CHAPTER XI. Painting in Seoul - Messages from the king - Royal princes sitting for their portraits - Breaking the mourning law - Quaint notions - Delight and despair - Calling in of State ceremony - Corean soldiers - How they mount guard - Drill.
I, on my, side, took things quite philosophically, after having recovered from the first shock; and, taking off the other shoe, put it also on the table, gracefully, and quite in the Eastern fashion, begging the Prince to accept the pair as a gift, if he was agreeable to have them. Fortunately for me, however, he even more gracefully declined the offer, though, as long as our interview lasted, I noticed that his eyes were constantly fixed on them and that every now and then he again went into raptures over them!
On the occasion of this visit I presented him with a portrait of himself reproduced on a small scale from the larger painting which I had made. He seemed to much appreciate this picture so far as the painting was concerned, but was much taken aback when he discovered that it was on the surface of a wooden panel and could not, therefore, be rolled up. The Eastern idea is that, to preserve a picture, it should always be kept rolled, and unrolled as seldom as possible, that is to say, only on grand solemnities.
When it was time to go, the Prince conducted me to the door in person, and, having had my shoes put on and laced by one of his pages, I finally took my leave of him.
A very curious episode, the direct consequence of my having portrayed these Princes, occurred some days afterwards. I was walking in the grounds of Mr. Greathouse's residence, when I perceived a number of coolies, headed by two soldiers and a sort of Maggiordomo, coming towards the house. They were carrying several baskets, while the Maggiordomo himself gracefully held a note between two fingers. As soon as they saw me, the Maggiordomo made a grand bow, and, delivering the letter into my hands, said that it came from Prince Min-Young-Huan, the Commander-in-chief of the Corean army. What astonished me even more was that he placed at my feet the different baskets and parcels, announcing that they were now my property. The letter ran as follows:
"MY DEAR MR. LANDOR, - I send you some Corean hens, and some eggs,
and some persimmons, and some beef, and some pork, and some nuts,
and some screens, and a leopard skin. I hope that you will
receive them. I thank you very much for the beautiful picture you
have done of me, and I send you this as a remembrance of
me. - Your friend,
Greathouse and all the household having been at once summoned, the gifts were duly displayed and admired. The eggs numbered four hundred; then, there were ten live native hens with lovely feathers, about forty pounds of beef and pork, and two full bags, the one of nuts and the other of persimmons. There was enough to last one a month. The part of the present which pleased me most, however, was that containing the split bamboo window screens, which are only manufactured for, and presented to the King and royal princes by faithful subjects, and can scarcely be obtained for love or money under ordinary circumstances. The leopard skin, also, was a lovely one of its kind, with long fur and fat long tail, beautifully marked, in short an excellent specimen of what is called, I believe, a snow-leopard. Never before had I made so good a bargain for any picture of mine, and I could not but wonder whether I should ever again have another like it.
I am sorry to say that a large portion of the eggs were consumed in making egg-noggs, an excellent American drink, at the concocting of which Greathouse was a master, a sustaining "refresher" which helped us much in passing away the long dull winter evenings. The hens, whose plumage we much admired, were let loose for some days, but they created such a nuisance with their early crowing, that they were soon condemned, like most hens, to suffer from an overstretch of neck. The screens and leopard-skins I brought back with me to England as a memento of my portrait-painting experiences in Corea, and these I still possess.