But it was Doctor Jackson who was the arch-fiend. To him I was a novelty, and he was ever eager to see how much more I could stand before I broke.
“He can stand twenty days off the bat,” he bragged to the Warden in my presence.
“You are conservative,” I broke in. “I can stand forty days. Pshaw! I can stand a hundred when such as you administer it.” And, remembering my sea-cuny’s patience of forty years’ waiting ere I got my hands on Chong Mong-ju’s gullet, I added: “You prison curs, you don’t know what a man is. You think a man is made in your own cowardly images. Behold, I am a man. You are feeblings. I am your master. You can’t bring a squeal out of me. You think it remarkable, for you know how easily you would squeal.”
Oh, I abused them, called them sons of toads, hell’s scullions, slime of the pit. For I was above them, beyond them. They were slaves. I was free spirit. My flesh only lay pent there in solitary. I was not pent. I had mastered the flesh, and the spaciousness of time was mine to wander in, while my poor flesh, not even suffering, lay in the little death in the jacket.
Much of my adventures I rapped to my two comrades. Morrell believed, for he had himself tasted the little death. But Oppenheimer, enraptured with my tales, remained a sceptic to the end. His regret was naive, and at times really pathetic, in that I had devoted my life to the science of agriculture instead of to fiction writing.
“But, man,” I reasoned with him, “what do I know of myself about this Cho-Sen? I am able to identify it with what is to-day called Korea, and that is about all. That is as far as my reading goes. For instance, how possibly, out of my present life’s experience, could I know anything about kimchi? Yet I know kimchi. It is a sort of sauerkraut. When it is spoiled it stinks to heaven. I tell you, when I was Adam Strang, I ate kimchi thousands of times. I know good kimchi, bad kimchi, rotten kimchi. I know the best kimchi is made by the women of Wosan. Now how do I know that? It is not in the content of my mind, Darrell Standing’s mind. It is in the content of Adam Strang’s mind, who, through various births and deaths, bequeathed his experiences to me, Darrell Standing, along with the rest of the experiences of those various other lives that intervened. Don’t you see, Jake? That is how men come to be, to grow, how spirit develops.”
“Aw, come off,” he rapped back with the quick imperative knuckles I knew so well. “Listen to your uncle talk now. I am Jake Oppenheimer. I always have been Jake Oppenheimer. No other guy is in my makings. What I know I know as Jake Oppenheimer. Now what do I know? I’ll tell you one thing. I know kimchi. Kimchi is a sort of sauerkraut made in a country that used to be called Cho-Sen. The women of Wosan make the best kimchi, and when kimchi is spoiled it stinks to heaven. You keep out of this, Ed. Wait till I tie the professor up.