The two men stood over a corpse that looked hastily thrown upon the top of an old meat cutter’s table. With bare hands and garden tools, the two skillfully pulled the dead man’s innards out onto the floor, while a pig calmly grazed through the dead man’s remains. Mr Bostwick did not look so gentlemanly now. Not as he did on his trips back to England. His eyes were glazed and his arms and torso were covered in blood. His long fingers seemed destined for a surgeon’s calling. His usual neat and trimmed mustache drooped in the heat and sweat and his nose flared from the stench. It appeared that he enjoyed his occupation immensely.
The victory of Britain over China, in the war of opium and trade agreements, opened four more ports in the turbulent year of 1842. Regardless of the English victory, opium was still considered banned by the Manchu Government. Smuggling opium into the heart of China could be a torturous event, and being caught was avoided at all costs.
“What better way could there be to transport opium into the interior? “Just carve out an occasional coolie and stuff him like a holiday goose!” Bostwick would joke in appropriate company. “This one is ready for stitching. Wash and dress him and we’ll get him ready for his trip home,” snorted Bostwick. Tell Chou X’ing we have three going up river today.”
The unrest caused by the “Sabbath Keepers” justified this brutal guise in the mind of Bostwick. Since their rise from obscurity in 1847, the trip up the Yangtze river required out foxing the keepers in an all out effort to avoid risking death either by a brutal flogging or beheading. By the month of May in the year of 1853, Bostwick could only safely deliver as far as Nanjing, where his opium stuffed corpses were delivered to their “grieving families” waiting to be processed for distribution. By this point in time, Bostwick dared not risk going up river himself and had to trust that his assistants were acting trustworthy. In all truth, Bostwick sacrificed the least, risked the least, and profited the most. He felt damned proud for having arranged it so.
“What are you going to do with the boy?” inquired his cadaver slicing assistant. “He is too sick to be of any use.”
“I will get my use out of Master Isaac. I will get my use,” Bostwick murmured. “I can’t do anything until Chou X’ing returns, so it’s holiday until his return, huh?” he said more to himself than to his assistant. “Clean up and double lock these doors. I will contact you when I need you. And make damned sure you don’t leave this bloody swine in here. Christ, mate! Bring him over to Chou X’ing’s wife and give it to her as a gift from me. She’ll eat every last knuckle, I’d imagine. Nothing I want to see, he laughed. Nothing I want to see!”
Mr. Bostwick unlocked a small drawer beneath the wine cabinet and pulled out a bottle of a creamy, white substance and poured some into a glass of wine. He swirled the glass until it was fully dissolved and poured a little more than one half into another glass and topped it off with more wine. He then poured a little more of the raw opium into the opened bottle of wine and replaced the cork. He gently swirled and poured himself a glass and quickly drank it.
Isaac Stearns had recently learned through one of the Chinese housekeepers that he was in the port of Shanghai. This young housekeeper spoke broken English but Isaac suspected that she could speak more English than she let on and he made a game of trying to trick her. Since the dismissal of the old Chinese woman who had been responsible for Isaac’s daily care, Mr. Bostwick had been true to his word and took good care of Isaac. He brought him fresh clothes and food each day, and prayed for his recovery. After a night of sweats and fever, Mr Bostwick would lovingly wash him and give him words of encouragement. Isaac was began to believe that he would eventually get well and began to stop resisting his illness and adjusted to letting it take its course. Each afternoon, Isaac would take comfort in the library and made a commitment that he would read every book that it contained. The afternoons were pleasant as Mr Bostwick had presented tea each day and further presented himself as being very nurturing.
“Master Isaac,” Mr Bostwick soothingly stated, “I have a little treat for us today.” He had with him a tray with two glasses of wine already poured, and an important looking bottle of wine beside them. “Isaac, let us have a little wine and enjoy our solitude, huh?” and passed a glass to Isaac. Mr Bostwick appeared calm and serene with a slight smile of pleasure upon his face. It made Isaac feel relaxed and hopeful that he would soon recover and repay Mr Bostwick for his kindness. Although never particularly religious, Isaac found a renewed faith due to Mr Bostwick’s prayers.
“Why, thank you, sir,” Isaac stated with great appreciation, and sat up straight in his over-sized chair.
“Isaac,” Bostwick sighed, “Feel free to call me Richard. I want us to become quite familiar. We are in one another's good company until you are well! We might as well realize that we’re the only God fearing Englishmen for miles. We only have each other to rely on, don’t you think?”
“Richard it is!” Isaac voiced with exuberance as he drank a fully enjoyable honey sweet wine.
In a short time, Isaac realized that he could hardly feel his body. Yet, he could feel it, and the feeling disturbed him not. There was no alarm, for he felt as comfortable as a baby in it’s mother’s womb. He didn’t refuse as Bostwick refilled his glass. Isaac leaned back and smiled. There was little conversation. With Bostwick, it was typical to show his care and attention through deeds and not by words. Isaac would often think that “Richard” was so “Christ-like”.
“Drink up, Isaac. We’re on holiday,” Richard said soothingly.
Isaac slowly drank his wine and realized that he had never felt better. He tried to stand just out of curiosity. He could think “stand” more than actually achieve standing, and he didn’t care. He relaxed every muscle as Richard stood and began to rub his hands through his hair. He felt like a balloon as Richard carried him to the large red-fringed day bed. Richard loved him so, he thought. He relaxed into Richard’s touch and soon found his clothes being removed with an already unclothed Mr Bostwick laying beside him. It felt wrong to refuse him and Isaac decided to relax with the wine’s effects rather insult his gracious host. Richard kissed, groped, and grunted like a man possessed. As Richard’s sense of frenzy increased, he rolled Isaac onto his stomach and with a painful thrust he found his mark.
In the morning, Isaac awoke in his room and struggled to shake off his slumber. His head felt both heavy and light. As he moved to stand, he felt pain from his back sides and noticed some blood and feces on the sheets. After a quick knock, his door opened and Richard stood with a basin of wash water with linens draped over his left arm. In his usual non-conversing way, he began to wash Isaac from head to toe, front and back, and toweled him dry. Isaac feared reaction as Richard delicately cleaned his private areas, particularly the source of the bloody sheets.
“Lord God Almighty. Bless your humble servant Isaac with health so that he may, in his strength, walk the hills and valleys of the yellow heathen, and spread your holy word. May his health come swiftly so that he may glorify your name. We ask this, in the name of our blessed savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!”
Isaac did not feel like returning to the library for his afternoon of reading. The look upon his face revealed contorted emotions and he tried to find his place in this unusual predicament. He recalled how some of the older boys at Coll’s school would wrestle together under the bed sheets late into night. He did not solicit this, did he? Is he the male mistress of Richard Bostwick? To rid his head of these disturbing thoughts, he decided to explore the rest of the lower level. He felt better now than he had in recent weeks. Other than the courtyard that overlooked the garden growing within and without the walls, he had not once strayed outside. He had confined himself to the inner courtyard where the lack of a roof allowed the rooms of the house to be warmed by the sun. He would only go to the small room off the courtyard declared as the library. He would spend time in his room. He never felt the need or felt well enough to explore anything further. Until today. He tried to open the many doorways into several of the rooms of the house but found all of the double latticed doors locked. One room gave off an unusually sweet yet pungent smell and Isaac felt his curiosity piqued. It was at the back of the house. The house contained many rooms, some upstairs, some on the lower level. Isaac retreated to the pantry and found a suitable knife and ambitiously returned to his point of focus hoping to force the door open.
“You no go there,” the housekeeper interrupted. Isaac ignored her and continued to jiggle the knife between the door and doorway. “No. You stay out!” she persevered. “Master man no like!”
“I no speak English,” Isaac teased. “I no speak chop-chop!”
The housekeeper inserted herself between Isaac and the door quite effectively. She was no more than five foot three inches tall yet there was nothing frail about her. In her peasant clothing you could see the outline of a very attractive feminine body that on most days Isaac could easily ignore. Her face was perfectly round with eyes that looked determined to stop Isaac from going through that door no matter how high the cost. She looked oriental, but not Chinese.
“You tell me why I shouldn’t and perhaps I’ll listen. Perhaps, I won’t, he giggled." Her skin was as soft looking as anything he had ever seen. Clear, clean, without a hint of powder used by the girls back home. Naturally beautiful. He pressed his lips against her soft cheek and surprisingly she did not flinch.
“You go! You go!” she insisted.
Isaac smiled and peered into her eyes. She was very attractive. He had not fully realized this before now. He slowly leaned in and kissed her mouth. She grabbed him by the hand and led him through the inner courtyard to a door placed below a step recessed into the wall. She led him through a short closed alley and up a stairway that opened to the roof. The roof area was a leaning walkway. This was where the upper hall and lower hall of the house were joined. The roof overlooked a splendid view of many homes and buildings leading out towards a river, or perhaps the sea, filled with what looked like thousands of boats large and small sitting almost a mile away. She turned Isaac towards her and began to kiss him feverishly. Isaac placed his arms around her and rubbed her shoulders and back. She pressed herself tightly against him while Isaac could not resist touching her breasts as they pressed out from her heavily padded peasant’s smock. As his breath became heavy with the lust of the moment, she broke off.
“If you ever try and go through that door again, you will not have love with me. Understand?”
“I thought you couldn’t speak English,” he asked, amazed at the entire event.
With a giggle that sent chills of pleasure down his spine, she proceeded back down the stairway to the main house leaving him breathless. Isaac regained himself and began to take in the view. Although it seemed to be at least a mile from a very busy waterway he saw that the house where he now resided was enveloped in a crowd of homes and businesses that led to what appeared to be a very modern area of commerce at the water’s e. The weather in May was very comfortable and even at this late hour activity everywhere was very apparent to him. He was startled by the contradiction of Bostwick’s words as he saw many non-Chinese and English men walking the narrow streets nearby. Looking off towards the southern point of the roof he could see what looked to be a medieval walled city. Satiated with the pleasure of fresh air and sunshine and a kiss and a promise, Isaac laid down on the roof to bathe in the day’s last rays of sun.