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Three Vagabonds Of Trinidad
by [?]

“Oh! it’s you, is it?” said the Editor.

The Chinese boy to whom the colloquialism was addressed answered literally, after his habit:–

“Allee same Li Tee; me no changee. Me no ollee China boy.”

“That’s so,” said the Editor with an air of conviction. “I don’t suppose there’s another imp like you in all Trinidad County. Well, next time don’t scratch outside there like a gopher, but come in.”

“Lass time,” suggested Li Tee blandly, “me tap tappee. You no like tap tappee. You say, alle same dam woodpeckel.”

It was quite true–the highly sylvan surroundings of the Trinidad “Sentinel” office–a little clearing in a pine forest–and its attendant fauna, made these signals confusing. An accurate imitation of a woodpecker was also one of Li Tee’s accomplishments.

The Editor without replying finished the note he was writing; at which Li Tee, as if struck by some coincident recollection, lifted up his long sleeve, which served him as a pocket, and carelessly shook out a letter on the table like a conjuring trick. The Editor, with a reproachful glance at him, opened it. It was only the ordinary request of an agricultural subscriber–one Johnson–that the Editor would “notice” a giant radish grown by the subscriber and sent by the bearer.

“Where’s the radish, Li Tee?” said the Editor suspiciously.

“No hab got. Ask Mellikan boy.”


Here Li Tee condescended to explain that on passing the schoolhouse he had been set upon by the schoolboys, and that in the struggle the big radish–being, like most such monstrosities of the quick Californian soil, merely a mass of organized water–was “mashed” over the head of some of his assailants. The Editor, painfully aware of these regular persecutions of his errand boy, and perhaps realizing that a radish which could not be used as a bludgeon was not of a sustaining nature, forebore any reproof. “But I cannot notice what I haven’t seen, Li Tee,” he said good-humoredly.

“S’pose you lie–allee same as Johnson,” suggested Li with equal cheerfulness. “He foolee you with lotten stuff–you foolee Mellikan man, allee same.”

The Editor preserved a dignified silence until he had addressed his letter. “Take this to Mrs. Martin,” he said, handing it to the boy; “and mind you keep clear of the schoolhouse. Don’t go by the Flat either if the men are at work, and don’t, if you value your skin, pass Flanigan’s shanty, where you set off those firecrackers and nearly burnt him out the other day. Look out for Barker’s dog at the crossing, and keep off the main road if the tunnel men are coming over the hill.” Then remembering that he had virtually closed all the ordinary approaches to Mrs. Martin’s house, he added, “Better go round by the woods, where you won’t meet ANY ONE.”

The boy darted off through the open door, and the Editor stood for a moment looking regretfully after him. He liked his little protege ever since that unfortunate child–a waif from a Chinese wash-house–was impounded by some indignant miners for bringing home a highly imperfect and insufficient washing, and kept as hostage for a more proper return of the garments. Unfortunately, another gang of miners, equally aggrieved, had at the same time looted the wash-house and driven off the occupants, so that Li Tee remained unclaimed. For a few weeks he became a sporting appendage of the miners’ camp; the stolid butt of good-humored practical jokes, the victim alternately of careless indifference or of extravagant generosity. He received kicks and half-dollars intermittently, and pocketed both with stoical fortitude. But under this treatment he presently lost the docility and frugality which was part of his inheritance, and began to put his small wits against his tormentors, until they grew tired of their own mischief and his. But they knew not what to do with him. His pretty nankeen-yellow skin debarred him from the white “public school,” while, although as a heathen he might have reasonably claimed attention from the Sabbath-school, the parents who cheerfully gave their contributions to the heathen ABROAD, objected to him as a companion of their children in the church at home. At this juncture the Editor offered to take him into his printing office as a “devil.” For a while he seemed to be endeavoring, in his old literal way, to act up to that title. He inked everything but the press. He scratched Chinese characters of an abusive import on “leads,” printed them, and stuck them about the office; he put “punk” in the foreman’s pipe, and had been seen to swallow small type merely as a diabolical recreation. As a messenger he was fleet of foot, but uncertain of delivery. Some time previously the Editor had enlisted the sympathies of Mrs. Martin, the good-natured wife of a farmer, to take him in her household on trial, but on the third day Li Tee had run away. Yet the Editor had not despaired, and it was to urge her to a second attempt that he dispatched that letter.