both classical Corean music and the rich, lusty
pansori songs of commoners that subtly poked fun at authority. Grudgingly, the
seated hunter began to slap his thighs as the girl began an ancient, ribald song
popular with the lower class, and the old serving woman appeared from her shanty in
the darkness, grinning, clapping her hands. The Corean hunter even began singing
with the kisaeng. Suddenly, swept away with the power and humor of the song, Pak
jumped to his feet and began a dance that ridiculed the attempts of a scheming tax
collector to seduce an innocent young commoner daughter, and strip villagers of
their belongings when the seduction failed. The four of them were lost in the
rhapsody of the song, clapping, laughing, singing until Pak, sweating and beaming,
sank the floor to the applause of his Soldier Brother and the two females.
“Ah,” Pak said, louder than needed, his chest heaving, his smile belying his
abhorrent hatred of the diabolically gifted kisaeng, his eyes thoroughly scanning the
fence perimeter for signs of movement, satisfied that the noisy merrymaking would
have convinced any listener beyond that the people in this house were totally off
guard. “We dance as we plunge to oblivion, then starvation, then death. An
excellent evening, young miss! But the morning comes early, and we should rest.”
Soon the courtyard lantern was extinguished, followed almost immediately by the
light in the servant’s tiny room. Pak blew out the light in the sitting room, intent on
using the darkness. Next to him, the bright lantern remained lit in the
Chrysanthemum’s bedroom, illuminating the paper-latticed sliding doors facing both
the sitting room and the front gate. The hunter heard a loud moan from the room,
and soon pieces of clothing were bouncing off of the paper-covered doors. How
shameless! Now the shadow silhouette of the nude woman, writhing sensuously atop
the panting man within, danced against the paper, her uninhibited movements, gasps
and moans of ecstasy growing in pitch, then subsiding into stillness and quiet, then
rising once more.
“Round three,” whispered the Corean hunter to himself, shaking his head. “They’re
like human rabbits!” Again there was movement in the room next to him, and an
exaggerated shadow outline of Tubert’s physique, thrusting downward with piston-
like strokes, danced for minutes against the illuminated white paper of the door,
accompanied once again by escalating moans and gasps.
Just when the hunter was about to tap against the lighted door, he heard a sound at
the wall. Pak’s head snapped instantly, peering into the darkness, searching, all
senses focused. He detected movement within the courtyard, which paused at the
gate as the hellcat’s cries within the room were reaching fever pitch. Now the
intruder saw the hunter’s head move, and instantly flattened himself against the dark
gate, totally motionless. Just at the height of the Soldier Brother and the kisaeng’s
passions, Pak leaped to his feet, hurling his lance in one smooth move into the dark-
ness, followed by a loud heavy thud against the wooden gate and the noises of
The door was pulled back, and a perspiring Tubert looked out.
“How’d I do, brother?” He panted.
“How the hell would I know?” Shouted the hunter, walking from the room
towards the twitching form pinioned to the gate. “Do you think I was timing you?”
“I mean, as bait,” said the barbarian, struggling into his trousers, following Pak.
Behind them, the woman was frantically wrapping a robe around her slender body
with her right hand, and holding the lantern upright with the left hand.
The great spear had caught the intruder in the jugular, neatly severing his spinal
column. Death had been instant, although the limbs continued to contract. One of
the firearms confiscated from the Kim’s rebels the previous winter lay on the ground.
The wide-eyed girl next to them held the lantern high, the sight of death
“You were a great worm,” said Pak, solemnly. “The fish you’ve caught is none
other than the haetae sergeant with a mission to assassinate you.”
* * * *
The belligerent duo appeared in the mid-morning sun before the Yejo Building.
“Please inform the official, who so kindly was to have me for the morning meal,
that I am sorry I was unable to be here earlier,” said the white foreigner to the surly,
uneasy guards. “But I return with an object he’ll wish to present to Chaoshien’s king
and queen. I bid the honorable eunuch to come and receive it.”
Soon Yi the eunuch emerged from the entrance of the building.
“Iii-gu, the reports of your services in Pusan are glowing,” said the bald, obese
man-thing, bowing low on the avenue just outside of the building. “So good to see
you safely return. Alas, that young man Pae proved inept. We had to fire him, you
see. But, as promised, the village that has borne you as a burden is free of you, just
as you are now a free man.”
Two solemn intimidating guards placed themselves on either side of Pak and
“Such freedom will but strengthen the bonds between me and my brothers,
eunuch,” remarked Tubert, lowly. “And the deed to the land that was promised me
for my efforts to the south?”
“So sad, Soldier Brother! The morning meal was excellent,” said the eunuch,
evasively, suddenly sweating, wondering how these two remained alive, wishing his
breakfast plans to poison this mongrel upstart and his disloyal northerner had
worked. “And land? Oh, that. I haven’t seen a deed for such land. That’s another
“Were you the official who told the sergeant yesterday to have me return here this
“Yes, it was I,” said the eunuch, watching the armed Westerner loosen the straps to
his bulging shoulder pouch. “People make appointments to see...” His voice faltered
as the severed head of the guard sergeant fell from the straw woven bag the foreigner
carried, It landed with a dull thump and rolled to the feet of the robed official. The
eunuch shrieked, leaping backward into the air. The shaken guards stepped back
smartly back from the ghastly, grotesquely smiling head of the human haetae.
“Life is full of appointments,” agreed Tubert. “Like having one’s neck detached
from one’s head. You were at the meeting where Pae agreed to give me the plot I
asked for at Chemulpo. I want the document giving me my land.”
“That thieving scamp, Pae, has cheated you!” Whined the eunuch suddenly, leaping
nimbly to the stone steps of the building entrance, noting that the guards were giving
the path a wide berth, and aware that half the eyes of Seoul would be upon them in a
minute. “Of course, the document was done; Pae has slipped away with it.”
“Take that head to His Majesty, liar. Tell your king and queen that the treaty with
the foreigners shall be cancelled,” said Tubert. “This evening, a Chinese sampan
shall be enroute to Shanghai with word of this deception. Do you think I am a
peasant you can play with? I’ll have American ships bombarding the shores of this
land in a week. Hungtse, Cossacks and hunters from the north will help me sack and
burn Seoul and then,” said Tubert, “I’ll have the balls of whoever is cheating me.”
“Perhaps something can be done,” hastily stammered Yi, his heart pounding as a
dozen passerby paused ton the street o hear and observe the confrontation, a few of
them from the other departments. Death for such an attempt to reach the ears of the
royal couple, particularly those of Her Majesty. Had she not already politically
ousted the taiwongun, the fearsome regent, from the throne, and inserted her
pleasant, weak-willed husband, Kojong, at the helm, at a cost of many heads? Even
now, her fanatical, pro-Western Min Clan were consolidating their holds on
government offices, scrutinizing dedicated officials, especially the royal eunuchs.
Bad news would be fatal, the obese eunuch quickly told himself, and it is much
better to let a lucrative treaty port property slip from one’s hands than to have one’s
own head roll
“You there, pick that up and take it inside!” Yi called to the cowering guards,
gesturing at the severed head that in death even more closely resembled the faces of
the nearby stone Haitai. How to contain the damage this brash, hot-headed foreign
devil had already caused? Had I not but seized the opportunity that any other court
official would have, with intent to keep the land himself? Yi asked himself. What
other reward for government service could there be?
Sometimes survival is reward.
For a second, Yi imagined cold steel along the nape of his short, fat neck, saw his
own head on the street at the order of the strong-willed queen, especially when that
straight-laced Pae would testify that Yi had caused the apolitical official to be
removed from his project officer duties, under Pae’s protest, just so that the eunuch
could get his hands on the document for this raving foreigner’s strategically located
and soon to be valuable land.
What foul jes-u brought Westerners to Chaoshien, accompanied by this raging
head-hunter before him? Damn this opening to foreigners! Already, the established
order was disintegrating.
“Please, let’s get off the street. Quickly!”
Inside, out of earshot of other Yejo officials, the perspiring eunuch attempted to
sooth the round-eyed savage.
“Wait here, hunter.”
Yi led Tubert deeper within the building.
“Ah, so much turmoil and upheaval nowadays! How detestable of Pae not to have
even mentioned the deed to your land, yet I am sure I can help but it will take some
money, preferably gold,” said the eunuch weakly, grasping for words to placate this
barbarian dog but still salvage face and above all profit, his alarm heightening at the
outline of the firearm in the pouch at the Westerner's side. Pae had painstakingly
worded the unprecedented document, arguing it through departmental layers of
bureaucratic resistance: three hundred pyong of ground, independent of all foreign
treaties, to be this hellion’s for as long as the dynasty endured. The document was
hidden in Yi’s nearby home.
The eunuch had already reviewed the drafts of the upcoming treaty. Nowhere was
there mention of this concession.
‘Even if there’d be time and the means to have an accident befall you, your
message, and such a mishap, would reach the ears of your countrymen,’ thought the
eunuch, all hope for an easy acquisition sinking. ‘You’ve trapped me, you damned,
blood-soaked barbarian. But you need me.’
“Five gold coins for my document today,” said Tubert, reaching into the pouch
giving the creature before him the coins and maneuvering space, aware that greasing
certain palms was inevitable. “But I’ll spend tomorrow either on my land, or else
screaming in protest to the royal couple, and calling for foreign gunboats.”
“Understood, Soldier Brother! The Chinese tell us that even the salt marsh ground
within proximity to Chemulpo’s shores will soon be worth a fortune. Please, calm
yourself. You will need a friend, a secret friend, working for your interests here at
court, foreigner. Make that ten coins, please.”
“Six. I am a reasonable man, willing to buy influence, to pay squeeze,” said Tubert,
his voice low, knowing that the eunuch clerks and advisors of Chaoshien were
among the most influential people in the entire country and the friends of no one.
They were generally taken from poor families, had no formal education, and many
were illiterate. Their all-consuming passion was the accumulation of wealth.
Supposedly sexless, passionless people like Yi were royal tomb and temple overseers
and paper shufflers. Some were in charge of the conduct of the palace ladies.
“I am your devoted servant,” said the rotund eunuch with a half kowtow, feeling the
stress ebbing, his pulse returning to normal, accepting the coins from the grim
ruthless savage before him. “Promoter of your interests, protector of your secrets.”
“So you are,” said the round-eyed predator before him, not trusting the creature.
“But only as long as it pleases me. You’re on my payroll, eunuch, with bonuses for
special work. I’ll want to see you, hear from you, at least every two weeks. Now get
The foreign affairs eunuch miraculously produced the new scroll for him within
half an hour after accepting the coins.
“And the dead sergeant?” Tubert had asked. ‘There may be some embarrassing
“Ah, to be reported as a mishap,” assured the eunuch. “There’ll be no questions.
No complications. Your gift covers that.” Yi had already spread the rumor that the
sergeant had secretly been a member of one of the anti-Western faction who had, on
his own, plotted and nearly succeeded in destroying this white pawn who so naively
helped the kingdom to manipulate the ghost-faced Westerners in Pusan. Oh yes, this
foreign Soldier Brother would be dead had not he, Yi the eunuch, prevented the
treacherous assassin at the last minute from driving a lance into the barbarian’s heart!
Tubert gave the parchment to the hunter and sent the grumbling northerner back to
“You’re still bait!” Cried the hunter, spitting. “A goat tethered to a stake. That
kisaeng is a tigress who cares nothing for you, but hunts only for wealth, consuming
those who create and earn it and who are foolish enough to become vulnerable to
“She’s a diversion only, brother,” said Tubert, recognizing his companion’s
worries, and the truth behind Pak’s words. Then his eyes beamed mirth. “Tooth and
claw, hunter! Just being near her is exciting! Now rush back to my ground and make
sure the mortar to the settlement walls is gathered.”
Shaking his head, muttering, the hunter turned and began his long walk back to the
Tubert turned and headed over the hills towards the kisaeng’s home. She told him
that five men had knocked on the gate early that afternoon and had removed the
headless body of the assassin. The servant woman was busy splashing buckets of
water on the gate and stone walkway to the entrance to wash away the blood. Then,
sensing the Malaria stirring, he rested for some hours in the quiet of her bedroom,
declining her offer of a hot bath and sex, and sank into a deep, restful sleep. He
awakened early that evening to the aroma of broiled fish and the smell of aromatic
boiling soup. The young woman called to him and he joined her at the meal table in
the sitting room floor, somewhat refreshed, both of them momentarily keeping their
passions in check.
“Sorry about the killing,” said Tubert, relishing the hot meat and vegetable soup, its
surface red from spicy condiments. “I would not willingly expose you to danger.”
“Death is so intoxicating,” she said, her voice strangely thick. “Especially for those
who need killing. Almost as intoxicating as fornication. Did your meeting go well?”
“Fabulously well. Yes. Very satisfactory.”
“And you will soon have your trading settlement next to Madam Ahn’s estab-
“Yes, as soon as the rest of my hunters get here. I don’t think it can be completed
before the monsoons.”
“Shall I move to your settlement with you?”
Tubert appeared to give careful thought to the question. There was no way he
would allow this venomous plaything that close to him. Not yet, and probably never.
And he had seen the man sized Japanese sandals next to the porch.
“It is a place of business,” he said, parrying the probe. “For now, we’ll keep our
arrangement here in Seoul.”
“That and perhaps your stamina and wealth, are what...” There was a loud knock on
“Foreigner! Foreigner!” Said a loud shrill nasal voice that Tubert instantly
recognized as belonging to the eunuch. “Soldier Brother, are you there?”
He arose, slipped on his boots, and pistol in hand began walking to the gate.
“Who is it?” Whispered the wide-eyed woman with alarm, darting from the sitting
room into the bedroom behind him, fearful of more violence.
Tubert unbolted the wooden gate and pointing the pistol ahead swung one door
In the darkness, the eunuch shrieked at the sight of the weapon pinted at him.
“No, I mean no harm! One of the queen’s own nephews, Lord Min Yong Ik,
wishes to meet you this night. The Mins are pro-Western. Unthinkable to refuse.”
“A member of the royal family wishes to see me?”
“Quickly, Soldier Brother. He dines within the hour downtown in the Alley of
Blood at Chongno. He extends an invitation to dine with him. From him, it’s a
Suspecting treachery, Tubert nonetheless dressed quickly and followed the fat,
panting unuch through the streets and over narrow paths from Yongsan. Tubert kept
one hand on the handle of the pistol at his side, not sure if this sly opportunist might
have assassins lurking in the darkness along the trails. Guards at the great South
Gate opened the massive wooden doors at the eunuch’s bidding, staring icily as the
tall Westerner slipped into downtown Seoul. In less than twenty minutes of hurried
walking they were in a maze of tiny back streets. Before them rose a huge, walled,
one story square-shaped complex with a sign on the open gate that proclaimed “Bone
soup cooked for one week!”
Within the torch-lit complex were lantern lit rooms. Three steps made of stone and
mortar allowed access to the larger open public rooms filled with commoners and
Corean government workers either off-duty or taking a meal away from the offices.
Other rooms, private and apart, contained politically ruined aristocrats who were in
the process of forgetting their misfortunes. On three sides, the open rooms were
crowded with low level and mid level government officials discussing everything
from the day’s events and the prospects of a good rice harvest to the distasteful
prospect of barbarians arriving. The eastern facing section of this eatery had
kitchens where cooks scurried preparing meals.
“Over there,” grunted the heavily perspiring eunuch, pointing to a spacious room
with two watchful palace bodyguards before it. “This restaurant now caters to those
with the Min faction. They’re very smart, very dangerous. Hated by the taiwongun,
the old regent whose daughter-in-law has cast from power. Whatever you do, don’t
At a corner inside was a bearded solitary figure seated behind a large knee-high
table, dressed in a dashing uniform of a European military officer. Min Yong Ik rose
upon seeing the towering Westerner being led across the open court by the eunuch,
his unique stride from the old arrow wound almost giving the foreigner the
appearance of half hobbling, half running while he walked. The nobleman’s hair
was cut short, Western style, unheard of in Corea, where yangban aristocrats wore
horsehair hats, officials like Min wore hats with eaves showing rank, priding
themselves that no commoner had ever seen their topknots. Min wore a neatly
trimmed mustache. He stood five-feet and seven inches in height, tall for a
southerner. He had been a favorite of his royal aunt since childhood.
“Well done, eunuch!” Min called, approaching in the wide-open entranceway to
“Welcome, Gunin-Orabee! I learned you were in Seoul, and it’s time we meet.
Please, come in and dine with me.” Royal armed guards, alert and ready, quickly
took Tubert’s revolver, then stood aside and allowed the stranger to approach the
“Thank you, sir,” said Tubert, kowtowing, feeling ice form in his veins. “I am
unworthy of this honor.” He bent over to remove his boots.
“No, no,” said the special advisor to the royal couple, and whose primary task was
now to ensure that Westerners and, most importantly their technologies, arrived in
Chaoshien. Why, this creature has the instincts of a diplomat thought Min, pleased
with the man’s kowtow. Every eye in the restaurant watched as the forceful,
revolutionary leader of the Mins stood and strongly shook the barbarian’s hand.
“Leave your boots on, as is the custom in the West. Come in, come in! I am Min
Yong Ik, advisor to the throne on matters concerning the West,” said the royal family
member, seating himself once again at the table, pointing to a space opposite to him
for Tubert to sit. He stared for a moment at the mutilated ears of the outsider. “And I
want you to be my advisor. Tell me, does my uniform look pleasing to Western
Outside, the bodyguards again closed ranks, pointedly preventing the eunuch from
joining the two men in the room.
“Very impressive, sir,” said Tubert, carefully. “But the buttons should be on the
front of thy trousers. Not the rear.”
“Eh? Barbarians even have buttons for passing water? I’ll have that inattentive
tailor make new trousers tomorrow, though it’s my opinion that it will ruin the
appearance. I’m told you received the document for your land today. We are so
fortunate to have you as our own Westerner. But I would ask a favor, Soldier
“You have only to ask, lord,” said Tubert, overwhelmed at the thought of sitting
with the one of the most politically powerful and possibly treacherous nobleman in
“Can I practice on you? I mean, looking at a Western face and talking to a
barbarian. I really must prepare. And you speak our language like one of us.”
“I am more Corean than Westerner, sang nim. But you shall have my best efforts
“Excellent, foreigner!” Said the aristocrat, vastly pleased, watching the waitresses
place the bowls of soup, rice, side dishes and eating utensils on the table. One of his
body guards closely observed the food preparation, for the enemies of the Min Clan
were numerous, including the old regent, and death by poisoning was an old art. The
guard carefully sampled each dish.
Years before, Min had traveled to the banks of the Han River to view the headless
corpses of the French priests who had died by order of the taiwongun. Min found
himself more relaxed with this outsider than he had expected to be, but even with
pending treaties, it was a bold move to so openly flaunt contamination with a
foreigner. “In return, there will be no tariffs on any business you conduct at
Chemulpo. No taxes on your property.”
“I cannot express my gratitude, lord.”
Amazing how Corean and Western bodies were nearly indistinguishable without
heads, and in the coldness of death, recalled Min. And how pleased his royal gomo,
his aunt, Queen Min, would be, since it was absolutely vital to monitor this
foreigner’s interests, and cultivate possible future services, keeping him in the
Corean camp. Also vital to ensure that he in no way implied to the coming
foreigners that he had been mistreated in anyway by the dynasty.
As if we don’t have enough adversaries, thought the Corean lord. How difficult it
was to have that old warhorse, General O, the commander at Kanghwa Island who
had suffered three hundred and fifty deaths in the clash that had stranded this unique
devil, to at last be relieved of active duty and exiled to the southern provinces! It had
been accomplished against the protests of the fiercely anti-Western taiwongun, both
O and the regent still adamantly insisted the Kangwha bloodbath had been a
spectacular Corean victory and refused to see today’s political and military realities.
And the masses venerated the old regent. Little wonder the masses of Coreans were
opposed to the Western treaties.
“I hope you visit me not less than every two weeks. Any time you wish, for that
matter, when you come to Seoul. And should you be in need of any favors, don’t
hesitate to contact me,” said Min, restraining laughter as Tubert pulled a spoon from
the pouch and rinsed it in a water dish. In the far north, Corean subjects carried their
own spoon with them everywhere, insisting that irreversible health problems could
stem from another person using the spoon while deflecting the uncertainty of where
and how the next meal might be coming from. “How is the soup?”
It was yukeejang, with strips steak swimming in a broth of ground hot peppers and
vegetable and consumed with a bowl of rice.
“Flawless, Lord Min. Far better than the quickly prepared, resentfully served foods
of the provincial kitchens I knew for many years,” said Tubert, conversationally,
watching the eunuch standing beyond the guards in the room, chafing at not being
able to eavesdrop on the conversation.
The remark caused the royal host to laugh.
“I can well imagine! Ah, Soldier Brother, you return our investment in you a dozen
fold,” said the queen’s relative brightly. He followed the barbarian's gaze, and was
certain that the eunuch had already tapped into this foreigner’s purse. All well and
good, for he survived, like others, by squeeze, although Yi’s true politics and
unclear, unproven loyalty neutralized the eunuch. Min’s stern expression faded and
he took a gulp of the milky, bitter sweet mocoli ricewine of the lower classes.
They dined unhurriedly. There were marinated and broiled beef ribs with many
bowls of white rice and a wide assortment of vegetable, seaweed and side dishes first
tasted by a guard.
“Would you like to be a guest tonight in a royal suite?”
“So sorry, but I am expected elsewhere.”
“Eh?” The noblemen’s eyebrows arched, and he smiled broadly. What self-
respecting Corean woman would take up with this coarse, racially inferior creature?
What female would be pulling the invisible strings to this uncivilized human tool?
“Do you have a bed-warmer?”
“Just a diversion,” said Tubert, finishing the meal, shaking his head happily,
missing the sudden hardness in the eyes of his host. “No onr of consequence.”
“I see,” said Min, chuckling, making a note to himself to have whoever the female
was investigated. He rose to his feet, the foreigner joining him. “Tell me, do you
have a mount to ride to Chemulpo tomorrow?”
“Not yet, sir,” said Tubert, as the nobleman walked from the steps, the body guards
placing them in front of the Corean. “I need to build a home, godown storages and
“Eunuch! Have a mount ready for our esteemed Soldier Brother before your
department building by breakfast,” called the Corean lord, motioning to his guards to
leave the eatery. “A gift.”
* * * *
The bull-necked Japanese dropped the gold coin into T’ang’s hand.
“Information about the gaijin is prized,” said Mihashi, seating himself that early
afternoon before the frail Chinese on the deck of the sampan. He allowed his
interpreter to translate, then added, “You’ll find us generous.”
The Chinese craft, and the rowboat next to it, bobbed in the sea before Chemulpo’s
unattractive entrance. Barren hills rose in the rear of the town before the salt flats, a
world of dead brown sand, mud and black granite rock. Except for the growing
Japanese settlement, there was little contrast in the port at the mouth of the Han
River enclosed by islands. Corean, Chinese and Japanese sailing craft lay on the
flats where the tide had temporarily stranded them. Anchored in the deeper waters
around them were a few small Japanese coastal steamers, waiting for the seventeen
feet of flow which the returning tide would bring. Ashore, rows of stolid, seemingly
immoving Coreans squatted, all dressed in baggy quilted cotton trousers and long
dingy white cotton coats. Almost without exception, the idlers had long-stemmed
yellow tobacco pipes, hands thrust deep into opposite sleeves. Most of their heads
were topped off by a jaunty topknot, close-braided and turned, the size of a man’s
“I don’t know exactly who the strange Coreans are who are now meeting secretly
with the foreign devil,” said T’ang. “They are anti-government, called Tonghaks,
and they want guns from him. And the foreigner has previously dealt in firearms.
But he’s having nothing to do with them.”
They had returned bone-tired from Pusan only days before, and the Soldier Brother
had rushed to Seoul and obtained the document which ceded the ground to him for as
long as Yi Chaoshien stood. Too late to meet this Japanese pirate beforehand, and
allow him to contact Japan’s officials and attempt to block such a concession, which
had vexed this dangerous Japanese dressed as a stevedore. But no more dangerous,
thought the Chinese sampan skipper, than if the cold-blooded feng-qua learned of his
secret new relationship with this sea savage.
“Hai! He’s been running firearms for many years. The court wouldn't even admit
his presence, let alone take any action against him. It is useful to know of any ties he
has with anti-government factions, horse thief. But what I seek is information to trap
and kill him with. Spiritually, politically, financially and, one day, physically.”
“The vile hunter, who dominates his every move, was adamant that he meet with
this handful of men today, but then the hunter and the barbarian quarreled. The feng-
qua was nervous about actually constructing his settlement until he had a paper in his
hand from Seoul, even though mountains of construction supplies ringed the shanty
he operates out of, and a geomancer had already determined the directions of angles,
and completed the needed charts. I am to transport these secretive, unhappy visitors
back to a remote beach two hours up the coast as soon as the tide comes in, and
remain at anchor until morning. They could be survivors of last winter’s revolt.”
“Bakka! I don’t pay for reheated information, trader,” said Mihashi. The old pig-
tailed and toothless Chinaman had briefed the stevedore about Tubert-san’s weapons
delivery that winter, and of his role in finessing the ominous meeting between the
Yankees and the dynasty’s representatives in Pusan.
A thousand cases of plague to the foul treaty with honorless foreigners!
And yet, the kingdom had all too willingly accepted the papers the devils had
pressured Japanese officials to deliver to the Corean officials, who now steadfastly
refused to disclose any details of negotiations, and refused to take Japanese advice.
Just as, months earlier, they turned blind eyes and deaf ears to the information that
their barbarian snake, who swaggered with the hide of dear older brother at his side,
had supplied the arms for the rebellion, profiting immensely.
“It won’t be easy for him to build. I have informed port residents that no long-
nosed gai-jin belongs in Chemulpo, and that anyone helping him to construct his
compound shall be labeled as unfriendly by me.”
“That might slow the work,” replied T’ang, aware that this laborer in rough cloth
was more than he appeared. “But the foreigner has gold. He speaks their language,
and Mandarin and Cantonese. Worse still, he has his own force of those ghastly,
blood-happy northern goblins! Any day, several more are to arrive permanently.
Then there’ll be no stopping him, even though the hunters clamor to deal in guns for
insurgents, and he forbids it. I tell you, pirate, his hunters are the most courageous,
and most stupid, of men. As savage as the beasts they slaughter.”
“The Japanese say three people are within each person; the person everyone knows,
the person only you know, and a person no one knows,” said the Japanese, inwardly
hating the sniveling garlic eaters who had entered into the treaty with the middle
kingdom that had unleashed the stream of Chinese merchants and thieves that this
crinkled old stalk was also a part of. Surely such a crack in the bonds between the
round-eyed beast and his illiterate, lice-ridden northerners could be found?
Hai, Hai! Would not detection of a meeting with Corean subversives by dynasty
officials destroy the hide bearer and wearer of unfortunate elder brother’s hide?
“You say you are to transport the insurgents back up the coast tonight?”
“Yes, Mihashi-san. With the tiger hunters aboard as escorts to watch me, or the
tonghaks. I’m not certain which”
“That will leave the barbarian fiend vulnerable, neh? Take your time returning to
“No choice, Mihashi-san. We won’t return until morning.”
“That’s very good, and very safe. Very fortunate, captain, for night shall bring
misfortune to those in place on that cursed plot of ground. But, should a twist of fate
allow that over-sized foreign murderer to live to see the dawn, thereafter, you will
secretly urge the gai-jing’s frustrated northerners to divert weapons to the
underground peasant movement. Help me trap and destroy that hell-sent demon and
your reward shall increase ten fold.”
* * * *
“We will never again sell hundreds of weapons to topple this kingdom,” Tubert
voice rose hotly over Pak and the handful of would-be insurgents. “Only individual
weapons to people who want a gun for hunting, or self defense, and only when our
posang take such an order. No guns for revolts, and no opium.”
“We must sell guns to the Tonghak,” insisted Pak, in low, determined tones.
“Don’t you see the misery in the lives of our people? The Tonghak are their only
hope. Please look inwardly. Reposition, and reassess your newly developed sense of
allegiance to Yi Chaoshien.”
“The kingdom is the only future for this settlement,” said Tubert, adamantly,
sweating in the humidity and the afternoon exertion, aware of the great void
suddenly separating them. He was shaken; had they learned of the weapons
Who else knew? And, far worse, it was not for any quest of profits that the hunter
had led this group of terrorists onto the plot of land. The timing of the tonghaks visit
to this ground was unspeakably dangerous.
“They are not the only hope for Chaoshien; the West is soon coming, and it will
bring thoughts and influences that will do away with the corruption and oppression
of this government. Get them out of this area. Fast.”
“How would you know the West will bring hope?” Demanded the hunter
indignantly. “Last winter you had no hesitation about running guns to Sergeant Kim
and his people.”
“We had nothing to lose last winter. We didn’t have eyes from the throne itself
watching me directly,” snapped Tubert, the loyalty to the hunters that comprised his
family, and the need to protect his interests, their interests, clashing with truth of the
hunter’s words and tearing at him. Even the small crate with six hunting rifles,
brought back by T’ang and hidden in the side shed, would end their trading post
before it was even built if the customs or other government officials came and
searched the area. “They're full of hocus pocus, without the slightest vision or
direction of how to improve and rule Chaoshien! We could lose all we’re gaining if
even their visit here becomes known. I want them out of here! Take the hunters on
T’ang’s sampan and escort them back up the coast. Quickly.”
“This is not over,” said Pak angrily, turning his back on the man he no longer knew,
and stalking back to the handful of Coreans waiting thirty paces behind him.
Minutes later, Pak and most of the hunters and the Tonghaks began boarding a boat
and were rowed to T’ang’s sampan.
The hunter chafed as he and the escorts accompanied the fledgling insurgents, the
Followers of the Sect of Eastern Learning, founded partially on a mutated form of
Western Christianity, up the West coast to a secluded cove. Pak was pleased at how
widespread the religious and politically menacing the cult’s intents were. They
were, outwardly, anti-foreign.
“More time is needed to obtain arms,” Pak later told the leader. “The foreign devil
refuses to sell weapons to you, but I rule him. If you can one day tell me precisely
how you will change our land for the better, I shall siphon off weapons as they arrive
in the future and fully support the movement. You could be Chaoshien’s only hope.”
On shore, Tubert watched with relief as the boats rowed the insurgents to the
‘A paradox,’ he thought, troubled. He lit a lantern on the porch, and tiredly sat at
the edge of the small wooden platform. Another lantern was on in the shed, and he
heard the sound of young Kwan Il inventorying the hides, roots and other goods
brought to the hut by five posang peddlers that afternoon.
‘Impossible to prop up this decadent, inwardly collapsing dynasty, while prospering
by feeding its collapse,’ he mused, reassured by the sight of a single hunter standing
sentry duty next to a torch before the small building surrounded by logs, bricks, roof
tiles and other construction materials. ‘Yet, for a chance at a decent life, no choice
but to be pro Yi Chaoshien, for this settlement’s life-strings are connected to the
Tubert sat quietly before the entrance to the shack watching the sun set, his
remaining gold bars still buried in the earth within the side shed. With a sigh, he
eased the pouch from his shoulder and set it aside. It contained the document with
the government seal that ceded this plot of ground to him, and his descendants, for
perpetuity. Sixty yards from the porch of the mud wattle hut that would soon be
razed for the settlement’s construction was the walled, torch lit wine shop with small
rooms in the rear of it. Shouts and ribald laughter wafted from it, with the sounds of
a poorly played string instrument.
‘After all the cold, the hurts, the homelessness, I have this,’ he thought, removing
his boots, massaging the scars on his scalp and his leg wound, then rubbing the tip
of his right foot where his toes were missing. As darkness fell, he knew the sampan
with the hunters and the insurgents had arrived at the secluded spot along the coast
and would have to spend the night anchored off the cove. The sampan would return
with the morning’s first flood tide. He smiled at the thought of how his northerners
hated the sea.
No choice, and the price of decisions is very high. Yes, the dynasty deserved to be
overthrown, but he knew no forces in existence could accomplish that, and that his
survival and the prosperity of those nearest to him was now tied to the continuance
of Yi Chaoshien.
Was the price worth the growing hostility and chasm it was causing with Pak and
the hunters? What of the misery the dynasty allows to be visited upon the Corean
people? All true, but there is as much to love in this land that I know, and call home,
as there is suffering.
Tubert sighed and in the last dim rays of light, scanned the leveled ground around
him, fighting feelings of helplessness, fate and disbelief.
‘No choice if I’m to have a real life, and, soon, my own place. When wisdom and
the future is beyond the grasp of a man, what else but to trust jes-u? And I’ll bribe
dragons, negotiate with demons, to have it. But never again will we put weapons in
the hands of those seeking to topple the dynasty. If I could but slow events, and
control more of them. Will all this be worth the split with the only people who have
been family to me?’ For long minutes, he tried to picture himself strolling along a
Chemulpo Bund, but was troubled by the image of wearing a top hat and tailed suit
instead of the rough clothes of a vagabond traveler. More troubling was the woman
at his arm. The woman was definitely not the kisaeng, nor was it a perfumed white
woman like some of the taipans of Shanghai squired about. He shook himself from
his reverie, called to Magnificent Crane that he was going to rest, and entered the
room and drifted to sleep.
An hour before dawn, there was a heavy thump and a gasp and more thumps. He
shook himself awake and drew the sliding door open in time to see a hunter sentry
sink forward, an arrow buried in his chest. A volley of arrows was falling around the
perimeter of the small tiled roof hut. Grasping his firearm, in seconds Tubert was
racing across the open ground to the hunter, seeing dark blood gush from the dying
man’s mouth, knowing it was there was no way to save him. Perhaps two hundred
paces from them, towards the town, a dozen figures were scurrying towards them.
“Halt, smugglers, by order of the customs service!” Cried a voice in Corean.
Tubert fired a round into the darkness, momentarily stopping the advancing
Young Kwan Il rushed from the shed.
“What is the noise, uncle?”
“Quick, turn the shed lantern off!” Called Tubert, darting barefooted towards the
porch, snuffing out the porch lantern. “The box with the firearms! Get it!” He
whispered in the darkness, hearing the hushed voices. “We can’t let them find
He attempted to fire again, but the trigger dangled without resistance against his
“Oh, hell!” He cried with exasperation, thrusting the weapon into the pouch with
the all-important property document. In all the years he had carried the revolver, he
had never once fired, or performed maintenance, on the weapon. Tubert bent over
and took the dead hunter's knife from the body, then spun around to the shed.
“Start dragging that crate of rifles to the sea,” he told young Kwan Il. He began
frantically digging a five-inch trench in the ground with a knife. “Hurry! I’ll be
right behind you!” Then Tubert quickly buried the pouch in the ground, rising
breathlessly. The footsteps and voices drew again closer.
“No time to waste!” He heard a Japanese voice cry in gutter Corean. “You were
happy for my bribe to get you to do your duty. Now get that gai-jin!”
Tubert removed the short bow and a quiver of iron arrows from the dead hunter's
body, and rushed in the direction of the mud flats, within one minute catching up to
the panting young hunter dragging the seventy pound crate.
“We need only reach the incoming sea water to elude them,” he said, gasping for
breath, and grabbing a hemp rope handle at the front of the crate, helping the young
Corean pick up their pace. Less than two hundred paces behind them, a customs
agent was lighting torches before the shack. The light illuminated a dozen men and
one Japanese who quickly spotted the trail created by the dragged weapons crate.
As the Corean customs officials deliberated on what to do next, the Japanese
quickly set fire to the hut and the shed.
“Cho-gee!” Cried the customs agent, snatching the torch from the Japanese,
pointing in their direction. “Over there! I hear movement.”
Tubert turned and tethered an iron shaft, his heart pounding. He forced himself to
slowly count to three and focus. He released the arrow at the oncoming torch.
The torch-bearer had not taken ten steps when the shaft tore through the Corean’s
stomach with a slurping sound and imbedded itself in the hip of the customs officer
immediately behind him. Both men were writhing on the ground, wailing in shock
“Advance!” Cried the fanatical Japanese, brandishing his sword. “Do your job!
Don’t stop now!”
But no one would go near the torch.
Tubert and his young assistant entered the salty mudflats of Flying Fish Channel.
Both Tubert and Kwan Il slithered into the brackish mud and slime, sinking at times
in ooze nearly to their thighs, struggling to carry, pull and push the crate with the
contraband weapons towards the water line.
More arrows tore into the waters around them, but fell upon neither man. They
heard Mihashi screaming along the shore as the hesitating customs men entered the
mud flats in the darkness.
“Wait!” Gasped Tubert, turning with effort. He unleashed two more arrow ats the
sounds of the pursuers, which prompted shouts of alarm. The pursuit ground quickly
to a halt. Then the first waters of the amazing thirty-foot tide of Chemulpo began to
sweep past them, covering the holes and mudbanks.
“The waters will cover the crate, keep them from the weapons,” he told the youth
with relief, quickly sending the rest of the arrows into the night towards the
“But uncle,” said the young northerner, the surging waters already to his chest.
“The waters are also quickly covering us, and I don’t know how to swim. We’re
lost, for it is certain death to return to shore.”
In the distance, he saw the Japanese and the customs men return to the small
blazing hut. Kwan Il could not see the gaunt expression on the face of the barbarian
‘This raid was timed,’ Tubert thought. ‘Instigated by that sneaking Japanese, young
Mihashi. He surely paid them, but how'd that little bugger get enough influence to
get them to attack us?’
“Nothing’s lost,” he said to Kwan Il, throwing the bow and quiver into the rising
waters, praying that firing the hut and the side shed might delay any search that
might uncover his buried gold and paper. “Nor are we lost. Lay back, keep your
body straight. Arms out, like this. Keep a lot of air in your lungs. I want you to
He swam against the tide, pulling the terrified North Corean with him. Within
minutes, Japanese and Corean sampans and small junks were bobbing in the waters
It was dawn. Before them was a sixty-foot long Chinese junk, sails trimmed on its
three masts. It was a sleek, coastal junk, newly built.
In Chinese, Tubert called to the crew for help.
The skipper was a middle-aged, portly man named Wang.
“Ayah, a foreign fish who speaks the language of civilized people!” Exclaimed the
amiable junk owner, from Wushi, a landlocked town one-hundred miles west of
Shanghai. “Will you join me for a simple breakfast of bread and tea, foreign fish?”
“I will, captain, with my Corean compradore. And perhaps I’ll buy your boat.”
“With what, salt water? I see no money belt around your middle.”
“With gold, honorable Wang,” said Tubert, shivering, pulling the young Corean to
the deck. Gulls screeched and circled overhead. Flying Fish Channel continued to
fill with waters, as it would before the full flood tide peaked after ten o’clock.
Ashore, a handful of morning fishermen approached the charred shack from Madam
Ahn’s inn, pointing at the still remains of the slain hunter near the still smoldering
remains. The dead customs agent was nowhere to be seen.
The food lifted some of the exhaustion.
“As T'ang and the hunters return, I want you to watch who nears the hut,” Tubert
said to Kwan Il in Corean after the meal, knowing that Kwan Il hated the sea as most
Kanggye people hated the water. “Stop anyone who starts rooting around in the
He saw the smoldering remains of the hut and the shed two hundred yards from the
shoreline. The attackers had long since vanished. Within an hour, he knew, Pak and
the hunters would sail back into port on the sampan. The spectacular sunrise hurt his
bloodshot eyes and his body ached for rest as he helped himself to more tea and hot
unleavened bread from a tray beside the Chinese skipper on the deck before him.
‘Who tipped the Japanese off about our hidden weapons, and when I was most
vulnerable?’ He wondered. Not Pak, for though a chasm caused by the would-be
insurgents now separated them, the head of the northerners needed him. T’ang?
Perhaps. But what could be the payoff for the Chinese?
Certainly the eunuch was suspect, but the master manipulator could not have known
and communicated the timing. If there was no further action from Corean officials,
if Seoul denied all knowledge, it would be confirmation that the attack had not been
ordered by the central government, that Mihashi had bribed the customs people to
The sun, breeze, exhaustion and food and life reminded him that jes-u had been
‘We have hope,’ he told himself again. ‘For now. But to protect myself until the
treaty is signed, or at least until the settlement is built and secure I need this junk for
both a home and for protection.’
Tubert turned to the Chinese junk skipper.
“You came to these waters to make a profit, did you not? My deepest thanks for
the bread and hot tea. Now, please show me this boat.”
Two hours later, as T’ang’s weather beaten vessel with the disgruntled, unhappy
hunters entered the channel near the shore and Wolmi Island, Tubert and the junk
owner had agreed on a price. A rowboat from the junk intercepted the sampan and
Tubert summoned T’ang, Pak and the hunters aboard the larger craft and narrated
details of the attack.
“Until the settlement is built, this is now my home,” said Tubert, reading the uneasy
faces of the men around him. “Crane, I want you ashore now, as I ordered. I’ll be
transporting my gold and the document to this junk this afternoon and you’ll stand
guard over the ground they are buried on until then. Tonight, as the tide goes out,
fetch that crate of submerged arms and bring it here. Rent rooms for our men at
Madam Ahn’s, including those arriving in the next few days. Guard the ground with
your life. I want you to meet the posang, do the inventories, conduct the money
transactions, then bring the cash to me and brief me at the end of each day. All in the
open, until we’ve built structures. We remain open for business. We need no longer
hide in shadows, nor will we be burned out and driven into the sea again. Hadda-
“Mun, as soon as the rest of the brothers arrive from the north, four will take the
remains of our slain brother home. You will sail to Sinuiju aboard the last voyage
T’ang will make in that sampan. The fire burned my sketches of the settlement, but
I’ll make new ones this morning. The former owner of the Sea Angel and the
Chinese crew are coming ashore with us, and I shall pay them in gold. T’ang and
one of his nephews to remain aboard this junk until I return. I’ll set the corner stone
for construction to start, then return here and rest in my cabin. I want the
construction crewscoolies to begin late this morning, as planned, before the
monsoons arrive. You’re to have at least the walls and the gates constructed by
“Yes, Soldier Brother.”
“Older Brother,” said Tubert, turning to Pak. “This junk is now mine. Go to Seoul
and tell the eunuch I want his sackless pepper on this deck before noon tomorrow,
ready to handle having this junk registered as a Corean merchant vessel. Leave
“As you wish,” said the hunter, overwhelmed. “But aren’t you moving too fast?”
“I’m running out of capital. And patience,” said Tubert pointedly, his voice rising.
“If you want to feed the families in the northern village this winter, we have to move
He turned to T’ang, and knew instinctively that the sampan owner had to be
controlled, or released.
“This is now my vessel,” Tubert said coldly in Chinese. “If you want to captain it
for me, for commission, you and your crew will move aboard it by sunset tonight.
The new commerce treaty between Chaoshien and China will allow for it. If not, we
will have no further dealings with one another.”
“Accepted, Soldier Brother,” said T’ang, bowing, expressionless, avoiding the feng-
qua’s icy stare.
“Let’s go ashore,” said Tubert.
* * * *
The royal procession with the palanquin bearing Min Yong Ik came to a halt before
the foreigner’s construction site. Before them, on a square plot of ground measuring
about one hundred and fifty paces from one side to the other, the earth had been
laboriously leveled, but at an angle to permit drainage. The old smuggler’s hut and
side shed was gone, an on-site Corean blacksmith now loudly hammering glowing
metal hinges and nails into form. Three sides of an eight-foot high redbrick fence
encircled the foreigner’s settlement, a tall, scowling top-knotted, buckskin-clad
North Corean hunter with a glistening bladed tiger lance standing sentry before the
Within, the Corean nobleman saw unfinished sheds and stables and living quarters,
all tiled roofed, rising along the walls, supervised by the Soldier Brother’s northern
hunters, who combed the construction areas, frequently snarling at and kicking
malingering coolies. Inside the compound was a sprawl of cement, bricks and
lumber, and a well had been dug near the center with watering troughs, fed by a
Western hand pump, both for animals, and other troughs to wash laundry, roots and
other commodities. In one relatively clear section near the center of the post, Min
noticed the special barbarian talking to a tall young hunter with great piles of hides,
bones, cotton, bamboo, paper, furs and ginseng behind them.
Tubert spotted the procession beyond the foundations of his settlement’s gate, and
strode, but did not run, to greet the member of the royal family. The ranking official
noticed the ever-present hide pouch flapping at the side of the approaching Yankee.
‘The violent foreigner with the powerful physique walks with assurance over the
ground, as though it is his. It is, of course,’ Min thought, although the land for this
foreigner would not be in the provisions of any treaty.
Tientsin negotiations had been tedious. The Corean commissioners in Tientsin
rarely saw Shufeldt, the affair being conducted through subordinates of the Chinese
viceroy whose object was clearly to make an American treaty for the benefit of
China. The obstacle constantly thrown in the way was the suzerainty of China over
Chaoshien, a point that China had previously disavowed whenever Chaoshien came
into collision with other powers. After six months, a draft based on the kingdom’s
independence was made. The Corean commissioners returned to Seoul.
‘How the Chinese objected to his presence in Pusan, and his existence here. We're
going to need people who know the Chinese, and do not fear them, in the times
ahead. As long as he is a friend to the throne, this ground is his,’ thought the
nobleman. ‘I see no evidence of weapons such as those we know he supplied to the
rebels. Nor do I want to. Will this privileged, untouchable devil attempt to smuggle
opium? Or gold? Hey, hey! I would. The foreign outsiders are lining up in China
and Japan, tripping over themselves to rush here as soon as the treaty papers are
signed. Iii-gu, what have we let ourselves in for?’
“On-yong-hasha-meeka, Lord Min!” Called Tubert, with more enthusiasm than
respect in his voice as he walked past the gate’s foundation. Behind him, coolies and
hunters, and now the sentry, lay prostrate on the ground. At ten paces, the Soldier-
Brother bowed curtly.
“Welcome to my settlement!”
“Just inspecting the site where the treaty will be signed, and thought I would stop
by,” said the nobleman in the modern European military dress uniform, slightly
dismayed that the barbarian failed to notice that his Western clothing had been
modified. Yet so refreshing to not have to use formal language to address this en-
gaging foreign scamp whose motives were simple and see through.
Effortless, but beware, the Corean told himself. Do not be lulled into total trust. Is
this not the devil who can summon the carnivores to do his bidding? Men had
interrogated one of the sergeants who had survived Tubert’s infamous forced march
to Pusan. The soldier had wept at the horrid recollection, confirming that a beast had
entered their campsite at the bidding of the barbarian, carrying off the officer who
had earlier ordered the foreigner beaten and disciplined.
‘What has hell sent to us, in this man?’ Wondered the nobleman, nodding and
smiling to the tall barbarian.
“All goes well, I see.” Min cleared his throat and walked forward, despite warning
from his bodyguard lieutenant, his hand outstretched as, Soldier Brother assured him
was the way of the foreigners’ greetings. A shock hit him and, for an instant, the
nobleman paused. The barbarian was drenched with sweat from mixing and hauling
buckets of cement, laboring manually, taunting the coolies to match his efforts.
Breathlessly, Min realized that Tubert had been working like a coolie!
The huge wooden gate with two great wooden doors was fortress-like, with a
platform above it where sentries would stand guard, the façade of brick and wood
extending the sixteen-foot high defense wall four and one half feet above the
platform where sentries would walk. Within the compound, next to the left wall,
were five gowdowns, each forty feet long, thirty feet wide with tiled roofs with bins
inside containing shelves where goods would be sold from. Before the storages
stood a leveraged Western-made scale, and on a table, a smaller scale that allowed
gold nuggets, ginseng and other commodities to be weighed. Across the field to the
right, what appeared to be a tiled roofed Western style home at the far end of more
buildings appeared to be the Soldier Brother’s home. Four other huge buildings,
three of them ground floor storages with shelved bins, and one next to the dwelling
with a wooden porch and waxed paper floor with heat ducts and windows, would
house the hunters serving at the settlement. Between the hunter’s quarters and the
barbarian’s dwelling, a deep well had been dug, with a huge water trough to water
horses pulling carts.
So unpredictable, these foreigners, but their ways and their technologies, with
smiles from the gods, could destroy the prediction that the five hundred year-old
dynasty was due to end. Would the entry of the West counter, or exacerbate, the
ancient prophecy, the cure even worse than the malady?
“Iii-gu, Soldier Brother, you really need to take care of yourself, but keep your
crews and hunters busy, for your countrymen will be here in a matter of days for the
treaty signing. I think you’ll need some slaves.”
“Pak already got us a slave woman to cook,” said Tubert. As a matter of
convenience rather than status, and to Madam Ahn’s extreme chagrin, Tubert had
agreed to the purchase of a healthy young Kyonggi Province country girl to cook for
all of them and to maintain his rooms as well as the hunters’ quarters, so long as the
female was given her freedom within a few short weeks. He took his meals Corean
style, seated on a warm floor covered with wax paper in the hunters quarters until his
personal quarters, with a safe room for cash and other valuables in the rear behind
the bedroom, was completed. “Only need one. And she’s soon no longer a slave,
lord. I'm buying her freedom.”
“I wonder, would you accompany me to Wolmi Island? Roasted eels. Some rice
“I can, Lord Min,” said Tubert, wiping perspiration from his brow, sensing that the
nobleman wanted to talk. Tubert had seen Kwan Il scurry into the house and prayed
that Magnificent Crane had concealed the four hunting rifles in the house’s safe
room. “But why don’t you join me here for refreshments?” He added, his face and
blue eyes studying the Corean official. “Please honor me with a chance to show you
around. Besides, I want to tell you of my plans for the day of the treaty signing.”
“Eh?” Replied Min, delighted at the unexpected invitation to tour the exotic facility.
“But I have a procession of twenty people...”
“Kwan Il! Tell Madame Ahn to get a keg of cold beer and two serving girls over
here fast. We have guests. Tell the madam to have fresh, fat and broiled eels sent
here, and twenty-five bowls of steamed white rice. Bal-ee!”
The young North Corean assistant in front of the house half-rose, nodding, bowing,
his eyes respectfully towards the ground, and hustled from the settlement.
Tubert turned and took the queen’s favorite nephew by the elbow, noticing the
armed Corean guards flinch nervously at the barbarian’s disregard for propriety. A
Corean captain instantly took four troops into the settlement, shouting for all
weapons and work utensils to be placed against a completed portion of the wall, the
four bodyguards efficiently frisking prostrate traders, even coolies, for concealed
knives and other weapons. The captain posted one soldier before a row of bows,
knives, spears and ancient matchlocks of the surly hunters.
“Come in,” said Tubert, as the disarming ended. “The doors of my gate will be on
their hinges before sundown. Everything is being done properly, lord. A sorcerer has
been paid to bless the grounds and make recommendations about the buildings. In a
few days, I’ll have a guest room for visitors to stay in. I’m open for business
already. Hopefully, old T’ang will be back with my Sea Angel from Shanghai’s
Bund with Western canned goods, hand tools, tobacco, tin sheets and kegs of beer
before Shufeldt arrives. So much to be done. I’ll have everyone here for a
celebration just after the signing.”
Min strode beside the foreigner into the compound, waving to his palanquin bearers
and troops behind them to enter, enjoying the unorthodox but refreshing vitality of
this beguiling Westerner.
“Rise!” Called the Corean noble, in a loud voice. “All of you, return to work!”
The hunters immediately rose from the distasteful but safe positions of prostrating
themselves on the ground, roughly kicking awed coolies to their feet and back to
work. One half-dozen posang stayed cringing on the ground, terrified and
breathless, their faces turned from the royal family member, certain that
strangulation death, and the end of their families, lay just ahead at the discovery that
they already were in business arrangements with the foreigner.
The eunuch had reported registering the Chinese junk this Westerner had
purchased, and that Tubert had captained it with a Chinese. The thought made Min
suddenly uneasy: what secret ties did this Chinese-speaking devil have with the
Chinese? For the frayed, worn-out Elder-Brother Younger-Brother relationship with
the Middle Kingdom had long ago ceased serving any useful purpose for Chaoshien,
and yet the Chinese court had tried to insist that it still must exercise control of
Chaoshien’s foreign relations!
Could this foreign brother of soldiers’ junk captain be a Chinese spy?
‘So delicate for our commissioners to play the Westerners against the Manchu
usurpers of Ming China,’ Min thought to himself. ‘But we did it, if only on paper, so
far. No one knows what the true reaction of China will be to Chaoshien’s coming
treaties with Western powers. And no one knows what secret streams of Western or
Chinese loyalties flow into, and from, this coarse outsider, and especially what
communications his Chinese captain might be carrying. At least, the eunuch assures
us that the Japanese hate him, would love to destroy him.’
Even that, of only limited use, for who could trust a eunuch? And who knows what
future use this being with the mutilated ears may be in the future to my aunt and the
“Ah, then I will have the pleasure of attending a settlement party after the treaty is
“Oh yes, lord,” said Tubert, motioning the procession to make themselves relaxed
on the great wooden porch before the elevated floor of his personal quarters,
escorting the nobleman into the still unfinished log cabin with great glass windows
facing the settlement. “A banquet, with Corean and Western foods. A troupe of
acrobats and magicians. We'll wait until you depart before the pansori songs start.”
A deep, low moan sounded from the rear of Tubert’s quarters. The barbarian
smiled at the quizzical look on the Corean nobleman and led Min into what would be
his sleeping room. At the rear of the room, a special annex room with concrete floor,
reinforced with thick metal webbing, was being added. The room had open glass
windows with brass bars, shutters opened to allow air to circulate. Through a locked
cage door of eight bronze bars, each bar two inches in diameter, Lord Min saw a
black bear. The beast, nearly six feet in height, with a strip of white fur stretching
from one shoulder and across the chest to the other shoulder, snarled and snorted
even louder at the sight of the bearded Corean nobleman, wildly pawing the air,
slashing in the direction of Min with sharp, two inch talons.
“Iii-gu! What’s this?” Gasped Min, recoiling. The elusive bears of Chaoshien
expertly avoided humans, and, except for mating season, even avoided one another.
Near the northern frontier, it was not unheard of for villagers to raise a bear cub to
maturity. Bear gall was more valuable by weight than gold throughout Asia, other
parts of a bear’s anatomy almost as precious. Pak had sent three men east to the
rugged Kangwon Province to track and trap the rare beast days earlier. Tubert had
good-naturedly accepted the present, regarding it as both a practical, if inconvenient
means of securing the cash room.
“I call him Tangun,” said Tubert, referring to the creature, half-bear and founder of
the nation and the race, according to Corean myth. He filled a mug of Japanese
Kirin beer from a wooden keg on a rough table, and handed it to the nobleman.
Where had Kwan Il hidden the hunting rifles? “The bear is a gift from my hunters. I
keep it near starvation and it guards my cash there in the secure room.”
“I wouldn’t want you to be in this drafty structure by yourself,” wryly remarked
the Corean lord. “But I would think you would have something, someone, more soft
and gentle to share space with.”
“Someone soft and gentle wouldn't chew two fingers off a would-be thief's hand,
like this beast did yesterday,” laughed Tubert, pleased to reinforce the stories he
knew were circulating that he could command wild animals. Pak scoffed at the
rumors, but took inordinate glee in the animal’s presence under the same roof with
Tubert had not heard Pak’s remark to Mun when he was out of earshot.
“True, the animal is valuable. An investment, and it will chew upon any thief
stupid enough to get into the cash room. But the room is already all but robber-
proof, and our wayward foreign brother will quickly dispose of any thief who might
enter. No, the bear pleases me so vastly not as a guard for the settlement’s cash, nor
even as an investment, but as a personal joke.”
“Eh?” Replied Mun, not understanding Pak’s joy in the beast. “Just what is it you
are up to, neighbor? If you’re hoping it devours Soldier Brother in his sleep, you are
daft. He has already beaten the thing into submission. I think it likes him.”
“Maybe,” said Pak, thoughtfully. “Savages like other wild things. But I’ll tell you
neighbor; with a beast like that under the roof, there’s no danger of that gold-digging
kisaeng hussy taking up here with our increasingly reckless barbarian brother.”
The beast weighed a lean one hundred and eighty pounds, with tolerance only for
Tubert, who beat hostility from it with a cudgel mixed with a diet of meat. The
evening before, he had attached a collar and rope to Tangun and walked the thing
around the compound, retraining the nervous beast from attacking the coolie crews.
A smile formed on the lips of Lord Min, but disappeared as the queen's nephew
suddenly recalled accounts of the soldiers who had accompanied this amazing
barbarian on the forced march to Pusan. He had the power, they swore, to command
the beasts of the mountains. The Corean nobleman shuddered, but turned and
walked quickly to the outer room.
“Leave us,” Min ordered the officer of the guards in the spacious outer living room.
With reluctance, the royal officer nodded, and walked from the quarters. Outside,
bodyguards immediately posted themselves at the still door less entrance to Tubert’s
home, four holding lances at the ready and watching every move by the foreign devil
inside, visibly agitated with the proximity of the Western devil to their master. Six
other guards stiffly faced the sprawling grounds of the settlement with its human
“I’m inviting posang distributors, Shufeldt, this new minister Foote, Commander
Jewell, and as many Americans as they allow to attend, any Westerners ashore at the
time and all Coreans to the settlement after the signing,” said Tubert, in
conspiratorial tones, pulling a wooden chair from a table on the wooden portion of
the floor that would not have radiant underground Corean-style heat flukes beneath
it, motioning the royal family member to be seated. “Corean food will be catered by
Madam Ahn. Can I count on you being present, lord?”
“Nothing will prevent me from attending,” replied Min, seating himself, sipping at
the cool beer, motioning to the Soldier Brother to also be seated, aware of the face
his formal visit would lend this round-eyed outcast. Min stared at the pouch resting
against Tubert’s right side, suspended by a hide strap. “I wish it was already done
and past. By an ancient prophesy, Yi Chaoshien has but nine more years before it
reaches five hundred years of rule, and ends.”
“Change need not mean the end of the world, or a dynasty, lord.”
“Ho, I tell you, so many hopes and uncertainties. You have suffered no more
Only days before, Min Yong Ik had pointedly informed Count Inouye, the Japanese
envoy, that the barbarian, long a ward of the kingdom, enjoyed privileged status
above and apart from provisions of any foreign treaty. The minister had fumed,
cursing the white smuggler, declaring Tubert a murderer who deliberately affronted
all Japanese by flaunting the hide pouch he had fashioned from the slaughter of an
innocent trader years before. Nonsense, Min had heatedly informed the minister, the
barbarian was known for his peaceful nature, and any further attack upon his person,
or property, would be regarded as an attack on Corean sovereignty, to be met with
“No, no further attacks,” replied Tubert, waving Madame Ahn’s serving girl with a
pitcher of colder Japanese beer and two large cups into the room. He dismissed her,
then poured another beer into a cup for his guest. Yi the eunuch had already told
him this nobleman had raised the issue of the attack weeks earlier to the Japanese
minister, threatening official action if there was a repeat. All well and good, thought
Tubert, but if you ever suspect I am no longer of use to you, you could as easily have
me terminated. “But we’re always ready.”
The nobleman smiled and nodded, reaching across the rough wooden table and
grasping the pitcher, in turn poured beer into the remaining cup. Outside, another
serving girl from Madam Ahn was pouring beer from a keg, serving cups to joking,
teasing civilian members of the royal procession.
The rigid troops at the door declined beer, asking instead for barley tea.
“There’ll be no further direct attacks on this settlement,” said the queen’s nephew.
“But you have enemies in Chaoshien. Take care along paths away from this place.
Do you miss China, Soldier-Brother?”
“I despise China, lord,” said Tubert, surprised at the vehemence in his own voice.
“Nothing was ever good for me in China. China, and the Chinese, only tried to take
my life. Very harsh. Not like here.”
‘They would still much prefer you dead,’ the nobleman thought silently to himself,
very pleased. ‘How loud and bitter their translators complaints about your
appearance in Pusan, their new viceroy in Tientsin vigorously protesting your very
presence here. How absolutely splendid to have you in our camp!’
Min shifted in the cramped wooden seat, wondering how foreigners could stay for
hours in such torture racks, while normal people squatted comfortably on their
haunches for hours. Even the king occupied the throne only for ceremony. The
Corean lord's back and behind ached and he wondered how Westerners escaped
being deformed and constipated.
“Your plans are more thorough than our official plans, Soldier Brother. We can
count on thy presence at the actual signing?”
“Absolutely, lord,” replied Tubert, immensely satisfied because the hospitality,
while expensive, would provide him with immense and immediate face and
credibility vital to do business. “I will be present, but unofficially, to clarify
anything after the fact, as you, and the Honorable Shufeldt, wish. The settlement will
be open to everyone, along with Madam Ahn’s new motel and tavern in the
Foreigners’ Club across the road from my gates. Open for business, but with free
beer, wine, tea and Corean and American meals, for everyone. I ask you to stop by
and spend time with the American officers. Western sailors and businessmen will be
in the Foreigners’ Club, celebrating far into the night. My Sea Angel will take you,
the commodore and the American cooks and supplies you requested to Seoul the
same day for the royal banquet.”
“Endless thanks, Soldier Brother. Let me know if I can help with anything. I
wonder how Westerners will mix with the Japanese and the Chinese,” Said the
Corean aristocrat, squirming in the chair, accepting a refill. Min had had the
foreigner’s cheap kisaeng researched. Her danger to this broad-shouldered barbarian
stemmed from her greed, rather than any politics. It had proven impossible to gather
any political profile of the frail Chinese Tubert had selected to captain his elaborate
junk. “We’ll find out soon enough. Western traders in Nagasaki, Hong Kong and
Shanghai tumble over themselves, lining up to be the first into Chaoshien with the
treaty signing. The ancient boundaries with China have been blood-soaked for
centuries, the lines of authority further north in Manchuria, between China and
Russian, even more unclear, unsettled. Tell me, is it wise to have a Chinese captain
“Diversity is wise, lord,” said Tubert, sensing the probe, knowing that the nobleman
wished assurances of loyalty. And advice. “Wise for a farmer not to plant crops
only in one field, and not only one crop, of anything. A crafty man has meals at
more than one place. My Chinese skipper is on a leash; a capable seaman, but loyal
to me only so long as there is a chance for further gain in the future. I am not
vulnerable to the Chinese navigator.”
The royal family member sighed heavily.
“The problem is, we don’t know what to expect from the Chinese. They are very
unhappy with the treaty and America’s insistence that it recognizes Chaoshien’s
complete independence of China. A greater menace, perhaps, than the concession
hungry Western powers, marauding Cossacks, or even the Japanese. No other
Western nations clamoring for treaties are insisting on that independence clause.”
“Is it not inevitable for China to have questions about what to expect in Chaoshien,
lord?” Asked Tubert.
“Oh, they have plenty of questions, and protests” said Min. “So many that they
have appointed a viceroy of Corean affairs. By treaty, our trade with the West will be
under the customs officials of China’s Foreign Office. But historically, no one has
ever been able to predict what’s coming next in this land. There has always been so
many scenarios, each one as credible as the others. We’re a cultured, stable, ancient
people, but locked in time, with politics that have atrophied, stopped functioning
efficiently more than a century ago. We must change, and you have no idea how
much the old regent, and the Corean people, are opposed to change. My aunt knows
this, but the monarch gives it lip service. We can’t just wait idly by, not with that
He waved his hand as the tall foreigner attempted to refill the cup.
“No, Soldier Brother, I really have to be starting back to Seoul,” said Min, rising.
Body guards on the porch shouted for the palanquin bearers to make the conveyance
ready and as the nobleman emerged from the building, every Corean commoner,
hunter and coolie again dropped to the ground.
“Tell me, have you brought your female companion here from Seoul?”
“No, not yet,” said Tubert, instantly aware that the eunuch had a big mouth. Aside
from her own greed and avarice, he knew that this nobleman, and perhaps the
eunuch, could conceivably use the kisaeng to pry into his life and his trading
operations. “Certain diversions, perhaps, should remain in Seoul.”
* * * *
Aaron Buferd looked through binoculars at the dusty from the deck of the man-of-
war USS Swatara. With the scent of drying and apparently rotten fish ashore, he
imagined the clouds of flies and actually gagged at pungent, putrid smells wafting
from the town, and he wondered why any Westerner in his right senses could
possibly wish to be here.
“Don't look like much, does it?” Remarked Chief Thackett, his North Carolina
drawl filled with contempt. He had been ordered to sail with the party to Chaoshien
to prepare the Western dishes the Corean royal couple wished to have served next to
native foods at the diplomatic banquet in Seoul following the treaty signing. “Never
did. Looked like a backwater mud-hole when we fought these stinkin' garlic chewers
back in '71, and it still does. Not like Japan, and not like the Japanese.”
“Looks quiet, but that’ll change that,” said the portly American, instinctively
mistrusting and disliking the Navy cook, knowing that Jewell claimed the cook was a
pervert, and hated him. “A new, fresh beginning, like Hong Kong and Shanghai, in
the early days. At least here, the snotty Brits won’t run everything, nor the endlessly
clever Chinese, even with that Chinese man-of-war steaming next to us. Thank
heavens their new official’s presence is only ceremonial. Like the British at Hong
Kong, America has forged a treaty that mandates a hands-off policy for China in
Corea. So decent of Theodore to write to me of this job, and to arrange for my
“Japanese are gonna run this place, you wait and see,” grunted Thackett.
“Japanese're unstoppable, like down in Formosa ’n over in the Ryukus. That
damned commander ain't done ya no favors, mister. Japanese is who you should be
throw’n in with. They been buildin’ a mountain out of Corean ears back in Japan
since before Christ was born. Any white man wants a place out here, he best be
snugglin’ up with the Japanese.”
Buferd lowered the glasses and made no remark. He continued to stare at the land
mass before them.
‘A new start, by God. Three thousand dollars in the Bank of Hong Kong that I
didn’t throw away on the Aberdeen Race Track, and I can afford to accept a job
running a place for foreigners in a slow-paced Corean port. No high stakes gambling
here! No temptation. Yes, free, but not free. Not after Ted told me that a man
named Tubert asked him to find an American manager for a Corean madam.’
Next to ex-bartender of Hong Kong’s American Club, the huge American officer
and Commodore Shufeldt approached.
“Chemulpo does have an unattractive entrance, doesn’t it? Sharp from the tide line
rise those barren hills between salt flats, not very high, naked of trees, a world of
brown sand and black granite rock. Except for the growing Japanese settlement,
you'll find no contrast and little culture to this backwater port, this roundish space at
the mouth of the Han River enclosed by islands,” said Commander Jewell, Buferd’s
long-time acquaintance who had frequented Hong Kong’s American Club during
port visits to the Crown colony. The giant American accepted the glasses from
Buferd and peered at the coast.
“Most of the Western ports out here weren’t much to look at when they started,
Theodore,” said Buferd. “Shanghai was swamp. Hong Kong was just a rock, and
swamps. It’ll all change now.”
Corean, Chinese and Japanese sailing craft lay ahead on the mud flats where the
tide left them. A few small Japanese coastal steamers anchored near them at sea,
waiting for the thirty feet of flow which the returning tide would bring. Behind the
Swatara was a flotilla of twenty foreign commercial vessels, with others in ports
throughout Asian readying to steam or sail to the newly opened kingdom where gold
supposedly glistened on mountainsides.
On the other side of Jewell, Robert Shufeldt lowered another set of binoculars.
Rows of stolid natives squatted along the shore, immovable, all dressed in baggy
quilted cotton trousers and long dingy white cotton coats. Almost without exception,
the Coreans ashore had long-stemmed pipes in their mouths, the pipes crammed with
a gold-yellow tobacco, hands thrust deep into opposite sleeves. Each head was
topped off by a jaunty topknot, close-braided and turned, the size of a man’s two fin-
“You’re right about Inchon being an ugly port, Jewell,” said the commodore,
sipping from a cup of coffee and brandy served by Chief Thackett, who would
accompany the advance party to Seoul to prepare Western foods for the royal
banquet. Under the protective wing of American and Japanese diplomats and
admirals, the Navy cook had managed to remain on duty. “No military man will ever
have any use for this port.”
“Pity that Pusan’s a Japanese dominated port, but we’re lucky to get into Chaoshien
at all. At least, we’re not facing fanatics with muskets, iron arrows and spears, like
at Kangwha,” said Jewell as the man-of-war dropped anchor.
A quarter of a mile away, the new Chinese vessel, of European design, and fully the
equal of the Swatara except for the inept Chinese crew, also anchored with China’s
new representative to Chaoshien aboard. What was behind the emotionless face of
Yuan, the new Chinese high mucky-muck who was to represent China at the treaty
signing? What matter? Next month, Jewell was being assigned to command the
USS Essex to patrol the waters off Chaoshien and elsewhere to look after American
“Commodore, look over there. That’s Timothy on his Chinese junk, Sea Angel.”
“Nice piece of cork Tubert has there, Ted. The man moves fast! Welcome him if
I'm not back,” said Shufeldt, turning on the deck and heading for the latrine.
“Cooky's biscuits and gravy are world class, but they go right through me! I want I to
discuss tomorrow’s activities with our oriental Yankee. If we let the Chinese and
Coreans at us without him, every remark will take four damned hours to translate.
And the information they give us will be inaccurate.”
“Aye aye, sir,” said Jewell. He turned, grinning, to the pitifully out-of-shape
American manager next to him. “Well, Buf, get ready to meet the Westerner who
eats tiger balls, and prays to Asian war gods. What’s wrong? You look like you’ve
seen a ghost.”
“Eh? Oh, ain’t nothing, commander,” said Buferd, uneasily, fighting a surging
premonition, wondering whether the son of The Trojan captain, and perhaps this
port, was intended to be his time and place of ultimate reckoning. The Westerner
aboard the approaching junk bore a striking resemblance to his father, but taller,
Buferd noted. “Just thinkin’ how we all starts a new beginning here, on the bones of
“Morning, sailor,” called Jewell that May morning of Eighteen Eighty-Three, as the
unique white man nimbly scaled up the side of the American vessel. “I hear we sign
the treaty at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning?”
“So they say! Morning, Theodore,” laughed Tubert, swinging himself over the gun
rails on to the deck, genuinely happy to see his boyhood friend again. He was
casually dressed in baggy white Corean trousers, a white cotton shirt and a blue silk
vest, the ever present pouch suspended at his side. A Japanese tailor had hastily
sewn a formal western suit for him to wear for the treaty signing. Tubert promised
himself he would burn the constricting apparel as soon as the treaty signing was
completed. Behind Tubert, scaling the side of the ship with snail-like movements,
was a bald, obese Corean with in robes and a funny hat.
Jewell quickly introduced his onetime shipmate to the perspiring American next to
“Yes, 11 o’clock. Then it’s unofficial activities, as desired, in port as the traders
start coming in, and for sailors and marines you put on liberty. Free food and drink
for everyone at my settlement, and open house and partying at the new Foreigners’
Club, just across the street from my gate. Commodore’ll and party stay there
tomorrow night, then sail to Seoul on Sea Angel with Lord Min, the queen’s own
nephew, for the meeting with the king and queen and the evening banquet.”
“Nothing lavish, I hope. I mean, the port activities, Tubert,” said Shufeldt,
sauntering back onto the deck, beckoning to the chief cook to come forward with the
tray of cups and coffee.
“Just beer and, if you like, sake or Corean rice wine. Corean, American and
Chinese chow, as much as visitors can eat and drink, throughout the day and into
tomorrow night, at my place,” said Tubert, suddenly, visibly tensing at the sight of
his old tormentor, Chief Harvey Thackett.
“Well, if it ain't Small and Crazy, all growed up,” said Thackett, halting, noticing
the mutilated ears of the galley hand. “Deserts the fleet 'n his own kind. See you
even growed Corean ears.”
The sailor froze at Tubert’s gaze and the lightning move that had Tubert’s hand on
the hilt of a knife at his side. The hostility was instantly noted and understood by
“Seems to be a morning of reunion for old shipmates, admiral,” said the enormous
American commander, slowly, sensing the old antagonism between both men,
quickly stepping between Tubert and the fleet’s infamous chef. “Mister Tubert and
Cookie were in these waters during the Kangwha Battle.”
“Shipmates, eh?” Said Shufeldt, the enmity between both men not lost on the
ambitious officer, suddenly damning the un-wise notion suggested by diplomats of
bringing this besotted, Japanese buggering pervert whose culinary talents for
entertaining American diplomats and senior foreign military officers in Japan was all
that saved him from being drummed out of uniform. He eyed Jewell, and saw Tubert
bristling. Dammit, the last thing they needed was for this bamboo-sniffing Navy
cook to undermine the treaty efforts! “Well, I’ll be damned! Kangwha vets. You
two will have lots to celebrate.”
“Got's to do something bout them ears,” grunted the cook in the familiar, menacing
drawl that made Tubert's flesh crawl, making a cutting movement.
The tall Texan officer gestured towards the hold, and the smirking chief
“Always interesting to see a familiar face, commodore,” said Tubert, willing his
hand from the hilt of his knife. “A new world starts tomorrow. Too bad old
Thackett's face has to be in it.”
“Wasn’t our idea,” said Shufeldt coolly, noticing a Chinese member of the
mandarin's staff and a Chinese translator walking towards them, inwardly pleased
that neither they nor this Western oaf was aware that Mister Foote, resting in a cabin
below and soon to be America's first envoy, believed that there was little likelihood
of Washington living up to the grandiose treaty about to be signed. “The king of
Corea himself has asked for an American chef to arrive the night before the banquet
to prepare the Western food that’s to be served alongside the Corean and Chinese
foods. Is there something between you two? I won't have the greatest treaty with the
West in Asia botched because two Americans can't control themselves.”
“Timothy and Chief Thackett had run ins when he was a boy, sir,” explained
Jewell, quickly. “In fact, he dumped a basket of potatoes on cookie the moment he
accepted the job as a translator with the Kangwha expedition.”
“I did, didn't I?” Laughed Tubert, glancing at Jewell. “Remember that day,
“Vividly, Timothy,” said Jewell wryly. “It was a portend of the Tubert to come.”
“And you asked that our cook be at your settlement to prepare the American chow
you said you want to serve, before the advance party leaves for Seoul,” said Shufeldt.
“You can take him ashore with you now, if you can slip him past the Coreans. And
if you promise not to harm him.”
“Thank you, sir. I will. The new Foreigners’ Club has agreed to lend their kitchen
to an American cook tonight through tomorrow. And Mister Buferd, commodore.
I’ve been asked to slip Buferd into port with me. Be a good idea for him to meet
Madam Ahn and his new, er, staff at the Foreigners’ Club. He’ll have a lot of
rearranging to do to be ready for tomorrow’s busy, thirsty round-eyed fortune
The Chinese translator standing next to the mandarin’s representative at the table
“Excuse us,” said the tiny, pig-tailed and bespectacled translator, his glare fixed
upon the hated barbarian that the Coreans so coddled. “But there is no provision for
the cook or the other foreigner to set foot in port until after the agreement is signed.
We must forbid it.”
Tubert translated in Corean for Yi the eunuch at his side, and another nearby
Corean foreign office official. Both shrugged indifferently. The eunuch, Tubert
sensed, was anxious to get back to shore. The American commodore, however,
bristled at the attempted Chinese interference. Just weeks before, the mandarin who
headed the Chinese group who had attempted to manipulate the negotiations and
treaty had been publicly scourged and flogged in a main square in Tientsin and
stripped of all rank and future with the government. In his place, Yuan Shi Kai, a
young Chinese official who had suddenly returned from travels in the West, had
taken the Mandarin’s place, promptly firing all but three translators. The bearded,
twenty-three year old new Chinese official with smoldering eyes and lion-like
features, clearly hated the treaty but did not make any spectacle. Now, the imperial
vessel that transported Yuan from Tientsin was anchored scarcely a quarter of a mile
from the Swatara. Shufeldt, Jewell and Lucius Foote, soon to be America’s envoy to
Seoul, were in complete agreement with John Russell Young, American envoy to
China: no telling what this new Chinese power figure would do, other than flaunting
to every Western diplomat the Black American former slave woman he had brought
back with him from San Francisco. Yuan was a mandarin prodigy, so very young,
but inscrutable, clearly ambitious and unlike most mandarins, capable of even more
diabolical intrigue from his travels in Europe and America.
‘At least, the mandarin left his colored woman up in China,’ thought Shufeldt.
‘What a commotion he stirred showing up at the British diplomatic banquet with her
last week. He knows we find her presence offensive!’
“You take whoever, and whatever, you need to shore with you, Mister Tubert,” said
Shufeldt, ignoring the Chinese objections. “And confirm to Lord Min that I’m
bringing Minister Foote, Commander Jewell, Ensign Foulk and staff officers with
me. And the Swatara’s honor guard, along with the fleet band. And a twenty-one
gun salute from the guns of the Swatara immediately after the signing.”
Tubert translated in Corean, then in Chinese.
“Absolutely inappropriate!” Declared the Chinese official, excitedly waving a hand,
finger pointing, at the foreign devil in the blue shirt. “No firing of canon without the
honorable Yuan’s concurrence! Tientsin shall hear of this arrogance. And you,
barbarian, put this emissary up to these violations, in fact, goaded him to try to
bypass talks with the Middle Kingdom since the beginning. Be aware, you are
known to our government.”
In Mandarin, Tubert replied, “I’ll let your government know of my next bowel
movement. And your mother was a street whore, father a leper. Shut your face.”
With visible pleasure at the agitated Chinese, Shufeldt waved aside the protests.
“China has no valid concern about this,” the commodore said, overruling the
Chinese protests, his enjoyment evident. “See you ashore tomorrow morning,
Aboard the modern, newly built Chinese man-of-war one hour later, the young
Chinese viceroy soon heard of the incident.
“Valid points, interpreter,” Yuan Shih Kai said. “You did well, except for losing
control of your emotions before those cultureless, uncivilized ghouls. No need for
you or any other subject of the Middle Kingdom to fret. It is of no lasting
consequence that the American commodore and the Coreans, and even the lowly
barbarian so dear to the Coreans, do not, at this moment, take us seriously nor pay
any special attention to us. Plans have been made which will rectify all of this in
weeks, months and even generations to come. Go and rest for tomorrow.”
The interpreter kowtowed, and left the mandarin’s cabin.
“Fools, but tools,” thought Yuan Shih kai, rising from his throne-like chair in the
cabin, and going to the open window where he stared at the Chemulpo shoreline. He
had studied political science in France, and had just returned from a three-month stay
in San Francisco where he had closely observed American culture.
“In France proper and some other Western nations,” he had written in his trip report
after returning from Tientsin two months earlier, “a genuine spirit of equality and
democracy exists. But it is in the growing colonies of France and other colonies of
Western governments where self-serving, hypocritical policies disregard cultures,
laws and spirits arise which are indescribably brutal and racist, including their
suppression and exploitation here in Asia.”
After being hastily recalled to China, as his secret briefings, talks and written
reports circulated, the newly appointed viceroy for Corean affairs began appearing at
diplomatic banquets in Tientsin with his newly imported “foreign assistant”, a
stunning, beautiful young American Black female he introduced only as Black Pearl.
“Her presence makes Westerners, especially Americans, extremely uncomfortable,”
Yuan quietly boasted to other mandarins and Chinese court officials. “For nowhere
is the hypocrisy of equality more pronounced than among the poor Red, Yellow and
especially Black races in the United States. With her, we flaunt American, and
European racism, back into the faces of these barbarians.”
Just last week, around an evening cocktail table next to Ambassador Young at the
British legation’s reception banquet to announce that the British, too, would enter
into a treaty with Chaoshien within a month, Yuan had watched Westerners gag on
their drinks as he introduced the Black woman.
“This is my Western cultural advisor, from America. Please address her by her
translated Chinese name, Black Jade.”
Later, that evening, as foreign diplomats gathered around the new viceroy, Yuan
watched their disgust with his empty remark, “I mount her at sunrise every
‘The gods have made my interests and the Middle Kingdom’s interests converge
into one,’ Yuan told himself, turning contentedly from the ship's window. So
fortunate that he had been hastily summoned to return from his study of the Western
world, even though, alas, he had arrived in China too late to reverse the ominous
provisions of the Corean-American treaty that failed to recognize Chinese suzerainty
over Chaoshien’s external relationships.
“A plague on the closed minded, opium-soaked mandarins who so foolishly
suggested that Chaoshien enter into a treaty with the United States!” Yuan had
ranted to officials at the Middle Kingdom’s inner sanctum. “Now that you have
failed to stop these Yankee devils from recognizing China’s predominant influence
and interests in Chaoshien, you risk severing a leg from China. The barbarians may
become even more bolder at knawing out the very heart of China for more
concessions, unless we make our stand against encroachment in Corea.”
The well traveled mandarin’s forceful arguments caused another flurry of
xenophobic alarm to sweep through the inner corridors of the Forbidden City. The
very day the official who had failed to prevent the treaty provisions from being
passed was publicly humiliated and broken, a high court official had appeared before
Yuan. “Will you head a mission to go down to Chaoshien for the hated treaty’s
signing? Observe the situation and stay as the Chinese viceroy to Chaoshien?”
“Only if I am free to take actions between China and Chaoshien asserting that no
change is contemplated in Chaoshien’s standing as a boundary state of China,”
replied Yuan. “Chaoshien’s new treaties for sea-borne trade with the nations of the
West have made some progress, and we must remove the still existing Chinese and
Corean prohibitions upon such trade between ourselves. But that is not enough to
reverse the damage this treaty will do.”
“What other actions can be taken?”
“Complete and total domination of Chaoshien’s rulers and government organs,
while appearing to tolerate this wretched treaty,” answered Yuan.
With outward humility, inwardly jubilant, Yuan had allowed himself to be
persuaded for forge China’s future role in the course of Corean affairs. Immediately,
Yuan sent out feelers to Chinese and even to foreigners who might be a part of his
administration in Chaoshien, especially courting Shanghai’s infamous Uncle Mao,
who had been in the employment of foreigners as compradore for more than three
decades and who had so foolishly nurtured the troublesome barbarian of Chaoshien
as a child.
Yuan and old Mao had met at Chingtao, on the Liaotung Peninsula, as the silken-
robed mandarin readied to sail to attend the reprehensible treaty signing with the
foreign devils across the Yellow Sea in Chaoshien.
“Arise, Uncle Mao,” the youthful official had said as the most powerful of the
Shanghai Chinese merchants prostrated himself on the floor of the elaborate seaside
restaurant. Imperial guards had frisked the small, heavy merchant, for the loyalties
of any Shanghai businessman, and this one in particular, were always questionable
unless, of course, one controlled them with combination of absolute power, and
squeeze for protection from official power. “We’ll try their roast duck. Join me,
here at the table.”
Yuan had waved his attentive, scowling bodyguards from the open room with great
windows facing the sea. For several minutes, both Chinese carefully exchanged
“Now, we both have had exposure to foreign devils,” said Yuan, after the serving
girls had set the table and he waved they from the room and from earshot. “One
useful lesson I have learned is their cultural tendency of frankness and candor. That
has certain merits, don’t you agree?”
“In some respects perhaps, yes,” said Mao, the soup suddenly sticking in his gullet.
What squeeze or other torment was this official with the ruthless eyes and voice
leading up to? For which illegal transaction from among a dozen was he about to
demand squeeze? Had not a fair share always been paid to grease the pockets, close
the eyes and mouths, of officialdom? “But I wouldn’t call it cultural. They are two
“Absolutely correct, Uncle Mao,” laughed the high-ranking official, reading the
merchant’s thoughts. “They have no culture, and they knaw at China like wolves at
a carcass. Yet, while I am going to at last contain these foreign wolves, the results of
having to deal with them, such as the new commercial treaty Li Hung Chang, our
high commissioner of trade, just pushed through with China and Corea, unleash
opportunities no-one has ever dreamed of. Have some dumplings, they are
Mao stirred a small quantity of food on his plate, but his nerves did not allow him
to taste it.
“The role of Chinese compradores with the western firms hoping to do business in
Chaoshien is limited,” said old Mao, sensing that the mandarin wanted something
other than a bribe. “Coreans hate us, and we can’t communicate with them. All the
treaty means, for us, is that now we can fish in new waters, buy Corean horses
instead of stealing them on raids like we have done for hundreds of years. What
opportunities, Honorable Yuan?”
“Have you ever heard of Changbai-shan, the fabled mountain, supposedly three
miles high, that the Coreans say their race springs from?”
“Certainly. Coreans call it Mount Paektu. The source of the Yalu and Tumen
Rivers, near the juncture where China and Chaoshien meet, the view of the Russian
Far East within sight,” replied Mao, uneasily. “An almost impregnable place. The
last place on earth any sane businessman would hope to conduct business at.”
“A wild place, yes. And true, no place to do meaningful commerce at in the past,”
said the mandarin softly, his eyes boring into the hardy old merchant. “But what if
Mount Paektu’s harshness, its ruggedness, isolation and very location should now
make it a place from which to generate vast, unending wealth? As I prepare to rule
Chaoshien, I’m going to have poppies cultivated on the volcanic slopes of Paektu-
san, then sell its opium, the finest in the world, to Corea, Manchuria, China and all
other places. I seek a partner.”
“But, honorable envoy, trafficking in opium, by numerous imperial decrees, means
a death sentence,” said Mao mechanically, fascinated, his voice hollow, his sphincter
muscle knotting. Number One Son and three sometimes-worthy nephews were
overseeing the family’s eight opium dens in Shanghai’s native sector. What did this
scheming, clear complexioned mandarin with the wispy black mustache and flinty
eyes want from a partner?
“Only if you get caught, Uncle Mao. Or attempt it without powerful friends. The
great Paektu Mountain is at the very end and edge of all three countries, a place
where enforcement of anyone’s decrees is impossible, thus the world’s most strategic
spot to operate illicit trade from. Think of it, uncle; the almost virgin market of
Chaoshien to the south, the vast hordes of Manchuria, even Mongolia, to the north! I
need it grown, protected, processed, distributed.”
“What terms, Honorable Envoy?”
“You provide the start-up capital, labor and expertise, clear the slopes with suitable,
proper soil where light and temperature are found, while I provide the essential
assistance and protective mantle. An investment of, perhaps, one-half million taels.”
“Such a sum is beyond...”
“It secures wealth for our families forever, along with immunity from being caught,
for I shall pay off the army and navy commanders, and the honorable high
commissioner of trade, for a fee, fully supports me. One third of all profits for you,
one third for me, the remaining third, as needed, to grease needed palms, expand
when possible, otherwise to be split between us.”
“But, Honorable Viceroy Mao, the Yellow Sea crawls with foreign vessels, and
increasingly bold pirates, some of them also Westerners,” said the short,
bespectacled Shanghai merchant. “And with these humiliating treaties...”
“So many buts, uncle! Listen to me; not many foreign battleships will go far past
the mouth of the Yalu River,” Yuan said, gingerly fishing a sliver of duck breast
from the tray to his dish. “Inchon, also known by the old Corean name of Chemulpo,
is the treaty port for the overgrown, overbearing Westerners. Pusan the main
Japanese treaty port. No one is serious about Wonsan, on the East Coast, which is
also being opened. Who would dare dispute any personal interests of China’s
viceroy to Chaoshien, especially when I shall be backed by Chinese occupation
troops? And most of our opium distribution will be over land.”
“Who indeed?” Whispered Mao, absentmindedly and hoarsely, no longer
concealing his interest, his heart and mind pounding, perspiration lining his brow.
“It would take an army of fifteen-hundred, no, eighteen-hundred men, with axes,
picks, shovels and dynamite, a staggering food and supply effort, to clear fields for
opium, constantly fighting weather, animals, outlaws and Coreans. Years to
complete. A vast, ambitious adventure. But yes, a lucrative one, with no
“Revenues could begin as early as next year, if we can get poppies planted yet this
summer. Fortunes beyond count! Start coordinating immediately. Then, when I call
for you, come to Chaoshien when I return there, unexpectedly, and announce that I
am viceroy in residence. You’ll be a personal advisor, your official mission to
promote commerce, but in reality create a Corean, Manchurian and perhaps Japanese
market for our product.”
“I never dreamed I would have an official title, or be on any official payroll,”
‘The wise old tree bends each day with the strongest wind,” Yuan told the Shanghai
merchant. “The canon-happy foreigners and cunning Coreans may win the day and
sign their odorous treaty. But their trickery shall be just temporary, for I shall soon
strip the West and these Coreans of all meaning in the grandiose treaties with our
Younger Brother. As viceroy, the squeeze my director of customs shall exact shall
make a fortune. But even more lucrative, if it works, shall be our opium which, gods
willing and conditions being favorable, you plant on the slopes of Changbai-shan,
which the Coreans regard as their precious and sacred Mount Paektu.”
* * * *
The night before the detestable first treaty signing with the western devils, Gunjiro
Mihashi sat in the quiet of an upstairs Foreigners’ Club room, staring at the torchlit
construction being finalized by the coolie work crews at toiling in the foreign
settlement. The lights of vessels carrying hundreds of gai-jin shimmered of vessels
in the harbor, but Gunjiro’s main interest was in the settlement across the road from
the hotel. It was not for comfort, certainly not for convenience, that the son of
Japanese raiders, now ostensibly a dock coolie, had rented this elevated, barely
finished wooden and plaster box of a room from the Corean madam who ran a string
of Western and Asian prostitutes. From what better spot could he spy on the
activities of the Westerner he swore he would one day destroy?
He knew that most Westerners would seek Japanese rickshaw coolies, who were
neater than Coreans and were better runners than the Chinese. For laborers, the
people from the West would quickly find Corean crews neither as competent and
pliable as the Chinese or the Japanese, who had more experience dealing with
Westerners, and would lend greater prestige. Oh, what opportunity! Even the new
Japanese cook in this suffocating, two-story building was one of Mihashi’s men, and
six more agents were to ready offer their lowly laborer services to tomorrow’s
arriving barbarians, earning their trust, burrowing deeply into their good graces.
As the sun readied to set, Mihashi removed his soiled clothing and sat next to the
open window. There was a quiet trickle of Corean posang moving through the gates
of the foreigner’s settlement, under the watchful eye of the gai-jin’s vile tempered
and lethal northern hunters, and the Japanese watched intently as Corean agents
brought A-frames full of skins and other commodities, and left with sheets of tin and
other goods on the unique wooden hauling devices on their backs, coins jingling in
their pouches. At least two visiting Coreans appeared to have brought gold nuggets.
The foreign brigand himself emerged at least hourly from his private one story
dwelling near the northern wall of the settlement, either to approve a transaction or to
inspect the final installation of a drainage system that led to iron-barred openings in
sections of the encircling wall. A handful of newly arrived North Corean posang,
bearing the ancient, useless pots and utensils with Sanskrit inscriptions and art they
had picked up at Tubert’s command, for the barbarian intended to make a fortune
from the sale of them to the arriving Westerners who had no culture, no manners, nor
honor. That late afternoon, when a hunter at the gate was escorting two Westerners
to the devil’s huge log cabin with the red-tiled roof, the Japanese spotted four
coolies, each carrying a huge burlap bag, scurry past the well and water trough near
the center of the compound and run as fast as they could out the gate.
‘Ah-so! He isn’t wear the pouch made of my poor brother within his trading settle-
ment,’ Mihashi observed. ‘But, most times, when he ventures outside of his own
lair, he wears that precious sack, as if it is a charm or a badge, with the intent to
antagonize us. No rush to get the skin of my tragical older brother, and no way to
get at the gai-jin right now. Bakka on our officials in Seoul who prohibit revenge!
But I shall learn everything I can about him, down to the finest and most subtle
detail. One day, I shall destroy him spiritually, financially, but not, I pray to resist
the temptation, too quickly, and physically kill him. But not yet; the hatred gives me
The five-feet four-inch nude Japanese heard the door open from behind. The
French whore, who reeked of garlic almost as badly as the Coreans, entered the
room. Madam had ordered her to pleasure this impatient, bandy-legged Asian man
who had means well beyond those of a regular dock coolie, for the two special
Coreans madam was to bring to him were, so sorry, arriving late.
“Konichee-wa. Good evening,” said Gunjiro to the whore, glancing back from the
tatami he was sitting on, amazed at the size of the European female's breasts.
“Good evening, monsieur,” whispered the cow-faced, slender brunette, closing the
door quietly. “We thought you might wish companionship.” That day she had the
old Chinese captain, T’ang, and, later, two Corean merchants, as customers. The
Asians in this strange port were nowhere as refined, or as relaxed with a Western
woman, as those in Shanghai.
Below them, there was a commotion in the foreigner’s settlement. Mihashi patted
the mattress next to him and the cheaply painted Western whore joined him as he
watched the barbarian’s compradore hunter run shouting from the ginseng shed
across the compound to Tubert’s quarters. The woman at his side began to rub his
left shoulder, arm and chest, moving her hand downward.
“Magnificent physique,” she cooed, puzzled at the man’s intent gaze out of the
open window, even though he was responding to her manipulations. Realizing that
he either spoke no English, or wasn’t listening, she sweetly cooed, “You’ll pay out
the dunghole for ignoring me, you arrogant Yellow Ape.”
Below them, Tubert and Kwan Il stomped angrily from the gai-jin’s cabin, the
abominable Westerner, with a handful of inch thick switches in his right hand,
shouting for every coolie in the settlement to be assembled before him immediately.
Within the doorway to Tubert’s quarters, other foreigners watched.
“Ah,” muttered Gunjiro in Japanese, sitting straighter, ignoring the busy wench
next to him. “How interesting.”
The laborers of the foreign murderer’s compound had quickly earned a reputation
for being the greatest gamblers and, in recent days, petty thieves of all the crews
working at foreign construction projects, and the Japanese knew that local Chemulpo
officials had had a word about it with Tubert. The barbarian had chosen to turn his
back to the illegal gambling. But now, evidently, the workers had gone beyond
gambling. “They’ve discovered the missing burlap bags!”
“Thieves!” He heard the foreigner shouting as three hunters with whips herded the
two dozen sweating workers to the ground before the wooden porch to Tubert’s
quarters. “All coolies, over here quickly!”
“Someone has made off with four bags of ginseng,” Mihashi heard Tubert say to his
compradore from the porch. “Have I not warned these fellows during the past week
about pilfering goods?”
The indifferent band of laborers stood silently, indifferently, before him, a few
yawning, others smirking. In the rice-wine parlors of Chemulpo at night, they
laughed in anticipation their plans for soon-to-arrive Westerners who would shout
and turn purple in the face, but who would do nothing, when items turned up
“They’ve been warned, Soldier Brother,” confirmed young Kwan Il.
“Yes, you’ve been warned,” snapped Tubert loudly to the indolent workers, but
inwardly smiling. “Within my walls, where Chemulpo police cannot reach you,
you’ve made this a place notorious for gambling. And now you steal from me!
Where is the shame?”
His admonitions had no visible effect on the poker-faced coolies, as he expected.
Of course, none of the soon to arrive Westerners were about to set the precedent of
turning over any of their crews to the Corean police, for that would set an ominous
precedent. Oh, yes; the foreigners would trapped between officialdom, and them.
What fool would admit to any wrong, even if caught red-handed?
A hunter carried a sturdy wooden chair out to the porch, and the foreign devil sat
quietly, imperiously as if on a throne, watching the faces before him change as the
long-legged young hunter placed the switches before him. Each illiterate laborer had
violated this construction site, either by gambling or pilfering, and as the White man
seated himself to pass sentence and witness its execution, it became suddenly
apparent that he fully intended to deal with their individual sins and trespasses.
“Form a line!” Ordered the seated barbarian honcho.
Their gaze turned to the switches Tubert had the hunter place at the foot of the
porch. There were uneasy murmurs. The Soldier Brother gestured to the lead coolie.
“Pick up a switch,” the barbarian said, suppressing a smile. “You’ll give each other
ten strokes each. Start with whoever you like.”
The head coolie advanced, picked up a switch. The man bowed, and walked over
to the nearest half-naked coolie. Both coolies bowed, the headman apologizing for
what he was about to do.
“Don’t mention it,” begged the other coolie, unhesitatingly lowering his baggy
trousers. The cracks, and grunts, reverberated, reaching the ears of the Japanese
watching from across the street. The coolie chief turned and looked quizzically at
“That’ll do, for a start,” said the foreign devil, coolly.
Both coolies bowed to each other, then to the barbarian. The Corean with the
bruised, sore behind accepted the foreman’s switch and, with a nod from Tubert,
went through the same procedure with the coolie immediately behind him.
From his room, Mihashi so thoroughly enjoyed the floggings that he scarcely
noticed that the French hussy next to him had placed his left hand in her dress, then
drew it upward.
The last man gave the headman his.
“That was great,” sighed the Japanese, at last turning to the perturbed woman
sprawled next to him. He mounted her, thrusting mightily, rolling his buttocks and
hips in great loops, trying to decide if the texture and feel of her body was as
pleasing as Asian women.
Slowly, Gunjiro realized that her gasps were not of passion, but that she was
laughing at him.
“What are you laughing at, you slut?” Shrieked the dock coolie, springing to his
feet, then reaching for her hair and yanking her to her knees. “When I pillow a
woman, she stays pillowed!” He bellowed, smartly slapping the buttocks of the
giggling, naked French woman, positioning himself behind her. “I’ll show you a
new pleasure passage, and you won’t sit or laugh for a week!”
* * * *
“A woman of the sensual arts must not stake her future on a single man,” cautioned
Madam Ah as Chrysanthemum walked through the door of her new establishment.
“How fortunate that you accepted my invitation.”
“How could I refuse, my aunt?” Said the kisaeng, smiling brightly, knowing the
portly, mask-faced female inn-owner never socialized unless she sensed profits.
“Why, what have you done to our quiet little home?”
The Corean owner quickly closed the Western-style great wooden door to the
almost completed first floor of the two-story red brick har and hotel. Within, a dozen
Chinese workers who, with the assurances of Captain T’ang who had smuggled them
here from Shanghai, were familiar with the structures of the West, applied plaster to
the walls between the glass windows of the lower floor of the bar room facing the
new dirt street.
“Humph! The old restaurant and brothel is still in the rear, same as you remember
it,” replied the irascible madam. “It is reserved for the pleasure of Asian men, and it
is where I and the girls will continue to live. This monstrous new Western building
may be my ruin, daughter,” lied the madam dressed in light green, flowing silk
robes. “But no choice, with the coming of the barbarians to Chaoshien, and
especially after the rat-fornicators near the throne ceded the property over there to
your ruthless, ill-mannered foreign Soldier-Brother! That twenty-five foot long
mahogany bar, the mirrors behind it, and those bizarre lights called chandeliers
downstairs alone wipe out two years of profits! And the cost of Western whores! No
choice, if one is to operate a restaurant, bar and hotel for the long-noses of the West.
Iii-gu, I’m ruined.”
“But, it is so immense, auntie,” said the girl, following Madam Ahn across the
polished wooden floor, knowing that the woman had planned the facility to cater to
Westerners while still operating the old Asian wine house behind it to lighten the
purses of the Corean posang as they emerged from Soldier Brother’s trading post.
The downstairs bar had sturdy wooden chairs and tables, and strong oak benches
along the walls, which stretched lengthwise forty-five feet. The bottom floor was
thirty-five feet in width, with a staircase next to the bar leading up to the rooms
where the newly arrived foreign, round-eyed girls would entertain customers. An
overweight Caucasian in bib overalls with a mustache and a rat-face supervised the
rearrangement of tables and busily inventoried the stocks of liquor, kegs of beer on
tap behind the bar, and a hundred other details with shouts and hand gestures, a
newly hired Japanese assistant scrambling to do his bidding. “What is to be done in
such a great hall?”
“Plenty. The absurdly expensive Chinese craftsmen secretly slipped into port by
Captain T’ang aboard your vicious Soldier Brother’s junk called Sea Angel swear
that my building is like those fraternized by foreign merchants and sailor apes in
Shanghai and Nagasaki. And that new devil-manager talks in unintelligible
gibberish! I just hope he knows what he’s doing. I have been cheated, child, by both
our kingdom, and the barbarian! I had planned to use, even buy if needed, that old
hut and ground next to mine for years. I’ve even had to build an exotic wooden
outhouse in back, for I am told foreign devils relieve themselves by sitting on a
constipating wooden hole, rather than squatting like normal people.”
“Is that so, auntie?” Said the girl, aware that the madam exaggerated all woes,
startled at the bitterness and jealousy of Soldier Brother, but intrigued by his
imposing trading post. “Little wonder their facial expressions look pinched.”
“Yes, that’s so. And Mihashi-san helped me locate this Japanese in Pusan who has
cooked for barbarians in Nagasaki Port. I’ve hired this incredibly smelly, perspiring
and expensive foreigner from Hong Kong, named Buferd-a, to tend the bar and
manage things here. I’ve informed Stinky Buferd-a that he can have any Asian girl
he wants, but not to touch my round-eyed whores, who he must supervise. And
should he marry and no longer need the flesh of my women, that will not increase his
pay. Are you aware that some women in China and Japan have taken barbarian
hushands? Oh, yes, one has to keep up with all eventualities, however distasteful,
and your barbarian slipped Buferd-a and another cultureless dreg ashore today.
And, child, can you believe it? My second story rooms also have windows of glass,
allowing one to peer into the town, and especially into the settlement of your foreign
devil lover. Now they’ve had the gall to build a guard tower above his gate, where
sentries can peer through our windows.”
“Auntie, it is unwise to let the Soldier Brother, and especially his hunter
companion, to ever spot any of your room occupants looking into their compound
across the street,” said Chrysanthemum. “Very unsafe. I have seen them kill for that
very reason. Savagely. Without hesitation.”
‘And what of you?’ Madam almost said. ‘As if you have not killed, and reveled in
it and prospered greatly from it. Of many dozens of sexual whores and slaves I have
known, managed and sold, you are surely the most gifted at killing through sex and
treachery, child. How many men did I send to you, only to have them emerge from
trysts sated, purses empty, legs wobbly, more degenerate than before they met you?
Such beauty and talents prop up your unstable illusions of grandeur and ability to
gain from treachery and killing, little flower. The Soldier Brother had best watch his
two dangling bung-als! Did I not feed you to the rich old Corean merchant fool, then
free you, just to be rid of you before you eventually realized that I was inevitably in
your way? For the hundredth time; could I have outwitted you?’
“So true, and damn the dog-spawned, horse-molesting officials in Seoul for giving
the property I coveted so long to your eagle-eyed, dragon-faced outsider,” said
madam, vehemently. “But he and his hunters occupy only ground for the moment,
like all mortals, not the airspace above our reach, and not the future, eh? Come now,
child,” said the woman, pulling the child towards the steps with the railing. “You are
here to meet one who has dreams of chopping the legs out from under the clever
foreigner, his royal connections notwithstanding.”
At the top of the stairs, Yi the eunuch sat nervously on a Western sofa, staring
dolefully at the walls, with great effort holding onto his composure. There was great
danger in his presence here from jealous would-be schemers at court, and, gods
forbid, from the fiery, blood-hungry foreign vengeance hound across the street
whose interests he supposedly was secretly representing at court.
“Good evening, madam,” said the royal eunuch, rising, his blood freezing.
“Good evening, Honorable Yi,” said the hotel’s owner, with forced civility.
“The Japanese coolie is in the room down the hall, awaiting us.”
“Yes, with my opium-smoking French whore who has just arrived from Shanghai,”
said madam. “I paid officials a small fortune in squeeze to have her here for the
foreigners’ reception at tomorrow’s treaty signing! The coolie and the whore
haven’t been fighting again, have they?”
“I've heard nothing. Seen nothing,” said the eunuch.
“Very good. Mihashi-san is no ordinary coolie, Master Yi. This is his final night
to rent this upstairs room overlooking the barbarian’s walled compound across the
street,” said Madam Ahn, leading them down the hallway. “His interests in the
Soldier Brother are much more emotional and intensive than any of ours, which is
why he has arranged for this secret meeting.”
“The Japanese detests our barbarian,” said Yi, alarmed. “What trickery is being
played here, madam?”
“Mihashi wishes only to talk,” replied the stocky matron quietly. “And, perhaps, to
pad our purses.”
“See here, I am a court official, and the strings to my purse…”
“You’d chase a mouse across the ceiling for a one cash coin, eunuch! A palm open
creature of the whore known as Yi Chaoshien. Don’t start…”
“I should leave, auntie,” said Chrysanthemum, nervously. “This is dangerous.
Soldier brother retaliates and he can be extremely volatile.”
“More dangerous to walk away from meeting this particular Japanese,” said
madam, pointedly, dragging the girl down the hall. “Come now! I’ve trained you to
fear no man.”
The female hotel owner knocked on a wooden door.
The door opened. Mihashi was dressed in a loincloth. For a moment, the Japanese
agent surveyed the people, then bowed and gestured for them to enter. Within, the
Western bed and bureau with drawers were gone, replaced by a tatami mat. A small
table had two bottles of sake and cups and one of the bottles was almost empty. A
round Japanese lantern made of paper illuminated the room, revealing a sheathed
long sword beside a heap of soiled clothing near the open window. The nude, raw-
boned and red-haired French woman with a markedly pained look on her face moved
and scurried across the tatami mat, quickly snatching a blanket to cover her
“Iii-gu, Mother, look at the color of her hair!” Whispered Chrysanthemum.
Mihashi gestured to the foreign whore to leave.
“Get out, quickly,” he grunted in Japanese, half-heartedly aiming a kick at the
blanket-clad Frenchwoman as she limped, holding her clothing, from the room. He
turned to the Coreans and gestured towards the tiny table.
“An-jo. Sit down,” Mihashi chuckled, in low level Corean, fastening his gaze upon
the exotic kisaeng who was the plaything of the foreign devil. He sat across the table
from them, pointing towards the bottle and the tiny cups. “Sool,” the Japanese said,
meaning alcohol in Corean, gesturing to Chrysanthemum at the bottle and the cups.
“So sorry, speak little Corean.”
“You speak excellently,” lied Madam Ahn, watching the girl next to her smile with
false meekness and gracefully pour and serve the sake. “Here are the two people I
spoke of closely connected with the gruesome barbarian, Mihashi-san. This is
Chrysanthemum, like a daughter to me, and who has received a small fortune to be
mistress to the loathsome miscreant. And Master Yi, a clerk-eunuch at the court in
Seoul who was ordered to help deal with your unfortunate brother’s murderer and
thus, with no recourse, trapped into representing the foreigner’s interest at the
corrupt court of Chaoshien.”
“Welcome,” said the perspiring Japanese, sweat rolling down his chest, instantly
detecting the insincerities. “We all have interest in devil Tubert, so I called you here
tonight. You shall be paid every six months to help me.”
“To help you do what, honorable trader?” Asked the eunuch, nerves alighting, not
touching the drink before him.
The former pirate drank the cup of wine before him. He patted the spot next to him
to his right, and the kisaeng rose and joined him, quickly refilling his cup.
“To stay informed what he does, of his hopes and dreams,” replied Mihashi, a
sudden intensity in his voice. “And then, to spiritually, financially and, perhaps,
physically, destroy him.”
“Impossible, trader,” replied Yi, with alarm. “He enjoys the favor of the queen’s
nephew, the confidence of the long-nosed Westerners who begin tomorrow to invade
us, and the protection of a group of illiterate but deadly northern hunters more loyal
to him then they have ever been to Yi Chaoshien. The fiend can command beasts to
do his killing. Iii-gu, trader, so sorry; he even has the interest of the royal couple
themselves. Death to even discover that this is discussed!”
“Relax, lest your spleen burst from stress, eunuch,” chuckled the uninhibited
Japanese. “We know he is untouchable, at the present. Our Japanese envoy here
goes to great lengths to remind us of that. I seek only information and cooperation,
the goal of total destruction years, perhaps decades, away. Have some sake.
Imported from Kobe. And I am a simple stevedore, not a trader, who has made
Chaoshien, and the barbarian, my main focus since he murdered my older brother
here years ago. And you, young miss; will you help us?”
“Talk of decades and of destruction is beyond me, honorable trader,” said
Chrysanthemum, with mock innocence, dutifully pouring more sake into the tiny cup
of the near naked Japanese, sensing his interest in her, and opportunity. Only the
middle-aged woman beside the girl spotted the kisaeng’s almost undetectable change
of facial expression, the fleeting, familiar and predatory look of a falcon diving at an
unsuspecting rodent. Lady Ahn knew that even the focus and color of this girl’s eyes
changed when the girl sensed, and responded to, a male’s interest. No matter that the
small table hid any view of the Japanese pirate’s flimsy loincloth, madam knew he
was aroused. “The Soldier Brother is quicker with his weapons than his heart, his
temper and blood-letting without boundaries,” replied Chrysanthemum. “Master Yi
is correct; he has a sixth sense, the instinct and ability to cut down those with intent
to harm him. Go after personal profits, rather than personal revenge, honorable
“Bakka! What a pair you bring me, madam?” Said Mihashi, with mock disdain.
He glanced at the eunuch and the Corean girl. “Hear me, each of you. You are now
on our payroll, and now part of the destiny of Japan’s interests in Chaoshien,
Wakari-mas? You are agents, understand? No rush, no stress and a sharing of future
glory and prosperity in return for loyalty and assistance. There is no refusal.
For silent moments, they heard the chirp of crickets outside.
“Little profit in just destruction, trader,” said Madam Ahn, masking her contempt at
the islander’s crude baby talk Corean and hiding her amusement at his glances at the
kisaeng girl. Iii-gu, what kind of match would these two make? Both so ambitious
and unscrupulous! Wisely or unwisely, he was locking Chrysanthemum’s future
with his own, which her barbarian lover refused to do. What a colorful couple they
would make, madam thought. Both willing to seize what pleased them, with charm
or blood. “It is said that tomorrow’s treaty with the Miguks will forever place
America at an advantage far more profitable than allowed in any treaty of the past or
forever more, set the people of the Soldier Brother’s land on a plateau that puts them
ahead in all future riches and barbarian efforts in Chaoshien.”
“There is no future, no forever, until I make it, Wakari-mas?” Said Mihashi, his
voice suddenly low, surly and emphatic, surprising the three Coreans with the
resonance from deep within his chest. He quaffed the small cup of sake and watched
the delicate Corean female next to him gracefully, flawlessly, refill it. He grunted,
patting her right thigh, his hand moving, shamelessly cupping her ample buttocks.
The girl did not flinch as be brazenly untied the jacket of her silk choguri and
removed it. “True, of course; profit and destruction can be separate, despite the
legacy of my ancestors, madam, but indulge me. You will report to me or those I
send to talk from within your tavern, especially talk by or concerning the foreign
“If it is profitable, eunuch,” replied madam, her eyes and voice flint-hard.
“Profitable beyond all dreams, madam, and only the living can dream. So many
ronin, masterless samurai, arrive in port monthly. My employer, the steamship line,
needs new bars and brothels in this port to service these lonely men. Someone has to
procure girls, manage them and the facilities.”
“You shall received detailed, complete reports on Westerners that you wish,” said
the old woman, the harshness instantly gone from her voice.
“Chinese, also. And you, eunuch? How can you serve me?”
“Perhaps we could serve each other, Mihashi-san,” said the eunuch, carefully, not
about to commit or be specific in front of these two lecherous females or in this
creaky, abominable foreign wooden bird trap called a room. “Exchanges of
information. And favors. There could come a time when your enemy may no longer
“Hai, eunuch,” said Mihashi, tiring of the old shrew and the Corean manshell
before him. The flowing gown of the kisaeng kneeling next to the Japanese fell to
the floor. The girl’s exquisite breasts caused the eunuch’s eyes to widen. “Each of
you to keep me informed. Interests within interests, interlocked. And, yes, favors of
power. I’ll have reports from each of you separately, at least every month. Settled
then,” concluded the Japanese, leaving no doubt in their minds that they were
“Hadda-so. Understand,” said Yi rising, anxious to depart and figure out what he
had been dragged into, even forgetting to ask how much his payment would be. The
old hag next to him rose with the man-shell.
Mihashi rose, the front of his scanty loincloth protruding obscenely.
“Hai! Konichii-wa. Good Evening.” The Japanese dock coolie bowed low. He
moved his arm, blocking the girl from joining the other two.
“You will stay. You must be trained for some special new duties.”
* * * *
The three stoic Corean commissioners nodded to the court official, who affixed the
official seal to the documents. Yi the eunuch, bald headed and obese, solomnlly
carried the document to the other side of the table, placing the parchments before the
somber-faced American naval officer who with exaggerated flourish, promptly
signed each document. Beside Shufeldt, in formal dress, was the Honorable Lucius
Foote, the incoming American envoy. Copies immediately went to the Corean side,
the American side and to the visibly unhappy handful of Chinese at the end of the
long table, who sat deferentially around Yuan Shih Kai, who wore an expression of
slight boredom. Next to Yuan sat the inscrutable Mah Chien Chung, a rising Chinese
foreign affairs Mandarin, and the Li Hung Chang, a tall, lean, northern Chinese, who
would direct Chaoshien’s customs office and other agencies with hand selected
Chinese Foreign Office employees.
Proceedings were in a tent erected by the Coreans next to a plot of ground where,
Tubert told the Americans, the new guesthouse of the commissioner of customs
would soon stand. From the surrounding throngs of Coreans, Japanese coolies and
merchants and a handful of Chinese fishermen and traders, Mihashi had watched the
gai-jin’s Marine honor guard plant the American flag in front of the tent. He was
unpleasantly startled when the fleet band, with musical instruments that looked more
like sinister foreign weapons, suddenly broke the day’s stillness with an
unimaginable, ear-splitting bombardment of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”.
“What was that?” Mihashi overheard a nearby Corean farmer say to others. “So
offensive! Such noise will awaken the very spirits of our hallowed dead, as if the
presence of such outsiders itself will not? Have you not heard they have black boxes
they point at a person and capture the person’s image, thus robbing a person of his
soul? Look how the Japanese pirates and Chinese marauders strut before us, as if
they are all suddenly privileged guests! The kingdom must be out of its mind to let
“They already bring bad luck,” said another farmer. “Especially the Japanese.
Heaven is clearly displeased. Where are the rains? We’ll have another famine
because of them.”
A Corean behind them glanced about, insuring that none of the royal troops who
encircled the tents and kept the throngs at a distance could hear him. The man then
said rea, “Do not despair. Before this sell-out of our land and lives goes much
further, the Tonghak, the Sect of Easter Learning, shall rise and drive all foreigners
and all foreign influences from our shores.”
Mihashi closely watched the short, stocky American officer, accompanied by the
barbarian murderer and the giant American naval officer swagger arrogantly into the
canvas tent immediately following the unnerving blast of foreign noise. The Chinese
party followed, the Middle Kingdom’s ceremonial honor guard of turbaned banner-
men at stiff attention less than fifty feet from the gai-jin marines. Few in the crowd
paid any attention to the soiled Japanese stevedore in tattered clothing as he peered
intently at tent occupants, his brow wrinkling each time the feather quill in the hands
of the devil commodore moved over a document, although Gunjiro forced himself to
stop squeezing the handle of his broadsword when he realized that the foreign devil’s
tall Corean hunter companion was closely scrutinizing him. Tonight, in Seoul, he
would make his report of what he had seen and heard here to the Japanese envoy’s
‘The day will come when I will no longer have to wear these rags, nor hide behind
the facade of being a dock coolie,’ the Tsushima islander told himself. ‘And the day
will arrive when, with my own hands, I shall burn that damned filthy treaty
document, before the eyes of the directionless, gutless Corean court.’
It was after all papers had been signed and copies distributed when Lord Min rose,
“Now our ties are formed,” the Corean noble declared. “Never again will Corean
and American troops face one another in battle, and I look forward to my visit to
America in the months to come. Let us adjourn to the new Foreigners’ Club and
visit the Soldier Brother’s settlement next to it, for food and refreshments.” As the
ranking Corean official and Shufeldt readied to exit the tent, forty Corean troops
snapped to attention, then marched passed the American marines and Chinese troops,
guarding Min, readying to clear a path through the teeming crowds.
“Allow us to pay tribute to the occasion, lord” said Shufeldt, from outside the tent,
drawing himself to attention, the American honor guard presenting arms with quick,
polished movements as Tubert translated. The commodore’s exit from the tent was
the signal for the Swatara’s guns to open fire. The band began to play the Star
Spangled Banner. From the bay came rolling smoke, shot from the side of the
barbarian man-of-war, the deafening roar sweeping over humanity on the shore two
seconds later. The first half dozen blasts caused great consternation in the crowd.
Some fled, others cringed with whimpers and wails. Behind, and on either side of
the mighty vessel, foreigners scrambled from commercial ships onto rowboats
heading towards shore.
‘We’ve come full circle,’ thought Theodore Jewell, behind the commodore and the
Corean official, Tubert at his side, and the new legation’s military attaché, Ensign
George Foulk, a young but politically perceptive officer, previously stationed in Ja-
pan. In the distance, he saw Chief Thackett standing by a launch, ready to
accompany the foodstuffs to Seoul, and a great uneasiness again filled the Texan.
Cookie Thackett had been dismissed from service aboard most of the Asiatic fleet
vessels, frequently beaten for attempting to make perverse advances on other
shipmates. It was common knowledge that his brilliance at preparing food for senior
American officials, and Japanese chow for the Japanese officials they entertained,
plus his ability to ingratiate himself with higher-ups, was all that kept him in the fleet
and in uniform.
‘The Japanese love that that pervert. He's become more loyal to his Japanese
lovers, some of whom supposedly dress as a geisha, than he is to us. So help me, I'd
love to have him drummed from uniform! And look at the hatred in the faces of
Timothy, and Thackett, their enmity still there even after a decade, even though
they're both pretending to be affable. One is still out to injure the other, you can feel
it. Very bad to have cookie playing any role here when every move we make is
setting the cornerstone for American face here in Chaoshien.’
The tall Texan shrugged away such thoughts and watched with satisfaction as the
Corean aristocrat, and most of the crowd, flinched with each thunderous blast, and
Jewell was vastly pleased at the reactions to American firepower. He noted that
Tubert’s tall, hide-clad tiger hunters, the same hellions who had battled them at
Kangwha more than a decade earlier, stood silently and did not flinch.
‘Fortunate that they did not have modern weapons at Kangwha, also fortunate that
the Corean forces still don't At least, we’ll never again have to face those fellows in
battle,’ Jewell told himself.
The twenty-one gun salute finished and the armed Corean troops started escorting
Lord Min and the beaming American commodore on the ten-minute walk to the
settlement and Madam Ahn’s establishment.
“Captain, dismiss your troops,” Jewell called to the marine honor guard officer. “A
day of shore leave. All invited to a picnic at Mister Tubert's settlement.”
“Aye aye, sir!” Snapped the officer, saluting the naval lieutenant commander soon
to be promoted.
“Well, Tim Tubert, your hermit kingdom meets the West. You’ll have to share
your precious Chaoshien with us. When do you want Cookie and the band to board
“Just after three o’clock, commander. They band will continue playing music
inside my gates for another two hours, just before the Corean noble and the
commodore board Sea Angel. Captain T’ang already has Cookie's condiments and
canned and other goods to prepare the banquet’s American dishes. Corean musicians
will start playing at my settlement as soon as the first Westerners walk through the
gates. Acrobats with trained bears, and mediumm-class kisaeng girls to feed you
with chopsticks, but not massage you,” laughed Tubert. “At least, not publicly,
Jewell grinned, falling in beside the unique Westerner and the ensign.
“Any of the girls blind?”
“Neither blind nor innocent. Yet it’s a new era, commander.”
“Don’t you think, Mister Tubert, that you should be flying the Stars and Stripes on
your junk and from your settlement?” Asked Ensign Foulk, resenting the rapport
between Jewell and the white outcast. Tubert, both he and Ambassador Foote
suspected, was going to be a problem. Utter nonsense, his allegiance to this land.
“Let it be known that you have a country.”
“Last time I looked for your flag, it was gone, and I was alone, left for dead on
Kangwha Island,” said Tubert, making no attempt at being tactful with the young
officer his own age. “It’ll never fly from my station.”
Madam Ahn bowed low on the wooden steps of the Foreigners’ Club great porch
before the dangerous queen’s capable nephew.
“How delightful that you could attend our grand opening, lord,” she said. “Your
visit will surely bring undreamed of jes-u to this building.”
“And wealth, I hope, madam,” replied the nobleman in the tight-fitting western
uniform, looking out of place with his western-cut hair and a neatly trimmed mus-
tache. Min was intimidated by the grotesque two-story western-style structure
before him. He did not bother to return the low-class merchant woman’s bow. “May
you prosper from the presence of the foreign guests, madam. Are the rooms of the
commodore’s personal staff in readiness for their stay here tonight?”
“But certainly, lord,” said the woman, concealing her anger at the dozen royal
Corean bodyguard troops who had minutes before swiftly descended on her building,
sweeping it for any danger. Four of them now stood guard upstairs, with pikes and
swords at the ready, their presence unsettling to the handful of Western traders and
military men already being served drinks at the bar by her new foreign-devil
manager, the French woman and two more barbarian females in the walled Asian inn
to the rear of the new building hidden from sight. Iii-gu, madam thought, are they
fearful of an assassination attempt? It must be true that forces led by the old regent,
the taiwongun, are feuding bitterly with Queen Min and her toad-defiling, close knit
There were fifteen American businessmen and five American sailors and marines
already in the bar room. Inside the door, Aaron Buferd awaited them, his Japanese
assistant. Sam, next to him with a tray of glasses filled with white German wine.
“A toast,” said the beaming American commodore, after Lord Min and the
entourage were in the bar room. Shufeldt raised his glass, clanging it against Lord
Min's glass. “To the peace and prosperity of Corea and America”! As Tubert
translated, the Westerners in the room downed drinks and Min and the Corean
woman were startled as the foreigners burst into three cheers.
“Hip hip hoorah! Hip hip hoorah! Hip hip hoorah!”
“If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you the honorable Westerners’ rooms for tonight,”
said Madam Ahn.
“Splendid,” remarked Shufeldt, a Chinese official with them translating as the fleet
band struck up more disconcerting music across the dirt road inside the gate to
Tubert’s settlement. Inside the motel, Foote and Shufeldt masked smiles as the
discocerted Corean official followed them up the stairs to tour the rooms, knowing
that Min’s guards had scaled the steps as though they were climbing a tree minutes
before. “The rooms will do perfectly, Lord Min. Jewell and the staff will be
comfortable. Shall we go downstairs and have a cold drink at Tim Tubert’s party?”
“Yes, of course. Plenty of time before we board his junk to Seoul. Much more
comfortable than a palanquin, and safer. So much to do for tomorrow. Too bad your
Soldier Brother has no desire to accompany you to his father’s homeland of
America, is it not?”
“Eh,” said Foote, caught off guard as they walked from the Foreigners' Club. “Er,
yes, Lord Min. But someday, we’ll get him back.”
“Back?” Replied the high-ranking Corean, his right brow furrowing with
amusement, as the Chinese translated. “He is Chaoshien’s. He was never Western-
born to begin with. He’s ours, and, perhaps, yours, at the same time. But his home
Pak, Mun and three other Kanggye hunters sat on tatami straw mats as foreigners
and visiting Coreans milled around on the settlement ground around the large
wooden porch of the Soldier Brother’s cottage, drinking cold foreign beer next to
American veterans of the Kangwha Battle. Outwardly, the former enemies smiled
good-naturedly and complimented one another’s bravery. The Coreans, Americans
noticed, grew red-faced after the first cup of beer.
“Old Tubert gots quite a place for his self here,” observed Chief Petty Officer Cyrus
Hayden, with a Maine accent, to Sergeant Michael McNamara. “Who woulda ever
thought he’d even be alive? I mean, even when he came aboard over in China as a
boy, he was different than the rest of us. Tough little bugger, too; I once watched
him hold his own against a drunken Frenchman in a Nagasaki bar as a lad. Fights
with his feet, he does. But even then, he was always more a part of them than he was
us, wasn't he, Michael?”
“Still is, which, apart from Timothy not letting Thackett slip something up his
backside, is part of why Cookie hated him,” noted McNamara, who was a seventeen
year-old Marine private from upstate New York and with Marine reconnaissance on
Kangwha Battle and along the Han River forts. Both Hayden and McNamara
remembered the drums and eerie death chant from thousands of Corean throats just
before the eight-inch guns of the American force had opened up on the immense
Choji Fortress along the Han River, the Corean dead soon piled atop one another as
the yankees fought their way into the Corean garrison where the occupants, having
exhausted their ammunition, advanced with bows, spears, some throwing rocks.
Both men were among fifteen Americans cited with the Medal of Honor for the
Kangwha Campaign, and now, with guilt, they realized that Tubert, the shipmate of
their youth, was more deserving of the medal than any of them. “Old Thackett told
one of the other cooks before he left the Swatara yesterday that he's gonna finish
carving up Timothy as soon as the festivities are done in Seoul.”
“Bar keep over in the motel told one of the men, Cookie Thackett, got drunk as a
lord in there for free last night, then staggered here to Timothy's and tried to corn
hole one of Tubert's Corean peddlers,” said Hayden, lowering his voice. “Said
Timothy came out of that cabin running, grabbed the old pervert by the hair, then
drove a knee into him when the chief tried to pull a knife. Bad blood between those
two, even worse than when we was kids out here, Mikey. Wouldn't hurt my feelings
a bit if we left Thackett here, though he's in real good with the Japanese and high
“His cooking for the brass and diplomats is all that has saved him, Cyrus,” hissed
McNamara. “Filthy, buggering bastard! Was always just a matter of time before him
and Timothy have it out.”
Now they quieted and sipped beer next to Mun and Pak, cautiously trying the
Corean marinated steak strips, which they liked, hiding their revulsion at the reeking
kimchi covered with ground red pepper served by Madam Ahn’s hostesses. The
sergeant found the Corean meat delightful, but drew back from trying the soup or the
rice, grabbing a slice of bread prepared for westerners by the cook in the Swatara’s
kitchen the day before.
“Hey, you!” McNamara called to a passing Japanese interpreter. A handful of
Japanese who had worked for Westerners in Japan and who spoke pidgin English
and pidgin Corean had volunteered to translate in the settlement and downtown,
knowing such a gesture would enhance chances of be hired by Westerners and Core-
ans. “Tell these Coreans, me and the chief were at Kangwha.”
The tall Corean hunters fixed their gaze on the Americans next to them.
“You fought very courageously,” said Pak.
“And you sure knew how to use those bows, and lances,” Hayden said ruefully,
raising his cup towards the hide-clad former enemies. “Bravery unlike anything I’ve
“It helped to have oversized targets,” said Mun with a deadpan expression, allowing
the Japanese, who materialized from nowhere, to roughly translate. “Even so, your
courage, and your great guns, took the lives of several of our village men. Our
reward was to look after one of your countrymen.”
Mun and Pak refrained from trying the western bread that had the texture of Corean
candy, and shunned the tasteless great chunks of inferior Western style meat on a
“We’ve heard,” said the Marine sergeant carefully, sensing that these tall, grisly,
stiff legged Coreans still had plenty of fight left in them. “Thanks for taking care of
Timothy, I know you had your hands full with him. Maybe good enemies can make
“Remains to be seen,” said Mun haughtily, carefully watching each movement of
the foreign-devils before him, as well as those seated with Soldier Brother on the
nearby porch. The long-nosed foreign military men were also looking past Mun and
Pak to the porch where eight strikingly pretty kisaeng girls were feeding Foote, the
Corean noble, Shufeldt and Corean and American officials with chopsticks at a long
low table. Between spoons and chopsticks laden with food, the laughing, chattering
beauties in brilliantly colored flowing gowns lifted tiny cups of sake to the mouths of
their guests. The girls, like the slaughtered ox, were gifts from the central
government for the occasion. Two of them rose on the porch and began to sing.
“Mister Tubert, Commander Jewell tells us the real treasure of Corea may not be
her gold or her hides, but her captivating ladies,” said Shufeldt, as a sweet-seeming
young thing squeezed his inner thigh while gracefully taking a just emptied cup from
“These are captivating, yes, but ladies, no,” said Tubert, who had quickly shed the
formal western suit for comfortable, casual clothing. He sat cross-legged opposite
the table from the beaming commodore, Lord Min and the somber-faced American
The Chinese delegation pointedly refused to enter the walled compound and join
the activities, as expected, instead bearing their glowering, stone-faced Mandarins on
palanquins to Seoul.
And what, Tubert wondered, was my own concubine doing in port last night
without contacting me, at least to squeeze more money from me? Certainly not just
to see her old friend, Madam Ahn.
‘She hates being kept at a distance, ever scheming to burrow into my soul and
wealth, with intent to take all. Very well; her craftiness builds the invisible wall that
shall forever keep her from this station.’
“They are beautiful, Tubert,” said George Foulk, more comfortable with the cuisine
than the other visiting foreigners. In Japan, his mistress, the daughter of a noble
family annihilated by a feud that had been waged for decades, lived hidden with
servants in their small home overlooking the sea. “Taller, sturdier than the Japanese
“These are just higher-class versions of the illiterate girls serving food and drinks to
the guests seated on those mats, Mister Foulk. The most exquisite things that ever
coaxed the life-sap, and money, from a man. But the real ladies of Chaoshien, those
from respectable families, you will never drink, fondle or laugh with. Nor will I.”
“An amazing people, though they are puzzling,” said Theodore Jewell, as the
smiling, exotic creature next to him deftly placed marinated, roasted beef strips of
bulgogi into his mouth. “I mean, a lot of other societies are built around the culture
of the warrior or traders, but not these people. They know nothing of the outside
world. Don’t most Coreans want to keep it that way?”
“Corean society has grown around the culture of scholars,” said Lord Min, after
Tubert had translated. “We are not like the Japanese, where society grows out of the
sword, although we’re the only nation on earth who single-handedly has defeated
Japan in war. Trading has been left to a despised class, a bourgeoisie, of whom
honor and chivalry, even honesty, are not expected.”
The nobleman turned and had an animated conversation with the rotund eunuch
near him and both men chuckled at a private joke.
“I’m told the common people cringe before authority,” noted Foote, quietly, so that
the Corean lord could not hear him. “That the tax collectors and officials at all levels
have, over the centuries, eroded the vitality from this land.”
“Yes, they cringe,” replied Tubert, his voice also low. “Until conditions become
unbearable. Then something breaks and they go wild, destroying blindly, and
completely. And then, in a day or a week, order is back, all peaceful, as if nothing
happened. As you meet with the king and queen tomorrow to discuss exchanging
and opening legations, bear in mind that there’s a secret cult growing in Chaoshien,
the Tonghaks, who swear to topple the ancient corrupt order of rule, and drive all of
us from the land.”
“Tubert’s hunters, and the Corean troops at Kangwha, weren’t cringing,” noted
Jewell. “The same Corean who’ll cringe at someone in authority, then walks up to a
tiger and kills it at arm’s length with an outdated matchlock or a spear, isn’t by
nature a coward.”
Lord Min and the Corean foreign office officials were chatting, laughing with two
“Now that the treaty’s signed, I wonder what the hell we’ve left ourselves in for in
opening Chaoshien,” said the American minister softly. “I mean, our worlds are
complete opposites, Asians and Westerners, unknowable to one another.”
“It can be a delightful mix,” said Tubert, already sensing the envoy’s dislike for
him. “Never total acceptance, of course. I was born to come here. Destiny. The
Coreans call it jes-u. Your arrival here is also jes-u, Mister Foote. Look, the acrobats
are getting ready to perform.”
Beyond Tubert’s quarters, young Kwan Il stood before a shed with a table covered
with tiger hides. He was doing a landslide business. In less than three hours, more
than two hundred hides sold, half of them to American trader Walter Townsend,
freshly arrived with his Japanese wife and two small sons.
Around Kwan Il were price signs posted in Chinese, Japanese and English for the
cost of hides in various currencies, with similar signs at the Arabic artifacts shelves
and the ginseng shelves operated by trusted posang nearby. The tall young
northerner blocked off the horrid noise of the barbarian musicians, barely glanced at
the Corean acrobats on the tightrope and stilts, or at their trained bear performing
tricks. While the settlement’s female cook servant and Madam Ahn’s female
caterers slowly rotated and the two pigs and half an oxen on open air iron spits next
to the great wall on one side of Tubert’s cottage, three of Madam Ahn’s serving girls
moved among the settlement's guests serving marinated strips of beef and pork with
spoons and wooden chopsticks on plates with steaming white rice to the mixed
crowd. Three other girls circulated with cups, pitchers of rice wine and cold,
Mun sent the young hunter standing guard down to the tables to eat and for long
minutes watched the gulls clipping the water down near the shore, the afternoon
magnificent, but now witnessed by barbarians, therefore forever changed. The
lookout tower next to the gate was elevated, reachable by a stout ladder, with crude
wooden boards behind the wall forming a sturdy platform eight feet wide, sixteen
feet in length, and capable of holding a dozen armed men. He watched, fascinated,
as the Corean nobleman, royal body guards and drummers and other men before him
led the American commodore and envoy, Corean court and foreign staff officials,
towards the gates of Tubert’s station. Immediately behind the officials marched a
Marine platoon, one heavily armed squad to accompany the American dignitaries to
the kingdom’s capitol.
Jewell and Tubert followed behind the group, directly behind Ensign Foulke and
the Swatara’s notoriously deviant chief cook. The Soldier Brother heard bodyguards
ahead begin to curse. Quickly, he gestured silently for the absent-minded Mun to
drop to the floor of the sentry tower. Just as four armed royal guards began to rush
forward, the hunter dressed in hides spotted the waving barbarian and dropped upon
“Mun gets forgetful, at times,” chuckled Tubert, as they passed the four scowling
guards who watched the prone figure of the silent hunter. “Someday that old fool is
going to lose more than fingers.”
“You comin’ to Seoul fer the banquet tomorrow night, are you, Tubert?” Asked
Chief Thackett, nervously, but with the thick Southern accent Tubert knew so well,
walking ahead of Tubert and Jewell, thoroughly distrusting the benign and forgiving
front projected by the onetime, damning the turn of events that allowed Small and
Crazy to live and hold immense influence in this heathen’s corner of hell.
“No, Cookie. I’ll be here meeting and trading with Westerners coming ashore, and
I wasn’t invited to the banquet. All the foodstuffs have already been loaded on my
junk. That eunuch up there will help you get to the royal kitchens, and keep away
the busy bodies who might suspect the condiments you’ll use for the foreign foods
are poisons. You and him won’t need words to communicate.”
Last night, after Tubert had drove a knee into the drunken cook, Tubert had pulled
gasping man towards his settlement and allowed him to sink to the first wooden step.
“Hold your cravings until you get to Seoul, chief. I'll put the word in the ear of a
Corean with the foreign office to make sure some people there take care of your
needs. We'll let bygones be bygones. Now get over to your room in the foreigners'
club and get some sleep.”
Now before the American chief cook walked the plump, bald eunuch. The
American’s eyes were transfixed on the generous backside moving under the robes
of the panting Corean. He had twice covertly attempted to caress that bountiful
behind, after Tubert had introduced him to the sackless Corean clerk, relating that the
poor creature, unable to find normal release with women, had turned to other
recourses with unquenchable passion.
Harvey Thackett slowly allowed himself to absorb Tubert's words and his anxiety
that the grown, muscular Westerner, who might now thrash him in a fight, was stupid
enough to think bygones were bygones. The forty-year-old cook’s head nodded, and
he walked even closer to the prey before him.
“Aye, shipmate. Even if they're unwashed, hissin' garlic eaters, I intends to be
openin’ more’n just cans tonight, by damned!”
Jewell shot a curious glance at Tubert. The food service chief was notorious for his
deviant preferences, especially in the Japanese ports. He noticed a wide,
manipulative grin on Tubert.
To the side, Pak scaled the ladder to the sentry post directly ahead of them.
“Ols Man Song’s Crane certainly has an aptitude for the ways of southerners, and
foreigners,” Mun observed to his old neighbor. “But Song Hadabu-gee’s grandson
has still has never killed a cat. He still has all his fingers, which have just touched
more money in three hours than we have in our lifetime. Iii-gu, how times change.”
Twenty western breechloading rifles had been shipped to hunters at the northern
village and to other selected hamlets throughout the kingdom, with orders to kill as
many beasts as quickly as possible to meet the expected surge in demand for
carnivore hides, claws and certain body parts.
“All our young men expect to keep their fingers with the new breech-loading rifles
soldier brother had that Chinese thief smuggle in for us on his boat three weeks ago,”
noted Pak. “Of course, those rifles are for business, not just for our welfare. I still
don’t agree that Soldier Brother’s spindly Chinese midget should hold such a key
role in our operations. He could be the means for the triads, or worse, the rapacious
mandarins, to infect us. But Kwan Il is a new era chong-gak, a virgin youth. Gone
are the days when a hunter’s missing fingers showed the courage of those who
hunted, and were hunted by, the man-eaters. Our new-era chong-gak needs all his
fingers to count money, as will my own son, who shall never venture to the foreign
contamination so rampant here in the south. He shall be a new generation. And
“Ah, if we but had such firearms when we fought these barbarians,” said Mun,
wistfully, ignoring his neighbor's absurd dream. “Of course, the new rifles are more
reliable than our matchlocks, but the beasts are as eternal as the mountains, and as
dangerous as ever. Pity,” mused Mun, much less interested in politics than the
instant and fantastic profits of gunrunning and commerce. “Our barbarian brother
won’t let us put weapons in the hands of the Tonghak.”
“That won’t stop the Tonghak,” replied Pak, lowering his tones. “Three of them
were in this crowd, watching the treaty signing. The day will come when they shall
sweep aside the injustices of this land and bring forth a new order. All foreigners
and their influences are to also be cast out, I hear, and the ruling class purged. But
until I hear specifics about their new system of rule, I carry my hunting lance, bow
and full quiver of arrows. Don’t throw away your old matchlock, neighbor, nor get
too used to the fancy new rifles. Kwan Il and some of our other young men may yet
be missing more than fingers when they get to our age, others may still warm the
innards of tigers. As it was in our youth, it ever shall be. Our land and traditions,
“It’s been so long since either us tracked and killed the great cats,” said Mun,
thickly, tiring of trying to absorb what his philosophically inclined neighbor was
saying. “And listen, Soldier Brother is no longer a foreigner, and the future has
never looked brighter, but you really should get some control over him.”
“Oh, I’ll rein him in,” replied Pak, depressed, resting his elbows on the top of the
wall, only to be assaulted by the offensive shouts and laughter of Westerners in
Madam Ahn’s brightly lit establishment directly across the road. Three American
women had quickly arrived ashore from Hong Kong that afternoon to join the French
whore in serving drinks under the supervision of Aaron Buferd, and were making
frequent trips to the upstairs rooms to service rowdy barbarians. A sprinkling of
Europeans, correctly guessing that the Coreans could not tell them apart from the
round-eyed American traders, were slipping into Chemulpo.
Pak glanced towards the harbor, but turned from the sight of the immense foreign
man-of-war that dominated the harbor. He felt like he was suffocating and turned
again to Mun. “And the future has also never been more clouded, neighbor. Him
and his damned kisaeng harlot! Putting almost as much trust in a corrupt nobleman,
a filthy Chinese pony thief and a seedless eunuch, as he does us.”
“How I hate that junk,” whined Mun. “I’m just glad I wasn’t with our party that
sailed north on it for the rendezvous with the Russian and his Chinese dog. The sea
makes all of us sick. But as I was saying, neighbor, you put the arrow through him,
and though the royal mandate is lifted, you are still responsible for him.”
“He’s no longer consulting me, nor listening to my good advice, Mun. Now he’s
serving as a puppet for Lord Min, the queen’s own nephew and lackey, and his
fellow barbarians! Did I tell you that the eunuch and the kisaeng were seen by Kwan
Il emerging from the new building of the old hag who is our neighbor, after darkness,
last night? Yes, and Soldier Brother just shrugged when Kwan Il told him. As if it’s
not risky enough in Manchuria dealing with that empire-hungry Cossack and his
Chinese man-woman, who are jealous of our round-eyed former ward and won’t
need him when the upcoming treaty with Russia gets signed, even with this
flamboyant open house at this settlement, projecting as if he is part of the both the
ruling elite as well as a member of the the invading barbarian hordes.”
“Well, at least he’s not flying the foreigners’ flag in this settlement,” observed
Mun, troubled at the growing chasm between the once inseparable men. “But I have
to agree he’s overdoing some things.”
“Even that bandy-legged little Japanese pirate, whose brother’s hide dangles from
our barbarian’s side, and who has posted notices of intent to kill Soldier Brother,
strides belligerently into our settlement with the public this afternoon! So damnably
reckless! I tell you, Mun, he’s completely out of control. One of these days, if I can
get him to hold his mouth long enough, I’ll have a long talk with him as his elder
brother, or kick his ass. Or both.”
“The start is less important than the finish, neighbor,” said Mun, yawning, the
complexities and implications of the kingdom opening to the West tiring him,
although the thought of battle between Pak and Soldier Brother made him both
uneasy yet curious about which one would survive such a fight. Mun began to
descend the ladder to walk through the still crowded, torchlit settlement to the
hunters’ living quarters and sleep off the effects of the beer. “Did I tell you, I am
having the thatched roof on my home replaced by a tile roof? Oh, yes, my wife likes
the warmth and food during winter that our work with our unpredictable, out of
control barbarian gives us, though each year the tax collectors grow more suspicious
and demand even greater bribes. Just remember, you’re the one who inflicted him on
“Hadda-so, hadda-so! I understand that!” Snapped Pak irritably, suddenly sweating
and exasperated, alone on the sentry tower, watching the Soldier Brother and carouse
with Westerners on the settlement grounds below. “I’ll come up with the key to
control him. And send our young guard back up here. I want all these ill-begotten,
freeloading visitors milling around down there to know that an armed sentry watches
this settlement, and them, at all times!”
Pak Chun Yol turned and faced the world he knew had just changed, watching
Tubert and Jewell walk from the wharves and enter Madam Ahn new building of sin,
drink and fornication just across the dirt road, where all the civilian and military
foreigners were gathering. The hunter knew that it wasn’t the two-bit kisaeng, not the
slick palmed eunuch, Lord Min or the moth-eaten or the wind-filled Japanese, nor
even the mercenary T’ang who made him feel that the weight of the sky itself had
descended upon his shoulders.
It is the thought of change, he told himself.
‘Until now, we’re all the Soldier Brother had, and through him I have provided for
my family, will be able to give my own son an education. But with the coming of
those of similar racial appearance, with their shiny watches and weapons of vast
destruction, their unproven, unthought out ideas and cultures, will our barbarian be
drawn back, seduced by them?’
For long minutes, Pak stood silently at the sentry post, a flood of memories from
more than a decade moving through him, all of them touched by the presence of their
rootless, tough and resourceful but unpredictable barbarian.
‘We need change, no point in fighting it, for it is already here,’ he thought, exhaling,
feeling the spiritual heaviness lighten, and hearing the young sentry scaling the
ladder to the tower. In spite of himself, he chuckled.
‘But our world would be greatly diminished without Soldier Brother in it.’
* * * *
Preparing to accompany the advance party, Thackett supervised the unloading of
condiments, foods, cooking utensils and elaborate plates and silverware from Small and
Crazy's Chinese junk at Seoul's Mapo area along the Han River. Ashore, Shufeldt, Foote
and Lord Min had climbed aboard waiting palanquins and, with an entourage, were
quickly carried towards the downtown Chong No District as coolies unloaded Thackett's
boxes, placing the itemss upon an ox drawn cart.
“Please sit here, sir,” said a young Corean named Hong in English, patting a seat in a
waiting palanquin chair. “You will ride on this conveyance into Seoul. We should be
downtown in about an hour and a half.” He and his family had spent years in Chefoo to
escape Chaoshien’s Christianity purges. The Soldier Brother was quietly working to get
him a commission in the Corean Army.
The small procession, with Yi the Eunuch and the Western sailor following in
palanquins behind the cart, began moving towards the royal kitchens.
‘Soon time to quit this damned Navy,’ Harvey thought to himself, his anxiety great at
being left alone in this land so pulverized at the Battle of Kangwha, easing slightly as he
accepted a tiny cake from one of the junk’s Chinese youths.
“Go with the Feng-qua into Seoul, and ply him with these small cakes with ground
opium seeds from Manchuria,” T'ang told his two young cousins, both boys. He was
intrigued by the scarcely contained contempt and animosity Soldier Brother and this
arrogant barbarian sailor had for one another. “The Soldier Brother had me purchase
these in a special Chinese shop in Chemulpo, and wants this particular barbarian so
robbed of his wits that the sight of a passing gull dropping dung will please him. As soon
as he enters the palace kitchens, give him the remainder of the cakes, and get back here
Thackett felt relieved as he watched the official party disappear in the distance,
experiencing a feeling of incredible calm and well-being. He knew that his career with
the Navy was growing tenuous, particularly when he was required to sail on occasional
missions outside of Nagasaki and had to try to conceal his special passions. Had he but
known that Small and Crazy had survived in the land of the dog-eaters, he would have
had chance to plan and make life a lot more interesting for Tubert..
During the past year at Nagasaki, two Americans from North Carolina representing a
great tobacco firm trying to open new markets in Asia had approached the cook during
social functions to head a handful of Japanese tobacco agents in expanding sales,
especially down in the area around Formosa. And the Japanese agents had introduced
Thackett to new Japanese men who performed as females in Japanese theater, and also in
He knew that his official life was in shreds, that his drunkenness and debauchery was
tolerated only because of his abilities at ice sculptures and culinary skills and occasional
special services for certain American diplomats and senior naval officers. 'Least ways, I
wouldn't have to put up with self-righteous jackasses like that human satin, Jewell, or that
sawed off Shufeldt,” Cookie told himself, climbing into a palanquin. “Getting' too
damned old to be puttin' up with muckels. How I’d love to finish the old feud with that
Corean nigger lover, Tubert.’
As the palanquin swayed, and the junk's two young Chinese hands, one on either side of
him, handed Thackett roasted, crunchy snacks that had yet more calming effect, Cookie
realized that they contained something special and laughed at himself. The Navy has
been a refuge, an oasis full of men away from their women, where a fellow with odd
tastes but near brilliant cooking talents could thrive. Never you mind that the Dixie of
old is gone, Thackett told himself, for there never was no place there for a male who
preferred other males. No real difference between a man crippled by the North-South
War, then fed opium for his pains and who came to the Asiatic Fleet so that you could eat
and satisfy your cravings. Hadn't opium become a plague back home? Oh, no, it had
been no problem shifting from the gray uniform to the Yankee Navy, because allegiance
was never an issue. And so came Asia, where few people, especially the Japanese, were
overly bothered by men with opium cravings, or who have affections for other men.
‘Ain't the Japanese you love rubbing yer flesh into yellow? Yes, they are, but they are a
different breed. Hasn't Japan forbidden opium for its people? The honorary Whites of
Asia! Just look at how they are changin’ their country. And many ain't got no scruples
about accepting the earthy pleasures of a foreigner. I could never leave, it was always a
share-cropper life back in the South, and nothing to go back to and it would be the same
hell again if I was stupid enough to go back home. But it's another blessing coming my
way, now that tobacco is replacing cotton back home, and the Japanese agents want me to
help sell tobacco and fake Western goods out here. Oh, yes, the day ain't far off when I'll
be taken this uniform of the Yankee Navy off, throwing it back to them.’
In return for as much rye whiskey as he could drink in the Foreigners' Club yesterday
after coming ashore with Aaron Buferd and Tubert, the new manager of the club had
extracted from the legendary cook a handful of simple recipes which would highlight the
meals served there for years to come.
“Tuber’ tocsan bad man,” Buferd's small Japanese assistant said in broken English as
Buferd inventoried supplies and Thackett emptied half a bottle. “Numba ten man! Years
before, killings innocent Japanese. All Japanese, hate ‘um!”
So, thought Harvey Thackett, beginning to serenely enjoy the swaying of the palanquin
and having another small cake, experiencing a seductive euphoria, the Jap devils and me
gots common enemy with Timothy. Well, well, well, thought Harvey, his head beginning
to spin, that be even more interesting than having tobacco or a railroad or a battleship to
sell the Nips!
‘And how's bout I tell my Japanese friends yet to be made here that I will someday try
to deliver to them the most unusual set of deformed ears that ever came out of Corea?’
With difficulty in the setting sunlight, as the coolies carrying his palanquin bearers
gasped for breath while traversing hills towards downtown Seoul, the American thought
how long ago China and the Kangwha battle had been, and was pleased that his hatred of
Tubert still coursed with such strength.
‘Small ‘n Crazy has been beggin’ to be cut from his knees ever since he wouldn't give in
and be mounted, as a boy,’ Thackett told himself. ‘I coulda taught him ‘bout white men,
and pain and pleasure, cookin’, subservience and a future, but no, he was always resistin’,
and still is. How he’s grown, but I’ll still show him there’s no place for escapin’ me.’
He smelled the cooking fires from the straw thatched hootches the party passed by,
heard the banter of the Corean fellow Tubert had called Yi, and the chef grinned and
promised himself a memorable evening. As darkness was falling, they passed through a
gate into the ancient city, and Harvey noticed that Corean females seemed taller and more
erect than their Japanese sisters. Suddenly, his deep-seated hatred of most of humanity,
and Small and Crazy in particular, dissolved.
‘How pleasurable to turn the stoic faces of Asian men and women into rapture, and
sometimes pain! Afore this night be out, I'll sample that eunuch, and the sweet tunnel of
some lucky Corean woman,’ Harvey promised himself as the small procession ground to
a halt and he swung himself giddily to the ground, just in time to see Coreans drive
swords into the heart of a Corean bullock. Along the torch lit street, fifty feet away, the
same fate befell a tethered pig.
“Uh,” said Hong behind them, as Corean butchers expertly disemboweled and skinned
the animals "That is your meat for tomorrow's banquet. The kitchens preparing
tomorrow's banquet foods are over there.”
“What?” Cried the barbarian, springing from the conveyance, his legs wobbly. “You
just can't let those animals lay there! You gots to bleed 'em first. And this damned place
looks more like a barn than a kitchen!”
“Both bullock and the pig are young and tender, sir. There is no other fresh meat. And
bleeding is unheard of in Chaoshien.”
Quickly, Thackett and Hong and the eunuch entered the sprawling, lantern lit interior of
the government kitchens, Thackett impressed by the clay ovens, open air spits and clay
stoves within. There were more than thirty people, primarily women, at work on the
earthen floors and wooden tables within, peeling vegetables, cleaning fish, scrubbing and
then refilling pots and pans, dozens of spicy aromas mixing with the scent of frying foods
and boiling soups.
“Put my condiments, flour, taters and apples on these counters over here,” snapped
Thackett, his words slurring slightly, opening a bag as a coolie placed it upon the huge
counter, and taking note of what appeared to be a small supply room with a wooden door.
The foreign devil pulled a bottle of whiskey from the canvas bag, took a long swig,
offering Small and Crazy's translator the bottle. Hong shook his head, disliking alcohol,
and already disliking this strange foreigner. Thackett shrugged, then suddenly patted the
flinching eunuch next to him on the buttocks while offering both Coreans the bottle.
Hong shook his head, while Yi, mindful of Soldier Brother's instructions to in no way
offend this ill-mannered brute, gagged at the harshness of the whiskey.
“Don’t blame you t’all,” said Thackett, his words slurring, offering the Coreans some of
his remaining special cookies. “Most of us are tricked into sobriety, fellas, but suit
yerselves. Now lookie, I need this area cleared in order to cook, and I want plenty of
bowls of clean water. Hey, take it easy with those jars of oils and that tin of lard!”
For an hour, the barbarian cook scurried around the kitchen stall, supervising two
middle-aged women in kneading dough, having another peel potatoes, yet another peel
and dice the exotic fruit, unknown to Chaoshien, that he called apples. With his bottle in
one hand, and a saw in the other, he went outside and cut the choicest morsels from the
animal carcass, and all were impressed as his lightening hands and wrists mixed
condiments with bubbling mixtures of oils and water and vegetables, using none of the
ingredients Coreans used to marinate the meats. The Coreans were especially fascinated
by the bag of special fruit, or perhaps vegetables, unlike any they had ever seen.
The drunker the Western cook became, the faster his hands moved. The Coreans
watched spellbound as he kneaded flour, oil and water into dough, and drew slightly
closer as the apples seemed to spin in his magic hands, a small, razor-like knife causing
peelings to land in stands on the great wooden counter. Harvey Thackett stuck an apple
peel strand in his mouth and chewed, inviting the Coreans to do the same with the other
peelings, oblivious to their murmurs of delight as he suddenly seized another larger knife.
The blade flashed faster than anyone had seen a human hand move, dicing the apples into
slivers. Hong kept his distance, wondering what this foreign maniac would do to a
human who displeased him.
“I s’pose you ain’t got nothin’ like pie pans,” sighed the barbarian cook, his words slow,
now ignoring his cup bottle of rye whiskey. Ceramic pots were brought, and the pies and
cakes placed in ovens. He turned to the Coreans with a wild, intense gleam in his eyes,
impulsively reaching across the counter and squeezing the breast of a nearby Corean
woman in a colorful flowing gown, who shouted in indignation and scurried from the
ground floor kitchen. Ah, yes, thought the Miguk cook in his newfound state of majestic
intellect; how them cookies banished what agitated a man, concentrated him on what had
“Most unwise,” said the eunuch to this new upstart, Hong, wondering what influence
this overseas Corean son of an exiled family had, or wished to have, with Soldier Brother.
“The girl he just squeezed is a hand maiden of Ma Ma, the queen, here to observe and
report the banquet preparations.”
The drunken barbarian did not find any of the remaining female servants to his liking.
He sighed. “Fornicator Shufeldt’ll never know the difference. Yes, we'll just have to
make do with the heathen pots ’n pans, and with you men heathens.”
With seamless movements, the intoxicated foreign devil grabbed brass pans, instead of
ceramic pans, lining the inside of the pans with dough, then pouring the marinated apple
slivers into each pan. Two women helped him place the pies into a great earthen oven.
“Pies will be done in one hour.” Then he grabbed the robes of the bored eunuch with
the Buddha-like bald head, pulling the eunuch towards the nearby supply room
“Come with me while those apples are boilin’. You ’n me got some relaxin’ to do.”
Both males entered the storage room, and in less than a minute came the sounds of
scuffling, clanging pans, and outraged curses from the eunuch. From the outer kitchen,
Hong heard palace guards asking the whereabouts of the barbarian. Through a side
entrance, the terrifiedCorean slipped into the darkness.
“Git back here and hold still, you garlic stinkin’ Mongolian whelp!” Laughed the
drunken Westerner, good-naturedly, as the rotund Corean in the funny hat and court
robes slipped from his grasp and nearly broke the gate of the supply room from it's
“I cannot put up with such a creature of unnatural cravings!” Screamed the eunuch,
breathless, as six guards entered the inner kitchen. “Lock this foreign pervert up, I beg
you! No treaty can force us to put up with such a creature!”
Hours passed. In a delicious stupor, the Western cook did not mind the wooden yoke
that was fixed about his neck and shoulders, his arms bound to it. He calmly noticed the
smoke from his burning apple pies in the nearby royal ovens, nodding in satisfaction that
they were in the ovens for too long and were burning. He looked around for the young
English-speaking Corean named Hong, who had left the kitchens in disgust.
He was barely conscious when the sun rose, and that Commander Theodore Jewell, a
squad of American Marines next to him, was speaking.
“Well, you've done it at last, Cookie,” said Jewell, as the Americans whisked the opium-
drenched man from the kitchens.
“Solitude and silence is what I found,” murmured the fleet’s renowned cook. “You’re
the one that pulled Small ‘n Crazy from my galley, and now lookee. You knows I been
always hatin’ him and you fer it, but my hate is not on principle, big man, nor for any
profit, just solely and simply a-hatin’.”
“You'll be out of Corea before sunset, and out of the Navy by the end of this week,” said
Jewell, knowing that the loss of face at no Western food next to native dishes at the day’s
banquet would provide him with the needed leverage to have this talented, dangerous
parasite drummed from the Navy. “At last, goddamit!”
* * * *
With the aid of Tubert, Englishman William Aston, assisted by Admiral Willis,
Great Britain soon signed a treaty with Seoul, followed weeks later with the Chinese
returning for a treaty with the Younger Brother. Following that came another treaty
signed by M. Von Brandt of Germany, also unofficially advised by the enigmatic
Soldier Brother of Chaoshien with the implicit concurrence of Seoul’s rulers, and the
propaganda, face and resentments that such milestones generated was immense.
That summer the peasants of Kyonggi Province watched their paddies grow
parched, the rice stalks wither and die. They saw the foreigners with American
kerosene, tobacco, dried milk, soap, canned meats and fruits, others with boxes of
German quinine, Indian cottons, bottles of French wines and suspicious photographic
supplies, British matches and needles, kegs of beer and tins of Dutch and Danish
butters become available, and word grew among the masses that the opening of
Chaoshien had put a curse on the land.
“Soldier Brother! Soldier Brother!” Cried the eunuch in his jarring, feminine,
extraordinarily high-pitched voice as the Italian treaty-signing delegates returned to
their vessel. “I must talk privately with you, at once!”
They walked to the walled settlement and to Tubert’s residence. Yi noticed the
great glass windows that could be shuttered from inside, and the vastness of the
living room shocked the portly, bald Corean. Thirty feet in width, another thirty feet
long, the floor to the left of the entrance past the doorway to Tubert’s sleeping room
was partially an ondol Corean-style radiant heat system of flukes beneath the floor
through which the heat from the spacious outdoor kitchen under a roof alongside the
quarters would provide radiant heat in flukes built into the bedroom’s clay floor in
winter. In the right corner o the office and living room rose a great, western-style
stone fireplace. Another, smaller room next to his bedroom, with a second wrought
iron door also from the bedroom, constituted the small, windowless secure room
protected by locked, iron-reinforced doors with the exotic, hairy beast that guarded
the barbarian’s cash. The odorous secure room, containing cash, transaction records
and the gold pieces brought to the settlement from deposits hidden even from the
government, was covered with a six inch thick floor on solid concrete to prevent
anyone from digging into it from outside.
“Now, what is it that so disrupts your kibun?” Asked Tubert, seating himself cross-
legged, Corean-style, on the ondol portion of the floor after the settlement cooking
and washing woman set slivers of sliced melons on a dish before them, pouring cups
of freshly-boiled barley water before departing. “What useful news that justifies the
squeeze I am paying you?”
“The anti-Western forces at court are at it again,” whispered the manshell, half-
draining his cup, gulping, the enormity of his words making his voice creak.
“Rumors grow that all foreigners shall soon be driven into the sea by a spontaneous
peasant movement that not even his majesty, or the queen, can prevent. You must be
ready to make to the sea with little or no warning.” The royal clerk glanced at the
overgrown foreigner, in order to assess his facial expression and, later, to relate that,
as well as his verbal reaction to the Japanese.
“Another Tonghak scare, eunuch,” scoffed Tubert. The secret cult now swore to
cleanse the land of inept, self-serving government officials like Yi, thieving tax
collectors, rapacious governors and magistrates, even the high ministers. Yet there
was no threat nor fault voiced with Chaoshien’s king or queen. “I swear, you
government people love rumors even more than the gossipy, illiterate peasants in the
“But not rumor, Soldier Brother,” continued Yi, disappointed at the Soldier
Brother’s evident lack of concern. “It is said there are agents in the countryside,
preparing to fan this violent demonstration. And that the old regent, the taiwongun
himself, is behind it. A fox does not retire; that blood-soaked old hellion hates
Queen Min and the Min family’s pervasiveness in Seoul. Just the thought of his
hand in this causes all factions in Seoul to scramble for a side. Lord Min lost two
servants in the last week who first tasted his food to prevent poisoning. So unwise of
the queen’s nephew to have two hundred Corean youth begin training under
Lieutenant Isobayachi and shamelessly catered to, while regular troops are issued
rice mixed with sand! Word has it that the Japanese are to be driven from the land,
and that the movement won't stop with the islanders. Danger mounts, I tell you. Even
those of us serving so valorously in government offices now fear even eating
leftovers from ministers meals!”
“New winds blow in this kingdom. Treaties have been signed, eunuch,” Tubert
remarked, concealing his concern. “Foreign troops would arrive to protect
barbarians and their interests, if necessary. Try eating in the Foreigners’ Club.”
The eunuch’s facial expression instantly changed to revulsion at the prospect of
again encountering the perverted foreign cook foisted upon him the night before the
banquet of the treaty opening.
‘A dark-hearted man,’ thought the eunuch, in panic. ‘I’ll swap ancestors with
wandering, child-eating lepers before I have that depraved barbarian food preparer
descend on me again! Iii-gu, what a twisted pervert was the orb-eyed devil cook of
the Yankee ships!’
Near midnight on night of that incident, the terrified eunuch indignantly slipped
home, far away from that aggressive fiend. Oh yes, home to his wife and son, in
Seoul’s ancient Street of the Eunuchs, where he himself had been raised after the
unfortunate accident just after birth which had torn his testicles from his scrotum.
‘Humph! Did the mongrel cook with unnatural drives think I am of the same ilk as
he? Truly, it must depend on how a male’s sacks are shredded from the body, for
some of us, very secretly, perform with great vigor with females. Understandable, of
course, how some of the court ladies who make do without a man for months, even
years, turn to one another for gratification. I’ve heard of men who would attempt to
use other men as women, just as everyone has heard stories of widows turning to
beasts for release, but I never believed such creatures existed. Loose bowels upon
thee, Soldier Brother, for inflicting such duties of attempting to be liaison for such a
scoundrel, and should that sick, deviant, round-eyed hound ever put foot on Corean
soil again, may the Tonghaks strike him down!’
With effort, the eunuch refocused his attention on the tall barbarian before him.
“So true, Soldier Brother. But Chaoshien is Corean, and much this is part of a
calculated ruse to strip the queen and her family of power. Very bad, if Western
powers ignore domestic power plays, and especially if there is an open revolt.”
“Speak plainly, eunuch,” said Tubert, reading the official clerk’s face, inwardly
amused, but under no illusions that the intrigue broker before him bartered
information and gossip solely with him. “How bad is ‘very bad?’”
Most inciteful, the eunuch told him, was the ever-increasing belligerence of the
Japanese in Chaoshien. In rural areas, young girls disappeared, reportedly taken to
the Pusan brothels in the south, some even to Japan. Fishing junks were being
boarded, their hauls stolen. Travelers on boats plying the Han River to Seoul were
attacked by near nude, sword-wielding ronin, their valuables taken. In Seoul,
Japanese were appearing in shops, seizing merchandise, paying but a fraction of the
price and several Corean shop owners had been violently beaten.
Area posang moving in and out of the settlement had already confirmed to Tubert
that trouble lay ahead.
“But the shouting match between the drunken fishermen and the German sailors
last week? It has become an exaggerated incident. And the affair where the British
soldiers tried to stuff a drunken herbal doctor into a huge clay kimchi jar as a prank
escalates in the countryside into a sinister assault,” reported a jittery posang peddler,
who worked the village markets between Bupyong and Seoul. “And people are
blaming the drought on the foreign treaties, even if the Japanese should be singled
out. Not like Coreans are hesitant to secretly purchase foreign-made goods, it’s just
safer for me to keep a blanket over them as I peddle items. It is as if someone with
real power is coordinating the hatred. Out of matches, you say?”
“Yes. The Miguk trader with the Japanese wife says that another shipment of
matches is due in this weekend from Japan.”
“So sad. I’m not worried about the mood of the people, Soldier Brother. Never
mind matches. Let me have twelve cans of meat, five bottles of that liquor that
catches fire. What did you call it?”
“Voduh-ka,” replied Kwan Il, next to Tubert. “Suryin sool. Russian alcohol.”
“Yes, voduh-ka,” said the merchant brightly. “I spread a bit on a board, light it, and
as soon as it bursts into flames, our Corean males immediately want to drink it, even
as they spout hatred of all things foreign. And seven tins of butter.”
A low moan sounded from the beast in Tubert’s cash room. The barbarian turned
his attention back to Yi.
“Eh? So sorry. Can I buy the influence of the Taiwongun to end the anti foreign
sentiment, or at least protect the settlement?” Tubert asked the eunuch.
“Impossible, Soldier Brother. Whatever the queen and her faction are for, the old
fire-breather is against. Even a hint at payment of kumsha to the old regent would
forever alienate Lord Min, Ma Ma and the king. And it would be prudent to send
word to me in advance and let me know when you’ll be in Seoul.”
For what? Asked Tubert himself, senses screaming, quietly ignoring this latest
request, as he had similar requests to be informed about his movements. Who would
use Yi to trap me? Not Lord Min. And the eunuch would not render favor and
service to the kisaeng. Surely not the Japanese legation people, nor even the teeming
hundreds of Japanese laborers and roaming peddlers, for they know my whereabouts
most times, and have no need to approach the likes of this court schemer to gain
information for the inevitable day of reckoning.
“And you mean the old regent secretly aligns with, and uses, the Tonghaks? That
sounds far-fetched. Eunuch, I can’t afford an uprising right now.”
“A persistent rumor,” wheezed the eunuch, with chopsticks drawing another peach
halve from the opened tin on Tubert’s grossly large and heavy Western table that
resembled a floor, tiring of this game with the kogeng-ii. “But we live in times when
foxes mate with snakes. The Japanese in Chaoshien are not fond of the arrival of
Westerners, and in particular, they have no affection for you. Perhaps it would be
much wiser to simply close your operation and move north to live in a home with
your virtuous tiger hunters.”
“This station is mine, the country the only one I know, and my Western face the
only one I have,” said Tubert irritably. “I am neutral for now, with most Corean
factions, but never with the Tonghaks or any others that threaten the regime and this
settlement’s existence. The settlement's survival is intertwined with the survival of
“Hadda so, Soldier Brother,” said the eunuch, nodding. “Yet though this be the
only land you know, what of a full life? What of a wife? Sons?”
“All that, and wealth, too. All in time, eunuch. Meanwhile, I’ve battled Japanese
before, and I’m ready to again. Anti foreign uprising be damned, and I’ll kill anyone
who tries to come at my settlement. Get back to Seoul and let me know if any
significant new rumors surface. And don’t forget to inquire about reports of
increased Chinese moving up the Yalu.”
“I shall, Soldier Brother,” said Yi, bowing, clutching the payment in yen coins at a
purse at his side and a burlap bag with two cans of fruits, anxious to distance himself
from this settlement and treaty port, and to report the belligerence of the foreigner to
Mihashi, hoping that one would soon destroy the other. “Remember, there’s trouble
in the air today. One thousand thanks for thy generosity.”
Tubert found the dirt road before the settlement strangely still, almost devoid of
human traffic, and his uneasiness increased. He shuffled silently from his settlement
and quietly walked up to the porch of the Foreigners’ Club. The huge doors to the
first floor were open that hot, humid evening of Eighteen Eighty-Three, only two
Germans and a British trader over beers at tables. Buferd saw the captain’s son walk
to one of the outside benches.
“Take over, Sam,” he said to his Japanese cook, cleaner, dishwasher and assistant
bar keep. He couldn’t pronounce the little fellow’s proper name, and, when his
temper rose at the man’s periodic moments of laziness, Buferd would shout, “You
get off your arse, Samurai! We gots customers waitin’ to be served!”
“Hai!” Chirped the islander, coming from the kitchen area in the rear to the bar,
only too pleased to have an opportunity to eavesdrop and observe foreigners.
“Evening, Timothy,” said the amiable, rotund caucasian manager in black trousers
held by suspenders, his white shirt stained, walking casually out to the porch where
Tubert sat on the top step with a contemplative look. “Want Sam to bring us some
“No, maybe later tonight, Buf.” In just weeks, Aaron Buferd had become a close
confidant and friend. Tubert avoided the bar when it grew crowded with Western
traders and military men after dark, choosing to distance himself from the newly
arrived Westerners who converged on him with endless questions about Corean
culture, geography, climate, sales potential and politics. As drink took effect, many
had tried to draw him aside, hoping to use him to gain advantage over competing
“Ya looks troubled, Tim. As though yer all full of thoughts.”
Tubert nodded his head.
“Lots of Chinese movement going up the Yalu, no one knows why, or to where, but
the Coreans here are worked up, blaming all foreigners for the drought. And the
mischief the Japanese are pulling may break a dam of hatred. Damned, meddling
Japanese! Every thing I have is in that settlement. After all these years, I won’t be
driven into the sea now.”
“How’s that, Tim? I mean, everyone knows the Japanese don’t like us here, and
especially don’t like you. We gonna have trouble?”
“As sure as morning will light the sky, Buf. If we’re lucky, it will be aimed at the
Japanese. But only if we’re lucky. I’ve been in the middle of bloody uprisings.
Don’t wait to see if we’re lucky, if things pop. If Corean mobs start moving, I want
you to hightail it directly into the settlement, understand?”
“I will, Tim, thank you, I promise that. I’m beginning to think the best, and safest,
time is when Jewell, your old sea-daddy, visits port. Shows the flag, protects
interests, all that,” said Buferd. “I’m sometimes wonderin’ what any of us are doing
in this country.”
“I never do,” mused Tubert aloud, without hesitation. “It’s my home. I accept it
simply. Completely. Most of our new people think they can operate in Chaoshien as
they do in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Exploit a populace. Dominate. Very unwise.
Dangerous. It’s why I chose not to be an American subject.”
Five more Westerners were walking along the dirt road towards the barbarians’
club. Hardly an Asian was visible. Tubert rose.
“The street is too damned quiet. See you later. And remember, Buf, if you hear the
sounds of a mob, get through my gates fast.”
Tiredly, Tubert walked across the dusty road and through the settlement’s great
gates, waving to a tall, lean, buckskin-clad hunter with bow slung over the shoulder
on the lookout tower. Tubert felt an uneasy stirring.
‘Malaria. I need rest. Can’t afford to wind up on my back. But impossible to rest
now.’ He toyed with the idea of reading the Hong Kong newspaper the Corean boy,
Yong Bae, had placed on his porch earlier that evening.
A week earlier, down near the wharves, Tubert had confronted for the twelve-year-
old son of a poor fishing family who seemed to be a permanent part of Flying Fist
Street, the main thoroughfare leading into port from the docks which the newly
formed municipal council, dominated by foreign merchants and diplomats, was
having cobble-stoned. In his left hand, the child clutched a small wooden box with
rags and wax
“Hey, boy, you’re like a statue, always here. You’re like a ghost, sent by the sea
devil to spy on humans.”
“Some foreign devils pay well to have their boots and shoes shined. And I like to
watch the sea, and the junks returning with their catches, Soldier Brother” said the
simple, rag-clad youth in bare feet, his eyes widening at the most fearsome of all the
Grasping him by the front of his shirt, the boy’s only shirt, Tubert pulled the Corean
boy closer to him.
“Perhaps a spy. What’s your name? And tell me the truth!”
The boy laughed at such an absurdity.
“I’m just Yong Bae, not a spy, Soldier Brother. Really. Truly.”
“Yong Bae, eh?” Said Tubert, grinning and relaxing his grip on the boy’s shirt,
allowing the mock sternness on his face to ease. “And you know who I am?”
“Of course. All of Chemulpo knows the Soldier Brother,” said the boy, wide-eyed
and in awe, animatedly mocking the tall foreigners’ gimp and gait for a few steps,
scarcely believing that he was talking to the celebrated kojeng-ii long nose who
matched the savagery of the hated waegwan Japanese marauders, who fed his
mountain tigers Corean officers who displeased him and who, it was rumored,
actually sailed his fighting junk to a yearly vacation in hell. “Your trading post is up
there, beyond the Japanese warehouses, on Flying Fish Street.”
“Listen to me, boy,” said Tubert, amused, his voice conspiring, remembering times
in his youth when he shined the shoes of Westerners, and could have used a friend.
“I need someone here to beg or buy newspapers and books for me from barbarians
coming ashore, then bring them to my settlement, along with five pounds of fresh
fish to be fed through a back window to the bear in my house. Someone I can trust.”
“You can trust me, Soldier Brother,” Yong Bae said in great earnestness. He
gestured towards a cluster of poor mud wattle homes a quarter of a mile away. “But
my father and mother are without money. My house can’t afford five pounds of fish
to eat, or buy. So sorry. You have a real bear in your house?”
Nodding, Tubert reached into a hide pouch and pulled for it two foreign silver
“You must be careful when feeding my bear. Here, Yong Bae, are two barbarian
coins. You mother is to exchange them for twenty-five hundred cash coins each.
One time only, boy. Operating funds. Your pay is one American silver dollar, to be
collected by you at the end of each month from Kwan Il, my settlement
The boy held the coins in his hand and stood quietly, unblinking, his mouth open.
Twenty-five hundred cash each month was more than his father earned.
“Well? Are you my personal agent, or must I find another boy?”
Tears rolled freely from the eyes of Yong Bae. The boy dropped to his knees,
“Trust me, I will serve you loyally,” cried the street urchin. “Thank you, Soldier
“And buy decent clothing,” said Tubert, handing the youngster a third coin. “And a
pair of warm shoes. It won’t do for a boy of the streets to lose toes from the cold
when winter arrives. Hadda-so?”
“Yes, Soldier Brother. Hadda-so.”
It was dark, the settlement lit by torches. Tubert decided to forego the laborious
reading of the English Language newspaper that night. The eunuch's remarks prayed
on his thoughts. All this stress and uncertainty, and for what? Would he ever have a
wife, and true wealth? He limped down to the hunters quarters, where Mun, seated
on a straw mat with torches on either side, was throwing yut sticks into the air which
landed between him and the posang in from Kaesong. Mun shouted with glee, his
luck endless that night, the peddler’s chagrin etched upon the gambler’s face.
“Look, Soldier Brother! I’ll soon retire for life. Our posang here insists on giving
me his hard earned cash!”
“The god of jes-u smiles on you, Older Brother,” said Tubert, his pleasure and
smile genuine, his tensions easing momentarily. “Tell me, do you expect Pak-shi to
Two days after Shufeldt had left following the treaty signing, Tubert began offering
tiger tours. For twenty-five United States dollars, or ten thousand Corean cash coins
or the equivalent, a Westerner could hire Pak or Mun, with three coolies, as bearers
and beaters for a two to three day camping expedition, a shot at a Corean tiger
guaranteed or money refunded. No refunds, of course, should the Western shooter
be devoured by a great cat, chuckled the hunters. They were booked solid until
Mun, in charge of settlement security, shook his head, remaining absorbed as the
exasperated Corean peddler before him flicked the sticks, again unsuccessfully, in
the air. The symbols on sides of the sticks counted for points.
“No. Pak must be taking the foreigners hunting this night, or he would be back
already.” One of the half dozen hunters standing around the yut players poured more
rice wine into the participants earthen cups as Mun again shouted with unabashed
glee, then continued. “They’re hunting up near the Imjin River. We’ll see him
tomorrow. Sit down! Watch me lighten this unfortunate fellow’s purse!”
“Maybe later,” sighed the Soldier Brother, his weariness returning. “I’ve got to
count today’s money with Kwan Il.”
“You need some rest, you don’t look well” called Mun absently, from the mat.
“Don’t get sick and make me mount another sorceress again to save your life.”
In the secure room of his quarters, Tubert separated and counted cash from four
different currencies, logging the amount in a ledger. Four pieces of Corean cash
coins were equivalent to one cent in American currency. It was his most tedious
daily task, and he knew he frequently miscounted and was bewildered by fluctuating
rates. Once a month, he now deposited some of his share in the newly opened Hong
Kong bank after he gave Pak the northern villagers their share of profits. He knew
that monitoring the lines of credit extended to a handful of posang was vital, but he
hated counting and delegated that task to Kwan Il.
“A successful day, Majestic Crane,” he told the tall young northerner who had no
interest in hunting, but whose business acumen was unparalleled among them, his
loyalty to the Soldier Brother even greater than his loyalty to the northern village and
the other hunters. “We prosper even more than the days before we had the expenses
of this settlement.”
“Soldier Brother, no more credit, please, to the Pyongtaek posang. And can we cut
credit to the Kaesong peddler, now sitting foolishly out there losing all his earnings
to Brother Mun, until Kaesong posang pays his balance. And a favor; next year,
allow me to lead our trading party up into Manchuria?”
“Agreed,” said Tubert, locking the door of the secure room, dropping the key into
his well-worn hide pouch. “If there is an expedition north next year.”
“You look tired, Soldier Brother. You should rest.”
“Too hot. I’m going up to the tower for awhile. I’ll relieve the sentry. Cooler
there. Sleep well, compradore.”
He walked from his sweltering quarters towards the gate, climbing the eight-
foot ladder to the lookout tower.
“Get some food, I’ll’ stand sentry,” Tubert told the Kanggye man on the tower.
“Then, before you return to this post, go over to Madam Ahn’s and have another
large pot of mocoli sent for Mun and the men.”
“Thank you, Soldier Brother,” said the man, moving down the ladder.
In the darkness, the lights of the town glistened and in the harbor, lanterns glowed
aboard moving sampans and junks. Other lights flickered aboard anchored larger
vessels. Above, a thousand stars shimmered brilliantly from heavens that should
have been pouring monsoon rains.
‘Jes-u,” thought Tubert, a light refreshing breeze reaching him. ‘It’s not only my
strength that has me standing over this ground I nearly died on just months ago, and
not only coincidence that suddenly has me surrounded by people of my own race.
Where does jes-u come from? Do we not manufacture a part of it, and does it not
invisibly touch everything? And where is it taking me?’ And jes-u, he thought, is
thick in the air tonight.
Thoughts of fate and divinity, and the need to somehow twist them, depressed him.
Swept suddenly from homeless wanderer to a propertied international trader and
consultant, Tubert felt a sudden urge to flee this uneasy flash point and time of
cultures, nations and domestic Corean upheavals, to disappear to the lofty,
unpolluted Kumgang Monastery with Yoo, who would help to spiritually sort things
out, and who had blessed the settlement when construction began.
‘I’ll go there in early fall, before the first snows,’ Tubert promised himself. ‘And
let’s hope Hong and the other Corean Christians, secretly setting up meetings in this
port, quietly hoping the forbidden Western holy men arrive, have enough sense not
to flaunt their faith. You can tell them by a glance at their faces; they’re working to
embrace the belief that a foreign god has made all men equal.’
He heard laughter from the two-story building across the dirt road. Pak had ordered
that sentries be watchful and report anyone who peered from the Western building’s
upstairs windows for more than two minutes.
“An arrow in or near the brains of a spy will help satisfy such curiosity,” Pak told
Tubert allowed himself to be distracted from the moonlit Flying Fish Channel and
watched with amusement as a lantern next to a room facing his gates illuminated the
shadows of the vigorous panting, thrusting movements of a drunken British sergeant
with a round-eyed prostitute in shadows that played against the wall. Below him, the
hunter sentry walked past the gate and disappeared around the back of the
Foreigners’ Club to fetch the fresh container of rice wine from Madam Ahn’s walled
brotel where a handful of Japanese men sat drinking apart from Coreans and
Tubert turned from the dancing shadows and sat tiredly on the top of the twelve-
foot high red brick wall before him.
‘Now I have my own house, and I can’t stand being in it alone. The girls in the
wine houses, from Manchuria to Pusan, are fun, but I won't have one of them here.
But with no one to share it with, I feel chained to it. And unthinkable to touch the
Western trollops across the street, who pleasure foreigners by night and, secretly,
Asians by day, almost around the clock. I have absolutely nothing in common with
any of them.’
What to do about the predatory kisaeng girl?
Two nights before, he had slipped from the diplomatic reception for the Italians at
the downtown Seoul banquet hall, making his way in the darkness to the ever-
expanding Japanese sector of Yongsan, where the girl lived. The formalities in
Seoul, and the confining Western suit that he so detested, added to his need to find
relief by spending another night in the arms of the exotic mistress over the hills from
the government buildings.
The great hall was filled with Corean officials of the various ministries, the ever-
present Chinese interpreters, Yuan’s eyes and ears, next to them coyly translating
conversations for the foreign diplomats. A few European wives accompanied the
diplomats and the sprinkling of foreign military attaches in colorful uniforms. King
Kojong, with Queen Min’s hand on his elbow, had arrived, smiling, shaking the
hands of guests in a receiving line and, later, the Western wives being seated away
from the men, segregated Corean style, near the queen at the end of a long, ornately
lacquered mother-of-pearl table.
Glasses of wine from Naples were raised, toasting that day’s treaty with Italy, the
mandatory Chinese interpreter botching the translation.
“The Chinese have just told King Kojong that the Italian minister is in admiration
of the splendor and magnificence of the mating patterns of Yi Chaoshien’s five
hundred years of rule,” Tubert gleefully informed Lord Min, William Aston and Von
Brandt at the opposite side of the table.
The diplomats turned red, eyes bulging, barely able to contain their laughter. Lord
Min, hearing Tubert’s Corean translation, shook his head with resignation, then
smiled. The Soldier Brother’s translation at their table had finished fully one minute
before the distorted, inaccurate Chinese interpreter’s version.
“Translations can be amazing, can’t they?” Quietly observed Aston, fit, clean
shaven, forty-two years old. In nearly two decades in Japan, he had written the first
primers introducing English to Japanese students and bending the attitudes of British
and Japanese officials into an alliance. Vital to surround the Crown’s interests with
the most progressive, and ambitious, of all Asians to thwart the expansionist dreams
of these other powers, especially the damned Tsarists, what? He also spoke passable
Mandarin. “I complimented Her Majesty on being a beautiful queen, and the
translator said the Queen’s interpreted reply was that she exhausts four bodyguards
each morning, before dawn.”
“Verdomda Chinese,” thickly chuckled the stout, whiskered Von Brandt,
Germany’s envoy, shaking his head, nearly choking on the Italian wine.
“Chon-gol”, a thick stew of noodles and slices of various meats and vegetables,
cooked over charcoal fires in cooking braziers with stovepipes, was placed directly
on the table before them. The movable cooking braziers were made of brass and,
when polished carefully, the braziers shined with a brilliant golden sheen.
The banquet menu consisted of nineteen different kinds of soups, three kinds of
chong-gol stew of the noodle, vegetable and meat variety. There were eighteen
kinds of simmered and stewed dishes, twenty-one types of fried fish and meat, and
fourteen different kinds of skewers. Five marinated fish and meat dishes were
served, plus twenty-seven varieties of light puffy rice and honey cakes that melted on
White charcoal was used for the fire in the braziers for these dishes and delicacies
to prevent the soot from annoying the guests. All eating utensils and bowels were of
pure silver. Having silverware was a vital matter to Corean royalty and officials,
because it helped prevent poisoning from political rivals. Silverware reacted
sensitively to possibly poisoned food by turning a different color.
“Lord Min agrees,” translated Tubert, watching waiters arrive with food, and not
caring that the Chinese might overhear him. “He says as Coreans and Westerners
grow to know one another, to benefit and to communicate, one of our goals is to
eliminate the mandatory Chinese translators and interpreters completely. Our lord
notes at least there can be no misinterpretation when it comes to good food.”
“Or good pillowing,” added the British envoy, the other men chuckling and the
Corean lord nodding, grinning, raising the wineglass.
“Lord Min couldn’t be more correct . Not your everyday Corean fare, I take it,”
continued Aston, who was learning that the Coreans were extremely individualistic,
unlike the Japanese who he knew so well.
“In the kitchens of Corean peasants, cooking with white charcoal isn’t done,” Tubert
told the foreigners, producing his own spoon, to Min’s amusement. “They cook
with normal firewood. The walls and floors are covered in black soot, a hole in the
ceiling as a chimney to let the smoke out.”
“They certainly have a variety of dishes,” said Foote, who had not touched anything
other than strips of marinated steak. “You eat all their food?”
“Pretty much,” said Tubert. “Superstition also lives in the kitchens of Chaoshien,
from the lowest classes to the palace royalty. Even my hunters believe that what
goes through your mouth can effect your entire life. And when young scholars of the
wealthy prepare to pass civil service examinations, the way food is prepared, and
what it contains, supposedly plays a large role in their fate. For instance, nakji, my
favorite kind of octopus prepared on red hot braziers, is considered bad luck for
students. They avoid it altogether.”
He saw the German envoy glower at the whispering French envoy and his military
attaché halfway down the thirty-foot long table. Across the five-foot wide table, was
the pompous, Gott-verdomda little Japanese rooster, Count Inouye, who was losing
no opportunity to impress upon all of them that Japan’s treaty with Chaoshien was
first, her interests and influence here, also first.
“Pity the American Treaty, so unfair to the rest of us, did not manage to exclude the
requirement for Chinese to be used,” said Von Brandt, needling Foote, and
mistrusting the influence of this renegade white American across the table. “As if
we don’t have enough problems communicating and understanding in China itself!
Here, the confusion is compounded. Because of the American Treaty, we all have to
live with that.”
“No way to exclude the Chinese, Herr von Brandt,” Foote reminded the German,
and all of them. “We’re lucky to be here at all.”
“Let’s hope Chaoshien is lucky,” Tubert said, firing back cynicism at the German
minister, and noting Yi the eunuch seating himself next to the Japanese minister
down the table. “I certainly could have done without a Chinese mandarin, but this is
Italy’s night, gentlemen. The newest face,” said Tubert, raising his glass, “to round
out the happy western family in Chaoshien.”
“Hear, hear!” Aston said, Tubert’s sarcasm not lost on them. Just where were
Tubert’s loyalties? Could Chaoshien’s outward white man, born an American but so
thoroughly Asian inside, be pulled into the effort to have British military advisors
assigned to the Corean army?
‘We bring our in-fighting from elsewhere in Asia with us to this Hermit Kingdom,’
Aston thought, ‘and, damn your eyes, you fat German pig, for telling Lord Min that
your admittedly excellent Prussian officers are far superior to ours. That, in turn,
could lead to lucrative sale of arms the Corean army so desperately needs. We’ll see
about that. Meanwhile, here in politically unfocused and bewildering Chaoshien, to
stay secretly allied with the admittedly heavy-handed and too ambitious Japanese.’
William also raised his glass.
“To the newest legation faces in Corea’s foreign gallery!”
“Very well, to the new faces!” Said the German, grudgingly enjoying his rival’s wit
and humor, as Tubert translated for the queen’s nephew. Min Yong-Ik, grinned,
nodded, and raised his glass.
“To another face,” Tubert said tiredly, noting that the American envoy remained
silent, resenting his influence and independence and very presence at the diplomatic
Tubert had turned to the nobleman next to him.
“I would leave the banquet, lord. No need for me to watch the exchange of gifts.
And the farewells will go fine without me.”
Min had glanced at the tall barbarian questioningly, then smiled widely, nodding
The entirely too self-important and self-serving eunuch had updated Min days
earlier about Tubert’s mistress, noting that she now also secretly comforted an
especially ruthless Japanese patron, but that there was no need for intervention or
concern, because the intense, expensive relationship between the low-class kisaeng
and the Soldier Brother was one of sweating red hot lust mixed with economics and,
happily, neither political intrigue or romantic love had nothing to do with it.
‘We look different facially, and we think differently in the head,’ wryly thought the
Corean nobleman. ‘But at least we’re no different in what dangles between our
“Certainly, Soldier Brother. But too late to travel in the darkness to Chemulpo,”
said Lord Min, amused.
“And when are we going to meet this mythical Corean beauty who holds the heart
of Chaoshien’s great white hunter and adventurer in her hands?” Inquired Von
Brandt, teasing, as Tubert announced his departure. Who had not heard that he had a
Corean woman hidden away? “Meet the mysterious woman behind the great
“When she is found, Herr Von Brandt,” replied Tubert, rising. He bowed towards
the royal couple, then bowed to Min, motioning for the displaced Chinese translator
nearby to take his place. “If she exists.”
“I say, Timothy,” observed Aston good-naturedly, thrusting forward at the table
with his torso. Just last weekend, this off center fellow had taken Jamie Scott, a
British logistics officer, and a handful of other British military men, on a drunken
thunder run that had started in the Foreigners’ Club and culminated in a celebration
of refined debauchery the following dawn in the street-side establishments of Seoul’s
Alley of Blood. “Go saw them all in half, until you do!”
“See you in the next few days, Tubert,” said Foote dryly, seething at Tubert’s
rapport with the other envoys, and especially with the Corean lord. “Stop by the
“I shall. Good evening, gentlemen.”
Tubert eased himself downward and sat on the tower's smooth wooden boards, the
permanence and security of the settlement like a warm, comforting blanket that made
up for all the things that had been missing from his life. Then he allowed his mind to
return to the strip to the kisaeng's home in Seoul's Itaewon District.
He had made his way through a narrow main street with Japanese homes and
storefront shops, up the knoll upon which Chrysanthemum’s walled cottage rested.
Hesitantly, the servant lady allowed the tall barbarian to enter, nervously inviting
him into the sitting room. He stared at the floor before the polished wooden porch
while removing his sealskin boots. There were wooden sandals there. Not Corean,
and of a size that was too large for the girl’s feet, and entirely too small for his own.
“The mistress shops, barbarian,” the servant woman said, a tension in her voice.
“I see,” said Tubert, masking his concern. It was their practice for him to spend the
night with her each time he came to Seoul for a treaty banquet or other visit, and she
had always been present when he arrived. She sought to be informed before his
arrivals in Seoul and his other travels. “Let’s hope she wrangles good deals, and
doesn’t tire herself.”
“Yes, tired would be bad,” said the grizzled servant absently, her mind busy.
“Please stay here and watch the house. I will go find her.”
“No need, old woman! I’m sure she’ll be back soon.”
“No, she must not return tired,” repeated the woman, hedging mindlessly. “I’ll find
her immediately. She’ll want all her energy with you here. Just relax. I’ll be right
back.” Within fifteen minutes, the groveling servant returned with Chrysanthemum,
face powdered white with make-up. She was wearing a beautiful silken white
Japanese kimono with colorful, exquisitely embroidered flowers.
“Well, Konichii-wa,” said Tubert wryly, his jaw dropping, his heart sinking.
“You’re beautiful, but maybe I’m in the wrong house. What the hell is that?”
“Oh, just my new dress,” she replied, the gaiety in her voice forced as she slipped
off her dainty white shoes and rushed to join him, thrusting herself into the face and
chest of the seated barbarian. She reeked of sake. “Do you like the dress? I bought
it just for you!”
“How about the shoes? Are they for me also?”
“Oh, yes! The shoes? Stupid Japanese tinker! He made the wrong size,” she
giggled, snuggling into his arms, reaching for him. “Because you have such a big
size, you understand? Why didn’t you come earlier? You keep me at a distance,”
she said accusingly, and pouted. “Make me so lonely.”
“So you got drunk,” Tubert replied, deciding that this would be the last visit to the
unfaithful whore, but responding to her hands.
“What do you think? I must drink, you keep me at a distance, while living in that
enormous mansion by yourself in Chemulpo! I suffer in this...shack, neglected, a
piece of offal you let flies to feed on!” She cried, tearing at his shirt and trousers,
pushing him naked to the floor, deftly banishing any hesitations he might have.
“Old woman! She cried, rising to her feet, shamelessly allowing the silken robe to
fall to the sitting room floor. “Prepare rice! Then, go down to the market and get
wine, fresh oysters and vegetables!” Nude, she rejoined him. “We’re going to need
a meal in two hours,” she said hoarsely, mounting the foreign devil. “Then a meal,
every two hours, until dawn.”
Legs wobbling, Tubert had left the house on the Yongsan hill an hour after dawn as
the exhausted, talented female slept soundly.
“This is for your mistress,” he now recalled whispering to the servant, giving the
sleepy servant a piece of gold that more than covered Chrysanthemum’s needs for
the next three months. “Next time, tell her to make sure the shoes she buys fit
whomever they are purchased for.”
‘So that’s done,’ Tubert thought from on top of the settlement tower that hot
summer night. ‘Or is it? The kisaeng is a female viper who will not lightly give up a
real source of income that easily. Too much to expect physical pleasure and also a
sharing of mind and heart with any female, yet her charms filled an emptiness. How
far I’ve come, to be able to think of acquiring a woman. But who? From where?’
That summer night atop the guard tower for long minutes he pondered whether
Chrysanthemum was something, rather than someone, he wanted. Such
contemplation was broken by the sounds of a commotion in the port town. Tubert
raised his head sprang to his feet, seeing a fast moving torch-lit procession in the
distance making towards the waterfront. The occasional crack of a rifle sounded.
He heard shouts, and within a minute there was movement on the dirt road below the
settlement. Five figures, heaving for breath, ragged and bleeding, ran from the road
towards Madam Ahn’s tavern behind the Foreigners’ Club. Now, from opposite
ends of the street, groups of Corean peasants were running towards the club,
apparently searching for the fugitives.
Tubert heard the Coreans shout, “end the drought and the curse! Out with the
foreigners! Death to all Japanese!”
“Mun, Kwan Il!” He shouted, pulling the revolver from his sack, clicking rounds
into the empty chambers. “Get the gates closed quickly! There are mobs out on the
Immediately, hunters pulled the great wooden gates closed and barred them. Mun
and Kwan Il led other northerners up the ladder. There were shouts from the rear of
the two-story hotel. A few Westerners ventured onto the large wooden porch of the
Foreigners’ Club, unarmed and vulnerable. Aaron Buferd, in an apron, sleeves
rolled back, ambled wide-eyed onto the porch.
“What’s goin’ on, Timothy?” Buferd called. “Sam just got called out the back door
by some of his people.”
“All of you, over here, quickly!” Cried Tubert. “Into my settlement!”
In two minutes, Buferd and the eleven foreigners and the Western women were in
the settlement. Thrown stones began to land on the club porch as the partly dressed
French whore and a British sergeant, holding his trousers in his left hand, ran out the
club door into a frenzied mob of one hundred people. Halfway across the dirt road,
the Brit was jumped by half a dozen Corean peasants and torn to the ground,
struggling as cudgels rained on him.
The red-haired woman was twenty steps from Tubert’s gates when two Coreans
grasped her hair from behind, yanking her off her feet. A cudgel slammed into the
female’s face, smashing teeth and blood from her mouth as streams of more Coreans
joined the hysterical mob. Stones began to smash the windows of the Foreigners’
With a blood-smeared sword in hand, Gunjiro Mihashi appeared in the shadows to
the right of the foreign two-story building behind the screaming crowd. Like the five
ex-samurai who followed his desperate thrust from the main evacuation body to
rescue his informant and any Japanese drinking in Ahn Madam’s tavern, Mihashi
was exhausted, covered with ugly cuts and bruises from a deadly ten hour march
defending a few hundred terrified Japanese civilians in a harrowing evacuation from
Seoul after Corean soldiers cut down poor Lieutenant Isobayachi on the streets of
Seoul, attacked and burned the Japanese embassy and the envoy’s home.
Hardly one hour earlier, while fighting stone-throwing Corean mobs in the hills
overlooking Chemulpo in defense of the evacuating Japanese, the islander had
spotted the palanquin of the robed, round-bellied Corean eunuch, which had been
carried well off the main path of the beleaguered column fighting its way to the
treaty port. The panting, blood stained Japanese and two of his countrymen ran from
the body of the column, easily dodging stones from the disorganized Coreans, and
watching the eunuch’s palanquin bearers quickly desert the Corean clerk informant
at their approach.
“A bad night to travel, eunuch!” Gasped Gunjiro, his chest heaving, his clothing
torn and blood stained. “Are the Westerners in the port being driven into the sea?”
“I have just left the Soldier Brother’s station, he swears he will not be chased out,”
stammered the petrified royal clerk, terrified that the prophesized end of the Yi
Dynasty was at hand, and hearing shouts and screams, and the sounds of angry
Corean peasants running towards them. Frantically, he began tearing his official
robes from his body, casting aside the head piece that indicated his rank and station.
A few stones landed near them. “Please, Mihashi san, it is death for us to be seen
together, but a perfect night to avenge yourself upon the barbarian. Rejoin your
“Hai! A night of blood and darkness. Save yourself, seedless one!” Then the three
Japanese wheeled, running in the darkness to rejoin the hapless body of evacuees.
“Foreign dogs!” Cried Yi theatrically, picking up a stone, casting it in the direction
of the Japanese, as ten peasants appeared in the night next to him. “I almost killed
two of them with my own hands! They went that way!” Called the eunuch, pointing
in a wrong direction, watching the rabble fall upon the palanquin, destroying it with
cudgels. “Get them!”
Mihashi and the exhausted other Japanese were unaware that rampaging Corean
troops were invading the palace, angrily seeking the progressive queen, who was
missing, presumed dead, and that the old regent had reentered the palace, restoring
some calm, yet permitting mobs and soldiers to ransack within Seoul. Men, women
and children fled in all directions, and even King Kojong moved from the palace to
the home of a trusted friend. In the frenzy, one old man seized his little grandson in
panic, he supposed by the hand, and fled up a mountain, only to discover that he had
taken the boy by the leg rather than the hand and the child was dead.
From the settlement tower, Tubert and the hunters watched three Corean men
moving before Chemulpo’s foreigners’ hotel spotted the Japanese, as Mihashi
motioned to the five of his countrymen who were escorting a half-dozen drunken,
frightened Japanese merchants they had pulled from Madam Ahn’s sake parlors
down the street.
“Look!” Cried Mun, pointing as Mihashi's party pushed a struggling Corean tiger
hunter with hands tied behind his back before them. “They've got one of us!”
Like a bolting herd of animals, the Coreans charged Mihashi. He swerved,
avoiding a cudgel that would have smashed his right shoulder. With a lightning
movement, Mihashi’s sword flashed and disemboweled the nearest Corean.
The crack of a gunshot from the settlement guard tower caught the attention of the
mob. From atop the tower, Tubert, revolver in hand, flanked by hunters with bows
drawn, called down, “now!”
One eight foot high wooden gate door of the settlement opened and a wedge V
formation of ten tall northerners brandishing long-bladed hunting lances and led by
Mun and Kwan Il poured from the gate, driving the protesting mob before them,
making for the still form of the fallen Englishman. Within the formation, Kwan Il
lifted the bloody body of the French woman in both arms and quickly carried the
limp form of the French prostitute into the gate. Mun was dragging the still
Englishman by his arms, cursing the rioting crowd of two hundred southerners as the
angry crowd beginning to press forward toward the hunters. The rescue party edged
back into the gate, unable to move towards the bound hunter.
“They’re dead, Soldier Brother!”
In the bright moonlight, as the gate below him slammed shut on the wild crowd,
Tubert watched the Japanese rush past the crouching figure with the sword. The
crowd sprang forward, futilely battering the gate with fists, cudgels and kitchen
knives. Then, down the road, he saw his sentry-hunter who had not returned with
Mun’s rice wine, bound, being pushed forward.
“No!” Cried Tubert to the familiar figure with the sword, though his cry could not
be heard above the din below. “Our battle is between us! Let my man go, he’s done
nothing to you!”
A Corean below began screaming to the crowd, “There go the yellow dwarves! Get
Mihashi’s glistening sword cut air, pointing in a defiant gesture upward to the sky
for two seconds, his eyes riveted upon the hated gai-jin. Then he lowered it as the
Corean mob spotted him and he ran after his men, already halfway to the shoreline
where Japanese embassy troops had cordoned off an area to permit their pitiful,
hobbling non-combatants to crawl and slosh their way over the tortuous mudflats of
Flying Fish Channel to waiting ships.
“Mihashi-san!” Called the attaché colonel commanding the vanguard of the
evacuation, surprised and grateful at the Tsushima man’s courage and leadership
defending the rear of the hapless column. “We thought you were lost! Hurry, all
others are on the mudflats making for the safety of the vessels. We can’t wait for the
tide. Who’s the Corean?”
“A personal hostage, a human souveigner,” Mihashi panted in low, guttural tones,
shoving the sullen, bound hunter, who towered over him by six inches, forward into
the mud. “You go first, Colonel. I’ll guard the rear.”
The tidal waters began returning when they were on salt flats one third of a mile
from shore. Ahead, rowboats and sampans were pulling the Japanese evacuees and a
handful refugee pro-Japanese Corean sympathizers from the sea.
They were safe.
In thigh high mud, Mihashi stopped, then turned and quickly bound the hunter
securely to part of a two-feet thick sunken log partly protruding from the thick mud.
“You’ll have to do, for now, in place of your gai-jin master,” said the Tsushima
man, conversationally in Japanese, cutting a deep slice in each of the northerner’s
thighs as the surging waters began to inch upwards towards the bound man’s
stomach. He watched as horror filled the gasping Corean’s eyes. A rowboat was
making for them. Near the rowboat, fins protruded from the water’s surface, making
for the source of blood scent.
Although he spoke softly in Japanese, the islander drew great pleasure as horror
spread over the Corean’s face and the man began to struggle.
“Hai, you have your man-eaters of the mountains,” Mihashi said. “Here are my
man-eaters of the sea, my allies. So sorry, there’s no time to deal with you, as I shall
with your master, when we return. And that’s fortunate, for you,” said the islander,
his sword moving gently, slicing each of the Corean’s shoulders. “Because the sea,
and the sharks, will be far more merciful than I.”
* * * *