Someone reminded me of a scene from the novel Tai-Pan by James Clavel, in which our hero rants dramatically at his Chinese slavegirl before whipping her gently-but-dramatically with a fresh bamboo:
Struan realized that it was useless to argue or reason with May-may. You canna treat her as a European, he told himself. Deal with her as through you’re Chinese. But how’s that! I dinna ken. Treat her as a woman, he ordered himself, deciding on a tactic.
He exploded with pretended rage. “You are a miserable slave, by God! And I’ve a mind to sell you into the Street of the Blue Lanterns,” he shouted, naming the worst of the seamen’s streets in Macao, “though who’d want to buy a dirty baggage slave like you I dinna ken. You’re nothing but trouble and I’ve a mind to give you to the lepers. Aye, by God! I paid eight thousand taels of good silver for you, and how dare you make me angry? I was cheated, by God! You’re worthless! Dirty slave–how I’ve put up with you these years I dinna ken!” He shook his fist in her face, and she recoiled. “Am I na good to you? Eh? Generous? Eh? Eh?” he roared, and was pleased to detect fear in her yes. “Well?”
“Yes lord,” she whispered, biting her lips.
“You dare to get clothes made behind my back and dare to wear them wi’out my approval, by God? Well, do you?”
“I’ll sell you tomorrow. I’ve a mind to throw you out now, you miserable motherless whore! Kowtow! Go on, kowtow, by God!”
She blanched at his fury and kowtowed quickly.
“Now keep kowtowing until I come back!”
He stormed out of the room, and went back into the garden. He jerked out his knife and selected a thin bamboo from a newly planted grove. He cut it and slashed the air and rushed back into the living room.
“Take your clothes off, you miserable slave! I’m going to flog you till my arm hurts!”
Trembling, she stripped. He seized the dress from her hand and threw it aside.
“Lie down there.” He pointed at the ottoman.
She did as he ordered. “Please no to whip me too hard–I’m two months with child.” She buried her head in the ottoman.
Struan wanted to take her in his arms, but he knew that this would make him lose face in front of her. And a whipping was the only way to give her back her dignity.
So he slashed her buttocks with the bamboo. Hard enough to hurt, but not to damage. Soon she was crying out and weeping and squirming, but he kept on. Twice he deliberately missed her and slashed the leather violently, so that the noise was terrifying, for the benefit of Lim Din and Ah Sam who he knew would be listening.
After ten blows he paused and told her to stay where she was, and went over to the brandy bottle. He drank deeply, hurled the bottle against the wall, and resumed the whipping. But always with great care.
Finally he stopped and dragged her up by the hair. “Put on your clothes, your miserable slave!” When she was dressed, he bellowed, “Lim din! Ah Sam!”
They were trembling at the door in an instant.
“Wat for nae tea nae food, you miserable slaves! Get food!”
He hurled the bamboo at the side of the door and turned back to May-may.
“Kowtow, your motherless wreck!”
Aghast at the limitlessness of his fury, she hastily complied.
“Clean yoursel’ and come back here. Thirty seconds or I’ll start all over again!”
Lim Din served the tea and though it was just right, Struan said it was too cold and threw the teapot against the wall. May-may and Lim Din and Ah Sam rushed away and hurried back with more.
The food came with incredible speed also, and Struan allowed himself to be served by May-may. She whimpered with pain and he shouted, “Shut up or I’ll whip you forever!”
Then he fell silent, ominously, and ate, letting the quiet torture them.
“Pick the bamboo up!” He screamed as he finished.
May-may fetched the bamboo and handed it to him. He prodded her in the stomach. “Bed!” he ordered harshly, and Lim Din and Ah Sam fled, secure in the knowledge that the Tai-Pan had forgiven his Tai-tai, who had gained limitless face by enduring his righteous fury.
May-may turned around tearfully and went along the corridor towards her quarters, but he snarled, “My bed, by God!”