Between Europe and Asia
Short stories
Princess Nirgidma
Ubashi’s Concubine
A Journey In Inner-Mongolia

Ubashi’s Concubine (postlude to The Mandate)

Carl Barkman

Ubashi’s former concubine, Meilan, stayed in the luxurious ger which she had been provided with. Ubashi himself, for all his vanity, was soon forgotten, but all attention was now secretly focussed on the Chinese beauty. The common people associated her with Ubashi’s extravagant spending and his dependence on the Chinese; they hated her and jeered at her when she went by in her sedan-chair.

But among the princes and nobles many a man who saw that exquisite face, those almond eyes, arched brows and shapely neck, half-hidden by her sedan’s curtain, felt his blood rise. Asaray soon became one of them, however hard he tried to dismiss her from his mind.

The new Khan was administering justice when a young man of noble blood was brought into court.

“What have you done, Sandukshereng?”

“I have been mad, Your Honour. Night and day I have thought of nothing else but the beautiful Chinese concubine, left all by herself in her tent, unprotected, wasted. Last night, I crawled unseen into her ger, giddy with desire and ready to hurl myself upon that lovely creature. But she awoke and her shriek warned the lone guard on duty. I confess it was very wrong what I did and I beg forgiveness, Your Honour.”

A group of spectators had gathered and, when Sandukshereng made his confession, a ripple of excitement went through the crowd.

“You certainly behaved shamefully, Sandukshereng! Entering illegally and with lustful intent the living quarters of a lady is a serious crime(there was some sniggering here from the crowd at his reference to Meilan as a lady).

”However, since this is the first stain on your noble character, I shall let you off with a light punishment and a stern warning. You will pay a fine of six of your best horses, to be selected by a court official, but if ever you should infringe upon the law again you will receive the severest punishment.”

Sandukshereng bowed deeply, thanked the Khan and left. The news of what had happened ran through Asaray’s and all the neighbouring ulus, heightening the general sense of drama. “You should have punished that young, romantic rascal much more severely, Asaray, so as to set an example,” said Badma.

“Have you heard the latest?” she asked. “Galdambo, normally a quiet, serious man, was seen circling Meilan’s ger for hours and had to be chased away by the guard. And he’s not the only one! All the men are losing their heads over her.”

Asaray caught himself making enquiries about Meilan’s movements and he went to the bazaar when he knew the Chinese woman was there, just to get a glimpse of her. The third time this happened he approached Meilan and spoke some kind words to her. She looked up at him with shining eyes which seemed to hold a promise, then said, her eyes lowered demurely, that she felt greatly honoured that the Khan had noticed her poor, insignificant self. This was just one of those Chinese polite phrases, but it was followed by such an unexpected contrast that Asaray stood thunderstruck: she flashed a look at him, so fervent, so passionate, that he knew for certain, that very moment, that he must possess her, if only once. No word was exchanged and both went on their way.

The yearning of so many and the frustration of their passion could not go unnoticed, least of all by the seemingly vulnerable, yet all-powerful object of their desire. She naturally enjoyed this situation and by a surreptitious glance or playful half-smile would fan her admirers’ ardour which was further heightened by the knowledge that she was, after all, a highly accomplished, sensual, professional courtesan.

Before long it was as if a current of burning curiosity and lust ran through the various ulus, an insane longing for this lovely, delicate woman, who was now unattached, unprotected and therefore, they imagined, available. The air hung heavy and hot over the hundreds of gers where men were indulging in delicious fantasies and dreams, or suffering unbearable yearning.

Some of the wives did not mind much this extraordinary situation, when their husbands, in a burst of vicarious passion, made frantic love with them. But most of them now felt neglected by their husbands and hated the ‘demoniacal’ Chinese woman whose very presence had thrown the whole camp in commotion and driven the men mad.

One day Meilan’s maid came running to bring Asaray an urgent message from her mistress: A hostile crowd, mostly women, had gathered around her ger threatening her, and the only guard that was left her, could not cope. She was terribly frightened and asked for help. Asaray immediately went there with his guardsmen, dispersed the crowd, had some of them arrested, and comforted the trembling and badly shaken Meilan. That night he stayed with her and was magnificently rewarded for having come to her rescue. The next day he ordered her ger to be moved to his camp.

With blazing eyes Badma asked him what this meant but Asaray countered:

“Now this is none of your business. This is not a domestic matter; it’s entirely my competence. You had better be polite to our new neighbour.”

Badma was furious. She tried everything to evict Meilan but to no avail, for Asaray stood firm. Badma had had sufficient experience in life to know that man was not by nature monogamous, and she also soon realised that although Asaray occasionally spent some time with Meilan, it was his wife whom he really loved. When she finally acquiesced in this situation, peace returned in the family.