A LOVE STORY: THE CHINA MEMOIRS OF THOMAS ROWLEY

by Dean Barrett

 

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"Well, yes, yes, I do enjoy being enslaved by you. There is, there really is enjoyment in the utmost degree of humility and insignificance."

- The Gambler  Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

 

 A LOVE STORY:

                            THE CHINA MEMOIRS OF THOMAS ROWLEY, ESQ. 

 

                                                               Foreword by Dean Barrett 

 

In 1836, an intense, twenty-two-year-old village school teacher named Hung Hsiu-ch’uan traveled to Canton to sit for an Imperial Examination.  On a street crowded with anxious students, a foreign missionary approached the young man and handed him a religious pamphlet entitled, “Good Words for Exhorting the Age.”

     Over the next several years, as China was defeated and humiliated by western powers in the First Opium War, Hung Hsiu-ch’uan abandoned his attempts to study the Chinese classics.  In 1843, his attention was again drawn to the pamphlet, and, while under severe mental stress, he experienced a series of visions in which he visited heaven and spoke with the Heavenly Father and his son.  Shortly thereafter, he founded The Society of the Worship of God and proclaimed himself the younger brother of Jesus Christ. 

From such an almost insignificant beginning, China's Taiping Rebellion (1850-1864), in fact, a revolution, began; and before it was over it would become one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history; somewhere between twenty and forty million people would lose their lives, in battle, or to starvation and disease.  With the exception of World War II, more lives were lost in this conflict than in any conflict in history. 

The Taiping rebels fought to spread their own bizarre form of evangelical Christianity throughout China, and to overthrow the Manchus who in 1644 had defeated the Chinese and established the Ch'ing Dynasty.  The Taipings were opposed not only by Ch'ing forces but by various western adventurers and professional soldiers who formed their own private armies: men such as America's Frederick Townsend Ward and England's Charles George "Chinese" Gordon. 

 

Among the fiercest and most-feared soldiers of the Taipings were the divisions of women warriors who often fought independently from men.  On June 10, 1862, Thomas Rowley, 24 years old, serving as a lieutenant to Ward, was separated from his men in battle outside the walls of Ch’ing P’u, southwest of Shanghai, and captured by Taiping women warriors.  Many years later he committed his experiences to paper.

Although no mention is made of Rowley’s manuscript in such excellent modern histories of the Taiping period as Caleb Carr’s Devil Soldier and Jonathan Spence’s God’s Chinese Son, the author’s name is listed several times in 1862 in supplements to the North China Herald as one of the “foreigners-for-hire” fighting the Taipings.  There is also a reference to Rowley’s travails in a 1934 East London Mercantile Society pamphlet printed in Shanghai and a short quotation from his Memoirs appears in Y. L. Burquardt’s Foreign Devils in Old China (Worland Press, 1941, London).  Why a London merchants’ society would take an interest in the capture and enslavement of an American adventurer in China is made clear as Rowley describes events that involved the daughter of one of their own. 

 

The badly faded photograph of Rowley in Burquardt’s book is the only one of Rowley known to exist.  His handsome face is framed with bushy sideburns and adorned with a well-trimmed mustache but he is not bearded.  He stands between two other foreign men, their right boots resting on a cannon, and in front of what appears to be part of a mercantile house.  A glimpse of water in the background may well be Shanghai’s Soochow Creek.  All three men are dressed in military uniform complete with sabers.  Each man displays a confident smile and the jaunty flamboyance of an adventurer-for-hire.  Although Ward is not in the photograph, it was most likely taken when Rowley was in training with Ward in Shanghai.  Despite the poor quality of the photograph, Rowley’s features are clearly those of a sensitive man; and, although the expression in his deep-set eyes suggests a man eager for adventure, it also hints at a certain fatalistic irony, a quality completely absent in the expressions of his two companions.    

     Other than what appears in his Memoirs, little is known of Thomas Rowley’s life.  Considering the reclusive and solitary nature of his existence after his China experiences, that is natural enough.  However, Rowley’s manuscript was apparently circulated privately by a nephew or cousin after his death.  It seems to have been lost over the years until it surfaced recently in New York when sold by a Manhattan auction house.

 

Despite an exhaustive search, no death certificate for Thomas Rowley has been found but many such certificates were lost in 1929 in the Manhattan fire that destroyed the Record and License Bureau containing both birth and death certificates for the previous twenty-six years. 

Nevertheless, Rowley’s descriptions of China in 1862 accurately reflect the China of the period: The fierce independence of the Taiping women even to their refusal to indulge in footbinding; the turmoil caused by the Taiping Rebellion; and the attitudes of the women to foreigners.  His observations are also invariably those of someone living in that period of history.  For example, he describes the merchant’s daughter as “well above average in height.”  The average height of a Victorian Age woman was five feet so it is natural that, through Rowley’s eyes, at 5'4" she is regarded as taller than normal.  Rowley was astonished at the eventual change in attitude of the woman toward her Taiping captors; a change of attitude which today we might sum up in the modern phrase,‘Stockholm Syndrome.’

 

As to the lesbian activities which Rowley claims to have witnessed among the Taiping women, both foreign and Chinese scholars have made note of the open attitude among the Chinese toward this type of behavior.  In Li Yu’s 17th century play, “Loving the Constant Companion,” a young wife persuades her husband to take a beautiful concubine so that the two women can be together. 

Modern scholars no longer dismiss typical erotic Chinese paintings of maids joining with their mistress and her lover as male fantasies but as accepted behavior during most historical periods.  In her study, Precious Records: Women in China’s Long Eighteenth Century, Susan Mann writes that “Hints about homosexual attraction among women...suggest that it was not considered abnormal or unhealthy.”  In his classic study, Sexual Life in Ancient China, the scholar Robert Van Gulik also noted that “a very tolerant attitude is taken toward Sapphism...it is also recognized that when a number of women are obliged to live in continuous and close proximity, the occurrence of Sapphism can hardly be avoided.”  He also mentions that “in archaic times woman was considered as sexually superior to man.” 

And, indeed, the famous fifth century A.D. Mu Lan is part of a long Chinese tradition of female warriors conquering men in battle as are the intrepid female leaders of pirate fleets in the South China Seas.  Although the youth of the Taiping women struck Rowley as unusual, in fact, Chinese females of almost every age have taken up arms.  During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, the Red Lanterns (some of the many women who fought against westerners) were all between the ages of 12 and 20.

 

There have been other accounts of those imprisoned in China about this time, one even involving the Taiping capture of Edward Forester, one of Ward’s closest officers.  Like Rowley, he too, was stripped naked and placed on public display: “...An iron collar was riveted around my neck and one end of a chain fastened to this collar and the other to the saddle of a packhorse.  In this manner, with my arms bound and my person entirely naked, I walked or was dragged for more than thirty days under a broiling sun...During the few days we remained (at Soo-chow-fu) I was kept fastened, in a sort of gorilla fashion, to a stake in one of the streets.  Every conceivable indignity, annoyance and torment was heaped upon me, by both soldiers and natives....”  (“Personal Recollections of the Taiping Rebellion,” Cosmopolitan, Vol. 21 (1896).

 

The British General William Mesny was captured at Fushanchau in November of 1862 and held at the Taiping capital of Nanking until March the following year when, thanks to the efforts of the British consul, he was released.  Far from being tortured, he later wrote that he found Taiping women charming and had in fact been offered a wife if he would stay.  The year before, the traveler Alexander Michie made a brief visit to Nanking and wrote: “There is a wonderful number of good-looking young women in (Nanking), all exceedingly well-dressed in Soo-choo silks....”

The most detailed account of enslavement involved the incarceration of a Western woman and was published by John Lee Scott in his Narrative of a Recent Imprisonment in China (London, 1842, W.H. Dalton).  When the 281-ton brig, the Kite, sank near Chusan, the wife of Captain James Noble was taken captive by the Chinese as was Scott and several others. 

Scott and his companions were placed in bamboo cages where motley crowds of adults and children often pulled his hair, spat on him and gave him other abuse.  Although Scott does not write of sexual slavery, he is at times circumspect in writing of what was done to him.  Once, when tied to a tree, he writes, “...but the most active of my tormentors was neither old nor ugly, being a tall and well-made person; her feet were not so misshapen as the generality of her countrywomen’s; in fact, she was the handsomest woman I saw in China.”

The above description would fit a Hakka Chinese woman perfectly.  And, while entirely helpless inside his cage, Scott leaves much to the imagination when he writes how “sometimes we were visited by a party consisting entirely of women....” 

 

Scott’s ordeal ended after five months, whereas Rowley’s lasted just over three, but Rowley is by far the more uninhibited of the two writers, perhaps because he never again attempted to reenter the world he had known previous to his incarceration and therefore had no fear of censure from his peers. 

His feelings toward his experiences in China are made clear in the text and, perhaps, especially in his choice of title. Rowley saw the events that changed him forever not as centering on or defined by his sexual slavery but, rather, by the feelings he developed for the woman who had enslaved him.  Hence, “a love story.”  The entire manuscript is handwritten in black ink on unlined foolscap but at the beginning in blue ink are four lines from Shakespeare:   

   Being your slave, what should I do but tend

Upon the hours and times of your desire?

                                               I have no precious time at all to spend

                                               Nor services to do till you require

 

The lines are poorly scrawled and less legible than those of the manuscript itself suggesting Rowley may have added them toward the end of his long life.  In any case, because of its very private and very erotic content, it should not seem surprising that Rowley’s manuscript has taken so long to surface; rather, it is remarkable that it has surfaced at all. 

                                 ***********************

A LOVE STORY:

                                             THE CHINA MEMOIRS OF THOMAS ROWLEY, ESQ.

             

 

                          Chapter One

 

                                                                            Capture

                              

"WINE hollows" the Chinese called them.  Whenever she smiled her dimples would appear like delicately formed tiny moons at each end of the lovely curve of her lips.  The jasmine scent of her incredibly fine waist-length black hair, her dark brown apricot eyes, her almost perfectly oval face, her complexion as smooth as white jade.  I have been privileged to have these memories of all that she was with me throughout my life.  But even more than her physical beauty I recall her mischievousness, her playfulness, her way of tilting her head and looking at me in mock displeasure as I tried to please her.  The pride she took in being a Taiping woman warrior.  Her courage in battle.  Her poise and confidence as she rode her stallion.  The expression on her lovely face when I held her in my arms for the last time.  And the poignancy of our final kiss.

 

Of course, I had no way of knowing when I led my men out from Shanghai to search for local Taiping rebels that I would never see Frederick Ward again; and that my life would change forever; that, in truth, it would no longer be mine and I would lose the life I had known to a higher and far nobler cause than playing soldier: serving a beautiful Chinese woman warrior as her slave.

All of us admired Ward himself for his bravery and of all the officers I was perhaps closest to him, but he was a rather straight-laced fellow always contemplating the next battle.  And, I might add, impatiently looking forward to it.  But out of his earshot over a few cups of John Barleycorn I often speculated with his other officers about persistent rumors that Taiping women warriors were mostly young and often incredibly beautiful. 

We had yet to meet them in battle but we knew that, whatever the truth of their looks, their fervent devotion to their cause was no fiction:  The Taipings practiced a bizarre and fanatical version of Christianity holding allegiance to the "Heavenly King" himself based in their capital of Nanking.  Buddhist and Taoist temples were razed to the ground.  Prostitutes were beheaded as were opium dealers and adulterers.  No tobacco, no opium, no alcohol, no wine, no polygamy, no illicit sex.  And in the areas of China which they controlled they had banished the footbinding of women.  Without doubt, Taiping women were not the type to be at the beck and call of a man.

 

Still, we had laughed at the time and dismissed rumors of their beauty and physical prowess as fantasy.  After all, swathed in uniforms of looted Hangchow and Soochow silk, the Taiping “silken armies” had been incredibly successful in their early campaigns against the Ch’ing military giving rise to all sorts of nonsensical rumors about their fighting ability.  From the bawdy taverns along Hong Kong’s Queen’s Road to the crowded refugee areas of Shanghai, exaggerated accounts of Taiping invincibility were told, retold and embellished. But as I was to experience firsthand, everything I had heard about them was true. 

Of course, if it hadn't been for the godrotting bluish-white smokescreen of black powder from our own rifles, I might not have been so confused as to rush headlong in the wrong direction.  Battles were confusing enough with enemy arrows falling on us like rain, balls and bullets from matchlock, flintlock and percussion rifles whizzing by, the shouts of the wounded and dying, and combatants constantly shifting ground; but our rifle smoke had obscured the fact that my lads had pulled back to regroup while the enemy had taken the field. 

And the Chinese had fitted out their arrows with a thingamajig that made them "sing" as they fell through the air to disorient an enemy; "singing arrows" they were called, and, while I was blinded by the smoke, they sure as damnation had disoriented me.

My percussion rifle had been damaged at the start of the fighting and I hurriedly snatched up a flintlock from a fallen warrior. I employed the ramrod to tap down the powder, ball and padding into the barrel of the rifle, replaced the ramrod, repositioned the flint, then moved carefully forward without being able to see a damn thing.  I called out to Cpl. Chatterton and the rest of my men but heard only the cries of the wounded.

 

Suddenly, the wind shifted and the smoke cleared and one of the most frightening yet beautiful sights I have even seen met my eyes.  Sunlight illuminated dozens of young Chinese women dressed in shimmering silk and satin uniforms, above whom silk banners floated in the breeze.  Perhaps two dozen or more looked down at me from on horseback but most were on foot.  They wore wide riding jackets over baggy trousers or else were swathed in tighter fitting silk clothes which clearly revealed the contours of their curvaceous young bodies. 

Taiping uniforms were assigned color by the four directions and as their uniforms were yellow with green trim I knew these women served the "Prince of the East."  They had a reputation for being the most fanatical of all the women warriors. 

Yellow patches on the front of each uniform read Taiping "Great Peace" and on the back sheng bing, "Holy Warrior."  Many had covered their heads with yellow or red scarves formed as turbans and tied sashes at the waist, every color of the rainbow, while a few wore colorful conical helmets made of bamboo. Sunlight reflecting off their swords and spears only served to add a more spectacular splendor to the scene.  The bright glitter and vivid color seemed more in keeping with performers in a showy pageant than a military unit engaged in a vicious civil war.

That was the beautiful part.  The frightening part was that they stood facing me with the arrows in their bows pointed directly at my chest.  One slip of a feminine finger and I would be off to Fiddler's Green well before my time.

 

It was useless to resist.  My flintlock could have taken out only one and by the time I reached for the Colt model 1851 revolver at my waist I would have had a dozen arrows in me.  One of the women on horseback who appeared to be the leader said something in Hakka dialect which I didn't quite catch, as, during my training with Ward in Shanghai, I had learned only mandarin.  But it was clear she wanted me to drop the rifle and to be damn quick about it.  She was the only one whose head was covered by a hood and whose silken uniform was augmented by a cloak.  Both the hood and cloak were a deep shade of scarlet which contrasted with the extremely light grey of her horse. 

As soon as I'd dropped it, several women came forward and removed my pistol from my belt, and, from my pockets, black powder, Congreve matches, all ammunition and my bone box with flint, steel and tinder.  While they continued to point their arrows at me, the woman in the cloak gave orders to a young woman warrior astride a magnificent chestnut stallion.   The woman dismounted and removed several strips of bamboo from her saddlebag.  As she strode toward me, I saw that she could not have been more than 19 or 20.  She grabbed my wrists and tied them tightly together behind me with the strips of bamboo.  Chinese used bamboo for nearly everything, including caning, a fact which would before long be brought painfully to my attention. 

 

Another tough bamboo cord several feet long was tied to my wrist bindings and this leash was held by the young woman who apparently had been placed in charge of me.  This woman--barely more than a girl, really--had a rose-tinted complexion, fine black hair spilling out from beneath her yellow headscarf, and beautiful dark brown eyes.  In front of the others she had the same stern expression on her face, but, as she passed directly before me, I noticed a brief flicker of playfulness and curiosity cross those brown eyes; qualities of youth that would one day cause us both great pain.

Another woman had found a thin branch near the side of the mud-dried road and handed it to her.  My lovely young captor stood behind me and gave me a painful flick on the ear.  She spoke several sentences from which I only understood the words, yanggweidz, "foreign devil," and nuli, "slave," but I understood well enough that I had been placed in her charge; not as a prisoner-of-war but as a slave. 

Some of the other women began to giggle at their first encounter with an "outside barbarian" and especially at having complete power over me, but a stern glance from their beautiful but no-nonsense leader instantly silenced them.  After the tip of the branch landed even more painfully on my other ear, I began walking. 

 

As we marched, I glimpsed the bodies of several young Taiping women warriors and a few of my own men.  They lay where they had fallen in battle.  We passed a Taiping woman and a Caucasian soldier who had died in hand-to-hand combat, and their bodies lay entwined as if in passionate embrace.  If it had not been for the blood-stained knife hilts and eternal stares, it would have appeared that young lovers were lying peacefully on a carpet of carmine and yellow wildflowers, simply sleeping off a long night of carousing. 

After about a ten-minute walk, I saw the first head.  The Taiping women had placed the decapitated heads of Ch'ing soldiers on stakes along the roadside as warnings to their enemies.  Sunlight reflected off their shaven crowns and a gentle breeze swayed their braided queues in playful unison, as if performing a macabre dance.  Flies buzzed excitedly about their gruesome prey.  Our presence had scattered a flock of crows pecking at the heads and they circled at a distance, waiting for us to pass.  A thick, colorfully banded and probably poisonous snake balanced motionlessly atop one of the heads coiled like an exotic turban.  I stared back at their sightless eyes and wondered if my head would soon join them. 

At that point I still entertained some hope of being rescued and attempted to slow my pace.  But whenever I did so, I felt the tip of the branch quickly sting my ear, hurrying me forward.  When I turned to look at her, my young captor would meet my stare as if daring me to attempt to escape.  Her silken uniform was a golden yellow, a resplendent aureate shade that seemed to warm and intensify in the rays of the late afternoon sun. 

 

We crossed a narrow wooden bridge over a small rivulet and I contemplated escape by diving into the water below; but both banks were thick with sugar cane which would have hampered any attempt to flee.  When we passed the emerald green carpet of a fertile valley I thought I might have a chance to make it to its border of wooded hills; but my captor seemed to know my thoughts and a tug on my leash followed by a painful flick of her branch on my ear urged me onward.

We had not walked for more than forty minutes when we reached what must have been their rear encampment.  There were dozens of tents, several more colorful banners, more horses, spears, lances, bows-and-arrows and a bit of smoke rising from whatever food they had left to cook.  In the tall grass, it was difficult to estimate their strength; but I knew that a company of Taipings consisted of one hundred and four warriors, and it appeared that if all were present, they had lost nearly a third of their women warriors in battle.

The leader jumped from her horse and quickly walked to one of the wounded lying beneath a sprawling banyan tree.  Streaks of sunlight streamed through gnarled branches casting grotesque shadows onto the ground where the wounded lay.  One woman had an arm inside a bamboo splint and another was being treated with lighted paper inside bamboo cups applied to her back.  She lay prone on a blanket, her uniform of dark silk rolled down to her waist, and the fire inside the cups gave her skin an unnatural sheen.  She and the other wounded stared at me with the hardened expressions of seasoned warriors.

 

In the distance, on a nearly barren hillside, I could just make out the slim silhouette of a small pagoda, its stones shining brightly in the sunlight.  In the several moments of stillness, the tinkling of its wind-tossed bells reached my ears.

Meanwhile, I was surrounded by the women guards as they too wished to admire their "long-nosed, foreign devil" captive.  I had only a mustache and sideburns, no beard, but that and the chest hair sprouting from the top of my torn uniform was enough for them to comment on what a hairy barbarian I was.  Their soft laughter rang in my ears.  One of the braver ones approached me the way we would approach a helpless but still dangerous animal and gingerly reached out and touched my chest hair, then, to the laughter of her friends, jumped back in fright. 

At a sudden high-pitched wail from the leader, the women immediately backed away from me.  After several seconds of absolute silence, the leader rose, walked to her horse and removed a whip.  She glared at me as she approached and her riding boots made a strange swishing sound as they passed through the tall grass.

With barely controlled fury, she slapped my face several times.  As I attempted to step back to avoid the blows, my young keeper grabbed my arms and, with surprising strength, held me firmly in place. 

 

The leader screamed at me in Hakka, beside herself with grief and anger.  I understood only that her sister had died of her battle wounds.  Whether it was really her sister or, in the Taiping custom, she simply meant one of her closest comrades, I wasn't sure.  But there was no denying it could well enough have been my bullet that had caused her death. 

She spoke to my keeper who immediately used a knife to sever my bonds.  As she began cutting my clothes from my body, I pushed out my forearms and twisted my body to resist.  Others rushed in to help subdue me, even lifting me to pull off my boots.  Within seconds, my tunic, breeches, under-vest and officer’s cap lay on the ground after which the waistband buttons of my ankle-length drawers were ripped off and I was ordered to step out of them.  I knew if I didn’t do it they would do it for me so I removed my drawers as ordered and stood stark naked before them, not even able to cover my sex as my arms were once again tightly held behind me by my young captor. 

The leader's eyes narrowed and she threw back her scarlet hood, allowing her hair to spill about her back and shoulders.  Later I would learn that she was originally from a well-placed family in Peking and that would explain why she had the stature of a northerner and the arrogant bearing of a Chinese woman from the upper classes; one of the spoiled elite of their “celestial kingdom.”  She pointed to the ground.  Hao ma, gwei sya!  ("Good horse, kneel down!")

I shook my head and angrily spoke in English:  "Listen, you piece of celestial skirt, if you and your crumpet army think I'm going to-"

 

She slapped me so hard I saw stars and, almost simultaneously, she reached down and grabbed a knife from her riding boot.  She pressed the razor sharp blade firmly against my throat.  Her left hand slammed open my thighs, and her fingers painfully squeezed my scrotum, forcing me up on my toes. 

For several seconds, she seemed to enjoy the sight of fear in my eyes.  She then leaned in close to my still burning ear and spoke in perfect mandarin: "You will obey or I will eat your flesh and sleep on your skin."  It was a literary reference and I understood then that she was as well educated as she was powerful.

As her left hand moved slowly and inexorably downward, I had no choice but to obey.  I knelt.  Only when my knees had touched the ground did she release me from her grip.  She gestured for me to get down on all fours.  At that moment I nearly tried to run but as I looked about at the well-armed and well-trained Taiping women, a few of whom were almost as muscular as amazons, I knew any resistance would be suicidal.  I did as she commanded.

She immediately mounted me (Chinese mount horses opposite side than we do) dug the heels of her boots into my ribs and with both hands roughly pushed my head to the right.  Toward a copse of trees. 

I began crawling in that direction.  There were no rocks but still my knees began aching almost immediately as they scraped along the ground and over the stubble of a burned rice crop.  I thought of grabbing the knife in her boot but, even had I been lucky and managed to grab it, that still left me surrounded by women warriors with bows and arrows, spears and lances.  And a few firearms, not to mention my own revolver.

 

I hardly need say I felt embarrassed and humiliated by my enslaved condition.  Barely an hour before, I had been a proud lieutenant in Frederick Ward's much feared Ever-Victorious Army; now I was completely naked and being ridden by a ravishingly beautiful Chinese woman to my place of punishment.

Already, other women had begun tying bamboo strips to the lower branches of a tree.  Her sister was dead but, whoever had actually shot her, I was the one about to pay for it.

 

                                  *******************

 

                                     Chapter Two

 

                                    Punishment 

 

Naked as the day I was born, I moved painfully and fitfully forward on hands and knees.  Any hesitation on my part and she quickly dug her knees into my sides or the heels of her boots into my thighs.  Chinese boots were made of satin with thick felt soles, but what leverage she lost by not wearing western leather boots she made up for in anger and fury at the loss of her sister in battle.  Her silk leggings gripping my waist felt deceptively soft and feminine. 

The young woman who had herded me from my place of capture and informed me I was a slave rather than a prisoner of war walked ahead of us to the right, occasionally glancing down at me with a playful smile on her perfectly formed red lips.  On my hands and knees, being ridden by her commander, was the first time I noticed her beautiful dimples.  I also noticed that she now had her own long black whip, the handle in her right hand and the rest coiled in her left.  I learned later her name in Hakka dialect was Tiam Moi ("Sweet Little Sister") but I could already tell she had the devil in her.  Her close-fitting uniform revealed her form and, even then, her direct, almost provocative stare led me to suspect that beneath her imperative bearing were the intense passions of a beautiful young woman. 

 

By the time we'd reached the trees, the tough strands of bamboo had been tied to one of the tree’s octopus-like branches.  The branches extended horizontally for several feet before rising.  There was something about the tree’s gunpowder-grey squat trunk, twisted limbs and rough bark which seemed ominous and unforgiving, a perfect punishment tree. 

The Taiping leader dismounted and abruptly jerked me to my feet by pulling my hair.  Tiam Moi and another woman warrior removed their silk head scarves and wrapped them around my wrists: red around the left and yellow around the right.  After which they immediately tied my wrists firmly to the lower ends of the bamboo cords and tightened them so that my arms were stretched above my head forcing me to stand on tiptoe.  Because the spot was on an incline, I was forced to lean slightly forward, making my naked backside an even more inviting and vulnerable target.  Then they stepped back.  The leader and Sweet Little Sister disappeared behind me. 

In the silence, I could hear the banners of the female Taiping army making tiny cracking sounds as they fluttered in the breeze, and the restless movement of their China ponies, as if even the ponies were aware that this was merely the calm before the storm.  I suddenly noticed the birds had inexplicably ceased their chatter.  Even the barely audible tinkling of the pagoda’s bells seemed to resemble feminine laughter.  I now understood how  Lemuel Gulliver must have felt when helplessly bound by Lilliputians.

 

Along with all my other possessions, the women had taken my pocket watch and gold chain but I looked at the mauve sky streaked with dark crimson and estimated that it was about six o'clock in the afternoon.  I wondered if Ward and my other fellow officers were out searching for me or if they had assumed I was dead.  Ward had been wounded in battle over a dozen times and many Chinese had come to believe he could not be killed.  He had the courage of a bull and he loved his men whom he called, "my people,” paying us out of his own pocket whenever necessary.  If he felt there was any chance I might be alive, he would be out looking for me.  It was my only hope. 

The silence lasted only about twenty seconds.  And then it began: Certain things I vividly remember about that beating.  I could not forget them if I live to be a hundred: The crack of the whip and its whapping sound as it raked across my buttocks.  My sharp intake of breath each time it landed.  The increasing pain as the sound was repeated.  Again.  And again.  And again.  Methodically covering every inch of flesh on my backside. 

 

The women had split into two groups, one behind and one in front, and those assembled in front were able to observe my every expression, the entire gamut of my humiliation in which I inexorably passed from defiant warrior to subdued male to  sobbing child.  From their intermittent conversation, I understood that Sweet Little Sister and her Commander were alternating after each set of half a dozen blows, Sweet Little Sister being constantly encouraged to apply the whip more vigorously.  I remember thinking how deceptively nonchalant and composed their voices sounded, as if a woman aristocrat were patiently instructing her younger sister in the fine art of embroidery or painting.  Except that now their “fine art” was that of subduing and enslaving a male, and the deeper the maiden’s whip cut into my inflamed buttocks the more lavishly she was praised for her “skill.”

My greatest fear was that I might be coerced into revealing battle plans and troop strength of my men.  That I vowed to myself I would never do.  Frederick Ward at 30 was only six years older than I was and I loved him as a dear elder brother.  I would rather die than do anything to harm him. 

I tried to think of something to divert my attention from the pain.  Anything.  My years growing up in New York; the pirate attack on our clipper ship in the South China Sea near Hong Kong; my years as 2nd and then 1st mate on various merchant frigates and brigs in Asian waters; the many months of training under Ward in and around Shanghai.  But each blow shattered my memories and brought me back to the present.  I bit down on my lip and the scene around me blurred with my tears.  The Taiping women's brilliant silk outfits and silk banners merged into one colorful mocking ball of pain. 

 

And then there was a pause.  Just when I dared hope it was over, Sweet Little Sister and her leader both stood before me.  I watched the leader hand the whip to another woman warrior and take an even deadlier weapon:  a straight polished length of bamboo, the branches cut away.  She held the rod by the smaller end as prescribed in the Ch'ing Dynasty Penal Code of China.  The Taipings might be trying to take the higher moral ground in their cataclysmic war with the Manchus but both sides were equally fond of exquisite torture and painful punishment.

The Taiping leader looked at me not as a woman might look at a man but as a scientist might study some experiment to see what was left to be done.  She gently wiped my tears from my eyes with her fingers and spoke to the others in mandarin:  Wo dei jyau womende waigwo ma: ta dzweihau futsung womende mingling.  ("I must teach our foreign horse that it is best to obey our commands.") 

Her splendid black hair spilled well below her shoulders and flew out into the wind.  She had the high cheek bones and broad forehead of a northerner.  I had never seen a woman with such an air of confidence and poise.  And that very self-assurance added to her magnificence in a way I cannot articulate, but I understood then that there was no question in her mind that she would break me. 

 

She went on to speak in a mixture of mandarin and Hakka to her attentive female warriors of her plans for me; so confident was she that I would be successfully enslaved that my knowing of her plans was of no consequence to her.  Again and again I heard her use the term, fu li (“to break in a horse”): “This foreign-devil will be broken as a horse is broken.  But even though an uncultured outside barbarian, he has a greater learning capacity than a horse.  So, at first, like the horse, he will obey us from fear of punishment but, finally, he will obey us from understanding.  He will come to understand that it is his privilege and honor to serve us.  Submission will become second nature to him.” 

Sweet Little Sister stood nearby, still holding her whip, her long hair fanning out in the gentle breeze.  There was no way I could hide the near terror in my eyes and I saw in her expression the compassion of a loving parent who feels sorrow at having had to discipline an unruly child.  Despite my pain and fear I could not break free of her gaze.  This young woman had stripped and whipped me and now stood before me in her silken uniform looking as beautiful and pure as an angel.  To my amazement, despite my pain and fear of worse to come I felt myself becoming aroused.

The leader paused to glance at me and then turned again to the others.  “Now, he thinks only of escape.  But, in time, with proper training from Sweet Little Sister he will regard separation from us as the worst punishment possible.  Therefore, the sooner we break him of any hope of escape, the sooner his real training can begin.  And when he has been properly trained, he will have lost even his desire for escape.  Only then will he come to know his true place.”

 

She narrowed her beautiful dark brown eyes, grabbed my hair and jerked my head back.  She whispered into my ear in mandarin: Nutsai!  Jyunbei! ("Slave!  Prepare!") And then she disappeared behind me.  For several seconds I heard only the murmuring of the tree’s wind-blown leaves, several of which brushed against my right arm as if mocking me with their gentle touch. 

What I shall never forget is the sound of the bamboo against my flesh and the searing pain it caused.  It took my breath completely away.  For the first several blows, I at least managed to remain silent; then, each time the bamboo landed, I began crying out.  Within minutes, I had abandoned my resolve to bear the flogging with courage and in silence and was madly squirming and twisting in anticipation of the next blow.  I writhed in agony and desperately tried to extricate my wrists from the bamboo restraints, to no avail. 

I had heard the others in Hakka dialect call the leader Gim Lian, "Golden Lily."  And I called to her by name first asking and then begging her to stop.  After another several blows, I pleaded, I beseeched, I implored.  In English.  In Mandarin.  In gibberish.

Finally, I could take no more.  I agreed to tell her anything she wanted to know about the military plans and movements of Frederick Townsend Ward's "Ever Victorious Army."  I begged to tell her!  I would betray even my comrades if that is what it took to stop the beating.

 

But it quickly became obvious that Golden Lily wasn't the slightest bit interested in anything I had to say, on military matters or anything else.  She wanted one thing and one thing only:  Her women warriors might very likely find themselves once again facing a force of western men or one led by western men, and it was her intention to show her warriors how little they had to fear; how readily they could break and humiliate a western man--even a trained soldier--and reduce him to pleading and begging and crying and screaming. 

Golden Lily's decision to make me beg for mercy was not one of cruelty or even carried out in revenge for killing Taiping women warriors in battle, but simply one of tactics.  And the importance of breaking me as thoroughly as possible was a very practical one: to strengthen the morale of her fighting force.  Any military commander in the world would have admired her strategy. 

And the lesson continued.  My frantic but futile wiggling, my sharp intake of breath as the bamboo landed on my buttocks, tears streaming down my cheeks, mucus clogging my nose.  I felt as if my tongue had grown thicker and was protruding from my mouth.  In my twenty-four years of life I had never even been slapped by a woman before that day and I begged as I have never begged before or since.  I would have done anything to have her stop.  Anything! 

 

It was only later that I realized why my wrists had been wrapped like Christmas packages.  The women knew I would writhe about and frenziedly attempt to pull my wrists from my bamboo restraints, and the silk scarves were protecting my skin from being torn to shreds.  My captors had thought of everything.  I was to be enslaved as a useful beast of burden, not physically deformed.  That is why, for now at least, my private parts had escaped the fury of the beating.

Finally, when I was barely conscious, the beating stopped.  I was left to hang from the tree, completely naked, buttocks bright red and bleeding, any flicker of defiance beaten out of me.  Ward's soldiers were known to the Taipings as "devil soldiers" and the picture of a naked, helpless, and enslaved western male soldier whimpering and sniveling like a child in front of her “silken army” is precisely what Golden Lily wanted.

She stood beside me and lectured her women warriors on how feeble and weak men were--even foreign men.  And how quickly our will to resist could be broken and transformed into a willingness to betray our comrades.  As she spoke she occasionally patted my buttocks and ran her fingers along the welts, causing me to thrash about, throw my head back and beg for mercy.  I was no longer a soldier and certainly not a devil to be feared; simply a specimen to be examined and discussed by women warriors who had tamed me.

 

Toward the end of her lecture, she stood before me and slightly to the side.  She again slapped my face with her right hand and without warning gripped my scrotum with her left.  As she suddenly tightened her grip I let out a yelp.  She smiled and turned to her female army.  “We shall see if our slave responds to punishment or if further measures will be necessary.”  To this day when I hear the laughter of women, it never fails to remind me of the soft laughter of the Taiping women at that moment.

When her speech had ended, the women began carrying out their duties:  lighting fires and cooking, washing clothes in a nearby stream and tending to the horses.  Golden Lily assigned several to prepare her sister for burial.  With the exception of a few who went off to relieve those guarding the outer perimeters, none hardly gave me a glance.  I was, after all, no longer a threat; simply a degraded, pathetic spectacle.

I could see a lamp fed with tea-oil smoking at the entrance to Golden Lily's tent and candles had been lit nearby.  Beside the lamp offerings had been set out as before a shrine: three cups of tea, three bowls of rice, three chopsticks and a Bible.  This, I knew, was in honor of what the Taipings referred to as the “Three-fold God,” the Holy Trinity. Regardless of their bizarre misunderstandings of Christianity, the Taipings considered themselves Christian and were despised by the Manchus as "God-worshippers."  And in a ritual more Confucian than Christian, they offered a cup of tea to each of the Holy Trinity.

 

Before long, all of the women not on guard duty gathered near Golden Lily's tent and sat on the ground facing her.  Together they recited the Ten Commandments.  She then led them in a discussion praising the Taiping "Heavenly King" in Tienking and spoke of how he was the brother of Jesus sent by Heaven to carry out God’s will that he replace the Manchu emperor sitting on the Dragon Throne in Peking.  At first I didn’t recognize the city she mentioned, but then I remembered once the Taipings had seized Nanking (“Southern Capital”) they had changed the name to Tienking (“Heavenly Capital”).  As Nanking had been the capital of the previous dynasty, the Ming, its capture was a symbolic as well as military challenge to the Manchu government.  All of the women warriors began singing several Christian hymns, mostly in Hakka dialect. 

Hanging naked and helpless and humiliated in sight of beautiful and self-assured Chinese women singing Christian hymns is something that must be experienced to be appreciated. 

I was certain that at least a contingent of Ward's army could not be far from the Taiping camp and I dared hope that the worst of my ordeal at the hands of these women warriors was over;  that within days if not hours I would be rescued.  Little did I realize at the time that my slave training was just beginning.  Or that all I had been, the identity I had formed, would be sloughed off as completely as a snake casts its skin.  Or that, despite the pain and humiliation, I would come to regard it as the day my liberation began.

 

The late spring day had been warm and in any case I had little time to worry about the weather.  But now in the cool night air I began shivering.  Despite the chill, my buttocks were pulsating and actually felt on fire.  As gusts of wind hit them, it felt almost as if I were again being beaten.  I wondered if I would be left to starve to death or if the Taiping women had something more devilish in mind for me.  If there was one thing John Chinaman was good at, it was in devising fiendish tortures including the dreaded "death of a thousand cuts."

Finally, their service was over and I could see a figure approaching me.  It was Sweet Little Sister.  She had changed into more practical, tighter fitting, clothes and was carrying a small earthenware container.  She stood in front of me and her eyes stared into mine.  Lovely brown eyes that seemed able to penetrate my soul.  Where Golden Lily was domineering and commanding, Sweet Little Sister was curious, playful, and mischievous.  Her tightly fitted silk tunic revealed the feminine form of her nubile young body and her bright, spontaneous smile suggested the impish nature of her personality.

I had been placed in her charge and, subject to the approval of Golden Lily, I had no doubt this striking young woman could do with me as she wished.  She dipped her fingers into the container and reached around me to spread some lotion on my aching buttocks.  That way she could observe my expression as she worked. 

I immediately gasped as the heated lotion touched my flayed skin, more in anxiety than pain.  But there was plenty of pain as well.  She began rubbing my buttocks and speaking to me softly in Hakka dialect.  I understood little but I did understand that she was speaking as if to a frightened horse rather than to a man.  Even the terms she used were those for addressing animals, not men. 

 

She patiently explained that the lotion was a mixture of dried insects and herbs and would soothe my ache.  I understood her to say that as long as I obeyed her commands and never attempted to escape I should not be afraid.  She spoke to me with the tone of an exacting schoolmarm gently chastising a wayward student.

She reached around me and worked slowly, methodically, spreading the lotion on the flayed flesh of my buttocks, constantly observing me with her beautiful dark eyes.  Then, she looked casually about to see if anyone was nearby and, under cover of darkness, she let her hand lightly grasp first my scrotum and then my manhood.  After only a few seconds, she slid her hand farther between my legs and began soothing where the tip of the whip had struck my inner thighs.  All the while her delicate wrist was pressed firmly against my slowly swelling member.

Despite the pain and mortification of hanging naked and helpless before her, there was nothing I could do to prevent her from seeing undisputable evidence of my arousal.  I began breathing deeply again but this time from a very different stimulus. 

The Taipings prescribed death for moral turpitude and I knew the chance she was taking.  She had almost certainly passed from girl to woman in this puritan atmosphere, separated from men for long periods of time, and I began to wonder if she had ever slept with a man. 

 

While her increasingly unstable Taiping "emperor" ensconced himself in his palace in Nanking spouting out pseudo-religious nonsense, he and his assistant “coolie kings” found ample time to surround themselves with imperial harems.  But the emperor’s rules for his followers regarding frivolity between the sexes were strict to the point of condemning even "the casting of amorous glances," and it occurred to me that if Sweet Little Sister had never had an opportunity to lie with a man, it might be something I could use to my advantage. 

But at that moment I was far too afraid of another beating to make even the slightest attempt to improve my situation.  Even I wasn't certain at that point if all will to resist had been beaten out of me.  I only knew I had gained new respect for the power of these women and the lengths they would go to ensure obedience in their male slaves.

Sweet Little Sister continued to rub me with long, slow strokes, experimenting with how long she might allow her fingers, palm or wrist to touch, fondle and caress my manhood.  She pulled my foreskin back and forth, exploring with her fingers, the whole time staring into my eyes to see the effect of her manipulations. The top of her head came within inches of my nostrils and even the scent of her hair acted as an aphrodisiac.  I made no attempt to conceal my sexual arousal and, through half-closed eyes, completely gave myself over to her. 

 

I could see the excitement lighting up her own eyes as my erection grew inside her hand.  She was beginning to appreciate the unbearably urgent sexual desire she could create in men and the sexual power it gave her.  And she was enjoying it with an inextricable mixture of childlike wonder, impish delight and mischievous teasing.  Around us, I could hear only the crackling sounds of wood on the campfires and the soft voices of other women warriors carried by the wind.  Only the outlines of their lantern-lit tents were visible in the darkness.

But Tiam Moi had no intention of granting her new slave any kind of release.  If such a favor was ever to be bestowed, that would obviously have to be earned.  She stopped her massaging, leaned forward and whispered in my ear in Hakka-accented mandarin:  Hsihuan ma?  ("Do you like it?")  I tried to slow my excited breathing while I nodded. 

I was about to beseech her to continue when, suddenly, another woman warrior appeared from out of the surrounding darkness.  She wore a yellow turban and a flowing red robe which ended at her knees.  Beneath the robe, yellow satin trousers reached to her boots.  I would later learn this woman's name was Siu Fah, or, "Pretty Flower," and that she was from Honan province. 

 

She was taller than Tiam Moi, slender and possessed what the Chinese call a "willow waist."  She was indeed pretty with the face of an angel and a complexion that resembled the most flawless ivory.  But foreign advisors and their weapons had aided the Chinese Green Banner Army that had mercilessly tortured her husband before cutting off his head.  He had not been a Taiping rebel but Chinese armies often decapitated the heads of innocent farmers and villagers and sent them on to Peking officials to prove their military successes against the "Taiping rebels." 

All this I would learn later, but already, as she looked at me I could see the hatred and loathing in her eyes for foreigners.  I was not certain how much of Sweet Little Sister's daring actions she had seen, but her gaze drifted downward to my rapidly shriveling manhood and I watched as her hand moved to the knife in her waist sash.

                                    ****************

 

                                      Chapter Three

 

                                     Feminine Rage 

 

While I hung by my wrists naked and helpless, the night had grown colder and the sky was full of stars, but except for the sounds of the crackling woodfires, and the rhythmic chirping of crickets, the Taiping camp was silent.

Siu Fah ("Pretty Flower") glowered at me while resting her hand on the hilt of her knife.  As she had approached, I couldn't help but notice her unusual height and undeniable beauty.  Now that she was up close I saw that she had small lustrous eyes, a delicate, almost Caucasian, nose and thin red lips.  Following the fashion of the day, she had shaved away a portion of her eyebrows and filled them in with a thin arched line drawn in black paint and charcoal. 

In Shanghai, not long before I was captured, a Chinese prostitute had explained to me that because of their shape, such eyebrows were known as "the new moon makes its first appearance," and were considered a sign of beauty.  It seemed that during lulls in the fighting, even some of the Taiping women found time to maintain their feminine pulchritude. 

 

At the time I thought it strange that women warriors engaged in vicious battles with Chinese and Manchu soldiers would pay attention to maintaining, even enhancing, their appearance.  I was not yet wise enough to realize that they did this not as women who might wish to attract a man in flirtatious romance, but as a tool they might need to employ should they be captured; their femininity was simply one more weapon in their armory that could be used to disarm and overpower men.

In the custom of the Taipings, Pretty Flower had wound a cloth around her head to resemble a turban, but clusters of her jet black hair framed her ears and forehead and were clearly visible in the moonlight, somehow making her even more desirable.  But at that moment, as I hung from the tree without a stitch of clothing and completely unable to defend myself, I was not thinking of how beautiful she was, but rather how quickly an angry woman's hand lingering on a knife can summon forth a man's deepest fears of castration.

She began speaking sharply to Tiam Moi in Hakka and Sweet Little Sister responded in a polite fashion as if trying to appease her "elder sister."  But Pretty Flower's burning anger was not to be easily mollified. 

She came close to me and stared into my eyes.  There was no question she recognized my fear.  My life was totally in the hands of these women warriors and I had no doubt that some of them were in favor of doing away with their foreign captive without delay. 

 

Tiam Moi may have found me amusing and worth keeping the way a woman might wish to keep a playful, sometimes naughty, puppy; but Siu Fah took no such delight in my presence.  To her I was merely a useless burden who had already been whipped, beaten and broken in spirit and body in front of their female army.  I had served their purpose in demonstrating how easily a man could be broken and tamed and how little the Taiping women had to fear from foreign soldiers; even soldiers of Frederick Ward's "Ever Victorious Army."  I was certain that in the mind of Siu Fah, keeping me alive any longer made no sense whatsoever.

She mocked me by addressing me as yang hsiung-ti (“foreign brother”) and yang da ren, ("foreign excellency") and then spat into my face.  I think now if she had suspected that Sweet Little Sister had been teasing me sexually while rubbing ointment into my flayed skin, she would have employed her knife to transform me into a eunuch in the blink of an eye. 

But even if she hadn't caught us in the act, foreign advisors and foreign weapons had played a role in causing her husband's death and I could feel the depth of hatred in her.  As I saw her face transform from that of a beautiful angel into that of an avenging angel, I braced myself for the pain I knew was coming.

 

Without warning, she slapped my face.  It was not quite as hard as the slap of Golden Lily that had forced me to see stars, but Pretty Flower was just warming up.  She slapped me again with the same hand in the same spot, then held my chin in her cupped hand and tilted my head to the precise angle she desired, then slapped me again.  This time all of her hatred for the "foreign devils" came through and my cheek felt as if it were on fire.  It was difficult to believe the delicate hand of a beautiful woman could cause such pain with just a few slaps.                           

I heard the voice of Sweet Little Sister rising in anger.  I understood little of her Hakka dialect but I knew she felt the indignation of someone who owned a domesticated animal seeing it abused by someone of higher authority.  Pretty Flower didn't even bother to answer.  She used both of her hands to gently but firmly position my head as a woman might straighten a picture frame on a wall and then slapped me in exactly the same spot.  The pain spread as if both cheeks had been slapped.  And it was already becoming unbearable. 

Siu Fah stared at me with a haughty smile on her beautiful face and asked, t’ung pu t’ung? ("Does it hurt or not?")  I thought she might respond to a mixture of Cantonese and Mandarin and I unashamedly begged her to stop:  M joi da! Wo chou chou ni! ("Don't hit me again!  I beg of you!")  But she replied sharply in Hakka, Mok shang! ("Shut up!")

She reached back to slap me again when Sweet Little Sister grabbed her by the wrist.  In an instant, Pretty Flower had her knife in her other hand and was turning on Sweet Little Sister.  I was absolutely certain she would kill her.  Without thinking, I lifted my feet and pushed against her, knocking her off balance and causing her knife thrust to merely graze Sweet Little Sister’s silk tunic. 

 

Sweet Little Sister's temper had boiled over and in the darkness I could see the two Taiping women warriors grapple and fall to the ground, knives flashing in the starlight, streaking above and beside their brilliantly colored silk outfits.

Like many of the Taiping women, Siu Fah and Tiam Moi were Hakkas and the Hakka were known to be physically larger than many other Chinese ethnic groups.  They were also tougher, bolder and more daring.  They exhibited extreme pride and both the men and women possessed an independent nature.  Over the centuries, they had migrated from the north of China but were still looked down upon as “guest people,” outsiders, who were often forced to make a living from the least fertile and most hilly lands of southern China.

Unlike the vast majority of Chinese women, their feet were not bound and they walked and worked side by side with their men.  I knew if no one interfered, the two women would fight to the death.  Even in that instant I realized my humiliating circumstances: the women were fighting over me not as women who loved the same man; but rather as women who differed over to what degree a degraded, whipped and helpless male slave could be mistreated.

Fortunately, the loud slaps Pretty Flower had delivered to my face had attracted attention, and it seemed only a matter of seconds before dozens of women in various stages of dress and undress began pulling the two combatants apart.  And even after they had been separated, it took the efforts of several women to restrain them from going at each other again. 

 

If ever I had had any doubts as to the fiery temper and fighting instinct of Taiping women warriors, the scene immediately dispelled them.  Their tumbling and rolling had kept them off balance so that neither appeared to have been injured; but their silk outfits had been severely torn and slashed and the moonlight clearly revealed the whiteness of their breasts as they heaved from exertion and anger.

Some of the inner perimeter guards had arrived and starlight coruscated along the blades of their swords and pikes and spears.  Night had swallowed up the mountains in the distance leaving the women in their silk outfits and the outlines of their tents in the background as the only images visible.

Golden Lily stepped forward and while screaming at them, slapped first Siu Fah and then Tiam Moi.  As each continued to shout her hatred at the other, she slapped them again.  Finally, they stood in sullen silence and listened to the harsh words of Golden Lily. 

When she had finished haranguing them both, each murmured something as their breathing slowed to normal.  After a short and very tense question and answer session, they were severely scolded by Golden Lily.  I gained the impression that much of her wrath was directed toward Siu Fah as she was the older of the two combatants and Golden Lily's senior lieutenant who, supposedly, should have known better. 

 

Finally, the two warriors were released and Pretty Flower immediately turned and walked angrily past me toward her tent.  She glared at me as she went by and spat out her words under her breath: Oi ta si nyi ki ("I'll kill you!").  I had no doubt she meant exactly what she said.  She had already regarded me as beneath contempt and deserving an excruciatingly painful death, and yet I had dared not merely to oppose her but to kick her with the soles of my feet. 

For now at least, Golden Lily had confirmed that I was the property of Sweet Little Sister and if I was to be disciplined in any way only she had the right to carry out my punishment.  But I well understood the hatred that Pretty Flower and her faction now harbored for me.  Those women warriors who hated all foreigners would simply bide their time and wait for an opportunity to carry out my execution.  Or, perhaps, in the heat of battle to “accidentally” unleash an arrow in my direction.

After the other women warriors had dispersed, Sweet Little Sister and I stared into one another's eyes.  My strong feelings of anxiety over her safety had taken me by surprise and I could feel the beginning of a kind of bond emerging.  She had intervened to protect me from unnecessary punishment and I had acted to protect her from Siu Fah's dagger.  I knew I would never be more to her than a beast of burden; a foreign male slave to be kept for labor and entertainment, but, as long as I obeyed her every command and submitted to her every whim, she in turn would offer her protection.

 

She placed her hands on my cheeks where Pretty Flower’s slaps had landed and gently rubbed them.  I couldn’t help but glance at her young breasts, both partly visible through her tattered and torn tunic.  They were firm and well developed and perfectly in proportion with her body.  I could see the emotions that passed through her eyes as she noticed my stare.  Surprise, then acceptance and mock annoyance, then pride, and, finally, a devilish desire to tease.  She slowly moved her hands down along my neck and chest and then placed them on her breasts.  She looked down at her own hands as they rubbed her naked flesh while watching my growing erection.  Then, still holding her breasts, she looked up into my eyes to see my reaction.  I was breathing heavy again and I begged her in mandarin to let me come.  She merely continued to slowly caress her breasts while observing my reactions--a very young woman with very knowing eyes experimenting with her sexual power.      

Despite her martial ability and willingness to fight, I thought it impossible that Sweet Little Sister had reached more than 18 or 19 years of age, and I could sense that she took a certain pride in owning me; after all, how many women in China had ever even seen a foreign man let alone owned one.  As she looked at me through those beautiful brown eyes, I could see her playful, mischievous nature reassert itself, and I knew that as long as she owned me, she would find much for me to do to amuse her. 

 

She had a way of tilting her head slightly when observing me with the hint of a smile on her pretty lips; as if trying to decide how best to use me.  Golden Lily and Pretty Flower were two of the most beautiful women I had ever seen, but they were experienced both as women and as warriors, and were completely confident in their ability to enslave men. 

Sweet Little Sister, on the other hand, was coquettish, coy, fun-loving and at times childlike, and these qualities made her even more fascinating to me.  She was passing from girlhood into womanhood and I had always felt that a female in those years was in the most delightful and captivating period of her life: the intoxicating mixture of innocence and awareness, lingering uncertainty and growing confidence, adolescence and maturity. 

It is the time when a woman first becomes aware of and experiments with her sexual power.  For the first time, she begins to recognize and appreciate the raging sexual needs her femininity can induce in men.  The almost unbelievable power her curvaceous form, her coy glance, her delicate laugh, her female scent has on a man.  After that, a woman might become still more beautiful and confident and desirable but she is never quite so charming again. 

 

And Tiam Moi's nature was too ingenuous and unaffected for deceit or deception: she made no attempt to disguise the fact that owning a once-feared "foreign devil" soldier as a personal plaything gave her great pleasure.  She now had her very own "outside barbarian" to test her feminine wiles on; with no danger whatever that I could use superior masculine strength to force myself on her.  Without doubt, any attempt to do so would result in worse punishment than I had already suffered.  And I never forgot for a moment that despite her youthful charm, Sweet Little Sister was a soldier tested in battle who had most likely seen far more death than I had.

She reached up and began untying my wrists.  Once they were free, I felt my legs give way and I dropped to the ground like a stone.  Sweet Little Sister stooped beside me and began rubbing my wrists and speaking softly to me as a woman might attempt to comfort an abused pony.  Gradually, I felt the feeling return to my wrists and some strength returning to my legs.                       Finally, by words and gestures, she positioned me on all fours and then mounted me.  She was lighter than Golden Lily and whereas Golden Lily had taken my docility for granted, Sweet Little Sister still delighted in her ability to control me.  She tugged at my right ear to indicate the direction she wished to travel in, then left, then right; and, completely naked, I once again began crawling on hands and knees while mounted by a beautiful girl-warrior.

 

I had the sudden memory of an evening in Shanghai not more than two weeks before when Ward had agreed to join us (his officers) in a night of drinking and debauchery.  We had ended up at a Chinese opera, or “sing song” as it’s called in pidgin English, and I watched with amusement as, in the tradition of Chinese opera, an actor lifted up his leg on stage to suggest that he were mounting a horse.  I watched him snatch up his make-believe reins and strike his animal on its backside with his make-believe whip.  Little did I know then that soon I would be performing as a real horse for Taiping female warriors.

I had hoped I was being ridden to her tent where I would be ordered to lie near her as her slave; but as we reached the campfires she dug the heels of her satin boots into me, slapped me hard on the buttocks and prodded me on.  My buttocks were still sore from my severe beating and despite the pain to my knees I quickly picked up the pace before she might find it necessary to slap me there again. 

Golden Lily had stressed to her women warriors that a woman subduing a male--even a "distant-coming barbarian"--should be accepted as in the natural order of things, and the women no longer stared at me directly or laughed out loud at my disgraced circumstances.  But as we passed some of the tents and the few women still gathered about the campfires, I could hear snatches of girlish giggling at the sight of my degraded condition.  They were used to killing Chinese and Manchu soldiers in battle and even to slaughtering defeated soldiers on their knees begging for mercy, but this was the first time some of them had come into contact with a foreign man, let alone witnessed his complete humiliation and nakedness.

Sweet Little Sister rode me to the campfire farthest from the camp then, once beside the fire, pulled back my hair to indicate that I should stop.  In the chilly evening air the warmth of the flames felt as wonderful and comforting as a warm bath. 

 

The “pots” at the campfires were of bamboo, one section opened at the top.  Whatever food the Taiping women had was placed inside and the top was covered over with bamboo leaves.  Over the fire, the outside of the trunk slowly blackened but the bamboo’s interior remained unburnt.  The rice had a wonderful aroma of burning wood that made me immediately aware of how hungry I was.  

Sweet Little Sister dismounted and picked up a bamboo ladle. She spooned a mixture of rice and bits of vegetables from the pot and held it to my lips.  I ate it voraciously.  She did this several times, then said in mandarin, gou le, gou le ("enough").

Two young women passing in the darkness yelled out something to Sweet Little Sister.  Without replying, she ordered me to stand.  As the women moved cautiously closer into the light of the fire I saw that they could not have been older than 14 or 15.  I would learn later from Sweet Little Sister that their names were Bright Orchid and Precious Spring and they were members of the Children’s Guard, the same unit to which she herself had once belonged.  In the heat of battle, the children carried out some of the most dangerous tasks: holding the standard aloft at the front of the troops and rushing loaded pistols and rifles to the women warriors.

 

But at the sight of me their nervous laughter could not hide their fear nor their high-pitched voices their surprise.  Despite their experience in battle, the two were little more than children, and I was enormously chagrined at being naked and on display in front of them; but I quickly realized they were not staring directly at me but at the ground behind me where my shadow danced beside the flames of the fire.  Finally, I understood what they were saying.  Many Chinese believed foreign-devils, like other demons, never cast shadows and the teenage warriors were amazed that it was not true.

Sweet Little Sister again mounted me, prodded me with the heels of her boots and rode me a short distance to a copse of trees where their horses were tethered.  She spoke something to the woman warrior guard in Hakka and the guard quickly retrieved a thin rope and a Chinese sleeping quilt.  Sweet Little Sister dismounted and tied the rope in a slip knot to my neck and then to the branch of a tree.  My wrists were tied together before me with a silk cord and my ankles were tied together with a thin but tough strand of bamboo, allowing me to separate my feet to a distance of about two feet.

My presence caused some of the horses to stamp their feet and whinny nervously.  The stallion Tiam Moi had been riding when I first saw her snorted and tossed its head, glaring at me with nostrils distended and ears back.  Tiam Moi walked to it, held its head in her arms and stroked its face.  I could understand just enough of her soothing words to know she was telling it that I was just another horse; a foreign horse that needed to be broken in.  The stallion responded to her almost immediately and I wondered if, should I fail to escape, I would one day show the same obedience when my training was completed.

 

She returned to me and again spoke soothingly as she had to her horse.  She placed the quilt around me and then admonished me not to attempt to escape; if I did, I would be beaten again and my hands and feet would be tightly bound each night.  She whispered that I should sleep well because I would have much to do the next day.  Then she patted my head and walked off.               Apparently following her orders, the guard walked to me and placed an earthenware bowl on the ground, then poured a small quantity of water from her gourd-shaped canteen into it.  I lapped and slurped at it and in seconds it was gone.  I looked up at her with an expression that was an obvious plea for more.  She stooped before my head, so that the rope to the tree passed between her legs, leaned on her three-pronged spear and stared at me for several seconds, as if observing a strange insect in a glass. 

It was obvious she enjoyed watching the fearful expression on my face as she lowered her spear parallel to the ground and slowly moved it forward under my body until the tips of the prongs were between my legs.  As I felt the tips prod my manhood, I moved back involuntarily which caused the rope to go taut.  She moved one step forward, causing me to pull against the rope despite its painful tightness around my neck.  With the Taiping guard between me and the tree I was tied to I was powerless to move away.  Finally, she pat my head, laughed quietly, rose and disappeared into the darkness.

 

I lay down on the ground as best I could.  The beating the two women had given me made every movement a source of potential pain--which was no doubt what Golden Lily had intended.  And my face still ached where Pretty Flower’s hand had slapped it. 

I could hear the by now familiar chirping of cicadas and crickets, the faint snapping of wood embers at the campfires and the distant howls of wild animals.  At first, sleep was impossible.  I was still hungry and, despite the quilt, cold as well.  Although the horses had been nervous about my presence, they quickly accepted me as one of their own, which, in a very real sense, I had become.  Among the small China ponies were heavy-boned, dun-colored North China horses of enormous strength with large heads, straight necks and small ears.  Some had two-tone manes which stood up straight along their backs.  There were several stocky, muscular Mongolian horses prized by Chinese for their swiftness and endurance.  I would later learn from Sweet Little Sister that many of their mounts had been captured in battle from Manchus and Mongols.

My mind raced with the events of the day.  It was difficult to believe that I had until that afternoon been a lieutenant in Frederick Townsend Ward's much-feared Ever Victorious Army.  Now I was the plaything and beast of burden in enemy hands--an enemy composed of beautiful but formidable Chinese women warriors; some of whom would tolerate me as their slave-in-training and some of whom were biding their time until they could do away with me. 

 

The beating had exhausted my strength and I soon fell into a deep, fitful, sleep.  In my dreams I was once again a proud lieutenant leading men into battle against the Taipings.  But the dreams always ended in retreat and defeat, with myself and my men being captured, stripped naked and ridden by Taiping women warriors.  In the eyes of my men I could read their pleas to do something but I simply turned away in shame, having lost any will to fight or courage to flee.  And, always, pressing my sides, I could feel Sweet Little Sister’s silk-clad legs and hear the melodious softness of her voice and sense her obvious pleasure in riding me as, following her commands, I moved clumsily forward on hands and knees.  And, despite my degradation, her girlish femininity stilled any desire in me to escape.

 

***********************

 

                                           Chapter Four

 

                                 Training the Foreign Horse

 

 

I awoke just before the dawn.  The horses and nearby woods were enveloped in a thick, grey, miasmal vapor.  Still shivering, I wrapped myself in the quilt as best I could.  The powerful smell of horse manure nearby made me almost sick to my stomach.  During the night I had had to relieve myself and had no choice but to do so close to where I was tied.   I realized that, as I was now considered an animal rather than a man, my necessary body functions were of no interest to my female captors.  Dignity was something from my past.  I was being stripped and made over both physically and mentally.

I lay on my side--my buttocks were still too sore to lie on my back--staring at the streaks of pink as they consumed the grey sky and tried to mentally prepare myself for what was ahead.  Even if I could escape from the Taiping women I was still inside a China hostile to “foreign devils.”  And the Ch’ing forces--even though bitter enemies of the Taipings--had no love for foreigners either and their embrace might be little better than the Taipings’.  But the cool morning air seemed to rekindle my sense of being a soldier and, despite my helplessness, I was determined to escape if I could.  My cowardice in my dreams seemed to give me new courage to regain my manhood.

 

The clear early morning light gradually penetrated the surrounding mist-covered hills and lent the tents, the women walking about and the smoke from breakfast fires a dreamlike quality, as if I were staring at a classical Chinese painting.

I had been awake for nearly an hour when I saw Sweet Little Sister and another woman walking toward me.  I felt almost consumed with shame when I saw that Tiam Moi was wearing my uniform.  The cap, the tunic, the trousers, the boots.  All mine and all too large for her; yet, in some inexplicable way, making her even more desirable. 

In her hand she carried the same thin branch she had used on me when herding me along the road.  As they approached, her friend reached out and touched her cap and both laughed as she attempted to adjust it for her.  Her friend pointed out the buttons on the back of the tunic, buttons which in such a position were obviously useless, and both laughed again.  They seemed to be enjoying the game as girls might dress up like adults.

The other woman appeared to be one of the guards, slim and graceful with a nutbrown face more handsome than pretty.  She carried a bowl of rice, chopsticks, and leather feedbags for the horses.

 

As I watched them approach I couldn’t help but notice how petite and delicate Tiam Moi was, and a rush of humiliation came over me at being such an obedient prisoner to this girl.  I thought of the man I had been in the eyes of the young woman I had almost married in New York; ”Strong and independent,” she had called me; especially when I hotheadedly argued with her father’s views on slavery.  Thank God she could not see me now.  The thought of her certain horror at my plight, or, rather, at my passivity, brought heat to my cheeks.  As did watching a young Chinese woman wear my uniform as if it were hers.  I thought of the pride I felt when wearing it for the first time and I made up my mind to exhibit some sense of independence.  Of manhood. 

The women untied me in silence.  I sat up and pulled the quilt tightly around me.  Tiam Moi stood beside me and stared at me with that same mixture of playfulness and pride of ownership I had read into her expression previously.  Her smile was that of a woman who knows she can toy with her slave as she likes.  She asked if I had slept well.  I responded in mandarin, ma ma, hu hu (“horse horse, tiger tiger”) which means “so so.”  She laughed the unrestrained laughter of a girl and stooped by my head.  She ran her hand over my hair.  Her voice was as playful as her attitude.  She placed her hand to her mouth in the universal gesture of eating.  “Is my pony hungry?”  I nodded.  She took the rice and chopsticks from the other woman and the woman immediately walked on to feed the horses. 

 

Sweet Little Sister handed me the rice and chopsticks and watched in amusement as in my haste and hunger I clumsily placed rice in my mouth.  She suddenly reached out, took the bowl and chopsticks and began feeding me.  At times, just as I’d opened my mouth to allow the chopsticks to enter, she withdrew them; she had a childlike delight in asserting her power over her new plaything.

When I had finished, she placed the bowl down and retrieved the branch.  She touched the tip of the branch to my ear, as if reminding me of the pain she could inflict with it, then slowly ran the branch over the quilt, letting the tip rest just below my waist.  She tapped the quilt with the tip of the stick.  “Take this off and stand up.”  She spoke in a strangely accented mandarin but again she gestured as if to an obtuse child.

I did as she ordered.  She stood up with me and let her gaze run over my naked body.  I made no attempt to cover my nakedness.  Her smile remained that of a woman with barely disguised glee at being in total control of her slave.  Even though her prisoner, I was determined to demonstrate that I was a man, not a horse.  I looked her body over the same way she had mine then gazed right into her dark brown eyes.  I spoke slowly and clearly in mandarin: “Is the China lady ready to have the foreign soldier make love to her?”

 

The pain between my legs was so sudden and so intense, I hardly understood that she had kicked out with the toe of her right boot.  As I fell to my knees in agony, and desperately clutched my scrotum, she began whipping my still swollen buttocks with the branch.  I fell to my side, my hands tucked between my legs, trying to protect my testicles and wiggle my buttocks away from receiving further punishment.  I rolled and wiggled and writhed along the ground pleading with her to forgive me.  My buttocks were so sore the sting of the branch smacking them was intense.  I screamed in mandarin that I was sorry and begged her to stop.  But the whipping continued.  Finally, I threw myself down on my stomach before her, grabbed her right boot--the boot I had been wearing less than 24 hours before--and began licking it.  As much as I humiliated myself, to prevent further punishment, I would have degraded myself even more. 

She stopped striking me and allowed me several seconds to grovel at her feet while licking her right boot, then tapped the branch against her left boot.  I immediately crawled to it and began licking it.  The smell of leather and earth filled my nostrils.  Finally, she grabbed my hair with one hand and held my chin firmly with the other.  She jerked me upright onto my knees while I clutched my testicles.

She spoke words so quickly and angrily that I didn’t understand but, by her gestures, I could see she wanted me to assume the position of her pony.  Once again I got down on my hands and knees and waited for her to mount me.  She stood behind me and I didn’t dare look up.  I could feel the tip of the branch as she traced the welts of my buttocks with it.  She positioned it between my legs and moved it right and left, signaling me to open my legs farther.  I immediately obeyed, praying I wasn’t in for still more discipline.

 

It was with great relief that I felt her mount me.  She gave my buttocks a hard slap with her hand and I quickly moved forward on my hands and knees.  And then my training as her pony began in earnest. 

With her hands, legs, body weight and especially her voice, she trained me to move forward, backward, left, right, halt, to speed up, to slow down, to lower my head.  Then she put me through my paces at a faster clip after which she began teaching me tricks.  She threw the switch many yards in front and called out, Kwai, ch’u! (“Quickly, go!”).  When I was almost on the branch, she said, Syau ma, Na hwei lai!  Na dyau lai! (“Small pony, fetch!”) 

I made it to the switch and lowered my head and managed to pick the switch up with my teeth.  She held out her hand.  Gei wo!  (“Give me!”) I opened my mouth and released the switch.  She immediately threw it several yards away and the process was repeated.  She patted my head.  Restraint, control; reward and punishment: I was being trained exactly as if I were her new stallion.  I understood such degradation was their way of annihilating my identity and fashioning me into what they wanted me to become; but there was nothing I could do except obey.

 

I was nearly out of breath and despite the intense pain of my buttocks, I was also feeling the pain on my by now badly scraped knees.  I suddenly heard loud drums, a horn and a kind of bugle but my young captor had so cowered me that I did not dare turn to look.  But as I crawled along the ground, I caught glimpses of the women being drilled in formation by Gim Lian and Siu Fa and other officers.  Some were practicing a kind of speeded up shadow boxing in unison while others drilled with their swords and spears. 

Suddenly, much to my horror, I heard a man’s voice speaking in mandarin: “You have a strange horse!”

I looked up and saw several men carrying sacks of ammunition, Chinese-style shovels and coal, slung from both ends of bamboo shoulder poles.  Just behind them others struggled with several long-barreled, large caliber Chinese rifles known as gingalls.  They did not appear to be Taiping warriors but rather ordinary villagers.  But they all had facial scars from being branded, or a missing ear, no doubt compliments of the Ch’ing military.  As he spoke, the man who had spoken touched his only ear as if reaffirming to himself that at least one remained.

There was a brief exchange between Tiam Moi and the man and then the men laughed and continued on into the camp.

At the time, I was mortified.  As humiliating as it was to be the naked slave of a young woman, I realized my degradation could soon get far worse than it was.  Sweet Little Sister patted my head and spoke as if to reassure me.  She asked if I understood her, and I shook my head to convey that I hadn’t.  When she repeated herself, I finally understood. 

 

The men were indeed villagers who hated the Ch’ing armies and had given their loyalty to the Taipings.  They had no military skills and did not fight but rather dug traps and graves, cut firewood, repaired weapons, bought provisions, and brushed down the horses.  Such volunteers were often found in villages along the road; especially in villages where women had been raped and valuables plundered by Ch’ing forces.  During the first few days, I was to be spared such chores because they were chores for free men, and I was a slave.  That is why for now I would not even be allowed to feed horses, for how could a horse feed another horse?  It was only when it was obvious I was well on my way to being broken that I would be permitted to work.

Sweet Little Sister rode me back to my place with the horses and dismounted.  She told me soon it would be time for their service to honor their fallen comrade, but, when she returned, she would ride me to the river and allow me to bathe.  Once again, she placed the rope around my neck and bound my wrists with the silk cord, then tied the bamboo cord loosely around my ankles, patted my head and walked off.

Only once, when she was quite far off, did she turn to look at me.  She gave me a beautiful, open smile, one which conveyed her undisguised delight at owning a foreign-devil slave.  Then she disappeared over the hill.

 

Before long, the military exercises ended and I could hear the women singing hymns interspersed with antiphonal chants.  A single voice called out a line and all of the women responded.  Their voices rose from below the hill, swept over me and on into the forest.  I looked around and tried to formulate a plan of escape.  I thought I might be able to unbind my wrists and attempt to disappear into the woods.  But I had no doubt that the Taiping guards, though unseen, were nearby, and that they knew the woods well and could easily track a naked foreign man.  It was also true I could mount one of the horses and ride out as fast as I could ride.  But whatever route I chose would be in the open and I would be spotted almost immediately and probably captured within minutes.

One possibility I did not want to contemplate, let alone acknowledge.  And that was that in less than 24 hours the beatings of these women had broken me and made me too craven even to attempt an escape.  That beautiful Chinese women warriors could so easily turn me into their plaything was something I was not ready to admit.  Whatever the reason, I lay down on the ground and remained where I was.  As I had been instructed. 

Nearly an hour passed before I saw Sweet Little Sister walking toward me.  As she approached, I saw again the confidence in that beautiful smile; a confidence that should have infuriated me but instead all I could think of was how beautiful and lovely a woman she was.  Looking back, I think that I was even then already well on my way to being anxious to please her; to experiencing a surge of pride whenever she indicated that I had done so.

 

She untied me, mounted, and rode me through their camp down toward the water.  She stopped and entered her tent.  She emerged carrying a piece of what passed for soap among the Chinese-- tallow mixed with ashes.  Several women walking by with baskets of clothing stopped to observe me.  One pointed to my reddened buttocks and said something to Tiam Moi.  Tiam Moi pretended to be indignant and the women laughed.

She again mounted me and we continued on until I could see the landscape below the hill.  I looked out upon an idyllic scene in which a sparkling river rushed past pale green willow trees and, on the opposite bank, beyond a forested shore, distant foothills rose to form a range of cloud-covered mountains. 

Several of the women were wielding bamboo paddles, pounding clothes clean and placing them to dry on rocks along the shore.  Within calling distance, horses quenched their thirst and lazed about in the shallow water.  Upstream, other women were washing rice kernels in rattan baskets.  Sweet Little Sister dismounted, placed the soap in my mouth, and ordered me to crawl into the water to bathe.

I obediently moved forward like a tamed animal into the river, then, as I went deeper, I was able to stand.  Despite the initial chill, the water had already been warmed by the sun and its caressing ministrations refreshed and somewhat rejuvenated my spirit.  I began washing myself with the soap while glancing at the far shore.  The rock-strewn river was wide but seemed shallow.  I knew I could edge my way out and then attempt to swim to freedom.  But I also knew the Taiping women were expert horsewomen and would be upon me in minutes. 

 

Sweet Little Sister sat on the grassy shore with her legs crossed holding her bamboo switch in her hand watching my every move.  There was something about the erect manner of her posture that hinted at the pride she took in having been placed in charge of a male foreign-devil soldier who was even now, at her command, displaying his nakedness.  She sat amidst a winding carpet of daisies which several yards behind her gave way to a small grove of pomegranate trees.  Their bell-shaped flowers swayed and dipped in the breeze and their blazing scarlet color seemed to both complement and deepen the bluish-gray of my uniform.  All the elements of the scene lent Sweet Little Sister the image of a royal princess centered on a makeshift throne. 

About her head and all along the shore beautifully colored swallowtail butterflies darted and swooped.  She held the switch above the brim of my cap allowing one to land upon it, then moved the switch slowly downward so she could gaze upon the beauty of the butterfly.  She spoke softly to it and drew it close to her lips as if to kiss it.  As it flew off, she smiled in delight and, again, I found myself marveling that this young and beautiful woman could still harbor the emotions of someone barely older than a child yet when called upon would, as a Taiping warrior, unhesitatingly fight to the death and, as a woman, almost effortlessly discipline and enslave a man.

 

After I had stretched my limbs and swam a few meters in each direction, I walked into more shallow water.  The soap was rough but I stood in water just below my waist and rubbed it gently into my buttocks.  I watched the stallions as they kept a cautious eye on the mares, and on two foals bumping against each other’s rumps in play.  And then I looked directly at Sweet Little Sister as she adjusted my cap to keep the sun from her eyes, placed her hands behind her, and leaned back, content and relaxed while her slave performed his very public ablutions. 

A few of the women washing clothes nearby called out to her.  I could understand a few of their comments: “Your horse is able to wash itself; it is so clever!”  “What new tricks have you taught your foreign horse?” 

Tiam Moi smiled and chatted with them, but her eyes remained on me.  While staring at her, I suddenly noticed a figure higher on the hill and a bit upstream.  Nearly surrounded by banners, Golden Lily stood alone.  She was dressed in a yellow silk over-garment reaching just below her knees, black silk trousers, red waist sash and black boots.  Her red scarf had been fashioned into a turban.  She made no attempt to hide her grief and yet to my mind the more distraught she looked, the more beautiful she seemed.

 

She stood without moving, silently staring at the wooden cross placed over the newly filled grave.  She turned and walked several paces from it, then turned again to face it.  She placed her hands on her hips, threw her head back and sang out in Hakka, something close to a song but yet not a song.  She partly sang and partly spoke in a single high-pitched, melodic line with words at times sad and melancholy; at times almost angry and demanding; at times almost flippant and coquettish.  The tempo varied from slow and mournful to fast and furious.  She would pass through sections in which she seemed to beseech and plead and through other sections in which she hurled words defiantly as if she were in a heated argument, the other side of which only she could hear.

I would learn later from Tiam Moi that Gim Lian was singing to the soul of her sister, blaming her sister for leaving her so early but recalling their lives together and that it was the custom for one close to the deceased to sing this farewell.   Whatever it was, throughout the several minutes of strange lamentations, none of the other women stopped their normal activities for a moment.

There was no part of my body which was not visible to these women at all times.  I understood that my being stripped of my uniform, as well as my equestrian training was part of their plan to strip me of my former identity as a soldier and even as a man.  All to transform me into the docile and obedient slave they expected me to become.  And yet some innate sense of decency made me conceal my nakedness as best I could and so I had been turning away from the other women as I washed myself.  Yet, a sudden thought crossed my mind and I decided that if modesty was impossible, if I must wash my most private parts in public, then I would do so not as an act so shameful that it must be hidden, but rather as an act of sexual daring.  I would, if I could, turn the tables on Sweet Little Sister and see her reaction. 

 

I freely admit that out of fear of yet another beating as I had received on my first day I hesitated, but I did not think my actions could plausibly be construed as an outright act of defiance.  I was, after all, only following the orders of the woman in charge of me.

I turned directly to Tiam Moi and walked a few steps toward her.  The rushing water now pressed against me well below my waist.  I held the soap in one hand and slowly moved it about my thighs and between my thighs and across my groin area.  Finally, holding my manhood with one hand, I glanced at the women upstream, then directly at Sweet Little Sister and began to soap my gradually engorging member with slow, unhurried motions which were clearly meant to be provocative and suggestive. 

Golden Lily had already finished her lamentations and had walked back toward camp so when the women’s voices grew silent, there were only the sounds of water and washing.  Sweet Little Sister sat up suddenly and I saw the sudden stiffening of her body as she returned my stare.  Her expression changed from the confidence of one in command to unease and discomfort at my actions and, if I was not mistaken, I perceived a hint of arousal.

“What do you think you are doing?”

I continued washing as I spoke.  “I am washing myself as you ordered.”

Suddenly, she stood up and shouted at me to come to her.  She motioned curtly with her hand, palm down, in the Asian fashion. 

As she had not ordered me to crawl, I walked to her as a man: slowly, not without pride, and with no attempt to hide my nakedness, especially that part still in undeniable arousal. 

 

As I reached her, I saw the anger cloud her dark brown eyes and heard the breath pass through her nostrils.  Tendrils of her hair spilled out below the cap and the breast-filled tunic heaved with the force of her heavy breathing.  The way her delicate ears peaked out from strands of her hair, the way her perfectly formed chin tightened in anger, the way her eyes narrowed, the way her shoulders set, the way her slender hands gripped the switch--I found her so desirable I realized her displeasure with me was exciting me even more, causing my own breathing to deepen. 

She lashed out with the palm of her hand and forcefully slapped my face.  Her fingers hit the lobe of my ear giving me a shock of pain and sending me involuntarily lurching backward.  She slapped me again, making my ear ring, and then again.  She glanced down at my still erect member and, in her embarrassment and frustration, grabbed the soap from my hand and threw it into the water.  She pointed to where it disappeared.  “Fetch!”

I turned to obey but she ordered me onto my hands and knees.  As I crawled to the water, she walked beside me silently but furiously spanking my buttocks with the switch.  Now that the  unexpected incident had passed, and Sweet Little Sister once again had the upper hand, I could hear the other women laughing and teasing her about the strange behavior of her horse.

As I plunged into the water in search of the soap, I knew I would pay a price for my arrogant if undefined challenge.  But I also knew I had guessed correctly:  Sweet Little Sister had never slept with a man and she could be aroused.  I also knew I had the power to arouse her and if I was extremely careful, I might yet find a way to use her budding sexual needs to hasten my escape...  

 

                                 ************************

Copyright © Dean Barrett 2014

Published by Village East Books, available on Kindle & Nook  Trade paperback copies available from Village East Books

 

"All Human Emotions are Degrading except Lust" - Anonymous 
"A bit of lusting after someone does wonders for you and is good for your skin."   Elizabeth Hurley - Actress

 

REVIEWS

"This is an erotica book, not a porn book so if you are looking for lots of measurements, non-stop sex, and vulgar words, don't buy this book.  The book is utterly surprising in the way it turns out, and a real treat.  There are many, many naughty elements, but it also becomes a historical journey, and surely is one of those books that you just can't put down.  It occurs during the 1800's, and has the reader utterly engrossed in the exploits of Thomas the young soldier, and actually backing the Taiping warriors to prosper by the end.  The book does not contain end to end sex scenes, but when they do come they are exquisite and original.  The erotic nature of the novel is certainly there but I found the love story, especially in the second half, to be a really memorable tale.  This is the way erotic novels should be."  -  BooksErotic.com

"Plenty of good and hot sex scenes and kept this reviewer interested throughout. A very interesting and different novel, and well worth reading." - B & Belle's BDSM Palace Book Reviews

"Written with impressive sensitivity and attention to detail....A story of doomed love that is both erotic and touching." - Quality SM Book Reviews

"Barrett introduces readers to Lieutenant Thomas Rowley, American adventurer, who's gone to China. Rowley is captured by fierce amazonian Chinese women warriors who have sex slavery in store for him. The plot twists of his transformation from soldier to Chinese whore are literary, livid, and lewd under Barrett's sly pseudo-Victorian style." - On the Bookshelf - Clean Sheets Erotica Magazine

"The China Memoirs offers a unique perspective of the Taiping Rebellion, and Barrett's command of Chinese history is strong.  It is laced with well written battle scenes but ikt is also a candid exploration of the erotic worship one man will lern to have for his captor.  Strongly recommended."   Historical Novel Society

 

Author's Note:

I have always been fascinated by the period in which East first met West in China in any real numbers and the period of the 1850's and 1860's is what interests me in Chinese history. That is why I have written so many projects set in that period, including Hangman's Point, a novel set in Hong Kong and China in 1857, Fragrant Harbour, a Broadway-style musical, also set in Hong Kong in 1857, Dragon Slayer, a novella (and filmscript) set in Vietnam in 1968 and China in 1857, Bones of the Chinamen, a play and also a novella set in 1862 China, and now A Love Story: The China Memoirs of Thomas Rowley, an erotic novel set in China in 1862.

I guess the best way to describe the book would be to say that it is as if a story of several Chinese Emmanuelles with whips segues into Dr. Zhivago with overtones of Longfellow's Evangeline.  It was fun to research and to write and, of course, I had already much of the research completed as I have plenty of material on China set in that period from researching in libraries around the world, as well as public record offices, missionary societies, etc.  I also wanted to combine an erotic novel with a genuine love story, one, I hoped, that would be moving to the reader.  I'm not certain if there has ever been a genuine love story and erotic story combined.  Anyway, that was one of my main goals.   Dean Barrett, Bangkok, 2014