Ki Sing turned his almond eyes upon O’Reilly, who, with his freckled face, wide mouth, broad nose, and stubby beard, was by no means a prepossessing-looking man, and said interrogatively: “He Chlistian?”
“Yes, John. Wouldn’t you like to be one?”
Ki Sing shook his head decidedly.
“Me no want to be Chlistian,” he answered. “Me velly well now. Me want to be good Chinaman.”
“There’s a compliment for you, O’Reilly,” said one of the miners. “John prefers to be a Chinaman to being like you.”
“He’s a barbarious haythen, anyhow,” said O’Reilly, surveying his prisoner with unfriendly eyes. “What did he come over to America for, anyhow?”
“He probably came over for the same reason that brought you, O’Reilly,” said a young man, who spoke for the first time, though he had been from the outset a disgusted witness of what had taken place.
“And what’s that?” demanded O’Reilly angrily.
“To make a living,” answered Richard Dewey quietly.
As this is the first time this young man has been introduced, we will briefly describe him. He was of medium size, well knit and vigorous, with a broad forehead, blue eyes, and an intelligent and winning countenance. He might have been suspected of too great amiability and gentleness, but for a firm expression about the mouth, and an indefinable air of manliness, which indicated that it would not do to go too far with him. There was a point, as all his friends knew, where his forbearance gave way and he sternly asserted his rights. He was not so popular in camp as some, because he declined to drink or gamble, and, despite the rough circumstances in which he found himself placed, was resolved to preserve his self-respect.
O’Reilly did not fancy his interference, and demanded, in a surly tone:
“Do you mean to compare me wid this haythen?”
“You are alike in one respect,” said Richard Dewey quietly. “Neither of you were born in this country, but each of you came here to improve your fortunes.”
“And hadn’t I the right, I’d like to know?” blustered O’Reilly.
“To be sure you had. This country is free to all who wish to make a home here.”
“Then what are you talkin’ about, anyway?”
“You ought to be able to understand without asking. Ki Sing has come here, and has the same right that you have.”
“Do you mane to put me on a livel wid him?”
“In that one respect, I do.”
“I want you to understand that Patrick O’Reilly won’t take no insults from you, nor any other man!”
“Hush, O’Reilly!” said Terence O’Gorman, another Irish miner. “Dewey is perfectly right. I came over from Ireland like you, but he hasn’t said anything against either of us.”
“That is where you are right, O’Gorman,” said Richard Dewey cordially. “You are a man of sense, and can understand me. My own father emigrated from England, and I am not likely to say anything against the class to which he belonged. Now, boys, you have had enough sport out of the poor Chinaman. I advise you to let him go.”