Bill Meilen
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CHANGO JADE

 

turned away and was silent for a moment, his face working.

“Such hurried indignities would not be necessary if the Gwailo treated us as civilised human beings, and allowed us to bring our wives to Canada. But we are not human beings to those Colonial people. We are suspicious Celestials. You know enough about the Chinese Exclusion Act to know that, my boy. We must use other methods to keep our family alive in a new country. It is not by choice, but by necessity. Perhaps some day the Gwailo will rescind the Chinese Exclusion Act, or make the five hundred dollars a smaller amount. In the interim we will live as well as we can, by industry and obedience to authority. That is the only way for us to survive in Canada, my son.” He sighed deeply. “Now go to bed. I can say no more.”

Loy backed away into the shadows of the bamboo stand that acted as a windbreak to the house entrance, then turned and made his way silently along the pebble stepping-stones through the moss garden and into the garden door of the house. The house seemed silent and empty now, only butterlamps flickering fitful shadows of entities growing in dark corners. In one of the rooms an elderly aunt was snoring. Wind played the eaves with a sad fluting sound.

Loy found his uncle Sun waiting in his room when he arrived. “The whole wide world could not help overhearing the conversation between you and your father,” Sun said, “so I thought it would be wise to visit you before you sleep to see if I may ease your mind on any matters.”

Loy sat on the edge of his bed. “It is difficult for me here, Uncle Sun. I just do not seem to belong here. Chinese ways are so old-fashioned. How can I fit in here, being a North American? Our values are so different.” Loy made a gesture of futility. Sun nodded.

“Listen to me. I only say things once. It is a matter of survival. Your father went to Gim San many years ago to make money in business. He is not a good merchant. although he is very good at investing our family savings in various businesses. Every one is run like a military operation. Of course, that is your father’s military past coming out. He was not a general staff officer for nothing. We have always been a scholarly military family, and it was a great blow to us when the old world came to an end. Your father, as First Young Master had to perform a miracle. Forget loafing around in smart uniforms! He had to learn to survive all over again, with the responsibility for the welfare of the family squarely on his shoulders. There was nothing left for him in China—although they respect our family, as you know. We do nothing to offend them, but who knows about tomorrow? Your father is building a bridge to the new land for us, and has succeeded well in a great new land. A land of the Gwailo who do not want our people. It would have been good if your mother could have gone with him. Then you would not be lonely as the only son.”

Sun walked to the veranda window and looked out at the darkness. “It is sad that you did not know your mother. She was a very beautiful, intelligent woman. As you know, she died at the birth of your sister Mei-len.” He let that sink in for a moment. “Death is a fact of life we all face. In all of his married life, your father saw your mother only three times, all for very short periods. That was very difficult for your father, particularly as they were in love

 

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