Tales of Chinatown eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 234 pages of information about Tales of Chinatown.

The tankards being refilled and my friend having sampled the contents of his own: 

“That ain’t all,” he continued.  “I thought I’d keep it as a sort of relic, like.  What ’appened?  I’ll tell you.  Amongst the crew there’s three Chinks—­see?  We ain’t through the canal before one of ’em, a new one to me—­Li Ping is his name—­offers me five bob for the pigtail, which he sees me looking at one mornin’.  I give him a punch on the nose an’ ’e don’t renew the offer:  but that night (we’re layin’ at Port Said) ‘e tries to pinch it!  I dam’ near broke his neck, and ’e don’t try any more.  To-night”—­he extended his right arm forensically—­“a deppitation of Chinks waits on me at the dock gates; they explains as from a patriotic point of view they feels it to be their dooty to buy that pigtail off of me, and they bids a quid, a bar of gold—­a Jimmy o’ Goblin!”

He snapped his fingers contemptuously and emptied his pewter.  A sense of what was coming began to dawn on me.  That the “hold-up” near the riverside formed part of the scheme was possible, and, reflecting on my rough treatment of the two Chinamen, I chuckled inwardly.  Possibly, however, the scheme had germinated in my acquaintance’s mind merely as a result of an otherwise common assault, of a kind not unusual in these parts, but, whether elaborate or comparatively simple, that the story of the pigtail was a “plant” designed to reach my pocket, seemed a reasonable hypothesis.

“I told him to go to China,” concluded the object of my suspicion, again rapping upon the counter, “and you see what come of it.  All I got to say is this:  If they’re so bloody patriotic, I says one thing:  I ain’t the man to stand in their way.  You done me a good turn to-night, mate; I’m doing you one.  ’Ere’s the bloody pigtail, ’ere’s my empty mug.  Fill the mug and the pigtail’s yours.  It’s good for a quid at the dock gates any day!”

My suspicions vanished; my interest arose to boiling point.  I refilled my acquaintance’s mug, pressed a sovereign upon him (in honesty I must confess that he was loath to take it), and departed with the pigtail coiled neatly in an inner pocket of my jacket.  I entered the house in Wade Street by the side door, and half an hour later let myself out by the front door, having cast off my dockland disguise.

II

HOW I LOST IT

It was not until the following evening that I found leisure to examine my strange acquisition, for affairs of more immediate importance engrossed my attention.  But at about ten o’clock I seated myself at my table, lighted the lamp, and taking out the pigtail from the table drawer, placed it on the blotting-pad and began to examine it with the greatest curiosity, for few Chinese affect the pigtail nowadays.

I had scarcely commenced my examination, however, when it was dramatically interrupted.  The door bell commenced to ring jerkily.  I stood up, and as I did so the ringing ceased and in its place came a muffled beating on the door.  I hurried into the passage as the bell commenced ringing again, and I had almost reached the door when once more the ringing ceased; but now I could hear a woman’s voice, low but agitated: 

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Tales of Chinatown from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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