Chapter 29




CHINESE CHEAP LABOR.

Though Dewey had received from the miners a promise that they would not interfere with Ki Sing in case he gained a victory over O'Reilly, he was not willing to trust entirely to it. He feared that some one would take it into his head to play a trick on the unoffending Chinaman, and that the others unthinkingly would join in. Accordingly, he thought it best to keep the Mongolian under his personal charge as long as he remained in camp.

Ki Sing followed him to his tent as a child follows a guardian.

"Are you hungry, Ki Sing?" asked Dewey.

"Plenty hungly."

"Then I will first satisfy your appetite," and Dewey brought forth some of his stock of provisions, to which Ki Sing did ample justice, though neither rat pie nor rice was included.

When the lunch, in which Richard Dewey joined, was over, he said: "If you will help me for the rest of the day, I will pay you whatever I consider your services to be worth."

"All lightee!" responded Ki Sing, with alacrity.

Whatever objections may be made to the Chinaman, he cannot be charged with laziness. As a class they are willing to labor faithfully, even where the compensation is small. Labor in China, which is densely peopled, is a matter of general and imperative necessity, and has been so for centuries, and habit has probably had a good deal to do with the national spirit of industry.

Ki Sing, under Richard Dewey's directions, worked hard, and richly earned the two dollars which his employer gave him at the end of the day.

Of course Dewey's action did not escape the attention of his fellow miners. It cannot be said that they regarded it with favor. The one most offended was naturally O'Reilly, who, despite the pounding he had received, was about the camp as usual.

"Boys," he said, "are you goin' to have that haythen workin' alongside you?"

"It won't do us any harm, will it?" asked Dick Roberts. "If Dewey chooses to hire him, what is it to us?"

"I ain't goin' to demane myself by workin' wid a yeller haythen."

"Nobody has asked you to do it. If anybody is demeaning himself it is Dick Dewey, and he has a right to if he wants to."

"If he wants to hire anybody, let him hire a dacent Christian."

"Like you, O'Reilly?"

"I don't want to work for anybody. I work for myself. This Chinaman has come here to take the bread out of our mouths, bad cess to him."

"I don't see that. He is workin' Dick Dewey's claim. I don't see how that interferes with us."

Of course, this was the reasonable view of the matter; but there were some who sided with the Irishman, among others the Kentuckian, and he volunteered to go as a committee of one to Dewey, and represent to him the sentiments of the camp.

Accordingly he walked over to where Dewey and his apprentice were working.

"Look here, Dewey," he began, "me and some of the rest of the boys have takin' over this yere matter of your givin' work to this Chinaman, and we don't like it."

"Why not?" asked Dewey coolly.

"We don't feel no call to associate with sich as he."

"You needn't; I don't ask you to," said Dewey quietly. "I am the only one who associates with him."

"But we don't want him in camp."

"He won't trouble any of you. I will take charge of him."

"Look here, Dewey, you've got to respect public sentiment, and public sentiment is agin' this thing."

"Whose public sentiment—O'Reilly's?"

"Well, O'Reilly don't like it, for one."

"I thought so."

"Nor I for another."

"It strikes me, Hodgson, that I've got some rights as well as O'Reilly. Suppose I should say I didn't choose to work in the same camp with an Irishman?"

"That's different."

"Why is it different?"

"Well, you see, an Irishman isn't a yeller heathen."

Dewey laughed.

"He may be a heathen, though not a yellow one," he said.

"Well, Dewey, what answer shall I take back to the boys?"

"You can say that I never intended to employ the Chinaman for any length of time; but I shall not send him off till I get ready."

"I'm afraid the boys won't like it, Dewey."

"Probably O'Reilly won't. As for you, you are too intelligent a man to be influenced by such a man as he."

All men are sensible to flattery, and Hodgson was won over by this politic speech.

"I won't say you're altogether wrong, Dewey," he said; "but I wouldn't keep him too long."

"I don't mean to."

Hodgson returning reported that Dewey would soon dismiss the Chinaman, and omitted the independent tone which the latter had assumed. The message was considered conciliatory, and pronounced satisfactory; but O'Reilly was not appeased. He still murmured, but his words produced little effect. Seeing this, he devised a private scheme of annoyance.







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