“What is the use of working and making money,” said a Corean once to me, “if, when the work is done and the money made, it is taken from you by the officials; you are worn out by the work you have done, yet are as poor as before, that is, mind you, if you are fortunate enough not to be exiled to a distant province by the magistrate who has enriched himself at your expense?” “Now,” added the Cho-senese, looking earnestly into my face, “would you work under those circumstances?” “I am hanged if I would,” were the words which, to the best of my ability, I struggled to translate into the language of Cho-sen, in order to show my approval of these philosophic views; “but, tell me, what do the officials do with all the money?”
“It is all spent in pleasure. Women are their ruin. The feasts which they celebrate with their singers and their concubines cost immense sums of money. Besides, their women are like leeches, and continually incite them to extort more and more from the public to satisfy their ambition and evil habits. They are women mostly born in dirt, but who now find themselves in lavishness and luxury. People who spring up from nothing never are satisfied with what they possess, and it is always a pleasure to them to see other people suffering as they formerly did.”
There is little doubt that what the Corean said is perfectly true, and that the system of “squeezing” is carried on by the magistrates to such an extent as to entirely ruin the people; wherefore, it is only natural that its depressing effects should be impressed upon the people “squeezed.” I also believe that there is a good deal of truth in what he said about their females being supplied with large funds by the magistrates. The money must come from some part, and since, personally, they are poor and only receive a small pay, there is no doubt that the money in question is extorted as described. But let this suffice for the good and bad qualities of the Cho-sen fairies and their funny way of being married.
[Illustration: THE MARK]
Painting in Seoul—Messages from the king—Royal princes sitting for their portraits—Breaking the mourning law—Quaint notions—Delight and despair—Calling in of State ceremony—Corean soldiers—How they mount guard—Drill—Honours—A much admired shoe—A gift.