Scoundr el s
Ki m Yu-j eong
Tr ans l at edbyChar l esLaShur e
Scoundrels By Kim Yu-jeong Translated by Charles La Shure
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Originally published in Korean as Manmubang in Chosun Ilbo, 1935 Translation ⓒ 2014 by Charles La Shure
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 Kim, Yu-jeong Scoundrels [electronic resource] / by Kim Yu-jeong ; translated by Charles La Shure. -- [Seoul] : Literature Translation Institute of Korea, 2014 p. 원표제: 만무방 Translated from Korean ISBN 978-89-93360-40-0 95810 : Not for sale 813.61-KDC5 895.733-DDC21
About Kim Yu-jeong
Kim Yu-jeong (1908 – 1937)’s stories portray, with a unique, folksy sense of humor, everyday people living out hardscrabble lives against the bleak backdrop of rural Korea. Kim Yu-jeong made his literary debut in 1935 with the selection of “The Rainstorm” by the Chosun Ilbo, and “The Bonanza” by the Joseon Jungang Ilbo. He then went on to publish prolifically during the two short years before his death in 1937, leaving behind more than 30 novels and 10 essays, and opening up a new horizon in Korean literature. Many of Kim Yu-jeong’s most representational stories—including “Spring, Spring”, “The Mountain Traveler”, “Scoundrels”, “The Golden Bean Patch”, and “Camelias”—depict various aspects of life in rural Korea. Kim’s prose, with its liberal use of lively onomatopoeia, rustic dialects, and homespun colloquialisms, lends great animation to his subjects, providing us with vitality-filled sketches of the impoverished and miserable lives lived by the lowest classes in rural villages under Japanese colonial rule. The particular significance of Kim’s stories within Korean literature, however, comes from the consistent sensitivity of feeling which they evince in their telling.
About “Scoundrels” Eungchil leads the carefree life of a vagabond, gambler, and thief. His brother Eungo, on the other hand, is a model citizen and peasant, but life has dealt him a poor hand: his wife struggles with a long illness and he can barely make ends meet. Knowing that there will be nothing left for him and his wife after paying the various taxes and fees, he doesn’t even bother to harvest his rice. Just when it seems that things could not get worse for Eungo, a thief comes in the night and steals the rice. Fearing the blame will fall on him, Eungchil sets out to catch the thief red-handed. This tale of two brothers by Kim Yu-jeong paints a vivid and painfully accurate picture of the hardships faced by Korean peasants in the early 20th century.
It was the peak of autumn in the mountain village. The woods were thick with large, old pines. They swayed, heavy with hats of tree moss. Acorns, wild cherries, wild pears, and oak leaves stood out among the pines in splashes of color. A clear stream babbled by, wetting the grass. Two hares lapped at the water, sitting at ease as they faced each other across the stream. Every now and then, the fallen leaves would rustle, as if waking from their slumber. A cool breeze . . . the pretty wild chrysanthemums played lightly in its embrace. The scent of the soil and the mists rising from the earth were pungent. That is the aroma of coral mushrooms, that the smell of rotting leaves, and that must be pine mushrooms—no, no, it's the scent of mint hidden beneath the bramble. Eungchil sauntered along with his hands behind his back. He walked at his leisure, wandering through the trees here and there. His nostrils flared and relaxed again and again as he held his nose high, sniffing the air. He stopped in his tracks beneath a bent pine. This time he brought his nose close to the ground and walked once around the tree. “Ah ha, here you are!” The earth rose up in a mound beneath the yellowed pine needles. He carefully dug into the mound with his fingers. Just as he had suspected: a lovely pine mushroom! You rascal, you couldn’t have grown a little more, could you, he thought as he plucked the mushroom, then he put his hands behind his back once more to continue his stroll. Every now and then he yawned. Each time he did this, he looked off at the distant sky and stretched lazily. It was harvest time, when everyone was at their busiest. Not a time when a peasant would normally be out digging up pine mushrooms. But he did not have anything in particular to do. He worked when he felt like it and didn't when he didn't feel like it, and that was that. And so when it came to having something to eat, not only did he not have any food, he didn't even have any farmland on which to grow food, nor did he have a woman or children to feed. His lodging was a small side room he rented from a friend, and in it he slept curled up like a shrimp. Yet this morning he had refused another friend who had come to him and asked for his help threshing rice. It wasn't that he didn't want to go through all that trouble for a few pennies, he just liked picking pine mushrooms better. After all, who owned all the grain that blanketed the three thousand li of this mountain- and river-crossed land? Wasn't it those who were first to eat it? What was the point of storing up so much food that it would catch in your throat? It was better to come up with a way to eat without getting caught. Of course, even he had been caught on a few occasions and spent time behind bars, getting his meals through a hole in the wall. But there were even those who, in the end, were punished for eating the food they had put on their own tables. The farther up the hillside he went, the thicker the underbrush grew. Wild 4
grape vines, hardy kiwi bushes, kudzu, and weeds whose names he did not know; these grew rampant from above and below and resisted him at every step. So he went around by the grassy ways. He stepped carefully, mindful of the tear in his unlined trousers, which his thigh kept peeking through. In his hand were seven pine mushrooms tied up with a kudzu vine. He looked around every old pine tree he came across. He sniffed at the earth like a hunting dog. This smelled like a pine mushroom, that smelled like a pine mushroom. He couldn't tell which were actually pine mushrooms, though. A single oak leaf fell onto a pile of rabbit droppings. He gently picked up the leaf and saw the cap of a pine mushroom jutting up from the ground. It looked like a big one. He was delighted, and he dropped to his knees before it. He reached out with both hands and brushed away the dirt with all ten of his fingers. He gently sifted through the soil. A pine mushroom the size of his fist appeared. This is a big one, he thought. He placed it in his palm and stared at it for some time, a wide grin on his face. Nearby, a rock as straight as a wall cast a dark shadow. Water trickled down a kudzu vine about halfway up the rock face. These were said to be medicinal waters that flowed from old ginseng roots. He sat astride a rock and yawned again. He felt quite drowsy, having spent the previous night gambling. The warm sunshine seeped into the forest. A squirrel knocked loose a pine cone, and a pretty wagtail flitted about. The village was bustling as the villagers did their threshing. Voices raised in merriment were drowned out by the whirring of the threshing machine, carrying through the air. The plaintive strains of young shepherd boys drifted to him from the mountains across the way. He gazed on the village nestled in the distant valley below, and then he squinted and yawned yet again. What is it with these yawns? When he thought about it, he remembered that his belly had been empty from the night before. He suddenly plucked the largest and tastiest-looking mushroom from the bunch and held it up. Eungchil rubbed it clean in some water and then bit off the wide, appetizing head. His broad jaw worked up and down as he chewed. The silken, fragrant mushroom seemed to melt away in his mouth. What a shame that there was only enough of this excellent treat to merely whet his appetite. Old memories came rushing back and lingered at the tip of his tongue. It had been a long time since he had tasted mushrooms like these. There was a time he wouldn’t have dreamed of even getting a whiff of such mushrooms. People would roam the mountains, with most never even coming close to finding one—and those fellows who did manage to pick one would worry so much about it being ruined that they would let no one else touch it, taking it home instead to bury it in the ground. If they were lucky enough to gather a proper bunch, they would take them straightaway to the market and sell them. It was two or three days of hard work, but at best they would get forty jeon, and at worst twentyfive jeon. When they thought of their wives, waiting at home for dinner, they would be well served to buy five or six quarts of millet and plod up the mountain pass in the darkness; no lot in life was as miserable as that—who says I can't eat such a little thing, he thought, and in a fit of temper he snatched up another one and bit into it without even washing off the dirt. There was no helping those other fellows. These mountain valleys were the home of pine mushrooms, but rare was the fellow who 5
could even eat one a year. “Hmph, those rotten idiots!” A scowl twisted his broad face, and he laughed loudly, as if he had forgotten he was alone. “Rotten” was his own particular way of putting others down for being foolish. He tossed what remained of the pine mushroom stem into his mouth, belching as he chewed on it. Having eaten two mushrooms, he had no interest in eating any more. Something a little more filling would be nice. Rice cakes, noodles, horse meat, dog meat, pork, or if not that then beef. But alas he was poor and would have settled for anything, and he sat there untroubled as he imagined himself eating various things. He cast a sly look around. In front of a grave down below, a chicken or a hen was walking around in circles. The way it clucked as it circled, it must have been looking for a nesting place. He got up from the rock. He turned his back on the low sky and, pretending to have seen nothing, walked down in a wide circle toward the chicken. When he arrived at the grave, though, he turned and began running with his arms open wide. “Whoop, whoop, whoop! Where are you going, you rascal? Whoop!” As he drove the chicken up the mountain, it scurried about, not knowing which way to go. It ran this way and that, cackling in distress. But it wasn't more than a few minutes before the bird was stuck in a crevice in a rock, its neck broken in two by Eungchil's vicious grip. He went into the dark woods. He skinned the chicken whole, then he grabbed the two legs and pulled them apart, and the entrails burst out of the bird. He scraped these out, wrapped them in the skin, and buried them in the ground. Now that he had some meat, he longed for some makgeolli. If he boiled this chicken it would be perfect with a bowl of makgeolli . . . damn. He didn't know where the bird had come from, but he couldn't take it to a tavern. Anyway, there was no reason he couldn't have his meat first and a drink later, was there? Once the bird was cooked, he brought the breast to his mouth, ripped into it with his teeth, and began to eat. It was chewy but tasty. He ate a breast, a drumstick, and then a thigh, but once he had eaten about half of the bird it didn't taste quite as good. After all, food needs seasoning. He tossed the rest of the chicken into a thicket and sauntered back down the slope. He had emerged from the pine forest and was making his way down toward the slashed-and-burned field when suddenly he heard a voice from behind him. “Hey, Eungchil, is that you?” He turned his head to see the short blacksmith Seongpal come bustling over the pass. What was so urgent that he would come flying down the mountain in such haste? “Did you hear about the rice disappearing from the paddies on Eung Hill?” Eungchil suddenly had a sinking feeling. No peasant would take the trouble to go all the way to Eung Hill at a busy time like this, and it was unusual for Seongpal to be telling him of all people about the disappearing rice. Eungchil didn’t bother with small talk. “So what took you all the way to Eung Hill?” he replied, staring boldly straight into Seongpal's eyes. Seongpal did not show the least bit of fear, though, and instead spoke 6
soothingly. “Oh, I just happened to be passing by. Why?” You vile fellow, Eungchil thought. Eungchil had never been so low as to go around selling out his companions to fill his own belly. His face reddened and a fire burned in his eyes. “You just happened to be passing by?” ▪ Somehow a month had passed since Eungchil had come to this village. He was tired of the place now, and he desperately wanted to leave, but he hesitated because of his younger brother. There may not have been many places that wanted him, but he still had plenty of places to go. These were wherever he put his feet: the mountains, the fields, or the coast. But when it grew dark he collapsed wherever he found himself. There were the mills and barns of others, or maybe the riverside, the sandy beaches there. Of course, when his luck was good, he slept peacefully on piles of rice straw as well. In this way he traveled around Gangwon Province taking in the sights, and there was hardly a simple mountain village that he had not visited as he wandered here and there. Staying in one place for him was distressing—it stifled him. This did not mean, however, that Eungchil was as restless as a post horse. He, too, some five years ago, had had a wife he loved, and a son, and a home, and back then he barely spent a day away from this home. Every night he sat across from his wife and fretted over how they might make a better and more comfortable life for themselves, but there was nothing he could do. He had been diligent in his farming of the land, but when it came down to it all that remained were his debts to others. If he kept on this way, he would no doubt come to ruin in the end. Late one night he woke his snoring wife. He told her to go out and count up their belongings. He ground some ink in an inkstone and dipped his brush into it. The newspaper with which they had papered their walls was yellow with age. On it he wrote down every item in the catalog of goods his wife recited to him. He wrote down everything from three large jars, two hoes, and one scythe, to their rice bowls, chopsticks, and even three sheaves of straw, and then he went on to write the names of people to whom he owed money. Beneath each of the names he wrote the amounts owed, and a little off to the side he wrote in the same vernacular Korean script: “This is all that I own.” After writing a statement on the wall to the effect that he had no way to repay the fifty-four won he owed, and was thus a criminal forced to flee, and that his creditors should not fight among themselves but consult with each other and divide up his belongings so that none would feel cheated, he locked the doors from the inside, and the three of them slipped out through a hole at the bottom of the fence. This was the day that Eungchil began to turn his life around. The couple wandered around and begged for food. His wife begged and gave to him, and he begged and gave to her. This went on until, one night, his wife's face was filled with sadness. A blizzard chilled them to the bone. She was shivering in one 7
corner of a dilapidated watermill, wrapped in straw sacks as she suckled her child, when she turned her head and called to him. When he asked what it was, she said, “If we keep on this way, there will be nothing for us but suffering, and it will be the death of our firstborn, so let us go our separate ways.” Well, her words were not unreasonable. Without a penny to their names, it would do them no good to stay together. How much better it would be if they parted ways and each begged for their own food. He readily agreed. As his wife said, she could remarry and raise their newborn child, and as long as they stayed healthy, who knew if their ties might bring them back together again, so for one last night he lay down on the ground next to his wife, and when the sky grew bright he brushed himself off and rose from his place. It was his destiny to live comfortably. There was nothing to stop him from sauntering along at his leisure. He didn't have to worry about weeding a rice paddy, or worry about paying the house tax, or worry about repaying debts, or worry about his wife, or worry about starving. Having left his burdens behind, his life was truly one of comfort. If he wanted something to eat there were always pigs, chickens, and dogs at his side, and money—there was money, too. Yet the police kept an eye on him. They were always telling him to come or to go, and it was such a bother. If he was staying in a certain village and, as bad luck would have it, something happened there, he was the first person they came after. This was because he was a criminal with a record. At first it was gambling, then it was burglary, and after that it was burglary and burglary again. Yet he had not come all this way to visit his brother this time because he was down on his luck and intended to pester his brother, or because he wanted to work. All that remained of his flesh and blood was his only brother, and he missed him terribly, not having seen him for quite some time. And now, after coming to visit him after so long, he was confronted with this unexpected situation. No person of sound mind would have left his rice plants standing until now. Eungo had not yet harvested the rice in the paddies on Eung Hill. Of course, it was Eungo who was responsible for harvesting them. Anyone who heard about what had happened would first suspect his older brother Eungchil. Thus it was that Eungchil had no choice but to take full responsibility for it. Eungo was an honorable peasant. At the age of thirty-one, he had a fair bit of sense and was considered a model young man in this village. And yet he had not harvested his rice. Everyone else had already gathered their crops and even threshed them, but he had not given his crops any thought. His landowner, not to mention Vice Minister Kim, who had loaned him rice to get through the lean spring season, had visited him again and again, urging him to harvest his rice. “Get to your threshing at once,” they would say. “You've got to pay your dues, you know.” But he would always spit out the same reply: “My woman is dying, so what good is rice?” But even as Eungo claimed to have no time because his wife was at death's door, he had no money to buy her medicine and thus surely had to thresh his rice. 8
So why did he not thresh it? No one who had threshed grain with Eungo before the landowner's gate the year before would have asked that question. There is no doubt that it was a joy to gather the grain one had fretted over and raised like an only child over the course of a year. He rose at the break of dawn and put his back into his work, not feeling the torment of his labor. But after threshing deep into the night, once he had paid the crop share rent to the landowner, once he had paid the rice he owed to Vice Minister Kim, and once he had paid the rice he owed to the government, all that was left was the cold sweat that ran down his back. It wasn't as sad as it was interminably mortifying. There was nothing quite as shameful as having to set out for home with the empty Aframe carrier rattling on his back as the companions with whom he had threshed stared after him. Eungo held back his tears as long as he could, but at last they streamed from his eyes. To add insult to injury, this year had been a lean year. The rice stalks had been bent by the east wind and rain. Even if he harvested his crops, not only would there not be enough to eat, there wouldn't even be enough to pay his debts. And so he could not but throw his hands in the air, as if to say, “Hang it all, you can dig up the damn things and eat them yourselves for all I care!” After all, as soon as he even mentioned harvesting his crops, the creditors would come rushing in. And this was where Eungchil had clearly been in the wrong. Had he just kept his peace everything would have been fine, but he had leaped into the fray and punched the landowner right in the face. That had not been his plan from the start. He had been around quite a bit, and he was a tramp who was wise in the ways of the world. He met with the landowner and discussed the matter openly with him. The harvest this year was half-wasted anyway, so maybe the landowner could cut back on the rent. But the landowner just shook his head from side to side without a word. “Well, if you're going to be like that, there's still his share for a year's worth of work, so I'll just set fire to the paddy,” Eungchil said, but even then the landowner remained stolid and did not reply. The landowner could have easily gathered the crops himself, of course, but that would set a bad precedent and he was afraid it would cause all the other tenant farmers to behave the same way, so he just continued to pressure Eungo to do it. When Eungchil caught on to the landowner’s thinking—that in truth such a paltry amount of rice made little difference to him—well, simply flying into a rage would have been fine, but before he knew it his fist was flying toward the landowner's face. So the rice had already been at the center of all this controversy, and now this mysterious calamity had befallen it, like the prank of a mischievous imp. In short, the rice had disappeared. Not only that, but, somehow, the chaff from the diseased and fallen plants had been left behind and only the full ears had been taken. In a paddy of that size, there would have been at least two or three bushels of grain! Eungchil had been strolling along toward his brother’s paddy early in the morning when, to his astonishment, he discovered what had happened. Who could be trying to frame him like this… The paddy was nestled deep in the mountains, so it was unlikely that anyone had seen it yet. But if rumor got out in the village, one way 9
or another, he was bound to end up under suspicion and in a good deal of trouble. Eungchil set aside his thoughts of pine mushrooms and began to think in earnest about what to do. He considered a number of fellows who would make plausible suspects, but he had no proof to finger any of them. It could be either Jaeseong or Seongpal, he thought, but in the end Eungchil would probably only be able to convince himself of that. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. ▪ Eungchil knew that he had guessed right, and he glared into Seongpal's eyes, ready to start a commotion at any moment. Seongpal was chattering excitedly but stopped dead in Eungchil's glare and fell silent. His face ashen, he straightened up and looked straight at Eungchil. “Say, why are you so angry? I just happened to see it as I passed by, and I was just letting you know . . .” Yet he trailed off, unable to finish. “Angry? Who's angry?!” Eungchil had been leaning back, but at this he shot forward. “So you're saying you went to Eung Hill yesterday?” “I had gone for a stroll and was on my way back when I just happened . . .” “A stroll? Is that the sort of place for a stroll?” “Say, do you have to ask me about every little thing? If I can go to Seoul, why shouldn't I be able to go to Eung Hill?” Seongpal let out a long, frustrated breath through his nose. With answers like these, there was no need to ask him any more questions. Seongpal was no ordinary fellow; he had stolen a pot or something from the village head once and spent time in prison. Eungchil didn't know him all that well, but his reputation in the village was such that people believed hanging around with him would lead you to a bad end. Eungchil realized that he, too, had become a victim of one of his schemes. “Well, of course there’s no reason you can’t go to a place like Eung Hill,” he said with a barb in his voice. “But as you know . . . well, if there were a road there or people lived nearby that would be one thing, but what person in their right mind would go to Eung Hill for a stroll? Of course, you were just bored, I suppose . . .” Eungchil put the squeeze on him. Seongpal did not reply, but just stood there staring blankly at Eungchil. He was lost in thought for some time, until, at last, he took a pack of Maple Leaf cigarettes out of his pocket. He first put one in his mouth and then pulled out another and handed it to Eungchil, trying to look trustworthy. “Here, have a cigarette.” This fellow Seongpal was quite sly and calculating. Eungchil didn't think he was the sort of fellow to try to buy someone’s favor with a measly cigarette, but to refuse him would make Eungchil look bad. That would be playing into Seongpal's hands, so Eungchil teased him a bit, saying, “Ah, what's this cigarette for?” Then, deliberately asking him for a light: “Oh, do you have a match?” 10
Considering how Seongpal hoped to use Eungchil by passing his ill fortune off onto him, Eungchil should have set on him right then and there and broken his leg. But starting a fight here would be like spitting into the wind. In the end, one caught a thief by sneaking up from behind, one didn't threaten him from the front. Eungchil was afraid that rumors would spread around the village. “Look,” he said, “it doesn't matter whether you did it or I did it.” And then he actually gave Seongpal a friendly pat on the back. “Let's keep this between ourselves and not tell anyone in the village.” Seongpal was taken aback by these words and just stared at Eungchil with wide eyes, but Eungchil guffawed and said, “Eating that measly bit of rice is no big deal anyway!” Eungchil's words must have hit close to the mark, because they left Seongpal speechless; he just stood there confused, licking his lips. Finally, Eungchil said, “Right, let's not say a word about it.” Only then did Seongpal work up his courage, and he finally managed to open his mouth. “What would I say about it after all?” he said. Then, after a short pause: “What would I…. Don't worry about a thing.” Then he turned and staggered off on his way. Yet as he walked to the next rise in the road, the truth was that he turned about twice and looked this way and that. Eungchil watched him from afar and muttered to himself, “Son of a bitch.” Even among thieves, it was completely without honor to try to shuffle off one's sins onto a friend. Whatever the case, Eungo was to be pitied even more. He would be driven mad if he knew that what he had labored hard to raise had been for the benefit of another. How could you ever trust a neighbor? Eungchil resolved to find irrefutable evidence to catch this fellow and bring him to an early end, and with that he spit and walked down the mountain. Yet, judging by his actions, this thief was not nearly as seasoned as Eungchil. What crazy person would come all the way to the ridge of a rice paddy with a pair of scissors in his hand? If some bumbling greenhorn wanted to pull off a stunt like that, he’d have done better to go into one of the fields of tall millet or sorghum, snip away with his scissors at the lower grains without any fear of being caught, and make off with as much as he wanted, up to two or three sacks. If he then had to wait for a chance to bring his loot home that was one thing, but to make off with all the rice in an entire paddy…. If he were that hungry for rice, he could go work as a hired hand in someone else's home, flattering the master for a month or so to earn his trust, wearing the clothes that the master bought for him, and then, when everyone was asleep, all he had to do was toss a bulging rice sack over his shoulder. But this fool was just making life miserable for him, ah, the bastard…. Eungchil felt his very flesh tremble with rage. But a petty thief like this would always press his luck until word finally got out. This very night, Eungchil would keep an eye out for that fellow, catch him, and give him a crack across the shins. A short while later, at the tavern, he ate his meal and then calmly gulped down a bowl of makgeolli. “Ah! This tastes so much better now that it's autumn!” 11
He wiped the corner of his mouth with his fist and then plucked three pine mushrooms from the bundle. He handed these to the aged tavern mistress, who was as thin as a rake, and said, “Here, have some pine mushrooms.” Thus he paid for his drinks, but the old woman cagily replied, “Eh, you and your pine mushrooms.” Outwardly she pretended to welcome the gesture, but she also seemed somewhat unsatisfied. Even if she figured that the mushrooms went for three jeon a piece, it was still only nine jeon, after all. Eungchil quietly grew angry, and he stared intently at her face. Her sunken cheeks had an unflattering blush to them, and her jutting cheekbones and the toes that scurried about beneath her skirt made her look at first glance so like a stork he was amazed that she hadn’t been caught in a snare yet—no matter how hard he looked, he could not find a single thing about her that was pretty. He had drunk at her tavern on more than one occasion, and once he had cut the grass by her fence and gotten a bowl of liquor in return. There was no reason for her to treat him so coldheartedly. His gaze met hers for a brief moment, and then he took out another mushroom. “Here, have another!” He tossed her the mushroom and then spit on the terrace stones. This must have satisfied her at last, as a smile spread across her wrinkled face and she said, “Oh, you can't just keep giving me these.” “Of course I can,” he retorted. “I want you to put on some weight.” He got up from his seat, but then, as if something had occurred to him, he sat down again on the porch. “Say, have you seen Seongpal lately?” “No . . . I’ve not seen hide nor hair of him.” “He doesn't come by for a drink?” “No, he doesn't!” With that she mumbled something inaudibly as doubt crept across her face. “Why, has something happened again?” “No, I just haven't seen him in so long!” Eungchil replied vaguely and then turned his head to look elsewhere. It must have been lunchtime already, seeing how noisily the chickens were clucking. The leaves of the poplar trees along the paddy ridges scattered in the rustling wind and fluttered up into the sky. “How long has Seongpal lived in this village?” “Hmm, since the autumn before last, I think,” the woman answered, then puffed away at her long pipe before adding, “But I think he said something about leaving again, going off to see his older brother in Hongcheon or someplace like that. And that’s a smart move, too. I always wondered what he was doing here—being a blacksmith is fine if you have plenty of work to keep you busy, but day and night he has only flies for company, so when he heard that his brother had become a farmer of some means he decided that it would be a lot easier to earn a living helping his brother. I suppose he’ll be leaving with his wife and children soon. A farmer should just farm,” she concluded. “I'll come for a drink again tomorrow,” Eungchil said by way of farewell, and then he got up again. When he left the tavern, a refreshing breeze stirred the hem of his clothes. Jujubes were spread out to dry on the hillocks next to the fields. Winter would be here 12
before too long. He gazed at Eungo's house and wondered if his wife had since died. Eungo sat in the yard. A pot of medicine was boiling atop the brazier on the ground in front of him. He sat there, staring blankly into the boiling liquid. From within the gloomy room behind him could be heard the labored breathing of his wife. She would wheeze, cry out, and then be racked by a fit of coughing. She seemed to be having a terrible time of it as the phlegm came up from her chest. The grass, with no one to pluck it, grew in tangles in the yard. Horseweed grew with bent heads on the bare earthen roof, and the wind swayed the twig gate when it came. Every time this happened, the gate gave a dreary creak . . . creak. The neighbor's dog was busy scampering about in the kitchen. But the only food there was the millet porridge left over from what Eungo had fed his wife that morning. No, he had scraped out even that, so all that was left was the dregs stuck to the bowl. “Look, it's all boiled down.” Eungchil told him that medicine boiled down too much was useless, so he should squeeze out the liquid and give it to his wife. Even though the medicine was just a snake he had snared the night before out behind the fence. But whether it was because Eungo was ignoring him or had just not heard him, he sat there quietly and did not even raise his head. “Here, try a pine mushroom!” It was only when his older brother held out his hand that Eungo managed to lift his gaze, but it simply flickered uncomfortably over his brother's liquor-flushed face. Then he took the pine mushroom without a hint of gratitude and tossed it into the room. “Eat this,” he said, followed by a loud shout: “What?!” He still couldn't hear her though. “What, what?! Speak up, will you?!” he shouted with furrowed brow. But his wife kept gesturing with her hands, and he had no idea what she was saying. It didn't sound like a human voice at all, but rustling paper, and even if he had been at her side he still would have been too far away to hear her. Eungchil grew more and more uncomfortable as he watched, until he finally said, “Isn't she saying that she needs to relieve herself?” “Well, then, she should just say so.” Eungo got up, showing his irritation. It wasn’t like he had only just realized that his sickly wife's voice changed from day to day. He carefully lifted the dry, emaciated body of his wife, with one foot already in the grave, from the floor and hoisted her onto his back. Outside the fence, at the head of the field, was the ashery. It was a cave so low that one could not stand up straight in it. Tangled spider webs hung here and there. He set his wife down on the toilet footrest, and she crouched there, leaning back against the wall. Her husband stood there and stared at her blankly. Eungchil watched them from afar, and then he blew his nose and clucked his tongue disapprovingly. He could no longer contain his rage at Eungo's foolishness. And yet he did have some idea about why Eungo spoke with him so little and acted so rudely. When Eungo had first sought his wife's hand in marriage, he had been working 13
as a farmhand for three years under her father. He couldn't have a single drink of the liquor he so desperately desired, nor could he eat a single piece of the dog meat that made his mouth water so. He lent out the rice he had been given as payment for his work, and he later used the profits as the bride price. And yet the woman he had gained through such effort had been reduced to this state before the end of their second year together. Yet he had no idea what sort of disease this was. He had never paid a proper visit to a doctor. Someone who seemed to know something about this sort of thing said it was tuberculosis, so she didn't have much of a chance. Of course, if he had the money neither tuberculosis nor typhoid fever would be a problem, but three or four days earlier he had run out into the road, shouting, “Brother!” He had grabbed Eungchil's arm and seemed to be in no small haste. “What is it?” Eungchil turned, and Eungo said that there was nothing for it now. There was just one way, though—a few days earlier an old man who wielded power over the mountain deity had come to town, had he not? The old man had taken pity on Eungo and said that he would offer up a prayer on the mountain for only fifteen won, and if he did this his wife would be healed completely. “Brother, you can come up with money whenever you want, right?” “That’s out of the question. If she can be healed by offering up a prayer, surely she will get better on her own.” Eungchil stood his ground. “What did I tell you back then? I said that you should drop this woman and follow me, didn't I? I tell you, the life of a peasant is a noose around the neck!” But his younger brother hadn’t said a word—he just spun back around, and went back into his house, while Eungchil thought, I've gone and put my foot in my mouth again. Eungo put his wife on his back once more, carried her back into the room, and laid her down on the floor. The medicine had boiled down completely. He squeezed the liquid from the snake before the fire died. He waited for it to cool and then brought a bowlful of the medicine to his wife's lips, and she gulped down the snake brew without a murmur of complaint. Eungchil stood in the yard, lost in thought. The life of a person is truly precious, he thought. But is this thing known as a woman too precious to let go? He just could not fathom it. “Say, you know Seongpal who lives across the way, right?” “. . .” “Are you two close?” “. . .” “Answer me when I talk to you, will you?!” he shouted, but his brother neither answered nor raised his head. Eungchil looked up at the sky and belched, braaap. His nostrils should have been assaulted by the stench of liquor, but only the smell of fresh kimchi played about beneath his nose. He should have had another drink instead of just shoveling the free kimchi into his mouth. He got up, stuck his pipe into his belt, and brushed the dirt off the seat of his pants. He wondered if he should tell Eungo about the rice that had been stolen, but then thought, ah, no, he's already moping, and 14
that would only make things worse. No, the proper thing to do would be to catch this thief first and make a show of it later. He opened the door and went out. Seeing the suffocating life his brother lived made him think of his own formerly suffocating life, and he found it hard to breathe. At times like this radishes were just the thing. It was, in fact, truly a blessing that God had created radishes. When he felt stifled he would bite into one and gulp it down, enjoying the sharp, stinging tasteâ€”so he went into a stranger's radish field, plucked one from the ground, and found that it was forked. Gosh, today sure is my lucky day! He tossed that one away, plucked another one, and went down to a stream. He washed off the radish in the water, cut off the top and threw that away, and then bit into the crunchy flesh. Poplars stood tall and lonesome on the ridge along the stream. Pebbles were scattered beneath them. Lush grass grew tall at the edge of the pebbles. Eungchil flopped down on the hill and lay there, staring blankly at the village across the way. That village so wrapped up in mountains it was stifling. Arirang, arirang, arario, Arirang, cast off and be at ease. The steam train blows its whistle to say â€œLet's go!â€? But I hold on to my beloved and shed tear after tear. Arirang, arirang, arario, Arirang, cast off and be at ease. I know not whether I will leave tomorrow or the day after, So what is the use of planting cucumbers or corn? Arirang, arirang, arario, Arirang, cast off . . . He was humming and murmuring this song when suddenly he felt a yearning for Gangneung Province. He loved the nimbly leaping fish, he loved the deep, rolling swells of the ocean as the morning sunlight bounced off them. The hard life in this backwoods mountain village could never compare! But boy did these mountain folk love to carry on, shouting about how they were farming something or the other. Yet despite all that, there was still an indescribable loneliness that drifted about. It was so unlike those autumns some thirty years ago, when they brewed liquor, pounded on metal gongs, and danced about with their shoulders rising and falling in time, carried away by their own excitement. But why, in a village that should have been overflowing with joy come autumn, had the mood turned so savage? The thought of the robber the autumn before last, the one who had killed someone in the mountains at night with a sickle, came to his mind unbidden. A peasant coming home from the market had been killed by another peasant. It would have been one thing had he stolen a lot, but all he had taken was four coins and a bare third of a bushel of sorghum, and to make matters worse this executioner, fearing that he would be discovered, peeled the skin off the face of his victim with the sickle as if he had been skinning a fish, leaving behind a horrific scene. The heinous fiend! Had I come across someone with 15
the paltry sum of four coins, I would have taken pity on him and given him some of my own! When he wondered if the rice thief was not the same sort of bloodsucker, he felt a cold dread and a chill rise up through him that made his hair stand on end. In the meantime, the day passed by one way or another, and it was now too late to take care of the farming for his brother. Tonight he would break that thief's legs, and tomorrow it would probably be best to quietly slip away. He debated with himself, wondering if he should cross over this mountain or that, but before long he was gently snoring. Night fell and all creation slumbered peacefully. The mountain peaks undulated like waves against the darkening blue sky, and stars rose with their bleary eyes. But then a bank of clouds drove in and all was a pitch-dark cliff. The harsh wind wandered back and forth, gloomy and empty, in the heart of the village, and every now and then came the invigorating, pungent aroma of hawthorns. At the foot of the mountains to the north, surrounded by cottonwood trees, was a tavern, and this building alone sparkled with light. “Revel, revel; we are young, so let us revel!” The whispered strains of a song floated in from afar. They must have put up their rice for credit to drink. In the meantime, Eungchil had returned to his friend’s house, and he suddenly shot up without a word and went outside. Only after he was outside did he turn and say, “I'll be back in a little while!” so as not to stir suspicion from his friend. “Where are you going?” His friend had no idea what was going on and just stared blankly at him. After a moment, he told him to forget about going out so late at night and to just come back in and go to sleep. It must have looked quite odd to him, since the two of them had just been sitting there, chatting about idle nonsense, when Eungchil suddenly got up. “I'm going to buy some tobacco in the village across the way.” “I have tobacco here. What do you need to buy more for?” His friend took a pouch from his pocket and held it out. “Come back inside and give me some of that money.” “Ah, well, I've forgotten . . .” Eungchil scratched the back of his head with an apologetic expression on his face. His friend had been asking him about the money for days now, but he had been so busy gambling that he had just clean forgotten. He felt quite guilty about it, since he had been eating and sleeping at his friend's place and was thus in his debt, but with a single vague remark he left the house behind: “I'll be back soon, you know.” His friend never pressed him, saying, “Be back soon, then!” He always just wished him a good trip with “See you later, then!” Eungchil sometimes felt that everyone treated him with a certain respect, and at times like that there was a swagger in his step. He could even sit down someone he had never met before, speak with them a few times, and have them in the palm of his hand in no time. He would do his thing—how proud he must have been of it, though his thing was of course thievery—and then tell stories of the hard time he did on the inside. His listeners would open their eyes wide and say with considerable surprise, “My goodness, how did you ever manage?!” But on the other hand they seemed to envy him a great deal. “So, what happened to the money?” “You think you'll do it 16
again?” “Well, that's a life of luxury for peasants like us!” They wanted to eat and be merry as he did, but they were shiftless, and hearing such stories was at least some comfort from the resentment they felt. Eungchil knew this, and so he eagerly told them of the time he had flipped someone on his head in a rice paddy and then run away, but he had been caught along the way and severely punished, ending with the boast, “You fellows have a long way to go yet, a long way to go,” and they would just quietly nod their heads in agreement, gladly buying him liquor and cigarettes. But the fellow who had stolen the rice this time must have severely underestimated Eungchil. The more he thought about it, the more disgusted he became. With an ashen cudgel at his side, he cut across the rice paddy dikes and made his way up the mountain. It was deep in the pitch-black night, just before the new moon. The path was dark, and only the vague outlines of it could be seen. It would only be about a mile and a half to the rice paddies. At the entrance to the village he crossed over a hill. Then he crossed over another. Between the next two hills, running askew to the densely forested mountainside, would be a few small rice paddies. Eungo's rice paddy was one of them. They were set back quite a way from the road and thus not readily visible. The rumor had yet to spread around the village, so—fortunately for the thief—no one would have seen anything, but Eungchil was sure that Seongpal was behind it…. Eungchil passed over the first hill of the public cemetery. When he reached the top of the next hill, he faltered in his step. There, in the high gorge off to his left, a light flickered and then went out. It was too dim to be a fire built to keep animals away . . . ah, those fellows have come back. He turned off the path. Fumbling his way through the branches, he went up the mountain. A rock came loose and fell on his foot. His calves stung from the raspberry thorns as he crawled over the rocks. When he was more than halfway to the top of the mountain, there were two large boulders that leaned against each other and formed a cave in the hollow between them. Weeds grew up and blocked the entrance. Inside, five men sat in a circle and whispered close together. They were worried that the light would escape from the cave. They had lit a dim lamp and were huddled close around it to block the light. “Make it quick, will you? You're taking forever.” “Who's sitting out this time?” “What are you talking about? It's his turn to sit out.” “Shuffle them again. Don't try your tricks on us!” This last fellow had grown angry, snatched away the flower cards, and was shuffling them himself when he was startled. Then he just stared dumbly as Eungchil barged into their midst. They didn't seem too glad to see Eungchil. This was a game for novices, and if they brought Eungchil into it they would be easy prey. Inwardly they were terribly reluctant, but they also knew that nothing good would come of upsetting Eungchil, so 17
one of them forced a smile and said, “Ah, it's Eungchil! Come on in.” Another bragged, “I thought you'd be coming, so I was waiting for you.” Yet another said, “Anyway, let's deal out another hand.” They all shook his hand and welcomed him heartily. Eungchil sat down among them and glanced around the group with steely eyes. But here was Jaeseong among them as well. This fellow had only a few days ago asked Eungchil for a little money because he didn't have enough to eat; Eungchil was immediately suspicious. The seeds of thievery were often sown in gambling dens. Next to him sat Giho. This fellow had sold off his wife a few days before. He had said that he was going to use the money to open up a shop in Yeongdong, and here he was gambling. He must have thought a guy like him had a chance of making something of himself. Another of their number was Yonggu. He made no effort to farm, but was always eager to gamble. He was the type of fellow who might be banished from a village for not showing up for even his corvée labor duties. Then there was a farmhand. Finally, there was an old man who swaggered about and awkwardly put on airs, and who still wore his hair in a topknot; Eungchil had never seen him before, and there was no telling what hole he had crawled out of. What did this sorry lot know about gambling? Eungchil poked Giho in the back and then went outside. He took him to a quiet place and turned around. “You wouldn't happen to have some money, would you?” “What sort of money would I . . .” Giho trailed off, peering cautiously at Eungchil. “You and your wife split, didn't you? What did you do with all that money?” “Come on, I paid off my debts!” Giho cast his eyes downward, clearly uncomfortable. With his right thumb he blocked one nostril and blew out the other, and he added an excuse that he hadn't even been asked for, how he had been nearly strangled to death by his debts, and at last he scratched his back with his long bamboo pipe. You bastard, Eungchil thought. He narrowed his eyes and shot a searching look at Giho, and Giho readily replied, “I've got four won left.” He mumbled awkwardly to himself and laughed hesitantly. “What with paying my debts and this and that, it's all gone up in smoke.” Eungchil brusquely said, “Lend me two won.” He held out his hand, but when that didn't work he couldn't help shouting, “I'll split my winnings with you! Did you think I would bilk you?” It was these words that seemed at last to set Giho's mind at ease, and he lifted the outer collar of his jacket, rummaged around inside, and then nervously took out the money. The way he saw it, there was no losing with Eungchil's skill. Even if his talents came up short and he did lose, he would win that money back by hook or by crook. “Why don't you deal me in?” Eungchil shouldered his way back into the cave. Beneath his nose spread a confident and satisfied smile. Truth be told, there was nothing that made him quite so happy as gambling. Even when he was feeling down, once he had a set of flower 18
cards or tujeon strips in his hand, his shoulders would start to dance for no reason, and no matter how busy he was, he could not just pass by a game in progress. He glanced furtively around at his fellow gamblers and then said, “Shall we divide into two groups?” Eungchil took Jaeseong and Yonggu and moved off to one side. Then he excitedly shuffled the cards before sticking out his hand and saying, “Now tujeon is the thing—but we've got to do something with these flower cards, so how about we play Six Hundred?” “Let's just score the ribbon and special cards!” A harsh silence fell all around. There was only the sound of sand cascading over the rocks, blown by a chance wind. Now and then the silence would be broken by “Take that!” followed by the clacking of the thick flower cards. Then it would once again be as still as the grave. They all burned so with greed that they could spare no thought for something like talking. Their eyes were red from watching each other with suspicion, lest someone cheat. They had no idea who was doing the taking and who was being taken. Eungchil threw down a card and then turned over a welcome Full Moon card from the draw pile. “What trickery is this?!” Yonggu shouted angrily and then stared at him. “What do you mean?” “You know what I mean! You took that Full Moon from the bottom of the pile, didn't you?” “Well if you caught me then I'm caught, but there's no reason to get so angry!” Eungchil awkwardly smacked his lips. “So we'll call this one a misdeal?” He tossed his hand on the ground and guffawed. Just then, from the other group came a sudden yell: “You bastard, I'll kill you!” Everyone was startled and turned toward the commotion. The farmhand slapped Topknot across the face. To hear the farmhand tell it, Topknot had stolen the five-point Plum Blossom Poetry Ribbon card. He was really just angry at having lost money, though. This money was his hard-earned pay from a year's worth of work. That he should lose the whole lot of it! “You bastard, you're a fraud! Give me my money!” The farmhand grabbed Topknot by the collar and hit him twice more. “What's wrong with you? Don't you know who your elders are?” Topknot sat with his legs crossed and his back ramrod straight as he gently lectured the farmhand. It was a little absurd that he should be struck on the cheek by a man when he was old enough to be that man's father. He grew angry and began to rise, as if he were going to make a scene, but then he sank back down again. If he messed with a man so angry, he himself would be the one to suffer in the end. He just laughed contemptuously and said, “Of all the ill-mannered fellows!” His rebuke was all well and good, but in the end he yelled Ouch! and collapsed on the spot. His forehead had split open and was bleeding. Before he knew it a stone had come flying through the air and split the skin on his forehead. Eungchil grinned and left the cave. It would be quite a bother to be caught up 19
in a pointless and unseemly argument. And he had thought there would be about a hundred won in the game, but at best it was no more than about forty won. Who would sit there for that amount? His winnings, including the original stake, came to nine won, eighty jeon. He handed five won to Giho and said, “There, that's more than half. You've lost your wife and lost your money, so that's a jackpot for you!” He tossed off this jape and began to stroll back down into the woods. “Hey, I've got a favor to ask!” Jaeseong came running down behind him, gasping for breath. Eungchil could guess what that favor was without even asking. Jaeseong had lost all his money to him, so he probably wanted a cut of it back. Eungchil pretended not to hear him and continued on his way. “Hey, Eungchil, just hear me out!” Then he grabbed Eungchil by the arm and begged for mercy. He had sold five bushels of rice in hopes of making a little money, but he had lost it all. He was asking for just a pittance, enough for a stake in another game, as he had nothing to eat and was on death's doorstep. But Eungchil thought that if he had harvested all that rice he should have eaten it instead of foolishly gambling it away…. Eungchil spun around and shouted, “Who told you to do that?!” But then he looked closer and saw tears glistening in Jaeseong's eyes. Eungchil took out two won and handed the money to him without a word, and then he turned around again and continued on his way. When he was alone, Eungchil sat down on a rock, rolled up his sleeves, and shivered. Trees closed in around him on all sides. The soot-black shapes looked just like ogres. With every breath of wind they whispered and rustled, swaying menacingly. Every now and then, he heard the screeches of animals, perhaps caught by wolves. He paused often to turn around and look behind him. He was sure that nothing would go wrong, but something just might lunge out at him. The shrine to the guardian spirits was directly behind him. A weasel or some other small animal must have knocked some stones loose, and he heard them come cascading down. Strangely enough, the sound sent a shiver up his spine. He was in a dark dream. Dew fell from the sky and moistened his collar. It was not just terror that he felt, but a chill so cold he could barely stand it. In this mountain valley, even the mountain deity would be hungry. There was no one to bring sticky rice cakes and pray for the birth of a son, after all. If that old spirit flew at him in a rage…. He looked around once more, both before and behind, and then took out his bamboo pipe. He cupped his hand around the flame and then puffed away at the mouthpiece. The rice paddy lay ten or so paces down the slope. With all his senses heightened, he peered through the trees at the paddy. But just as he was about to tap out his pipe on the ground, the grass next to him began to sway oddly. A snake—it must be a snake. If he were bitten by a snake in autumn that would be the end of him. He got up and moved to another spot, and he covered his mouth with his hand to stifle a yawn. 20
He must have waited there for two or three hours. Surely that fellow would return, so what could be keeping him? As a matter of course he would come by again before word of his deed spread too far. Eungchil's eyes, smarting from lack of sleep, slowly began to close on their own. He clenched his teeth and blinked his eyes hard, but then his back began to ache. His stomach was sour and his head pounded. Rage burned inside him and choked him. I'll break the bastard's legs if it kills me! The cocks crowed three times. The sound drifted plaintively to him over the distant mountains. Black clouds filled the sky, foreboding heavy rains. He could already hear the patter of raindrops. Just then, on the ridge bordering the rice paddy, he saw a dim phantom linger. He came to his senses. It would no doubt be either Seongpal or Jaeseong. The bastard who had put him through all this trouble! He ground his teeth and could feel his shoulders tremble. He gripped his cudgel tight. Then he shot up and carefully picked his way down between the tree trunks. But when he had just about reached the ditch at the edge of the paddy, he hesitated and then shrank back. A pair of wolves were trotting lightly across the valley from this mountain to the next. Damned wolves, he thought. Nothing is going right. He wiped the cold sweat from his forehead and went back to where he had been. He wondered if this fellow would be a match for the robber from the year before last. He was suddenly overwhelmed by a foreboding that passed again just as quickly. He pulled his jacket tighter around himself and lit his pipe again. Without warning, the wind had picked up. The fierce winds that whipped through the mountain valleys could be quite wild. Eungchil shivered once more. What has happened to this autumn? He was appalled at the thought that he might have to spend the night out here. He didn't know how long it had been, but it was time to get up and pace back and forth to warm himself. He had seen that vague shadow approaching the rice paddy with his own two eyes. He realized that he had completely forgotten about his fatigue and cold. He leaned forward, stood his ground, and stared at the paddy with fire in his eyes. The next thing he knew, the vague shadow had disappeared into the darkness. And it showed no sign of appearing again. There was only the sound of the whistling wind. All was shrouded in darkness again. The shadow had undoubtedly gone into the paddy to steal the rice. You crafty fellow, taking advantage of the miserable weather to take what you want. Rotten son of a bitch with no honor, when everyone and their neighbor are starving togetherâ€”all right, stay right where you are. He ground his teeth again and gradually worked his way back down to the rice paddy. Eungchil went right up to the edge of the paddy and pressed up close to a pine tree. A hasty move now and he might suffer a calamity. He waited for the fellow to take his fill and leave the paddy. Eungchil squeezed the cudgel with all his might. After roughly the time it takes to have a meal, the thief reappeared. He stuck only his head up above the ridge, and only after he had looked all around did he come crawling out. His face was covered with a towel or some other scrap of cloth, leaving only his eyes showing. He carried a bundle on his back and, hunched over, he made a run for it. 21
That was when Eungchil swiftly leaped out, his shout like a cannonade: “You son of a bitch, stealing someone else's rice!” The thief tumbled head over heel down the ridge. He must have been badly startled. Eungchil rushed toward him and first struck him across his hip. “Ah! Oh!” A wretched cry rang out. Eungchil's ears pricked up at the sound, and he lifted the thief's head and stripped off the mask. But he was so stunned that he just looked up at the sky and stood there in a daze. It was a terrible silence. Only the hollow wind rushed about in the air. After groaning for some time, the thief got up and said, “Are you going to make my life unbearable, too, Brother?” His eyes bulged out and he spun away. Then he began to sob as tears welled up inside. He dropped his bundle and awkwardly spat out, “I'm eating what is mine, so what should it matter?” Then he staggered away toward the other end of the paddy and disappeared. Eungchil just stood there dumbfounded, convinced that he was in a dream. Then, after a while, he lifted the bundle with one hand. It was so light that it couldn't have held more than a quarter bushel. He could not imagine what his brother must have been going through that he would take all this trouble for this paltry amount. He shook the rice stalks back out onto the paddy. Then he folded up the black cloth—it must have been his wife's skirt—and held it up. I'm eating what is mine— well, that was true. It was indeed a pathetic twist of fate that Eungo had to steal what was his, but then again he had also betrayed his own brother. “You son of a bitch,” he said, but tears streamed down his cheeks. He wiped them away with his fist, and then an image flashed to mind: the large, round eyes of a bull. That plump bull that was always tied up in the outer yard every night at that house three or four miles into the mountains to the south. No matter how you looked at it, it would go for at least seventy won. He raced after his younger brother. He finally caught up with him when they were nearly halfway to the public cemetery. He clapped his brother on the back and said, “Hey, I've got a good idea. I'll give you as much money as you want, just follow me for a bit.” He spoke in a vigorous tone to cheer up his brother. But Eungo did not even open his mouth and just continued to sulk. Not only that, he shook off the hand Eungchil had placed on his shoulder, as if he had been talking rubbish. Then he took off running. Eungchil was stunned. “Hey!” he shouted angrily. “I thought I was your older brother!” The cudgel flew without hesitation and struck Eungo on the buttocks. Eungo fell onto his side and slowly curled up into a ball. Eungchil immediately began striking him on the shins and beating him on the back. Eungo was beaten so severely that he could not get up. He abandoned all dignity and just lay flat on the ground, weeping openly as the cudgel fell again and again. Eungchil had struck him in anger, but seeing him like this he could not help feeling bad for him. He spit on the ground and thought, well, if that's the way he is, there's nothing for it, and he picked his brother up off the ground and heaved him onto his back. He pitied him, wondering when he would ever come to his senses. He let out 22
a long sigh of chagrin. Then he plodded quietly down the hill.