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The Mirror of Kong Ho by Ernest Bramah

Part 2 out of 3

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assume, to a most distended amount, the expression which I had long
recognised as a synonym that some detail had been regarded at a
different angle from that anticipated.

"May I ask," he began in a somewhat heavily-laden voice, after he had
assured himself that the person who was speaking was himself, and his
external attributes unchanged, "May I ask, sir" (and at this title,
which is untranslatable in its many-sided significance when
technically employed, I recognised that all complimentary intercourse
might be regarded as having closed), "whether you accept the
responsibility of these proceedings?"

"Touching the appearance which has so essentially contributed to the
success of the occasion, it is undeniably due to this one's
foresight," I replied modestly.

"Then let me tell you, sir, that I consider it an outrage--a dastardly

"Yet," protested this person with retiring assertiveness, "the
expressed object of the ceremony, as it stood before my intelligence,
was for the set purpose of invoking spirits and raising certain

"Spirits!" exclaimed the one before me with an accent of concentrated
aversion; "yes, spirits; impalpable, civilised, genuine spirits, who
manifest themselves through recognised media, and are conformable to
the usages of the best drawing-room society--yes. But not demons, sir;
not Chinese devils in the Camden Road--no. Truth and Light at any
cost, not paganism. It's perfectly scandalous. Look at the mahogany
table--ruined; look at the wall-paper--conventional mackerels with a
fishing-net background, new this spring--soused; look at the Brussels
carpet, seventeen six by twenty-five--saturated!"

"I quite agree with you, Mr. Glidder," here interposed the individual
Pash. "I was watching you, sir, closely the whole time, and I have my
suspicions about how it was done. I don't know whether Mr. Glidder has
any legal redress, but I should certainly advise him to see his
solicitors to-morrow, and in the meantime--"

"He is my guest," exclaimed the one whose hospitality I was enjoying,
"and while he is beneath my roof he is sacred."

"But I do not think that it would be kind to detain him any longer in
his wet things," said another of the household, with pointed
malignity, and accepting this as an omen of departure, I withdrew
myself, bowing repeatedly, but offering no closer cordiality.

"Through a torn sleeve one drops a purse of gold," it is well said;
and as if to prove to a deeper end that misfortune is ever
double-handed, this incapable being, involved in thoughts of funereal
density, bent his footsteps to an inaccurate turning, and after much
wandering was compelled to pass the night upon a desolate heath--but
that would be the matter of another narrative.

With an insidious doubt whether, after all, the far-seeing Kwan
Kiang-ti's first impulse would not have been the most satisfactory
conclusion to the enterprise.



Concerning warfare, both as waged by ourselves and by a nation
devoid of true civilisation. The aged man and the meeting and
the parting of our ways. The instance of the one who expressed
emotion by leaping.

VENERATED SIRE,--You are omniscient, but I cannot regard the fear
which you express in your beautifully-written letter, bearing the sign
of the eleventh day of the seventh moon, as anything more than the
imaginings prompted by a too-lavish supper of your favourite shark's
fin and peanut oil. Unless the dexterously-elusive attributes of the
genial-spoken persons high in office at Pekin have deteriorated
contemptibly since this one's departure, it is quite impossible for
our great and enlightened Empire to be drawn into a conflict with the
northern barbarians whom you indicate, against our will. When the
matter becomes urgent, doubtless a prince of the Imperial line will
loyally suffer himself to Pass Above, and during the period of
ceremonial mourning for so pure and exalted an official it would
indeed be an unseemly desecration to engage in any public business. If
this failed, and an ultimatum were pressed with truly savage contempt
for all that is sacred and refined, it might be well next to consider
the health even of the sublime Emperor himself (or, perhaps better,
that of the select and ever-present Dowager Empress); but should the
barbarians still advance, and, setting the usages of civilised warfare
at defiance, threaten an engagement in the midst of this unparalleled
calamity, there will be no alternative but to have a formidable
rebellion in the Capital. All the barbarian powers will then assemble
as usual, and in the general involvement none dare move alone, and
everything will have to be regarded as being put back to where it was
before. It is well said, "The broken vessel can never be made whole,
but it may be delicately arranged so that another shall displace it."

These barbarians, less resourceful in device, have only recently
emerged from a conflict into which they do not hesitate to admit they
were drawn despite their protests. Such incompetence is characteristic
of their methods throughout. Not in any way disguising their purpose,
they at once sent out an army of those whom could be the readiest
seized, certainly furnishing them with weapons, charms to use in case
of emergency, and three-coloured standards (their adversaries adopting
a white banner to symbolise the conciliation of their attitude, and
displaying both freely in every extremity), but utterly neglecting to
teach them the arts of painting their bodies with awe-inspiring forms,
of imitating the cries of wild animals as they attacked, of clashing
their weapons together with menacing vigour, or any of the recognised
artifices by which terror may be struck into the ranks of an awaiting
foeman. The result was that which the prudent must have foreseen. The
more accomplished enemy, without exposing themselves to any
unnecessary inconvenience, gained many advantages by their intrepid
power of dissimulation--arranging their garments and positions in such
a way that they had the appearance of attacking when in reality they
were effecting a prudent retreat; rapidly concealing themselves among
the earth on the approach of an overwhelming force; becoming openly
possessed with the prophetic vision of an assured final victory
whenever it could be no longer concealed that matters were becoming
very desperate indeed; and gaining an effective respite when all other
ways of extrication were barred against them by the stratagem of
feigning that they were other than those whom they had at first
appeared to be.

In the meantime the adventure was not progressing pleasantly for those
chiefly concerned at home. With the earliest tidings of repulse it was
discovered that in the haste of embarkation the wrong persons had been
sent, all those who were really the fittest to command remaining
behind, and many of these did not hesitate to write to the printed
papers, resolutely admitting that they themselves were in every way
better qualified to bring the expedition to a successful end, at the
same time skilfully pointing out how the disasters which those in the
field had incurred could easily have been avoided by acting in a
precisely contrary manner.

In the emergency the most far-seeing recommended a more unbending
policy of extermination. Among these, one in particular, a statesman
bearing an illustrious name of two-edged import, distinguished himself
by the liberal broad-mindedness of his opinions, and for the time he
even did not flinch from making himself excessively unpopular by the
wide and sweeping variety of his censure. "We are confessedly a
barbarian nation," fearlessly declared this unprejudiced person (who,
although entitled by hereditary right to carry a banner on the field
of battle, with patriotic self-effacement preferred to remain at home
and encourage those who were fighting by pointing out their inadequacy
to the task and the extreme unlikelihood of their ever accomplishing
it), "and in order to achieve our purpose speedily it is necessary to
resort to the methods of barbarism." The most effective measure, as he
proceeded to explain with well-thought-out detail, would be to capture
all those least capable of resistance, concentrate them into a given
camp, and then at an agreed signal reduce the entire assembly to what
he termed, in a passage of high-minded eloquence, "a smoking hecatomb
of women and children."

His advice was pointed with a crafty insight, for not only would such
a course have brought the stubborn enemy to a realisation of the
weakness of their position and thus paved the way to a dignified
peace, but by the act itself few would have been left to hand down the
tradition of a relentless antagonism. Yet with incredible obtuseness
his advice was ignored and he himself was referred to at the time by
those who regarded the matter from a different angle, with a
scarcely-veiled dislike, which towards many of his followers took the
form of building materials and other dissentient messages whenever
they attempted to raise their voices publicly. As an inevitable result
the conquest of the country took years, where it would have been moons
had the more truly humane policy been adopted, commerce and the arts
languished, and in the end so little spoil was taken that it was more
common to meet six mendicants wearing the honourable embellishment of
the campaign than to see one captured slave maiden offered for sale in
the market places--indeed, even to this day the deficiency is clearly
admitted and openly referred to as The Great "Domestic" Problem.

At various times during my residence here I have been filled with a
most acute gratification when the words of those around have seemed to
indicate that they recognised the undoubted superiority of the laws
and institutions of our enlightened country. Sometimes, it is true,
upon a more detailed investigation of the incident, it has presently
appeared that either I had misunderstood the exact nature of their
sentiments or they had slow-wittedly failed to grasp the precise
operation of the enactment I had described; but these exceptions are
clearly the outcome of their superficial training, and do not affect
the fact my feeble and frequently even eccentric arguments are at
length certainly moving the more intelligent into an admission of what
constitutes true justice and refinement. It is not to be denied that
here and there exists a prejudice against our customs even in the
minds of the studious; but as this is invariably the shadow of
misconception, it has frequently been my sympathetic privilege to
promote harmony by means of the inexorable logic of fact and reason.
"But are not your officials uncompromisingly opposed to the freedom of
the Press?" said one who conversed with me on the varying phases of
the two countries, and knowing that in his eyes this would constitute
an unendurable offence, I at once appeased his mind. "By no means," I
replied; "if anything, the exact contrary is the case. As a matter of
reality, of course, there is no Press now, the all-seeing Board of
Censors having wisely determined that it was not stimulating to the
public welfare; but if such an institution was permitted to exist you
may rest genially assured that nothing could exceed the lenient
toleration which all in office would extend towards it." A similar
instance of malicious inaccuracy is widely spoken of regarding our
lesser ones. "Is it really a fact, Mr. Kong," exclaimed a maiden of
magnanimous condescension, to this person recently, "that we poor
women are despised in your country, and that among the working-classes
female children are even systematically abandoned as soon as they are
born?" Suffering my features to express amusement at this unending
calumny, I indicated my violent contempt towards the one who had first
uttered it. "So far from despising them," I continued, with
ingratiating gallantry, "we recognise that they are quite necessary
for the purposes of preparing our food, carrying weighty burdens, and
the like; and how grotesque an action would it be for poor but
affectionate parents to abandon one who in a few years' time could be
sold at a really remunerative profit, this, indeed, being the
principal means of sustenance in many frugal families."

On another occasion I had seated myself upon a wooden couch in one of
the open spaces about the outskirts of the city, when an aged man
chanced to pass by. Him I saluted with ceremonious politeness, on
account of his years and the venerable dignity of his beard. Thereupon
he approached near, and remarking affably that the afternoon was good
(though, to use no subtle evasion, it was very evil), he congenially
sat by my side and entered into familiar discourse.

"They say that in your part of the world we old grandfathers are
worshipped," he said, after recounting to my ears all the most
intimate details of his existence from his youth upwards; "now, might
that be right?"

"Truly," I replied. "It is the unchanging foundation of our system of

"Ay, ay," he admitted pleasantly. "We are a long way behind them
foreigners in everything. At the rate we're going there won't be any
trade nor work nor religion left in this country in another twenty
years. I often wish I had gone abroad when I was younger. And if I had
chanced upon your parts I should be worshipped, eh?" and at the
agreeable thought the aged man laughed in his throat with simple

"Assuredly," I replied; "--after you were dead."

"Eh?" exclaimed the venerable person, checking the fountain of his
mirth abruptly at the word. "Dead! not before? Doesn't--doesn't that
seem a bit of a waste?"

"Such has been the observance from the time of unrecorded antiquity,"
I replied. "'Obey parents, respect the old, loyally uphold the
sovereign, and worship ancestors.'"

"Well, well," remarked the one beside me, "obedience and
respect--that's something nowadays. And you make them do it?"

"Our laws are unflinching in their application," I said. "No crime
is held to be more detestable than disrespect of those to whom we owe
our existence."

"Quite right," he agreed, "it's a pleasure to hear it. It must be a
great country, yours; a country with a future, I should say. Now,
about that youngest lad of my son Henry's--the one that drops pet
lizards down my neck, and threatened to put rat poison into his
mother's tea when she wouldn't take him to the Military Turneyment;
what would they do to him by your laws?"

"If the assertion were well sustained by competent witnesses," I
replied, "it would probably be judged so execrable an offence, that a
new punishment would have to be contrived. Failing that, he would
certainly be wrapped round from head to foot in red-hot chains, and
thus exposed to public derision."

"Ah, red-hot chains!" said the aged person, as though the words formed
a pleasurable taste upon his palate. "The young beggar! Well, he'd
deserve it."

"Furthermore," I continued, gratified at having found one who so
intelligently appreciated the deficiencies of his own country and the
unblemished perfection of ours, "his parents and immediate
descendants, if any should exist, would be submitted to a fate as
inevitable but slightly less contemptuous--slow compression,
perchance; his parents once removed (thus enclosing your venerable
personality), and remoter offsprings would be merely put to the sword
without further ignominy, and those of less kinship to about the
fourth degree would doubtless escape with branding and a reprimand."

"Lordelpus!" exclaimed the patriarchal one, hastily leaping to the
extreme limit of the wooden couch, and grasping his staff into a
significant attitude of defence; "what's that for?"

"Our system of justice is all-embracing," I explained. "It is
reasonably held that in such a case either that there is an inherent
strain of criminality which must be eradicated at all hazard, or else
that those who are responsible for the virtuous instruction of the
young have been grossly neglectful of their duty. Whichever is the
true cause, by this unfailing method we reach the desired end, for, as
our proverb aptly says, 'Do the wise pluck the weed and leave the
roots to spread?'"

"It's butchery, nothing short of Smithfield," said the ancient person
definitely, rising and moving to a more remote distance as he spoke
the words, yet never for a moment relaxing the aggressive angle at
which he thrust out his staff before him. "You're a bloodthirsty race
in my opinion, and when they get this door open in China that there's
so much talk about, out you go through it, my lad, or old England will
know why." With this narrow-minded imprecation on his lips he left me,
not even permitting me to continue expounding what would be the most
likely sentences meted out to the witnesses in the case, the dwellers
of the same street, and the members of the household with whom the
youth in question had contemplated forming an alliance.

Among the many contradictions which really almost seem purposely
arranged to entrap the unwary in this strangely under-side-up country,
is the fact that while the ennobled and those of high official rank
are courteous in their attitude and urbane--frequently even to the
extent of refusing money from those whom they have obliged, no matter
how privately pressed upon them--the low-caste and slavish are not
only deficient in obsequiousness, but are permitted to retort openly
to those who address them with fitting dignity. Here such a state of
things is too general to excite remark, but as instances are well
called the flowers of the tree of assertion, this person will set
forth the manner in which he was contumaciously opposed by an
oblique-eyed outcast who attended within the stall of one selling
wrought gold, jewels, and merchandise of the finer sort.

Being desirous of procuring a gift wherewith to propitiate a certain
maiden's esteem, and seeing above a shop of varied attraction a
suspended sign emblematic of three times repeated gild abundance I
drew near, not doubting to find beneath so auspicious a token the
fulfilment of an honourable accommodation. Inside the window was
displayed one of the implements by which the various details of a
garment are joined together upon turning a wheel, hung about with
an inscription setting forth that it was esteemed at the price of two
units of gold, nineteen pieces of silver, and eleven and
three-quarters of the brass cash of the land, and judging that no more
suitable object could be procured for the purpose, I entered the shop,
and desired the attending slave to submit it to my closer scrutiny.

"Behold," I exclaimed, when I had made a feint of setting the device
into motion (for it need not be concealed from you, O discreet one,
that I was really inadequate to the attempt, and, indeed, narrowly
escaped impaling myself upon its sudden and unexpected protrusions),
"the highly-burnished surface of your dexterously arranged window gave
to this engine a rich attractiveness which is altogether lacking at a
closer examination. Nevertheless, this person will not recede from a
perhaps too impulsive offer of one unit of gold, three pieces of
silver, and four and a half brass cash," my object, of course, being
that after the mutual recrimination of disparagement and over-praise
we should in the length of an hour or two reach a becoming compromise
in the middle distance.

"Well," responded the menial one, regarding me with an expression in
which he did not even attempt to subdue the baser emotions, "you HAVE
come a long way for nothing"; and he made a pretence of wishing to
replace the object.

"Yet," I continued, "observe with calm impartiality how insidiously
the rust has assailed the outer polish of the lacquer; perceive here
upon the beneath part of wood the ineffaceable depression of a
deeply-pointed blow; note well the--"

"It was good enough for you to want me to muck up out of the window,
wasn't it?" demanded the obstinate barbarian, becoming passionate in
his bearing rather than reluctantly, but with courteous grace,
lessening the price to a trifling degree, as we regard the proper way
of carrying on the enterprise.

"It is well said," I admitted, hoping that he might yet learn wisdom
from my attitude of unruffled urbanity, though I feared that his angle
of negotiating was unconquerably opposed to mine, "but now its many
imperfections are revealed. The inelegance of its outline, the
grossness of the applied colours, the unlucky combination of numbers
engraved upon this plate, the--"

"Damme!" cried the utterly perverse rebel standing opposite, "why
don't you keep on your Compound, you Yellow Peril? Who asked you to
come into my shop to blackguard the things? Come now, who did?"

"Assuredly it is your place of commerce," I replied cheerfully,
preparing to bring forward an argument, which in our country never
fails to shake the most stubborn, "yet bend your eyes to the fact that
at no great distance away there stands another and a more alluring
stall of merchandise where--"

"Go to it then!" screamed the abandoned outcast, leaping over his
counter and shouting aloud in a frenzy of uncontrollable rage. "Clear
out, or I'll bend my feet--" but concluding at this point that some
private calumny from which he was doubtless suffering was disturbing
his mind to so great an extent that there was little likelihood of our
bringing the transaction to a profitable end, I left the shop
immediately but with befitting dignity.

With a fell-founded assurance that you will now be acquiring a really
precise and bird's-eye-like insight into practically all phases of
this country.



Concerning the wisdom of the sublime Wei Chung and its
application to the ordinary problems of existence. The meeting
of three, hitherto unknown to each other, about a wayside inn,
and their various manners of conducting the enterprise.

VENERATED SIRE,--You will doubtless remember the behaviour of the aged
philosopher Wei Chung, when commanded by the broad-minded emperor of
his time to reveal the hidden sources of his illimitable knowledge, so
that all might freely acquire, and the race thereby become raised to a
position of unparalleled excellence. Taking the well-disposed
sovereign familiarly by the arm, Wei Chung led him to the mouth of his
cave in the forest, and, standing by his side, bade him reflect with
open eyes for a short space of time, and then express aloud what he
had seen. "Nothing of grave import," declared the emperor when the
period was accomplished; "only the trees shaken by the breeze." "It is
enough," replied Wei Chung. "What, to the adroitly-balanced mind, does
such a sight reveal?" "That it is certainly a windy day," exclaimed
the omnipotent triumphantly, for although admittedly divine, he yet
lacked the philosopher's discrimination. "On the contrary," replied
the sage coldly, "that is the natural pronouncement of the rankly
superficial. To the highly-trained intellect it conveys the more
subtle truth that the wind affects the trees, and not the trees affect
the wind. For upwards of seventy years this one has daily stood at the
door of his cave for a brief period, and regularly garnering a single
detail of like brilliance, has made it the well-spring for a day's
reflection. As the result he now has by heart upwards of twenty-five
thousand useful facts, all serviceable for original proverbs, and an
encyclopaedic mind which would enable him to take a high place in a
popular competition unassisted by a single work of reference." Much
impressed by the adventure the charitably-inclined emperor presented
Wei Chung with an onyx crown (which the philosopher at once threw into
an adjacent well), and returning to his capital published a decree
that each day at sunrise every person should stand at the door of his
dwelling, and after observing for a period, compare among themselves
the details of their thoughts. By this means he hoped to achieve his
imperial purpose, but although the literal part of the enactment is
scrupulously maintained, especially by the slothful and defamatory,
who may be seen standing at their doors and conversing together even
to this day, from some unforeseen imperfection the intellectual
capacity of the race has remained exactly as it was before.

Nevertheless it is not to be questioned that the system of the
versatile Wei Chung was, in itself, grounded upon a far-seeing
accuracy, and as the need of such a rational observation is deepened
among the inconsistencies and fantastic customs of a barbarian race, I
have made it a useful habit to accept as a guide for the day's
behaviour the reflections engendered by the first noteworthy incident
of the morning.

Upon the day with which this letter concerns itself I had set forth,
in accordance with an ever-present desire, to explore some of the
hidden places of the city. At the time a tempest of great ferocity was
raging, and bending my head before it I had the distinction of coming
into contact with a person of ill-endowed exterior at an angle where
two reads met. This amiable wayfarer exchanged civilities with me
after the politeness characteristic of the labouring classes towards
those who differ from them in speech, dress, or colour: that is to
say, he filled his pipe from my proffered store, and after lighting it
threw the match into my face, and passed on with an appropriate

Doubtless this insignificant occurrence would have faded without
internal comment if the penetrating Wei Chung had never existed, but
now, guided by his sublime precedent, I arranged the incident for the
day's conduct under three reflective heads.

It was while I was meditating on the second of these that an
exclamation caused me to turn, when I observed a prosperously-outlined
person in the act of picking up a scrip which had the appearance of
being lavishly distended with pieces of gold.

"If I had not seen you pass it, I should have opined that this hyer
wallet belonged to you," remarked the justice-loving stranger (for the
incident had irresistibly retarded my own footsteps), speaking the
language of this land, but with an accent of penetrating harmony
hitherto unknown to my ears. With these auspicious words he turned
over the object upon his hand doubtfully.

"So entrancing a possibility is, as you gracefully suggest, of
unavoidable denial," I replied. "Nevertheless, this person will not
hesitate to join his acclamation with yours; for, as the Book of
Verses wisely says, 'Even the blind, if truly polite, will extol the
prospect from your house-top.'"

"That's so," admitted the one by my side. "But I don't know that there
is any call for a special thanksgiving. As I happen to have more money
of my own than I can reasonably spend I shall drop this in at a
convenient police station. I dare say some poor critter is pining away
for it now."

Pleasantly impressed by the resolute benevolence of the one who had a
greater store of wealth than he could, by his own unaided efforts,
dispose of, I arranged myself unobtrusively at his side, and
maintaining an exhibition of my most polished and genial conversation,
I sought to penetrate deeply into his esteem.

"Gaze in this direction, Kong," he said at length, calling me by name
with auspicious familiarity; "I am a benighted stranger in this hyer
city, and so are you, I rek'n. Suppose we liquor up, and then take a
few of the side shows together."

"The suggestion is one against which I will erect no ill-disposed
barrier," I at once replied, so inflexibly determined not to lose
sight of a person possessing such engaging attributes as to be
cheerfully prepared even to consume my rice spirit in the inverted
position which his words implied if the display was persisted in.
"Nevertheless," I added, with a resourceful prudence, "although by no
means undistinguished among the highest literary and competitive
circles of his native Yuen-ping, the one before you is incapable of
walking in the footsteps of a person whose accumulations are greater
than he himself can appreciably diminish."

"That's all right, Kong," exclaimed the one whom my last words
fittingly described, striking the recess of his lower garment with a
gesture of graceful significance. "When I take a fancy to any one it
isn't a matter of dollars. I usually carry a trifle of five hundred
or a thousand pounds in my pocket-book, and if we can get through
that--why, there's plenty more waiting at the bank. Say, though, I
hope you don't keep much about you; it isn't really safe."

"The temptation to do so is one which this person has hitherto
successfully evaded," I replied. "The contents of this reptile-skin
case"--and not to be outshone in mutual confidence I here displayed it
openly--"do not exceed nine or ten pieces of gold and a like number of
printed obligations promising to pay five pieces each."

"Put it away, Kong," he said resolutely. "You won't need that so long
as you're with me. Well, now, what sort of a saloon have we here?"

As far as the opinion might be superficially expressed it had every
indication of being one of noteworthy antiquity, and to the innately
modest mind its unassuming diffidence might have lent an added charm.
Nevertheless, on most occasions this person would have maintained an
unshaken dexterity in avoiding its open door, but as the choice
admittedly lay in the hands of one who carried five hundred or a
thousand pieces of gold we went in together and passed through to a
compartment of retiring seclusion.

In our own land, O my orthodox-minded father, where the unfailing
resources of innumerable bands of dragons, spirits, vampires, ghouls,
shadows, omens, and thunderstorms are daily enlisted to carry into
effect the pronouncements of an appointed destiny, we have many
historical examples of the inexorably converging legs of coincidence,
but none, I think, more impressively arranged than the one now
descending this person's brush.

We had scarcely reposed ourselves, and taken from the hands of an
awaiting slave the vessels of thrice-potent liquid which in this Island
is regarded as the indispensable accompaniment to every movement of
existence, when a third person entered the room, and seating himself
at a table some slightly removed distance away, lowered his head and
abandoned himself to a display of most lavish dejection.

"That poor cuss doesn't appear to be holiday-making," remarked the
sincerely-compassionate person at my side, after closely observing the
other for a period; and then, moved by the overpowering munificence of
his inward nature, he called aloud, "Say, stranger, you seem to have
got it thickly in the neck. Is it family affliction or the whisky of
the establishment?"

At these affably-intentioned words the stranger raised his eyes
quickly, with an indication of not having up to that time been aware
of our presence.

"Sir," he exclaimed, approaching to a spot where he could converse
with a more enhanced facility, "when I loosened the restraint of an
overpowering if unmanly grief, I imagined that I was alone, for I
would have shunned even the most flattering sympathy, but your
charitably-modulated voice invites confidence. The one before you is
the most contemptible, left-handed, and disqualified outcast in
creation, and he is now making his way towards the river, while his
widow will be left to take in washing, his infant son to vend evening
printed leaves, and his graceful and hitherto highly secluded
daughters to go upon the stage."

"Say, stranger," interposed this person, by no means unwilling to
engrave upon his memory this newly-acquired form of greeting, "the
emotion is doubtless all-pressing, but in my ornate and flower-laden
tongue we have a salutation, 'Slowly, slowly; walk slowly,' which
seems to be of far-seeing application."

"That's so," remarked the one by my side. "Separate it with the teeth,
inch by inch."

"I will be calm, then," continued the other (who, to avoid the
complication of the intermingling circumstances, may be described as
the more stranger of the two), and he took of his neckcloth. "I am a
merchant in tea, yellow fat, and mixed spices, in a small but hitherto
satisfactory way." Thus revealing himself, he continued to set forth
how at an earlier hour he had started on a journey to deposit his
wealth (doubtless as a propitiation of outraged deities) upon a
certain bank, and how, upon reaching the specified point, he
discovered that what he carried had eluded his vigilance. "All gone:
notes, gold, and pocket-book--the savings of a lifetime," concluded
the ill-omened one, and at the recollection a sudden and even more
highly-sustained frenzy of self-unpopularity involving him, without a
pause he addressed himself by seven and twenty insulting expressions,
many of which were quite new to my understanding.

At the earliest mention of the details affecting the loss, the elbow
of the person who had made himself responsible for the financial
obligation of the day propelled itself against my middle part, and
unseen by the other he indicated to me by means of his features that
the entertainment was becoming one of agreeable prepossession.

"Now, touching this hyer wallet," he said presently. "How might you
describe it?"

"In colour it was red, and within were two compartments, the one
containing three score notes each of ten pounds, the other fifty
pounds of gold. But what's the use of describing it? Some lucky demon
will pick it up and pocket the lot, and I shall never see a cent of it

"Then you'd better consult one who reburnishes the eyes," declared
the magnanimous one with a laugh, and drawing forth the article
referred to he cast it towards the merchant in a small way.

At this point of the narrative my thoroughly incompetent brush
confesses the proportions of the requirement to be beyond its most
extended limit, and many very honourable details are necessarily left
without expression.

"I've known men of all sorts, good, bad, and bothwise," exclaimed the
one who had recovered his possessions; "but I never thought to meet a
gent as would hand over six hundred and fifty pounds as if it was a
toothpick. Sir, it overbalances me; it does, indeed."

"Say no more about it," urged the first person, and to suggest
gracefully that the incident had reached its furthest extremity, he
began to set out the melody of an unspoken verse.

"I will say no more, then," he replied; "but you cannot reasonably
prevent my doing something to express my gratitude. If you are not too
proud you will come and partake of food and wine with me beneath the
sign of the Funereal Male Cow, and to show my confidence in you I
shall insist upon you carrying my pocket-book."

The person whom I had first encountered suffered his face to become
excessively amused. "Say, stranger, do you take me for a pack-mule?"
he replied good-naturedly. "I already have about as much as I want to
handle. Never mind; we'll come along with you, and Mr. Kong shall
carry your bullion."

At this delicate and high-minded proposal a rapid change, in no way
complimentary to my explicit habit of adequately conducting any
venture upon which I may be engaged, came over the face of the second

"Sir," he exclaimed, "I have nothing to say against this gentleman,
but I am under no obligation to him, and I don't see why I should
trust him with everything I possess."

"Stranger," exclaimed the other rising to his feet (and from this
point it must be understood that the various details succeeded one
another with a really agile dexterity), "let me tell you that Mr. Kong
is my friend, and that ought to be enough."

"It is. If you say this gentleman is your friend, and that you have
known him long and intimately enough to be able to answer for him,
that's good enough for me."

"Well," admitted the first person, and I could not conceal from myself
that his tone was inauspiciously reluctant, "I can't exactly say that
I've known him long; in fact I only met him half an hour ago. But I
have the fullest confidence in his integrity."

"It's just as I expected. Well, sir, you're good-natured enough for
anything, but if you'll excuse me, I must say that you're a small
piece of an earthenware vessel after all"--the veiled allusion
doubtlessly being that the vessel of necessity being broken, the
contents inevitably escape--"and I hope you're not being had."

"I'm not, and I'll prove it before we go out together," retorted the
engaging one, who had in the meantime become so actively impetuous on
my account, that he did not remain content with the spoken words, but
threw the various belongings about as he mentioned them in a really
profuse display of inimitable vehemence. "Here, Kong, take this hyer
pocket-book whatever he says. Now on the top of that take everything
I've got, and you know what THAT figures up to. Now give this
gentleman your little lot to keep him quiet; I don't ask for anything.
Now, stranger, I'm ready. You and I will take a stroll round the block
and back again, and if Mr. Kong isn't waiting here for us when we
return with everything intact and O.K., I'll double your deposit and
never trust a durned soul again."

Nodding genially over his shoulder with a harmonious understanding,
expressive of the fact that we were embarking upon an undeniably
diverting episode, the benevolent-souled person who had accumulated
more riches than he was competent to melt away himself, passed out,
urging the doubtful and still protesting one before him.

Thus abandoned to my own reflections, I pondered for a short time
profitably on the third head of the day's meditation (Touching the
match and this person's unattractively-lined face. The revealed truth:
the inexperienced sheep cannot pass through the hedge without leaving
portions of his wool), and then finding the philosophy of Wei Chung
very good, I determined to remove the superfluous apprehensions of the
vender of food-stuffs with less delay by setting out and meeting them
on their return.

A few paces distant from the door, one of the ever-present watchers of
the street was standing, watching the street with unremitting
vigilance, while from the well-guarded expression of his face it might
nevertheless be gathered that he stood as though in expectation.

"Prosperity," I said, with seasonable greeting. (For no excess of
consideration is too great to be lavished upon these, who unite within
themselves the courage of a high warrior, the expertness of a
three-handed magician, and the courtesy of a genial mandarin.) "I seek
two, apparelled thus and thus. Did you, by any chance, mark the
direction of their footsteps?"

"Oh," he said, regarding this person with a most flattering
application, "YOU seek them, do you? Well, they've just gone off in
a hansom, and they'll want a lot of seeking for the next week or two.
You let them carry your purse, perhaps?"

"Assuredly," I replied. "As a mark of confidence; this person, for his
part, receiving a like token at their hands."

"That's it," said the official watcher, conveying into his voice a
subtle indication that he had become excessively fatigued. "It's like
a nursery tale--never too old to take with the kids. Well, come along,
poor lamb, the station isn't far."

So great had become the reliance which by this time I habitually
reposed in these men, that I never sought to oppose their
pronouncements (such a course being not only useless but undignified),
and we therefore together reached the place which the one by my side
had described as a station.

From the outside the building was in no way imposing, but upon
reaching an inner dungeon it at once became plain that no matter with
what crime a person might be charged, even the most stubborn
resistance would be unavailing. Before a fiercely-burning fire were
arranged metal pincers, massive skewers, ornamental branding irons,
and the usual accessories of the grill, one tool being already thrust
into the heart of the flame to indicate the nature of its use, and its
immediate readiness for the purpose. Pegs from which the accused could
be hung by the thumbs with weights attached to the feet, covered an
entire wall; chains, shackling-irons, fetters, steel rings for
compressing the throat, and belts for tightening the chest, all had
their appointed places, while the Chair, the Boot, the Heavy Hat, and
many other appliances quite unknown to our system of administering
justice were scattered about.

Without pausing to select any of these, the one who led me approached
a raised desk at which was seated a less warlike official, whose
sympathetic appearance inspired confidence. "Kong Ho," exclaimed to
himself the person who is inscribing these words, "here is an
individual into whose discriminating ear it would be well to pour the
exact happening without evasion. Then even if the accusation against
you be that of resembling another or trafficking with unlawful Forces,
he will doubtless arrange the matter so that the expiation shall be as
light and inexpensive as possible."

By this time certain other officials had drawn near. "What is it?" I
heard one demand, and another replied, "Brooklyn Ben and Jimmie the
Butterman again. Ah, they aren't artful, are they!" but at this moment
the two into whose power I had chiefly fallen having conversed
together, I was commanded to advance towards them and reveal my name.

"Kong," I replied freely; and I had formed a design to explain
somewhat of the many illustrious ancestors of the House, when the one
at the desk, pausing to inscribe my answer in a book, spoke out.

"Kong?" he said. "Is that the christian or surname?"

"Sir-name?" replied this person between two thoughts. "Undoubtedly the
one before you is entitled by public examination to the degree
'Recognised Talent,' which may, as a meritorious distinction, be held
equal to your title of a warrior clad in armour. Yet, if it is so
held, that would rightly be this person's official name of Paik."

"Oh, it would, would it?" said the one seated upon the high chair.
"That's quite clear. Are there any other names as well?"

"Assuredly," I explained, pained inwardly that one of official rank
should so slightly esteem my appearance as to judge that I was so
meagrely endowed. "The milk name of Ho; Tsin upon entering the
Classes; as a Great Name Cheng; another style in Quank; the official
title already expressed, and T'chun, Li, Yuen and Nung as the various
emergencies of life arise."

"Thank you," said the high-chair official courteously. "Now, just the
name in full, please, without any velvet trimmings."

"Kong," began this person, desirous above all things of putting the
matter competently, yet secretly perturbed as to what might be
considered superfluous and what deemed a perfidious suppression, "Ho
Tsin Cheng Quank--"

"Hold hard," cried this same one, restraining me with an uplifted pen.
"Did you say 'Quack'?"

"Quack?" repeated this person, beginning to become involved within
himself, and not grasping the detail in the right position. "In a
manner of setting the expression forth--"

"Put him down, 'Quack Duck,' sir," exclaimed one of dog-like dejection
who stood by. "Most of these Lascars haven't got any real names--they
just go by what any one happens to call them at the time, like
'Burmese Ike' down at the Mint," and this person unfortunately
chancing to smile and bow acquiescently at that moment (not with any
set intention, but as a general principle of courteous urbanity), in
place of his really distinguished titles he will henceforth appear
among the historical records of this dynasty under what he cannot
disguise from his inner misgivings to be the low-caste appellation of
Quack Duck.

"Now the address, please," continued the high one, again preparing to
inscribe the word, and being determined that by no mischance should
this particular be offensively reported, I unhesitatingly replied,
"Beneath the Sign of the Lead Tortoise, on the northern course from
the Lotus Pools outside the walls of Yuen-ping."

This answer the one with the book did not immediately record. "I don't
say it isn't all right when you know the parts," he remarked
broad-mindedly, "but it does sound a trifle irregular. Can't you give
it a number and a street?"

"I fancy it must be a pub, sir," observed another. "He said that it
had a sign--the Red Tortoise."

"Well, haven't you got a London address?" said the high one, and this
person being able to supply a street and a number as desired, this
part of the undertaking was disposed of, to his cordial satisfaction.

"Now let me see the articles which these men left with you," commanded
the chieftain of the band, and without any misleading discrepancies I
at once drew forth from an inner sleeve the two scrips, of which
adequate mention has already been made, another hitherto undescribed,
two instruments for measuring the passing hours of the day, together
with a chain of fine gold ingeniously wrought into the semblance of a
cable, an ornament for the breast, set about with a jewel, two
neck-cloths of a kind usually carried in the pocket, a book for
recording happenings of any moment, pieces of money to the value of
about eleven taels, a silver flagon, a sheathed weapon and a few
lesser objects of insignificant value. These various details I laid
obsequiously before the one who had commanded it, while the others
stood around either in explicit silence or speaking softly beneath
their breath.

"Do I understand that the two persons left all these things with you,
while they took your purse in exchange?" said the high official, after
examining certain obscure signs upon the metals, the contents of the
third scrip, and the like.

"It cannot reasonably be denied," I replied; "inasmuch as they
departed without them."

"Spontaneously?" he demanded, and in spite of the unevadible severity
of his voice the expression of his nearer eye deviated somewhat.

"The spoken and conclusive word of the first was that it was his
intention to commit to this one's keeping everything which he had; the
assertion of the second being that with this scrip I received all that
he possessed."

"While of yours, what did they get, Mr. Quack?" and the tone of the
one who spoke had a much more gratifying modulation than before, while
the attitudes of those who stood around had favourably changed, until
they now conveyed a message of deliberate esteem.

"A serpent-skin case of two enclosures," I replied. "On the one side
was a handcount of the small copper-pieces of this Island, which I had
caused to be burnished and gilt for the purpose of taking back to
amuse those of Yuen-ping. On the other side were two or three pages
from a gravity-removing printed leaf entitled 'Bits of Tits,' with
which this person weekly instructs himself in the simpler rudiments of
the language. For the rest the case was controlled by a hidden spring,
and inscribed about with a charm against loss, consumption by fire, or
being secretly acquired by the unworthy."

"I don't think you stand in much need of that charm, Mr. Quack,"
remarked another of more than ordinary rank, who was also present.
"Then they really got practically no money from you?"

"By no means," I admitted. "It was never literally stipulated, and
whatever of wealth he possesses this person carries in a concealed
spot beneath his waistbelt." (For even to these, virtuous sire, I did
not deem it expedient to reveal the fact that in reality it is hidden
within the sole of my left sandal.)

"I congratulate you," he said with lavish refinement. "Ben and the
Butterman can be very bland and persuasive. Could you tell me, as a
matter of professional curiosity, what first put you on your guard?"

"In this person's country," I replied, "there is an apt saying, 'The
sagacious bird does not build his nest twice in the empty
soup-toureen,' and by observing closely what has gone before one may
accurately conjecture much that will follow after." It may be, that
out of my insufferable shortcomings of style and expression, this
answer did not convey to his mind the logical sequence of the warning;
yet it would have been more difficult to show him how everything arose
from the faultlessly-balanced system of the heroic Wei Chung, or the
exact parallel lying between the ill-clad outcast who demanded a
portion of tobacco and the cheerfully unassuming stranger who had in
his possession a larger accumulation of money than he could
conveniently disperse.

In such a manner I took leave of the station and those connected with
it, after directing that the share of the spoil which fell by the law
of this Island to my lot should be sold and the money of exchange
faithfully divided among the virtuous and necessitous of both sexes.
The higher officials each waved me pleasantly by the hand, according
to the striking and picturesque custom of the land, while the lesser
ones stood around and spoke flattering words as I departed, as
"honourable," "a small piece of all-right," "astute ancient male
fowl," "ah!" and the like.

With repeated assurances that however ineptly the adventure may at the
time appear to be tending, as regards the essentials of true dignity
and an undeviating grasp upon articles of negotiable value, nothing of
a regrettable incident need be feared.



Concerning the proverb of the highly-accomplished horse. The
various perils to be encountered in the Beneath Parts. The
inexplicable journey performed by this one, and concerning the
obscurity of the witchcraft employed.

VENERATED SIRE,--Among these islanders there is a proverb, "Do not
place the carte" (or card, the two words having an identical purport,
and both signifying the inscribed tablet of viands prepared for a
banquet,) before the horse." Doubtless the saying first arose as a
timely rebuke to a certain barbarian emperor who announced his
contempt for the intelligence of his subjects by conferring high
mandarin rank upon a favourite steed and ceremoniously appointing it
to be his chancellor; but from the narrower moral that an unreasoning
animal is out of place, and even unseemly, in the entertaining hall or
council chamber, the expression has in the course of time taken a
wider application and is now freely used as an insidious thrust at one
who may be suspected of contrariness of character, of confusing
issues, or of acting in a vain or illogical manner. I had already
preserved the saying among other instances of foreign thought and
expression which I am collecting for your dignified amusement, as it
is very characteristic of the wisdom and humour of these Outer Lands.
The imagination is essentially barbaric. A horse--doubtless
well-groomed, richly-caparisoned, and as intellectual as the
circumstances will permit, but inevitably an animal of degraded
attributes and untraceable ancestry--a horse reclining before a
lavishly set-out table and considering well of what dish it shall next
partake! Could anything, it appears, be more diverting! Truly to our
more refined outlook the analogy is lacking both in delicacy of wit
and in exactitude of balance, but to the grosser barbarian conception
of what is gravity-removing it is irresistible.

I am, however, reminded of the saying by perceiving that I was on the
point of recording certain details of recent occurrence without first
unrolling to your mind the incidents from which it has arisen that the
person who is now communicating with you is no longer reposing in the
Capital, but spending a period profitably in observing the habits of
those who dwell in the more secluded recesses on the outskirts of the
Island. This reversal of the proper sequence of affairs would
doubtless strike those around as an instance of setting the banquet
before the horse. Without delay, then, to pursue the allusion to its
appropriate end, I will return, as it may be said, to my nosebag.

At various points about the streets of the Capital there are certain
caverns artificially let into the bowels of the earth, to which any
person may betake himself upon purchasing a printed sign which he must
display to the guardian of the gate. Once within the underneathmost
parts he is free to be carried from place to place by means of the
trains of carriages which I have already described to you, until he
would return to the outer surface, when he must again display his
talisman before he is permitted to pass forth. Nor is this an empty
form, for upon an occasion this person himself witnessed a very bitter
contention between a keeper of the barrier and one whose token had
through some cause lost its potency.

In the company of the experienced I had previously gone through the
trial without mischance, so that recently when I expressed a wish to
visit a certain Palace, and was informed that the most convenient
manner would be to descend into the nearest cavern, I had no
reasonable device for avoiding the encounter. Nevertheless,
enlightened sire, I will not attempt to conceal from your omniscience
that I was by no means impetuous towards the adventure. Owing to the
pugnacious and unworthy suspicions of those who direct their
destinies, I have not yet been able to penetrate the exact connection
between the movements of these hot-smoke chariots and the Unseen
Forces. To a person whose chief object in life is to avoid giving
offence to any of the innumerable demons which are ever on the watch
to revenge themselves upon our slightest indiscretion, this
uncertainty opens an unending vista of intolerable possibilities. As
if to emphasise the perils of this overhanging doubt the surroundings
are ingeniously arranged so as to represent as nearly as practicable
the terrors of the Beneath World. Both by day and night a funereal
gloom envelops the caverns, the pathways and resting-places are meagre
and so constructed as to be devoid of attraction or repose, and by a
skilful contrivance the natural atmosphere is secretly withdrawn and a
very acrimonious sulphurous haze driven in to replace it. In sudden
and unforeseen places eyes of fire open and close with disconcerting
rapidity, and even change colour in vindictive significance; wooden
hands are outstretched as in unrelenting rigidity against
supplication, or, divining the unexpressed thoughts, inexorably point,
as one gazes, still deeper into the recesses of the earth; while the
air is never free from the sounds of groans, shrieks, the rattling of
chains, dull, hopeless noises beneath one's feet or overhead, and the
hoarse wordless cries of despair with which the attending slaves of
the caverns greet the distant clamour of every approaching
fire-chariot. Admittedly the intention of the device is benevolently
conceived, and it is strenuously asserted that many persons of corrupt
habits and ill-balanced lives, upon waking unexpectedly while passing
through these Beneath Parts, have abandoned the remainder of their
journey, and, escaping hastily to the outer air, have from that time
onwards led a pure and consistent existence; but, on the other foot,
those who are compelled to use the caverns daily, freely confess that
the surroundings to not in any material degree purify their lives of
tranquillise the nature of their inner thoughts.

In this emergency I did not neglect to write out a diversity of charms
against every possible variety of evil influence, and concealing them
lavishly about my head and body, I presented myself with the outer
confidence of a person who is inured to the exploit. Doubtless thereby
being mistaken for one of themselves in the obscurity, I received the
inscribed safeguard without opposition, and even an added sum in
copper pieces, which I discreetly returned to the one behind the
shutter, with the request that he would honourably burn a few joss
sticks or sacrifice to a trivial amount, to the success of my journey.
In such a manner I reached an awaiting train, and, taking up within it
a position of retiring modesty, I definitely committed myself to the

At the next tarrying place there entered a barbarian of high-class
appearance, and being by this time less assured of my competence in
the matter unaided, both on account of the multiplicity of evil omens
on every side, and the perverse impulses of the guiding demon, whereby
at sudden angles certain of my organs had the emotion of being left
irrevocably behind and others of being snatched relentlessly forward,
I approached him courteously.

"Behold," I said, "many thousand li of water, both fresh and bitter,
flow between the one who is addressing you and his native town of
Yuen-ping, where the tablets at the street corners are as familiar to
him as the lines of his own unshapely hands; for, as it is truly said,
'Does the starling know the lotus roots, or the pomfret read its way
by the signs among the upper branches of the pines?' Out of the
necessities of his ignorance and your own overwhelming condescension
enlighten him, therefore, whether the destination of this fire-chariot
by any chance corresponds with the inscribed name upon his talisman?"

Thus adjured, the stranger benevolently turned himself to the detail,
and upon consulting a book of symbols he expressed himself to this
wise: that after a sufficient interval I should come into a certain
station, called in part after the title of the enlightened ruler of
this Island, and there abandoning the train which was carrying us, I
should enter another which would bring me out of the Beneath Parts and
presently into the midst of that Palace which I sought. This advice
seemed good, for a reasonable connection might be supposed to exist
between a station so auspiciously called and a Palace bearing the
harmonious name of the gracious and universally-revered
sovereign-consort. Accordingly I thanked him ceremoniously, not only
on my own part, but also on behalf of eleven generations of immediate
ancestors, and in the name of seven generations who should come after,
and he on his side agreeably replied that he was sure his grandmother
would have done as much for mine, and he sincerely hoped that none of
his great-great-grandchildren would prove less obliging. In this
intellectual manner, varied with the entertainment of profuse bows,
the time passed cordially between us until the barbarian reached his
own alighting stage, when he again repeated the various details of the
strategy for my observance.

At this point let it be set forth deliberately that there existed no
treachery in the advice, still less that this person is incapable of
competently achieving the destined end of any hazard upon which he may
embark when once the guiding signs have been made clear to his
understanding. Whatever entanglement arose was due merely to the
conflicting manners of expression used by two widely-varying races,
even as our own proverb says, "What is only sauce for the cod is
serious for the oyster."

At the station indicated as bearing the sign of the ruler of the
country (which even a person of little discernment could have
recognised by the highly-illuminated representation bearing the
elusively-worded inscription, "In packets only"), I left this
fire-chariot, and at once perceiving another in an attitude of
departure, I entered it, as the casual barbarian had definitely
instructed, and began to assure myself that I had already become
expertly proficient in the art of journeying among these Beneath
Regions and to foresee the time, not far distant, when others would
confidently address themselves to me in their extremities. So
entrancing did this contemplation grow, that this outrageous person
began to compose the actual words with which he would instruct them as
the occasion arose, as thus, "Undoubtedly, O virtuous and not
unattractive maiden, this fire-engine will ultimately lead your
refined footsteps into the street called Those who Bake Food. Do not
hesitate, therefore, to occupy the vacant place by this insignificant
one's side"; or, "By no means, honourable sir; the Cross of Charing is
in the precisely opposite direction to that selected by this
self-opinionated machine for its inopportune destination. Do not
rebuke this person for his immoderate loss of mental gravity, for your
mistake, though pardonable in a stranger, is really excessively
diverting. Your most prudent course now will assuredly be to cast
yourself from the carriage without delay and rely upon the benevolent
intervention of a fire-chariot proceeding backwards."

Alas, it is truly said, "None but sword-swallowers should endeavour to
swallow swords," thereby signifying the vast chasm that lies between
those who are really adroit in an undertaking and those who only think
that they may easily become so. Presently it began to become deeply
impressed upon my discrimination that the journey was taking a more
lengthy duration than I had been given to understand would be the
case, while at the same time a permanent deliverance from the terrors
of the Beneath Parts seemed to be insidiously lengthening out into a
funereal unattainableness. The point of this person's destination, he
had been assured on all hands, was a spot beyond which even the most
aggressively assertive engine could not proceed, so that he had no
fears of being incapably drawn into more remote places, yet when hour
after hour passed and the ill-destined machine never failed in its
malicious endeavours to leave each successive tarrying station, it is
not to be denied that my imagination dwelt regretfully upon the true
civilisation of our own enlightened country, where, by the considerate
intervention of an all-wise government, the possibilities of so
distressing an experience are sympathetically removed from one's path.
Thus the greater part of the day had faded, and I was conjecturing
that by this time we must inevitably be approaching the barren and
inhospitable country which forms the northern limit of the Island,
when the door suddenly opened and the barbarian stranger whom I had
left many hundred li behind entered the carriage.

At this manifestation all uncertainty departed, and I now understood
that to some obscure end witchcraft of a very powerful and high-caste
kind was being employed around me; for in no other way was it credible
to one's intelligence that a person could propel himself through the
air with a speed greater than that of one of these fire-chariots, and
overtake it. Doubtless it was a part of this same scheme which made it
seem expedient to the stranger that he should feign a part, for he at
once greeted me as though the occasion were a matter of everyday
happening, exclaiming genially--

"Well, Mr. Kong, returning? And what do you think of the Palace?"

"It is fitly observed, 'To the earthworm the rice stalk is as high as
the pagoda,'" I replied with adroit evasion, clearly understanding
from his manner that for some reason, not yet revealed to me, a course
of dissimulation was expedient in order to mislead the surrounding
demons concerning my movements, and by a subtle indication of the face
conveying to the stranger an assurance that I had tactfully grasped
the requirement, and would endeavour to walk well upon his heels, "and
therefore it would be unseemly for a person of my insignificant
attainments to engage in the doubtful flattery of comparing it with
the many other residences of the pure and exalted which embellish your

"Oh," said the one whom I may now suitably describe by the name of Sir
Philip, "that's rather a useful proverb sometimes. Many people there?"

At this inquiry I could not disguise from myself an emotion that the
person seated opposite was not diplomatically inspired in so
persistently clinging to the one subject upon which he must assuredly
know that I experienced an all-pervading deficiency. Nevertheless,
being by this more fully convinced that the disguise was one of
critical necessity, and not deeming that the essential ceremonies of
one Palace would differ from those of another, no matter in what land
they stood (while through all I read a clear design on Sir Philip's
part that the opportunity was craftily arranged so that I might
impress upon any vindictively-intentioned spirits within hearing an
assumption of high protection), I replied that the gathering had been
one of unparalleled splendour, both by reason of the multitude of
exalted nobles present and also owing to the jewelled magnificence
lavished on every detail. Furthermore, I continued, now definitely
abandoning all the promptings of a wise reserve, and reflecting, as we
say, that one may as well be drowned in the ocean as in a wooden
bucket, not only did the sublime and unapproachable sovereign
graciously permit me to kow-tow respectfully before him, but
subsequently calling me to his side beneath a canopy of golden
radiance, he conversed genially with me and benevolently assured me of
his sympathetic favour on all occasions (this, I conjectured, would
certainly overawe any Evil Force not among the very highest circles),
while the no less magnanimous Prince of the Imperial Line questioned
me with flattering assiduousness concerning a method of communicating
with persons at a distance by means of blows or stamps upon a post (as
far as the outer meaning conveyed itself to me), the houses which we
build, and whether they contained an adequate provision of enclosed
spaces in the walls.

Doubtless I could have continued in this praiseworthy spirit of
delicate cordiality to an indefinite amount had I not chanced to
observe at this point that the expression of Sir Philip's urbanity had
become entangled in a variety of other emotions, not all propitious to
the scheme, so that in order to retire imperceptibly within myself I
smiled broad-mindedly, remarking that it was well said that the moon
was only bright while the sun was hid, and that I had lately been
dazzled with the sight of so much brilliance and virtuous
condescension that there were occasions when I questioned inwardly how
much I had really witnessed, and how much had been conveyed to me in
the nature of an introspective vision.

It will already have been made plain to you, O my courtly-mannered
father, that these barbarians are totally deficient in the polite art
whereby two persons may carry on a flattering and highly-attuned
conversation, mutually advantageous to the esteem of each, without it
being necessary in any way that their statements should have more than
an ornamental actuality. So wanting in this, the most concentrated
form of truly well-bred entertainment, are even their high officials,
that after a few more remarks, to which I made answer in a spirit of
skilfully-sustained elusiveness, the utterly obtuse Sir Philip said at
length, "Excuse my asking, Mr. Kong, but have you really been to the
Alexandra Palace at all?"

Admittedly there are few occasions in life on which it is not possible
to fail to see the inopportune or low-class by a dignified
impassiveness of features, an adroitly-directed jest, or a remark of
baffling inconsequence, but in the face of so distressingly
straightforward a demand what can be advanced by a person of
susceptible refinement when opposed to one of incomparably larger
dimensions, imprisoned by his side in the recess of a fire-chariot
which is leaping forward with uncurbed velocity, and surrounded by
demons with whose habits and partialities he is unfamiliar?

"In a manner of expressing the circumstance," I replied, "it is not to
be denied that this person's actual footsteps may have imperceptibly
been drawn somewhat aside from the path of his former design. Yet
inasmuch as it is truly said that the body is in all things
subservient to the mind, and is led withersoever it is willed, and as
your engaging directions were scrupulously observed with undeviating
fidelity, it would be impertinently self-opinionated on this person's
part to imply that they failed to guide him to his destination. Thus,
for all ceremonial purposes, it is permissible conscientiously to
assume that he HAS been there."

"I am afraid that I must not have been sufficiently clear," said Sir
Philip. "Did you miss the train at King's Cross?"

"By no means," I replied firmly, pained inwardly that he should cast
the shadow of such narrow incompetence upon me. "Seeing this machine
on the point of setting forth on a journey, even as your overwhelming
sagacity had enabled you to predict would be the case, I embarked with
self-reliant confidence."

"Good lord!" murmured the person opposite, beginning to manifest an
excess of emotion for which I was quite unable to account. "Then you
have been in this train--your actual footsteps I mean, Mr. Kong; not
your ceremonial abstract subliminal ego--ever since?"

To this I replied that his words shone like the moon at midnight with
scintillating points of truth; adding, however, as the courtesies of
the occasion required, that I had been so impressed with the
many-sided brilliance of his conversation earlier in the day as to
render the flight of time practically unnoticed by me.

"But did it never occur to you to ask at one of the stations?" he
demanded, still continuing to wave his hands incapably from side to
side. "Any of the porters would have told you."

"Kong Li Heng, the founder of our line, who was really great, has been
dead eleven centuries, and no single fact or incident connected with
his life has been preserved to influence mankind," I replied. "How
much less will it matter, then, even in so limited a space of time as
a hundred years, in what fashion so insignificant a person as the one
before you acted on any occasion, and why, therefore, should he
distress himself unnecessarily to any precise end?" In this manner I
sought to place before him the dignified example of an
imperturbability which can be maintained in every emergency, and at
the same time to administer a plain yet scrupulously-sheathed rebuke;
for the inauspicious manner in which he had first drawn me on to speak
confidently of the ceremonies of the Royal Palace and then held up my
inadequacy to undeserved contempt had not rejoiced my imagination, and
I was still uncertain how much to claim, and whether, perchance, even
yet a more subtle craft lay under all.

"Well, in any case, when you go back you can claim the distinction of
having been taken seven times round London, although you can't really
have seen much of it," said Sir Philip. "This is a Circle train."

At this assertion I looked up. Though admittedly curved a little about
the roof the chariot was in every essential degree what we should
pronounce to be a square one; whereupon, feeling at length that the
involvement had definitely passed to a point beyond my contemptible
discernment, I spread out my hands acquiescently and affably remarked
that the days were lengthening out pleasantly.

In such a manner I became acquainted with the one Sir Philip, and
thereby, in a somewhat circuitous line, the original purpose which
possessed my brush when I began this inept and commonplace letter is
reached; for the person in question not only lay upon himself the
obligation of leading me "by the strings of his apron-garment"--in the
characteristic and fanciful turn of the barbarian language--to that
same Palace on the following day, but thenceforth gracefully affecting
to discern certain agreeable virtues in my conversation and custom of
habit he frequently sought me out. More recently, on the double plea
that they of his household had a desire to meet me, and that if I
spent all my time within the Capital my impressions of the Island
would necessarily be ill-balanced and deformed, he advanced a project
that I should accompany him to a spot where, as far as I was competent
to grasp the idiom, he was in the habit of sitting (doubtless in an
abstruse reverie), in the country; and having assured myself by means
of discreet innuendo that the seat referred to would be adequate for
this person also, and that the occasion did not in any way involve a
payment of money, I at once expressed my willingness towards the

With numerous expressions of unfeigned regret (from a filial point of
view) that the voice of one of the maidens of the household, lifted in
the nature of a defiance against this one to engage with her in a
two-handed conflict of hong pong, obliges him to bring this immature
composition to a hasty close.



Concerning the authority of this high official, Sir Philip.
The side-slipperyness of barbarian etiquette. The hurl-
headlong sportiveness and that achieving its end by means of
curved mallets.

VENERATED SIRE,--If this person's memory is accurately poised on the
detail, he was compelled to abandon his former letter (when on the
point of describing the customs of these outer places), in order to
take part in a philosophical discussion with some of the venerable
sages of the neighbourhood.

Resuming the narration where it had reached this remote province of
the Empire, it is a suitable opportunity to explain that this same Sir
Philip is here greeted on every side with marks of deferential
submission, and is undoubtedly an official of high button, for
whenever the inclination seizes him he causes prisoners to be sought
out, and then proceeds to administer justice impartially upon them. In
the case of the wealthy and those who have face to lose, the matter is
generally arranged, to his profit and to the satisfaction of all, by
the payment of an adequate sum of money, after the invariable custom
of our own mandarincy. When this incentive to leniency is absent it is
usual to condemn the captive to imprisonment in a cell (it is denied
officially, but there is no reason to doubt that a large earthenware
vessel is occasionally used for this purpose,) for varying periods,
though it is notorious that in the case of the very necessitous they
are sometimes set freely at liberty, and those who took them publicly
reprimanded for accusing persons from whose condition on possible
profit could arise. This confinement is seldom inflicted for a longer
period than seven, fourteen, or twenty-one days (these being lucky
numbers,) except in the case of those who have been held guilty of
ensnaring certain birds and beasts which appear to be regarded as
sacred, for they have their duly appointed attendants who wear a garb
and are trained in the dexterous use of arms, lurking with loaded
weapons in secret places to catch the unwary, both by night and day.
Upheld by the high nature of their office these persons shrink from no
encounter and even suffer themselves to be killed with resolute
unconcern; but when successful they are not denied an efficient
triumph, for it is admitted that those whom they capture are marked
men from that time (doubtless being branded upon the body with the
name of their captor), and no future defence is availing. The third
punishment, that of torture, is reserved for a class of solitary
mendicants who travel from place to place, doubtless spreading the
germs of an inflammatory doctrine of rebellion, for, owing to my own
degraded obtuseness, the actual nature of their crimes could never be
made clear to me. Of the tortures employed that known in their
language as the "bath" (for which we have no real equivalent,) is the
most dreaded, and this person has himself beheld men of gigantic
proportions, whose bodies bore the stain of a voluntary endurance to
every privation, abandon themselves to a most ignoble despair upon
hearing the ill-destined word. Unquestionably the infliction is
closely connected with our own ordeal of boiling water, but from other
indications it is only reasonable to admit that there is an added
ingredient, of which we probably have no knowledge, whereby the effect
is enhanced in every degree, and the outer surface of the victim
rendered more vulnerable. There is also another and milder form of
torture, known as the "task", consisting either of sharp-edged stones
being broken upon the body, or else the body broken upon sharp-edged
stones, but precisely which is the official etiquette of the case this
person's insatiable passion for accuracy and his short-sighted
limitations among the more technical outlines of the language, prevent
him from stating definitely.

Let it here be openly confessed that the intricately-arranged titles
used among these islanders, and the widely-varying dignities which
they convey, have never ceased to embarrass my greetings on all
occasions, and even yet, when a more crystal insight into their
strangely illogical manners enables me not only to understand them
clearly myself, but also to expound their significance to others, a
necessary reticence is blended with my most profuse cordiality, and my
salutations to one whom I am for the first time encountering are now
so irreproachably balanced, that I can imperceptibly develop them into
an engaging effusion, or, without actual offence, draw back into a
condition of unapproachable exclusiveness as the necessity may arise.
With us, O my immaculate sire, a yellow silk umbrella has for three
thousand years denoted a fixed and recognisable title. A mandarin of
the sixth degree need not hesitate to mingle on terms of assured
equality with other mandarins of the sixth degree, and without any
guide beyond a seemly instinct he perceives the reasonableness of
assuming a deferential obsequiousness before a mandarin of the fifth
rank, and a counterbalancing arrogance when in the society of an
official who has only risen to the seventh degree, thus conforming to
that essential principle of harmonious intercourse, "Remember that
Chang Chow's ceiling is Tong Wi's floor"; but who shall walk with even
footsteps in a land where the most degraded may legally bear the same
distinguished name as that of the enlightened sovereign himself, where
the admittedly difficult but even more purposeless achievement of
causing a gold mine to float is held to be more praiseworthy than to
pass a competitive examination or to compose a poem of inimitable
brilliance, and where one wearing gilt buttons and an emblem in his
hat proves upon ingratiating approach not to be a powerful official
but a covetous and illiterate slave of inferior rank? Thus, through
their own narrow-minded inconsistencies, even the most
ceremoniously-proficient may at times present an ill-balanced
attitude. This, without reproach to himself, concerns the inward cause
whereby the one who is placed to you in the relation of an
affectionate and ever-resourceful son found unexpectedly that he
had lost the benignant full face of a lady of exalted title.

At that time I had formed the acquaintance, in an obscure quarter of
the city, of one who wore a uniform, and was addressed on all sides as
the commander of a band, while the gold letters upon the neck part of
his outer garment inevitably suggested that he had borne an honourable
share in the recent campaign in a distant land. As I had frequently
met many of similar rank drinking tea at the house of the engaging
countess to whom I have alluded, I did not hesitate to prevail upon
this Captain Miggs to accompany me there upon an occasion also,
assuring him of equality and a sympathetic reception; but from the
moment of our arrival the attitudes of those around pointed to the
existence of some unpropitious barrier invisible to me, and when the
one with whom I was associated took up an unassailable position upon
the central table, and began to speak authoritatively upon the subject
of The Virtues, the unenviable condition of the proud and affluent,
and the myriads of fire-demons certainly laying in wait for those who
partook of spiced tea and rich foods in the afternoon, and did not
wear a uniform similar to his own, I began to recognise that the
selection had been inauspiciously arranged. Upon taxing some around
with the discrepancy (as there seemed to be no more dignified way of
evading the responsibility), they were unable to contend against me
that there were, indeed, two, if not more, distinct varieties of those
bearing the rank of captain, and that they themselves belonged to an
entirely different camp, wearing another dress, and possessing no
authority to display the symbol of the letters S.A. upon their necks.
With this admission I was content to leave the matter, in no way
accusing them of actual duplicity, yet so withdrawing that any of
unprejudiced standing could not fail to carry away the impression that
I had been the victim of an unworthy artifice, and had been lured into
their society by the pretext that they were other than what they
really were.

With the bitter-flavoured memory of this, and other in no way
dissimilar episodes, lingering in my throat, it need not be a matter
of conjecture that for a time I greeted warily all who bore a title, a
mark of rank, or any similar appendage; who wore a uniform, weapon,
brass helmet, jewelled crown, coat of distinctive colour, or any
excessive superfluity of pearl or metal buttons; who went forth
surrounded by a retinue, sat publicly in a chair or allegorical
chariot, spoke loudly in the highways and places in a tone of official
pronouncement, displayed any feather, emblem, inscribed badge, or
printed announcement upon a pole, or in any way conducted themselves
in what we should esteem to be fitting to a position of high dignity.
From this arose the absence of outward enthusiasm with which I at
first received Sir Philip's extended favour; for although I had come
to distrust all the reasonable signs of established power, I
distrusted, to a much more enhanced degree, their complete absence;
and when I observed that the one in question was never accompanied by
a band of musicians or flower-strewers, that he mingled as though on
terms of familiar intercourse with the ordinary passers-by in the
streets, and never struck aside those who chanced to impede his
progress, and that he actually preferred those of low condition to
approach him on their feet, rather than in the more becoming attitude
of unconditional prostration, I reasoned with myself whether indeed he
could consistently be a person of well-established authority, or
whether I was not being again led away from my self-satisfaction by
another obliquity of barbarian logic. It was for this reason that I
now welcomed the admitted power which he has of incriminating persons
in a variety of punishable offences, and I perceived with an added
satisfaction that here, where this privilege is more fully understood,
few meet him without raising their hands to the upper part of their
heads in token of unquestioning submission; or, as one would interpret
the symbolism into actual words, meaning, "Thus, from this point to
the underneath part of our sandals, all between lies in the hollow of
your comprehensive hand."

There is a written jest among another barbarian nation that these
among whom I am tarrying, being by nature a people who take their
pleasures tragically, when they rise in the morning say, one to
another, "Come, behold; it is raining again as usual; let us go out
and kill somebody." Undoubtedly the pointed end of this adroit-witted
saying may be found in the circumstance that it is, indeed, as the
proverb aptly claims, raining on practically every occasion in life;
while, to complete the comparison, for many dynasties past this nation
has been successfully engaged in killing people (in order to promote
their ultimate benefit through a momentary inconvenience,) in every
part of the world. Thus the lines of parallel thought maintain a
harmonious balance beyond the general analogy of their sayings; but
beneath this may be found an even subtler edge, for in order to inure
themselves to the requirement of a high destiny their various games
and manners of disportment are, with a set purpose, so rigorously
contested that in their progress most of the weak and inefficient are
opportunely exterminated.

There is a favourite and well-attended display wherein two opposing
bands, each clad in robes of a distinctive colour, stand in extended
lines of mutual defiance, and at a signal impetuously engage. The
design of each is by force or guile to draw their opponents into an
unfavourable position before an arch of upright posts, and then
surging irresistibly forward, to carry them beyond the limit and hurl
them to the ground. Those who successfully inflict this humiliation
upon their adversaries until they are incapable of further resistance
are hailed victorious, and sinking into a graceful attitude receive
each a golden cup from the magnanimous hands of a maiden chose to the
service, either on account of her peerless outline, the dignified
position of her House, or (should these incentives be obviously
wanting,) because the chief ones of her family are in the habit of
contributing unstintingly to the equipment of the triumphal band.
There is also another kind of strife, differing in its essentials only
so far that all who engage therein are provided with a curved staff,
with which they may dexterously draw their antagonists beyond the
limits, or, should they fail to defend themselves adequately, break
the smaller bones of their ankles. But this form of encounter, despite
the use of these weapons, is really less fatal than the other, for it
is not a permissible act to club an antagonist resentfully about the
head with the staff, nor yet even to thrust it rigidly against his
middle body. From this moderation the public countenance extended to
the curved-pole game is contemptibly meagre when viewed by the side of
the overwhelming multitudes which pour along every channel in order to
witness a more than usually desperate trial of the hurl-headlong
variety (the sight, indeed, being as attractive to these pale,
blood-thirsty foreigners as an unusually large execution is with us),
and as a consequence the former is little reputed save among maidens,
the feeble, and those of timorous instincts.

Thus positioned, regarding a knowledge of their outside amusements, it
has always been one of the most prominent ambitions of this person's
strategy to avoid being drawn into any encounter. At the same time,
the thought that the maidens of the household here (of whom there are
several, all so attractively proportioned that to compare them in a
spirit of definite preference would be distastefully presumptuous to
this person,) should regard me as one lacking in a sufficient display
of violence was not fragrant to my sense of refinement; so that when
Sir Philip, a little time after our arrival, related to me that on the
following day he and a chosen band were to be engaged in the match of
a cricket game against adversaries from the village, and asked whether
I cared to bear a part in the strife, I grasped the muscles of the
upper part of my left arm with my right hand--as I had frequently seen
the hardy and virile do when the subject of their powers had been
raised questioningly--and replied that I had long concealed an
insatiable wish to take such a part at a point where the conflict
would be the most revengefully contested.

Being thus inflexibly committed it became very necessary to arrange a
well-timed intervention (whether in the nature of bodily disorder,
fire, or demoniacal upheaval, a warning omen, or the death of some of
our chief antagonists), but before doing so I was desirous of
understanding how this contest, which had hitherto remained outside my
experience, was waged.

There is here one of benevolent rotundity in whose authority lie the
cavernous stores beneath the house and the vessels of gold and silver;
of menial rank admittedly, yet exacting a seemly deference from all by
the rich urbanity of his voice and the dignity of his massive
proportions. In the affable condescension of his tone, and the
discriminating encouragement of his attitude towards me on all
occasions, I have read a sympathetic concern over my welfare. Him I
now approached, and taking him aside, I first questioned him
flatteringly about his age and the extent of his yearly recompense,
and then casually inquired what in his language he would describe the
nature of a cricket to be.

"A cricket?" repeated the obliging person readily; "a cricket, sir, is
a hinsect. Something, I take it, after the manner of a grass-'opper."

"Truly," I agreed. "It is aptly likened. And, to continue the simile,
a game cricket--?"

"A game cricket?" he replied; "well, sir, naturally a game one would
be more gamier than the others, wouldn't it?"

"The inference is unflinching," I admitted, and after successfully
luring away his mind from any significance in the inquiry by asking
him whether the gift of a lacquered coffin or an embroidered shroud
would be the more regarded on parting, I left him.

His words, esteemed, for a definite reason were as the jade-clappered
melody of a silver bell. This trial of sportiveness, it became
clear,--less of a massacre than most of their amusements--is really a
rivalry of leapings and dexterity of the feet: a conflict of game
crickets or grass-hoppers, in the somewhat wide-angled obscurity of
their language, or, as we would more appropriately call it doubtless,
a festive competition in the similitude of high-spirited locusts. To
whatever degree the surrounding conditions might vary, there could no
longer be a doubt that the power of leaping high into the air was the
essential constituent of success in this barbarian match of
crickets--and in such an accomplishment this person excelled from the
time of his youth with a truly incredible proficiency. Can it be a
reproach, then, that when I considered this, and saw in a vision the
contempt of inferiority which I should certainly be able to inflict
upon these native crickets before the eyes of their maidens, even the
accumulated impassiveness of thirty-seven generations of Kong
fore-fathers broke down for the moment, and unable to restrain every
vestige of emotion I crept unperceived to the ancestral hall of Sir
Philip and there shook hands affectionately with myself before each of
the nine ironclad warriors about its walls before I could revert to a
becoming state of trustworthy unconcern. That night in my own upper
chamber I spent many hours in testing my powers and studying more
remarkable attitudes of locust flight, and I even found to be within
myself some new attainments of life-like agility, such as feigning the
continuous note of defiance with which the insect meets his adversary,
as remaining poised in the air for an appreciable moment at the summit
of each leap, and of conveying to the body a sudden and disconcerting
sideway movement in the course of its ascent. So immersed did I become
in the achievement of a high perfection that, to my never-ending
self-reproach, I failed to notice a supernatural visitation of
undoubted authenticity; for the next morning it was widely admitted
that a certain familiar demon of the house, which only manifests its
presence on occasions of tragic omen, had been heard throughout the
night in warning, not only beating its head and body against the walls
and doors in despair, but raising from time to time a wailing cry of
soul-benumbing bitterness.

With every assurance that the next letter, though equally distorted in
style and immature in expression, will contain the record of a
deteriorated but ever upward-striving son's ultimate triumph.



Concerning the game which we should call "Locusts," and the
deeper significance of its acts. The solicitous warning of one
passing inwards and the complication occasioned by his ill-
chosen words. Concerning that victory already dimly foreshadowed.

VENERATED SIRE,--This barbarian game of agile grass-hoppers is not
conducted in the best spirit of a really well-balanced display, and
although the one now inscribing his emotions certainly achieved a wide
popularity, and wore his fig leaves with becoming modesty, he has
never since been quite free from an overhanging doubt that the
compliments and genial remarks with which he was assailed owed their
modulation to an unsubstantial atmosphere of two-edged significance
which for a period enveloped all whom he approached; as in the faces
of maidens concealed behind fans when he passed, the down-drawn lips
and up-raised eyes of those of fuller maturity, the practice in most
of his own kind of turning aside, pressing their hands about their
middle parts, and bending forward into a swollen attitude devoid of
grace, on the spur of a sudden remembrance, and in the auspicious but
undeniably embarrassing manner in which all the unfledged ones of the
village clustered about his retiring footsteps, saluting him
continually as one "James," upon whom had been conferred the
gratifying title of "Sunny." Thus may the outline of the combat be

From each opposing group eleven were chosen as a band, and we of our
company putting on a robe of distinctive green (while they elected to
be regarded as an assemblage of brown crickets), we presently came to
a suitable spot where the trial was to be decided. So far this person
had reasonably assumed that at a preconcerted signal the contest would
begin, all rising into the air together, uttering cries of menace,
bounding unceasingly and in every way displaying the dexterity of our
proportions. Indeed, in the reasonableness of this expectation it
cannot be a matter for reproach to one of the green grass-hoppers--who
need not be further indicated--that he had already begun a
well-simulated note of challenge to those around clad in brown, and to
leap upwards in a preparatory essay, when the ever-alert Sir Philip
took him affectionately by the arm, on the plea that the seclusion of
a neighbouring pavilion afforded a desirable shade.

Beyond that point it is difficult to convey an accurately grouped and
fully spread-out design of the encounter. In itself the scheme and
intention of counterfeiting the domestic life and rivalries of two
opposing bands of insects was pleasantly conceived, and might have
been carried out with harmonious precision, but, after the manner of
these remote tribes, the original project had been overshadowed and
the purity of the imagination lost beneath a mass of inconsistent
detail. To this imperfection must it be laid that when at length this
person was recalled from the obscurity of the pagoda and the alluring
society of a maiden of the village, to whom he was endeavouring to
expound the strategy of the game, and called upon to engage actively
in it, he courteously admitted to those who led him forth that he had
not the most shadowy-outlined idea of what was required of him.

Nevertheless they bound about his legs a frilled armour, ingeniously
fashioned to represent the ribbed leanness of the insect's shank,
encased his hands and feet in covers to a like purpose, and pressing
upon him a wooden club indicated that the time had come for him to
prove his merit by venturing alone into the midst of the eleven brown
adversaries who stood at a distance in poised and expectant attitudes.

Assuredly, benignant one, this sport of contending locusts began, as
one approached nearer to it, to wear no more pacific a face than if it
had been a carnage of the hurl-headlong or the curved-hook varieties.
In such a competition, it occurred to him, how little deference would
be paid to this one's title of "Established Genius," or how
inadequately would he be protected by his undoubted capacity of
leaping upwards, and even in a sideway direction, for no matter how
vigorously he might propel himself, or how successfully he might
endeavour to remain self-sustained in the air, the ill-destined moment
could not be long deferred when he must come down again into the midst
of the eleven--all doubtless concealing weapons as massive and
fatally-destructive as his own. This prospect, to a person of
quiescent taste, whose chief delight lay in contemplating the
philosophical subtleties of the higher Classics, was in itself devoid
of glamour, but with what funereal pigments shall he describe his
sinking emotions when one of his own band, approaching him as he went,
whispered in his ear, "Look out at this end; they kick up like the
very devil. And their man behind the wicket is really smart; if you
give him half a chance he'll have your stumps down before you can say
'knife.'" Shorn of its uncouth familiarity, this was a charitable
warning that they into whose stronghold I was turning my
footsteps--perhaps first deceiving my alertness with a proffered
friendship--would kick with the ferocity of untamed demons, and that
one in particular, whose description, to my added despair, I was
unable to retain, was known to possess a formidable knife, with which
it was his intention to cut off this person's legs at the first
opportunity, before he could be accused of the act. Truly, "To one
whom he would utterly destroy Buddha sends a lucky dream."

Behind lay the pagoda (though the fact that this one did admittedly
turn round for a period need not be too critically dwelt upon), with
three tiers of maidens, some already waving their hands as an
encouraging token; on each side a barrier of prickly growth
inopportunely presented itself, while in front the eleven kicking
crickets stood waiting, and among them lurked the one grasping a
doubly-edged blade of a highly proficient keenness.

There are occasional moments in the life of a person when he as the
inward perception of retiring for a few paces and looking back in
order to consider his general appearance and to judge how he is
situated with regard to himself, to review his past life in a spirit
of judicial severity, to arrange definitely upon a future composed
entirely of acts of benevolence, and to examine the working of destiny
at large. In such a scrutiny I now began to understand that it would
perhaps have been more harmonious to my love of contemplative repose
if I had considered the disadvantages closer before venturing into
this barbarian region, or, at least, if I had used the occasion
profitably to advance an argument tending towards a somewhat fuller
allowance of taels from your benevolent sleeve. Our own virtuous and
flower-strewn land, it is true, does not possess an immunity from
every trifling drawback. The Hoang Ho--to concede specifically the
existence of some of these--frequently bursts through its restraining
barriers and indiscriminately sweeps away all those who are so
ill-advised as to dwell within reach of its malignant influence. From
time to time wars and insurrections are found to be necessary, and no
matter how morally-intentioned and humanely conducted, they
necessarily result in the violation, dismemberment or extirpation of
many thousand polite and dispassionate persons who have no concern
with either side. Towns are repeatedly consumed by fire, districts
scourged by leprosy, and provinces swept by famine. The storms are
admittedly more fatal than elsewhere, the thunderbolts larger, more
numerous, and all unerringly directed, while the extremities of heat
and cold render life really uncongenial for the greater part of each
year. The poor, having no money to secure justice, are evilly used,
whereas the wealthy, having too much, are assailed legally by the
gross and powerful for the purpose of extorting their riches. Robbers
and assassins lurk in every cave; vast hoards of pirates blacken the
surface of every river; and mandarins of the nine degrees must make a
livelihood by some means or other. By day, therefore, it is
inadvisable to go forth and encounter human beings, while none but the
shallow-headed would risk a meeting with the countless demons and
vampires which move by night. To one who has spent many moons among
these foreign apparitions the absence of drains, roads, illustrated
message-parchments, maidens whose voices may be heard protesting upon
ringing a wire, loaves of conflicting dimensions, persons who strive
to put their faces upon every advertisement, pens which emit fountains
when carried in the pocket, a profusion of make-strong foods, and an
Encyclopaedia Mongolia, may undoubtedly be mentioned as constituting a
material deficiency. Affairs are not being altogether reputably
conducted during the crisis; it can never be quite definitely asserted
what the next action of the versatile and high-spirited Dowager
Empress will be; and here it is freely contended that the Pure and
Immortal Empire is incapable of remaining in one piece for much
longer. These, and other inconveniences of a like nature, which the
fastidious might distort into actual hardships, have never been
denied, yet at no period of the nine thousand years of our
civilisation has it been the custom to lure out the unwary, on the
plea of an agreeable entertainment, and then to abandon him into the
society of eleven club-bearing adversaries, one of whom may be
depicted as in the act of imparting an unnecessary polish to the edge
of his already preternaturally acute weapon, while those of his own
band offer no protection, and three tiers of very richly-dressed
maidens encourage him to his fate by refined gestures of approval.

Doubtless this person had unconsciously allowed his inner meditations
to carry him away, as it may be expressed, for when he emerged from
this strain of reverie it was to discover himself in the chariot-road
and--so incongruously may be the actions when the controlling
intelligence is withdrawn--even proceeding at a somewhat undignified
pace in a direction immediately opposed to an encounter with the brown
locusts. From this mortifying position he was happily saved by
emerging from these thought-dreams before it was too late to return,
and, also, if the detail is not too insignificant to be related, by
the fact that certain chosen runners from his own company had reached
a point in the road before him, and now stood joining their
outstretched arms across the passage and raising gravity-dispelling
cries. Smiling acquiescently, therefore, this person returned in their
midst, and receiving a new weapon, his own club having been
absent-mindedly mislaid, he again set forth warily to the encounter.

Yet in this he did not altogether neglect a discreet prudence. The
sympathetic person to whom he was indebted for the pointed allusion
had specifically declared that they who used their feet with the
desperate savagery of baffled spectres guarded the nearer limits of
their position, the intention of his timely hint assuredly being that
I should seek to approach from the opposite end, where, doubtless, the
more humane and conciliatory grass-hoppers were assembled. Thus guided
I now set forth in a widely-circuitous direction, having the point
where I meant to open an attack clearly before my eyes, yet seeking to
deliver a more effective onslaught by reaching it to some extent
unperceived and to this end creeping forward in the protecting shadow
of the long grass and untrimmed herbage.

Whether the one already referred to had incapably failed to express
his real meaning, or whether he was tremulous by nature and
inordinately self-deficient, concerns the narration less than the fact
that he had admittedly produced a state of things largely in excess of
the actual. There is no longer any serviceable pretext for maintaining
that those guarding any point of their position were other than mild
and benevolent, while the only edged weapon displayed was one
courteously produced to aid this person's ineffectual struggles to
extricate himself when, by some obscure movement, he had most ignobly
entangled his pigtail about the claws of his sandal.

Ignorant of this, the true state of things, I was still advancing
subtly when one wearing the emblems of our band appeared from among
the brown insects and came towards me. "Courage!" I exclaimed in a
guarded tone, raising my head cautiously and rejoiced to find that I
should not be alone. "Here is one clad in green bearing succour, who
will, moreover, obstinately defend his stumps to the last extremity."

"That's right," replied the opportune person agreeably; "we need a few
like that. But do get up on your hind legs and come along, there's a
good fellow. You can play at bears in the nursery when we get back, if
you want."

Certainly one can simulate the movements of wild animals in a
market-garden if the impersonation is thought to be desirable, yet the
reasonable analogy of the saying is elusive in the extreme, and I
followed the ally who had thus betrayed my presence with a deep-set
misgiving although in the absence of a more trustworthy guide, and in
the suspicion that some point of my every ordinary strategy had been
inept, I was compelled to mould myself identically into his advice.

Scarcely had he left me, and I was endeavouring to dispel any idea of
treachery towards those about by actions of graceful courtesy, when
one--unworthy of burial--standing a score of paces distant, (to whom,
indeed, this person was at the moment bowing with almost passionate
vehemence, inspired by the conviction that he, for his part, was
engaged in a like attention,) suddenly cast a missile--which, somewhat
double-facedly, he had hitherto held concealed in his closed
hand--with undeviating force and accuracy. So unexpected was the
movement, so painfully-impressed the vindictive contact, that I should
have instinctively seized the offensively-directed object and
contemptuously hurled it back again, if the consequence of the blow
had not deprived my mind of all retaliatory ambitions. In this
emergency was manifested a magnanimous act worthy of the incense of a
poem, for a person standing immediately by, seeing how this one was
balanced in his emotions, picked up the missile, and although one of
the foremost of the opposing band, very obligingly flung it back at
the assailant. Even an outcast would not have passed this without a
suitable tribute, and turning to him, I was remarking appreciatively
that men were not divided by seas and wooden barriers, but by the
unchecked and conflicting lusts of the mind, when the unclean and
weed-nurtured traitor twenty paces distant, taking a degraded
advantage from this person's attitude, again propelled his weapon with
an even more concentrated perfidy than before. At this new outrage
every brown cricket shrank from the attitude of alert vigour which
hitherto he had maintained, and as though to disassociate themselves
from the stain of complicity all crossed over and took up new

Up to this point, majestic head, in order to represent the adventure
in its proper sequence, it has been advisable to present the details
as they arose before the eyes of a reliable and dispassionate gazer.
Now, however, it is no less seemly to declare that this barbarian
sport of leaping insects is not so discreditably shallow as it had at
first appeared, while in every action there may be found an apt but
hidden symbol. Thus the presence of the two green locusts in the midst
of others of a dissimilar nature represents the unending strife by
which even the most pacific are ever surrounded. The fragile erection
of sticks (behind which this person at first sought to defend himself
until led into a more exposed position by one garbed in white,) may be
regarded as the home and altar, and adequately depicts the hollowness
of the protection it affords and the necessity of reliantly emerging
to defy an invader rather than lurking discreditably among its
recesses. The missile is the equivalent of a precise and immediate
danger, the wooden club the natural instinct for defence with which
all living creatures are endowed, so that when the peril is for the
time driven away the opportunity is at hand for the display of
virtuous amusements, the exchanging of hospitality, and the beating of
professional drums as we would say. Thus, at the next attack the one
sharing the enterprise with me struck the missile so proficiently that
its recovery engaged the attention of all our adversaries, and then
began to exhibit his powers by running and leaping towards me.
Recognising that the actual moment of the display had arrived, this
person at once emitted a penetrating cry of concentrated challenge,
and also began to leap upwards and about, and with so much energy that
the highly achieved limits of his flight surprised even himself.

As for the bystanders, esteemed, those who opposed us, and the members
of our own band, although this leaping sportiveness is a competition
more regarded and practised among all orders than the pursuit of
commercial eminence, or even than the allurements of the sublimest
Classics, it may be truly imagined that never before had they
witnessed so remarkable a game cricket. From the pagoda a loud cry of
wonder acclaimed the dexterity of this person's efforts; the three
tiers of maidens climbed one upon another in their anxiety to lose no
detail of the adventure, and outstanders from distant points began to
assemble. The brown enemy at once abandoned themselves to a panic, and
for the most part cast themselves incapably to the ground, rolling
from side to side in an access of emotion; the two arbiters clad in
white conferred together, doubtless on the uselessness of further
contest, while the ally who had summoned me to take a part instead of
being encouraged to display his agility in a like manner continued to
run slavishly from point to point, while I overcame the distances in a
series of inspired bounds.

In the meanwhile the sounds of encouragement from the ever-increasing
multitude grew like the falling of a sudden coast storm among the ripe
leaves of a tea-plantation, and with them the voices of many calling
upon my name and inciting me to further and even higher achievements
reached my ears. Not to grow small in the eyes of these estimable
persons I continued in my flight, and abandoning all set movements and
limits, I began to traverse the field in every direction, becoming
more proficient with each effort, imparting to myself a sideway and
even backward motion while yet in the upper spaces, remaining poised
for an appreciable period, and lightly, yet with graceful ease,
avoiding the embraces of those who would have detained me. Undoubtedly
I could have maintained this supremacy until our band might justly
have claimed the reward, had not the flattering cries of approval
caused an indiscreet mistake, for the alarm being spread in the
village that a conflagration of imposing ferocity was raging, an
ornamental chariot conveying a band of warriors clad in brass armour
presently entered into the strife, and discovering no fire to occupy
their charitable energies they misguidedly honoured this offensive
person by propelling a solid column of the purest and most refreshing
water against his ignoble body when at the point of his highest
flight. This introduction of a thunderbolt into the everyday life of
an insect must be of questionable authenticity, yet not feeling
sufficiently instructed in the lesser details of the sportiveness to
challenge the device, I suffered myself to be led towards the pavilion
with no more struggling than enough to remove the ignominy of an
unresisting surrender, pleasantly remarking to those who bore me along
that to a person of philosophical poise the written destiny was as
apparent in the falling leaf as in the rising sun, pointing the saying
thus: "Although the Desert of Shan-tz is boundless, and mankind number
a million million, yet in it Li-hing encountered his mother-in-law."
Changing to meet another of our company setting forth with a club to
make the venture, I was permitted for a moment to engage him;
whereupon thrusting into his hand a leather charm against ill-directed
efforts, and instructing him to bind it about his head, I encouraged
him with the imperishable watch-word of the Emperor Tsin Su, "The
stars are indeed small, but their light carries as far as that of the
full moon."

At the steps of the pagoda so great was the throng of those who would
have overwhelmed me with their gracious attention, that had not this
person's neck become practically automatic by ceaseless use of late,
he would have been utterly unequal to the emergency. As it was, he
could only bestow a superficial hand-wave upon a company of
gold-embroidered musicians who greeted his return with appropriate
melody, and a glance of well-indicated regret that he had no fuller
means of conveying his complicated emotions, in the direction of the
uppermost tier of maidens. Then the awaiting Sir Philip took him
firmly towards the inner part of the pavilion, and announced, so
adroitly and with such high-spirited vigour had this one maintained
the conflict, that it had been resolutely agreed on all sides not to
make a test of his competence any further.

Thereupon a band of very sumptuously arrayed nymphs drew near with
offerings of liquid fat and a variety of crimson fruit, which it is
customary to grind together on the platter--unapproachable in the
result, certainly, yet incredibly elusive to the unwary in the manner
of bruising, and practically ineradicable upon the more delicate
shades of silk garment. In such a situation the one who is now
relating the various incidents of the day may be imagined by a
broad-minded and affectionate sire: partaking of this native fruit and
oil, and from time to time expressing his insatiable anguish that he
continually fails to become more proficient in controlling the oblique
movements of the viands, while the less successful crickets are
constrained to persevere in the combat, and the ever-present note of
evasive purport is raised by a voice from behind a screen exclaiming,
"Out afore? That he may have been, but do ee think we was a-going to
give he out afore? No, maaster, us doant a-have a circus every day

Thus may this imagination of competitive locusts be set forth to the
end. If a fuller proof of what an unostentatious self-effacement
hesitates to enlarge upon were required, it might be found in the
barbarian printed leaf, for the next day this person saw a public

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