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The Writing on the Wall

The Writing on the Wall: Chinese and Japanese Immigration to BC, 1920

Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 150
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  • Book Info
    The Writing on the Wall
    Book Description:

    The Writing on the Wallis a vivid illustration of the fear and prejudice with which immigrants were regarded in the early twentieth century.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2762-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Law, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. An Introduction
    (pp. v-1)

    AS A WORK OF literatureThe Writing on the Wallis a penny dreadful. Like other examples of the genre, it was designed to shock readers, but it was also intended to educate rather than to entertain them. A reviewer declared that ‘patriotism, not sensationalism, has inspired Mrs Glynn-Ward’s book.’The Writing on the Wall,published in August 1921, is simply a propagandist tract. It sought to persuade white British Columbians to be vigilant lest greedy politicians sell them out to the Orientals and endeavoured ‘to awaken those unbelievers in Eastern Canada who still wonder why the West is crying...

  3. Part I: The past

    • Chapter 1 Introducing one Chung Lee and another man of parts
      (pp. 5-10)

      THE DAY WAS HOT and the road was dusty, so dusty that the gently trotting footsteps of Chung Lee made no sound at all, only left a little cloud behind to mark his progress.

      It was the hour of siesta and there was no one in sight, only the blue-clad figure of Chung Lee jog-trotting soundlessly along the side of the Point Grey Road, a battered old straw hat on his head, the end of his pig-tail tucked away in his pocket, the heavy vegetablebaskets swaying back and front of him from the yoke on his shoulder.

      He made no...

    • Chapter 2 In which Gordon Morley tells no secrets
      (pp. 11-16)

      NEXT TO HIMSELF the only thing in the world that Gordon Morley cared about was his son, the reason perhaps being that to all outward appearances the boy was cast in the same identical mould as his father.

      When Mrs Morley returned home she found the two sitting together looking at a picture book on the verandah, the boy on his father’s knee. She sat heavily down beside them, overcome with the heat.

      ‘Bobbie, have you done your home lessons?’ she asked, a little sharply.

      ‘Oh, Mother, just let me stay a bit longer out here, it’s so nice and...

    • Chapter 3 Which introduces Lizzie Laidlaw
      (pp. 17-22)

      LIZZIE LAIDLAW SAT at the kitchen door picking over red currants for jam. The sun was low in the west and it sent shafts of yellow light to make patterns on the kitchen floor and rest like a halo on the fair coils of the woman’s hair.

      The evening, quiet and cloudless, was filled with the peaceful sounds of home, the drowsy hum of bees in the hollyhocks, the tinkle of cow-bells far across the fields, and at times the well-loved voice of her father calling the cows home; the racket of milk-cans across the yard as the hired man...

    • Chapter 4 In which the ‘Empress’ unships a valuable cargo
      (pp. 23-28)

      A DARK NIGHT and no moon, a warm, wet, gusty wind and a storm blowing up from the Pacific. The storm cone was already hoisted at Prospect Point to warn outgoing boats, and there were white-horses at play all over the gulf.

      TheEmpress of Japanploughed her way over the sea towards the mainland with a bone in her mouth.

      But Chung Lee was pleased at the look of the weather; it suited him and his purposes admirably. He had trotted across from Pender Street to the waterfront more than once that evening to look at the sky and...

    • Chapter 5 In which a famous lawyer finds himself in a hurry
      (pp. 29-36)

      ROSE MORLEY WAS impatient at the delay. It seemed to her a silly, pointless conversation that her husband was holding on the ’phone. But when he put down the receiver he looked so cross and preoccupied that she refrained from saying anything; she particularly wanted to keep his temper unruffled so that she might enjoy this dance to the full. She had been looking forward to the Craddock Low’s dance.

      Morley said nothing. He hurried his wife into the car and went round to crank the engine. There was some difficulty in starting it and he swore roundly. But they...

    • Chapter 6 Describing a yacht and a career
      (pp. 37-44)

      THE PRIDE O’ MY HEART looked like a beautiful white swan plumed and ready for flight as she lay at her anchorage in Coal Harbor. Her white sides shone dazzlingly in the sun and every bit of brass aboard, down to the remotest nail-head, had been burnished till it reflected the passing clouds above.

      She had been built in Hongkong and was lined throughout with teak; in fact, all her fittings and appointments were of a costliness in keeping with the wealth of her owner, Carter McRobbie, who besides being rich by inheritance was the biggest cannery-owner in British Columbia...

    • Chapter 7 In which the fish inspector sees something that makes him sit up
      (pp. 45-50)

      AWAY UP NORTH on the coastwise side of Hunter Island and opposite to the opening of that labyrinth of inland seas called Burke Channel there is a little bay sheltered from three winds and passing beautiful. There is a stretch of yellow sand which at low water shows the tracks of herons and seagulls, of an occasional deer or wandering coon, but seldom, very seldom, does it bear the imprint of man.

      On either side of it tall, ragged Douglas firs and hemlock grow right down to the water’s edge, reduplicating their height, when the shadows grow long, in the...

    • Chapter 8 In which Harding comes upon a ‘pleasant joke’
      (pp. 51-56)

      THE HAWK MADE good time that afternoon going north past the Bardswell Islands, out into the open sea at Milbank Sound, then up another channel, making straight for the Japanese cannery at Jackson Pass. It was fairly late when the anchor went overboard, and the glooming mountains round sent ever-lengthening, sombre shadows into the oily water below. The inlet was dotted with the grimy little gasoline launches of the Japs and the still evening air re-echoed with the throbbing of the chug-chug engines of homing fishermen.

      ‘Going ashore now or will we have supper first?’ one of the men asked...

    • Chapter 9 In which Harding finds that two and two make four
      (pp. 57-62)

      THE COASTWISE PASSENGER boat that called at Bella Bella next day took down a carefully sealed and urgent letter from the Fisheries Inspector to the customs authorities at Victoria, telling of the incident of the sampans and urging that the matter be looked into without delay.

      The Government, to its credit, lost no time in sending one of their two light cruisers up north to see what they could see, but they came back with nothing to report, which was not surprising considering that all trace of the sampans had been done away with or hidden long before the cruiser...

    • Chapter 10 In which Mrs Morley attends a reception
      (pp. 63-68)

      THE ELECTIONS, with all their excitement, were over and forgotten. That Gordon Morley had been returned with a big majority as one of the members for Vancouver was no surprise to any who knew the man, least of all to his wife. Her delight, however, was none the less, and she basked in the reflected glory of his increased importance like a cat in the hot sunshine.

      The placards that had become familiar upon hoardings all over Vancouver, beseeching the public to vote for Gordon Morley, the ‘people’s friend,’ and showing below the list of planks that were to be...

    • Chapter 11 In which one Chinaman escapes justice and another gets a government job
      (pp. 69-74)

      THE TRIAL OF Sam Wong for the murder of his mistress was acause celebrethat occupied many days. The counsel for the defence was that famous barrister, Craddock Low, who invariably undertook all the Chinese criminal cases, and every day the court was packed to overflowing with whites and Chinese.

      The evidence showing the causes that led up to the altercation between Sam and Mrs Smith was disjointed and uncertain, as it was unwitnessed, but there was talk of a missing piece of jewelry, of a threat on the part of the woman, of Sam picking up a chair...

  4. Part 2: The present (ten years after)

    • Chapter 12 In which we hear of a wedding and a death
      (pp. 77-82)

      MUCH WATER HAS PASSED under many bridges since the happening of the events recorded in our last chapter and men and things have changed since then in British Columbia as elsewhere.

      The Great War and the see-saw of circumstance had reversed the fortunes of many. Those that had been poor had become rich and those that had been employers of labour were now working for their daily bread. The greater part of the city of Victoria was now in the hands of the Chinese together with some of the best and biggest houses in the residential quarters, both here and...

    • Chapter 13 Which tells of an elopement
      (pp. 83-88)

      THERE WAS A HOME in Vancouver in which was weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. A man and his wife sat either side of a table. The man in utter despondency, his head drooped on his breast and staring with unseeing eyes at the floor, his arms hanging helplessly at his sides, the woman openly sobbing into her handkerchief. The man we have met before. He was Harry Hart, then plain-clothes man, now sheriff of a municipality.

      Their daughter Eileen had made a run-away marriage and they had only heard of it that morning. Now, plenty of daughters elope and...

    • Chapter 14 Showing the perspicacity of Peter McReady
      (pp. 89-94)

      ON A SUNNY SPRING afternoon an old river stern-wheeler was puffing her busy way up the Fraser River. It was a little early in the year for those who went up that way on a pleasure trip, so all aboard were on divers business bent.

      Two men leant over the taffrail for’ard, smoking and exchanging a remark now and then. One of them was our old friend J.B. Harding of the Fisheries Board, whom we met before up North when he was going his rounds as Inspector. Since then he had been to the war and come back with signal...

    • Chapter 15 Lizzie McRobbie shows an interest in ‘Sockeye’ and tries to buy vegetables
      (pp. 95-102)

      IT WAS ABOUT a week after this that Harding was strolling one evening through the lounge of the Hotel Vancouver, when someone touched his arm and spoke his name. He turned to see McRobbie, the wealthy salmon-canner.

      ‘Hullo! Harding, it’s a long lime since we’ve met, isn’t it? How’s the fishing going? Glad to hear you got your old job back again when you returned from overseas! Come and let me introduce you to my wife!’ Harding found himself shaking hands with a fresh-complexioned woman with thoughtful eyes and a kind smile. McRobbie drew up another chair and they all...

    • Chapter 16 In which there are many rumors and a few facts
      (pp. 103-108)

      FOR SOME LITTLE TIME there had been vague rumors abroad concerning the unsteadiness of the Premier's private financial affairs. Some said he had speculated too heavily in land and got tied up in the vagaries of real estate, others that he had financed some harebrained scheme and lost, but none knew the truth or were ever likely to find it out, Gordon Morley being the man he was.

      Certainly the rumors never gained any ground from the aspect of the man or from any change in his mode of life. His eye was as hard and his jaw as set...

    • Chapter 17 In which Rose’s nose is put out of joint and a man reaches the last stages
      (pp. 109-114)

      THE NEWS OF THE nomination of Carter Alastair McRobbie for the Lieutenant-Governorship was received in very different ways by that gentleman and his wife. He, himself was all for refusing the honour point-blank. He was not a man to whom flattery made any appeal, neither was he on the look-out for worldly honours, being completely happy in his present circumstances.

      But his wife was of another way of thinking.

      ‘It is your duty, my man,’ she said to him, ‘just as clear as the stars in the sky. Those who are rich like you must pay for it in responsibility...

    • Chapter 18 In which we meet Chung Lee again as a winner
      (pp. 115-120)

      A MAN WAS HURRYING down Fender Street towards Chinatown at midnight. The collar of his top-coat was turned up and his soft hat was dragged well down over his eyes, but even so, as he neared the Chinese section more than one passing Chinaman signalled to his fellows by way of showing that he recognised the white man.

      At a certain alley-way he stopped and looked back up the street. At the same moment two Chinamen, who had been following him half a block behind all the way from the West End, stepped aside into the shadows, but he saw...

    • Chapter 19 In which the lieutenant-governor is confronted by a choice
      (pp. 121-128)

      MRS MCROBBIE TOOK FAR more interest in politics than she did in her social duties, which latter one must acknowledge that she neglected rather scandalously. And, as he always found that her judgment was sane and far-sighted, her husband fell into the habit of discussing politics with her and came to rely more than a little upon her opinion.

      Like most men whose natural instinct is honesty, McRobbie was transparent as glass to the woman who loved him, so that on the evening he came home more than common tired with the weight of many responsibilities on his shoulders, his...

  5. Part 3: The future

    • Chapter 20 In which positions are reversed
      (pp. 131-138)

      CARTER MCROBBIE and a friend stood looking on at the wholesale lumber operations going on in Stanley Park. The park had been sold by the city a short time back to a company of Chinamen who had already felled all the big timber and were busy hauling it off to mills on False Creek; there were only four mills in Vancouver now that did not belong to them, and these were owned by Japs.

      The two white men who stood gazing helplessly at this utter destruction of what had once been the pride of BC, cursed below their breath and...

    • Chapter 21 In which yellow wins
      (pp. 139-144)

      THE CHINESE WERE UNEASY, there was no doubt about that. They stood massed together at street corners, leaving their work and filling the air with their sing-song gabble, talking and arguing and conferring together in little knots and crowds that swelled every minute. Curious to say, there was not a Jap to be seen.

      There were only a handful of white passengers that stepped off the CPR ‘Limited’ that morning and of them all only one, J.B. Harding, who was returning from the East, guessed the reason for all this obvious unrest. He wondered with a sinking heart, whether he...

    • Chapter 22 In which many things are made clear
      (pp. 145-150)

      CARTER MCROBBIE LAY fully twenty minutes against the wall where he had been flung by the force of the explosion before he made any attempt to move. He felt dazed, shattered and bruised all over; his right arm, on which he had fallen, was bent under him and appeared to be dislocated; it was numb and useless.

      He had been standing on the wharf below the post office with Harding and they had seen with their own eyes the long, grey, terrible shapes of the Japanese war-ships as they stole through the Narrows with their deadly guns trained onto the...