Grandfather, Singapore 1947

As a reminder: the bearded stranger had a grandfather (well, two in fact but we’ll focus on the one who travelled more). He travelled very widely and wrote lots of books between the 1930s and '60s. There are many wonderful stories in the books, and a few which fit the criteria for the bearded stranger’s stories. Thankfully he didn’t also have a beard so he is just ‘the stranger’.

‘Hey mister, you like nice girl?’ the smartly-dressed Chinaman asked the stranger who was accompanying me. He then looked at me, noticed the police uniform and went quiet. I looked at the stranger, who was tight-lipped and very quiet. Honestly, after what we had just been through, I didn’t know how the stranger would react.

Earlier that day he had attached himself to my police patrol. As a visitor to the colony, he said, he wished to see how people lived. So we headed into the more densely-populated slum areas of Singapore. We came across a brothel and, surrounded by the chattering and protests of  the madam, her girls and their clients, I hauled a young girl away. As I had guessed she turned out to be 14, well below the legal age. She was Chinese, had been sold to a middleman in Hong Kong by her starving parents. When his clients tired of her he had sold her on to Singaporean contacts. She was, at least, able to send money home to her parents.

The stranger talked to her, bought her some sweets and asked me what would happen now. The madam will be fined, I told him, and the girl will get a health check, some ‘moral training’ - and then we’d find her a job. We continued our patrol and it was on a different street that the stranger received his offer of a nice girl. Whatever my duties as a policeman might be, I sympathised with his reaction:  should I arrest a visiting stranger for knocking out a smartly-dressed Chinaman with a single punch?