Friday's Scream Queen
4 hours ago
"This slave begs you to forgive her. This slave--"
"You're na a slave and never have been. Now, there's nothing to forgive, lass, so off to bed."
...She fell onto her knees and kowtowed. "This slave has nae face before her lord and owner. She cannot live here. Please to sell!"
"Get up!" Struan's face tightened.
She rose. Her face was shadowed and ethereal.
"You're na for sale because no one owns you. You will stay here. You have na offended me. You surprised me, that's all European clothes do na suit you. The clothes you wear I like. And I like you as you are. But if you dinna want to stay here, you're free to leave."
"Please to sell. This is your slave. Until an owner sells, a slave cannot go."
...Struan realized that it was useless to argue or reason with May-may. You canna treat her as a European, he told himself. Deal with her as though you're Chinese. But how's that? I dinna ken. Treat her as a woman, he ordered himself, deciding on a tactic.
He exploded with pretended rage. "You are a miserable slave, by God! And I've a mind to sell you into the Street of the Blue Lanterns," he shouted, naming the worst of the seamen's streets in Macao, "though who'd want to buy a dirty baggage slave like you I dinna ken. You're nothing but trouble and I've a mind to give you to the lepers... You're worthless! How I've put up with you all these years I dinna ken." He shook his fist in her face and she recoiled. "Am I na good to you? Eh? Generous? Eh? Eh?" he roared, and was pleased to detect fear in her eyes. "Well?"
"Yes, lord," she whispered, biting her lips.
"You dare to get clothes made behind my back and dare to wear then wi'out my approval, by God? Well, do you?"
"I'll sell you tomorrow. I've a mind to throw you out now, you miserable motherless whore! Kowtow! Go on, kowtow, by God!"
She blanched at his fury and kowtowed quickly.
"Now keep kowtowing until I come back."
He stormed out of the room, and went into the garden. He jerked out his knife and selected a thin bamboo from a newly planted grove. He cut it and slashed the air and rushed back into the living room.
"Take your clothes off, you miserable slave! I'm going to flog you till my arm hurts."
Trembling, she stripped. He seized the dress from her hand and threw it aside.
"Lie down there." He pointed to the ottoman.
She did as he ordered. "Please no to whip me too hard--I'm two months with child." She buried her head in the ottoman.
Struan wanted to take her in his arms, but he knew that this would make him lose face in front of her. And a whipping was the only way to give her back her dignity.
So he slashed her buttocks with the bamboo. Hard enough to hurt, but not to damage. Soon she was crying out and weeping and squirming, but he kept on. Twice he deliberately missed her and slashed the leather violently, so that the noise was terrifying, for the benefit of Lim Din and Ah Sam who he knew would be listening.
After ten blows he paused and told her to stay where she was, and went over to the brandy bottle. He drank deeply, hurled the bottle against the wall, and resumed the whipping. But always with great care.
Finally he stopped and dragged her up by the hair. "Put on your clothes, you miserable slave!" When she was dressed, he bellowed, "Lim Din! Ah Sam!"
They were trembling at the door in an instant.
"Get food!" He hurled the bamboo at the side of the door and turned back to May-may.
"Clean yoursel' and come back here. Thirty seconds or I'll start all over again."
The food came with incredible speed and Struan allowed himself to be served by May-may. She whimpered with pain and he shouted, "shut up or I'll whip you forever!"
Then he fell silent, ominously, and ate, letting the quiet torture them.
"Pick the bamboo up!" he screamed as he finished.
May-may fetched the bamboo and handed it to him. "Bed!" he ordered harshly, and Lim Din and Ah Sam fled, secure in the knowledge that the Tai-Pan had forgiven his Tai-tai, who had gained limitless face by enduring his righteous fury.
Struan spun around, drawing his knife. Mary was standing in a doorway which had been concealed in the wall. She wore a gossamer robe which hid none of her. She had long, fair hair and a dimpled chin; long legs and tiny waist and small, firm breasts. A priceless piece of carved jade hung from a gold chain around her neck. Mary was studying Struan with a curious, flat smile.
"You can put the knife away, Tai-Pan. You're in no danger." Her voice was calm and mocking.
"You ought to be horsewhipped," he said.
"I know all about whipping, don't you remember?" She motioned to the bedroom. "We'll be more comfortable in here." She went to a bureau and poured brandy into two glasses.
"What's the matter?" she said with the same perverse smile. "Haven't you been in a girl's bedroom before?"
"You'd risk your life to talk to soothsayers and get your hair treated?" he erupted. "What the hell's the matter with your hair? It's fine as it is!
"That's where I hear rumors. At hairdresser's." She took his hand and made him touch her hair. "There, you see. It is much softer, no?"
"No! It is na! God's death, if you ever leave without telling me where you're going, I'll whack you so hard you will na sit for a week."
"Just try, Tai-Pan, by God," she said and glared back at him.
He grabbed her swiftly and carried her, struggling, to the bed and flung up her robe and petticoats and gave her a smack on her buttocks that hurt his hand and tossed her on the bed. He had never struck her before.
May-may flew off the bed at him and viciously raked at his face with her long nails. A lantern crashed to the floor as Struan upended her again and resumed the spanking. She fought out of his grip, and her nails slashed at his eyes, missing by a fraction of an inch, and scoring his face.
He caught her wrists and turned her over and tore off her rob and underclothes and smashed her bare buttocks with the flat of his hand. She fought back fiercely, shoving an elbow in his groin and clawing at his face again. Mustering all his strength, he pinned her to the bed, but she slipped her head free and sank her teeth into his forearm. He gasped from the pain and slashed her buttocks again with the flat of his free hand.
"By God, you'll never bite me again," he said through clenched teeth. Her teeth sank deeper, but he deliberately did not pull his arm away. The pain made his eyes water, but he smashed May-may harder and harder and harder, always on her buttocks, until his hand hurt. At last she released her teeth.
"Don't--no more--please--please," she whimpered, and wept into the pillow, defenseless.
Struan caught his breath. "Now say you're sorry for going out without permission."
Her mottled, inflamed buttocks tightened and she flinched against the expected blow, but he had not raised his hand. He knew that the spirit of a thoroughbred must only be tamed, never broken. "I'll give you three seconds."
"I'm sorry--sorry. You hurt me, you hurt me," she sobbed.