Ideally a book would have no order to it,
and the reader would have to discover his own.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said - "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart....Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
Percy Bysshe Shelley
I started this project in a rather haphazard manner, like a runner who was not really prepared or trained to take part in a marathon, when all of a sudden the opportunity was shoved in to my hand. I was faced with two options: drop the challenge and go on with my life, or pick it up and run with it, despite knowing that there was not enough forethought and preparation for it. But after desperately casting around for an idea, something fortuitous occurred. In a moment of insanity, I was inspired to write about some one I knew vaguely of, some one whom I was always wanted to find out more about because the ripples caused by his life story still affects mine to some extent, even though the gulf of a few generations separate us. But because there are still living relatives involved, the story I finally came up with, is real only in its most skeletal form, fleshed out with a large part of fiction. As such, the usual disclaimers apply, that any resemblance to anyone living or dead is strictly coincidental as this is supposed to be a purely fictional piece of writing. Other than that, there's nothing much else to say except to say, please forgive the poor punctuation, the bad grammar, and the typos in the spelling. The project is, after all, a scramble for quantity, not perfection. Unfortunately.
chapter 1: destiny unmade
The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow.
Sow an act, and you reap a habit.
Sow a habit and you reap a character.
Sow a character and you reap a destiny.
The man lay dying on the public hospital bed, amid a tangle of tubes in a ten-bed second class ward. Had he lived up to his father’s expectations, he would, instead, have been ensconced in a luxurious first class room of a private hospice – under the 24-hour care of the world's best specialists. He was born The Prince of a dynasty that was backed by a mountain of wealth accumulated by seven generations of immigrant traders who had left southern China during the great Diaspora. His ancestors had struck out for the Nanyang – the Southern Ocean – in search of a new beginning, hoping to forge a better destiny in the new world. The legacy of his forefathers, who had built up from scratch, a business empire spanning the key nodes of the Straits Settlement and its linkages to Britain and China, was laid waste in just one single generation. His. Snatches of the Shelley sonnet – Ozymandias of Egypt – which this only son had learnt to recite from a British lady hired specially to tutor him English literature at home when he was just a child, fired in his oxygen-starved brain, reverberating through his inner being. He was the force of nature who had leveled the mighty House of Chin to rubble. And the irony of that oft-quoted line: "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" was not lost on him – even as he lay dying. Mirroring the devastation he had wrought on his inheritance, his physical body was as battered by his hard-living lifestyle: drinking like there was no tomorrow, chain smoking cigars, and of course, the endless carousing with the most wanton of women. It came as no surprise to most, that he suffered from chronic liver cirrhosis, as well as an assortment of sexually transmitted diseases. He was at the final stages of lung cancer that had almost completely consumed him, as much as he had cancerously devoured all that he had been bequeathed.
As a child, his father sought to give him – the sole scion of the fabled Chin family – the best of all things, to prepare him for life, for his ascension to the throne. His birth, in the year of the fire dragon, was accompanied by much fanfare, as it was the most auspicious of the twelve zodiac creatures to be born under. Countless servants, nursemaids, and nannies fretted and fussed over the bundle of joy as he entered the world. A devoted anglophile, the boy’s father had named him after British royalty in the hope that he, too, will rule an empire one day. So he was christened as an infant Charles Albert George Edward, under the auspices of a visiting Archbishop from the Church of England. His childhood was spent in rolling, palatial grounds that buffered the rambling manor set atop a hill, far from the hoi polloi. Despite all his immense wealth, however, the patriarch could only extract this single heir from his wife, whose cultured womb he had imported all the way from old Shanghai, where women were renowned to have the most exquisite of bone structures and the softest of skins. This made the solitary son all the more precious in the old man’s eyes, and around whom the entire Chin universe revolved. Absolutely nothing was spared in making sure that the little prince would grow up to take his place in the long line of successful Chin taipans – merchants steeped in the art of deal-making, and who were blessed with the amazing knack of seizing opportunities from the face of disasters. Personal tutors were summoned and shipped half way around the world from the Great Britain to train him to be exactly like the British rajahs, sophisticated and urbane, and able to circumnavigate the inner circles of high society with a polished ease. At the end of his home-based education, Bertie (as he became to be known) spoke in the crisp, stiff upper-lipped tones of an Oxford accent, imported with the hard-earned wealth of the Chin family. To celebrate his coming of age, his father bought him a car, a chauffeur-driven one, of course. He was a well-read man who could hold conversations with sultans, the Governor General, or even the Queen herself. He was always the life of any party, as he could sing, dance anything – from the salsa to the tango, and play a half-dozen musical instruments, from the violin to the grand piano. The charm he exuded was like an aura, a sheen from his oh so polished surface, that he was able to make any girl swoon at will, if he were interested in her, of course. And of course, even if he did not show any interest, the women would gravitate towards him naturally anyway, like moths to a naked flame.
Sadly, his father never thought to gird and equip him with the wherewithal to manage a sprawling business so large, that it would show up even the Donald Trumps of the modern age as nothing more than mere snot-nosed apprentices. Instead, his father was too busy to worry about how his heir would turn out financially. After seven generations, he could probably be excused for thinking mistakenly, perhaps, that business acumen flowed naturally in the Chin blood. He had rejected outright the warnings by astrologers, that those born under the fire dragon, although oozing charm and passion, were absolutely hopeless when it came to finance, and were given to uncontrollable urges to spend, spend, spend. The elder Chin’s folly was in having the keen foresight in betting the family fortune that a Western-educated liberal was what was needed to lead the House of Chin in the age of Pax Brittanica – the timeless British Empire on which the sun never sets. In abandoning his own roots, the patriarch forgot a few choice Chinese idioms that he had memorised as a child – the distillate of centuries of ancient Chinese wisdom in four simple characters. He forgot, in particular, those sayings that warn of the proverbial blind spot of successful family businesses, and of the dangers of making straight line projections, especially when it is applied to the rise and fall of empires. The father’s biggest miscalculation, however, was in believing that in giving his only son the best that privileged life could offer, it would help propel the young man to strive for even greater glory and honour for the nameplate that hung over the main doorway of the family home. He could not foresee that life of luxury had only served to make his sole heir soft and totally ineffective as a leader, who only knew how to enjoy the good life, without the benefit of knowing how to preserve the wealth passed down to him, let alone grow it. How could he? The boy never had to toil a single day of his life, after all. From that point on, the forces that would destroy the foundation of the House of Chin was set in motion. The entire family fortune was left exposed, like the mythical Achilles’ heel, and was placed at the mercy of its weakest link.
And so, when it came to Bertie’s children, there was nothing left for him to pass on but a pile of debt he had amassed during his carefree life. He was the very plague that blighted the futures of his seven offspring: the three sons and four daughters who were standing at the foot of his bed, along with the wife he did not choose to marry. All eight pairs of eyes glared back at him, as he struggled to draw his next breath from the oxygen tubes, and yet there wasn't a tear stained one between them all. A collared-priest busied himself with the administration of the Last Rites, although the man had never stepped foot into a Roman Catholic church even once in his life. Born and bred an Anglican, he had lived the Bacchanalian life of a pagan, and was now, under no choice of his, going to die a Roman Catholic. The wife he wed through an arranged marriage, in a sumptuous ceremony that had lasted eighteen days and nights, had found her solace in the strange Latin masses, even as the humongous lap of luxury she had married into, was being whittled away in larger and larger chunks. She had fought hard to save the crumbing family bungalow, the crown jewel in what used to be the mother of all land banks, of which modern day property tycoons still have wet dream about. However, she could do little to hang on to the rest of the assets that her philandering husband squandered away at an increasingly alarming rate towards the end of his days. How could she, when she never knew exactly what he had owned? When she had no say within the social structure of an era when wives, like children, should be seen and not heard. So, she did the best she could within her means, seeking divine help in countless Novenas, praying desperately for some heavenly intervention, as she lit row upon endless row of candles. And in her hour of need, her God had sent her children: six of the seven were fully-functioning adults, who worked long hours to keep the family home from being taken over by the banks, as they juggled with their own young families. The seventh, the youngest daughter, was still a student and was only fifteen years old. The same age as she was when she married Bertie in a loveless betrothal arranged by his father, whose agenda was to absorb her father’s chain of shops and add to the ever growing Chin empire. The primary aim was, of course, the all important matter of progeny, particularly to the man who had a solitary heir. Although Bertie fulfilled his father’s wish of establishing a new generation of Chin heirs, the patriarch did not live long enough to realise that at the end of the day, there was nothing left to be inherited by the next line of Chins. Bertie was just being Bertie. And like the latter day British royalty, Bertie had his Camilla. Or rather, Camillas, to be more precise. And it is on these women that Bertie frittered away his birthright, while his wife undertook the raising of their seven children singlehandedly.
The cosmic joke was completely lost on her, but not on her wastrel husband at his deathbed. The onion skins of his life, that consisted of layer upon layer of contradictions, paradoxes, and ironies, were slowly peeling away as his sojourn here on earth flashed before him in his final minutes of existence. A tableau of garish characters paraded past him, reminding him exactly how he came to end up so short of his vast potential. They told him precisely how he blew away the dream head start most parents wished their children could have. And they spoke of all the wrong alternatives he had chosen at the key turning points in his extraordinarily affluent life. But mostly, they recounted how his very own hands – which held briefly the reins of a financial powerhouse that was unmatched in all of Asia – were the same hands by which his destiny was unmade.
chapter 2: Bertie Chin, Esq.
More knowledge may be gained of a man's real character by a short conversation with one of his servants than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree and ended with his funeral.
Bertie Chin, Esquire. That last bit wasn’t part of the official name Bertie was given. It was tacked on by good old Dad, who loved England dearly, even if his raven hair was black as coal, and his slitty eyes disappeared totally when all he did was break into a smile. Esquire was a social rank, Bertie was told from a very young age. It was a standing above those of mere gentlemen, reserved only for noblemen and gentry who were ranked just below a knight, who had been dubbed a “Sir” by the queen. The patriarch had done his research well. For example, he knew that an Esquire placed at the end of a name, removed the need for the usual honorific pre-fix of Mister reserved for gentlemen. In days of yore, the term Esquire had its roots in the old French word “escuyer” or shield-bearer, and the English borrowed it to refer to a knight’s attendant, when it was often shortened to just squire. And because the queen had bestowed on the elder Chin a KBE. A Knight Commander of the British Empire was handed out to foreigners for their contributions to the war effort, and Bertie’s father had done his part in providing supply ships to the Royal Navy in times of need. So, his son was entitled to the title of Esquire, as he was next in the Chin family pecking order.
It took 15 years to groom this heir apparent, from the time of his birth to his coming of age. It took him another fifteen to get down to the business of providing an heir of his own, even though he never had a say in whom he was going to marry. And still another fifteen for him to completely obliterate the need for an heir. Common folk unaccustomed to seeing so many zeroes in a single bank account may be forgiven when they asked how it was possible to exhaust a fortune so vast, in that one life span so short. But Bertie Chin was anything but common. His tastes, be it for liquor, tobacco, food or for women, were honed by the most sophisticated of gentlemen Mother England had to offer. Of course, being born under the earth sign of Taurus may have had something to do with his love for the good life. But not all Taureans ever attained that level of epicureanism that Bertie did, primarily because they simply were unable to afford the finest gourmet meals, as well as the best wines that went along with it. Bertie Chin Esquire, on the other hand, could and did. His penchant for the finer, no, the finest things money could buy, was only limited by his imagination, because money was no object and the world his oyster. To say that he lavished too much on himself, was a gross understatement. His desire knew no bound. As a child, Bertie got what Bertie wanted. It simply was a way of life that the boy had grown to accept without question. And that was the way he lived it as a man. Every year, a caravan of world renowned retailers, from the bespoke tailors of Saville Row, to the silk merchants of China, from the diamond cutters of Amsterdam, to the cigar-makers from Havana, each would beat a path to the door of one Bertie Chin Esquire. Each of these trades people would traverse the globe to bring the mountain to Mohammed, because he was a customer beyond compare, the first legend of retail therapy, and the true and living definition of carte blanche.
While he was generous with himself, one Bertie’s many weaknesses was that he was also generous to a fault with his friends. The man did not know how to say no to any one. And worse yet, having grown up in a very protective environment, he did not know how to differentiate between the people he could trust and those he shouldn’t even give the time of day to, let alone touch with a ten foot pole. He was like the dodo that lived in an isolated habitat on the island of Mauritius, where food was abundant and predators did not exist. There was no sense of fear or caution, and there was never a need to develop the basic instinct for fight or flight. Everyone was a friend in Bertie’s eyes, even if they did not deserve to be. At the same time, his sense of noblesse oblige was also too over-developed and much too overwhelming for his own good, and often, those more astute among the less privileged classes would take advantage of him without his ever realising it. All it took was some sob story, a few tears and a bit of acting. It never occurred to him that people would harbour anything else but good will towards him, just as he had only their best interest at heart. After all, good will was all that he dished out, all the time. In fact, it was for this reason that Bertie Chin Esquire was so prone to picking up strays. And these strays, of the human variety, of course, could not believe their luck but would latch on as tightly as possible, to their best meal ticket ever. They surrounded him like barnacles on a whale, while the more odious among them, were more akin to parasites. Such as the mass of lianas strangling the tallest tree in the jungle as they made use of its height to reach the forest canopy. Or the ball of tape worms sucking the life-blood from within the innards of their living host for their own nourishment till the beast fell over, dead.
This highlighted yet another major fault line in Bertie’s psyche – the man loved company. Or perhaps, it was more accurate to say that he craved companionship. Having grown up at the centre of his parent’s universe, with an endless entourage milling and fussing over him every single instant, it was odd not to have that buzz all the time. As such, he did not understand, nor did he care for, the quietness of solitude. To him, the incessant bustle was equated to being alive, and of being loved. Even if the laughter was a tad too hollow, and the friends he made were there to make hay while this son shone. After all, everything was on tap, and on Bertie’s tab, twenty-four seven. And it did not take a genius to realise that all one needed to do was to hang around Bertie Chin Esquire long enough, and very soon, manna would fall from the sky.
Bertie was, for all intents and purposes, a Peter Pan at heart. While he never really grew up, his so-called friends were more than happy to pander to him and play the part of JM Barrie’s band of Lost Boys in Neverland. It was from this group of Lost Boys that Bertie developed, what he thought, was the friendship of a life time.
As he was growing up, there was no opportunity to make friends of his own age group. He was always surrounded by adults, each of whom, served very specific functions: the teacher who taught, the nanny who fed, and the chauffeur who drove. There was simply no one of his same age with whom he could be best friends with. Like a living, breathing Richie Rich, Bertie was the archetype of the poor little rich boy. There was no one with whom he could play or fight, quarrel or make up, laugh or cry. No one to confide in, nor share secrets with. Sure, there were the children who lived at the bottom of the hill, in the servants’ quarters. But all he could do was to watch them from afar, on the patio of the bungalow, at top of the hill. He was never allowed to play with them. His father refused to have his illustrious issue sullied by such common boys, in part, afraid that his son may pick up some unsavoury habit, and in part, fearful that the boy may catch some dreaded illness from the riff raff. Little did the old man realise that this would forever stunt Bertie’s ability to tell the true friends from the fakes.
So it was, that when Bertie met Robby Chou, he thought had found a best friend at last. A friend with whom he could share a joke, get up to mischief together with, a friend who was worldly wise and able to induct him into the more arcane, definitely sleazier, and infinitely more fascinating underbelly of society. And on Robby’s part, he was more than happy to play any role Bertie wanted him to play – whether it was of a mentor, a guide or a partner in crime. As long as he got his kickback from the brothel proprietors and pimps that he led Bertie by the nose to, on their fantastic adventures after dark. But that’s another story in itself. It is sufficient to note, at this point, that Bertie’s virginity was lost oh so quickly to a bevy of the most beautiful courtesans his money could buy, even though he never figured out to whom he had lost it to, till his dying day. Also, it is worth noting that this nocturnal routine of his flagrant forays would develop into a habit, or more aptly, an addiction that would remain with him even after his marriage. No one knew how many illegitimate children he fathered this way, but anyone could surmise that they were probably well cared for, for the rest of their lives. It became widely known, that Bertie, being the stray picker upper that he was, would set up comfortable homes for his favourite girls, who were then elevated to the status of mistress, and that these women would never have to pander to any other man but Bertie, ever again. So, the more manipulative among these, would inveigle their way into his heart, and made sure that their futures, and that of their children, would be safeguarded by the fortunes of one Bertie Chin, Esquire.
The women were not the only people who took Bertie to the cleaners. After Bertie’s father passed on, having had the pleasure of cradling his first grandson in his bosom, the new head of the Chin household went to the head office for the first time in his life. He had wanted to make a good first impression on the first day, so he arrived as early as possible and left as late as he could. He found the experience so tiresome in dealing with the nitty gritty, that it was also the last time he set foot in the office. To him, the management was more than capable in handling the day to day matters of running the empire. He had other pursuits that were far more exciting and that demanded more of him. So, he simply handed the reins over to the most senior man on staff, his father’s most trusted right hand man. Unbeknownst to Bertie, this chief executive had harboured a secret hatred for him. A dislike so intense and vehement, it had given the man ulcers. Like many other professional managers working in family businesses, he had risen through the rank and file, proven himself worthy to lead and manage the behemoth of the Chin business. Although he was well rewarded for his efforts, he felt betrayed by the old man, who told him quite unequivocably, that Bertie would one day take over the entire show. He had met Bertie before, mostly during the Chinese New Year parties the patriarch would throw for the entire staff at the head office. From these previous conversations with Bertie, he had weighed and measured the Chin scion and had found him wanting in every regard. The man who would be King simply did not have a head for business, and worse, he failed to grasp the value of money and the potential it held. Instead, all he was good for was to waste sinful amounts of it on useless trinkets, flashy clothes and delights of the flesh. So, the able lieutenant waited and plotted, plotted and waited until the old man died, and together with that passing, so too did his allegiance to his taipan. And with Bertie handing him full control, it was open season at the House of Chin. All thanks to Bertie Chin, Esq.
chapter 3: Women 101
To all the girls I've loved before, who travelled in and out my door
I'm glad they came along, I dedicate this song, to all the girls I've loved before
To all the girls I once caressed, and may I say I've held the best
For helping me to grow, I owe a lot I know, to all the girls I've loved before
The winds of change are always blowing, and every time I try to stay
The winds of change continue blowing, and they just carry me away
To all the girls who shared my life, who now are someone else's wives
I'm glad they came along, I dedicate this song, to all the girls I've loved before
To all the girls who cared for me, who filled my nights with ecstasy
They live within my heart, I'll always be a part, of all the girls I've loved before
The winds of change are always blowing, and every time I try to stay
The winds of change continue blowing, and they just carry me away
To all the girls we've loved before, who travelled in and out our doors
We're glad they came along, we dedicate this song, to all the girls we've loved before
To all the girls we've loved before, who travelled in and out our doors
We're glad they came along, we dedicate this song, to all the girls we've loved before
If Bertie had lived long enough, this cheesy mid-1980s Willie Nelson-Julio Inglesias duet would have been his favourite theme song. It would probably be true to say that his preferences for the opposite sex were shaped – to a large extent – by the various women in his life.
His father was always too busy with running the family business. Like all typical Chinese fathers of the old school, the man’s goal as head of the household is to bring home the bacon, nothing more, nothing less.
One would, however, be very sadly mistaken if one thought that his natural birth mother had anything at all to do with his upbringing too. Or may be, she unknowingly did have a hand, but this is also debatable. She was, after all, a trophy bride of sorts, a little ditzy and not at all nurturing – to children, that is. Her husband had chosen her for her beauty over her brains, thinking that the Chin blood would be strong enough to hold sway over the child’s intellect.
Had he known the concept of probabilities, he would probably have opted for the opposite, since it would probably be better off to be ugly and smart, rather than beautiful and dumb, or worse yet, ugly and dumb all at the same time. And if he had managed to father more children with her, this theory would be more than self evident in the offspring that the couple would have produced.
But the point was moot, because, unfortunately for the elder Chin, there was just the one child, and this was definitely not from the lack of trying on his part. He had, after all, done more than his fair share of breaking the earth and tilling it with his tool, sowing his seed on that sweet, secret patch, and toiling diligently late in to the night. But Bertie was the only one he managed to eke from that barren mound. In fact, his servants suspected that she had found some way, perhaps through the use of a spermicidal herbal potion, or maybe some primitive apparatus similar to an IUD, to prevent any further chance of childbirth.
She was quite confident that she had secured her position in the Chin household by producing that solitary gem of an heir that the world came to know as Bertie Chin. She could attest that the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth, were anything but wonderful. The vomiting, the incessant backaches and the constant need to visit the loo. But mostly, it had bent and bloated her perfect body out of shape so very terribly. She was lucky though, that there were experienced Malay women around the household, who had the knowledge of traditional massage, and they helped to knead, push and tug her poor out of shape body back in to form again. Immediately after the birth, she had wanted nothing more to do with the boy again. She had performed her primary duty, and promptly left the infant’s first suckling to the nursemaids. This was partly due to her disinterest and disdain in mothering. But mostly, it was due to the fact that she did not want her perky, perfect mounds of flesh on her chest to become bloated and droopy. And also because she did not want her pretty, pink nipples, which were set like strawberries on the tip of those creamy breasts, to harden and darken into ugly, mushroom-like buds.
And so, Bertie dearest had to be content with a string of nursemaids. In fact, there were enough of them, such that each one only had to do suckle Bertie once a day, on a rotating four-hour shift. And from that young age, the child was imbued with a sense of insecurity of cleaving to just The One, while finding comfort and assurance from the transitory pleasures of The Many. To a normal infant who felt most secure with just one mother, this would amount to apostasy. But to Bertie – who was, himself, an abomination to the natural order, the perverse became the norm. It was just a fact of life for him, that when milk flow ceased from a particular set of breasts, it was de rigueur that a new set was substituted in immediately.
And as he grew older, at about four or five, and was still being breastfed, the smorgasbord of breasts to choose from had evolved from the pure function of feeding, to include fun and games as well. And because he was The Prince of the household, the nursemaids were in no position to complain about the precocious little boy’s antics during his meal-times, and they simply had to endure all the groping and nipping, tweaking and caressing, that the little boy subjected them to. And once, he even had one of them kneel on all fours, so that he could pretend to be like a baby goat from the picture book he had just browsed. How cute, his father thought to himself, when tale of the baby goat incident reached his ears, and he promised himself to give it a try with the missus later that night, when they were alone in bed.
At Bertie’s tender age, most adults would probably give him the benefit of the doubt, and ascribe all his childish pranks as nothing more than just that, mere childish pranks. But as he grew into a teenager, his fascination with breasts also grew into an all consuming obsession. Because he wasn’t taught otherwise as a child, he continued his tactile explorations, even though they weren’t welcomed any more. And he only realised the error of his ways when he made the mistake of reaching for the very play things that belonged to his father. Although, who could blame Bertie really?
His mother represented that which was unattainable, and that in itself made her all the more desirable. Modern day psychobabblers would say it was a severe case of the Oedipus complex, but back then, no one really cared what name it came by. Any son who coveted his father’s wife would have been bashed senseless and left for dead. Bertie, however, survived the ordeal to tell the tale. Anyway, he had always admired his mother. This was partly due to the fact that he was never in her company long enough, or near enough for any sort of meaningful physical contact, not even a motherly hug or a chaste kiss on his forehead. He would always admire her from afar. Eyes transfixed as those wobbly orbs of flesh, as if made from the softest toh-fu. They spilled delightfully, cresting just over the top of her decolletage, like a perfect head of beer – held together by nothing more than surface tension, while at the same time, casting graduating shadows down the middle of the milky white cleavage that disappeared into the depths of her bodice.
One day, Bertie decided he would lay in wait for her to emerge from her boudoir – for the perfect opportunity to pounce. Little did he know that, instead of the usual uncomfortable giggles he got from the female staff, his actions on his birth mother that day would elicit a blood-curdling scream of horror, followed by a vitriolic stream of profanities, the likes of which, no one in the entire Chin household ever dreamed could possibly come out of such a daintily painted mouth.
The shrill banshee-like screeching awakened his father from his afternoon repose, and all those who knew the patriarch well, braced for the very worst, because the man was grumpier than a grizzly bear with a sore head, particularly when he hadn’t gotten a full afternoon’s nap. The patriarch stormed out of his bedroom, muttering under his breath as he got ready to growl at some one, any one who had the audacity and dared to interrupt his daily routine. Silence fell as he approached the centre of the hubbub. Only the quiet sobbing remained, as his wife crashed gears and switched from battle maiden mode to aggrieved little girl mode, to guarantee that he would side with her. She whimpered, like some injured fawn, as she explained how her evil child had violated her dignity and pleaded that he be punished severely for his transgressions. In the few seconds that the patriarch took to deliberate over the matter, a hush fell again as the eyes of all who had gathered darted between the three central figures, as if they had been playing some bizarre, three-way tennis match.
The roar that erupted from deep within the belly of the patriarch was totally unexpected from all quarters. It was a cross between a bellow and a bray, as the old man threw his head back and rocked violently. Some of the staff thought that, in his anger, the man might have had an aneurism and gone insane temporarily, as his face turned crimson from the lack of oxygen. Looks of uncertainty and concern flashed across the faces before the old man until he had recovered from his fit, and his guffaws subsided into a more controlled laughter. He dismissed the crowd with a nonchalant flick of his wrist, while only his wife and son remained standing before him with their heads bowed in confusion and alarm.
In mock anger, he chided his child on the one hand, and on the other, he was patting his son on the back, as if in approval of his offspring’s stirring sexuality. He had felt a sense of pride wash over him, that his boy had been able to recognise quality when he saw it. The old man also felt a contradictory sense of relief, and it was only much later that he realised why. He guessed it must have been the subconscious fear that his son may turn out a "bapok" – an effeminate man who was interested only in other men. Why? Because there was no really strong male influence in the youth's life, all his influences growing up so far had been by women. That fear was allayed once and for all when Bertie made a play for his wife’s boobs, and he felt very relieved. He then attempted to smoothen his wife’s ruffled feathers as well. He said teasingly that a trip to the jeweller’s was long overdue, and that he would take her there later in the evening, knowing full well that a few hefty baubles would be more than sufficient to soothe and pacify her. She smiled as her eyes widened and gleamed in delight, and the ordeal soon faded from her memory.
And that was the lesson that Bertie Chin took away from the day’s adventures, one that would be indelibly etched in his mind and practiced over and over again as he grew older, perfecting it to an art form at his peak.
chapter 4: Bertie's bride
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
by William Shakespeare
Marie Rose was born in to a large family of five brothers, all older than her. Being the only girl, her entire family doted on her, she was their little Rosie. Father, mother and all five sons lavished all their love on her, right from the day she was born. When she arrived home from the hospital, everyone thought that she was the prettiest thing they had ever set eyes on. Even strangers on the high street would stop mid stride, do a double take, and make sudden U-turns to coo and tickle her under the chin, all the while complimenting her parents for her perfect mixture of genes. Her dark brows and large round eyes, in particular, would attract the admiring attention of Malay and Indian passers-by. At first, the family felt a little uncomfortable by the admiring stares strangers gave the baby and would try to ignore all and sundry by not making eye contact. But after a while, it became so passe, that they gave up running away and accepted the unsolicited adulation with some heartfelt pride. And none in the family felt it more than Rosie’s father, who was wealthy enough to own a string of retail shops that dotted the Nanyang, from Southeast Asia, to as far North as Hong Kong.
The man’s wealth, unlike Bertie’s ancestors, had been accumulated only in his generation, and he had a very long way to go before he could ever dream of matching the House of Chin. Despite his diligence at being an entrepreneur, however, the devoted father always knew when to stop and take the weekends off to be with his five boys and bouncing baby girl. Because he was rich enough, he could afford a large home along the eastern shore of the island, despite having to cough up a premium for the highly desired stretch of sand. The weekends were spent lazing on the beachfront patio, or fishing from the little pier he had built, which jutted about thirty feet into the sheltered cove. Rosie’s father would take all his kids out on the pier in the evening and teach them how to fish. Using light from a kerosene lamp and bait dug up from the garden, Rosie’s dad would catch buckets of fish, and from the traps, he would catch crabs and lobsters,
And Rosie grew up loving life by the sea and all that if afforded. In particular, she loved being able to build endless sand castles, wade from one rock pool to another at low tide to catch tiny fish, mudskippers and hermit crabs, as well as beach comb for treasures that the sea brought in during the previous high tide. She also loved to watch the high tide come in, as the sea level rose steadily, building on wave after wave that crashed on to the shore. The sea was always changing, in the mornings and evenings, it was filled with yellows, reds and bronzes. In a bright cloudless day, it would turn a deep azure, and during the monsoon season, the overcast skies would create a moody, angry gray to match the growing thunderheads above. In fact, the true majesty of the sea seemed to coincide with the height of the storm, as the winds whipped up foamy crests of white horses that raced on the rim of each incoming wave. If the wind was strong enough, it could even lift the froth off the wave front entirely, as if the sea was boiling over as the height of each wave seemed to grow taller and more ominous, revealing the awe inspiring raw power of nature. This contrasted with the periods of calm, when the waves would lap the shore in a soothing rhythmic shushing that could lull away all the cares and burdens one carried on one’s shoulders.
Although her family loved her to bits, Rosie was not allowed to be a spoilt, little cry baby. In fact, she was nobody’s little princess. She was as rough and tumble as the five elder boys, and could run as fast, kick as hard, and punch as well as she received from them. Her father, who was probably ahead of his time, believed in educating her, unlike other more conservative ones who believed in keeping their daughters locked up at home till they were of marriageable age. He eventually put her in the same mission school as the rest of his boys when she was old enough, even though it was an all boys’ school. The principal was, after all, his best friend when he was growing up, best man at his wedding, and Rosie’s godfather at her christening.
Rosie loved school. She was fascinated with how the squiggly lines on a piece of paper could hold so many different concepts and meanings, contained so much knowledge, wisdom and beauty all at the same time. She had a good head for mathematics, she was curious about science, and awed by history. But most of all, she loved literature. She appreciated the sounds and rhythm made by the intricate pattern of words. She devoured large volumes of books at the school library, and the collection of poetry her parents had in the home. Her father would read to her, and among her favourite poets was William Wordsworth, particularly the one about daffodils:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
She loved the way the words weaved a vision so vibrant and so real, that it took her breath away. From that very young age, Rosie’s love for poetry would forever stay with her, a friend in good times, and a comfort in the difficult.
Rosie’s wonderful, idyllic childhood lasted till she was twelve, until she had her first period. It was a wake-up call to her father, that unlike the rest of his brood of half a dozen, she was a “she”. Relatives had been telling him that he needed to start training her for the next phase of her life, that of being some one else’s wife. She could not remain Daddy’s little girl forever, could she? Although it pained him to take her out of school, Rosie’s father felt that he had little choice or she may not be able to find a suitor willing to marry her, and it would be a terrible injustice to Rosie. She would be like an Eliza Dolittle from the Pymalion, out of place and out of step with the rest of society. So, he tried to soften the blow and told her that he would make it up to her some how, even though he didn’t know at the time, just how. But because Rosie was a tough little cookie, she took the news in her stride, and went along with the new routine without any fuss. This consisted of learning how to manage and run the household, how to cook and wash, bake and clean, and ultimately, how to turn a house in to a home for her future husband and kids.
By her teens, Rosie had blossomed – literally. Her soft, slightly curling hair was a shimmering mane of cascading tresses that modern shampoo companies would be more than willing to sign a six-figure endorsement deal for. Although still a little gangly (she was close to five feet eight), Rosie’s body had bloomed, filling out and forming the most delightful curves in all the right places. Although she had a fairly large bum (by modern standards), her ample breasts mitigated the bottom-heavy effect sufficiently, as did her long, slim legs. Her face kept its beautiful proportions as she matured. Her sparkling, large brown eyes, with lashes long, were set just right amid a fair and lengthy face, capped by a set of lush, arching brows. She spoke with a girlish lisp because she was a little buck-toothed and had a slight gap between the front teeth. But most people overlooked these minor faults quite easily because she had the most beautiful dimples when she smiled. They were deep set and stretched from the base of her high cheek bones, all the way down to form the boundaries of that cute little mound of flesh that sat at the tip of her chin. And in fifteen years, she had grown up, from a beautiful little baby girl, to a drop dead, gorgeous babe.
It wasn‘t long before match makers began knocking at the door, seeking her father’s approval to match her with so and so’s son, or cousin, or the long lost relative of Lord knows who. Each proposal was an elaborate affair, with the go-between usually starting the initial negotiations. Back then, marriage was not an affair of the heart, of two lovers falling head over heels and wanting to spend the rest of their lives together with each other. Marriage had a more practical purpose, that of continuing the ancestral line and creating alliances between families. It was simply too important to leave it to the youths to decide. Although Rosie’s father found it all rather tiresome, he and the wife felt that the deluge of offers was actually a happy problem to have, because it gave them options. Ultimately, they could take their time, assess each proposal in detail and not worry that Rosie would end up an old maid.
One fateful day, Rosie’s father arrived home from work to find a large entourage of people standing outside his gates. He recognised one of them as a business associate who worked for the House of Chin. As it turned out, the group had turned out in force, laden with gifts, to seek his daughter’s hand in marriage. His heart skipped a beat when he realised that this may be The Proposal that he and his wife had been waiting for. A quick private conference with the missus and a unanimous decision was reached – they would not stand in the way of their daughter’s future, and what a fortunate one it promised to be. Immediately, the match-maker set about his business of finding out the girl’s birth details, the date and hour of her birth was logged in a formal document that would rest at the Chin’s ancestral altar for the next three days. If nothing untoward occurred and no inauspicious omens happened, these details would be passed on to an astrologer to confirm that the match was indeed made in heaven. With the boy’s side satisfied, it was the family of the bride’s turn to consult ancestors and astrologer. The result was an overwhelming yes all around, and so both sets of parents met to knock out the details for the betrothal.
For Rosie, the experience had been anything but pleasant. She suffered a barrage of questions, with fingers prodding and poking at her, as well as the haggling and bargaining, as if she was some piece of meat at the neighbourhood market. And the biggest ignominy was being made to squat in front of a large audience, so that the experts could assess if she possessed the perfect set of hips for child bearing. At just 15, she was feeling a little overwhelmed by the whole rigmarole, even though she was secretly quite taken by the handsome face staring back at her from the black and white photograph of her husband to be, twice her age. And in her quiet moments, Rosie weaved elaborate day dreams in girlish reverie, of what life would be like as the wife of Bertie Chin, Esq.
chapter 5: descent into depravity
n. 1. Detraction; depreciation.
To stubborn critics, apt, without a theme,
2. The act of depraving, or making anything bad; the act of corrupting.
3. The state of being depraved or degenerated; degeneracy; depravity.
The depravation of his moral character destroyed his judgment.
- Sir G. C. Lewis.
4. (Med.) Change for the worse; deterioration; morbid perversion.
Webster's 1913 Dictionary
Not to be confused with the similar sounding word, deprived, which means underprivileged or disadvantaged, depraved is used to describe a person that is corrupt, immoral, incorrigible, or perverse. Or in Bertie’s case, the process of becoming more and more corrupt, degenerating over time, particularly in terms of his moral character. It was definitely a change for the worse, as his morbid perversion grew until it knew no bounds.
To describe Bertie Chin, Esq. as being deprived may seem like a joke to any one because of the incongruity between the adjective and proper noun it sought to describe. After all, Bertie was born with more silver spoons than there was space in his mouth to put them all in. And yet, he was deprived of a normal childhood, without a central mother and father figure that could serve as examples. He was deprived of the necessary disciplining every normal child received, and that which was as necessary as a wooden stake to help a young sapling grow up straight and tall. He was deprived, most of all, of parental love, both physical as well as emotional. While he wasn’t deprived in a material sense, Bertie was severely disadvantaged many other aspects of his life, when one compared him with other children of more common parentage. He was also deprived of siblings and friends of the same age. So much so, that he never had a chance to develop relationship skills, such as the art of give and take, the ability to banter and haggle, and the knowledge of when to flee and when to fight, and how to say no. Without these, he was also deprived of the stereoscopic perspective of knowing whether a person was a true friend or not. Given that he lacked these faculties, he had more fatal flaws embodied in a single person, than all the tragic heroes in every one of Shakespeare’s plays put together – a walking disaster waiting to happen.
But does this necessarily exonerate one from wrong doing? Can a criminal convicted of a capital offence, such as murder, claim in his defence, a deprived childhood, the lack of opportunities in his formative years, and absent parents who failed to provide solid examples of how to live, as well as giving sufficient emotional support? Why is it that the answer is always almost automatically a no? Perhaps, it has to do with the law, which presupposes the knowledge that such laws exist, and does not care if one had a decent childhood or not, if one has broken those laws. Perhaps, it is because every adult is supposed to act responsibly, given the freedoms granted to him by the state. And under these freedoms, choosing to do the wrong thing, is still wrong, no matter what sort of deprived background one had, that had led one to choose the acts of depravation in the first place.
For Bertie Chin, Esquire, his descent into darkness and depravity began the moment he met Robby Chou. Although Robby was a year younger than Bertie, he was more street smart and mature than Bertie by many years. In many ways, Robby was almost identical to the Charles Dickens’s character, the Artful Dodger from the novel, Oliver Twist. The only difference was that the Dodger was linked to a gang of pick pockets, where as Robby’s crime family was associated with the world’s oldest profession – and the sleaziest. Robby was born to a prostitute who died at childbirth, who never knew his father was, and was adopted by the rest of the harlots who were part of one of the largest bordellos of the land. His life was spent on the streets, and filled with larger than life characters, from the personable pimps to the matriarchal mama sans, from the wenches and whores to their johns and sugar daddies.
The two men’s lives intersected for the very first time at one of the lavish parties that Bertie’s father occasionally threw at the family home. Somehow, Robby had managed to crash the party and was looking a bit lost, wandering about in the vast, formal gardens to the west of the mansion. As fate would have it, Bertie was standing at the patio overlooking the formal garden, while savouring his after-dinner Cohiba Piramides, one of the most expensive Cuban cigars money could buy. Bertie loved the brand of cigar, dubbed the “King of the Cubans”, because the smoke smelt sweet and earthy, and it left a rich buttery, toasted aftertaste in his mouth.
As he blew blue smoke rings in to the cool evening air, he noticed a man wandering about in the approaching twilight, so he called out to the man to come up to the house, shaking his head as he did so. His father’s guests were forever getting lost on the grounds, particularly in the formal garden, where the tall, manicured hedges formed a sort of a huge maze that could be quite disorienting for first-timers. Perhaps there should be more servants along the road in to direct the guests or guide them into the party area, Bertie thought to himself.
After five minutes of meandering through the hedges, Robby finally found his way up to the porch. Bertie offered him a cigar and the both of them stood there on the patio, talking and laughing like long lost pals, as they sucked in the sweet aromas from the tightly rolled, beautifully shaped tobacco leaves. Bertie went to liquor cabinet at the side of the patio, retrieved two cut crystal tumblers and poured out generous servings of fine single malt scotch whisky from a matching crystal decanter. The golden liquid had been distilled and aged for decades to allow the liquor to mellow and smoothen out its rough edges, while drawing out the flavours of the very wooden casks, within which it was left to age. Bertie swirled the scotch, which released a complex bouquet of scents, just as he handed one of them to Robby. They clinked the tumblers and savoured the complicated yet refined flavours of the malt, which complemented the aftertaste of the cigars really well.
It did not take long before Robby realised who he was speaking to. He could hardly contain himself. If he could hook the heir of the manor and reel him in, his future would be more than assured. He reminded himself to take it slow. He did not want to scare this fish away by any sudden moves. He continued to probe his prey, while they bantered and exchanged funny stories. All the while, Robby maintained a cautious distance, not wanting to spook Bertie with any sudden moves that may cause him to bolt. Unlike the clients who came looking specifically for the whores at the brothel, who had already decided that they wanted what they wanted, this prize catch didn’t know that it was going to be steered in to a trap that would ensnare him for a long, long time to come. Already, Robby was working out all the angles of the trap, finding out preferences and tastes. It wasn’t long before Bertie’s darker, secret thoughts started to bubble to surface amid such accommodating company, assisted by the tongue loosening alcohol.
To Robby’s amazement, he discovered that despite the wealth and sophistication, the man that stood beside him was still a virgin. He would have thought that all the eligible women in town would have beaten a path to Bertie’s door and thrown their naked bodies at him. This was a man who wouldn’t need to pay for sex, with so much wealth, women would have seized any opportunity, or even pay for it to be within striking distance so that they could make a play for his affection. And the more the two men talked, the more amazed Robby was at the apparent paradox that was Bertie Chin. He could talk rings around the women, make them swoon with just one look, and charm their stockings and panties off with his poise. Unfortunately, Bertie did not know what to do next. No one had bothered to teach Bertie how to get to second base, let alone third and fourth. No one had taught him how to score the touch down. At a ripe old age of 27, and yet, he was still totally inexperienced and absolutely inept in the sensual arts of love-making. Who could blame him though, with all that expensive Victorian education, which regarded sex as something dirty and vile. What a load of poppycock, Robby thought to himself.
Robby could still recall that he was just 12 when he lost his virginity. The women at the bordello had seen it fit to initiate him as soon as he started having wet dreams when he reached puberty. He still remembered that night. He was sound asleep and then, in a vivid dream, he felt hands all over his body. And it felt like all his senses suddenly overloaded, exploding in waves of ecstasy. He half awoke to find a group of women from the brothel looking down at him with smiling faces, beaming with pride that the boy had become a man.
For Robby, sex was not about love or romance. It was a physical need that had to be satisfied, like hunger or thirst. Otherwise, one would suffer from blue balls. For the most part, sex figured as one component of all the transactions down at the brothel, the same way food and drink was at a restaurant. Arguably, it was possible to derive pleasure from the sex act, very much the same way connoisseurs found pleasure from the consumption of gourmet foods or expensive wines, or in Bertie’s case, fine cigars and single malt whiskys. It was just a matter of expanding Bertie’s taste for the more exotic things in life, and whetting his appetite for more erotic experiences. Of exploiting that deprived childhood, and leading the man down the path of a depraved adulthood. Robby thought of it as part of Bertie’s education. He would play the role of teacher and open Bertie’s eyes to a whole new world, and allow Bertie to grow and maximise his potential as a sexual being.
Robby also learnt from that long conversation, that it was going to be easier than he imagined it would be, after all, Bertie had a propensity for perversion. His obsession with breasts was a wedge that Robby could use to pry open the Pandora’s Box, releasing the natural tendencies that yet lay latent within the boy-man. The cogs in his mind had started turning the moment he heard the story of how Robby had pounced on and grabbed his biological mother’s boobies. He knew he could make use of Bertie’s natural curiosity and show him as many breasts as Bertie could afford.
At the end of the evening, Robby lost no time in arranging a meeting with Bertie, promising him a night out, the likes of which the Chin heir had never had, nor will ever forget. With his curiosity piqued, Bertie agreed to meet up the very next night, rubbing his palms together in anticipation.
As Robby left the hill-top villa that night, hundreds of plans swam around inside his head, and he tried very hard to pin down as many ideas as he could. He rushed home, got out a note pad and started to jot down list upon list of things he could do with Bertie Chin, Esquire. Each night would have to be better than the previous, each experience sweeter than the last. He had to make sure Bertie would continue to follow the trail he would lead the boy-man down. He was, after all, going to land himself the biggest fish ever.
chapter 6: ancestry
There is no king who has not had a slave among his ancestors,
and no slave who has not had a king among his.
It is said that the very first in the Chin family line to leave China, had decended from a 15th century trader from the Ming dynasty, who had tagged along, following Admiral Cheng Ho’s flotilla of 317 ships and 27,000 men, as the eunuch mariner explored the Western Ocean, in search of glory of his emperor. The admiral had been ordered by his emperor to sail to "the countries beyond the horizon" and “all the way to the end of the earth". His mission was to display the might of China’s naval power and to collect tributes from the "barbarians from beyond the seas".
Unlike the admiral, who was a Muslim Hui Chinese and an official of the imperial court, the initial Chin was a Han Chinese trader and was not bound by the same command. Instead, he decided unilaterally to strike out on his own. Whether it was divine foresight or dumb luck that the globe trotting Chin had decided to abandon Admiral Cheng Ho’s fleet and settle in the Straits of Malacca was a mystery subject to much debate. The fact was that he did decide to stop and settle in the town which was the eponym of that stagnant body of water which became part of the east west trade route. He even married a second wife who was a native Malay, although she was not a muslim. His first wife, an ethnic Chinese, had remained in China and waited until he had established a home in the Nanyang before coming out to join him. That path-breaking ancestor’s arrival at the Straits of Malacca, seven generations ago, predated even that of princess Hang Li Po, a minor royalty. The princess had been despatched by the Chinese Emperor to marry the Sultan of Malacca, Mansur Shah, who had become a sworn vassal of the Middle Kingdom, which in turn, had help protect the sultanate from Siamese incursions. The Chinese princess, the great grand-daughter of the Ming Emperor Yung Lo, thus, became the third wife of the Malaccan Sultan. The forefather of the Chins had put down roots in Malacca and had gone native with the local Malays. This happened long before the thousand or so courtiers and ladies in waiting from the princess’s entourage did the same thing, as they laid claim to Bukit Cina, forming the nucleus of what was to eventually become the Straits-born Chinese – also known as the Peranakan.
After Admiral Cheng Ho completed his seven journeys, some historians hypothesised that China made an about turn and looked inward, abandoning her seafaring traditions. This view was popularised in the 1950s. However, new evidence showed that it was the Ming imperial court that had withdrawn its sponsorship of large scale voyages. This was partly because these trips were more about prestige than profit, and because the trips did not pay its way, they were seen as a luxury and were first to go when times got tough. And these tough times arose largely as a result of an internal threat from the north. Although the Ming dynasty was responsible for the unification of the Great Wall of China, repairing and joining earlier walls that had been built by previous dynasties, the physical barrier wasn’t sufficient to keep the barbarians out. Political attention and will had to be shifted and focused on the north to deal with the increasingly frequent incursions, so, it was no wonder that funding and interest in naval affairs had dried up concurrently.
Another contributory factor was the poor attitude the Ming dynasty had towards trade. The dynasty had been founded by a peasant who led a revolt against the Mongol rulers. As such, the Ming king’s world view were very much influenced by farmers, who took a dim view of traders because they were thought of as ignoble and parasitic. The Ming leaders, instead, regarded peasants highly, and genuinely felt that agriculture should be the middle kingdom’s only source of wealth. As a result of this perspective, there was a genuine lack of vision on the part of the leadership when it came to trade. The leadership had retained the conservative Confucian attitude that profiting from some one else’s toil as a broker or as a merchant was something reprehensible and was, therefore, a profession that was not much better off than that of a prostitute.
However, this did not mean that trade in China ended when the Ming dynasty became more insular. Instead, private trading ships from China were not affected at all by the imperial court’s unilateral decision whatsoever and continued to ply the high seas and dominated trade in the entire region for many more years. The Chins, in particular, found that their trading business had continued to boom, as they arbitraged treasures from China with foreign spices and drugs from the region, making a hefty amount of profits from the price differential. Their base in Southeast Asia was fortuitous, because it kept the family out of the political intrigue within the imperial court. It had also allowed them to concentrate of making money – all the while, losing more of their Chineseness and traditional attitudes, and assimilating the values of the locals in their adopted land.
These Peranakan, as if through some process of cultural osmosis, had elected to absorb the language and custom of the Malays, evolving a unique blend of cultures as well as a fusion of foods. And like the process of osmosis, in which the semi-permeable membrane allowed certain sized molecules in while keeping the larger ones out, the Peranakan kept intact most of their genetic and religious origins, setting these apart from the influence of native customs. They continued to practice their faith of ancestor worship, while their bloodlines were renewed as they sent their sons and daughters back to China to look for spouses. In the Chin’s case, because they were so rich, they were able to import the spouses from China out to the Nanyang to rejuvenate their gene pool.
The early Chins were a fortunate lot. They were the Forrest Gumps of the trading set, who had more than their fair share of luck. While other ships were lost to bad weather, bad navigation or sheer piracy, the Chins’ ships had only fair weather, smooth sailing and were unscathed by the pirate attacks. Some of their rivals thought that it may have had something to do with the crews that manned the family’s junks, the bulk of them were recruited from within the local Malay community. Other competitors suspected the crews of having links with the pirates as well, while others felt that intimate knowledge of the weather patterns and the underwater rock formations gave the Chin crew men an advantage that they exploited to the fullest. Whatever the case was, having the so-called foresight to pick his crews with local connections and intimate knowledge of the region had inadvertantly given the Chin trading ships a distinct edge over the rest. Over the decades, this advantage allowed the Chins to forge a reputation for reliability and punctuality, qualities that set good merchants and traders apart from the mediocre, while their exploits became legend to all the trading community.
By the early 1800s, a new tide of Chinese immigrants washed in to the Straits Settlements and boosted the ranks of the Peranakan population. By that time, the Chins were among the richest of the Chinese families in the major trading areas in the region. When British Imperialism extended its colonial reach in to Southeast Asia, the Chins piggy-backed on the new trade routes being opened up. They serviced the needs of the British rajahs with coolies and tea from China, just like the pilot fish that ingratiated itself only to the very top predator of the food chain, as it zipped alongside the shark.
By the middle of the 19th century, most Peranakan had received an English education, as a result of their natural propensity to absorb new cultures easily. As such, many of these Peranakans ended up being rather influential, filling up administrative and civil service posts within the British empire. The intermingling with the British also resulted in many conversions to Christianity, as mission schools set up by the colonial masters not only educated but brain-washed the students. They were some times known as the King's Chinese, due to their perceived loyalty to the British Crown. In the Chin family’s case, the family business had grown from strength to strength, in tandem with the region’s growing importance, as the hub of British influence in Southeast Asia. Although they didn’t need British jobs, the Chins had benefited from British patronage and this symbiotic relationship led the British to bestow on Bertie’s father, an award for the family’s assistance in the Great War. Of all the Chin taipans who had served the British empire, Bertie’s Dad had gone the extra mile. He truly embraced all aspects of Western culture, making it his. He believed with every iota, every atom in his being that the empire would remain the most influential in the world, and that Pax Britannica would have no end. He was one of the many converts who abandoned his family tradition of ancestor worship in favour of Christianity, but the first in the House of Chin to do so. Although the decision caused a rift within the family, he was convinced that aligning himself with the empire, body, mind and spirit, was the only way to go forward, the only way for the House of Chin to continue prospering. However, not every one in the family felt that way. Some family members attributed the eventual fall of the House of Chin to Bertie’s father, who had committed apostasy in abandoning the traditional Taoist practices of ancestor worship. They said that the move would cause the ancestors to get angry with the elder Chin, and the punishment came in the form of the utter destruction of the family wealth. But these pronouncements were made with perfect hindsight, and given the circumstances of the era within which the elder Chin lived, it would be hard to argue with his assessment of the political situation and his chosen course of action.
As the family business grew and expanded, so did the sophistication in which the business was organised. In the early years, squabbles within the Chin clan led to attempts to divide the growing empire. Management skills varied drastically from one family member to the next. As a business, it was disorganised and lacked vision. So, one of the more entrepreneurial grandsons of the first Chin decided for the good of the business, that only the eldest son of the generation was eligible to lead the business. The rest of the family had to be contented with minor roles or none at all. Professional managers were hard to come by in a period where MBAs were unheard of and so, outsiders were brought in and trained. These outsiders were paid well for their efforts, with bonuses linked to performance. The rationale was that this would increase the impartiality of the decisions made, so that only the best decisions were taken for the good of the business. For many generations, this business strategy worked like a dream, and the family business flourished while its fortunes burgeoned. Little did the forefathers know that their innovative system of management system would fail to the foibles of one man, whose genetic credentials were impeccable, but he lacked the right set of external conditions that should have molded him into a strong and able leader. Instead, the pampering and lack of discipline was doled out in too large a dose as he was growing up, in addition to the privileged life style, had negated all the talents that had been generously bestowed on him, turning him in to some effete pretender to the throne.
chapter 7: bertie's night out
Change, like sunshine, can be a friend or a foe, a blessing or a curse, a dawn or a dusk.
William A. Ward
Waiting for something to happen always made it seem longer, and the more one had invested in that particular event, the more interminable the waiting felt. That was how Robby was feeling, from the moment he left the Chin estate, till the time he was to meet up with Bertie again just outside the heavy, wooden gates of the mansion. Dusk had just fallen, although there were still several fingers of sunlight desperately clinging on to the night sky, as if not wanting to be swallowed up by the enveloping darkness. Robby loved this time best. Like a magic wand, dusk turned all the filth and dirt along the side streets of the red light district invisible, as much as it hid the blemishes and imperfections on the human form. It blotted out the ugly features and scars, leaving only their silhouettes, as details melted into basic shapes. Street lights, gas and kerosene lamps added to the surreal canvas created by pools of light, while layering it with disproportionate shadows. Civilisations of most cultures associated dusk with the magical time when evil spirits emerged, after having been banished or exiled during the daylight hours, a time when these predators prowled in search of prey.
Bertie was late. Not intentionally though. He just had a hard time deciding what best to wear on his night out. Always did, always will. That’s because Bertie took particular care and delight in matching his clothes to his shoes, as well as his accessories. That night, he decided to go with a charcoal grey, herringboned suit with a matching monogrammed shirt. He had trouble with the shoes, there were too many similar pairs to choose from. He eventually picked a soft, suede pair and dark socks. Then, there was the red handkerchief, the jade cuff-links, his teak walking stick with the silver handle (even though he could walk just fine), and a wool driving cap. Finally, he was ready to leave, so he headed out – only to double back because he did not feel comfortable with charcoal grey. So, back he came and the entire process started all over again. It took him three changes of clothes before he ultimately got to what he thought was the ideal outfit for a night out. By which time, Robby had been waiting for the last three-quarters of an hour and had checked with the gatekeeper at least five times if the master’s son had left the home for the night, each time a little more impatient than the previous. When Bertie arrived at the gate in his car, he was so apologetic that Robby felt compelled to forgive the lack of consideration. The chauffeur got out and opened the door for Robby, who hopped into the back seat together with Bertie. After the pleasantries were exchanged, Robby leaned forward and whispered to the chauffeur detailed instructions and the car pulled out of the driveway and into the cool night.
Their first stop was for at a revue, a progressive dance theatre where the women pranced around in next to nothing on stage except some fancy lighting effects. First, each dancer would work her routine to the delight of the regulars, as each showed of her individual talent on the dance floor in what was the era’s dirty dancing combined with large doses of the Flash Dance. At the end of that, there was a finale with a huge group number akin to the French revue at the Moulin Rouge, but with even less clothes. After the show, the dancers would mingle with the crowd and interface with them. Bertie Chin had never seen such a spectacle in his life before, he was totally speechless. But what happened next had him totally dumbfounded. The dancers then began to perform lap dances on the male clients. The sensual moves and the absence of clothes excited Bertie very much, almost to the point of wetting himself.
Then it was time for dinner. On the menu was the best seafood that was served by the most beautiful women, dressed in loose cotton dresses. Robby explained that the women would not only serve but feed clients, so that there was no need for one to use their hands. Bertie shot a from the hip query: why would one need to have their hands free? Robby winked back at him and said in conspiratorial tones that the girls will not complain if one touched them, no matter where. Bertie was incredulous and wondered why he had never heard of this before. Again, Robby had already anticipated his puzzlement and said that the restaurant was a new place, which was a branch of the famous Bangkok restaurant that operated on the same concept. As they were talking, they were ushered in to a private dining room, surrounded by twenty of the choicest women, who were the crème de la crème of the restaurant staff. A mama san was on hand and invited the gentlemen to choose which of the girls they would like to be served by, Robby deferred to Bertie, who was, after all, the one picking up the tab. Casting his eyes around the room, he felt really bad having to reject some over the others. It was just not fair, making a decision based on a five second viewing. So he told the mama san that it was better that they all stayed and that way, he could make a more informed decision the next time he dined at the restaurant. The girls let out a collective gasp and erupted in to a cacophony of twittering as they had never come across anyone who had asked for all of them at the one time. Robby immediately pulled Bertie aside and told him how much each girl would cost for the meal and Bertie said very simply that it was no problem. Robby too was astounded. He truly underestimated Bertie and the depth of his pockets. The mama san scurried outside to make preparations, while the girls continued to whisper shyly to one another while casting furtive glances at the two men, obviously discussing how all of them were to service just the two men at the same time. A ten to one ratio just didn’t make sense as there was no room for all of them to crowd around one man. The mama san scuttled back to the private room again. She decided that there would be a ten course meal and each girl would take turns for each of the courses. That way, the clients would have had ample opportunity to attain the vital information of each girl, getting a handle on their good points, and a feel for the bad. Both men thought it was the most elegant solution to the tricky problem at hand and the long dinner began with much fanfare.
The food was incredible, and the women served it up with such sensuous moves. At first, Bertie was unsure about touching the girls, so the very first one broke the ice. She held his left hand and placed it on the small of her back, and the right one on her belly. She would lean in to him as she fed him and pulled away as she picked up the next prawn or a piece of fish. The to and fro motion created a certain rhythm as the girls brushed their hair, their arm, their breasts against the men. Little by little, Bertie’s inhibitions were chipped away. The liquor being served with the food also helped to embolden him. So far, the boy-man had only discovered Canada. Soon though, there was no need for encouragement, as he explored a whole new world, making landfall as far south as Tierra del Fuego.
As dinner wound down, so did the amount of clothing the girls were wearing. By the time dessert was served, the women were down to just their underclothes. And the men, both a little tipsy by then, were having the best time of their lives as they let their fingers do the walking, and the talking.
After dinner, the men were invited upstairs to a cosier room. The mama san re-emerged and explained the next part of the evening’s proceedings to them. She said that the men could request for their favourites among the twenty, who would then give them a massage or anything else the men desired of them. Bertie, in all his innocence, did not really understand what that entailed and said that all twenty should stay. There was even more twittering among the girls and the younger ones blushed deeply. Soon, the lights were lowered, music filtered up from a side room, and the fun and games began. First, the girls stripped the men until they were absolutely naked. They laid the men on to specially constructed beds with a hole at the head for their faces to stick out from as they lay on their stomachs. The women then poured fragrant oil and began a slow massage, starting from the neck and working their way down the back, down to the tail bone, and then down the legs, all the way to the feet. Then the women worked their way up the inner legs, to the inner thighs and the buttocks, kneading and rubbing until Bertie could not control himself any longer and began to feel his loins harden. When the women finished the back, they turned the men on their backs and giggles broke out all around. Bertie’s inexperience stood out, as Robby enjoyed the massage without any tell-tale signs of arousal. The sensual massage was then raised another notch. The women took off their clothes as well, and used their bodies to massage the men, rubbing their vital zones over the men. This went on until all parties were suitably aroused. After the massage, the men were brought to a sauna and the women rubbed them down before joining them in a huge, steamy communal bath, with bubbling water from a nearby hot spring. There the fun and games continued and the kissing and caressing got even more serious. What happened next was a blur to Bertie. The tangle of human bodies made it hard to tell which arm belonged to which set of legs, or face, or breasts. Liquor spilt accidentally or poured purposefully on to sweet smooth skin, mixing the aromas of alcohol and the scent of women into a heady concoction until all motion became one big blur. There were just so many of them and they were all so nice. And like his mentor, Bertie did not know exactly with whom he had lost his virginity to that night, except that he had lost it again and again and again.
Bertie didn’t even realise it when he drifted into the sweet unconsciousness of exhaustion. When he awoke again, he was alone in the large, opulent room by himself. He found his clothes neatly folded on the sofa nearest the door, so he got dressed. Glancing at his pocket watch, he had a difficult time making out which hand was where under the alcoholic haze. He realised that he had seen only the long hand because the short hand was beneath it – five twenty something, he mumbled as he walked unsteadily towards the door. Just as he reached for the handle, the door opened for him and there Robby was, waiting. He whisked Bertie out through the back entrance and in to the waiting car, which took them to their second stop that night.
It was a hole in the wall café with the best local breakfast spread Bertie had ever eaten. When he had time to think about it, he thought perhaps, it was all that physical activity which had left him famished. But whatever the reason, Bertie did not mind a bit and he tucked in to the greasy carbo-rich food with relish, washing it down with gulps of hot coffee. By the time they finished breakfast, the sky had begun to lighten. Bertie offered to drop Robby off before he rushed home to catch some sleep and the two made plans to go out again the next evening before they parted company.
chapter 8: the road to corruption
Nuptial love makes mankind;
friendly love perfects it;
but wanton love corrupts and debases it.
Next night, and the next, and the countless next nights that followed after the first one, Bertie and Robby would begin each evening with the same routine of meeting just outside the gatehouse at the mansion, and end it with a late supper or early breakfast the next morning. In between dusk and dawn, the two so-called buddies would trawl every alley in the red light district, sampling and trying out every sexual experience there was on offer. And in the in-between times, gourmet meals were the feature, together with the best booze Bertie’s money could buy. Initially, Bertie’s appetite, sexually and gastronomically, were fairly easily satiated, given his lack of experience. At the beginning, quantity counted more than quality, like a starving man dying in a desert. But as time passed, his tastes grew more and more esoteric, as he became more discerning. It was as if Bertie had just awoken, after having been asleep in a deep slumber all his life. He started to realise how much he had been missing all those years, living in a dream world, cloistered and protected from the real world, a world that was kept from him by his father. And as he grew in his realisation, his resentment towards his parents began to take root as well. And this resentment festered and evolved into pure unadulterated hatred. He hated his father for building a cocoon around him, creating a make-believe world and shielding him from the truth, as if he could not handle reality if confronted by it. He hated his mother for never having been there for him, for abandoning him as soon as he was born, and for denying him a mother’s love that he never knew. Most of all, he hated being different. He spoke differently, dressed differently, even thought differently from the locals. His upbringing, at the hands of foreign tutors, had created a monster, a man who did not fit in to his own culture, in his own backyard.
These dark feelings drove him deeper and deeper in to the night, as he sought what he thought was the true world, and looked for love in the arms of the many women who would sell you any dream or fantasy, for the right price, that is. Of course, having Robby by his side was a blessing, in Bertie’s mind. He never once even considered that Robby was doing anything but be a good and faithful friend, nor questioned the motives for that so-called friendship. So he lived with wild abandon, and enjoyed a sex life that would have made a modern day porno-film director a fortune. Initially, his experimentations were limited to just the physical: different races and age groups, and different shapes and sizes. He had his way with fat girls, thin girls, girls with large breasts or small ones, with large butts or buns of steel, it didn’t matter to him as long as he had his daily fix. The constant stream of combinations and permutations of physical attributes only interested him so long before he had to find other differences. So, he copulated with women of different races. It was amazing what money could buy, and so he imported a steady stream of women from far flung places, who could not communicate nor understand anything that Bertie said, but sex, like love, had a universality about it, particularly when it is lubricated with the sweet scent of lucre. Whoever came up with the saying that money made the world go round probably did not know that it applied to Bertie and his foreign floozies as well. And having exhausted his interest in the colour of his sex partner’s skin tones, Bertie moved on. He then explored variations of positions, having stumbled on a copy of the Kama Sutra. This led Bertie down other minor paths that included, among others. tantric styles and the exploration of other orifices found on the human anatomy. He also experimented with sex aids like rings, and strings, rope and dope, anything that could increase the excitement level as he grew increasingly immune and desensitised to the usual stimulation.
And after having completely exhausted the female form, he expanded his universe to include trans-sexuals, which, in turn, led him to young boys, and then, much later on, outright men. Having never had any input in this area of his life when he was growing up, he was free from prejudice what so ever when it came to sex partners, and as such, he was totally undiscriminating in the early years, although he was always the initiator and the protagonist. Eventually, he grew tired and jaded with men, and ended his gay phase abruptly. Despite this one-man onslaught, however, his hunger for real love was never sated truly. So, his lust grew all the more intense and all the more avaricious, to the point of being destructive, not only to himself, but to his partners. Bertie would take particular glee in retelling the time he bedded a pastor’s wife, and then, her daughter, and later on, both mother and daughter in the same bed, at the same time. Or the time he buggered both husband and wife, while each took turns watching him perform. His depravity knew no bounds and sickened every one.
His return to normalcy was, in a way, a turning point. He had become more discerning and decided that paid sex workers just didn’t hold any challenge for him. So, he set his sights on less attainable targets. He turned his charm on women who were married, women with children, women with other women, and girls who had just turned women. He found that these women outside of the flesh trade had other expectations and aspirations. After all, they would not roll over for a simple wad of bills. This made it very much harder to bed them, and this motivated him to rise to the challenge. Although he had dashing good looks and oozed charm from every pore, he still had to learn of new ways to persuade, cajole, and make promises in order to pry them open and get to the soft juicy bits inside. It was hard work, but he relished it and found it all the more rewarding when he managed to hit his mark and take her down swiftly. All this while, though, Robby was still on hand to assist him, playing the role of point man, rear guard, and wing man all at the same time, to protect his patron.
There was a downside to these relationships because these women expected commitment after giving themselves freely to Bertie. This was antithetical to Bertie’s set of beliefs, that these were simply temporal, for the moment experiences. He had no interest in staying on past the “use by” date on these relationships. He would simply get up and leave and that was that. No amount of crying and wailing could get him to stay. And cry they did, because these women, particularly the unmarried ones, were considered “used goods” in the marriage market and could never hope nor expect to find any man who would want them as wives. So, this is where Bertie’s sense of noblesse oblige kicked in and to keep these women from being destitute, he kept them well housed and well fed. He felt particularly compelled to upkeep these women, especially if there was an illegitimate offspring in question, and this was quite a common phenomenon, given his virility and the lack of contraceptive use. So, while he was a bachelor about time, he was at the same time, a serial husband of sorts. While his relationships did not last very long, his ability to provide for his exs and their progeny, or rather, his progeny, meant that he could care for them in the material sense.
Not all his women could take the rejection, however. There were cases where these women were so depressed, they killed themselves. There was this one woman, who – while being absolutely distraught – decided to end her life in as public a manner as possible. Her name was Mimi Choo, a lusty young lass, and all of 22 when she met Bertie. She fell head over heels in love with his dashing good looks, his sharp suits and the tons of charm he oozed. When she realised that she was being dumped after less than a month, she went berserk. There was this huge fight the last night they were together. She demanded an explanation, but Bertie kept silent. When it came to starting a relationship, Bertie could talk rings around the girl, but when it came time for him to leave, the words escaped him. Perhaps, it had something to do with his need to be loved by every one, or perhaps, it was because his personality was such that he wanted to avoid all sorts of confrontation. It didn’t really bother Bertie which of those reasons his reticence stemmed from, after all, he was not in to silent reflection. To minimise this sort of violent reactions to his departure, he would slip quietly away in to the night. As for Mimi Choo, however, she felt that deserved something more than the deafening silence, so she locked all the doors and stopped him from leaving. She yelled at him, cried, pulled her own hair to no avail. In her frustration and anger, she flung a 12-inch kitchen knife at him, but missed him by several feet. She then hurled herself at him, punching, scratching and kicking. She even jammed her fingers all the way up his nostrils and in to the nasal cavity till it bled from the unexpected penetration. He put up his arms to protect his face from the vicious onslaught, only to find that she had taken a huge bite in to his leading forearm and tenaciously refused to release her vise like grip, clenching her jaws even tighter when he tried to struggle free. In the end, he had to lie that he was not leaving before she relented, and cried for several days after. When he did find the opportunity to eventually slip away, Mimi’s spirit nosedived and turned her anger inward, injuring her self. Towards the end of her dementia, she stabbed herself with that same 12-inch blade she had thrown at Bertie, and proceeded to write out – in her own blood – cursing Bertie Chin and his after life until she lost consciousness and expired. The colonial police found her lying face down in her own pool of blood and Bertie’s name on the floor and walls. They had to move discreetly because the elder Chin was a highly respected member of the ruling elite, and so they came to the house and politely asked for Bertie. Unfortunately, Bertie was on one of his tomcat jaunts and hadn’t heard of Mimi Choo’s demise. His father had to send a team of men to scour for him and return him to the police post. There Bertie showed them the swollen arm and the bruises of his abuse. He told them that he had never laid a fist on her and explained her state of mind when he last saw her. After a few other quiet interviews, the matter of Mimi Choo was laid quietly to rest. The verdict after the inquiry? Misadventure. And the bite that Mimi took out of his arm? The muscle swelled several times larger and turned an angry red within the oval bite mark. Bertie had to say that a mad dog had bitten him on the arm, but he would blush because he knew the truth about what he had done to her. When the bite healed, the oval shape stayed about a tenth on an inch higher than the rest of the arm, a constant reminder to Bertie Chin that would stay with him the rest of his days.
There was another, who attempted to kill Bertie with an elephant gun and then jump to her death. Thankfully, she was a horrible shot and all she succeeded in doing was grazing Robby across his left cheek instead, and was stopped just in time before she she had a chance to fling herself off the tallest parapet she could find at the local mosque. Others never emerged from their depression and became mentally unstable or totally mad. There were many other equally unstable women who would stalk Bertie months after he had dumped them. They would make all kinds of threats to Bertie and his latest fling. Unfortunately or fortunately, nothing more came of these. Most of the women managed to weather through the storm that was Bertie Chin, benefited from his endowment of property and money, and moved on with their lives, while Bertie moved on with his.
Subconsciously, Bertie’s drive to procreate may have stemmed from his father’s desire for an heir. Except that in Bertie’s case, the motive to get heirs wasn’t as clearm his desire to sire was disproportionate, and his attempt to mate with the entire female population outside of wedlock was perverse. This part of Bertie’s lifestyle continued through his entire lifespan and did not stop even after he had gotten married. In fact, he had felt trapped because of his marriage, and this feeling of being caged actually drove him to run away from his family for a good six months. It was only after a lot of coaxing and cajoling, and threats to cut off his funds that brought Bertie home to his brand new bride whom he had abandoned after the 18-day ceremony concluded.
chapter 9: Bertie's favourites - part 1: Emily
Everyone is dragged on by their favourite pleasure.
For someone who was not capable of falling in love, let alone love, Bertie’s fascination with a handful of his partners seemed to approximate that. They were his favourites, for some reason or another. Although he grew tired of a relationship quickly, and never cared for any long term connections, these relationships stood out because they were the most enduring, inexplicably long lasting.
One of these was a matronly handsome woman of statuesque proportions named Emily. Standing barefoot, from the floor to the the top of her head, she measured a towering six foot two. She had a full hourglass figure that was quite Rubenesque, unlike the skinny things that modern men had to make do with and would turn idol wannabes, such as Olinda green with envy. Her hair was slightly wavy, and fell down to her narrow 26 inch waist if she did not tie it up. She was busty, and would have more than filled out a modern bra with a 34 C cup, without the need for any push-up aids. Most men were intimidated by her, especially the Asian men, who were far shorter than her. All they would be talking to were her tits, which came up to their eye line, and what fine ones they were too. It took some one like Bertie, who had no preconceived ideas of what should or should not be, to not get frightened off by her sheer physical size. For that, she truly loved Bertie and devoted herself to him, even knowing that the man would never be able to reciprocate.
Bertie was very much like her cat. It would drift in and out of her life whenever it pleased. It would come round at feeding time, and rub her on the leg, and would disappear as soon as it was fed, and not to be seen again for several days. Bertie would come to her when he needed to feel pampered. She would cook for him, read to him long passages of poems, and cuddle with him. In her arms, Bertie would revert to a much younger age, perhaps in an attempt to seek out maternal linkages where there had been none. And when he grew bored, he would move on again and disappear for ages. But he always came back to her, and she was glad whenever he did.
Bertie had set her up well. He bought her a nice airy house and enough money to buy several more. However, being a thrifty woman, she kept her money in a bank, living off the interest earned from the principal amount. With her simple material needs cared for, Emily devoted her time alone to more artistic pursuits: she wrote poetry, painted landscapes, sewed and embroidered. She loved the arts and would often go alone to Shakespearean plays and orchestral performances. Although she was alone most of the time, she did not feel the need to seek out other male companions, and remained ever faithful to her Bertie. She never questioned his intentions, nor queried his long absences. Perhaps, her undemanding ways endeared her to Bertie. There was no pressure from Emily for something more that he probably was unable to give. Her unconditional love sustained him during the low points of his life and at some level, she thought that he had loved her back in return.
It was with Emily that Bertie discovered that he had been abused as a child by one of his many nannies. The revelation came to him one day, as they were both lying naked in bed. She was stroking him while reading from Shakespeare’s sonnets:
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding:
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a totter'd weed of small worth held:
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.
“Shall I go on, Bertie? Or have you fallen asleep?” she asked.
Bertie nodded in silent reply.
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose unear'd womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother's glass and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remember'd not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.
Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thy self thy beauty's legacy?
Nature's bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free:
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,
Which, used, lives th' executor to be.
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'er-snowed and bareness every where:
Then were not summer's distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distill'd, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
Then let not winter's ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That's for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.
“A little cold are we? Here, cover yourself with this,’’ she said as she passed him the duvet.
Lo! in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty;
And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes, 'fore duteous, now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way:
So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon
Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son.
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
That thou consum'st thy self in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind:
Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.
For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thy self art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lov'st is most evident:
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,
That 'gainst thy self thou stick'st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.
Her voice trailed off. She noticed he was crying softly. She asked him what was the matter and he told her what he remembered.
He said he was still quite young, about three or four. Among his many nannies, there was a particular woman with huge, pendulous breasts and equally puffy nipples. She would feed him late in the evening when most of the other nannies and nursemaids had turned in for the night. In his half awake state and with his mouth latched firmly on her nipple, he thought she had pulled his pyjama bottoms and felt her start to stroke him between his legs. At first it felt uncomfortable and he had tried to squirm away. But she was insistent. She would grab him with her free hands and stroked and rubbed his little wee wee. She would do this until he was fully aroused, and then, even more purposefully until he wet himself. She would giggle to herself as he did and then, she would clean him up rather efficiently and continue with the feeding as if nothing had happened. It had happened so often, that he became used to the nightly routine and would miss her terribly if she did not show up at her regular slot. She told him not to tell anyone about the little massage as it was their secret, so he never told anyone about it. The abuse had gone on for at least a year before the woman quit her job for another position in Hong Kong. Bertie was devastated at her leaving, and when he remembered again the sense of loss flooded over him. So Emily held his head to her breast, and began to stroke him down there. He fixed his lips around her nipples, closed his eyes and things seemed better again.