Mark Fat Ties a Knot can be found in

THE spring bell on the carved door of the Joss House tinkled. A slender youth, his shoulders bowed as though he carried a burden, entered and stood staring at the incense-wreathed gods ranged about the room.

Mark Fat tucked his chubby hands in the sleeves of his gown, leaned against the wall and watched in silence. Hunting had been poor this past week.

Perhaps this too was a chicken the gods had sent to be plucked.

The white-robed priest shuffled from his alcove and banged the huge brass gong to wake up the gods. He held out a handful of long rolls of rice-paper "prayers" and "money." The youth drew a shining gold coin from the pouch at his belt.

Mark Fat smiled. That was a heavy pouch. He watched the strips of red and yellow paper curl to ashes on the altars and then stepped forward. "Are you a stranger in San Francisco, little brother?" he asked gently.

The youth turned, his eyes lingering on the apparel of the older man: the square-crowned derby, the quilted coat of heavy gray silk, the dove-gray trousers and black-pointed shoes such as the barbarians wore. He glanced down briefly at his own baggy blouse and pantaloons of rough blue cotton.

"I bear the unworthy name of Lin Yang, honored sir," he said slowly. "This day I arrived from the Golden Mountains." He touched the pouch at his belt. "I have passage on a ship, but now...." His voice trailed and halted.

Mark Fat's smile widened. "Now you do not wish to go back to China?"

"That is true." Lin Yang bowed his head, a slow flush deepening the sunburn on his cheeks. "I planned to return to my village and prepare for the examinations. I was a scholar though a poor and stupid one."

"A most worthy ambition," Mark Fat said gravely. "But there is opportunity to become wealthy here in San Francisco. A wealthy man has leisure to study and increase his wisdom."

Lin Yang's fingers found the pouch at his belt again. "I have wealth," he said. "Three thousand dollars in gold pieces."

Mark Fat studied the lean young face. "Is it a girl?"

Lin Yang lowered his eyes. "That is true," he said. "I took my gold dust to the merchant Kee Hoo Sek in exchange for these gold pieces. There I saw..."

"There you saw Ah Kee, the eldest daughter of Kee Hoo Sek," Mark Fat said quickly. "She is sixteen years old and ripe for m...

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