Soon a crowd gathered around the terrified Chinaman and his captors, and he was plied with questions, some of a jocular character, by the miners, who were glad of anything that relieved the monotony of their ordinary life.
“What’s your name?” asked one.
The Chinaman gazed at the questioner vacantly.
“What’s your name, you haythen?” repeated O’Reilly, emphasizing the inquiry by a powerful shake.
“My name Ki Sing,” answered the Mongolian nervously.
“Where did you come from, old pigtail?”
“My name Ki Sing, not Pigtail,” said the Chinaman, not understanding the meaning of the epithet.
This answer appeared to be regarded by the crowd as either witty or absurd, for it elicited a roar of laughter.
“Never mind what your name is, old stick in the mud! We’ll call you whatever we please. Where do you come from?”
“Me come from ’Flisco.”
It is well known that a Chinaman cannot pronounce the letter r, which in his mouth softens to l, in some cases producing a ludicrous effect.
“What have you come here for, Cy King, or whatever your name is.”
“My name Ki Sing.”
“Well, it’s a haythen name; anyhow,” remarked Mr. Patrick O’Eeilly. “Before I’d have such a name, I’d go widout one intirely. Did you hear the gintleman ask you what you came here for?”
“You bling me,” answered Ki Sing shrewdly.
There was another laugh.
“That Chinee ain’t no fool!” said Dick Roberts.
“What made you leave China?” he asked.
“Me come to Amelica fol gold.”
“Hi, ho! That’s it, is it? What are you going to do with your gold when you find it?”
“Cally it back to China.”
“And when you’ve callied it back, what’ll you do then?”
“Me mally wife, have good time and plenty money to buy lice.”
Of course, Ki Sing’s meaning was plain, but there was a roar of laughter, to which he listened with mild-eyed wonder, evidently thinking that the miners who so looked down on him were themselves a set of outside barbarians, to whom the superior civilization of China was utterly unknown. It is fortunate that his presumption was not suspected by those around him. No one would have resented it more than Mr. Patrick O’Reilly, whose rank as regards enlightenment and education certainly was not very high.
“I say, John,” said Dick Roberts, “are you fond of rat pie?”
“Lat pie velly good,” returned Ki Sing, with a look of appreciation. “Melican man like him?”
“Hear the haythen!” said O’Reilly, with an expression of deep disgust. “He thinks we ate rats and mice, like him. No, old pigtail, we ain’t cats. We are good Christians.”
“Chlistian! Ma don’t know Ghlistian,” said the Chinaman.
“Then look at O’Reilly,” said Dick Roberts, mischievously. “He’s a good solid Christian.”