Ki Sing grasped at this suggestion.
“Melican man speak velly good,” he said.
“Of course, you think so,” sneered O’Reilly. “I say, boys, let’s cut off his pigtail,” touching the poor Chinaman’s queue.
Ki Sing uttered a cry of dismay as O’Reilly’s suggestion was greeted with favorable shouts by the thoughtless crowd.
The Duel of the miners.
O’Reilly’s suggestion chimed in with the rough humor of the crowd. They were not bad-hearted men, but, though rough in their manners, not much worse on the average than an equal number of men in the Eastern States. They only thought of the fun to be obtained from the proceeding, and supposed they would be doing the Chinaman no real harm.
“Has anybody got a pair of scissors?” asked O’Reilly, taking the Chinaman by the queue.
“I’ve got one in my tent,” answered one of the miners.
“Go and get it, then.”
Ki Sing again uttered a cry of dismay, but it did not seem likely that his valued appendage could be saved. Public sentiment was with his persecutor.
He had one friend, however, among the rough men who surrounded him, the same who had already taken his part.
Richard Dewey’s eyes glittered sternly as he saw O’Reilly’s intention, and he quietly advanced till he was within an arm’s length of Ki Sing.
“What do you mean to do, O’Reilly?” he demanded sternly.
“None of your business!” retorted O’Reilly insolently.
“It is going to be my business. What do you mean to do?”
“Gut off this haythen’s pigtail, and I’d just like to know who’s going to prevent me.”
At this moment the miner who had gone for a pair of scissors returned.
“Give me them scissors!” said O’Reilly sharply.
Richard Dewey reached out his hand and intercepted them. He took them in place of O’Reilly.
“Give me them scissors, Dewey, or it’ll be the worse for you!” exclaimed the tyrant furiously.
Dewey regarded him with a look of unmistakable contempt.
There was a murmur among the miners, who were eager for the amusement which the Chinaman’s terror and ineffectual struggles would afford them.
“Give him the scissors, Dewey!” said half a dozen.
“Boys,” said Dewey, making no motion to obey them, “do you know what you are about to do? Why should you interfere with this poor, unoffending Chinaman? Has he wronged any one of you?”
“No, but that ain’t the point,” said a Kentuckian. “We only want to play a joke on him. It won’t do him no harm to cut his hair.”
“Of course not,” chimed in several of the miners.
“Do you hear that, Dick Dewey?” demanded O’Reilly impatiently. “Do you hear what the boys say? Give me them scissors.”
“Boys, you don’t understand the effects of what you would do,” said Dewey, taking no notice of O’Reilly, much to that worthy’s indignation. “If Ki Sing has his queue cut off, he can never go back to China.”