For the dinner a long table had been arranged in the European style, at the head of which sat Prince Min, acting in the place of the King. The forks and spoons were of tin, and the knives had apparently been used, for they were by no means clean. Rust, therefore, reigned supreme. The glasses and tumblers were of the thickest and commonest kind, but they had cost His Majesty a fortune all the same.
We all sat down gaily, Mr. S. having recovered his spirits on being assured that he would not be punished, and the feast began. It would be easier for me to tell you what was not on that table than what was. All the products of the country seemed to have been cooked and brought before me, including meats, fish, honey, sweets, vegetables and sauces, of which, mind you, one had to eat “mountains,” piled on our plates. Young pigs, in the puppy state, were also there, and were much appreciated by my princely entertainers; but, when I had got only half through, not being provided with an ever-expanding digestive apparatus, like my friends of Cho-sen, I really felt as if I was going to suffocate. It is a great insult to refuse what is offered you at table, and a greater insult, too, and gross breach of good manners, not to eat all that is on your plate; it can be easily imagined, then, how I was situated after having swallowed large quantities of beef, potatoes, barley, millet, not to mention about half a bushel of beans. Nevertheless, I was further treated to lily-bulbs and radishes dipped in the vilest of sauces, besides a large portion of a puppy-pig roasted, and fruit in profusion, foreign and native wines flowing freely. The dinner began at noon and was not brought to a legitimate close until the happy hour of 7 P.M.
Talk of suffering! To those who appreciate the pleasure of eating, let me recommend a royal Corean dinner! No pen can describe the agonies I endured as I was carried home in the green sedan. Every jerk that the bearers gave made me feel as if I had swallowed a cannon-ball, which was moving mercilessly from one side of my body to the other. I could not help expecting an explosion at any moment, or, at all events, a rent in my overtight skin! On my way home I swore that as long as I lived I would never touch another mouthful of food, so disgusted was I with things eatable; but—needless to say, I have since many times broken my word.
Students—Culture—Examination ground—The three degrees—The alphabet—Chinese characters—Schools—Astronomers—Diplomas—Students abroad—Adoption of Western ways—Quick perception—The letter “f”—A comical mistake—Magistrates and education—Rooted superstition—Another haunted palace—Tigers—A convenient custom.
[Illustration: THE EXAMINATION GROUNDS]