Stories in Light and Shadow HTML version

See Yup
I don't suppose that his progenitors ever gave him that name, or, indeed, that it
was a NAME at all; but it was currently believed that—as pronounced "See
UP"—it meant that lifting of the outer angle of the eye common to the Mongolian.
On the other hand, I had been told that there was an old Chinese custom of
affixing some motto or legend, or even a sentence from Confucius, as a sign
above their shops, and that two or more words, which might be merely equivalent
to "Virtue is its own reward," or "Riches are deceitful," were believed by the
simple Californian miner to be the name of the occupant himself. Howbeit, "See
Yup" accepted it with the smiling patience of his race, and never went by any
other. If one of the tunnelmen always addressed him as "Brigadier-General,"
"Judge," or "Commodore," it was understood to be only the American fondness
for ironic title, and was never used except in personal conversation. In
appearance he looked like any other Chinaman, wore the ordinary blue cotton
blouse and white drawers of the Sampan coolie, and, in spite of the apparent
cleanliness and freshness of these garments, always exhaled that singular
medicated odor—half opium, half ginger—which we recognized as the common
"Chinese smell."
Our first interview was characteristic of his patient quality. He had done my
washing for several months, but I had never yet seen him. A meeting at last had
become necessary to correct his impressions regarding "buttons"—which he had
seemed to consider as mere excrescences, to be removed like superfluous dirt
from soiled linen. I had expected him to call at my lodgings, but he had not yet
made his appearance. One day, during the noontide recess of the little frontier
school over which I presided, I returned rather early. Two or three of the smaller
boys, who were loitering about the school-yard, disappeared with a certain guilty
precipitation that I suspected for the moment, but which I presently dismissed
from my mind. I passed through the empty school-room to my desk, sat down,
and began to prepare the coming lessons. Presently I heard a faint sigh. Looking
up, to my intense concern, I discovered a solitary Chinaman whom I had
overlooked, sitting in a rigid attitude on a bench with his back to the window. He
caught my eye and smiled sadly, but without moving.
"What are you doing here?" I asked sternly.
"Me washee shilts; me talkee 'buttons.'"
"Oh! you're See Yup, are you?"
"Allee same, John."
"Well, come here."