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A CHINESE PUZZLE

MAGISTRATE KETTLE'S DIFFICULTY. Ah Sheaa died somo five years ago. That is about all that is certain of the lute of tho coniewhile Auckland fruit niercimnt. Many years ago Ah Sheaa abandoned fruitselling here (wires the Auckland correspondent of the ' Lyttelton Times') and returned to tho Celestial Empire, taking with him two small boys rejoicing in the blatantly British names of Thackeray and Henry. According to one report, the clftpring with the literary appellation died in China, and Mr Kettle, S.M., spent the whole of an afternoon trying to determine whether a youthful-looking Chinese who claimed the late Ah Sheaa as his father was Thackeray in the flash or a usurper of the distinguished name. The issue was simple. The living Thackeray was entitled to return to New Zealand a Britisher born without the inconvenience of paying £2OO poll tax, and as Mr J. P. Hidings (the collector of the tax) had his doubts about the genuineness of the Chinese identity, and insisted on retaining the £2ooformally deposited by Ah Shee (the deceased Ah Sheaa's former partner and tho trißal relative of tho immigrant son) pending proof, Thackeray appeared in the Magistrate's Court to defend his elaim to parentage. Unfortunately for Thackeray, shortly alter his arrival Henry, of the house of Ah tjheaa, came to New Zealand, also under the bond of Ah Chec, and one of his first acts was to repudiate tho afi'ecttiouate fraternal greetings of his alleged younger brother. Thackeray, in tho witneia box, swore, the dreadful oath of the Chinaman, blew out the burning match and expressed a fervent desire that his immortal soul might likewise be extinguished if he was lying. Henry blew out the light with equal heartiness, and vowed by the flame of his spirit that Thackeray was an impostor, and that he was heartbroken to have to discuss his departed brother, whom he saw die and knew to be well and truly buried. A procession of Chinese witnesses entered the box and testified that Thackeray of the witness box was the same Thackeray who gambolled in a little Chinese village in Canton with Henry. The Magistrate thought the matter might be settled by writing to the village schoolmaster, but Henry mournfully explained that he went to a private school, the. proprietor of which died, necessitating the breaking up of the school. Thackeray died when he (Henry) was 10 years of age, but he did not know where he was buried. This, the interpreter explained, was due to the fact that any convenient spot is selected for interment in China. His father was buried on a hill at the back of the village. When he arrived in the Dominion, declared Henry, he was offered £3O by certain Chinamen interested in the pseudo-Thackeray's welfare, to resuscitate his departed brother and bequeath his mantle to the inpostor, but he refused the bribe. He recognised the claimant to the family name as a youth who formerly resided near him. Then Thackeray entered the l>ox and conjured up a domestic picture of his boyhood's years spent in the companionship of the "now angrily gesticulating Henry. He denied that he "was buried, or that he even died, and declared that he lived, played, and slept with Henry( who was disowning him simply because he refused to send him money to come to New Zealand at a time when he had got into hot water in China. "Well, now, both of you draw a plan of the house you lived in," ordered Mr Kettle. The result was screamingly ludicrous. The two Celestials, holding their pens daggerwise, drew two laughable sketches, which might have been kindergarten illustrations of " the House that Jack built." In desperation Mr Kettle ordered the disputants to look each other full in the face, hopeful that the untruthful one would show signs of flinching. For two minutes the Chinamen gazed eteadily at each other, but there was never a blink nor a quiver of ;t facial nerve. TJien the -Magistrate *gave it up, and, reserving judgment, said that he would probably have to advise the authorities that the mystery was unsolved, I but tliat Thackeray should the benefit of the doubt.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141026.2.60

Bibliographic details

A CHINESE PUZZLE, Evening Star, Issue 15633, 26 October 1914

Word Count
698

A CHINESE PUZZLE Evening Star, Issue 15633, 26 October 1914

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