Mul ber r y
Tr ans l at edbyYoonnaCho
Mulberry By Na Do-hyang Translated by Yoonna Cho
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Originally published in Korean as Bbong in Gaebyeok, 1925 Translation ⓒ 2014 by Yoonna Cho
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and Literature Translation Institute of Korea. The original manuscripts to these translations were provided by Gongumadang of Korea Copyright Commission.
The National Library of Korea Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Na, Do-hyang Mulberry [electronic resource] / authored by Na Do-hyang ; translated by Yoonna Cho. -- [Seoul] : Literature Translation Institute of Korea, 2014 p. 원표제: 뽕 Translated from Korean ISBN 978-89-93360-65-3 05810 : Not for sale 813.61-KDC5 895.733-DDC21
About Na Do-hyang
Na Do-hyang (1902 - 1927)’s real name is Kyung-son and his pen name is Bin. He was born in 1902. After graduating from Baejae Normal High School, he was admitted to Kyeongseong Medical School but dropped out and went to Tokyo, Japan, to study literature, returning in 1919 to teach at an elementary school in Andong for one year. He began his literary career in 1921, publishing “Leaving Home” in the Baejae School Newspaper and later on, his short story “Memory” in the People’s Opinion. In 1922, as a member of the literary coterie magazine The Swan, he published his work “The Seasons of a Young Person” in its first edition. In 1925, with the publication of his artistically mature pieces like “The Water Mill”, “Mulberry”, and “Mute Sam-ryong”, he received much attention as a writer. He died on August 26, 1927. His full-length novel, Mother (1939) was published posthumously. In his early years, his writings reflected an emotional and artistic world, but his later works like “The Water Mill” were much more realistic and used short story elements. He is considered to be a representative author of the Colonial Period, for he clearly depicted the dark realities of that time.
About “Mulberry” Surprisingly little has been written about “Mulberry” (1925), a classic Na Dohyang story that was also made into a cult film in 1986. Exploring one of the recurring themes of Korean fiction from this period, that of the financially incompetent husband and sexually exploited wife, it also provides one of the first glimpses of women’s agency in modern Korean literature. While the sex work premise is hardly progressive, the views on independence and sexual ownership expressed by the female protagonist are radically assertive for the time. As it is so often with Na Do-hyang, the intent is not to uplift or depress, but rather to offer impartial commentary; hard as it may be to imagine for modern readers, his characters are not so much exaggerated as faithfully drawn from the extreme hardship many of their contemporaries suffered.
1. Miz Anhyeop walking into the kitchen with a bucketful of water was Samdol the hired hand’s cue to stir from his place by the hob, where he was boiling mash for the cows. “Where was you last night?” he asked, poking the fire. His chestnut-burr head done up in a bandana shot up as he leered at her. “I don’t think that’s any of your business,” Miz Anhyeop snapped with no lack of spirit, her tone unmistakably scornful. Any man worth his salt would have bristled at this, but Samdol only sneered condescendingly. An old bachelor pushing thirty, with no self-respect when it came to chasing women, he rubbed his sooty fingers across an uneven beard that resembled a half-skinned caterpillar as he said, “My, aren’t we touchy? 'Twas only 'cause the mistress sent me over to your place last night,” delivered witheringly, “And I knows you spent the night with that son of Master Kim’s again.” Malicious delight at having found his opponent at a disadvantage lit up his face with glee. ‘Why, you bastard…’ Miz Anhyeop almost spat out before collecting herself. “It’s none of your business,” was all she said as she flounced out with her bucket again, when Samdol fired his parting shot. “You wait and see, I’ll give you business…” “Shut up! I’ve had it with the likes of you.”
2. In a village called Yongdam, in Cheolwon, Gangwon province, there lived a man called Kim Sambo, about thirty-four or -five years of age; a neckless, sicklycomplexioned fellow known as ‘Stubby Sambo’, ‘Opium-eater Sambo,’ or ‘Duck-butt Sambo,’ so called because he could not take a step in his iron-shod clogs without waddling. He was rarely at home more than two days a month, one being the usual. It took a few years for word to get out, him never being around very long, but it was gradually accepted that Sambo was a proficient gambler who earned his bread by playing games as far as up to the Hwanghae and Pyeongan border, not to mention at home in Gangwon. The wife of this Sambo was the aforementioned Miz Anhyeop, Anhyeop being the name of a village tucked between Gangwon, Pyeongan, and Hwanghae. Sambo had brought her home five years ago, the year Miz Anhyeop turned nineteen; the exact circumstances of her procurement remained unknown. Some said that she was a 4
barmaid he had carried away, others that she had taken a shine to him and come of her own accord, while still others maintained that her former husband had lost her to Sambo in a game of cards, by far largely believed to be the most plausible explanation. Miz Anhyeop’s arrival in the village was marked by a sudden increase in the number of young girls looking anxiously in the mirror. While Miz Anhyeop might not be of noble birth, she was uncommonly pretty, a fact that inspired envy and jealousy among those who now saw only despair in the mirror, all previous self-deception stripped away with humiliating clarity. She had absolutely no upbringing, however, having tumbled up in the countryside with no respect for anything except money. Money was food, clothes, and men all rolled together, she avowed, and true to her credo she had no qualms offering up everything short of her life for sale. Starting with a single yellow melon for her virginity when she was fourteen or fifteen, her price had increased over the years to this many sacks of rice or this sum of money or this many lengths of cloth, but the main idea was the same. So by and by she had had practically all of the eligible young men in the village at least once, and while one might point a finger at those who insisted on their bit of silliness, in reality it was Miz Anhyeop who deserved more of the blame, with the greatest share going to her husband Sambo, the gambler. As he was a confirmed gambler who came home but once a month, and more often empty-handed than not, his young wife had to get by somehow—she went from house to house, pounding barley, weeding rice paddies, and running errands, until one day a certain oafish husband took advantage of her and offered rice and cloth as compensation afterwards, whereupon she decided that this was the best sort of business to be in and wasted no time setting up shop. Now she had worked her way through her regulars, she would have no one as lowly as a polebearer or peddler, or even a policeman; she preferred to ply her trade only in the wealthiest and most exclusive circles. Henceforth she did no work but spent her time primping and posing, and when she saw her husband she would narrow her eyes and ask, “What’d you make this time?” “What did I make? What did I lose, more like,” Sambo would reply ruefully, rubbing the back of his neck. Upon which Miz Anhyeop would take him down with newfound confidence, “Shame on you! A grown man with two balls letting a woman best you!” Fearful of retribution lest he find out how she earned her living, however, she would send him off with enough money for traveling and his next game. “Balls ain’t worth much these days compared to being a woman,” Sambo would sigh heavily, and shoulder his pack again.
3. Two or three years had passed in this way when, one fall, their next-door neighbors took on a hired hand named Samdol. Nobody knew where the drifter came from, but he 5
quickly established himself in the village as a hearty singer of work songs in the rice paddies, seasoned drinker of liquor in all forms, loud-voiced settler of disputes—of which there were many among his contemporaries—and strongman capable of wading across a brook with a calf under his arm, such that there was no one who did not know the name of Samdol “the Tiger.” He was also a sleazy character with a taste for pretty young girls, but try as he may, he could not persuade Miz Anhyeop as he did his other conquests. This was the vexation of his soul until he learned that the old mistress of the house had asked Miz Anhyeop for help with the silkworms she was raising in exchange for half of the profits, so Miz Anhyeop would be over constantly that summer. Now it was only a matter of biding his time. “Huh, so she thinks she’s too good for me. We’ll see 'bout that. She’s got it coming to her, all right! Stuck-up bitch!” he liked to say after a few drinks, banging his glass on the table. The silkworms were almost fully grown when the old mistress ran out of mulberry leaves. She had already used up the leaves from the bushes she had planted in her own yard, and afterwards she had Samdol trudge to a relative’s house in the next village, an hour’s journey by foot, to get fresh leaves from them every day. Now they had run out, too. She would have to buy mulberry leaves for them now. But that cost money. The old mistress sucked on her pipe in thought. ‘That newfangled hybrid mulberry, that’s nice, now, but costly. Might as well raise 'em for nothing, if it’s to throw away money like that.’ If only there was some way get the mulberry leaves completely free of charge. She could not bear the thought of putting even one penny into the business, for in her mind that penny weighed more than the profits of the entire harvest. And those profits must be shared with Miz Anhyeop. Whatever amount of backbreaking labor Miz Anhyeop might contribute, the old mistress valued it less than a single coin out of her pocket. Thus pondering where to get the mulberry leaves for free, the old mistress addressed Miz Anhyeop as she came into the courtyard, “Them mulberry leaves are a real problem,” and asked if she knew of any solution. “I dunno,” said the latter, being of a different state of mind than the old mistress. It was not her money being spent, so she shrugged as if to say, ‘You could just buy them.’ “We must get them somehow.” The two of them were standing there, stumped, when Samdol bounded in and chanced to hear what they were saying. With his most sympathetic expression he commiserated, “That’s a pickle, all right. What to do, what to do…” Hard in thought, he said, as if to himself, “Humph! Now that’s some nice mulberry…thick, shiny leaves as big as fans…feed 'em on that and they should spin some big fat cocoons!” The mistress perked up at once and asked, “Where are these mulberries, you say?” “Oh, the ones in the field by that inn yonder.” 6
The field in question belonged to a professional cocoonery that the old mistress knew well. Disappointed to find out that Samdol’s supposed source of mulberry was a private property, she said dismissively, “Oh, I’ve seen that field. Are their mulberries so fine? Suppose they are. What use is that to me?” “When did you see them?” “Lots of times. I saw them when I was picking angelica this spring…” Samdol was silent for a moment. Then, with a cunning smile, “I’ll haul you a load of 'em for a good drop of liquor, Mistress, just say the word!” Nothing could have pleased the crone more, and she assented readily, “Good man. I’ll put on a spread as well as the liquor, if you’d be so kind.” Gratified that even the pesky Samdol had his uses sometimes, Miz Anhyeop bestowed one of her rare smiles on him. He strutted away as proud as a rooster, puffed up with the thought of how he would cover himself with manly glory. That night after supper, Samdol rose around midnight and walked out the back door, rubbing his eyes. He returned in a couple of hours with a load of something on his back and piled it up in the courtyard. The sun rose the following day on a pile of the glossiest mulberry leaves ever seen. “Where did he get them?” The old mistress and Miz Anhyeop conferred in hushed voices. “He must have stolen them in the night. Nice, aren’t they?” “Really nice. We should have plenty if he’d bring the same every day.” The two of them said nothing further on the subject of where the leaves had come from, but cajoled the man, “Those are some real nice mulberry leaves. Won’t you fetch us some more today?” He would only shake his head and say, “Shh, not so loud. Get all of us in trouble. 'Tain't so easy or I’d get 'em every day. They’d break my legs first.” Neither Samdol, who had done the stealing, nor the old mistress and Miz Anhyeop, who had received the stolen goods, ever referred to the theft directly, but each knew what they were talking about. One day the mistress said to Miz Anhyeop, “Why don’t you go along this time? That way, if he ever gets caught, you can still go. And the two of you could pick more together. 'Tain't good for the pitcher to go to the well too often,” the old woman urged, knowing full well of Miz Anhyeop’s dislike for Samdol, but won over by greed. “What if someone catches us?” “Pfft! In the middle of the night? And you’ll not be alone. You’ll be with Samdol.” “I dunno. It won’t be pretty if we get caught.” To tell the truth, Miz Anhyeop was more concerned by the thought of being alone with Samdol at night, in the middle of nowhere, than being caught.
Miz Anhyeop might be notorious for her easy virtue, but she was extremely discerning with her prospective suitors and never accepted someone once rejected. Nothing could buy her once she had made up her mind. But Samdol simply refused to go away. After much thought, Miz Anhyeop made up her mind. ‘I’ll kill the slimy creature if it’s the last thing I do. Just let him try…’ she vowed to herself, eyes narrowed to slits. And so it was decided she would go pick mulberry leaves. Samdol could have hugged himself. ‘Ha! The time has come. She can’t get away from me now.’ After supper he flew around, sweeping the courtyard, feeding the cattle, driving in the pigs and pullets, putting everything in spick-and-span order before washing his chest and arms and neck and feet. Then he put on a fresh shirt and trousers, packed his pipe with tobacco, took a deep pull and exhaled slowly as he settled in to wait for nightfall.
4. Miz Anhyeop took a carrying cloth and followed Samdol to the mulberry field. It was an unusually dark night, so much so that she could not see as far as the stream that passed nearby. Still, they made it across bridges and rice-fields haphazardly, Miz Anhyeop groaning whenever she stumbled on a stray piece of rock, until they had come about halfway. Samdol was busy scheming. Should he push her into a furrow somewhere before they went for the mulberry leaves? No, too risky; they might end up not going for the leaves at all. He was sure that she would not make any trouble after the deed was done, what, her, the village harlot? It wasn’t like she was above that sort of thing. Oh, he knew what he was going to do. He would pick lots of leaves and make sure she had a heavy load to carry, so she would have to stop to rest at some point. And then… He shook himself out of his reverie at that point and struck up a mindless conversation to break up the silence that was becoming oppressive, and to possibly soften her up for the main event to come. “When’s Sambo coming home?” “I dunno. It’s not like he ever says.” “Finding it a bit lonesome, aren’t we? Old man gone all the time,” he said solicitously, affecting innocence. “Look, that’s really none of your business. Lead the way; I’m not used to these roads…” “Don’t be like that. I was just 'spressing my concern for a lonely woman. That son of Master Kim’s, though, he’s a powerful stingy one. You won’t see a penny from him, am I right?” Miz Anhyeop was mad enough to strike Samdol, but dared not cross him just then. She had to content herself with snapping, “Of all the worthless crock! You shut your
mouth.” She trailed behind and hated him silently; if she had hated him before, he was even more loathsome now, exploiting her weaknesses. They had reached the mulberry field. Samdol set up a ladder against the wire fence and helped Miz Anhyeop up before swinging his heavy legs over it. A twig snapped underfoot and then all was quiet. Samdol picked with his usual skill but Miz Anhyeop struggled, unaccustomed fingers trembling from nervousness. She picked blindly and with abandon, while Samdol pondered how he was going to seize her later on. They had been picking for a while when suddenly there was a shout behind Miz Anhyeop. “Who goes there!” the enraged male voice bellowed, sending chills down Miz Anhyeop’s back. Samdol had already leapt over the six-foot-high fence and was calling, “Come on, quick!” But Miz Anhyeop’s legs were trembling too much to carry her very fast. She threw away the precious leaves and crawled under the fence in a desperate attempt to save herself. She managed to crawl through but her skirt caught on the fence. She was about to rip it and flee, but it was too late. The watchman caught her. “You dirty robber! So you like to take other people’s mulberry leaves, eh? Thought you could get away with it every day? Ha! You’re coming with me.” Miz Anhyeop bowed and scraped, pleading, “Oh, have mercy. I didn’t mean no harm. I’ve never been here before. It was all that Samdol’s doing. Honest.” “Shut up, wretch! Don’t lie. I’ll have you torn limb from limb. You’re just dying for a taste of prison, aren’t you?” “Oh, please have mercy.” Samdol was nowhere to be seen as the watchman dragged Miz Anhyeop by the wrist into the field. “You come with me. What’s a good-looking lass like you doing, robbing mulberry fields?” he said, striking a match. “Ha!” a satisfied smile appeared on his lips once he got a good look at her face. Miz Anhyeop saw a glimmer of hope in that smile. That smile was a sign the watchman could be bent to her will. Miz Anhyeop flashed him a smile of her own. It was enough to mollify the watchman more than halfway. Off they went. ‘I’ll go with him now, and he can’t possibly not let me go afterwards…’ Miz Anhyeop thought. It was one way of buying her innocence. She allowed herself to be carried away. Samdol, watching from afar, leapt up when he saw the watchman taking Miz Anhyeop away. ‘I’ll be damned or my name isn’t Samdol the Tiger. What’s he going to do? Just let him touch Miz Anhyeop. I’ll break his legs in two. She was supposed to be mine tonight. Shall I go closer?’ Now his fists would have to do the talking. He jumped over the fence again. He pricked his ears up and prowled around the field, trying to listen for them. 9
There was a rustle somewhere but he heard no words spoken. He wandered around the vast field for several hours, eventually extending his search to the orchard, vegetable patch, and even the lookout hut, but found nothing. Little did he know that he had missed the thicket in the middle of the mulberry field. Reluctantly, he went home and gave his report to the mistress. The old lady’s eyes grew wider and wider and she began shaking like a leaf. “Oh, how dreadful! What shall we do?” she wrung her hands, while Samdol smoked his pipe furiously.
5. Miz Anhyeop returned safely the next morning. Her hair was all mussed up and her clothes were in unspeakable condition. “Oh, dear! How did you manage to get away?” the old mistress embraced her tearfully. “How’d I get away? I’ve been a-tussling with that man all night, that’s how.” “He let you go?” “He ain’t got a choice, does he?” It was too easy. Samdol muttered, “They’d have thrown me in the clink. She got off easy.” “It’s wonderful you managed to get away. But what about the mulberry leaves?” the old mistress pressed. “Oh, he took 'em.” “But you’re all right?” “Of course I am.” Samdol mulled it over to himself that night. ‘Some people have all the luck. But if she thinks she can get away from old Samdol she’s dead wrong. One word from me to that gambler husband of hers and she’s done for. We’ll see what she says to that.’ After that, he never failed to needle Miz Anhyeop in passing, “I guess you’re pining for that watchman of yours,” or, “Why don’t we take a stroll to them mulberry fields again?” The word was all over the village by then. Miz Anhyeop seethed over this privately until Samdol dropped by one evening and refused to leave, just when she was about to go to bed. “Mister Sambo must be coming back soon,” he hinted. “Who knows? He comes and goes as he pleases,” Miz Anhyeop replied. Weary of the persistent Samdol and struggling to keep her eyes open, she leaned against the wall. The half-supine figure of Miz Anhyeop with her drowsy eyes, drooping neck, and rosy cheeks stirred Samdol’s loins. His voice dropped as he wheedled, “My, aren’t we hoitytoity! Don’t be like that. I may be a hired man now, but I was born with class, I tells you. It’s blasted money that did this…” Miz Anhyeop, however, did not deign to reply.
“Hey! Look here. Why can’t you be nice for once,” he said, and Miz Anhyeop’s eyes flew open as she felt his hands running over her. Quick as a flash, she gave him a slap that resounded like a mallet pounding rice in a mortar. “You! You nasty low-life, have you lost your mind? Get out of my sight!” she commanded imperiously. Enraged, Samdol rubbed at his cheek as he gritted out, “What’s that you say? You just try that one more time.” If people were going to talk, he reasoned, he might as well satisfy himself before. Everybody knew Miz Anhyeop was a strumpet, anyway, so what was one more punter to a whore? It was practically a matter of pride as a man to have his way with her at least once. Seizing her with both arms, he cried, “That’s Samdol the Tiger you’re speaking to! You do as I say or it’s curtains for you! I’m going to tell that husband of yours everything, you hear? I know what happened in that mulberry field!” Like all brutes, he was something of a coward. Miz Anhyeop needed no further proof than this despicable threat. She was at the point of giving up as his arms closed around her waist in an iron grip, but when she heard these words she spat in his face. “You dirty fool! Do you think I’m afraid of the likes of you?” she screamed. Samdol clapped his hand over her mouth, but it was too late. As luck would have it, the village elder’s younger brother had been passing by and opened the gate to see what was going on. Samdol let go of Miz Anhyeop, his face dull red with shame. Miz Anhyeop gasped out indignantly, “Look at him. Comes here in the middle of the night and won’t let a body alone. Killing’s too good for him. Take him away, oh, please!” The village elder’s brother was not overly concerned, having heard all about Miz Anhyeop’s tricks, but decided to get rid of Samdol to oblige her. Raising an eyebrow, he drawled, “What are you doing here, bothering this girl in the middle of the night? Bugger off if you don’t have anything better to do.” “Sir, it ain’t what it looks like. We was just having a bit of fun…” “Quiet. You and I both know what you were doing here. You’d kill for fun, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you?” Samdol slunk away. To the still-fuming Miz Anhyeop the village elder’s brother only said, “That’s what you get for keeping company with menfolk late at night, a young woman like you.” “Oh, do tell.” “That’s enough from you. Go to bed.” And with that he left.
6. Samdol was not one to forget a slight. Once he took to a notion, there was no letting go of it. Miz Anhyeop was beside herself. She knew that Samdol was out to get her. The next day the whole village was talking about it. 11
“Did you hear that Samdol got himself slapped in the face? About time, too!” “Humph, a decent woman wouldn’t have to put up with that in the first place!” “That’s what I say. Everyone knows she ain’t no gentlewoman.” “She must have propositioned him first.” Miz Anhyeop was stung to the quick when she got wind of these rumors. Here she was, an ice maiden if there was one, reduced to the subject of sordid gossip. It was no insult for her to be accused of sleeping with men of her choice; there was no shame in that. But to hear that she slept around with this undesirable was nothing short of slander. She went off like a shot to Samdol’s employer, the old mistress. “I want you to get rid of that Samdol.” The old mistress had foreseen this, but was not about to take Miz Anhyeop’s side. She only said, mildly, “There now, that’s no reason to get rid of the man…I’d let it go.” “Let it go? Why?” The old mistress chuckled to herself. ‘Let Samdol go? Why not ask for a pair of oxen while you’re at it?’ Outwardly, she said, “Why would I let him go, then?” giving her a look that seemed to say, ‘Not a chance, you little hussy. Go on and talk, if you want to shame yourself even more.’ In the end she refused flatly, “I’ll never let him go.” Miz Anhyeop flounced off in a huff. Back home, she tore at her hair and wept out of frustration. Privately she resolved, ‘Wait and see. So you’d rather take Samdol’s side! Wait until my husband comes back.’ Then one day he did come back. Miz Anhyeop rushed outside to greet him. “Oh, thank goodness you’re home!” Sambo the gambler was stumped. Had something wonderful happened? He was not accustomed to being received so fervently by his wife and was duly suspicious. As soon as they were inside she launched into a story about how Samdol the hired man had almost raped her, without even bothering to ask about his winnings. “I’m so mad I could spit nails. This would have never happened if I had a real man for a husband. How else could that dratted creature even dare…I’d soon as have no husband at all, if it’s to be left for dead twelve months out of the year.” The husband merely scoffed. “So it’s my fault? You must have behaved terribly for that low-life to think he had a chance with you.” It was not that Kim Sambo was hard of feeling. But he knew his wife’s reputation, and he had heard much about Samdol’s prowess as a fighter. He was accustomed to turning a blind eye to her whoring, glad enough to have a wife that did not demand he support her or ask for a divorce. “What about my behavior?” Miz Anhyeop challenged, indignant that her husband would rather accuse her than rise to the occasion. “You tell me! How did I behave badly? You ever see me behave badly? Go on, say if you have!” The thing was, Sambo had no ground to stand on. He had his suspicions, but no proof. “I don’t need to see; I know.” 12
“What do you know? You’re off all year without a care if I live or die, so what do you know? If you can’t stand me why don’t you just say so, like a man. Unless you got something to hide. You got another woman hidden somewhere, haven’t you.” “You little bitch, have you gone mad?” “You bet I’m mad! Do you think I really need a husband like you, you dirty bastard!” Sambo knocked Miz Anhyeop down with his fists. “Stop whining, whore. Shut that trap of yours or I’ll…” They were squabbling in this manner when Samdol heard the commotion and came running, feigning innocence. “Mister Kim, when did you get back?” he asked, entering the courtyard. Sambo’s blood boiled at the sight of the other man’s ugly mug. Samdol continued affably, “What’s all this fighting about? I thought you’d be in a rapture after all this time!” He was red in the face from drinking. Sambo shot Samdol a warning look. “Fool! Why don’t you stay out of other people’s troubles?” Samdol took a step back. Blinking dimly, he tried again, “No need to be so touchy. I was only saying…” “Who asked you to say anything?” “Nobody, I just thought I’d make myself useful. Can’t I break up a fight if I want to?” he came closer, smelling strongly of alcohol. “Oh, piss off if you’re drunk.” This time Samdol decided to take umbrage. “Why do you care? It ain’t none of your business.” “You made it my business coming here!” They went back and forth, until Sambo grabbed Samdol by the collar. “You’ve got some nerve coming here! What are you doing, messing around with my woman?” Samdol snorted inwardly, not the least deterred by this accusation. “Hey, pick on someone your own size, will you?” And with that he shrugged off Sambo’s grip and threw him to the ground as easily as picking off a frog. “You call me a fool! Do you even see yourself? You think you can pass off that girl of yours as a lady? There ain’t a man in this village that hasn’t had a piece of her. Fool! You listen to me now. It’s an easy life you have; you can always tap your old lady for money. Where do you think your shoes and stockings come from, you lout? Duck-butted midget! Of all the…And looky here. After she had everyone, she had the mulberry watchman, too.” Miz Anhyeop rushed up to him in alarm. “Shut up, you! Don’t go telling tales!” “It’s the plain truth, whether you says so or not.” “You’re running your mouth off because I wouldn’t have you.” 13
The villagers gathered to watch. Miz Anhyeop screamed at Samdol while Sambo listened without comment. Presently Samdol decided he had had enough and raised his fists at Miz Anhyeop, saying, “I’ll kill you if you don’t shut up.” The villagers pried them apart. “Hey! Back off, now.” Samdol put up a fight, but eventually the crowd bore him away. Once their audience had disappeared, Sambo grabbed Miz Anhyeop by the hair. He had taken a beating from Samdol, which was humiliating enough. But even worse, he was the laughingstock of the entire village now. “You! You dirty bitch, how many times did you go to the mulberry field?” He proceeded to kick and punch her, dragging her around by her hair. He gnashed his teeth, possessed by a blind rage. The girl wept and struggled as much as she could. “Go ahead, kill me then!” “You think I won’t? You whore! Whoring’s all you’re good for!” Sambo felt immense pleasure every time his blunt arms and legs connected with the girl’s warm, soft flesh. It spurred him to lash out harder and harder as he let his cruelest instincts run free. Miz Anhyeop was ready to break under the savage blows. For her part, she couldn’t see why they couldn’t have it all out and part ways now that it had come to this; it wasn’t as though they had ever taken any sacred vows. He had his life and she had hers; what gave him the right to beat her? “Let go of me! I’ll tell you!” she cried, shielding her head. “I went only once. There, are you satisfied?” Sambo only tightened his grip on her hair. “Only once? You bitch!” He hit her harder. Miz Anhyeop began to regret telling him. Sambo called her a liar, threw her to the ground and stepped all over her. Miz Anhyeop fainted. Sambo listened for her breath. But there was none. Frightened out of his wits, he made it over to the pharmacy. His limbs were shaking. By the time he had come back Miz Anhyeop was sitting up again. Not knowing whether to be relieved or vexed, Sambo threw the medicine in the dust. That night neither spoke to the other. They got up the next morning and ate breakfast in silence, sitting across from each other like two dummies. Then they got dressed, passing their clothes to each other wordlessly. Samdol stayed another day before going off again. Miz Anhyeop continued to sleep at the house of that son of Master Kim’s. The silkworms were picked and she and the old mistress split the profits, thirty won apiece.