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The Mirror of Kong Ho by Ernest Bramah

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By Ernest Bramah

Etext prepared by John Bickers, jbickers@templar.actrix.gen.nz.



A lively and amusing collection of letters on
western living written by Kong Ho, a Chinese
gentleman. These addressed to his homeland,
refer to the Westerners in London as
barbarians and many of the aids to life in our
society give Kong Ho endless food for thought.
These are things such as the motor car and the
piano; unknown in China at this time.


ESTIMABLE BARBARIAN,--Your opportune suggestion that I should
permit the letters, wherein I have described with undeviating
fidelity the customs and manner of behaving of your
accomplished race, to be set forth in the form of printed
leaves for all to behold, is doubtless gracefully-intentioned,
and this person will raise no barrier of dissent against it.

In this he is inspired by the benevolent hope that his
immature compositions may to one extent become a model and a
by-word to those who in turn visit his own land of Fragrant
Purity; for with exacting care he has set down no detail that
has not come under his direct observation (although it is not
to be denied that here or there he may, perchance, have
misunderstood an involved allusion or failed to grasp the
inner significance of an act), so that Impartiality
necessarily sways his brush, and Truth lurks within his inkpot.

In an entirely contrary manner some, who of recent years have
gratified us with their magnanimous presence, have returned to
their own countries not only with the internal fittings of
many of our palaces (which, being for the most part of a
replaceable nature, need be only trivially referred to, the
incident, indeed, being generally regarded as a most cordial
and pressing variety of foreign politeness), but also--in the
lack of highly-spiced actuality--with subtly-imagined and
truly objectionable instances. These calumnies they have not
hesitated to commit to the form of printed books, which,
falling into the hands of the ignorant and undiscriminating,
may even suggest to their ill-balanced minds a doubt whether
we of the Celestial Empire really are the wisest, bravest,
purest, and most enlightened people in existence.

As a parting, it only remains to be said that, in order to
maintain unimpaired the quaint-sounding brevity and archaic
construction of your prepossessing language, I have engraved
most of the remarks upon the receptive tablets of my mind as
they were uttered. To one who can repeat the Five Classics
without stumbling this is a contemptible achievement. Let it
be an imposed obligation, therefore, that you retain these
portions unchanged as a test and a proof to all who may read.
Of my own deficient words, I can only in truest courtesy
maintain that any alteration must of necessity make them less
offensively commonplace than at present they are.

The Sign and immutable Thumb-mark of,
Kong Ho

By a sure hand to the House of one Ernest Bramah.



Concerning the journey. The unlawful demons invoked by certain
of the barbarians; their power and the manner of their suppression.
suppression. The incredible obtuseness of those who attend within tea-houses.
The harmonious attitude of a person of commerce.

VENERATED SIRE (at whose virtuous and well-established feet an
unworthy son now prostrates himself in spirit repeatedly),--

Having at length reached the summit of my journey, that London of
which the merchants from Canton spoke so many strange and incredible
things, I now send you filial salutations three times increased, and
in accordance with your explicit command I shall write all things to
you with an unvarnished brush, well assured that your versatile object
in committing me to so questionable an enterprise was, above all, to
learn the truth of these matters in an undeviating and yet open-headed
spirit of accuracy and toleration.

Of the perils incurred while travelling in the awe-inspiring devices
by which I was transferred from shore to shore and yet further inland,
of the utter absence of all leisurely dignity on the part of those
controlling their movements, and of the almost unnatural
self-opinionatedness which led them to persist in starting at a stated
and prearranged time, even when this person had courteously pointed
out to them by irrefutable omens that neither the day nor the hour was
suitable for the venture, I have already written. It is enough to
assert that a similar want of prudence was maintained on every
occasion, and, as a result, when actually within sight of the walls of
this city, we were involved for upwards of an hour in a very
evilly-arranged yellow darkness, which, had we but delayed for a day,
as I strenuously advised those in authority after consulting the
Sacred Flat and Round Sticks, we should certainly have avoided.

Concerning the real nature of the devices by which the ships are
propelled at sea and the carriages on land, I must still unroll a
blank mind until I can secretly, and without undue hazard, examine
them more closely. If, as you maintain, it is the work of captive
demons hidden away among their most inside parts, it must be admitted
that these usually intractable beings are admirably trained and
controlled, and I am wide-headed enough to think that in this respect
we might--not-withstanding our nine thousand years of civilised
refinement--learn something of the methods of these barbarians. The
secret, however, is jealously guarded, and they deny the existence of
any supernatural forces; but their protests may be ignored, for there
is undoubtedly a powerful demon used in a similar way by some of the
boldest of them, although its employment is unlawful. A certain kind
of chariot is used for the occupation of this demon, and those who
wish to invoke it conceal their faces within masks of terrifying
design, and cover their hands and bodies with specially prepared
garments, without which it would be fatal to encounter these very
powerful spirits. While yet among the habitations of men, and in
crowded places, they are constrained to use less powerful demons,
which are lawful, but when they reach the unfrequented paths they
throw aside all restraint, and, calling to their aid the forbidden
spirit (which they do by secret movements of the hands), they are
carried forward by its agency at a speed unattainable by merely human
means. By day the demon looks forth from three white eyes, which at
night have a penetrating brilliance equal to the fiercest glances of
the Sacred Dragon in anger. If any person incautiously stands in its
way it utters a warning cry of intolerable rage, and should the
presumptuous one neglect to escape to the roadside and there prostrate
himself reverentially before it, it seizes him by the body part and
contemptuously hurls him bruised and unrecognisable into the boundless
space of the around. Frequently the demon causes the chariot to rise
into the air, and it is credibly asserted by discriminating witnesses
(although this person only sets down as incapable of denial that which
he has actually beheld) that some have maintained an unceasing flight
through the middle air for a distance of many li. Occasionally the
captive demon escapes from the bondage of those who have invoked it,
through some incautious gesture or heretical remark on their part, and
then it never fails to use them grievously, casting them to the ground
wounded, consuming the chariot with fire, and passing away in the
midst of an exceedingly debased odour, by which it is always
accompanied after the manner of our own earth spirits.

This being, as this person has already set forth, an unlawful demon on
account of its power when once called up, and the admitted uncertainty
of its movements, those in authority maintain a stern and inexorable
face towards the practice. To entrap the unwary certain persons
(chosen on account of their massive outlines, and further protected
from evil influences by their pure and consistent habits) keep an
unceasing watch. When one of them, himself lying concealed, detects
the approach of such a being, he closely observes the position of the
sun, and signals to the other a message of warning. Then the second
one, shielded by the sanctity of his life and rendered inviolable by
the nature of his garments--his sandals alone being capable of
overturning any demon from his path should it encounter them--boldly
steps forth into the road and holds out before him certain sacred
emblems. So powerful are these that at the sight the unlawful demon
confesses itself vanquished, and although its whole body trembles with
ill-contained rage, and the air around is poisoned by its
discreditable exhalation, it is devoid of further resistance. Those in
the chariot are thereupon commanded to dismiss it, and being bound in
chains they are led into the presence of certain lesser mandarins who
administer justice from a raised dais.

"Behold!" exclaims the chief of the captors, when the prisoners have
been placed in obsequious attitudes before the lesser mandarins, "thus
the matter chanced: The honourable Wang, although disguised under the
semblance of an applewoman, had discreetly concealed himself by the
roadside, all but his head being underneath a stream of stagnant
water, when, at the eighth hour of the morning, he beheld these
repulsive outcasts approaching in their chariot, carried forward by
the diabolical vigour of the unlawful demon. Although I had stationed
myself several li distant from the accomplished Wang, the chariot
reached me in less than a breathing space of time, those inside
assuming their fiercest and most aggressive attitudes, and as they
came repeatedly urging the demon to increased exertions. Their speed
exceeded that of the swallow in his hymeneal flight, all shrubs and
flowers by the wayside withered incapably at the demon's contaminating
glance, running water ceased to flow, and the road itself was scorched
at their passage, the earth emitting a dull bluish flame. These facts,
and the times and the distances, this person has further inscribed in
a book which thus disposes of all possible defence. Therefore, O
lesser mandarins, let justice be accomplished heavily and without
delay; for, as the proverb truly says, 'The fiercer the flame the more
useless the struggles of the victim.'"

At this point the prisoners frequently endeavour to make themselves
heard, protesting that in the distance between the concealed Wang and
the one who stands accusing them they had thrice stopped to repair
their innermost details, had leisurely partaken of food and wine, and
had also been overtaken, struck, and delayed by a funeral procession.
But so great is the execration in which these persons are held, that
although murderers by stealth, outlaws, snatchers from the body, and
companies of men who by strategy make a smaller sum of money appear to
be larger, can all freely testify their innocence, raisers of this
unlawful demon must not do so, and they are beaten on the head with
chains until they desist.

Then the lesser mandarins, raising their voices in unison, exclaim,
`The amiable Tsay-hi has reported the matter in a discreet and
impartial spirit. Hear our pronouncement: These raisers of illegal
spirits shall each contribute ten taels of gold, which shall be
expended in joss-sticks, in purifying the road which they have
scorched, and in alleviating the distress of the poor and virtuous of
both sexes. The praiseworthy Tsay-hi, moreover, shall embroider upon
his sleeve an honourable sign in remembrance of the event. Let drums
now be beat, and our verdict loudly proclaimed throughout the

These things, O my illustrious father (although on account of my
contemptible deficiencies of style much may seem improbable to your
all-knowing mind), these things I write with an unbending brush; for I
set down only that which I have myself seen, or read in their own
printed records. Doubtless it will occur to one of your preternatural
intelligence that our own system of administering justice, whereby the
person who can hire the greater number of witnesses is reasonably held
to be in the right, although perhaps not absolutely infallible, is in
every way more convenient; but, as it is well said, "To the blind,
night is as acceptable as day."

Henceforth you will have no hesitation in letting it be known
throughout Yuen-ping that these foreign barbarians do possess secret
demons, in spite of their denials. Doubtless I shall presently
discover others no less powerful.

With honourable distinction this person has at length grasped the
essential details of the spoken language here--not sufficiently well,
indeed, to make himself understood on most occasions, or even to
understand others, but enough to perceive clearly when he fails to
become intelligible or when they experience a like difficulty with
him. Upon an earlier occasion, before he had made so much progress,
being one day left to his own resources, and feeling an internal lack,
he entered what appeared to be a tea-shop of reputable demeanour, and,
seating himself at one of the little marble tables, he freely
pronounced the carefully-learned word "rice" to the attending nymph.
To put aside all details of preparation (into which, indeed, this
person could not enter) he waved his hand gracefully, at the same time
smiling with an expression of tolerant acquiescence, as of one who
would say that what was good enough to be cooked and offered by so
entrancing a maiden was good enough to be eaten by him. After
remaining in unruffled tranquillity for the full portion of an hour,
and observing that no other person around had to wait above half that
period, this one began to perceive that the enterprise was not likely
to terminate in a manner satisfactory to himself; so that, leaving
this place with a few well-chosen phrases of intolerable regret in his
own tongue, he entered another, and conducted himself in a like
fashion. . . . Towards evening, with an unperturbed exterior, but
materially afflicted elsewhere, this person seated himself within the
eleventh tea-shop, and, pointing first towards his own constituents of
digestion, then at the fire, and lastly in an upward direction,
thereby signified to any not of stunted intellect that he had reached
such a condition of mind and body that he was ready to consume
whatever the ruling deities were willing to allot, whether boiled,
baked, roast, or suspended from a skewer. In this resolve nothing
would move him, until--after many maidens had approached with
outstretched hands and gestures of despair--there presently entered a
person wearing the helmet of a warrior and the manner of a high
official, who spoke strongly, yet persuasively, of the virtues of
immediate movement and a quiet and reposeful bearing.

Assuredly a people who devote so little attention to the study of
food, and all matters connected with it, must inevitably remain
barbaric, however skilfully they may feign a superficial refinement.
It is said, although I do not commit this matter to my own brush, that
among them are more books composed on subjects which have no actual
existence than on cooking, and, incredible as it may appear, to be
exceptionally round-bodied confers no public honour upon the
individual. Should a favourable occasion present itself, there are
many who do not scruple to jest upon the subject of food, or, what is
incalculably more depraved, upon the scarcity of it.

Nevertheless, there are exceptions of a highly distinguished radiance.
Among these must be accounted one into whose presence this person was
recently led by our polished and harmonious friend Quang-Tsun, the
merchant in tea and spices. This versatile person, whose business-name
is spoken of as Jones Bob-Jones, is worthy of all benignant respect,
and in a really enlightened country would doubtless be raised to a
more exalted position than that of a breaker of outsides (an
occupation difficult to express adequately in the written language of
a country where it is unknown), for his face is like the sun setting
in the time of harvest, his waist garment excessive, and the undoubted
symmetry of his middle portions honourable in the extreme. So welcome
in my eyes, after witnessing an unending stream of concave and
attenuated barbarian ghosts, was the sight of these perfections of
Jones Bob-Jones, that instead of the formal greeting of this
Island--the unmeaning "How do you do it?"--I shook hands cordially
with myself, and exclaimed affectionately in our own language,
"Illimitable felicities! How is your stomach?"

"Well," replied Jones Bob-Jones, after Quang-Tsun had interpreted this
polite salutation to his understanding, "since you mention it, that's
just the trouble; but I'm going on pretty well, thanks. I've tried
most of the advertised things, and now my doctor has put me
practically on a bread-and-water course--clear soup, boiled fish,
plain joint, no sweets, a crumb of cheese, and a bare three glasses of

During this amiable remark (of which, as it is somewhat of a technical
nature, I was unable to grasp the contained significance until the
agreeable Quang-Tsun had subsequently repeated it several times for
my retention), I maintained a consistent expression of harmonious
agreement and gratified esteem (suitable, I find, for all like
occasions), and then, judging from the sympathetic animation of Jones
Bob-Jones's countenance, that it had not improbably been connected
with food, I discreetly introduced the subject of sea-snails,
preserved in the essence of crushed peaches, by courteously inquiring
whether he had ever partaken of such a delicacy.

"No," replied the liberal-minded person, when--encouraged by the
protruding eagerness of his eyes at the mention of the viand--I had
further spoken of the refined flavour of the dish, and explained the
manner of its preparation. "I can't say that I have, but it sounds
uncommonly good--something like turtle, I should imagine. I'll see if
they can get it for me at Pimm's."

This filial tribute goes by a trusty hand, in the person of one Ki
Nihy, who is shortly committing himself to the protection of his
ancestors and the voracity of the unbounded Bitter Waters; and with
brightness and gold it will doubtless reach you in the course of
twelve or eighteen moons. The superstitious here, this person may
describe, when they wish to send messages from one to another,
inscribe upon the outer cover a written representation of the one
whose habitation they require, and after affixing a small paper
talisman, drop it into a hole in the nearest wall, in the hope that it
may be ultimately conveyed to the appointed spot, either by the
services of the charitably-disposed passer-by, or by the intervention
of the beneficent deities.

With a multiplicity of greetings and many abject expressions of a
conscious inferiority, and attested by an unvarying thumb-mark.

(Effete branch of a pure and magnanimous trunk.)

To Kong Ah-Paik, reclining beneath the sign of the Lead Tortoise, in a
northerly direction beyond the Lotus Beds outside the city of
Yuen-ping. The Middle Flowery Kingdom.


Concerning the ill-destined manner of existence of the hound
Hercules. The thoughtlessly-expressed desire of the entrancing
maiden and its effect upon a person of susceptible refinement.
The opportune (as it may yet be described) visit of one
Herbert. The behaviour of those around. Reflections.

VENERATED SIRE (whose large right hand is continuously floating in
spirit over the image of this person's dutiful submission),--

Doubtless to your all-consuming prescience, it will at once become
plain that I have abandoned the place of residence from which I
directed my former badly-written and offensively-constructed letter,
the house of the sympathetic and resourceful Maidens Blank, where in
return for an utterly inadequate sum of money, produced at stated
intervals, this very much inferior person was allowed to partake of a
delicately-balanced and somewhat unvarying fare in the company of the
engaging of both sexes, and afterwards to associate on terms of
honourable equality with them in the chief apartment. The reason and
manner of this one's departure are in no degree formidable to his
refined manner of conducting any enterprise, but arose partly from an
insufficient grasp of the more elaborate outlines of a confessedly
involved language, and still more from a too excessive impetuousness
in carrying out what at the time he believed to be the ambition of one
who had come to exercise a melodious influence over his most internal
emotions. Well remarked the Sage, "A piece of gold may be tried
between the teeth; a written promise to pay may be disposed of at a
sacrifice to one more credulous; but what shall be said of the wind,
the Hoang Ho, and the way of a woman?"

To contrive a pitfall for this short-sighted person's immature feet,
certain malicious spirits had so willed it that the chief and more
autumnal of the Maidens Blank (who, nevertheless, wore an excessively
flower-like name), had long lavished herself upon the possession of an
obtuse and self-assertive hound, which was in the habit of gratifying
this inconsiderable person and those who sat around by continually
depositing upon their unworthy garments details of its outer surface,
and when the weather was more than usually cold, by stretching its
graceful and refined body before the fire in such a way as to ensure
that no one should suffer from a too acute exposure to the heat. From
these causes, and because it was by nature a hound which even on the
darkest night could be detected at a more than reasonable distance
away, while at all times it did not hesitate to shake itself freely
into the various prepared viands, this person (and doubtless others
also) regarded it with an emotion very unfavourable towards its
prolonged existence; but observing from the first that those who
permitted themselves to be deposited upon, and their hands and even
their faces to be hound-tongue-defiled with the most externally
cheerful spirit of word suppression, invariably received the most
desirable of the allotted portions of food, he judged it prudent and
conducive to a settled digestion to greet it with favourable terms and
actions, and to refer frequently to its well-displayed proportions,
and to the agile dexterity which it certainly maintained in breathing
into the contents of every dish. Thus the matter may be regarded as
being positioned for a space of time.

One evening I returned at the appointed gong-stroke of dinner, and was
beginning, according to my custom, to greet the hound with
ingratiating politeness, when the one of chief authority held up a
reproving hand, at the same time exclaiming:

"No, Mr. Kong, you must not encourage Hercules with your amiable
condescension, for just now he is in very bad odour with us all."

"Undoubtedly," replied this person, somewhat puzzled, nevertheless,
that the imperfection should thus be referred to openly by one who
hitherto had not hesitated to caress the hound with most intimate
details, "undoubtedly the surrounding has a highly concentrated
acuteness to-night, but the ever-present characteristic of the hound
Hercules is by no means new, for whenever he is in the room--"

At this point it is necessary to explain that the ceremonial etiquette
of these barbarian outcasts is both conflicting and involved. Upon
most of the ordinary occasions of life to obtrude oneself within the
conversation of another is a thing not to be done, yet repeatedly when
this unpretentious person has been relating his experience or
inquiring into the nature and meaning of certain matters which he has
witnessed, he has become aware that his words have been obliterated,
as it were, and his remarks diverted from their original intention by
the sudden and unanticipated desire of those present to express
themselves loudly on some topic of not really engrossing interest. Not
infrequently on such occasions every one present has spoken at once
with concentrated anxiety upon the condition of the weather, the
atmosphere of the room, the hour of the day, or some like detail of
contemptible inferiority. At other times maidens of unquestionable
politeness have sounded instruments of brass or stringed woods with
unceasing vigour, have cast down ornaments of china, or even stood
upon each other's--or this person's--feet with assumed inelegance.
When, therefore, in the midst of my agreeable remark on the asserted
no fragrance of the hound Hercules, a gentleman of habitual refinement
struck me somewhat heavily on the back of the head with a reclining
seat which he was conveying across the room for the acceptance of a
lady, and immediately overwhelmed me with apologies of almost
unnecessary profusion, my mind at once leapt to an inspired
conclusion, and smiling acquiescently I bowed several times to each
person to convey to them an admission of the undoubted fact that to
the wise a timely omen before the storm is as effective as a
thunderbolt afterwards.

It chanced that there was present the exceptionally prepossessing
maiden to whom this person has already referred. So varied and ornate
were her attractions that it would be incompetent in one of my less
than average ability to attempt an adequate portrayal. She had a
light-coloured name with the letters so harmoniously convoluted as to
be quite beyond my inferior power of pronunciation, so that if I
wished to refer to her in her absence I had to indicate the one I
meant by likening her to a full-blown chrysanthemum, a piece of rare
jade, an ivory pagoda of unapproachable antiquity, or some other
object of admitted grace. Even this description may scarcely convey to
you the real extent of her elegant personality; but in her presence my
internal organs never failed to vibrate with a most entrancing
uncertainty, and even now, at the recollection of her virtuous
demeanour, I am by no means settled within myself.

"Well," exclaimed this melodious vision, with sympathetic tact, "if
every one is going to disown poor Hercules because he has eaten all
our dinners, I shall be quite willing to have him, for he is a dzear
ole loveykins, wasn't ums?" (This, O my immaculate and dignified sire,
which I transcribe with faithful undeviation, appears to be the
dialect of a remote province, spoken only by maidens--both young and
of autumnal solitude--under occasional mental stress; as of a native
of Shan-si relapsing without consciousness into his uncouth tongue
after passing a lifetime in the Capital.) "Don't you think so too,
Mr. Kong?"

"When the sun shines the shadow falls, for truly it is said, 'To the
faithful one even the voice of the corncrake at evening speaks of his
absent love,'" replied this person, so engagingly disconcerted at
being thus openly addressed by the maiden that he retained no delicate
impression of what she said, or even of what he was replying, beyond
an unassuming hope that the nature of his feelings might perchance be
inoffensively revealed to her in the semblance of a discreet allegory.

"Perhaps," interposed a person of neglected refinement, turning
towards the maiden, "you would like to have a corncrake also, to remind
you of Mr. Kong?"

"I do not know what a corncrake is like," replied the maiden with
commendable dignity. "I do not think so, however, for I once had a
pair of canaries, and I found them very unsatisfying, insipid
creatures. But I should love to have a little dog I am sure, only Miss
Blank won't hear of it."

"Kong Ho," thought this person inwardly, "not in vain have you burnt
joss sticks unceasingly, for the enchanting one has said into your
eyes that she would love to partake of a little dog. Assuredly we have
recently consumed the cold portion of sheep on more occasions than a
strict honourableness could require of those who pay a stated sum at
regular intervals, and the change would be a welcome one. As she truly
says, the flavour even of canaries is trivial and insignificant by
comparison." During the period of dinner--which consisted of eggs and
green herbs of the field--this person allowed the contemplation to
grow within him, and inspired by a most pleasant and disinterested
ambition to carry out the expressed wishes of the one who had spoken,
he determined that the matter should be unobtrusively arranged
despite the mercenary opposition of the Maidens Blank.

This person had already learned by experience that dogs are rarely if
ever exposed for sale in the stalls of the meat venders, the reason
doubtless being that they are articles of excessive luxury and
reserved by law for the rich and powerful. Those kept by private
persons are generally closely guarded when they approach a desirable
condition of body, and the hound Hercules would not prove an
attractive dish to those who had known him in life. Nevertheless, it
is well said, "The Great Wall is unsurmountable, but there are many
gaps through," and that same evening I was able to carry the first
part of my well-intentioned surprise into effect.

The matter now involves one named Herbert, who having exchanged gifts
of betrothal with a maiden staying at the house, was in the habit of
presenting himself openly, when he was permitted to see her, after the
manner of these barbarians. (Yet even of them the more discriminating
acknowledge that our customs are immeasurably superior; for when I
explained to the aged father of the Maidens Blank that among us the
marriage rites are irrevocably performed before the bride is seen
unveiled by man, he sighed heavily and exclaimed that the parents of
this country had much to learn.)

The genial-minded Herbert had already acquired for himself the
reputation of being one who ceaselessly removes the gravity of others,
both by word and action, and from the first he selected this obscure
person for his charitable purpose to a most flattering extent. Not
only did he--on the pretext that his memory was rebellious--invariably
greet me as "Mr. Hong Kong," but on more than one occasion he
insisted, with mirth-provoking reference to certain details of my
unbecoming garments, that I must surely have become confused and sent
a Mrs. Hong Kong instead of myself, and frequently he undermined the
gravity of all most successfully by pulling me backwards suddenly by
the pigtail, with the plea that he imagined he was picking up his
riding-whip. This attractive person was always accompanied by a
formidable dog--of convex limbs, shrunken lip, and suspicious
demeanour--which he called Influenza, to the excessive amusement of
those to whom he related its characteristics. For some inexplicable
reason from the first it regarded my lower apparel as being unsuitable
for the ordinary occasions of life, and in spite of the low hissing
call by which its master endeavoured to attract its attention to
himself, it devoted its energies unceasingly to the self-imposed task
of removing them fragment by fragment. Nevertheless it was a dog of
favourable size and condition, and it need not therefore be a matter
for surprise that when the intellectual person Herbert took his
departure on the day in question it had to be assumed that it had
already preceded him. Having accomplished so much, this person found
little difficulty in preparing it tastefully in his own apartment,
and making the substitution on the following day.

Although his mind was confessedly enlarged at the success of his
venture, and his hopes most ornamentally coloured at the thought of
the adorable one's gratified esteem when she discovered how expertly
her wishes had been carried out, this person could not fail to notice
that the Maiden Blank was also materially agitated when she
distributed the contents of the dish before her.

"Will you, of your enlightened courtesy, accept, and overlook the
deficiencies of, a portion of rabbit-pie, O high-souled Mr. Kong?" she
inquired gracefully when this insignificant person was reached, and,
concealing my many-hued emotion beneath an impassive face, I bowed
agreeably as I replied, "To the beggar, black bread is a royal

"WHAT pie did you say, dear?" whispered another autumnal maiden,
when all had partaken somewhat, and at her words a most consistently
acute silence involved the table.

"I--I don't quite know," replied the one of the upper end, becoming
excessively devoid of complexion; and restraining her voice she
forthwith sent down an attending slave to inquire closely.

At this point a person of degraded ancestry endeavoured to remove the
undoubted cloud of depression by feigning the nocturnal cry of the
domestic cat; but in this he was not successful, and a maiden
opposite, after fixedly regarding a bone on her plate, withdrew
suddenly, embracing herself as she went. A moment later the slave
returned, proclaiming aloud that the dish which had been prepared for
the occasion had now been accidentally discovered by the round-bodied
cook beneath the cushions of an arm-chair (a spot by no means
satisfactory to this person's imagination had the opportunities at his
disposal been more diffuse).

"What, then, is this of which we have freely partaken?" cried they
around, and, in the really impressive silence which followed, an
inopportune person discovered a small silver tablet among the
fragments upon his plate, and, taking it up, read aloud the single
word, "Influenza."

During the day, and even far into the uncounted gong-strokes of the
time of darkness, this person had frequently remained in a fascinated
contemplation of the moment when he should reveal himself and stand up
to receive the benevolently-expressed congratulations of all who paid
an agreed sum at fixed intervals, and, particularly, the dazzling
though confessedly unsettling glance-thanks of the celestially-formed
maiden who had explicitly stated that she was desirous of having a
little dog. Now, however, when this part of the enterprise ought to
have taken place, I found myself unable to evade the conclusion that
some important detail of the entire scheme had failed to agree
harmoniously with the rest, and, had it been possible, I would have
retired with unobtrusive tact and permitted another to wear
my honourable acquirements. But, for some reason, as I looked around I
perceived that every eye was fixed upon me with what at another time
would have been a most engaging unanimity, and, although I bowed with
undeterred profusion, and endeavoured to walk out behind an expression
of all-comprehensive urbanity that had never hitherto failed me, a
person of unsympathetic outline placed himself before the door, and
two others, standing one on each side of me, gave me to understand
that a recital of the full happening was required before I left the

It is hopeless to expect a display of refined intelligence at the
hands of a people sunk in barbarism and unacquainted with the
requirements of true dignity and the essentials of food preparation.
On the manner of behaving of the male portion of those present this
person has no inducement whatever to linger. Even the maiden for whom
he had accomplished so much, after the nature of the misunderstanding
had been made plain to her, uttered only a single word of approval,
which, on subsequently consulting a book of interpretations, this
person found to indicate: "A person of weak intellect; one without an
adequate sense of the proportion and fitness of things; a buffoon; a
jester; a compound of gooseberries scalded and crushed with cream";
but although each of these definitions may in a way be regarded as
applicable, he is still unable to decide which was the precise one

With salutations of filial regard, and in a spirit seven times refined
by affliction and purified by vain regrets.

(Upon whose tablet posterity will perchance inscribe the titles,
"Ill-destined but Misjudged.")


Concerning the virtuous amusements of both old and young. The
sit-round games. The masterpiece of the divine Li Tang, and
its reception by all, including that same Herbert.

VENERATED SIRE (whose breadth of mind is so well developed as to take
for granted boundless filial professions, which, indeed, become vapid
by a too frequent reiteration),--

Your amiable inquiry as to how the barbarians pass their time, when
not employed in affairs of commerce or in worshipping their ancestors,
has inspired me to examine the matter more fully. At the same time
your pleasantly-composed aphorism that the interior nature of persons
does not vary with the colour of their eyes, and that if I searched I
should find the old flying kites and the younger kicking feather
balls or working embroidery, according to their sex, does not appear
to be accurately sustained.

The lesser ones, it is true, engage in a variety of sumptuous
handicrafts, such as the scorching of wooden tablets with the
semblance of a pattern, and gouging others with sharpened implements
into a crude relief; depicting birds and flowers upon the surface of
plates, rending leather into shreds, and entwining beaten iron, brass,
and copper into a diversity of most ingenious complications; but when
I asked a maiden of affectionate and domesticated appearance whether
she had yet worked her age-stricken father's coffin-cloth, she said
that the subject was one upon which she declined to jest, and rapidly
involving herself in a profuse display of emotion, she withdrew,
leaving this one aghast.

To enable my mind to retranquillise, I approached a youth of
highly-gilded appearance, and, with many predictions of
self-inferiority, I suggested that we should engage in the stimulating
rivalry of feather ball. When he learned, however, that the diversion
consisted in propelling upwards a feather-trimmed chip by striking it
against the side of the foot, he candidly replied that he was afraid
he had grown out of shuttle-cock, but did not mind, if I was
vigorously inclined, "taking me on for a set of yang-pong."

Old men here, it is said, do not fly kites, and they affect to despise
catching flies for amusement, although they frequently go fishing.
Struck by this peculiarity, I put it in the form of an inquiry to one
of venerable appearance, why, when at least five score flies were
undeniably before his eyes, he preferred to recline for lengthy
periods by the side of a stream endeavouring to snare creatures of
whose existence he himself had never as yet received any adequate
proof. Doubtless in my contemptible ignorance, however, I used some
word inaccurately, for those who stood around suffered themselves
to become amused, and the one in question replied with no pretence of
amiable condescension that the jest had already been better expressed
a hundred times, and that I would find the behind parts of a printed
leaf called "Punch" in the bookcase. Not being desirous of carrying on
a conversation of which I felt that I had misplaced the most highly
rectified ingredient, I bowed repeatedly, and replied affably that
wisdom ruled his left side and truth his right.

It was upon this same occasion that a young man of unprejudiced
wide-mindedness, taking me aside, asserted that the matter had not been
properly set forth when I was inquiring about kites. Both old and
young men, he continued, frequently endeavoured to fly kites, even in
the involved heart of the city. He had tried once or twice himself,
but never with encouraging success, chiefly, he was told, because his
paper was not good enough. Many people, he added, would not scruple to
mislead me with evasive ambiguity on this one subject owing to an
ill-balanced conception of what constituted true dignity, but he was
unwilling that his countrymen should be thought by mine to be sunk
into a deeper barbarism than actually existed.

His warning was not inopportune. Seated next to this person at a later
period was a maiden from whose agreeably-poised lips had hitherto
proceeded nothing but sincerity and fact. Watching her closely I asked
her, as one who only had a languid interest either one way or the
other, whether her revered father or her talented and
richly-apparelled brothers ever spent their time flying kites about
the city. In spite of a most efficient self-control her colour changed
at my words, and her features trembled for a moment, but quickly
reverting to herself she replied that she thought not; then--as though
to subdue my suspicions more completely--that she was sure they did
not, as the kites would certainly frighten the horses and the
appointed watchmen of the street would not allow it. She confessed,
however, with unassumed candour, that the immediate descendants of her
sister were gracefully proficient in the art.

From this, great and enlightened one, you will readily perceive how
misleading an impression might be carried away by a person
scrupulously-intentioned but not continually looking both ways, when
placed among a people endowed with the uneasy suspicion of the
barbarian and struggling to assert a doubtful refinement. Apart from
this, there has to be taken into consideration their involved process
of reasoning, and the unexpectedly different standards which they
apply to every subject.

At the house of the Maidens Blank, when the evening was not spent in
listening to melodious voices and the harmony of stringed woods, it
was usual to take part in sit-round games of various kinds. (And while
it is on his brush this person would say with commendable pride that a
well-trained musician among us can extort more sound from a hollow
wooden pig, costing only a few cash, than the most skilful here ever
attain on their largest instrument--a highly-lacquered coffin on legs,
filled with bells and hidden springs, and frequently sold for a
thousand taels.)

Upon a certain evening, at the conclusion of one sit-round game which
involved abrupt music, a barrier of chairs, and the exhilarating
possibility of being sat upon by the young and vivacious in their
zeal, a person of the company turned suddenly to the one who is
communicating with you and said enticingly, "Why did Birdcage Walk?"

Not judging from his expression that this was other than a polite
inquiry on a matter which disturbed his repose, I was replying that
the manifestation was undoubtedly the work of a vexatious demon which
had taken up its abode in the article referred to, when another, by my
side, cried aloud, "Because it envied Queen Anne's Gate"; and without
a pause cast back the question, "Who carved The Poultry?"

In spite of the apparent simplicity of the demand it was received by
all in an attitude of complicated doubt, and this person was
considering whether he might not acquire distinction by replying that
such an office fell by custom to the lot of the more austere Maiden
Blank, when the very inadequate reply, "Mark Lane with St. Mary's
Axe," was received with applause and some observations in a half-tone
regarding the identity of the fowl.

By the laws of the sit-round games the one who had last spoken now
proclaimed himself, demanding to know, "Why did Battersea Rise?" but
the involvement was evidently superficial, for the maiden at whose
memory this one's organs still vibrate ignobly at once replied,
"Because it thought Clapham Common," in turn inquiring, "What made the
Marble Arch?"

Although I would have willingly sacrificed to an indefinite extent to
be furnished with the preconcerted watchword, so that I might have
enlarged myself in the eyes of this consecrated being's unapproachable
esteem, I had already decided that the competition was too intangible
for one whose thoughts lay in well-defined parallel lines, and it fell
to another to reply, "To hear Salisbury Court."

This, O my broad-minded ancestor of the first degree--an aimless
challenge coupled with the name of one recognisable spot, replied to
by the haphazard retort of another place, frequently in no way joined
to it, was regarded as an exceptionally fascinating sit-round game by
a company of elderly barbarians!

"What couldn't Walbrook?" it might be, and "Such Cheapside," would be
deemed a praiseworthy solution. "When did King's Bench Walk?" would be
asked, and to reply, "When Gray's Inn Road," covered the one with
overpowering acclamation. "Bevis Marks only an Inner Circle at The
Butts; why?" was a demand of such elaborate complexity that (although
this person was lured out of his self-imposed restraint by the silence
of all round, and submerging his intelligence to an acquired level,
unobtrusively suggested, "Because Aylesbury ducks, perchance") it fell
to the one propounding to announce, "Because St. John's Wood Shoot-up

Admittedly it is written, "When the shutter is fastened the girdle is
loosened," but it is as truly said, "Not in the head, nor yet in the
feet, but in the organs of digestion does wisdom reside," and even in
jesting the middle course of neither an excessive pride nor an
absolute weak-mindedness is to be observed. With what concrete pangs
of acute mental distress would this person ever behold his immaculate
progenitor taking part in a similar sit-round game with an assembly of
worthy mandarins, the one asking questions of meaningless import, as
"Why did they Hangkow?" and another replying in an equal strain of no
consecutiveness, "In order to T'in Tung!"

At length a person who is spoken of as having formerly been the
captain of a band of warriors turned to me with an unsuspected absence
of ferocity and said, "Your countrymen are very proficient in the art
of epigram, are they not, Mr. Kong? Will you not, in turn, therefore,
favour us with an example?" Whereupon several maidens exclaimed with
engaging high temper, "Oh yes; do ask us some funny Chinese riddles,
Mr. Kong!"

"Assuredly there are among us many classical instances of the light
sayings which require matching," I replied, gratified that I should
have the opportunity of showing their superiority. "One, harmonious
beyond the blend of challenge and retort, is as follows--'The Phoenix
embroidered upon the side of the shoe: When the shoe advances the
Phoenix leaps forward.'"

"Oh!" cried several of the maidens, and from the nature of their
glances it might reasonably be gathered that already they began to
recognise the inferiority of their own sayings.

"Is that the question, or the answer, or both?" asked a youth of
unfledged maturity, and to hide their conscious humiliation several
persons allowed their faces to melt away.

"That which has been expressed," replied this person with an
ungrudging toleration, "is the first or question portion of the
contrast. The answer is that which will be supplied by your honourable

"But," interposed one of the maidens, "it isn't really a question, you
know, Mr. Kong."

"In a way of regarding it, it may be said to be question, inasmuch as
it requires an answer to establish the comparison. The most pleasing
answer is that which shall be dissimilar in idea, and yet at the same
time maintain the most perfect harmony of parallel thought," I
replied. "Now permit your exceptional minds to wander in a forest of
similitudes: 'The Phoenix embroidered upon the side of the shoe: When
the shoe advances the Phoenix leaps forward.'"

"Oh, if that's all you want," said the one Herbert, who by an ill
destiny chanced to be present, "'The red-hot poker held before the
Cat's nose: When the poker advances the Cat leaps backwards.'"

"Oh, very good!" cried several of those around, "of course it
naturally would. Is that right, Mr. Kong?"

"If the high-souled company is satisfied, then it must be, for there
is no conclusive right or wrong--only an unending search for that
which is most gem-set and resourceful," replied this person, with an
ever-deepening conviction of no enthusiasm towards the sit-round game.
"But," he added, resolved to raise for a moment the canopy of a mind
swan-like in its crystal many-sidedness, and then leave them to their
own ineptitude, "for five centuries nothing has been judged equal to
the solution offered by Li Tang. At the time he was presented with a
three-sided banner of silk with the names of his eleven immediate
ancestors embroidered upon it in seven colours, and his own name is
still handed down in imperishable memory."

"Oh, do tell us what it was," cried many. "It must have been clever."

"'The Dragon painted upon the face of the fan: When the fan is shaken
the Dragon flies upwards,'" replied this person.

It cannot be denied that this was received with an attitude of
respectful melancholy strikingly complimentary to the wisdom of the
gifted Li Tang. But whether it may be that the time was too short to
assimilate the more subtle delicacies of the saying, or whether the
barbarian mind is inherently devoid of true balance, this person was
panged most internally to hear one say to another as he went out, "Do
you know, I really think that Herbert's was much the better answer of
the two--more realistic, and what you might expect at the pantomime."

A like inability to grasp with a clear and uninvolved vision,
permeates not only the triviality of a sit-round game but even the
most important transactions of existence.

Shortly after his arrival in the Island, this person was initiated by
the widely-esteemed Quang-Tsun into the private life of one whose
occupation was that of a Law-giver, where he frequently drank tea on
terms of mutual cordiality. Upon such an occasion he was one day
present, conversing with the lesser ones of the household--the head
thereof being absent, setting forth the Law in the Temple--when one of
the maidens cried out with amiable vivacity, "Why, Mr. Kong, you say
such consistently graceful things of the ladies you have met over
here, that we shall expect you to take back an English wife with you.
But perhaps you are already married in China?"

"The conclusion is undeviating in its accuracy," replied this person,
unable to evade the allusion. "To Ning, Hia-Fa and T'ain Yen, as the
matter stands."

"Ning Hia-Fa An T'ain Yen!" exclaimed the wife of the Law-giver
pleasantly. "What an important name. Can you pardon our curiosity and
tell us what she is like?"

"Ning, Hia-Fa AND T'ain Yen," repeated this person, not submitting to
be deprived of the consequence of two wives without due protest.
"Three names, three wives. Three very widely separated likes."

At this in no way boastfully uttered statement the agreeably outlined
surface of the faces around variated suddenly, the effect being one
which I have frequently observed in the midst of my politest
expressions of felicity. For a moment, indeed, I could not disguise
from myself that the one who had made the inquiry stretched forth her
lotus-like hand towards the secret spring by which it is customary to
summon the attending slaves from the underneath parts, but restraining
herself with the manner of one who would desire to make less of a
thing that it otherwise might seem, she turned to me again.

"How nice!" she murmured. "What a pity you did not bring them all with
you, Mr. Kong. They would have been a great acquisition."

"Yet it must be well weighed," I replied, not to be out-complimented
touching one another, "that here they would have met so many fine and
superior gentlemen that they might have become dissatisfied with my
less than average prepossessions."

"I wonder if they did not think of that in your case, and refuse to
let you come," said one of the maidens.

"The various persons must not be regarded as being on their all
fours," I replied, anxious that there should be no misunderstanding on
this point. "They, of course, reside within one inner chamber, but
there would be no duplicity in this one adding indefinitely to the

"Of course not; how silly of me!" exclaimed the maiden. "What splendid
musical evenings you can have. But tell me, Mr. Kong (ought it not to
be Messrs. Kong, mamma?), if a girl married you here would she be
legally married to you in China?"

"Oh yes," replied this person positively.

"But could you not, by your own laws, have the marriage set aside
whenever you wished?"

"Assuredly," I admitted. "It is so appointed."

"Then how could she be legally married?" she persisted, with really
unbecoming suspicion.

"Legally married, legally unmarried," replied this person, quite
distressed within himself at not being able to understand the
difficulty besetting her. "All perfectly legal and honourably

"I think, Gwendoline--" said the one of authority, and although the
matter was no further expressed, by an instinct which he was powerless
to avert, this person at once found himself rising with ceremonious

Not desiring that the obstacle should remain so inadequately swept
away, I have turned my presumptuous footsteps in the direction of the
Law-giver's house on several later occasions, but each time the word
of the slave guarding the door has been that they of the household,
down even to those of the most insignificant degree of kinship, have
withdrawn to a distant and secluded spot.

With renewed assurances that the enterprise is being gracefully
conducted, however ill-digested and misleading these immature
compositions may appear.



Concerning a desire to expatiate upon subjects of
philosophical importance and its no accomplishment. Three
examples of the mental concavity sunk into by these
barbarians. An involved episode which had the outward
appearance of being otherwise than what it was.

VENERATED SIRE (whose genial liberality on all necessary occasions is
well remembered by this person in his sacrifices, with the titles
"Benevolent" and "Open-sleeved"),--

I had it in my head at one time to tell you somewhat of the Classics
most reverenced in this country, of the philosophical opinions which
prevail, and to enlighten you generally upon certain other subjects of
distinguished eminence. As the deities arranged, however, it chanced
that upon my way to a reputable quarter of the city where the
actuality of these matters can be learnt with the least evasion, my
footsteps were drawn aside by an incident which now permeates my
truth-laden brush to the exclusion of all else.

But in the first place, if it be permitted for a thoroughly
untrustworthy son to take so presumptuous a liberty with an
unvaryingly sagacious father, let this one entreat you to regard
everything he writes in a very wide-headed spirit of looking at the
matter from all round. My former letters will have readily convinced
you that much that takes place here, even among those who can afford
long finger-nails, would not be tolerated in Yuen-ping, and in order
to avoid the suspicion that I am suffering from a serious injury to
the head, or have become a prey to a conflicting demon, it will be
necessary to continue an even more highly-sustained tolerant
alertness. This person himself has frequently suffered the ill effects
of rashly assuming that because he is conducting the adventure in a
prepossessing spirit his efforts will be honourably received, as when
he courteously inquired the ages of a company of maidens into whose
presence he was led, and complimented the one whom he was desirous of
especially gratifying by assuring her that she had every appearance of
being at least twice the nine-and-twenty years to which she modestly
laid claim.

Upon another occasion I entered a barber's stall, and finding it
oppressively hot within, I commanded the attendant to carry a
reclining stool into the street and there shave my lower limbs and
anoint my head. As he hesitated to obey--doubtless on account of the
trivial labour involved--I repeated my words in a tone of fuller
authority, holding out the inducement of a just payment when he
complied, and assuring him that he would certainly be dragged before
the nearest mandarin and tortured if he held his joints stiffly. At
this he evidently understood his danger, for obsequiously protesting
that he was only a barber of very mean attainments, and that his
deformed utensils were quite inadequate for the case, he very
courteously directed me in inquire for a public chariot bound for a
quarter called Colney Hatch (the place of commerce, it is reasonable
to infer, of the higher class barbers), and, seating myself in it,
instruct the attendant to put me down at the large gates, where they
possessed every requisite appliance, and also would, if desirable,
shave my head also. Here the incident assumes a more doubtful guise,
for, notwithstanding the admitted politeness of the one who spoke,
each of those to whom I subsequently addressed myself on the subject,
presented to me a face quite devoid of encouragement. While none
actually pointed out the vehicle I sought, many passed on in a state
of inward contemplation without replying, and some--chiefly the
attendants of other chariots of a similar kind--replied in what I
deemed to be a spirit of elusive metaphor, as he who asserted that
such a conveyance must be sought for at a point known intimately as
the Aldgate Pump, whence it started daily at half-past the thirteenth
gong-stroke; and another, who maintained that I had no prospect of
reaching the desired spot until I secured the services of one of a
class of female attendants who wear flowing blue robes in order to
indicate that they are prepared to encounter and vanquish any
emergency in life. To make no elaborate pretence in the matter this
person may definitely admit that he never did reach the place in
question, nor--in spite of a diligent search in which he has
encountered much obloquy--has he yet found any barber sufficiently
well equipped to undertake the detail.

Even more recently I suffered the unmerited rebuke of the superficial
through performing an act of deferential politeness. Learning that the
enlightened and magnanimous sovereign of this country was setting out
on a journey I stationed myself in the forefront of those who stood
before his palace, intending to watch such parts of the procession as
might be fitly witnessed by one of my condition. When these had
passed, and the chariot of the greatest approached, I respectfully
turned my back to the road with a propitiatory gesture, as of one who
did not deem himself worthy even to look upon a being of such majestic
rank and acknowledged excellence. This delicate action, by some
incredible process of mental obliquity, was held by those around to be
a deliberate insult, if not even a preconcerted signal, of open
treachery, and had not a heaven-sent breeze at that moment carried the
hat of a very dignified bystander into the upper branches of an
opportune tree, and successfully turned aside the attention of the
assembly into a most immoderate exhibition of utter loss of gravity, I
should undoubtedly have been publicly tortured, if not actually torn
to pieces.

But the incident first alluded to was of an even more
elaborately-contrived density than these, and some of the details are
still unrolled before the keenest edge of this one's inner perception.
Nevertheless, all is now set down in unbroken exactness for your
impartial judgment.

At the time of this exploit I had only ventured out on a few
occasions, and then, save those recorded, to no considerable extent;
for it had already become obvious that the enterprises in which I
persistently became involved never contributed to my material
prosperity, and the disappointment of finding that even when I could
remember nine words of a sentence in their language none of the
barbarians could understand even so much as a tenth of my own, further
cast down my enthusiasm.

On the day which has been the object of this person's narration from
the first, he set out to become more fully instructed in the subjects
already indicated, and proceeding in a direction of which he had no
actual knowledge, he soon found himself in a populous and degraded
quarter of the city. Presently, to his reasonable astonishment, he saw
before him at a point where two ill-constructed thoroughfares met, a
spacious and important building, many-storied in height, ornamented
with a profusion of gold and crystal, marble and precious stones, and
displaying from a tall pole the three-hued emblem of undeniable
authority. A never-ending stream of people passed in and out by the
numerous doors; the strains of expertly wielded instruments could be
distinctly heard inside, and the warm odour of a most prepossessing
spiced incense permeated the surroundings. "Assuredly," thought the
person who is now recording the incident, "this is one of the Temples
of barbarian worship"; and to set all further doubt at rest he saw in
letters of gilt splendour a variety of praiseworthy and appropriate
inscriptions, among which he read and understood, "Excellent," "Fine
Old," "Well Matured," "Spirits only of the choicest quality within,"
together with many other invocations from which he could not wrest the
hidden significance, as "Old Vatted," "Barclay's Entire," "An Ordinary
at One," and the like.

By this time an impressive gathering had drawn around, and from its
manner of behaving conveyed the suspicion that an entertainment or
manifestation of some kind was confidently awaited. To disperse so
outrageous a misconception this person was on the point of withdrawing
himself when he chanced to see, over the principal door of the Temple,
a solid gold figure of colossal magnitude, represented as crowned with
leaves and tendrils, and holding in his outstretched hands a gigantic,
and doubtless symbolic, bunch of grapes. "This," I said to myself, "is
evidently the tutelary deity of the place, so displayed to receive the
worship of the passer-by." With the discovery a thought of the most
irreproachable benevolence possessed me. "Why should not this person,"
I reflected, "gain the unstinted approbation of those barbarians"
(who by this time completely encircled me in) "by doing obeisance
towards their deity, and by the same act delicately and inoffensively
rebuke them for their own too-frequent intolerable attitude towards
the susceptibilities of others? As an unprejudiced follower, in his
own land, of the systems of Confucius, Lao-tse, and Buddha, this
person already recognises the claims of seventeen thousand nine
hundred and thirty-three deities of various grades, so that the
addition of one more to that number can be a heresy of very trivial
expiation." Inspired by these honourable sentiments, therefore, I at
once prostrated myself on the ground, and, amid a silence of really
illimitable expectation, I began to kow-tow repeatedly with
ceremonious precision.

At this display of charitable broadmindedness an approving shout went
up on all sides. Thus encouraged I proceeded to kow-tow with even more
unceasing assiduousness, and presently words of definite encouragement
mingled with the shout. "Do not flag in your amiable
disinterestedness, Kong Ho," I whispered in my ear, "and out of your
well-sustained endurance may perchance arise a cordial understanding,
and ultimately a remunerative alliance between two distinguished
nations." Filled with this patriotic hope I did not suffer my neck to
stiffen, and doubtless I would have continued the undertaking as long
as the sympathetic persons who hemmed me in signified their refined
approval, when suddenly the cry was raised, "Look out, here comes the

This, O my venerable-headed father, I at once guessed to be the
announcement heralding the collecting-bowl which some over-zealous
bystander was preparing to pass round on my behalf, doubtless under
the impression--so obtuse in grasping the true relationship of events
are many of the barbarians--that I was a wandering monk, displaying my
reverence for the purpose of mendicancy. Not wishing to profit by this
offensive misapprehension, I was preparing to rise, when a hand was
unceremoniously laid upon my shoulder, and turning round I saw behind
me one of the official watch--a class of men so powerful that at a
gesture from their uplifted hands even the fiercest untamed horse will
not infrequently stand upon its hind legs in mute submission.

"Early morning salutations," I said pleasantly, though somewhat
involved in speech by my exertion (for these persons are ever to be
treated with discriminating courtesy). "Prosperity to your house, O
energetic street-watcher, and a thousand grandsons to worship their
illustrious ancestor."

"Thanks," he replied concisely. "I'm a single man. As yet. Now then,
will you make a way there? Can you stand?"

"Stand?" repeated this person, at once recognising one of the
important words of inner meaning concerning which he had been
initiated by the versatile Quang-Tsun. "Certainly this person will not
hesitate to establish his footing if the exaction is thought to be
desirable. Let us, therefore, bend our steps in the direction of a
tea-house of unquestionable propriety."

"You've bent your steps into quite enough tea-houses, as you call
them, for one day," replied the official with evasive meaning, at the
same time assisting me to rise (for it need not be denied that the
restrained position had made me for the moment incapable of a
self-sustaining effort). "Look what you've done."

At the direction of his glance I cast my eyes along the street, east
and west, and for the first time I became aware that what I had last
seen as a reasonable gathering had now taken the proportions of an
innumerable multitude which filled the entire space of the
thoroughfare, while others covered the roofs above and protruded
themselves from every available window. In our own land the
interspersal of umbrellas, musical instruments, and banners, with an
occasional firework, would have given a greater animation to the
scene; but with this exception I have never taken part in a more
impressive and well-extended procession. Even while I looked, the
helmets of other official watchers appeared in the distance, as
immature junks upon the storm-tossed Whang-Hai, apparently striving
fruitlessly to reach us.

As I was by no means sure what attitude was expected of me, I smiled
with an all-embracing approval, and signified to the one at my side,
by way of passing the time pleasurably together, that the likelihood
of his nimble-witted friends reaching us with unruffled garments was
remote in the extreme.

"Don't you let that worry you, Li Hung Chang," he said, in a tone that
had the appearance of being outside itself around a deeper and more
bitter significance; "if we get out again with any garments at all it
won't be your fault. Why, you--well, YOU ought to have been put on the
Black List long ago, by rights."

This, exalted one, although I have not yet been able to learn the
exact dignity of it from any of the books of civil honours, is
undoubtedly a mark of signal attainment, conferred upon the few for
distinguishing themselves by some particular capacity; as our Double
Dragon, for instance. Anxious to learn something of the privileges of
the rank from one who evidently was not without influence in the
bestowal, and not unwilling to show him that I was by no means of
low-caste descent, I said to the official, "In his own country one of
this person's ancestors wore the Decoration of the Yellow Scabbard,
which entitled him to be carried in his chair up to the gate of the
Forbidden Palace before descending to touch the ground. Is this Order
of the Black List of a like purport?"

"You're right," he said, "it is. In this country it entitles you to be
carried right inside the door at Bow Street without ever touching the
ground. Look out! Now we shall not--"

At that moment what this person at first assumed to be a floral
tribute, until he saw that not only the entire plant, but the
earthenware jar also were attached, struck the official upon the
helmet, whereupon, drawing a concealed club, he ceased speaking.

How the entertainment was conducted to such a development this person
is totally inadequate to express; but in an incredibly short space of
time the scene became one of most entrancing variety. From every
visible point around the air became filled with commodities
which--though doubtless without set intention--fittingly represented
the arts, manufactures, and natural history of this resourceful
country, all cast in prolific abundance at the feet of the official
and myself, although the greater part inevitably struck our heads and
bodies before reaching them. Beyond our immediate circle, as it may be
expressed, the crowd never ceased to press forward with resistless
activity, and among it could be seen occasionally the official
watchmen advancing self-reliantly, though frequently without helmets,
and, not less often, the helmets advancing without the official
watchmen. To add to the acknowledged interest, every person present
was proclaiming his views freely on a diversity of subjects, and above
all could be heard the clear notes of the musical instruments by which
the officials sought to encourage one another in their extremity, and
to deaden the cries of those whom they outclubbed.

Despite this person's repeated protests that the distinction was too
excessive, he was plucked from hand to hand irresistibly among those
around, losing a portion of his ill-made attire at each step, so
agreeably anxious were all to detain him. Just when the exploit seemed
likely to have a disagreeable ending, however, he was thrust heavily
against a door which yielded, and at once barring it behind him, he
passed across the open space into which it led, along a passage
between two walls, and thence through an involved labyrinth and
beneath the waters of a canal into a wood of attractive seclusion.
Here this person remained, spending the time in a profitable
meditation, until the light withdrew and the great sky lantern had
ascended. Then he cautiously crept forth, and after some further
trivial episodes which chiefly concern the obstinate-headed slave
guarding the outer door of a tea-house, an unintelligent maiden in the
employment of one vending silk-embroidered raiment, the mercenary
controller of a two-wheeled chariot and the sympathetic and opportune
arrival of a person seated upon a funeral car, he succeeded in
reaching the place of his abode.

With unalterable affection and a material request that an unstinted
adequacy of new garments may be sent by a sure and speedy hand.



Concerning the neglect of ancestors and its discreditable
consequences. Two who state the matter definitely. Concerning
the otherside way of looking at things and the
self-contradictory bearing of the maiden Florence.

VENERATED SIRE,--A discovery of overwhelming malignity oppresses me.
In spite of much baffling ambiguity and the frequent evasion of
conscious guilt, there can be no longer any reasonable doubt that

Hitherto the matter had rested in my mind as an uneasy breath of
suspicion, agitated from time to time by countless indications that
such a possibility might, indeed, exist in a condensed form, but too
inauspiciously profane to be contemplated in the altogether. Thus,
when in the company of the young this person has walked about the
streets of the city, he may at length have said, "Truly, out of your
amiable condescension, you have shown me a variety of entrancing
scenes. Let us now in turn visit the tombs of your ancestors, to the
end that I may transmit fitting gifts to their spirits and discharge a
few propitious fireworks as a greeting." Yet in no case has this
well-intentioned offer been agilely received, one asserting that he
did not know the resting-place of the tombs in question, a second that
he had no ancestors, a third that Kensal Green was not an entrancing
spot for a wet afternoon, a fourth that he would see them removed to a
greater distance first, another that he drew the line at mafficking in
a cemetery, and the like. These things, it may occur to your
omniscience, might in themselves have been conclusive, yet the next
reference to the matter would perhaps be tending to a more alluring

"To-morrow," a person has remarked in the hearing of this one, "I go
to the Stratford which is upon the Avon, and without a pause I shall
prostrate myself intellectually before the immortal Shakespeare's tomb
and worship his unequalled memory."

"The intention is benevolently conceived," I remarked. "Yet has he no
descendants, this same Shakespeare, that the conciliation of his
spirit must be left to chance?"

When he assured me that this calamity had come about, I would have
added a richly-gilded brick from my store for transmission also, in
the hope that the neglected and capricious shadow would grant me an
immunity from its resentful attention, but the one in question raised
a barrier of dissent. If I wished to adorn a tomb, he added (evading
the deeper significance of the act), there was that of Goldsmith
within its Temple, upon which many impressionable maidens from across
the Bitter Waters of the West make it a custom to deposit chaplets of
verses, in the hope of seeing the offering chronicled in the papers;
and in the Open Space called Trafalgar there were the images of a
great captain who led many junks to victory and the Emperor of a
former dynasty, where doubtless the matter could be arranged; but the
surrounding had by this time become too involved, and this person had
no alternative but to smile symmetrically and reply that his words
were indeed opals falling from a topaz basin.

Later in the day, being desirous of becoming instructed more
definitely, I addressed myself to a venerable person who makes clean
the passage of the way at a point not far distant.

"If you have no sons to extend your industrious line," I said, when he
had revealed this fact to me, "why do you not adopt one to that end?"

With narrow-minded covetousness, he replied that nowadays he had
enough to do to keep himself, and that it would be more reasonable to
get some one to adopt HIM.

"But," I exclaimed, ignoring this ill-timed levity, "who, when you
have Passed Beyond, will worship you and transmit to your spirit the
necessities of life?"

"Governor," he replied, using the term of familiar dignity, "I've made
shift without being worshipped for five and sixty years, and it
worries me a sight more to know who will transmit to my body the
necessities of life until I HAVE Passed Beyond."

"The final consequences of your self-opinionated carelessness," this
person continued, "will be that your neglected and unprovided shadow,
finding itself no longer acceptable to the society of the better class
demons, will wander forth, and allying itself in despair to the
companionship of a band of outcasts like itself, will be driven to
dwell in unclean habitations and to subsist on the uncertain bounty of
the charitable."

"Very likely," replied the irredeemable person before me. "I can't
help its troubles. I have to do all that myself as it is."

Doubtless this fanaticism contains the secret of the ease with which
these barbarians have possessed themselves of the greater part of the
earth, and have even planted their assertive emblems on one or two
spots in our own Flowery Kingdom. What, O my esteemed parent, what can
a brave but devout and demon-fearing nation do when opposed to a people
who are quite prepared to die without first leaving an adequate
posterity to tend their shrines and offer incense? Assuredly, as a
neighbouring philosopher once had occasion to remark, using for his
purpose a metaphor so technically-involved that I must leave the
interpretation until we meet, "It may be war, but it isn't cricket."

The inevitable outcome, naturally, is that the Island must be the
wandering-place of myriads of spirits possessing no recognised
standing, and driven by want--having none to transmit them
offerings--to the most degraded subterfuges. It is freely admitted
that there is scarcely an ancient building not the abode of one or
more of these abandoned demons, doubtless well-disposed in the first
instance, and capable of becoming really beneficent Forces until they
were driven to despair by obstinate neglect. A society of very
honourable persons (to which this one has unobtrusively contributed a
gift), exists for the purpose of searching out the most distressing
and meritorious cases among them, and removing them, where possible,
to a more congenial spot. The remarkable fact, to this person's mind,
is, that with the air and every available space around absolutely
packed with demons (as certainly must be the prevailing state of
things), the manifestations of their malignity and vice are, if
anything, rather less evident here than in our own favoured country,
where we do all in our power to satisfy their wants.

That same evening I found myself seated next to a maiden of
prepossessing vivacity, who was spoken of as being one of a kindred
but not identical race. Filled with the incredible profanity of those
around, and hoping to find among a nation so alluringly high-spirited
a more congenial elevation of mind, I at length turned to her and
said, "Do not regard the question as one of unworthy curiosity, for
this person's inside is white and funereal with his fears; but do you,
of your allied race, worship your ancestors?"

The maiden spent a moment in conscientious thought. "No, Mr. Kong,"
she replied, with a most commendable sigh of unfeigned regret, "I
can't say that we do. I guess it's because we're too new. Mine, now,
only go back two generations, and they were mostly in lard. If they
were old and baronial it might be different, but I can't imagine
myself worshipping an ancestor in lard." (This doubtless refers to
some barbaric method of embalming.)

"And your wide and enlightened countrymen?" I asked, unable to
restrain a passion of pure-bred despair. "Do they also so regard the

"I am afraid so," replied the maiden, with an honourable indication
towards my emotion. "But of course when a girl marries into the
European aristocracy, she and all her folk worship her husband's
ancestors, until every one about is fairly dizzy with the subject."

It is largely owing to the graceful and virtuous conversation of these
lesser ones that this person's knowledge of the exact position which
the ceremonial etiquette of the country demands on various occasions
is becoming so proficiently enlarged. It is true that they of my own
sex do not hesitate to inquire with penetrating assiduousness into
certain of the manners and customs of our land, but these for the most
part do not lead to a conversation in any way profitable to my
discreeter understanding. Those of the inner chamber, on the other
hand, while not scrupling to question me on the details of dress, the
braiding and gumming of the hair, the style and variety of the stalls
of merchants, the wearing of jade, gold, and crystal ornaments and
flowers about the head, smoking, and other matters affecting our
lesser ones, very magnanimously lead my contemplation back to a more
custom-established topic if by any hap in my ambitious ignorance I
outstep it.

In such a manner it chanced on a former occasion that I sat side by
side with a certain maiden awaiting the return of others who had
withdrawn for a period. The season was that of white rains, and the
fire being lavishly extended about the grate we had harmoniously
arranged ourselves before it, while this person, at the repeated and
explicit encouragement of the maiden, spoke openly of such details of
the inner chamber as he has already indicated.

"Is it true, Mr. Ho" (thus the maiden, being unacquainted with the
actual facts, consistently addressed me), "that ladies' feet are
relentlessly compressed until they finally assume the proportions and
appearance of two bulbs?" and as she spoke she absent-mindedly
regarded her own slippers, which were out-thrust somewhat to receive
the action of the fire.

"It is a matter which cannot reasonably be denied," I replied; "and it
is doubtless owing to this effect that they are designated 'Golden
Lilies.' Yet when this observance has been slowly and painfully
accomplished, the extremities in question are not less small but
infinitely less graceful than the select and naturally-formed pair
which this person sees before him." And at the ingeniously-devised
compliment (which, not to become large-headed in self-imagination, it
must be admitted was revealed to me as available for practically all
occassions by the really invaluable Quang-Tsun), I bowed

"O, Mr. Ho!" exclaimed the maiden, and paused abruptly at the sound of
her words, as though they were inept.

"In many other ways a comparison equally irreproachable to the exalted
being at my side might be sought out," I continued, suddenly forming
the ill-destined judgment that I was no less competent than the more
experienced Quang-Tsun to contrive delicate offerings of speech.
"Their hair is rope like in its lack of spontaneous curve, their eyes
as deficient in lustre as a half-shuttered window; their hands are
exceedingly inferior in colour, and both on the left side, as it may
be expressed; their legs--" but at this point the maiden drew herself
so hastily into herself that I had no alternative but to conclude that
unless I reverted in some way the enterprise was in peril of being
inharmoniously conducted.

"Mr. Ho," said the maiden, after contemplating her inward thoughts for
a moment, "you are a foreigner, and you cannot be expected to know by
instinct what may and what may not be openly expressed in this
country. Therefore, although the obligation is not alluring, I think
it kinder to tell you that the matters which formed the subject of
your last words are never to be referred to."

At this rebuke I again bowed persistently, for it did not appear
reasonable to me that I could in any other way declare myself without
violating the imposed command.

"Not only are they never openly referred to," continued the maiden,
who in spite of the declared no allurement of the subject did not seem
disposed to abandon it at once, "but among the most select they are,
by unspoken agreement, regarded as 'having no actual existence,' as
you yourself would say."

"Yet," protested this person, somewhat puzzled, "to one who has
witnessed the highly-achieved attitudes of those within your Halls of
Harmony, and in an unyielding search for knowledge has addressed
himself even to the advertisement pages of the ladies' papers--"

The maiden waved her hand magnanimously. "In your land, as you have
told me, there are many things, not really existing, which for
politeness you assume to be. In a like but converse manner this is to
be so regarded."

I thanked her voluminously. "The etiquette of this country is as
involved as the spoken tongue," I said, "for both are composed chiefly
of exceptions to a given rule. It was formerly impressed upon this
person, as a guiding principle, that that which is unseen is not to be
discussed; yet it is not held in disrepute to allude to so intimate
and secluded an organ as the heart, for no further removed than
yesterday he heard the deservedly popular sea-lieutenant in the act of
declaring to you, upon his knees, that you were utterly devoid of such
a possession."

At this inoffensively-conveyed suggestion, the fire opposite had all
the appearance of suddenly reflecting itself into the maiden's face
with a most engaging concentration, while at the same time she stamped
her foot in ill-concealed rage.

"You've been listening at the door!" she cried impetuously, "and I
shall never forgive you."

"To no extent," I declared hastily (for although I had indeed been
listening at the door, it appeared, after the weight which she set
upon the incident, more honourable that I should deny it in order to
conciliate her mind). "It so chanced that for the moment this person
had forgotten whether the handle he was grasping was of the push-out
or turn-in variety, and in the involvement a few words of no
particular or enduring significance settled lightly upon his

"In that case," she replied in high-souled liberality, while her eyes
scintillated towards me with a really all-overpowering radiance, "I
will forgive you."

"We have an old but very appropriate saying, 'To every man the voice
of one maiden carries further than the rolling of thunder,'" I
remarked in a significantly restrained tone; for, although conscious
that the circumstance was becoming more menace-laden than I had any
previous intention, I found myself to be incapable of extrication.

"Oh," she exclaimed quickly, raising her polished hand with an
undeniable gesture of reproof, "you must not call me by my christian
name, Mr. Ho."

"Yet," replied this person, with a confessedly stubborn inelegance,
"you call me by the name of Ho."

Her eyes became ox-like in an utter absence of almond outline. "Yes,"
she said gazing, "but that--that is not your christian name, is it?"

"In a position of speaking--this one being as a matter of fact a
discreditable follower of the sublime Confucius--it may be so
regarded," I answered, "inasmuch as it is the milk-name of childhood."

"But you always put it last," she urged.

"Assuredly," I replied. "Being irrevocably born with the family name
of Kong, it is thought more reasonable that that should stand first.
After that, others are attached as the various contingencies demand
it, as Ho upon participating in the month-age feast, the book-name of
Tsin at a later period, Paik upon taking a degree, and so forth."

"I am very sorry, Mr. Kong," said the maiden, adding, with what at the
time certainly struck this person as shallow-witted prejudice. "Of
course it is really quite your own fault for being so tospy-turvily
arranged in every way. But, to return to the subject, why should not
one speak of one's heart?"

"Because," replied this person, colouring deeply, and scarcely able to
control his unbearable offence that so irreproachably-moulded a
creature should openly refer to the detail, "because it is a gross and
unrefined particular, much more internal and much less
pleasantly-outlined than those extremities whose spoken equivalent
shall henceforth be an abandoned word from my lips."

"But, in any case, it is not the actual organ that one infers,"
protested the maiden. "As the seat of the affections, passions,
virtues, and will, it is the conventional emblem of every thought and

"By no means," I cried, forgetting in the face of so heterodox an
assertion that it would be well to walk warily at every point. "That
is the stomach."

"Ah!" exclaimed the maiden, burying her face in a gracefully-perfumed
remnant of lace, to so overwhelming a degree that for the moment I
feared she might become involved in the dizzy falling. "Never, by any
mischance, use that word again the society of the presentable, Mr.

"The ceremonial usage of my own land of the Heavenly Dynasty is
proverbially elaborate," I said, with a gesture of self-abasement,
"but in comparison with yours it may be regarded as an undeviating
walk when opposed to a stately and many-figured dance. Among the
company of the really excessively select (in which must ever be
included the one whom I am now addressing), it becomes difficult for
an outcast of my illimitable obtuseness to move to one side or the
other without putting his foot into that."

"Oh no," exclaimed the maiden, in fragrant encouragement, "I think you
are getting on very nicely, Mr. Kong, and one does not look for
absolute conformance from a foreigner--especially one who is so
extremely foreign. If I can help you with anything--of course I could
not even speak as I have done to an ordinary stranger, but with one of
a distant race it seems different--if I can tell you anything that
will save you--"

"You are all-exalted," I replied, with seemly humility, "and virtue
and wisdom press out your temples on either side. Certainly, since I
have learned that the heart is so poetically regarded, I have been
assailed by a fear lest other organs which I have hitherto despised
might be used in a similar way. Now, as regards liver--"

"It is only used with bacon," replied the maiden, rising abruptly.

"Kidneys?" suggested this person diffidently, really anxious to detain
her footsteps, although from her expression it did not rest assured
that the incident was taking an actually auspicious movement.

"I don't think you need speak of those except at breakfast," she said;
"but I hear the others returning, and I must really go to dress for

Among the barbarians many keep books wherein to inscribe their deep
and beautiful thoughts. This person had therefore provided himself
with one also, and, drawing it forth, he now added to a page of many
other interesting compositions: "Maidens of immaculate refinement do
not hesitate to admit before a person of a different sex that they are
on the point of changing their robes. The liver is in some intricate
way an emblem representing bacon, or together with it the two stand
for a widely differing analogy. Among those of the highest
exclusiveness kidneys are never alluded to after the tenth gong-stroke
of the morning."

With a sincerely ingrained trust that the scenes of dignity, opulence,
and wisdom, set forth in these superficial letters, are not unsettling
your intellect and causing you to yearn for a fuller existence.



Concerning this person's well-sustained efforts to discover
further demons. The behaviour of those invoked on two occasions.

VENERATED SIRE,--In an early letter I made some reference to a variety
of demon invoked by certain of the barbarians. As this matter aroused
your congenial interest, I have since privately bent my mind
incessantly to the discovery of others; but this has been by no means
easy, for, touching the more intimate details of the subject, the
barbarians frequently maintain a narrow-minded suspicion. Many whom I
have approached feign to become amused or have evaded a deliberate
answer under the subterfuge of a jest; yet, whenever I would have
lurked by night in their temples or among the enclosed spaces of their
tombs to learn more, at a given signal one in authority has approached
me with anxiety and mistrust engraved upon his features, and,
disregarding my unassuming protest that I would remain alone in a
contemplative reverie, has signified that so devout an exercise is
contrary to their written law.

On one occasion only did this person seem to hold himself poised on
the very edge of a fuller enlightenment. This was when, in the
venerable company of several benevolent persons, he was being taken
from place to place to see the more important buildings, and to
observe the societies of artificers labouring at their crafts. The
greater part of the day had already been spent in visiting temples,
open spaces reserved to children and those whose speech, appearance,
and general manner of behaving make it desirable that they should be
set apart from the contact of the impressionable, halls containing
relics and emblems of the past, places of no particular size or
attraction but described as being of unparalleled historic interest,
and the stalls of the more reputable venders of merchandise.

Doubtless, with observing so many details of a conflicting nature,
this person's discriminating faculties had become obscured, but
towards evening he certainly understood that we sought the company of
an assembly of those who had been selected from all the Empire to
pronounce definitely upon matters of supreme import. The building
before which our chariot stopped had every appearance of being worthy
of so exceptional a gathering, and with a most affluent joy that I
should at last be able to glean a decisive pronouncement, I evaded
those who had accompanied me, and, mingling self-reliantly with the
throng inside, I quickly surrounded myself with many of the
wisest-looking, and begged that they would open their heads freely and
express their innermost opinions upon the subject of demons of all

Although I had admittedly hoped that these persons would not conceal
themselves behind the wings of epigram or intangible prevarication, I
was far from being prepared for the candour with which they greeted
me, and although by long usage I am reasonably unconcerned at the
proximity of any of our own recognised genii, it is not to be denied
that my organs of ferocity grew small and unstable at the revelations.

From their words it appeared that the spot on which we stood had long
been the recognised centre and meeting-place for every class of
abandoned and objectionable spirit of the universe. Not only this, but
several of the persons who had gathered around were confidently
pointed out as the earthly embodiment of various diabolical Forces,
while others cheerfully admitted that they themselves were the shadows
of certain illustrious ones who had long Passed Above, and all united
in declaring that those who moved among them wearing the distinction
of a dark blue uniform were Evil Beings of a most ghoulish and
repulsive type. Indeed, as I looked more closely, I could see that not
only those pointed out, but all standing around, had expressions
immeasurably more in keeping with a band of outcast spirits than
suggestive of an assembly representing wisdom and dignified ease. At
that moment, however, a most inelegant movement was caused by one
suddenly declaring that he had recognised this one who is inscribing
his experiences to be the apparition of a certain great reformer who
during the period of his ordinary existence had received the name of
Guy Fawkes, and amid a tumult of overwhelming acclamation a proposal
was raised that I should be carried around in triumph and afterwards
initiated into the observance of a time-honoured custom. Although it
had now become doubtful to what end the adventure was really tending,
this person would have submitted himself agreeably to the
participation had not the blue-apparelled band cleft their way into
the throng just as I was about to be borne off in triumph, and forming
themselves into a ringed barrier around me they presently succeeded in
rearranging the contending elements and in restoring me to the society
of my friends. To these persons they complained with somewhat
unreasoning acrimony that I had been exciting the inmates into a state
of rebellion with wild imaginings, and for the first time I then began
to understand that an important error had been perpetrated by some
one, and that instead of being a meeting-place for those upholding the
wisdom and authority of the country, the building was in reality an
establishment for the mentally defective and those of treacherous

For some time after this occurrence I failed to regard the subject of
demons and allied Forces in any but a spirit of complete no
enthusiasm, but more recently my interest and research have been
enlarged by the zeal and supernatural conversation of a liberal-minded
person who sought my prosaic society with indefatigable persistence.
When we had progressed to such a length that the one might speak of
affairs without the other at once interposing that he himself had also
unfortunately come out quite destitute of money, this stranger, who
revealed to me that his name was Glidder, but that in the company of a
certain chosen few he was known intimately as the Keeper of the
Salograma, approached me confidentially, and inquired whether we of
our Central Kingdom were in the habit of receiving manifestations from
the spirits of those who had Passed Beyond.

At the unassumed ingenuousness of this remark I suffered my
impassiveness to relax, as I replied with well-established pride that
although a country which neglected its ancestors might doubtless be
able to produce more of the ordinary or graveyard spectres, we were
unapproachable for the diverse forms and malignant enmity of our
apparitions. Of invisible beings alone, I continued tolerantly, we had
the distinction of being harassed by upwards of seven hundred
clearly-defined varieties, while the commoner inflictions of demons,
shades, visions, warlocks, phantoms, sprites, imps, phenomena, ghosts,
and reflections passed almost without comment; and touching our
admitted national speciality of dragons, the honour of supremacy had
never been questioned.

At this, the agreeable person said that the pleasure he derived
from meeting me was all-excelling, and that I must certainly accompany
him to a meeting-place of this same chosen few the following evening,
when, by the means of sacred expedients, they hoped to invoke the
presence of some departed spirits, and perchance successfully raise a
tangible vision or two. To so fair-minded a proposal I held myself
acquiescently, and then inquired where the meeting-place in question
was destined to be--whether in a ruined and abandoned sanctuary, or
upon some precipitous spot of desolation.

The inquiry was gracefully intended, but a passing cloud of unworthy
annoyance revealed itself upon the upper part of the other's
expression as he replied, "We, the true seekers, despise theatrical
accessories, and, as a matter of act, I couldn't well get away from
the office in time to go anywhere far. To-morrow we meet at my place
in the Camden Road. It's only a three-half-penny tram stage from the
Euston and Tottenham Court corner, so it couldn't be much more
convenient for you." He thereupon gave me an inscribed fragment of
paper and mentioned the appointed hour.

"I'll tell you why I am particularly anxious for you to come
to-morrow," he said as we were each departing from one another.
"Pash--he's the Reader of the Veda among us--and his people have got
hold of a Greek woman (they SAY she is a princess, of course), who can
do a lot of things with flowers and plate glass. They are bringing her
for the first time to-morrow, and it struck me that if I have YOU
there already when they arrive--you'll come in your national costume
by the way?--it will be a considerable set-off. Since his daughter was
presented to the duchess at the opening of a bazaar, there has been no
holding Pash; why he was ever elected Reader of the Books, I don't
know. Er--we have had scoffers sometimes, but I trust I may rely upon
you not to laugh at anything you may not happen to agree with?"

With conscientious dignity I replied that I had only really laughed
seven times in my life, and therefore the entertainment was one which
I was not likely to embark upon hastily or with inadequate cause. He
immediately expressed a seemly regret that the detail had been spoken,
and again assuring him that at the stated hour I would present myself
at the house bearing the symbol engraved upon the card, we definitely

That, as a matter of fact, I did not so present myself at the exact
hour, chiefly concerns the uncouth and arbitrary-minded charioteer who
controlled the movements of the vehicle to which the one whom I was
seeking had explicitly referred; for at an angle in the road he
suffered the horses to draw us aside into a path which did not
correspond to the engraved signs upon the card, nor by any word of
persuasion could he be prevailed upon to return.

Thus, without any possible reproach upon the manner in which I was
conducting the enterprise, it came about that by the time I reached
the spot indicated, all those persons who had been spoken of as
constituting a chosen band were assembled, and with them the
barbarian princess. Nevertheless, this person was irreproachably
greeted, and the maiden indicated even spoke a few words to him in an
outside tongue. Being necessarily unacquainted with the import of the
remark I spread out my hands with a sign of harmonious sympathy and
smiled agreeably, whereat she appeared to receive an added esteem from
the faces of those around (excluding those directly of the House of
Glidder), and was thereby encouraged to speak similarly at intervals,
this person each time replying in a like fashion.

"Is he then a Guide of the Way, also, princess?" said the one Pash,
who had noted the occurrence; to which the maiden replied, "To a
degree, yet lacking the Innermost Mysteries."

Presently it was announced that all things were fittingly prepared in
another chamber. Here, upon a table of polished wood, stood on the one
side a round stone with certain markings, a group of inscribed books,
and various other emblems; and on the other side a bowl of water, a
sphere of crystal, pieces of unwritten parchment, and behind all, and
at a distance away, a sheet of transparent glass, greater in height
than an ordinary person and as wide. When all were seated--the one who
had enticed me among them placing himself before the stone, the person
Pash guarding the books, the barbarian princess being surrounded by
her symbols and alone in a self-imposed solitude, and the others at
various points--the lights were subdued and the appearances awaited.

It would scarcely be respectful, O my enlightened father, to take up
your well-spent leisure by a too prolific account of the matters which
followed, they being in no way dissimilar from the manifestations by
which the uninitiated little ones of Yuen-ping are wont to amuse
themselves and pass the winter evenings. From time to time harmonious
sounds could be plainly detected, flowers and branches of wood were
scattered sparsely here and there, persons claimed that passing
objects had touched their faces, and misshapen forms of smoke-like
density (which some confidently recognised as the outlines of departed
ones whom they had known), revealed themselves against the glass. When
this had been accomplished, the lights were recalled, and the
barbarian maiden, sinking into a condition of languor, announced and
foretold events and happenings upon which she was consulted, sometimes
replying by spoken words, at others suffering her hand to trace them
lightly upon the parchment sheets. Thus, to an inquirer it was
announced that one, Aunt Mary, in the Upper Air, was well and happy,
though undeniably pained at the action of Cousin William in the matter
of the freehold houses, and more than sceptical how his marriage would
turn out. Another was advised that although the interest on Consols
was admittedly lower than that anticipated by those controlling the
destines of a new venture entitled, The Great Rosy Dawn Gold Mine
Development Syndicate, and the name certainly less poetically
inspiring, the advising spirits were of the opinion that the former
enterprise would prove the more stable of the two, and, in any case,
they recommended the person in question to begin by placing not more
than half of her life's savings into the mine. The family of the House
of Pash was assured that beneficent spirits surrounded them at every
turn, and that their good deeds were not suffered to fall unfruitfully
to the ground; while many bearing the name of Glidder, on the other
hand, were reproved by one who had known them in infancy for the
offences of jealousy, ostentation, vain thoughts, shallowness of
character, and the like.

At length, revered, as there seemed to be no reasonable indication of
any barbarian phantom of weight or authority appearing--nothing,
indeed, beyond what a person in our country, of no admitted skill,
would accomplish in the penetrating light of day with two others
holding his hands, and a third reposing upon his head, I formed the
perhaps immature judgment that the one to whom I was indebted for the
entertainment would be suffering a grievous frustration of his hopes
and a diminution of his outward authority. Therefore, without
sufficient consideration of the restricted surroundings, as it
afterwards appeared, I threw myself into a retrospective vision, and
floating unencumbered through space, I sought for Kwan Kiang-ti, the
Demon of the Waters, upon whom I might fittingly call, as I was given
into his keeping by the ceremony of spirit-adoption at an early age.
Meeting an influence which I recognised to be an indication of his
presence, in the vicinity of the Eighth Region, I obsequiously
entreated that he would reveal himself without delay, and then,
convinced of his sympathetic intervention, I suffered my spirit to
recall itself, and revived into the condition of an ordinary

"We have among us this evening, my friends," the one Pash was saying,
"a very remarkable lady--if I may use so democratic a term in the
connection--to whom the limits of Time and Space are empty words, and
before whose supreme Will the most portentous Forces of Occult Nature
mutely confess themselves her attending slaves--" But at that moment
the rolling drums of Kiang-ti's thunder drowned his words, although he
subsequently raised his voice above it to entreat that any knives or
other articles of a bright and attractive kind should at once be
removed to a place of safety.

Heralded by these continuous sounds, and accompanied by innumerable
flashes of lightning, the genius presently manifested himself,
leisurely developing out of the air around. He appeared in his
favourite guise of an upright dragon, his scales being arranged in
rows of nine each way, a pearl showing within his throat, and upon his
head the wooden bar. The lights were extinguished incapably by the
rain which fell continually in his presence, but from his body there
proceeded a luminous breath which sufficiently revealed the various

"Kong Ho," said this opportune vision, speaking with a voice like the
beating of a brass gong, "the course you have adopted is an unusual
one, but the weight and regularity of your offerings have merit in my
eyes. Nevertheless, if your invocation is only the outcome of a
shallow vanity or a profane love of display, nothing can save you from
a painful death. Speak now, fully and without evasion, and fear

"Amiable Being," said this person, kow-towing profoundly, "the matter
was designed to the end only that your incomparable versatility might
be fittingly displayed. These barbarians sought vainly to raise
phantoms capable of any useful purpose, whereupon I, jealous of your
superior omnipotence, judged it would be an unseemly neglect not to
inform you of the opportunity."

"It is well," said the demon affably. "All doubt in the matter shall
now be set at rest. Could any more convincing act be found than that I
should breath upon these barbarians and reduce them instantly to a
scattering of thin white ashes?"

"Assuredly it would be a conclusive testimony," I replied; "yet in
that case consider how inadequate a witness could be borne to your
enlightened condescension, when none would be left but one to whom the
spoken language of this Island is more in the nature of a trap than a
comfortable vehicle."

"Your reasoning is profound, Kong Ho," he replied, "yet abundant proof
shall not be wanting." With these words he raised his hand, and
immediately the air became filled with an overwhelming shower of those
productions with which Kwan Kiang-ti's name is chiefly
associated--shells and pebbles of all kinds, lotus and other roots
from the river banks, weeds from seas of greater depths, fish of
interminable variety from both fresh and bitter waters, all falling in
really embarrassing abundance, and mingled with an incessant rain of
sand and water. In the midst of this the demon suddenly passed away,
striking the table as he went, so that it was scarred with the brand
of a five-clawed hand, shattering all the objects upon it (excepting
the stone and the books, which he doubtless regarded as sacred to some
extent), and leaving the room involved in a profound darkness.

"For the love av the saints--for the love av the saints, save us from
the yellow devils!" exclaimed a voice from the spot where last the
barbarian princess had reclined, and upon this person going to her
assistance with lights it was presently revealed that she alone had
remained seated, the others having all assembled themselves beneath
the table in spite of the incapability of the space at their disposal.
Most of the weightier evidences of Kwan Kiang-ti's majestic presence
had faded away, though the table retained the print of his impressive
hand, many objects remained irretrievably torn apart, and in a distant
corner of the room an insignificant heap of shells and seaweed still
lingered. From the floor covering a sprinkling of the purest Fuh-chow
sand rose at every step, the salt dew of the Tung-Hai still dropped
from the surroundings, and, at a later period, a shore crab was found
endeavouring to make its escape undetected.

Convinced that the success of the manifestation would have enlarged
the one Glidder's esteem towards me to an inexpressible degree, I now
approached him with words of self-deprecation ready on my tongue, but
before he spoke I became aware, from the nature of his glance, that
the provision had been unnecessary, for already his face had begun to

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