In the second of Mary Unsworth's memoirs, she tells us about Chow Sing, the Chinese steward on her husband's boat. (Her husband, Richard Unsworth, is the "Captain" in the following text). Chow Sing suffered greatly when the plague hit Hong Kong, but in an unexpected twist the story has a happy ending.
"Chow Sing" by Mary Unsworth, copied from her original handwritten account.
Chow Sing had been a steward on board the SS Keong Wai, a British vessel trading from Hong Kong, a few years when I was introduced to him. First he had been the Captain's boy, then after very faithful service was promoted to steward. He was a short man, with a large head, small oblong eyes, typical parchment face, but his great charm was the double jaw of beautiful white teeth, which he showed very frequently, for he was always smiling, a good open smile all over his face. He was always scrupulously clean, and it was a great point with him to dress according to his position, when he was a boy he only wore the full white trousers and short jacket, but when he became steward he at once donned the long coats such as tradesmen and merchants wear, made of the finest grass linen, a cleanly shaved head, with smoothly plaited pigtails, neat white stockings and the thick soled (illegible word) Chinese shoes.
Chow Sing rather prided himself on his literary accomplishments, he had travelled in Europe as servant to an Englishman, had picked up a bit of French, which he was very fond of using, if the ship went to Haiphong or Saigon, or took any French people passengers. Then would he produce the most fearfully worded menus for the dinner table, that he could possibly devise. The names of the dishes were given in French, but spelt in phonetic English, it was entirely hopeless to read it. But such a favourite was Chow Sing always with passengers and crew, that no one was ever so unkind as to laugh in his presence. The passengers would look at the menu, and then look at the Captain, and the Captain with a very solemn face but just a merry twinkle at the corner of his eyes, would say, "Oh, Chow Sing, you know I can't read French, what is this thing here". Then Chow Sing would tell them the word in his best French accent, and then translate it into common English, so that they at last arrived at an understanding.
He read a little and wrote in English, the Captain has letters in his possession that he received at various times from Chow Sing. They are <Read more ...>