THE WIFE OF FOO JUNG by Fred A. Wilson
Harper’s Weekly, January 16, 1892, pages 53-54 (Fiction)
It served Foo Jung right, they all said. He ought to have known better than to take that white woman as his wife. No good ever came of such things; and they, the clever ones, had known it and prophesied it all along. And now, when Foo Jung came to them for cash and consolation, they crossed their fingers at him, and laughed and mocked.

It wasn’t a very long story they told to the stranger ones who wanted to know why Foo Jung had gone crazy, and why the foreign devils had taken him away, like a bag of rice, to the place across the river, where they kept mad folks and criminals like wild beasts. They told it in the temple on meeting days; they talked of it in the back rooms of the grocery stores on Mott Street; and it was even discussed over the fan-tan tables, which shows it must have been of very great interest.

They called Foo Jung ts’uung-ming when he first came to the Eastern country, because whatever he touched turned shiny, like gold. He came with nothing, and he walked down Mott Street like a man who had been out in the weather so long he had turned rusty. He queue was dull black, like the hair of a dead man, and his sandals were ragged. No one looked at him except to laugh and jeer. Even his own countrymen cried out, "what fruit is this dropped over-ripe from a new tree among us?"" But he paid no attention to them. He walked into Hi Quong’s yat bunlow like a man who had plenty of money. He walked to where Hi was writing, and he watched the big diamond on the finger of the restaurant-keeper change color three times, then he spoke: 

"I am hungry."

"This is the place for hungry men to come to," said Hi, without looking up.

"I am hungry, and I have no cash," said Foo Jung, as he picked the nail of his forefinger, like a man who knows not what to expect.

Then Hi looked up, and saw who it was had come into his place. "Why should I feed you if you have no cash?" he asked, sharply. "Can I buy chue-yok without cash, or can I buy fon without it? Do you think I live that I may make beggars’ paunches stick out like the stomach of a mandarin?"

Then here is where Foo Jung first showed he was clever. He took two steps backward, put his hands behind him, like a man who is afraid of contracting disease by the touch, and said, "You are Hi Quong?"

"Yes," answered the other.

"You come from the Foo-Chow?"

"Yes. What of it?"

"Your mother bade me say when I left she hoped you were well and happy. I told her I would embrace you when we met. I shall tell her when I write that I did not carry her message because, evil having crossed my path and made me poor, you turned me out in the street, like an evil one. I shall tell her you have become like the men in whose country you live: that you have cast out your Sheung-tai, and worship only the yellow cash. All of this I shall tell her. I go now to find men better, more faithful, than you."

He took two more steps backward, this time toward the door which led into the street. This showed that Foo Jung was a clever one; for, in truth, he had never been nearer Foo-Chow than Kwang-Tung. But he had talked with a man from the beautiful city, and had stored his mind up to his own advantage. When he had spoken, Hi Quong climbed down from the high stool upon which he sat, and he walked around the end of the counter. Foo Jung stood like a man who is irresolute.

"What more did my mother say?" Hi Quong asked.

The Wife Of Foo Jung
January 16, 1892, page 53

Like a maiden who is being wooed, the rusty-looking one told many things. He conjured up details in his own mind, and he told a long story to Hi Quong. Any one could have seen how it would end. Back to the big table in the corner the rusty one was taken, and soon there was brought out the finest dishes, the best of wines, chow gai pen, which is the tender breast of chicken stewed with aromatic herbs, and bamboo shoots, and no mi t’san, the liquor which is made from the best crop of the rice. How the rusty one feasted! He cleaned off the dishes one by one until they were polished, and as often as his mouth was empty he would tell Hi Quong lies about Foo-Chow; and Hi Quong believed, for it was a great many years since he had left his native town.

When the rusty one had finished, when he had eaten so much that he was like a fowl ready for the killing, he wiped his mouth off with back of his hand, and went with the Foo-Chow man to the counter where he cash drawer was kept. Out of the drawer Hi counted silver—enough for new clothes, enough for new sandals, some for a new hat and two bits as a fee to the barber.

"You will never regret this," said Foo Jung; but he chuckled to himself.

He lighted a cigarette, and went out with his head up in the air, like a man who has nothing to fear and who wants for nothing. He walked slowly down the street, and made eyes and showed his teeth to the idle ones who stood in the doorways. He rattled the silver in his pocket, and blew the cigarette smoke up in the air.

"The rusty one has his head in the clouds," said one, "but his feet are in the gutter." But Foo Jung paid no attention to that.

On Mott Street, half-way from Pell Street to the Square, on that side where the sun shines in the mornings, Foo Jung stopped and looked. He was opposite a cellar. The white sign of a faan-t’ann koon hung over the door, and the sound of copper cash came up the steps. The silver in Foo Jung’s pocket dances around as if it were bewitched. Away back in Kwang-Tung they had called Foo Jung a great player. He knew all the tricks of the fan-tan men, and when he heard the cash, he was tempted. A man came up out of the cellar.

"Good brother," he said, "come down among friends and make your fortune." He thought Foo Jung was a laundry-man from the country.

"I will go down and make my fortune," said Foo Jung. "Do you pay when you lose?"

"Yes; and sometimes we pay double if you play ho-ts’oi."

Down the nine stone steps went Foo Jung, counting the steps as he went, for he believed in signs.

"Come up, brother; here’s a lucky place for you," said another man, while two of the players looked at each other like men who suspect something, and the play began.

All that day Hi Quong waited in the yat bunlow for his new friend, but he might as well have saved himself the trouble, for he waited in vain. The night came, the dingy lamps were lighted, all the stools in the restaurant were full, and Foo Jung had not come. The big clock back of the counters showed midnight when Foo Jung walked in carelessly.

"Ah, my friend," he said, "have I been away too long?" Then he leaned up against the counter and laughed. He had the same old clothes on. "I have not been to the tailor’s yet, nor to the barber’s, but I will go to-morrow if you will let me lie down."

Hi Quong took him into the back room and showed him a place to sleep. Then he went back to the counter wondering. Presently Chew Chung, the man who kept the fan-tan shop in the cellar, came in.

"Who is that man?" he asked.

"He comes from the town I was born in, and brought me a message from my mother," answered Hi Quong.

"Yes, and he has taken every tael I had. He gambles like a devil—as if he could look into the future."

The result of this was that next day Chew Chung came around to the yat bunlow to see Foo Jung. He went into the little back room and talked a long while with him, and when he came out they were partners, and had agreed to start a new faan-t’ann koon. Foo Jung held his head up higher than ever after that, and when his story came out, from calling him the rusty one, they took to calling him the clever one, and from showing their teeth at him, they were only too glad if he even so much as looked at them.

That was the first; and because Foo Jung was so clever, he became popular. He made money, had his queue oiled every day, and went to live in a room full of bronzes and hung with shiny silks, which whispered to themselves when they were touched. No one could beat him at the wonderful game of fan-tan, and no one ever tried except those poor fellows from the country who came in Sunday nights, and lost a month’s wages at one sweep to him. But even they like him a little bit, because, when he had won all their money, he would pretend to show them some of his tricks, he would give them good advice, and always enough money to go home. But even by this the clever Foo Jung profited marvelously. The poor fellows to whom he showed tricks would show these same tricks to their friends, who would go to Foo Jung’s to win money. But it always turned out the same way, and when they too had lost all their money, Foo Jung would come up behind them, and say, while he rubbed his hands together:

"That was a very good trick, my friends; but you did not play it quite right. Now I will show you how to win"; and he would pretend to show them.

Then they, too, would go away, not feeling bad at all that they had lost to such a man. But that isn’t the main story at all, for if Foo Jung had gone right along like that he would be a rich man in China to-day, instead of behind bars like a wild beast.

One night, when the players were so few that you could count them upon the fingers on one hand, he went in to see Jew Tseng, who kept an opien tsit around the corner. He was sitting on the edge of the bunk talking when there came in a woman with wong-shik hair and round blue eyes, unlike anything Foo Jung had ever seen before. In an instant he felt that he was smitten. A great wave of love swept over him, like a warm wind from the south, which brings with it strange sweet perfumes. He watched her as she walked to one of the little rooms quite unattended; and when she had disappeared inside, he began to ask his friend about her. Jew Tseng knew nothing, except that the woman came to his place about three times every week, bought shap fuun of opien, cooked it all alone in that little room; and then, strangest part of all, got right up and walked away as steady as a priest.

"It is not the yen-yen that brings her here," he said, "because she does not act as if she had the habit. She pays me; she smokes; that’s all I know. I tend to my own affairs."

That was the evil night for Foo Jung, they said in Mott Street when this came out. If any of his friends wanted to find him, instead of going to the fan-tan house, they went to Jew Tseng’s. He was always there, watching and waiting for that woman with the yellow hair and the blue eyes. Once he had spoken to her, but she looked at him so fiercely that her eyes seemed to turn almost black. He was persistent, and at last he won. She actually spoke to him. She got so she used to say, "Hello, John!" whenever she came in.

To which he responded, with a beaming face and treble voice, "Hi lo ho-t’ai yat."

He had been almost ready to go back to China, but he forgot all about that now. If he could only marry this beautiful woman, he would never want to go across the sea. He must get her something to show he loved her. So he went out one day and bought a ring. It had diamond in it as big as the one Hi Quong wore, and when she came one night, he stopped her in the passageway, and handed to her, with a formal salaam, after the manner of the men of his country, the pink box which held the gem. She had taken it first as if she were afraid, like a child. He had told her, in his broken English, to open it and look. She had obeyed, and when she saw that big glittering stone, shining like a magic eye, she gave a little scream of delight, and he was more than satisfied.

Step by step he won his way until he was almost sure of his ground. She came oftener, and she used to stop and talk with him awhile before she went into the little room. He tried to reform her once by saying, "Opien, him no good ha?" But at this she had only laughed.

He even went so far as to go and see a minister, and ask him how much it cost to marry a "Melican gal"; but the minister had asked him so many questions that he had run away.

It was the talk of the quarter. The clever one, who could beat any one at fan-tan, had been captured body and soul by one of the women of the foreign devils, and, worst of all, he wanted to marry her. He wanted to renounce his country. Wong Foo, the learned one, the venerable one, who was the chosen adviser of all his countrymen in the quarter, talked with him, but he might as well have tried to hold wind in his hand.

One night, dressed in his best silks, Foo Jung made up his mind to ask this girl to be his wife. He was at the joint a long while before she came, and his friend, Jew Tseng, noticed he was uneasy. She came, smiling. In his own language Foo Jung called her his sun-burst. She stopped to talk to him. He held out his shaking, trembling, hand to her. She took it, and he felt a thrill go through him. He wasted not time in words.

"You mally me?" he asked, right before them all.

Jew Tseng looked up; some of the fiends, half in the clutches of the opium, raised their heads drowsily.

"Hully gee!" ejaculated a girl with red hair; "what’s this?"

The young woman with the yellow hair must have been expecting something like this, because she didn’t hesitate long, but burst out, "Yes, John; I’ll marry you."

The knowing ones prophesied bad luck. They said nothing good could come of such a thing as this. But nothing could turn the clever one. There was a stir in the quarter, as if a chill wind had suddenly been blown out of a summer sky. Foo Jung’s friends did not know exactly how it came about, but they did know that he became as a child in the hands of this yellow-haired woman. What she told him to do, that he did without question. He sold his share in the gambling-house for cash. He sold everything he had. He took his money out of the bank, and put it in a black bag, which he tied about his waist. Together—he and the girl—they went to see a minister. He did not look like a minister to Foo Jung; but she said he was, and he gave him fifty dollars to get ready to marry them. The day came. They were to be married in a house uptown. They went in.

"Take hold of hands," said the minister.

And Foo Jung reached out and took her hand. He had an idea that he was very happy, and that it was a very important occasion.

"You’re married," said the minister, who leaned over and kissed the girl and laughed, while Foo Jung looked on and wondered if that was right.

"Give her your money, to show that you ain’t afraid to trust her," said the minister.

The Chinaman did not quite understand until she held out her hand and pointed to the black bag. Then he took it from his belt and gave it to her.

"Go and sign your name in the book in the other room," the minister said.

The girl went in, while the clever one stood around, not knowing what to do with himself. After a while another man came into the room. He walked over to where Foo Jung stood.

"You wife go Mott Street," he said, imitating the pidgin-English of a Chinese. "She say you go meet her Mott Street." He took Foo Jung to the door, and in a minute the clever one was on the street.

It took him an hour to walk down to Mott Street, for he had no money. He went to Jew Tseng’s. She was not there. He searched everywhere, but it was as if she had never existed. He tried to find the place where he had been married, but he might as well have tried to find a star in the sky while the sun was shining. He went to the room where he had lived. There was nothing left but a paper Joss, which hung on the wall between the two windows. He sat on the bare floor and looked at it steadily, trying to think of what to do. He saw the green eyes move about in the pink head. They rolled so violently it made him dizzy. Then the arm which held the yellow sword was raised. The head of the Joss bobbed forward three times.

"You’re the cursed one," screamed Foo Jung; and he would have made at the paper which hung on the wall, but he was afraid.

Those on the floor below heard a crashing of glass, and a noise as of some heavy body falling repeatedly. They rushed up stairs, opened the door, and peered in. What they saw made them retreat down stairs like sheep before a herder. The news spread like water running down hill. The clever one had a curse upon him, and foam was coming out of his mouth. They grouped in the doorway, talking excitedly, and looking fearfully up the dark stairs.

A policeman came along slowly, swinging his club. "What’s the matter with you fellows?" he asked.

"Foo Jung—up there," was all they could say.

"A fight, ha? Well, I just guess I’ll go up."

He started slowly through the hallway, when he heard a noise up above. Then came a shriek as if a soul had just been doomed to punishment. There was a clattering on the stairs, as of bricks tumbling down. The policeman stepped one side and looked. A man with ragged and torn clothes was coming down, rushing. He had in his hands the fragment of a paper Joss, which he was tearing into still smaller fragments. He reached the bottom of the stairs and shrieked again. The policeman raised his club, and brought it down with force upon the queued head, and Foo Jung tumbled over in the passage, while the blood streamed out from a big cut. The ambulance which came took away a raving maniac who wanted to kill himself.

They say down in Mott Street now that no man is clever enough for a woman.

Harper’s Weekly, January 16, 1892, pages 53-54 (Fiction)

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