A CHINESE CHAPTER. Jul 30, 2016 15:15:30 GMT 12
Post by nzbc on Jul 30, 2016 15:15:30 GMT 12
A CHINESE CHAPTER.
(By Eric Baume.)
"H UT do you ever play pakapu?" X I entreated of Ah Yip. But **•' Ah Yip was as the Sphinx. His cunning Oriental face, with its crafty eyes and sensual mouth, was as immovable as the Town Hall. He was as an oyster, comfortable behind its closed shell. Mind, I like Chinamen. I have mixed with them in business and. out, and I flatter myself I can understand them, and get on with them; but Ah Yip—well, it was about as much use trying to "pump" him as to ride on the railway without a ticket. T always got the worst of the encounter. I had known him some time. I had gone to his quong hop, his laundry, to get some shirts done. I had asked for more gloss on my stiff fronts and cuffs, and I had been told politely, Orientally, and decisively, to go— well, 1 can't tell the Chinese equivalent. But I still took my shirts to Ah Yip. and somewhat reluctantly was admitted to the outer circle of his friends. So our conversation. I was sitting in Ah Yip's parlour, behind the laundry. It was a clean, tidy little den, with its wicker chairs, its deal table, the big ash tray on the floor. Ah Yip was sitting puffing contentedly at his enormous nong ke Chinese pipe, in an armchair. I was squatting on the table, beside me a whisky and soda, and a cigarette in my mouth. "You gottem dam fine ta'lk-a-lot," said Ah Yip. "I no, no. You all same come in a here—talka me—you askey me tell urn pakapu— n>oii—(bad) —you wantum know too velly much!" I was baffled for the mirute Ah Yip knew very well that no mention of any Chinese tong or secret would ever be breathed from my lips, but anyway. "Ah Yip," I said solemnly, "You talk like that to me—me who you have as friend—me you give hospitality" —1 didn't say hospitality as a matter 05 fact, because Ah Yip's brain was not always entirely comprehensive of blue-stocking Aucklandese. Ah Yip: "I say quongee fatchery. I. am friend. Still I ask no more. Godmgbt, No chum." And I took my stick and hat in preparation of departure. It was then Ah Yip came out of his shell. "No, f angkwe; no, you lemain here. I telem you." In surprise I came back, and was told a story which I will remember for years as one of the saddest I have ever heard. It is a long one, and for purposes of clearness I will omit the habittal "pidgin English" of Yip and his kind.
"White man, listen. You have been my friend. When I smiled you smiled. We were as brothers. You have eaten my rice" (thank heaven he meant it as a metaphor), " you have drunk my kah-tea. I will tell you a story. Long ago I was mong gui—young man—in a large town in China. You call it Shanghai. Me, I cally it Home of Fankkwe—the foreign devil. Ido not mean the Englishman. No. The Spaniard, the Italian, the German—they are the brutal ones. They treat us like dogs and call us 'gong' (coolie), and spit on us. Well, I lived there—my brothel See Ning and me. He was not little man—not sin san, like me. No, he was tall, big, quong fan— waa'rior. We lived happily for many years—not coolies. No. We had sweetmeat stand. Yes" (and the little man puffed reminiscently at his pipe), we sell all sweet, things—powdered tree bark, the bark of the ong tree—makes fine candy—and we sell all kinds. We made perhaps five tael? silver a week. Well, one day my brother came to me and said he wanted to travel, to go far and get wife—get children, you know " "Yes, Yip," I smiled. "Yes, chey (friend), but continue, you tell a fine yarn?''
"Oh, keeppm Idiot, you talkem too muchee," growled Ah.Yip. Nevertheless lie continued. ,
"My brother went to Hong Kong. Ah." and the little Celestial scowled. "Yes; h0 went to Hong Kong. A bad place-r-n'o good at all for decent Chinaman."
"But, Ah Yipi" I remonstrated, "I've been to Hong Kong—l could sp ; >n a white 'un or so—and I found it a good place." Ah Yip silenced me with a look, and continued:
"Well, by and by my brother go work. He went on the Mong Lee Docker, you know?"
This to me. "oh> yes, I lied, glibly; ' 'but 'er go on, Yip."
Alhi, don't gettum closs," said Yip. "Well, he was made bhief coohe on the basket work on Big i Quart —10 cash a day—good for a Chinaman. He Worked there for man* months. One night, going back sho hin,«r (home) after work, he saw a man lying on the groundmoaning. He did not pass him by, but took him home to his little room. The man was German—Dorff—■ and he had been knifed by the tongs— the highbinders. My brother was a good man, and he bared If or this fang kwe. And soon Dorff got bettor. He said he was my brother's great friend—his chey. He said he was my brother's friend." Bah, the little Oriental puckered up his face in a Chinese sneer. To those who have never seen a Chinaman sneer the realisation of how expressive an Oriental can make his features cannot come. "Yes, he borrowed my brother's money, steal his clothes. Ah! Yah me ping me trow! At lasf he enticed my brother into telling him all the secrets of our religion—paknpu—sing noo fan tan. All ' which the white devils of Shanghai and Hong Kong had forbade. Mv brother took him all over the 'bank.' showed him all, telling ' the other Cninamen Dorff was his friend, his chey. Then—oh, in a week it seem-ed--the police came. They raided all banks, all temples, pakapu, everything. My brother was in Ling Lo, the saored gambling house, where our good Confucius forbade any other people tread—where the magistrates sept black-face Hindus under a white man to arrest all the votaries and gamblers. My brother was big ;and strong; he would not give in ; so they shot him. Ah! the devils, the dogs." Tears were (running down Ah Yip's face now, an unusual thing for a Celestial. "Yes," he said, "that German 'friend,' that taillcs-4 son of a devil, got a big reward from the authorities. And— and my brother —died. Now, you see, chey, why I do not speak of our gambling, our custom. It is sacred, tli j privilege of our trace. Well, now boss—cr —you likem thesee cuffs stiff or soft, eh?—but I had tip-toed out.
I went into Ah Yip's the other d-iy for a yarn, but after my "holo mah sin sail," all I got was an uninviting "hal'man!" But, of course, Ah Yip is a Chinaman.