The Pagan Madonna (Chapter 6, page 1 of 10)


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Chapter 6

Now, then, the further adventures of Ling Foo of Woosung Road. He was an
honest Chinaman. He would beat you down if he were buying, or he would
overcharge you if he were selling. There was nothing dishonest in this; it
was legitimate business. He was only shrewd, not crooked. But on this day
he came into contact with a situation that tried his soul, and tricked him
into overplaying his hand.

That morning he had returned to his shop in a contented frame of mind. He
stood clear of the tragedy of the night before. That had never happened;
he had dreamed it. Of course he would be wondering whether or not the man
had died.

When Ling Foo went forth with his business in his pack he always closed
the shop. Here in upper Woosung Road it would not have paid him to hire a
clerk. His wife, obedient creature though she was, spoke almost no
pidgin--business--English; and besides that, she was a poor bargainer.

It was hard by noon when he let himself into the shop. The first object he
sought was his metal pipe. Two puffs, and the craving was satisfied. He
took up his counting rack and slithered the buttons back and forth. He had
made three sales at the Astor and two at the Palace, which was fair
business, considering the times.

A shadow fell across the till top. Ling Foo raised his slanted eyes. His
face was like a graven Buddha's, but there was a crackling in his ears as
of many fire-crackers. There he stood--the man with the sluing walk! Ling
Foo still wore a queue, so his hair could not very well stand on end.

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