Goldsmith's Friend Abroad Again
by Mark Twain
NOTE.--No experience is set down in the following letters which had to be
invented. Fancy is not needed to give variety to the history of a
Chinaman's sojourn in America. Plain fact is amply sufficient.
DEAR CHING-FOO: It is all settled, and I am to leave my oppressed
and overburdened native land and cross the sea to that noble realm
where all are free and all equal, and none reviled or abused--America!
America, whose precious privilege it is to call herself the Land of
the Free and the Home of the Brave. We and all that are about us here
look over the waves longingly, contrasting the privations of this our
birthplace with the opulent comfort of that happy refuge. We know how
America has welcomed the Germans and the Frenchmen and the stricken
and sorrowing Irish, and we know how she has given them bread and
work, and liberty, and how grateful they are. And we know that
America stands ready to welcome all other oppressed peoples and offer
her abundance to all that come, without asking what their nationality
is, or their creed or color. And, without being told it, we know that
the, foreign sufferers she has rescued from oppression and starvation
are the most eager of her children to welcome us, because, having
suffered themselves, they know what suffering is, and having been
generously succored, they long to be generous to other unfortunates
and thus show that magnanimity is not wasted upon them.
AH SONG HI.
AT SEA, 18--.
DEAR CHING-FOO: We are far away at sea now; on our way to the
beautiful Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. We shall soon be
where all men are alike, and where sorrow is not known.
The good American who hired me to go to his country is to pay me
$12 a month, which is immense wages, you know--twenty times as much as
one gets in China. My passage in the ship is a very large
sum--indeed, it is a fortune--and this I must pay myself eventually,
but I am allowed ample time to make it good to my employer in, he
advancing it now. For a mere form, I have turned over my wife, my
boy, and my two daughters to my employer's partner for security for
the payment of the ship fare. But my employer says they are in no
danger of being sold, for he knows I will be faithful to him, and that
is the main security.
I thought I would have twelve dollars to, begin life with in
America, but the American Consul took two of them for making a
certificate that I was shipped on the steamer. He has no right to do
more than charge the ship two dollars for one certificate for the
ship, with the number of her Chinese passengers set down in it; but he
chooses to force a certificate upon each and every Chinaman and put
the two dollars in his pocket. As 1,300 of my countrymen are in this
vessel, the Consul received $2,600 for certificates. My employer
tells me that the Government at Washington know of this fraud, and are
so bitterly opposed to the existence of such a wrong that they tried
hard to have the extor-- the fee, I mean, legalised by the last
Congress;--[Pacific and Mediterranean steamship bills.(Ed. Mem.)]--
but as the bill did not pass, the Consul will have to take the fee
dishonestly until next Congress makes it legitimate. It is a great
and good and noble country, and hates all forms of vice and chicanery.
We are in that part of the vessel always reserved for my
countrymen. It is called the steerage. It is kept for us, my employer
says, because it is not subject to changes of temperature and
dangerous drafts of air. It is only another instance of the loving
unselfishness of the Americans for all unfortunate foreigners. The
steerage is a little crowded, and rather warm and close, but no doubt
it is best for us that it should be so.
Yesterday our people got to quarrelling among themselves, and the
captain turned a volume of hot steam upon a mass of them and scalded
eighty or ninety of them more or less severely. Flakes and ribbons of
skin came off some of them. There was wild shrieking and struggling
while the vapour enveloped the great throng, and so some who were not
scalded got trampled upon and hurt. We do not complain, for my
employer says this is the usual way of quieting disturbances on board
the ship, and that it is done in the cabins among the Americans every
day or two.
Congratulate me, Ching-Fool In ten days more I shall step upon the
shore of America, and be received by her great-hearted people; and I
shall straighten myself up and feel that I am a free man among
AH SONG HI.
SAN FRANCISCO, 18-.
DEAR CHING-FOO: I stepped ashore jubilant! I wanted to dance,
shout, sing, worship the generous Land of the Free and Home of the
Brave. But as I walked from the gangplank a man in a gray uniform
--[Policeman]-- kicked me violently behind and told me to look out--so
my employer translated it. As I turned, another officer of the same
kind struck me with a short club and also instructed me to look out.
I was about to take hold of my end of the pole which had mine and
Hong-Wo's basket and things suspended from it, when a third officer
hit me with his club to signify that I was to drop it, and then kicked
me to signify that he was satisfied with my promptness. Another
person came now, and searched all through our basket and bundles,
emptying everything out on the dirty wharf. Then this person and
another searched us all over. They found a little package of opium
sewed into the artificial part of Hong-Wo's queue, and they took that,
and also they made him prisoner and handed him over to an officer, who
marched him away. They took his luggage, too, because of his crime,
and as our luggage was so mixed together that they could not tell mine
from his, they took it all. When I offered to help divide it, they
kicked me and desired me to look out.
Having now no baggage and no companion, I told my employer that if
he was willing, I would walk about a little and see the city and the
people until he needed me. I did not like to seem disappointed with
my reception in the good land of refuge for the oppressed, and so I
looked and spoke as cheerily as I could. But he said, wait a
minute--I must be vaccinated to prevent my taking the small-pox. I
smiled and said I had already had the small-pox, as he could see by
the marks, and so I need not wait to be "vaccinated," as he called it.
But he said it was the law, and I must be vaccinated anyhow. The
doctor would never let me pass, for the law obliged him to vaccinate
all Chinamen and charge them ten dollars apiece for it, and I might be
sure that no doctor who would be the servant of that law would let a
fee slip through his fingers to accommodate any absurd fool who had
seen fit to have the disease in some other country. And presently the
doctor came and did his work and took my last penny--my ten dollars
which were the hard savings of nearly a year and a half of labour and
privation. Ah, if the law-makers had only known there were plenty of
doctors in the city glad of a chance to vaccinate people for a dollar
or two, they would never have put the price up so high against a poor
friendless Irish, or Italian, or Chinese pauper fleeing to the good
land to escape hunger and hard times.
AH SONG HI.
SAN FRANCISCO, 18--.
DEAR CHING-FOO: I have been here about a month now, and am learning
a little of the language every day. My employer was disappointed in
the matter of hiring us out to service to the plantations in the far
eastern portion of this continent. His enterprise was a failure, and
so he set us all free, merely taking measures to secure to himself the
repayment of the passage money which he paid for us. We are to make
this good to him out of the first moneys we earn here. He says it is
sixty dollars apiece.
We were thus set free about two weeks after we reached here. We
had been massed together in some small houses up to that time,
waiting. I walked forth to seek my fortune. I was to begin life a
stranger in a strange land, without a friend, or a penny, or any
clothes but those I had on my back. I had not any advantage on my
side in the world--not one, except good health and the lack of any
necessity to waste any time or anxiety on the watching of my baggage.
No, I forget. I reflected that I had one prodigious advantage over
paupers in other lands--I was in America! I was in the
heaven-provided refuge of the oppressed and the forsaken!
Just as that comforting thought passed through my mind, some young
men set a fierce dog on me. I tried to defend myself, but could do
nothing. I retreated to the recess of a closed doorway, and there the
dog had me at his mercy, flying at my throat and face or any part of
my body that presented itself. I shrieked for help, but the young men
only jeered and laughed. Two men in gray uniforms ( policemen is
their official title) looked on for a minute and then walked leisurely
away. But a man stopped them and brought them back and told them it
was a shame to leave me in such distress. Then the two policemen beat
off the dog with small clubs, and a comfort it was to be rid of him,
though I was just rags and blood from head to foot. The man who
brought the policemen asked the young men why they abused me in that
way, and they said they didn't want any of his meddling. And they
said to him:
"This Ching divil comes till Ameriky to take the bread out o'
dacent intilligent white men's mouths, and whir they try to defind
their rights there's a dale o' fuss made about it."
They began to threaten my benefactor, and as he saw no friendliness
in the faces that had gathered meanwhile, he went on his way. He got
many a curse when he was gone. The policemen now told me I was under
arrest and must go with them. I asked one of them what wrong I had
done to any one that I should be arrested, and he only struck me with
his club and ordered me to "hold my yap." With a jeering crowd of
street boys and loafers at my heels, I was taken up an alley and into
a stone-paved dungeon which had large cells all down one side of it,
with iron gates to them. I stood up by a desk while a man behind it
wrote down certain things about me on a slate. One of my captors
"Enter a charge against this Chinaman of being disorderly and
disturbing the peace."
I attempted to say a word, but he said:
"Silence! Now ye had better go slow, my good fellow. This is two
or three times you've tried to get off some of your d---d insolence.
Lip won't do here. You've got to simmer down, and if you don't take
to it paceable we'll see if we can't make you. Fat's your name?"
"Ah Song Hi."
I said I did not understand, and he said what he wanted was my true
name, for he guessed I picked up this one since I stole my last
chickens. They all laughed loudly at that.
Then they searched me. They found nothing, of course. They seemed
very angry and asked who I supposed would "go my bail or pay my fine."
When they explained these things to me, I said I had done nobody any
harm, and why should I need to have bail or pay a fine? Both of them
kicked me and warned me that I would find it to my advantage to try
and be as civil as convenient. I protested that I had not meant
anything disrespectful. Then one of them took me to one side and said:
"Now look here, Johnny, it's no use you playing softly wid us. We
mane business, ye know; and the sooner ye put us on the scent of a V,
the asier yell save yerself from a dale of trouble. Ye can't get out
o' this for anny less. Who's your frinds?"
I told him I had not a single friend in all the land of America,
and that I was far from home and help, and very poor. And I begged
him to let me go.
He gathered the slack of my blouse collar in his grip and jerked
and shoved and hauled at me across the dungeon, and then unlocking an
iron cell-gate thrust me in with a kick and said:
"Rot there, ye furrin spawn, till ye lairn that there's no room in
America for the likes of ye or your nation."
AH SONG HI.
SAN FRANCISCO, 18--.
DEAR CHING-FOO: You will remember that I had just been thrust
violently into a cell in the city prison when I wrote last. I
stumbled and fell on some one. I got a blow and a curse= and on top
of these a kick or two and a shove. In a second or two it was plain
that I was in a nest of prisoners and was being "passed around"--for
the instant I was knocked out of the way of one I fell on the head or
heels of another and was promptly ejected, only to land on a third
prisoner and get a new contribution of kicks and curses and a new
destination. I brought up at last in an unoccupied corner, very much
battered and bruised and sore, but glad enough to be let alone for a
little while. I was on the flag- stones, for there was, no furniture
in the den except a long, broad board, or combination of boards, like
a barn-door, and this bed was accommodating five or six persons, and
that was its full capacity. They lay stretched side by side,
snoring--when not fighting. One end of the board was four, inches
higher than the other, and so the slant answered for a pillow. There
were no blankets, and the night was a little chilly; the nights are
always a little chilly in San Francisco, though never severely cold.
The board was a deal more comfortable than the stones, and
occasionally some flag-stone plebeian like me would try to creep to a
place on it; and then the aristocrats would hammer him good and make
him think a flag pavement was a nice enough place after all.
I lay quiet in my corner, stroking my bruises, and listening to the
revelations the prisoners made to each other--and to me for some that
were near me talked to me a good deal. I had long had an idea that
Americans, being free, had no need of prisons, which are a contrivance
of despots for keeping restless patriots out of mischief. So I was
considerably surprised to find out my mistake.
Ours was a big general cell, it seemed, for the temporary
accommodation of all comers whose crimes were trifling. Among us they
were two Americans, two "Greasers" (Mexicans), a Frenchman, a German,
four Irishmen, a Chilenean (and, in the next cell, only separated from
us by a grating, two women), all drunk, and all more or less noisy;
and as night fell and advanced, they grew more and more discontented
and disorderly, occasionally; shaking the prison bars and glaring
through them at the slowly pacing officer, and cursing him with all
their hearts. The two women were nearly middle-aged, and they had
only had enough liquor to stimulate instead of stupefy them.
Consequently they would fondle and kiss each other for some minutes,
and then fall to fighting and keep it up till they were just two
grotesque tangles of rags and blood and tumbled hair. Then they would
rest awhile and pant and swear. While they were affectionate they
always spoke of each other as "ladies," but while they were fighting
"strumpet" was the mildest name they could think of--and they could
only make that do by tacking some sounding profanity to it. In their
last fight, which was toward midnight, one of them bit off the other's
finger, and then the officer interfered and put the "Greaser" into the
"dark cell" to answer for it because the woman that did it laid it on
him, and the other woman did not deny it because, as she said
afterward, she "wanted another crack at the huzzy when her finger quit
hurting," and so she did not want her removed. By this time those two
women had mutilated each other's clothes to that extent that there was
not sufficient left to cover their nakedness. I found that one of
these creatures had spent nine years in the county jail, and that the
other one had spent about four or five years in the same place. They
had done it from choice. As soon as they were discharged from
captivity they would go straight and get drunk, and then steal some
trifling thing while an officer was observing them. That would
entitle them to another two, months in jail, and there they would
occupy clean, airy apartments, and have good food in plenty, and being
at no expense at all, they, could make shirts for the clothiers at
half a dollar apiece and thus keep themselves in smoking tobacco and
such other luxuries as they wanted. When the two months were up they
would go just as straight as they could walk to Mother Leonard's and
get drunk; and from there to Kearney street and steal something; and
thence to this city prison, and next day back to the old quarters in
the county jail again. One of them had really kept this up for nine
years and the other four or five, and both said they meant to end
their days in that prison. **--[**The former of the two did.-[Ed.
Men.]-- Finally, both these creatures fell upon me while I was dozing
with my head against their grating, and battered me considerably,
because they discovered that I was a Chinaman, and they said I was "a
bloody interlopin' loafer come from the devil's own country to take
the bread out of dacent people's mouths and put down the wages for
work whin it was all a Christian could do to kape body and sowl
together as it was." "Loafer" means one who will not work.
AH SONG HI.
SAN FRANCISCO, 18--.
DEAR CHING-FOO: To continue--the two women became reconciled to
each other again through the common bond of interest and sympathy
created between them by pounding me in partnership, and when they had
finished me they fell to embracing each other again and swearing more
eternal affection like that which had subsisted between them all the
evening, barring occasional interruptions. They agreed to swear the
finger-biting on the Greaser in open court, and get him sent to the
penitentiary for the crime of mayhem.
Another of our company was a boy of fourteen who had been watched
for some time by officers and teachers, and repeatedly detected in
enticing young girls from the public schools to the lodgings of
gentlemen down town. He had been furnished with lures in the form of
pictures and books of a peculiar kind, and these he had distributed
among his clients. There were likenesses of fifteen of these young
girls on exhibition (only to prominent citizens and persons in
authority, it was said, though most people came to get a sight) at the
police headquarters, but no punishment at all was to be inflicted on
the poor little misses. The boy was afterward sent into captivity at
the House of Correction for some months, and there was a strong
disposition to punish the gentlemen who had employed the boy to entice
the girls, but as that could not be done without making public the
names of those gentlemen and thus injuring them socially, the idea was
finally given up.
There was also in our cell that night a photographer (a kind of
artist who makes likenesses of people with a machine), who had been
for some time patching the pictured heads of well-known and
respectable young ladies to the nude, pictured bodies of another class
of women; then from this patched creation he would make photographs
and sell them privately at high prices to rowdies and blackguards,
averring that these, the best young ladies of the city, had hired him
to take their likenesses in that unclad condition. What a lecture the
police judge read that photographer when he was convicted! He told
him his crime was little less than an outrage. He abused that
photographer till he almost made him sink through the floor, and then
he fined him a hundred dollars. And he told him he might consider
himself lucky that he didn't fine him a hundred and twenty-five
dollars. They are awfully severe on crime here.
About two or two and a half hours after midnight, of that first
experience of mine in the city prison, such of us as were dozing were
awakened by a noise of beating and dragging and groaning, and in a
little while a man was pushed into our den with a "There, d---n you,
soak there a spell!"--and then the gate was closed and the officers
went away again. The man who was thrust among us fell limp and
helpless by the grating, but as nobody could reach him with a kick
without the trouble of hitching along toward him or getting fairly up
to deliver it, our people only grumbled at him, and cursed him, and
called him insulting names--for misery and hardship do not make their
victims gentle or charitable toward each other. But as he neither
tried humbly to conciliate our people nor swore back at them, his
unnatural conduct created surprise, and several of the party crawled
to him where he lay in the dim light that came through the grating,
and examined into his case. His head was very bloody and his wits
were gone. After about an hour, he sat up and stared around; then his
eyes grew more natural and he began to tell how that he was going
along with a bag on his shoulder and a brace of policemen ordered him
to stop, which he did not do--was chased and caught, beaten
ferociously about the head on the way to the prison and after arrival
there, and finally I thrown into our den like a dog.
And in a few seconds he sank down again and grew flighty of speech.
One of our people was at last penetrated with something vaguely akin
to compassion, may be, for he looked out through the gratings at the
guardian officer, pacing to and fro, and said:
"Say, Mickey, this shrimp's goin' to die."
"Stop your noise!" was all the answer he got. But presently our
man tried it again. He drew himself to the gratings, grasping them
with his hands, and looking out through them, sat waiting till the
officer was passing once more, and then said:
"Sweetness, you'd better mind your eye, now, because you beats have
killed this cuss. You've busted his head and he'll pass in his checks
before sun-up. You better go for a doctor, now, you bet you had."
The officer delivered a sudden rap on our man's knuckles with his
club, that sent him scampering and howling among the sleeping forms on
the flag-stones, and an answering burst of laughter came from the half
dozen policemen idling about the railed desk in the middle of the
But there was a putting of heads together out there presently, and
a conversing in low voices, which seemed to show that our man's talk
had made an impression; and presently an officer went away in a hurry,
and shortly came back with a person who entered our cell and felt the
bruised man's pulse and threw the glare of a lantern on his drawn
face, striped with blood, and his glassy eyes, fixed and vacant. The
doctor examined the man's broken head also, and presently said:
"If you'd called me an hour ago I might have saved this man, may be
too late now."
Then he walked out into the dungeon and the officers surrounded
him, and they kept up ,a low and earnest buzzing of conversation for
fifteen minutes, I should think, and then the doctor took his
departure from the prison. Several of the officers now came in and
worked a little with the wounded man, but toward daylight he died.
It was the longest, longest night! And when the daylight came
filtering reluctantly into the dungeon at last, it was the grayest,
dreariest, saddest daylight! And yet, when an officer by and by
turned off the sickly yellow gas flame, and immediately the gray of
dawn became fresh and white, there was a lifting of my spirits that
acknowledged and believed that the night was gone, and straightway I
fell to stretching my sore limbs, and looking about me with a grateful
sense of relief and a returning interest in life. About me lay the
evidences that what seemed now a feverish dream and a nightmare was
the memory of a reality instead. For on the boards lay four frowsy,
ragged, bearded vagabonds, snoring-- one turned end-for-end and
resting an unclean ,foot, in a ruined stocking, on the hairy breast of
a neighbour; the young boy was uneasy, and lay moaning in his sleep;
other forms lay half revealed and half concealed about the floor; in
,the furthest corner the gray light fell upon a sheet, whose
elevations and depressions indicated the places of the dead man's face
and feet and folded hands; and through the dividing bars one could
discern the almost nude forms of the two exiles from the county jail
twined together in a drunken embrace, and sodden with sleep.
By and by all the animals in all the cages awoke, and stretched
themselves, and exchanged a few cuffs and curses, and then began to
clamour for breakfast. Breakfast was brought in at last--bread and
beefsteak on tin plates, and black coffee in tin cups, and no grabbing
allowed. And after several dreary hours of waiting, after this, we
were all marched out into the dungeon and joined there by all manner
of vagrants and vagabonds, of all shades and colours and
nationalities, from the other cells and cages of the place; and pretty
soon our whole menagerie was marched up-stairs and locked fast behind
a high railing in a dirty room with a dirty audience in it. And this
audience stared at us, and at a man seated on high behind what they
call a pulpit in this country, and at some clerks and other officials
seated below him--and waited. This was the police court.
The court opened. Pretty soon I was compelled to notice that a
culprit's nationality made for or against him in this court.
Overwhelming proofs were necessary to convict an Irishman of crime,
and even then his punishment amounted to little; Frenchmen, Spaniards,
and Italians had strict and unprejudiced justice meted out to them, in
exact accordance with the evidence; negroes were promptly punished,
when there was the slightest preponderance of testimony against them;
but Chinamen were punished always, apparently. Now this gave me some
uneasiness, I confess. I knew that this state of things must of
necessity be accidental, because in this country all men were free and
equal, and one person could not take to himself an advantage not
accorded to all other individuals. I knew that, and yet in spite of
it I was uneasy.
And I grew still more uneasy, when I found that any succored and
befriended refugee from Ireland or elsewhere could stand up before
that judge and swear, away the life or liberty or character of a
refugee from China; but that by the law of the land the Chinaman could
not testify against the Irishman. I was really and truly uneasy, but
still my faith in the universal liberty that America accords and
defends, and my deep veneration for the land that offered all
distressed outcasts a home and protection, was strong within me, and I
said to myself that it would all come out right yet.
AH SONG HI.
SAN FRANCISCO, 18--.
DEAR CHING FOO: I was glad enough when my case came up. An hour's
experience had made me as tired of the police court as of the dungeon.
I was not uneasy about the result of the trial, but on the contrary
felt that as soon as the large auditory of Americans present should
hear how that the rowdies had set the dogs on me when I was going
peacefully along the street, and how, when I was all torn and
bleeding, the officers arrested me and put me in jail and let the
rowdies go free, the gallant hatred of oppression which is part of the
very flesh and blood of every American would be stirred to its utmost,
and I should be instantly set at liberty. In truth I began to fear
for the other side. There in full view stood the ruffians who had
misused me, and I began to fear that in the first burst of generous
anger occasioned by the revealment of what they had done, they might
be harshly handled, and possibly even banished the country as having
dishonoured her and being no longer worthy to remain upon her sacred
The official interpreter of the court asked my name, and then spoke
it aloud so that all could hear. Supposing that all was now ready, I
cleared my throat and began--in Chinese, because of my imperfect
"Hear, O high and mighty mandarin, and believe! As I went about my
peaceful business in the street, behold certain men set a dog on me,
It was the judge that spoke. The interpreter whispered to me that
I must keep perfectly still. He said that no statement would be
received from me--I must only talk through my lawyer.
I had no lawyer. In the early morning a police court lawyer
(termed, in the higher circles of society, a "shyster") had come into
our den in the prison and offered his services to me, but I had been
obliged to go without them because I could not pay in advance or give
security. I told the interpreter how the matter stood. He said I
must take my chances on the witnesses then. I glanced around, and my
failing confidence revived.
"Call those four Chinamen yonder," I said. "They saw it all. I
remember their faces perfectly. They will prove that the white men
set the dog on me when I was not harming them."
"That won't work," said he. "In this country white men can testify
against Chinamen all they want to, but Chinamen ain't allowed to
testify against white men!"
What a chill went through me! And then I felt the indignant blood
rise to my cheek at this libel upon the Home of the Oppressed, where
all men are free and equal--perfectly equal--perfectly free and
perfectly equal. I despised this Chinese-speaking Spaniard for his
mean slander of the land that was sheltering and feeding him. I
sorely wanted to sear his eyes with that sentence from the great and
good American Declaration of Independence which we have copied in
letters of gold in China and keep hung up over our family altars and
in our temples--I mean the one about all men being created free and
But woe is me, Ching Foo, the man was right. He was right, after
all. There were my witnesses, but I could not use them. But now came
a new hope. I saw my white friend come in, and I felt that he had
come there purposely to help me. I may almost say I knew it. So I
grew easier. He passed near enough to me to say under his breath,
"Don't be afraid," and then I had no more fear. But presently the
rowdies recognised him and began to scowl at him in no friendly way,
and to make threatening signs at him. The two officers that arrested
me fixed their eyes steadily on his; he bore it well, but gave in
presently, and dropped his eyes. They still gazed at his eyebrows,
and every time he raised his eyes he encountered their winkless
stare--until after a minute or two he ceased to lift his head at all.
The judge had been giving some instructions privately to some one for
a little while, but now he was ready to resume business. Then the
trial so unspeakably important to me, and freighted with such
prodigious consequence to my wife and children, began, progressed,
ended, was recorded in the books, noted down by the newspaper
reporters, and forgotten by everybody but me--all in the little space
of two minutes!
"Ah Song Hi, Chinaman. Officers O'Flannigan and O'Flaherty,
witnesses. Come forward, Officer O'Flannigan."
OFFICER--"He was making a disturbance in Kearny street."
JUDGE--"Any witnesses on the other side?" No response. The white
friend raised his eyes encountered Officer O'Flaherty's--blushed a
little--got up and left the courtroom, avoiding all glances and not
taking his own from the floor.
JUDGE--"Give him five dollars or ten days."
In my desolation there was a glad surprise in the words; but it
passed away when I found that he only meant that I was to be fined
five dollars or imprisoned ten days longer in default of it.
There were twelve or fifteen Chinamen in our crowd of prisoners,
charged with all manner of little thefts and misdemeanors, and their
cases were quickly disposed of, as a general thing. When the charge
came from a policeman or other white man, he made his statement and
that was the end of it, unless the Chinaman's lawyer could find some
white person to testify in his client's behalf, for, neither the
accused Chinaman nor his countrymen being allowed to say anything, the
statement of the officers or other white person was amply sufficient
to convict. So, as I said, the Chinamen's cases were quickly disposed
of, and fines and imprisonment promptly distributed among them. In
one or two of the cases the charges against Chinamen were brought by
Chinamen themselves, and in those cases Chinamen testified against
Chinamen, through the interpreter; but the fixed rule of the court
being that the preponderance of testimony in such cases should
determine the prisoner's guilt or innocence, and there being nothing
very binding about an oath administered to the lower orders of our
people without the ancient solemnity of cutting off a chicken's head
and burning some yellow paper at the same time, the interested parties
naturally drum up a cloud of witnesses who are cheerfully willing to
give evidence without ever knowing anything about the matter in hand.
The judge has a custom of rattling through with as much of this
testimony as his patience will stand, and then shutting off the rest
and striking an average.
By noon all the business of the court was finished, and then
several of us who had not fared well were remanded to prison; the
judge went home; the lawyers, and officers, and spectators departed
their several ways, and left the uncomely court-room to silence,
solitude, and Stiggers, the newspaper reporter, which latter would now
write up his items (said an ancient Chinaman to me), in the which he
would praise all the policemen indiscriminately and abuse the Chinamen
and dead people.
AH SONG HI.