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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChinkie's Flat - Chapter 3. Jimmy Ah San
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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 3. Jimmy Ah San Post by :spk921803 Category :Long Stories Author :Louis Becke Date :May 2012 Read :2224

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Chinkie's Flat - Chapter 3. Jimmy Ah San

CHAPTER III. JIMMY AH SAN

Consternation was depicted on the faces of the men. And they all began to question Jacky at once, until Grainger appeared, and then the black boy gave them farther particulars--the Chinamen, he said, were all on foot, each man carrying two baskets on a stick, but there were also five or six pack-horses loaded with picks, shovels, dishes, and other mining gear.

"Curse the dirty, yaller-hided swine!" cried Dick Scott, turning excitedly to Grainger. "What's to be done? They've come to rush the Flat again; but, by thunder! I'll be a stiff 'un afore a Chow fills another dish with wash-dirt on Connolly's Creek."

"And me, too!" "And me, too!" growled the others angrily, and Grainger, as he looked at their set, determined faces, knew they would soon be beyond control, and bloodshed would follow if the advancing Chinamen tried to come on to the field. But, nevertheless, he was thoroughly in sympathy with them. The advent of these Chinese--probably but an advance guard of many hundreds--would simply mean ruination to himself and his mates, just as their prospects were so bright. The men looked upon him as their leader, and he must act--and act quickly.

"Let them come along, boys. Then we'll bail them up as soon as they come abreast of us, and have a little 'talkee, talkee' with them. But for heaven's sake try and keep cool, and I daresay when they see we look ugly at them, they'll trot on. How many of you have guns of any kind?"

Four rifles and two shot guns were quickly produced, and then every one waited till the first of the Chinese appeared, marching one behind the other. The foremost man was dressed in European clothes, and the moment Scott saw him, he exclaimed--

"Why, it's Jimmy Ah San! I used to know him at Gympie in the old times. He's not a bad sort of a Chow. Come on, boys!"

Grainger, who was not just then well enough to go with them, but remained in his seat with his revolver on his knee, could not help smiling at the sudden halt and terrified looks of the Chinese, when Scott and the others drew up in front of them with their weapons at the present. Half of them at once dropped their baskets and darted off into the bush, the rest crowding together like a flock of terrified sheep. The leader, however, came steadily on. Scott stepped out and met him.

"Good-morning. What do you and all your crowd want here?"

"Nothing," replied the Chinaman quietly, in excellent English, "nothing but to get down to the creek and camp for a few days. But why do you all come out with guns? We cannot do you any harm."

"Just so. But we can do _you a lot if you try on any games, Mr. Jimmy Ah San."

"Ah, you know me then," said the man, looking keenly at Scott.

"Yes, I do, an' you're all right enough. But me an' my mates is going to keep this field for white men--it ain't goin' to be no Chinaman's digging'. So what's yer move?"

"Only what I said. Look at my men! We do not want to stop here; we wish to push along to the coast. Some of them are dying from exhaustion, and my pack-horses can hardly go another quarter of a mile."

Soott scratched his chin meditatively, and then consulted with his mates. He, although so rough in his speech, was not a bad-natured man, and he could see that the Chinese were thoroughly done up, and worn down to skin and bone. Then presently Grainger walked over and joined them, and heard what Ah San had to say.

"I'm sorry that you are in such a bad fix," he said, "but you know as well as I do that if any of your men put a pick into ground here, there will be serious trouble, and if they lose their lives you will be responsible--and may perhaps lose your own."

"I promise you that nothing like that will happen," replied the Chinaman. "My men are all diggers, it is true, but we will not attempt to stay on any field where we are not wanted. My name is James Ah San. I am a British subject, and have lived in Australia for twenty-five years. That man" (pointing to Scott) "knows me, and can tell you that 'Jimmy Ah San' never broke a promise to any man."

"That is right enough," said Scott promptly; "every one in Gympie knew you when you was storekeepin' there, and said you was a good sort."

"We have come over three hundred miles from the Cloncurry," went on the Chinese leader, quickly seeing that Scott's remark had much impressed the other miners; "the diggers there gave us forty-eight hours to clear out. The blacks killed fifteen of us and speared ten of my horses, and six more men died on the way. We can do no harm here. We only want to spell a week, or two weeks."

"Poor devils!" muttered Grainger; then he said to Ah San: "Very well. Now, you see the track going through that clump of sandalwood? Well, follow it and you'll come to a little ironstone ridge, where you'll find a good camping-ground just over a big pool in the creek. There's a bit of sweet grass, too, for your horses, so they can get a good feed to-night. In the morning this black boy will, if you like, show you a place in the ranges, about four miles from here, where you can let them run for a week. There's some fine grass and plenty of water, and they ought to pick up very quickly. But you will have to keep some one to see that they don't get round the other side of the range--through one of the gaps; if they do, you'll lose them to a dead certainty, for there are two or three mobs of brumbies{*} running there. Do you want any tucker?"{**}

* Wild horses.

** Provisions.

"No, thank you," replied Ah San, with an unmistakable inflexion of gratitude in his voice; "we have plenty of rice and tea, but I should like to buy a bullock to-morrow, if I can--I saw some cattle about two miles from here. Is there a cattle station near here?"

"No. The cattle you saw belong to one of us--this man here," pointing to Jansen, "will sell you a beast to-morrow, I daresay."

Then the armed protectors of the integrity from foreign invasion of the rights of Chinkie's Flat nodded "Good evening" to Ah San, and walked back across the road to the "Digger's Best," and the Chinamen, with silent, childlike patience, resumed their loads and trotted along after their leader. They disappeared over the hill, and ere darkness descended the glare of their camp fires was casting steady gleams of light upon the dark waters of the still pool beneath the ridge.

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