Chan Tow The Highrob by Chester Bailey Fernald

Before me sits the Chinese—my friend who, when the hurlyburly’s done, spins me out the hours with narratives of ancient Yellowland. His name is Fuey Fong, and he speaks to me thus:

“Missa Gordon, whatta is Chrisinjin Indevil Shoshiety?”

I explain to him as best a journalist may the purpose of the Society for Christian Endeavour.

“We’, dissa morning I go down to lailload station. Shee vay many peoples getta on tlain. Assa conductor, ‘Whatta is?’ Conductor tole me: ‘You can’t go. You a heeffen. Dissa Chrisinjin Indevil Shoshiety.’

“Dissa mek me vay tire. ‘Me’ican peoples fink ole China heeffen. Fink doan’ know about Gaw of heffen. Dissa ‘Me’icans doan’ know whatta is. China peoples benieve Olemighty Gaw semma lika you.”

Fuey endures in meditation several moments. Then he says:

“Missa Gordon, I tay you how about Gaw convert China clilimal?”

“How God converted a Chinese criminal?”

“Yeh. I tay you. Dissa case somma lika dis:

“One tem was China highrob. His nem was Chan Tow. Live by rob on pubnic highway evely one he can. Dissa highrob live in place call Kan Suh. We’, one tem was merchan’, nem Jan Han Sun, getta lich in Kan Suh; say hisse’f: ‘I getta lich; now mus’ go home Tsan Ran Foo, shee my de-ah fadder-mudder-in-‘aw an’ my de-ah wife.’ So med determine to go home nex’ day.

“Kan Suh to Tsan Ran Foo about dousands miles distant, and dissa parts China no lailload, no canal. So dissa trivveler declude to ride in horse-carry-chair.”

“What is a horse-carry-chair?”

“We’, I tay you. Somma lika dis: Two horse—one befront, one inhine. Two long stick, and carry-chair in minnle. Usa roop somma lika harness. Dissa way trivvle long distance ole ove’ China.

“We’, nex’ day Missa Jan start out faw Tsan Ran Foo in horse-carry-chair. Hed big backage of go’ an’ sivver. Bye-bye—trivvle long tem—was pass high tree. Up high tree was Chan Tow—dissa highrob—was vay bad man! Chan Tow up tree to watch to stea’ whatta he can, semma lika vutture.”

“Like a vulture.”

“Like a vutture—big bird—eat dead beas’ ole he can.

“Chan Tow look down on load, and shee horse-carry-chair wif Missa Jan feet stick out. Nen dissa highrob say hisse’f: ‘Vay nice feet; lich man. I go fonnow him. Maybe can stea’ from him.’ So fonnow ‘long Missa Jan by day, by night, severow day—doan’ lose sight ole dissa tem. Bye-bye Missa Jan was trivvle ole night, and leach hotel early morning. He tole hotel-kipper: ‘You giva me loom. I slip ole day.’ Nen tek his backage go’ an’ sivver, an’ tek to bed wif him. Chan Tow come ‘long; say: ‘Giva me loom nex’ my de-ah frien’ jussa come in horse-carry-chair.’ Hotelkipper look him, an’ say, ‘Whatta your nem is?’ Chan Tow say, ‘My nem Chow Ying Hoo.’ Dissa nem, transnate Ingernish, mean Brev Tiger.”

“And what does Chan Tow mean?”

“Oh, Chan Tow mean ole semma bad faminy.

“We’, dissa highrob slip nex’ loom Missa Jan; but no can fine how to rob him ole dissa tem. Getta vay much disgussion; but nex’ day he fonnow long inhine dissa lich man jussa semma befaw. Somma tem eat at semma tabuh wif Jan; but Jan getta begin to suspicious, an’ ole tem getta his go’ an’ sivver unnerneaf him when he shet down to tabuh. Chan Tow say hisse’f: ‘You fink I doan’ know how to shucshess to stea’ yo’ money. Maybe I big foo’ you.’

“We’, bye-bye was mont’ go by. Dissa merchan’ reach his netive sheety. Firs’ he go immedinity to respec’ his fadder-mudder-in-‘aw, becose his fadder-mudder dead. Dey vay gnad to shee him—vay denight. Dey assa him vay many quishuns; but he tole dem: ‘I mus’ go to my de-ah wife. I not sheen her so long tem.’ Nen he smi’ hisse’f, an’ tole horse-carry-chair-man run wif him quick to fine his de-ah wife. When he allive ne’ his house, say to man: ‘Goo’-by! I go ressa way on footstep.’ Nen go vay quier on his tiptoe, and lock vay soft at his daw.”

Here pauses the Chinese, and looks at me. Shortly he says:


“Well?” I echo.

“We’, dissa last tem dissa merchan’ Jan Han Sun was sheen annibe!”

“Does the highrob follow him and kill him?”

“No one shee any highrob. No one shee any horse-carry-chair-man. No one shee any Jan. No maw!

“Nex’ morning come fadder-mudder-in-‘aw to congratchnate dissa daughter. Said, ‘We vay denight, vay gnad, yo’ husban’ come home. Where he is dissa morning? Daughter look vay supp’ise.’ Said, ‘When you shee my husban’ come home?’ Parents said: ‘Why, my de-ah daughter, yo’ husban’ pass by my daw las’ night. We hev vay short convisition beggedder, an’ he say bling home glate many go’ an’ sivver—mek you habby. Nen left us come shee you.’

“Nen, vay suddenity, dissa daughter say: ‘I fink you ki’ my husban’, so you can rob! I hev you arres’.’

“An’ she go to magistrate an’ mek petition. Say her fadder-mudder to ki’ her husban’. Her fadder-mudder bofe vay indignant; but was putta in jai’.

“Magistrate examine case, assa many quishuns, search bofe dissa house—but can’t fine who mudder dissa merchan’. Fadder-mudder-in’-aw say, ‘We innocent.’ Daughter say, ‘You liars!’ Her parents med declaration, ‘I doan’ hed mudder to any person.’ Two mont’s go by. Can’t fine who mudder. Nen daughter petition to supere court; say dissa magistrate doan’ know how fine who mudder. Supere court send word, ‘You doan’ fine who mudder in six mont’s—deglade yo’ lank.’ Dissa China way to mek law.

“We’, dissa magistrate, whatta he do? Doan’ like getta deglade; dissa spoi’ his whole life. Say hisse’f: ‘I vay detest to get deglade. Mus’ go mek detectif—fine who mudder.’ Nex’ day left his court, and go mek long trivvle—ole dress up like a fortune-tayer.”

“Like a fortune-teller?”

“Yeh; fortune-tayer. Vay low common in China. Go roun’ wif ole kine bad peoples.

“Magistrate look jussa somma poh fortune-taye. Nen go on load an’ trivvle—trivvle vay far. Eve’y tem shee a man look lika somma bad man, try mek frien’s wif him. But no can fine who mudder. Long tem trivvle—’way intehuh China; but no can fine anyone knows about dissa case. Say hisse’f: ‘Pitty soon I getta discoulagement. Two mont’s maw getta deglade, getta disglace! I doan’ know I ki’ hisse’f!’

“One day was stag’ ‘long load; getta ‘mos’ exhaus’. Bofe sides load was high heels, no house. Kep’ on, on; semma heels; semma no house; mus’ lie down in load wifout any subber, wifout any dlink. Dissa magistrate begin getta desplate. Nen he finks, ‘I play to Gaw an’ my ancestors.’ So begin play lika diss: ‘O Gaw, O my ancestors, givva me res’; givva me foo’; givva me wadder! Nen I kip on fawever fine who ki’ Jan Han Sun.’ Nen magistrate stag’ ‘long few steps, an’ dlop down on big lock. No can any fudder.

“Pitty soon look roun’; shee litty light shine from winnidow. Dissa was littyoshantyhouse—vay poh look——”



“We’, magistrate to lock at daw. Come to daw littyoneddy——”

“Little old what?”


“Dissa oneddy she was vay ole, vay feeble. He tole her: ‘Please, oneddy, you givva me kunderness let me go slip in yo’ house to-night! I ‘mos’ died. No subber, no wadder—’mos’ exhaus’!’ Oneddy tole him: ‘Walks in; walks in! But you mus’ kip vay quier, my de-ah sir; as quier as can be! My son is dreffel differcut man. His profussion was highrob. He getta home minnernight; an’ you doan’ kip quier, I fred he to strike you!’ But magistrate say: ‘I too tire’ to getta scare’. You nedda me stay wif you.’

“So oneddy giva him to eat, an’ show him to go slip unner tabuh in katchen. Nen he lie down, an’ play once more his ancestors an’ Gaw: ‘You he’p me oleleddy; I kip plomise. Nou he’p me somma maw—I fine who mudder.’ Nen go slip.

“Bye-bye was dleam ’bout gleen moudens, gleen wadder. Hear’ spi’its say, ‘I wi’ assist you.’ Ole dissa vay good sign. Suddinity was wek up from his slip, and shaw oneddy stand befaw him—ole in dark. She say: ‘My son come home in vay good humours. Say lak mek yo’ acquaintenance.’ Dissa tem was minnernight. Magistrate craw’ out from unner tabuh, an’ fonnow oneddy in nex’ loom. Heah was Chan Tow, dissa highrob. Was fee’ in vay good tempiniment to-night—hedda jus’ rob litty gir’ her earlings.”

“It made him very happy to have stolen earrings from a little girl?”

“Oh, yeh. Earlings med jay-stone.

“We’, Chan Tow he vay denight to shee dissa fortune-tayer. Mek put hisse’f down to tabuh, eat subbah wif him, an’ mek oneddy hop ‘long getta ole bes’ was in oshantyhouse. Chan Tow say: ‘My de-ah sir, I am exceediny denight to shee you. We bofe about sem profussions: you fortune-tayer; I was highrob.’ Nen bofe eat, dlink long tem, an’ Chan Tow tay ole about his shucshess in binniziz.”

“You mean business?”

“Yeh; binniziz.

“Tay ole about his binniziz. Tay how stea’ watch from ‘Me’ican missiolary man. Tay how——”

“How did he steal the watch from the American missionary?”

“We’, somma lika dis: Chan Tow was vay stlong man, but vay litty meat on his boles. One day shee missiolary man come ‘long load. Hedda watch-chain hang out. Chan Tow lie down in load, an’ begin kick an’ scleam ole semma sick white woman. Missiolary man was vay sympafy, an’ tole him, ‘Whatta is?’ Chan Tow say: ‘Much vay sick! Much vay sick! You no he’p me home I getta died! You tekka me home I mek good Chrisinjin boy!’ Missiolary man vay good man; say hisse’f: ‘Gaw sen’ me dissa man mek convict to Chrisinjanity. I he’p him!’ So tek up Chan Tow in his arm to tek home. Chan Tow kep’ gloan, gloan,—an’ ole dissa tem was put his han’ in missiolary his pocket an’ stea’ dissa watch! Nen Chan Tow kep’ hang on missiolary his neck an’ say hisse’f: ‘I lika dissa to ride better I lika to walk. I letta dissa missiolary man ca’y me jusso far he can.’ So missiolary man stag’ long tem ‘long load, an’ kep’ sweat, sweat—semma lika glass ice-wadder; an’ Chan Tow kep’ gloan semma like ole barn daw.”

“Chan Tow kept groaning like an old barn door, and the missionary man kept perspiring like a glass of ice-water?”

“Oh, no! Missiolary man sweat. Bye-bye, hedda ca’y dissa highrob two miles—’way down vanney, ‘way up heel. Nen missiolary man lose ole his breffs, an’ begin to gaps. He say, ‘Mus’ res’; mus’ putta you down!’ Chan Tow kep’ gloan, an’ say: ‘You putta me down I doan’ know I die. Mus’ getta home!’ Missiolary man say: ‘Can’t he’p—I ‘mos’ exhaus’.’ Nen dissa highrob jump down vay well, an’ say: ‘We’, I mus’ getta home. I walk ressa way—leave you to res’. Goo’-by!’ Nen run fas’ he can down dissa heel.

“Missiolary man stay look him run, an’ kep’ fink ole tem. Nen say hisse’f: ‘I fink dissa man inshinsherity. I lose ole dissa tem wif him! Whatta tem it is?’ Nen he search his watch. ‘Oh, my! No watch; no convict! Dissa vay bad day!”

The Chinese grins with the greatest pleasure.

“We’, magistrate an’ highrob kep’ tay ole ’bout expelunces in binniziz.”


“Yeh; binniziz.

“Kep’ tay ole about binniziz. Bye-bye pea-oil light go out. Oneddy craw’ up on bed an’ go slip. Nen two men stay an’ smoke pipe—ole dark. Magistrate closs his legs an’ say, ole lika he doan’ care: ‘Missa Highrob, dissa light go out mek me remin’ whatta habben Tsan Ran Foo. You heard about dissa case? Man nem Jan Han Sun go home his wife—no can fine who mudder.’ Chan Tow smi’ vay plou’,[1] an’ say: ‘Oh, my de-ah brudder, I know ole ’bout dissa case. I was to shee dissa man getta ki’ in his own houses.’

“Magistrate dlaw glate big breff frough his pipe. Swallow smoke clea’ down his stomach! Mek big cough—nearny cough his top head off!—an’ wek oneddy! Nen he say: ‘We’, we’! You good dea’ maw wise dissa magistrate Tsan Ran Foo. I hea’ he was deglade his rank. Cannot fine who mudder!’

“Chan Tow say: ‘Dissa magistrate mus’ come fine me. No one ess can tay him. I tay you ole about dissa mudder. You lika hea’?’ Magistrate say: ‘We’, I vay tire’. But lika hea’ you talk better I lika go slip, my de-ah sir!’ Dissa mek highrob vay plou’, an’ he begin lika dis:

“‘One day shaw horse-carry-chair trivvle ‘long load. Shaw feet stick out—vay nice feet; mus’ be lich man. So fonnow him. He hev big backage go’ an’ sivver, but eve’y tem go subbah mus’ oleways shet hisse’f on top dissa backage. Fonnow him long tem—severow weeks. But cannot stea’ from him. Bye-bye he reach his home Tsan Ran Foo, an’ go to respec’ his mudder-fadder-in-‘aw; nen go fine his wife. Dissa tem was minnernight—vay dark. Fink was good tem to stea’ from him, an’ getta his go’ an’ sivver. So kep’ fonnow ‘long load. When he getta his house he lock long tem at his daw, but was no answer. Nen say, vay loud: “De-ah wife, letta me in! I am yo’ de-ah husban’ come home.” So bye-bye was daw open, an’ his wife come say: “O my de-ah husban’! so denight to shee you!” Nen ole dark.

“‘Nen I go roun’ back his house. Getta long bamboo po’, an’ putta dissa po’ up ‘gainst house to shin up dissa loof. Nen cut with knife a litty roun’ ho’ frough loof, an’ look down into dissa house. Can look down into loom, an’ shee ole whatta was habben.

“‘Vay soon Jan examine tabuh; say: “O my de-ah wife, whatta faw you setta dissa tabuh for two peoples? You have compaly?” Wife say: “O my de-ah husban’, eve’y tem since you go ‘way I setta dissa tabuh faw two peoples—you and me—jussa semma you heah!” Jan smi’ vay plou,’ an’ say, “You are shinsherny[2] my de-ah wife!”—was mak fee’ vay good.

“‘Nen his wife tole him: “Now we hev jubinee; eat, dlink—mek me’y tem!” So I lie on top dissa loof, vay dly, vay hunger; an’ ole tem shee her husban’ eat subbah an’ kip dlink, dlink, an’ kiss his wife, an’ dlink, an’ getta maw an’ maw intoshcate. Bye-bye was so intoshcate mus’ go slip. Nen his wife he’p him go bed, an’ he begin snow.’”

“How’s that?”

“Begin snow—snowul—snole! Begin snole!”

“It began to snow?”

“On, no; I tay you. Dissa merchan’ begin mekka lika dis.” Fuey makes a sound that is unmistakable.

“‘We’, nen look shee whatta dissa woman go do. She go to hooks on wa’, an’ tek down lot her dresses. Nen I shee man step out. Dissa woman whisper to him: “Shee my husban’ slip. He bling back glate many go’ and sivver! You love me, you tekka dissa sharp knife and ki’ him. Nen we getta marry begedder to-morrow, an’ mek habby tem.”

“‘Her beau say: “Oh, no. I fred ki’ him. Fred I get behead.” An’ nen dissa woman getta vay mad wif him, an’ say: “You doan’ ki’ him, I tekka dissa knife an’ chot op yo’ head op, instamentty!” Nen he begin tek off his mine——’”

“Took off his mind?”

“Yeh,” says Fuey; “I do’ know dissa word—semma you tek off yo’ clo’s.”

“Changed his mind?”


“‘Begin to tek off—chenge his mine—an’ say: “How I ki’ him?” Woman say: “You tekka dissa sharp knife.”

“‘Nen he clep up to dissa bed, his eye ole stick from his head. When he getta where dissa mer-out chan’ slip, an’ snow, snow, ole semma hev good dleam, dissa beau mek like was to chenge his mine ‘gain; but dissa woman whisper: “Quick! Quick!”—an’ nen ole sudden dissa beau stlike. Nen Jan Han Sun was died—instamentty!

“‘Dissa woman begin rip up flaw. Her beau he’p her ole he can, an’ work vay hard, fas’—fred somebody come. Kep’ look roun’. An’ eve’y tem pea-oil light flicker, look roun’ to shee who was. Ole tem stop to hol’ his ear on flaw—shee who come. Flaw rip up; nen go getta shover an’ dig long ho’ in earf, unnerneaf dissa bed. Nen vay quick shover back ole dissa earf, fix flaw, an’ blow out light.

“‘Ole tem I stay up dissa loof. Vay hunger—no wadder; an’ cannot rob dissa merchan’ becose he dead! Getta vay disgussion. Light go out, I hang foot over’ side dissa loof, an’ begin fink. Maw I fink, maw getta disgussion. Bye-bye getta vay, vay disgussion. Nen tek dissa bamboo po’ to shove frough dissa ho’ in loof—vay quier. When he shove frough, nen I ole suddenity begin push, jab, shove—quick—ole semma churn budder. Down below woman an’ her beau begin squea’, squea’, ole semma rat! ‘Most scare’ to def! Nen I shin down loof—run ‘way.’”

Fuey draws a long breath, and smiles at me his calm, celestial smile.

“We’, Chan Tow finis’ his sto’y. Magistrate was ole tem smoke big clou’s smoke, an’ mek loom look lika was on fire. Mek oneddy wek up an’ open daw. When Chan Tow finis’, magistrate say: ‘My de-ah brudder de highrob, yo’ sto’y vay intinesse, vay intinesse! I fink I go slip.’ So ole thlee was lie down to go slip, an’ Chan Tow was tek his op’ pipe an’ begin smoke opi’. Whatta you say—hurt de pipe?”

“Hit the pipe.”

“Oh, yeh; hit pipe. I doan’ spe’k Ingernish vay we’.

“Magistrate wet long tem. Bye-bye oneddy begin to snow, an’ nen bye-bye Chan Tow getta doan’ know.”

“Chan Tow got don’t know?”

“Getta ole semma was died. Doan’ know.”


“Yeh; uh-uh-coshious!” sneezes Fuey.

“Nen magistrate begin craw’ ‘long on his stoamch—inchy—inchy—cross flaw—out daw. Nen run fas’ he can towards Tsan Ran Foo.

“One mont’ go by, an’ magistrate sit up in his high chair in his court. Befron him dissa woman an’ her beau,—ole cover wif mark dissa bamboo po’,—an’ dissa fadder-mudder-in-‘aw, an’ dissa highrob. Magistrate say, vay slow—ole semma idol talk: ‘Dissa—woman—her lover—are convert—to behead—by hev dey heads cut off—till dey dead! What you fink, woman?’ Woman say: ‘Yo’ Excennency, I vay gnad to be behead wif my de-ah lover. I vay satisfaction we behead begedder. Our spi’its begedder habby fo’ever.’ Nen she turn kiss her beau; but he too scare to spe’k. An’ bofe was tek out to behead—dissa woman ole tem to mek to kiss her beau.

“Magistrate say to highrob: ‘You know me? Who eata subbah wif you sucha-sucha night?’ Chan Tow say, ‘O yo’ Excennency, I doan’ know who was!’ Magistrate say: ‘I was dissa man. I glate t’anks faw you. Awso dissa fadder-mudder-in-‘aw dissa dead man. Gaw sen’ me to yo’ house to mek you instlument to convert dissa mudderers. I give you good position; awso money.”

“And that was how these criminals were converted?” I say, remembering the promise of the story.

“Yeh; convert to behead. Dissa case,” concluded Fuey, “show how Gaw can convert cliliman when he wish; show how Gaw is glate. I tay you China peoples not heeffen. China ‘ligion teach to try to affection one anudder; respec’ yo’ parents; an’ charity an’ pure moral. If people do right I fink he shall be saved.”

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