Fifty Candles by Earl Derr Biggers

Fifty Candles

byEarl Derr Biggers

Kobo ebook | June 12, 2013

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The Chinese, we are told, are masters of indirection, of saying one thing and meaning another, of arriving at their goal by way of a devious, irrelevant maze. Our legal system must have been invented and perfected by Chinamen—but is this lèse majesté or contempt of court or something? Beyond question the decision of the learned court in the matter of Chang See, as set down in the big yellow book, is obscured and befuddled by a mass of unspeakably dreary words. See 21 Cyc., 317 Church Habeas Corpus, 2d Ed., Sec. 169. By all means consult Kelley v. Johnson, 31 U. S. (6 Pet.) 622, 631-32. And many more of the same sort.
Here and there, however, you will happen on phrases that mean something to the layman; that indicate, behind the barrier of legal verbiage, the presence of a flesh-and-blood human fighting for his freedom—for his very life. Piece these phrases together and you may be able to reconstruct the scene in the courtroom that day in 1898, when a lean impassive Chinaman of thirty stood alone against the great American nation. In other words, Chang See v. U. S.
I say he stood alone, though he was, of course, represented by counsel. “Harry Childs for the Petitioner,” says the big yellow book. Poor Harry Childs—his mind was already beginning to go. It had been keen enough when he came to the islands, but the hot sun and the cool drinks—well, he was a little hazy that day in court. He died long ago—just shriveled up and died of an overdose of the Paradise of the Pacific—so it can hardly injure his professional standing to intimate that he was of little aid to his client, Chang See.
Chang See was petitioning the United States for a writ of habeas corpus and his freedom from the custody of the inspector of immigration at the port of Honolulu. He had arrived at the port from China some two months previously, bringing with him a birth certificate recently obtained and forwarded to him by friends in Honolulu. This certificate asserted that Chang See had been born in Honolulu of Chinese parents—that he had first seen the light on a December day thirty years before in a house out near Queen Emma’s yard, on the beach at Waikiki. When he was four years old his parents had taken him back with them to their native village of Sun Chin, in China.
If the certificate spoke the truth, then Chang See must be regarded as an American citizen and freely admitted to Honolulu with no wearisome chatter about the Chinese Exclusion Act. But the inspector at the port had been made wary by long service. He admitted that the certificate was undoubtedly founded on fact. But, he contended, how was he to know that this tall, wise-looking Chinaman was the little boy Chang See who had once played about the beach at Waikiki?

Title:Fifty CandlesFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:June 12, 2013Publisher:WDS PublishingLanguage:English

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