Harper's Young People, May 18, 1880 An Illustrated Weekly

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Excerpt AMONG THE "COOLIES." They found the city one blaze of lanterns, banners, and many-colored fire-works. All the ships in the harbor were gay with brilliant bunting, and the air echoed with the boom of cannon and the snapping of firecrackers, in honor of the Chinese New-Year. In fact, it was quite a Fourth-of-July celebration; and at night there began such a burst of sky-rockets and fire-balloons that the whole town seemed to be in flames. Early next morning the Arizona opened her ports to receive cargo; and Frank, being told off to assist, saw for the first time one of the most picturesque sights in the world—a gang of coolies at work. On the other side of the "entering port," beside which he was posted, stood a Parsee merchant, whose long white robe, dark face, and high black cap made him look very much like a cigar wrapped in paper. Along the quivering line of sunlight that streamed through the port came filing, like figures in a magic lantern, an endless procession of tall, sinewy, fierce-looking Malays, and yellow, narrow-eyed, doll-faced Chinamen, carrying blocks of tin, rice sacks, opium chests, or pepper bags, and all moving in time to a dismal tune, suggestive of a dog shut out on a cold night. Each man shouted his name in passing, and the merchant then handed Frank a short piece of cane. These canes were the "tally sticks," their different colors indicating the nature of the articles counted. At every tenth entry the Parsee cried, "Tally," and Austin, reckoning the sticks in his hand, and finding them correct, answered, "Tally." Our hero soon found that these were not the only sticks employed. A rice sack burst suddenly, and all the coolies stopped their work to pick it up to the last grain, it being thought far too sacred to be wasted. They were not quite brisk enough about it, however, to please the worthy merchant, who, seizing a stout bamboo, with a shrill yell of "Bree! bree!" (hurry up) laid about him as if he were beating a carpet, till the hold echoed again. "You take 'tick too; give 'em whack-whack," cried he, offering Austin another bamboo. "Dey no work proper widout 'tick; dat 'courage 'em." "Hum!" thought Frank; "I don't think it would encourage me much." The remedy seemed to answer, however, for the coolies at once quickened their movements, grinning as if the whole thing was a capital joke. But it was not long before Frank had to exercise his stick upon a fellow whom he caught in the act of dropping a package overboard, to be fished up and rifled later on—a common trick with the natives, who are most expert thieves. What with all this, and what with the constant counting, he found it very tiring work, and was not sorry when the gang "knocked off," and he went to hand in his accounts to the Captain. "Very good, my boy; you've done capitally for a first trial. After this I'll rate you as supercargo, and give you a state-room on the officers' deck." This was promotion indeed, and our hero, tired as he was, "turned in" with a light heart. Next morning the work began again....
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