A Goldsmith’s Friend Abroad Again

Mark Twain

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Children’s booksMarc TwainGoldsmith’s Friend Abroad AgainContents
LETTER V > > >


                                             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 said:

“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.”

“Alias what?”

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.

LETTER V > > >

Children’s booksMarc TwainA Double Barrelled Detective StoryContents

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