Another witness of the Duke's arrival couldn't care less about either politics or love, although he does enjoy a royal celebrity as much as anyone, and also deals in love's base simulacra. Jacob Meyer speaks six languages with great facility and traffics Jewish girls in all of them, from Bombay to Brazil. He stands now watching the royal frigate from the veranda of a small but respectable private hotel, which, as its advertisement in the China Mail declares, offers a splendid view of the harbour and home comforts to the discriminating traveller.
Jacob only arrived yesterday himself, come from that jewel in the imperial diadem, India, via the bustling international settlement of Shanghai, where he hopes to open a select and profitable house.
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Although he delights in the spectacle, and even laughs at the thunder of the guns as he simultaneously claps his delicate hands over his ears, his presence here has nothing to do with Prince Alfred. His business, like Wilhelm Fischer's, and even, though he doesn't know it yet, Prince Alfred himself's, is with the Jewish courtesan, Franziska Goldmann. Woken by the royal salute, Franziska lies listening now to the street cries just below her open windows. They rise up muffled through the slats of the heavy wooden shutters into her bedroom, where the morning sun slants bright bars of light against the wall.
She pictures the scene lazily, her eyes still closed. Hoi lo! Behind the rosy membranes of her closed eyelids, Franziska imagines the bearers' queues twitching as they trot along the narrow street with their springy step, their round straw hats on their half-shaved skulls, their calves bulging above their bare or barely covered feet. When she hears the cries of the rubbish-collectors and the porcelain-menders, she opens her eyes, stretches again and gets slowly out of bed.
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She doesn't like what she sees: a thirty-year-old woman passing her peak. Those dark shadows under her eyes, those little lines in her face like fine cracks in the glaze of a once-flawless vase, that mild weightiness about her chin She throws her long dark hair back to examine her neck for signs of age. What will Jacob Meyer think of her, coming all the way from India to talk to her about Shanghai? What, she smiles wryly, would Prince Alfred, if he knew she was here?
And then she thinks of her lover Wilhelm Fischer. What will he think when she tells him what she's considering doing? There her eyes dull while her mind goes blank, or wanders forlornly, rather, through its blankness, until her amah Ah Yi comes in with two large jugs of hot water. Mrs Lo's downstairs. It is late, her manner declares, I have work to do, and you've kept me waiting till you condescend to wake up - what sort of behaviour is that?
And yet in her peevishness is a sort of solicitous intimacy, as though she was an older sister or an aunt, rather than a servant.
Bei di cha keui,' Franziska answers in their customary mixture of Pidgin and Cantonese. Give her some tea. Ah Yi stamps out, her wide three-quarter length black trousers flapping irritably round her calves, while Franziska drops her nightgown and surveys her whole body now in front of the mirror. She pats her stomach, turns this way and that to examine her hips, weighs her ample breasts in her hands like over-ripe fruit she's not quite sure she'd want to buy.
Yes, she sighs. In a few years her body will be flabby, there's no help for it. Her hand strays down to just touch the tattoo on her groin. Criminals in Hong Kong are often tattooed too, she thinks. On their left ear lobe, though, not there, and for a different reason. But hers too is in its way a badge of shame - or is it, she wonders with another wry smile, rather just a campaign medal?
She has seen enough. Stepping into the hip bath behind the lacquered Chinese screen, she soaps, sponges and dries herself with a kind of melancholy attention, almost as though she was laying herself out, not preparing for a busy and it might be an epochal day. As she dresses, she listens to the murmur of Lo Tai's voice and Ah Yi's grudging responses.
She knows as well as Ah Yi does what to expect from Lo Tai, and perhaps that knowledge makes her linger before she finally descends to greet her. Lo Tai is a sharp little bundle of a woman with bright smiling eyes - and so they should be, she has much to smile about. Franziska's fifty-year-old landlady, an enterprising Tanka woman, formerly the 'protected woman,' or mistress, of an Austrian trader, is now, thanks to his bequest to her, an independent and wealthy property-owner in the less reputable districts of Hong Kong. Besides her property interests, Lo Tai, who in the past has been suspected of dabbling in piracy - the Tanka are poor and outcast boat people, almost driven to that calling - has another interest, arising from her career as a 'protected woman.
New, Christopher. Published Chicago : Earnshaw Books, Language English. Author New, Christopher. China -- Hong Kong. Summary Franziska Goldmann, an opera singer fallen on hard times, has become the star courtesan in 19th century Hong Kong. A chance encounter with Queen Victoria's musical second son seems to offer Franziska an opportunity to resume her career as a singer. But, it is the other unpredictable characters in her life, including her German anarchist lover and a devious procurer, who may ultimately determine her destiny.
The haunting story of a lone woman's struggle to escape her fate, this story unfolds against the ironically observed background of colonial society, from the waterfront brothels to the mans. Notes Description based upon print version of record. ProQuest Ebook Central Rental. Other Form Print version New, Christopher. Gage Street Courtesan. Sally Heinrich. A Daughter's Memoir of Burma.
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