Jo bent down and slipped under the barbed wire fence that separated the field back of the Chinese fishing-village from the other fields that stretched away to the houses of the California seaside resort under the pines. The wind blew pleasantly in from the sparkling bay.
A large number of frames for drying fish stretched away to the back part of the Chinese field. A great net fifty feet long was spread out on the ground to dry. Jo looked at the wooden sinkers that were fastened along one side of the net and smiled. “They’re all on again,” he thought.
A line of flounders stretched above the narrow, crooked street of the fishing-village. The flounders looked like queer clothes hung to dry on a clothes-line. There were crates of small fish, packed so that they stood on their heads. Underneath a table of drying fish lay a dead gopher.
Red placards spotted the houses. On the roof of one hut a little paper windmill was turning in the breeze. Back of one hut was a bit of garden inclosed with a fence of branches and containing much mustard. Chinese were washing fish. Shells were exposed for sale, since at any hour visitors from the American settlement might come to traverse the Chinese village, and visitors often bought shells.
Even now, as Jo passed through the street, an old Chinaman beckoned to the lad, and with much mystery unrolled a piece of brown paper and showed a pearl that had come into his possession and that he wished to sell.
Young Chinese girls, with red or yellow-capped babies strapped on their backs, packed or spread the fish. Some little Chinese boys were arranging dried squids in boats drawn up on the shore. On one boat was a kind of wooden crane, holding a hanging pan. There were some burnt sticks in the pan, and the whole contrivance was evidently an arrangement whereby a fire could be made in the boat when it was out at sea.
Jo stepped into one deserted hut, and found it to be a kitchen. An oil can was over some ashes, and there were some queer, big kettles near. In another place were Chinese children eating their breakfast. One child had a Chinese cup, out of which she ate with chop-sticks.
Jo sat down on the edge of the village, and watched three women who were setting off in a boat, intending to row out into the surf to get kelp. Small fish lay drying all over the rocks by the sea-beach near Jo, and a Chinaman was lifting up the fish, and letting them drop again by the handful, while the wind blew away the straw or grass that had become mixed with the fish while drying. Then the fish were spread upon matting to dry further.
“Ho’lah!” the Chinaman said to Jo.
“Ho’lah!” responded Jo, and the conversation ceased.
For a few minutes Jo watched two or three Chinese boys who were lying on the beach, sifting the white sand through their fingers, hunting for the small, white “rice shells,” that American people often buy.
Presently, Jo pulled a sketch-book out of his pocket, and began to draw the collection of queer huts that composed the Chinese village. By and by the Chinaman who had been tossing fish, Quang Po, sat down on the rocks. He looked at Jo for a time, and then came and glanced over Jo’s shoulder, smiling. The Chinamen of the village were used to having artists come and plant their easels here and there on the rocks or at the entrance of the narrow street, and draw the village on their canvas. At such times, a small group of Chinamen usually gathered about each artist, and made in their own tongue comments on the drawing. No artist knew the nature of the criticisms made in his very ears.