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First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, September 1910

Reöprinted in The Popular Magazine, 15 October 1910

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-06-21
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Pall Mall Magazine, September 1910, with "The Face of Typhoo Shang"

IT was the Chinaman's fault. He wanted to blast the hill bodily instead of tapping it with a foolish little pick that was no longer than his arm. His partner, a white man, named Norry Blake, was content to burrow ant-like through the quartz-veined sinews of the mountain in the hope of scratching gold. Nothing would be gained, Blake said, by the impatient use of dynamite. The smallest charge, if fired improperly, might bring an avalanche of stone and sand about their ears.

The Chinaman paused in his labours to scan anew the bulging hip of reef that gleamed salt-white in the naked sun-glare overhead. How much easier, he urged for the hundredth time, to light a match and bring it down with a rush than sweat for weeks in an open drive picking it away crumb by crumb.

"You tly one lille piece of dileymite, Missa Blake. We wastee much time playin' tickle-foot with big mountain. Hi, yah; Typhoo welly tired!"

The Chinaman wiped his hot face and turned again to his white partner. Blake stopped a moment where the mountain flung its Titanic shadow across the open cut and laughed good-humouredly.

"You're a derned good cook, Typhoo Shang, and you know a boiled lemon from a bank operator; but this affair "—he indicated the pitiless wall of stone grimly—"is too big in the brow for us to light matches under."

"Wha' fo'?"

"Because we mustn't lift the feet of a giant until we're prepared to stand from under when he falls. Savvy? That packet of dynamite you're nursing would bring the hill on top of us."

The Chinaman grunted an inaudible word as he resumed work at the drive entrance, while Blake attended to the rough sluice-boxes that carried mud and slime into the valley below.

Norry Blake had left Boulder Citv a month before, hoping to strike gold somewhere in the bleak, treeless ranges in the north-east. It seemed a desperate venture for the man who had been married to the sweetest woman in Boulder City scarcely a year. But Blake was typical of the wandering myriads who wake at the first breath of spring with the lust of the plains and sea thrilling their blood.

Norry had risen, one morning, to inhale the dry south wind that filled his lungs with the scent of forest fires and blue gulf waters.

Between Boulder City and Yellow Spur he had come upon Typhoo Shang, a pleasant-eyed Celestial, whose utter helplessness in that lone, sand-blighted region had appealed to his Caucasian sympathies.

Typhoo had been first to locate the slaty, schist-like formation visible below the bulging hip of the spur. The reef-belt showed midway up the steep slope of the hill, and for weeks both men worked amid slush and ooze, hoping to gain the auriferous lode by means of open driving.

The Chinaman was only prevented by sheer force of argument from blasting the hill. But after the fourth week the gentle-eyed Typhoo assumed a sulking disposition. The Titanic nature of their operations had chilled his blood. Another month of soul-dragging labour must be endured before the reef was encountered; the thought of so much fruitless toil set him searching for a way out of the Herculean task. The opportunity presented itself the following night. Norry Blake was seated on an upturned bucket before the flaring log of his camp fire. A bundle of thumb-blackened letters lay on his knee. The night wind made strange sounds as it swept though the boulder-strewn gullies. A setting moon whitened the face of the cliff below. Blake, with a listening blindness in his eyes, leaned from his seat as though his ear had caught the sound off a drill being hammered into hard rock.

The Chinaman had strolled some distance from the camp under the pretence of baiting his game traps for the night. But it was evident to Blake that the energetic Mongolian had thought fit to put in an extra hour's work before midnight.

Rising impatiently, he peered down the steep incline that led to the tunnel. The glow of a slush-lamp showed faintly beyond the piled-up débris at the mine entrance. A shadow with a pigtail slanted into view, and then bobbed, in great haste, into the shelter of an overhanging spur.

Six seconds later a thin white flame licked the face of the drive; there came a sharp rending movement below, followed by a thunderous shock that hurled a pyramid of stones and earth down the mountain slope.

Blake descended hastily, the fumes of dynamite tingling his throat. He found Typhoo about twenty feet from the tunnel entrance, groaning slightly, his face bruised and pitted with flying pieces of quartz. Very slowly the white man hauled him back to camp, cursing his own folly for his carelessness in allowing his stock of dynamite to fall into the hands of the too-eager Celestial.

The dawn revealed the full extent of the Chinaman's misguided operations. The blasting-charge had caused countless tons of rock and sand to engulf the workings. Months of labour would be required before the reef could be again located. Norry stared into Typhoo's stone-scarred features, and repressed a desire to batter them with his naked hands.

A hundred miles of desert country separated them from the nearest township. Blake had hoped to clear up the reef within a month at least. Now he was confronted by a year's work before he could hope to reach his buried claim!

To stay meant sure starvation. Nothing remained for them but a swift journey to Port Hamilton, a wind-scoured bay situated on the western shores of tbe gulf. A Japanese settlement had sprung up during the last few years, and Blake knew that they would experience little difficulty in obtaining supplies once the coast was reached.

The Chinaman leaned from the rough camp-bed, eyeing the white man curiously. "You leave me heah, Missa Blake. Trouble allee my fault. Me no right to blow um up mine. Me welly bad partner," he said with difficulty.

Blake stared grimly at the pig-tailed figure on the camp-bed, and his wrath evaporated instantly.

"If you weren't a blathering idiot, Typhoo, I'd leave you to the mercy of the carrion birds. As things go, you'll come with me. Get well quick!"

Typhoo got well.

THREE mornings later the long march to the coast began. The Chinaman limped through the sand-drifts where giant moloch lizards peeped over the sun-heated stones. Blake, with their scanty stock of provisions slung from his shoulder, stalked ahead, and when the whirling dust-devils flicked and stung their eyes his arm went out to steady the faltering Celestial.

"Don't fall, Ty; you'll never get up. Easy does it!"

A band of vultures hovered in the sunglare overhead. Dust, sharp as gunpowder, slanted in clouds about their faces. Typhoo reeled from drift to drift a sub-humorous grin on his battered visage.

"You welly goo' feller, Blake. Why fo' you helpee me along? Welly pleasant to die heah."

The dry ache in the white man's throat prevented him answering. They found water at a soak near some stunted lignum scrub. Blake, with a plainsman's instinct, decided to camp for a while after the last drop of brandy had been pressed between Typhoo's thirst-tortured lips.

The night was one of horror interspersed with the delirious babblings of the fever-shaken Celestial. The dawn brought an hour's respite from the black mosquito swarms, and in the brief chill that heralded the sun they stole forward to where the sand-drifts pulsated on a reddening sky-line.

The passive strength of Asia clung to the grinning Celestial; it raised him from smothering1 beds of sand, where he pitched blindly to his knees, and carried him-ahead grunting good-humouredly. The stamina of the Mongol prevailed when the white man closed his eyes against the throbbing heat-waves....

A solitary vulture marked the unending miles with hoarse cries, while the shadow of its wings swung pendulum-wise over the wind-smoothed drifts.

By noon a smell of the sea came to them, a wet, wild taste that eased the red inferno in the white man's throat.

A few sooty-winged terns floated in the great depression where the ramparts of the desert fell away to the ocean. A surf-washed bay leaped before their sun-blighted eyes where a score of fishing luggers lay huddled under the lee of a promontory.

The white man breathed as though a beaker of wine had been emptied before him. Typhoo Shang lurked in his rear, blinking joyously at the white-crested breakers; he, too, had a fine regard for seascapes after the pulsating Gehenna that lay behind.

A little township of fishermen's huts sprawled along the sea-front; a few spindly palms leaned across the street where Blake staggered towards a low-roOfed Japanese boarding-house. The proprietor, a black-toothed Nagasakian came pottering from the verandah, his face wreathed in smiles.

Blake's only desire was to lie in a cool-shadowed room, where the sun's flaming retina could not spy him out. He wanted to listen indefinitely to the sound of the breakers booming across the surf-trenched bay.

He did not remember afterwards how they bore him in from the street to the little bedroom that faced the northern side of the bay. But he awoke, with his senses attuned to the sound of the Pacific breakers, to find Tashio Maru, the boarding-house keeper, seated at the foot of his bed.

He reminded Blake of an overgrown beetle with a sub-human face. They contemplated each other for several minutes before the Jap spoke.

"You no dollars have," he said in a pained voice. "You think it very much odd joke to impose on poor Japanese man!"

Bláke sighed not too wearily, because he was confident that he had slept many days and nights in Tashio Maru's abode. He had been dreaming of the white-faced little woman waiting—waiting for him in Boulder City.

"Painful consequences of this unjust debt are not too remote," went on the Jap. "It is a business for a police-officer."

Blake sat up with the roar of the sea in his brain. "Got blown out of my claim," he explained weakly. "That Chow you're nursing threw a light under a ten-ounce plug of dynamite. Guess I'll pay you, Tashio, first week I hit a colour."

Tashio shrugged dismally, as one versed in the ways of pale-faced swindlers and rhetoricians.

"You lie here three days," he explained sternly. "One doctor see you twice. He come long way on one horse. My whisky very much at your disposal between the fever. If you do not the money raise we must consider the police, eh?"

At that moment the bald, shiny head of a kitchen coolie flashed into the room. Three sing-song words in the vernacular fell softly on Tashio's ear. He glanced up swiftly, and then, with brief salaam in Blake's direction, passed into the adjoining room where Typhoo reposed on a couple of grass-woven mats.

Blake felt distressed at the thought of his position in the coolie boarding-house. Nothing remained but his immediate return to his native city, carrying with him the story of his failure and ill-luck. And again his heart smote him when he recalled the pretty girl-wife who had prayed and waited so long for the tide of fortune to sweep him above the callow drudgery of a city clerkship.

In the midst of his bitter reflections Tashio returned, accompanied by a smiling, white-coated Jap.

"This gentleman is the doctor, Soto, who attended your most honourable self and the Chinaman Shang," he declared, with a low salaam. "He has been very much impressed by the condition of the Chinaman's face. He desires to perform one very necessary operation."

Blake regarded Tashio swiftly, and then his eye wandered over the instrument-case in the Jap doctor's hand.

"I can't understand any sane medical man wanting to interfere with Typhoo's face," he said meekly. "It beat the dynamite plug, and stopped a shower of stones about the size of a cathedral."

"But he must be operate upon very sudden," the Jap doctor insisted. "There will be no pain, I assure."

Blake consented to the operation readily enough, for he was aware that the Chinaman had been close to the blasting-charge when the explosion occurred in the mine. Hitherto Blake had regarded Japs as a recent poisonous growth among the nations, a kind of human fungi, crying for instant extermination. He was now convinced of his unjust attitude, for how many white boarding-house keepers, he argued, would call in a doctor to operate on the face of a vagabond Chinaman without hope of immediate repayment?

HE did not see Typhoo for two whole days after the operation. And then the Chinaman appeared suddenly at the breakfast-table looking none the worse for his surgical experience.

"No moah pain in the face, sah," he confided to Blake. "Lillee Jap man take it away. Him welly clevah."

Tashio's shadow slanted into the room. He approached Blake's chair, and, with a half-muttered apology, placed an envelope, together with a small pile of dollars, at his elbow.

Blake turned at sight of the money, then picked up the envelope slowly.

"If this is vour bill," he said huskily, "I shall have to—"

"It is receipted," Tashio whispered. "There shall be no trouble about it."

"But this money," Blake protested.

Tashio salaamed with the agility of an emperor's valet. "I pray you take it. There will be some explanation in the bill.

Dumbfounded, but not depressed, Blake was forced to pocket the small heap of silver, his alert eyes seeking an explanation from the Chinaman's sphinx-like features.

They departed, after breakfast, taking with them a basket of Tashio's fruit, and his blessing. A mile from the house Blake took the envelope from his pocket, and his glance leaped to the Jap's copious scrawl on the bill inside:—

------------------------------------ Dollars.
For curing one Chinaman's face: 10
For three days' refreshment:    15
--------------------------------------- 25

My house-doctor extracted four little pellets of gold from Chinaman's face.
In the doctor's presence I make affidavit of their value—50 dollars.

Balance, 25 dollars.

THE Chinaman appeared blithely unconscious of Blake's open-eyed amazement as he re-read the scarce decipherable scrawl. His Celestial indifference received a violent shock that night, when Blake entered the post-office at Conlon's Creek, and telegraphed to his wife :—

"Heap of gold hit us in the face at Black Spur. Goes about thirty ounces to the dish. We're going back to clean up."

When Mrs. Blake arrived at Conlon's Creek about a month afterwards, she was met by her husband and a pair of-fast-travelling ponies.

The mine at Black Range was the centre of tremendous activity. White men and Japanese coolies vied with each other in preparing for the battery the piles of gold-impregnated quartz lying at hand.

Mrs. Blake's Western dignity received a slight shock when her husband introduced her very tenderly to an aged Chinaman, whose face was strangely scored and battered.

Blake explained later to his wife the real cause of his good luck. "It was that old heathen's face that stopped the going back to Boulder City and starvation," he said. "Some gold blew out of the reef and peppered his cheek. And because he smiled when the trouble came the gold showed itself to a little Japanese doctor."


The Popular Magazine, 15 October 1910, with "The Face of Typhoo Shang"


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.