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The Mirror of Kong Ho by Ernest Bramah

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record of the strife, in which his own name was followed by a
numerical emblem signifying that he had not stumbled or proved
incompetent in any one particular. Sir Philip, I beheld with pained
surprise, had obtusely suffered himself to be caught out in the
committal of fifty-nine set offences.

With a not unnatural anticipation that, as a result of this
painstaking description, this person will find two well-equipped camps
of contending locusts in Yuen-ping on his return.



Concerning the obvious misunderstanding which has entwined
itself about a revered parent's faculties of passionless
discrimination. The all-water disportment and the two, of
different sexes, who after regarding me conflictingly from the
beginning, ended in a like but inverted manner.

VENERATED SIRE,--Your gem-adorned letter containing a thousand
burnished words of profuse reproach has entered my diminished soul in
the form of an equal number of rusty barbs. Can it be that the
incapable person whom, as you truly say, you sent, "to observe the
philosophical subtleties of the barbarians, to study their dynastical
records and to associate liberally with the venerable and dignified,"
has, in your own unapproachable felicity of ceremonial expression,
"according to a discreet whisper from many sources, chiefly affected
the society of tea-house maidens, the immature of both sexes, doubtful
characters of all classes, and criminals awaiting trial; has evinced
an unswerving affinity towards light amusement and entertainments of a
no-class kind; and in place of a wise aloofness, befitting a wearer of
the third Gold Button and the Horn Belt-clasp, in situations of
critical perplexity, seems by his own ingenuous showing to have
maintained an unparalleled aptitude for behaving either with the
crystalline simplicity of a Kan-su earth-tiller, or the misplaced
buffoonery of a seventh-grade body-writher taking the least
significant part in an ill-equipped Swatow one-cash Hall of Varied
Melodies." Assuredly, if your striking and well-chosen metaphors were
not more unbalanced than the ungainly attitude of a one-legged
hunchback crossing a raging torrent by means of a slippery plank on a
stormy night, they would cause the very acutest bitterness to the
throat of a dutiful and always high-stepping son. There is an apt
saying, however, "A quarrel between two soldiers in the market-place
becomes a rebellion in the outskirts," and when this person remembers
that many thousand li of mixed elements flow between him and his
usually correct and dispassionate sire, he is impelled to take a mild
and tolerant attitude towards the momentary injustice brought about by
the weakness of approaching old age, the vile-intentioned mendacity of
outcasts envious of the House of Kong, and, perchance, the irritation
brought on by a too lavish indulgence in your favourite dish of stewed

Having thus re-established himself in the clear-sighted affection of
an ever mild and perfect father, and cleansed the ground of all
possible misunderstandings in the future, this person will concede the
fact that, not to stand beneath the faintest shadow of an implied
blemish in your sympathetic eyes, he had no sooner understood the
attitude in which he had been presented than he at once plunged into
the virtuous society of a band of the sombre and benevolent.

These, so far as his intelligence enables him to grasp the position,
may be reasonably accepted as the barbarian equivalent of those very
high-minded persons who in our land devote their whole lives secretly
to killing others whom they consider the chief deities do not really
approve of; for although they are not permitted here, either by
written law or by accepted custom, to perform these meritorious
actions, they are so intimately initiated into the minds and councils
of the Upper Ones that they are able to pronounce very severe
judgments of torture--a much heavier penalty than merely being
assassinated--upon all who remain outside their league. As some of the
most objurgatory of these alliances do not number more than a score of
persons, it is inevitable that the ultimate condition of the whole
barbarian people must be hazardous in the extreme.

Having associated myself with this class sufficiently to escape their
vindictive pronouncements, and freely professed an unswerving
adherence to their rites, I next sought out the priests of other
altars, intending by a seemly avowal to each in turn to safeguard my
future existence effectually. This I soon discovered to be beyond the
capacity of an ordinary lifetime, for whereas we, with four hundred
million subjects find three religions to be sufficient to meet every
emergency, these irresolute island children, although numbering us
only as one to ten, vacillate among three hundred; and even amid this
profusion it is asserted that most of the barbarians are unable to
find any temple exactly conforming to their requirements, and after
writing to the paper to announce the fact, abandon the search in

It was while I was becoming proficient in the inner subtleties of one
of these orders--they who drink water on all occasions and wear a
badge--that a maiden of some authority among them besought my aid for
the purpose of amusing a band which she was desirous of propitiating
into the adoption of this badge. It is possible that in the immature
confidence of former letters this person may already have alluded to
certain maidens with words of courteous esteem, but it is now
necessary to admit finally that in the presence of this same Helena
they would all appear as an uninviting growth of stunted and deformed
poppies surrounding a luxuriant chrysanthemum. At the presumptuous
thought of describing her illimitable excellences my fingers become
claw-like in their confessed inadequacy to hold a sufficiently upright
brush; yet without undue confidence it may be set down that her hands
resembled the two wings of a mandarin drake in their symmetrical and
changing motion, her hair as light and radiant-pointed as the
translucent incense cloud floating before the golden Buddha of
Shan-Si, thin white satin stretched tightly upon polished agate only
faintly comparable to her jade cheeks, while her eyes were more
unfathomable than the crystal waters of the Keng-kiang, and within
their depths her pure and magnanimous thoughts could be dimly seen to
glide like the gold and silver carp beneath the sacred river.

When this insurpassable being approached me with the flattering
petition already alluded to, my gratified emotions clashed together
uncontrollably with the internal feeling of many volcanoes in
movement, and my organs of expression became so entangled at the
condescension of her melodious voice being directly addressed to one
so degraded, that for several minutes I was incapable of further
acquiescence than that conveyed by an adoring silence and an
unchanging smile. No formality appeared worthy to greet her by, no
expression of self-contempt sufficiently offensive to convey to her
enlightenment my own sense of a manifold inferiority, and doubtless I
should have remained in a transfixed attitude until she had at length
turned aside, had not your seasonable reference to a Swatow
limb-contorter struck me heavily and abruptly turned off the source of
my agreement. Might not this all-water entertainment, it occurred to
this one, consist in enticing him to drink a potion made unsuspectedly
hot, in projecting him backwards into a vat of the same liquid, or
some similar device for the pleasurable amusement of those around,
which would come within the boundaries of your refined disapproval? As
one by himself there was no indignity that this person would not
cheerfully have submitted to, but the inexorable cords of an ingrained
filial regard suddenly pulled him sideways and into another direction.

"But, Mr. Kong," exclaimed the bee-lipped maiden, when I had explained
(as being less involved to her imagination,) that I was under a vow,
"we have been relying upon you. Could you not"--and here she dropped
her eyes and picked them up again with a fluttering motion which our
lesser ones are, to an all-wise end, quite unacquainted with--"could
you not unvow yourself for one night, just to please ME?"

At these words, the illuminated proficiency of her glance, and her
honourable resolution to implicate me in the display by head or feet,
the ever-revered image of a just and obedience-loving father ceased to
have any further tangible influence. Let it be remembered that there
is a deep saying, "A virtuous woman will cause more evil than ten
river pirates." As for the person who is recording his incompetence,
the room and all those about began to engulf him in an ever-increasing
circular motion, his knees vibrated together with unrestrained
pliancy, and concentrating his voice to indicate by the allegory some
faint measure of his emotion, he replied passionately, "Let the
amusement referred to take the form of sitting in a boiling cauldron
exposed to the derision of all beholders, this one will now enter it
wearing yellow silk trousers."

It is characteristic of these illogical out-countries that the
all-water diversion did not, as a matter to record, concern itself
with that liquid in any detail, beyond the contents of a glass vessel
from which a venerable person, who occupied a raised chair,
continually partook. This discriminating individual spoke so
confidently of the beneficial action of the fluid, and so unswervingly
described my own feelings at the moment--as of head giddiness, an
inexactitude of speech, and no clear definition of where the next step
would be arrived at--as the common lot of all who did not consume
regularly, that when that same Helena had passed on to speak to
another, I left the hall unobserved and drank successive portions, in
each case, as the night was cold, prudently adding a measure of the
native rice spirit. His advice had been well-directed, for with the
fourth portion I suddenly found all doubtful and oppressive visions
withdrawn, and a new and exhilarating self-confidence raised in their
place. In this agreeable temper I returned to the place of meeting to
find a priest of one of the lesser orders relating a circumstance
whereby he had encountered a wild maiden in the woods, who had
steadfastly persisted that she was one of a band of seven (this being
the luckiest protective number among the superstitious). Though unable
to cause their appearance, she had gone through a most precise
examination at his hands without deviating in the slightest
particular, whereupon distrusting the outcome of the strife, the
person who was relating the adventure had withdrawn breathless.

When this versatile lesser priest had finished the narration, and the
applause, which clearly showed that those present approved of the
solitary maiden's discreet stratagem, had ceased, the one who occupied
the central platform, rising, exclaimed loudly, "Mr. Kong will next
favour us with a contribution, which will consist, I am informed, of a
Chinese tale."

Now there chanced to be present a certain one who had already become
offensive to me by the systematic dexterity with which he had planted
his inopportune shadow between the sublime-souled Helena and any other
who made a movement to approach her heaven-dowered outline. When this
presumptuous and ill-nurtured outcast, who was, indeed, then seated
by the side of the enchanting maiden last referred to, heard the
announcement he said in a voice feigned to reach her peach-skin ear
alone, yet intentionally so modulated as to penetrate the furthest
limit of the room, "A Chinese tale! Why, assuredly, that must be a
pig-tail." At this unseemly shaft many of those present allowed
themselves to become immoderately amused, and even the goat-like sage
who had called upon my name concealed his face behind an open hand,
but the amiably-disposed Helena, after looking at the undiscriminating
youth coldly for a moment, deliberately rose and moved to a vacant
spot at a distance. Encouraged by this fragrant act of sympathy I
replied with a polite bow to indicate the position, "On the contrary,
the story which it is now my presumptuous intention to relate will
contain no reference whatever to the carefully-got-up one occupying
two empty seats in the front row," and without further introduction
began the history of Kao and his three brothers, to which I had added
the title, "The Three Gifts."

At the conclusion of this classical example of the snares ever lying
around the footsteps of the impious, I perceived that the jocular
stripling, whom I had so delicately reproved, was no longer present.
Doubtless he had been unable to remain in the same room with the
commanding Helena's high-spirited indignation, and anticipating that
in consequence there would now be no obstacle to her full-faced
benignity, I drew near with an appropriate smile.

It is somewhere officially recorded, "There is only one man who knew
with accurate certainty what a maiden's next attitude would be, and he
died young of surprise." As I approached I had the sensation of
passing into so severe an atmosphere of rigid disfavour, that the
ingratiating lines upon my face became frozen in its intensity,
despite the ineptness of their expression. Unable to penetrate the
cause of my offence, I made a variety of agreeable remarks, until
finding that nothing tended towards a becoming reconciliation, I
gradually withdrew in despair, and again turned my face in the
direction of that same accommodation which I had already found beneath
the sign of an Encompassed Goat. Here, by the sarcasm of destiny, I
encountered the person who had drawn the slighting analogy between
this one's pig-tail and his ability as a story-teller. For a brief
space of time the ultimate development of the venture was doubtfully
poised, but recognising in each other's features the overhanging cloud
of an allied pang, the one before me expressed a becoming contrition
for the jest, together with a proffered cup. Not to appear out-classed
I replied in a suitable vein, involving the supply of more vessels;
whereupon there succeeded many more vessels, called for both singly
and in harmonious unison, and the reappearance of numerous bright
images, accompanied by a universal scintillation of meteor-like
iridescence. In this genial and greatly-enlarged spirit we returned
affably together to the hall, and entered unperceived at the moment
when the one who made the announcements was crying aloud, "According
to the programme the next item should have been a Chinese poem, but as
Mr. Kong Ho appears to have left the building, we shall pass him

"What Ho?" exclaimed the somewhat impetuous one by my side, stepping
forward indignantly and mounting the platform in his affectionate
zeal. "No one shall pass over my old and valued friend--this Ho--while
I have a paw to raise. Step forward, Mandarin, and let them behold the
inventor and sole user of the justly far-famed G. R. Ko-Ho hair
restorer--sent in five guinea bottles to any address on receipt of four
penny stamps--as he appeared in his celebrated impersonation of the
human-faced Swan at Doll and Edgar's. Come on, oh, Ho!"

"Assuredly," I replied, striving to follow him, "yet with the wary
greeting, 'Slowly, slowly; walk slowly,' engraved upon my mind, for
the barrier of these convoluted stairs--" but at this word a band of
maidens passed out hastily, and in the tumult I reached the dais and
began Weng Chi's immortal verses, entitled "The Meandering Flight,"
which had occupied me three complete days and nights in the detail of
rendering the allusions into well-balanced similitudes and at the same
time preserving the skilful evasion of all conventional rules which
raises the original to so sublime a height.

The voice of one singing at the dawn;
The seven harmonious colours in the sky;
The meeting by the fountain;
The exchange of gifts, and the sound of the processional drum;
The emotion of satisfaction in each created being;
This is the all-prominent indication of the Spring.

The general disinclination to engage in laborious tasks;
The general readiness to consume voluminous potions on any
The deserted appearance of the city and the absence of the
come-in motion at every door;
The sportiveness of maidens, and even those of maturer age,
ethereally clad, upon the shore.
The avowed willingness of merchants to dispose of their wares
for half the original sum.
This undoubtedly is the Summer.

The yellow tea leaf circling as it falls;
The futile wheeling of the storm-tossed swan;
The note of the marble lute at evening by the pool;
The immobile cypress seen against the sun.
The unnecessarily difficult examination paper.
All these things are suggestive of the Autumn.

The growing attraction of a well-lined couch.
The obsequious demeanour of message-bearers, charioteers, and
the club-armed keepers of peace.
The explosion of innumerable fire-crackers round the convivial
The gathering together of relations who at all other times
shun each other markedly.
The obtrusive recollection of a great many things contrary to
a spoken vow, and the inflexible purpose to be more
resolute in future.
These in turn invariably attend each Winter.

It certainly had not presented itself to me before that the words
"invariably attend" are ill-chosen, but as I would have uttered them
their inelegance became plain, and this person made eight
conscientious attempts to soften down their harsh modulation by
various interchanges. He was still persevering hopefully when he of
chief authority approached and requested that the one who was thus
employed and that same other would leave the hall tranquilly, as the
all-water entertainment was at an end, and an attending slave was in
readiness to extinguish the lanterns.

"Yet," I protested unassumingly, "that which has so far been expressed
is only in the semblance of an introductory ode. There follow--"

"You must not argue with the Chair," exclaimed another interposing his
voice. "Whatever the Chair rules must be accepted."

"The innuendo is flat-witted," I replied with imperturbable dignity,
but still retaining my hold upon the rail. "When this person so far
loses his sense of proportion as to contend with an irrational object,
devoid of faculties, let the barb be cast. After that introduction
dealing with the four seasons, the twelve gong-strokes of the day are
reviewed in a like fashion. These in turn give place to the days of
the month, then the moons of the year, and finally the years of the

"That's fair," exclaimed the perverse though well-meaning youth, whom
I was beginning to recognise as the cause of some misunderstanding
among us. "If you don't want any more of his poem--and I don't blame
you--my pal Ho, who is one of the popular Flip-Flap Troupe, offers to
do some trick cycle-riding on his ears. What more can you expect?"

"We expect a policeman very soon," replied another severely. "He has
already been sent for."

"In that case," said the one who had so persistently claimed me as an
ally, "perhaps I can do you a service by directing him here"; and
leaving this person to extricate himself by means of a reassuring
silence and some of the larger silver pieces of the Island, he
vanished hastily.

With some doubt whether or not this deviation into the society of the
professedly virtuous, ending as it admittedly does in an involvement,
may not be deemed ill-starred; yet hopeful.


Related by Kong Ho on the occasion of the all-water
disportment, under the circumstances previously set forth.

BEYOND the limits of the township of Yang-chow there dwelt a rich
astrologer named Wei. Reading by his skilful interpretation of the
planets that he would shortly Pass Above, he called his sons Chu,
Shan, and Hing to his side and distributed his wealth impartially
among them. To Chu he gave his house containing a gold couch; to Shan
a river with a boat; to Hing a field in which grew a prolific
orange-tree. "Thus provided for," he continued, "you will be able to
live together in comfort, the resources of each supplying the wants of
the others in addition to his own requirements. Therefore when I have
departed let it be your first care to sacrifice everything else I
leave, so that I also, in the Upper Air, may not be left destitute."

Now in addition to these three sons Wei also had another, the
youngest, but one of so docile, respectful, and self-effacing a
disposition that he was frequently overlooked to the advantage of his
subtle, ambitious, and ingratiating brothers. This youth, Kao,
thinking that the occasion certainly called for a momentary relaxation
of his usual diffidence, now approached his father modestly, and
begged that he also might be included to some trivial degree in his

This reasonable petition involved Wei in an embarrassing perplexity.
Although he had forgotten Kao completely in the division, he had now
definitely concluded the arrangement; nor, to his failing powers, did
it appear possible to make a just allotment on any other lines. "How
can a person profitably cut up an orange-tree, a boat, an inlaid
couch, or a house?" he demanded. "Who can divide a flowing river, or
what but unending strife can arise from regarding an open field in
anything but its entirety? Assuredly six cohesive objects cannot be
apportioned between four persons." Yet he could not evade the justice
of Kao's implied rebuke, so drawing to his side a jade cabinet he
opened it, and from among the contents he selected an ebony staff, a
paper umbrella, and a fan inscribed with a mystical sentence. These
three objects he placed in Kao's hands, and with his last breath
signified that he should use them discreetly as the necessity arose.

When the funeral ceremonies were over, Chu, Shan, and Hing came
together, and soon moulded their covetous thoughts into an agreed
conspiracy. "Of what avail would be a boat or a river if this person
sacrificed the nets and appliances by which the fish are ensnared?"
asked Shan. "How little profit would lie in an orange-tree and a field
without cattle and the implements of husbandry!" cried Hing. "One
cannot occupy a gold couch in an empty house both by day and night,"
remarked Chu stubbornly. "How inadequate, therefore, would such a
provision be for three."

When Kao understood that his three brothers had resolved to act in
this outrageous manner he did not hesitate to reproach them; but not
being able to contend against him honourably, they met him with
ridicule. "Do not attempt to rule us with your wooden staff," they
cried contemptuously. "Sacrifice IT if your inside is really sincere.
And, in the meanwhile, go and sit under your paper umbrella and wield
your inscribed fan, while we attend to our couch, our boat, and our

"Truly," thought Kao to himself when they had departed, "their words
were irrationally offensive, but among them there may stand out a
pointed edge. Our magnanimous father is now bereft of both comforts
and necessities, and although an ebony rod is certainly not much in
the circumstances, if this person is really humanely-intentioned he
will not withhold it." With this charitable design Kao build a fire
before the couch (being desirous, out of his forgiving nature, to
associate his eldest brother in the offering), and without hesitation
sacrificed the most substantial of his three possessions.

It here becomes necessary to explain that in addition to being an
expert astrologer, Wei was a far-seeing magician. The rod of
unimpressionable solidity was in reality a charm against decay, and
its hidden virtues being thus destroyed, a contrary state of things
naturally arose, so that the next morning it was found that during the
night the gold couch had crumbled away into a worthless dust.

Even this manifestation did not move the three brothers, although the
geniality of Shan and Hing's countenances froze somewhat towards Chu.
Nevertheless Chu still possessed a house, and by pointing out that
they could live as luxuriantly as before on the resources of the river
and the field and the tree, he succeeded in maintaining his position
among them.

After seven days Kao reflected again. "This avaricious person still
has two objects, both of which he owes to his revered father's
imperishable influence," he admitted conscience-stricken, "while the
being in question has only one." Without delay he took the paper
umbrella and ceremoniously burned it, scattering the ashes this time
upon Shan's river. Like the rod the umbrella also possessed secret
virtues, its particular excellence being a curse against clouds, wind
demons, thunderbolts and the like, so that during the night a great
storm raged, and by the morning Shan's boat had been washed away.

This new calamity found the three brothers more obstinately perverse
than ever. It cannot be denied that Hing would have withdrawn from the
guilty confederacy, but they were as two to one, and prevailed,
pointing out that the house still afforded shelter, the river yielded
some of the simpler and inferior fish which could be captured from the
banks, and the fruitfulness of the orange-tree was undiminished.

At the end of seven more days Kao became afflicted with doubt. "There
is no such thing as a fixed proportion or a set reckoning between a
dutiful son and an embarrassed sire," he confessed penitently. "How
incredibly profane has been this person's behaviour in not seeing the
obligation in its unswerving necessity before." With this scrupulous
resolve Kao took his last possession, and carrying it into the field
he consumed it with fire beneath Hing's orange-tree. The fan, in turn,
also had hidden properties, its written sentence being a spell against
drought, hot winds, and the demons which suck the nourishment from all
crops. In consequence of the act these forces were called into action,
and before another day Hing's tree had withered away.

It is said with reason, "During the earthquake men speak the truth."
At this last disaster the impious fortitude of the three brothers
suddenly gave way, and cheerfully admitting their mistake, each
committed suicide, Chu disembowelling himself among the ashes of his
couch, Shan sinking beneath the waters of his river, and Hing hanging
by a rope among the branches of his own effete orange-tree.

When they had thus fittingly atoned for their faults the imprecation
was lifted from off their possessions. The couch was restored by magic
art to its former condition, the boat was returned by a justice-loving
person into whose hands it had fallen lower down the river, and the
orange-tree put out new branches. Kao therefore passed into an
undiminished inheritance. He married three wives, to commemorate the
number of his brothers, and had three sons, whom he called Chu, Shan,
and Hing, for a like purpose. These three all attained to high office
in the State, and by their enlightened morals succeeded in wiping all
the discreditable references to others bearing the same names from off
the domestic tablets.

From this story it will be seen that by acting virtuously, yet with an
observing discretion, on all occasions, it is generally possible not
only to rise to an assured position, but at the same time
unsuspectedly to involve those who stand in our way in a just


Concerning a state of necessity; the arisings engendered
thereby, and the turned-away face of those ruling the literary
quarter of the city towards one possessing a style. This
foreign manner of feigning representations, and concerning my
dignified portrayal of two.

VENERATED SIRE,--It is now more than three thousand years ago that the
sublime moralist Tcheng How, on being condemned by a resentful
official to a lengthy imprisonment in a very inadequate oil jar,
imperturbably replied, "As the snail fits his impliant shell, so can
the wise adapt themselves to any necessity," and at once coiled
himself up in the restricted space with unsuspected agility. In times
of adversity this incomparable reply has often shone as a steadfast
lantern before my feet, but recently it struck my senses with a
heavier force, for upon presenting myself on the last occasion at the
place of exchange frequented by those who hitherto have carried out
your spoken promise with obliging exactitude, and at certain stated
intervals freely granted to this person a sufficiency of pieces of
gold, merely requiring in return an inscribed and signet-bearing
record of the fact, I was received with no diminution of sympathetic
urbanity, indeed, but with hands quite devoid of outstretched fulness.

In a small inner chamber, to which I was led upon uttering courteous
protests, one of solitary authority explained how the deficiency had
arisen, but owing to the skill with which he entwined the most
intricate terms in unbroken fluency, the only impression left upon my
superficial mind was, that the person before me was imputing the
scheme for my despoilment less to any mercenary instinct on the part
of his confederates, than to a want of timely precision maintained by
one who seemed to bear an agreeable-sounding name somewhat similar to
your own, and who, from the difficulty of reaching his immediate ear,
might be regarded as dwelling in a distant land. Encouraged by this
conciliatory profession (and seeing no likelihood of gaining my end
otherwise), I thereupon declared my willingness that the difference
lying between us should be submitted to the pronouncement of
dispassionate omens, either passing birds, flat and round sticks, the
seeds of two oranges, wood and fire, water poured out upon the ground
or any equally reliable sign as he himself might decide. However, in
spite of his honourable assurances, he was doubtless more deeply
implicated in the adventure than he would admit, for at this
scrupulous proposal the benignant mask of his expression receded
abruptly, and, striking a hidden bell, he waved his hands and stood up
to signify that further justice was denied me.

In this manner a state of destitution calling for the fullest
acceptance of Tcheng How's impassive philosophy was created, nor had
many hours faded before the first insidious temptation to depart from
his uncompromising acquiescence presented itself.

At that time there was no one in whom I reposed a larger-sized piece
of confidence (in no way involving sums of money,) than one officially
styled William Beveledge Greyson, although, profiting by our own
custom, it is unusual for those really intimate with his society to
address him fully, unless the occasion should be one of marked
ceremony. Forming a resolution, I now approached this obliging
person, and revealing to him the cause of the emergency, I prayed that
he would advise me, as one abandoned on a strange Island, by what
handicraft or exercise of skill I might the readiest secure for the
time a frugal competence.

"Why, look here, aged man," at once replied the lavish William
Greyson, "don't worry yourself about that. I can easily let you have a
few pounds to tide you over. You will probably hear from the bank in
the course of a few days or weeks, and it's hardly worth while doing
anything eccentric in the meantime."

At this delicately-worded proposal I was about to shake hands with
myself in agreement, when the memory of Tcheng How's resolute
submission again possessed me, and seeing that this would be an
unworthy betrayal of destiny I turned aside the action, and replying
evasively that the world was too small to hold himself and another
equally magnanimous, I again sought his advice.

"Now what silly upside-down idea is it that you've got into that
Chinese puzzle you call your head, Kong?" he replied; for this same
William was one who habitually gilded unpalatable truths into the
semblance of a flattering jest. "Whenever you turn off what you are
saying into a willow-pattern compliment and bow seventeen times like
an animated mandarin, I know that you are keeping something back. Be a
man and a brother, and out with it," and he struck me heavily upon the
left shoulder, which among the barbarians is a proof of cordiality to
be esteemed much above the mere wagging of each other's hands.

"In the matter of guidance," I replied, "this person is ready to sit
unreservedly on your well-polished feet. But touching the borrowing of
money, obligations to restore with an added sum after a certain
period, initial-bearing papers of doubtful import, and the like, I
have read too deeply the pointed records of your own printed sheets
not to prefer an existence devoted to the scraping together of dust at
the street corners, rather than a momentary affluence which in the end
would betray me into the tiger-like voracity of a native

"Well, you do me proud, Kong," said William Beveledge, after regarding
me fixedly for a moment. "If I didn't remember that you are a
flat-faced, slant-eyed, top-side-under, pig-tailed old heathen, I
should be really annoyed at your unwarrantable personalities. Do you
take ME for what you call a 'native money-lender'?"

The pronouncements of destiny are written in iron," I replied
inoffensively, "and it is as truly said that one fated to end his life
in a cave cannot live for ever on the top of a pagoda. Undoubtedly as
one born and residing here you are native, and as inexorably it
succeeds that if you lend me pieces of gold you become a money-lender.
Therefore, though honourably inspired at the first, you would equally
be drawn into the entanglement of circumstance, and the unevadible end
must inevitably be that against which your printed papers consistently
warn one."

"And what is that?" asked Beveledge Greyson, still regarding me
closely, as though I were a creature of another part.

"At first," I replied, "there would be an alluring snare of graceful
words, tea, and the consuming of paper-rolled herbs, and the matter
would be lightly spoken of as capable of an easy adjustment; which,
indeed, it cannot be denied, is how the detail stands at present. The
next position would be that this person, finding himself unable to
gather together the equivalent of return within the stated time, would
greet you with a very supple neck and pray for a further extension,
which would be permitted on the understanding that in the event of
failure his garments and personal charms should be held in bondage. To
escape so humiliating a necessity, as the time drew near I would
address myself to another, one calling himself William, perchance, and
dwelling in a northern province, to whom I would be compelled to
assign my peach-orchard at Yuen-ping. Then by varying degrees of
infamy I would in turn be driven to visit a certain Bevel of the
Middle Lands, a person Edge carrying on his insatiable traffic on the
southern coast, one Grey elsewhere, and a Mr. Son, of the west, who
might make an honourable profession of lending money without any
security whatever, but who in the end would possess himself of my
ancestral tablets, wives, and inlaid coffin, and probably also obtain
a lien upon my services and prosperity in the Upper Air. Then, when I
had parted from all comfort in this life, and every hope of affluence
in the Beyond, it would presently be disclosed that all these were in
reality as one person who had unceasingly plotted to my destruction,
and William Beveledge Greyson would stand revealed in the guise of a
malevolent vampire. Truly that development has at this moment an
appearance of unreality, and worthy even of pooh-pooh, but thus is the
warning spread by your own printed papers and the records of your
Halls of Justice, and it would be an unseemly presumption for one of
my immature experience to ignore the outstretched and warning finger
of authority."

"Well, Kong," he said at length, after considering my words
attentively, "I always thought that your mental outlook was a hash of
Black Art, paper lanterns, blank verse, twilight, and delirium
tremens, but hang me if you aren't sound on finance, and I only wish
that you'd get some of my friends to look at the matter of borrowing
in your own reasonable, broad-minded light. The question is, what

I replied that I leaned heavily against his sagacious insight, adding,
however, that even among a nation of barbarians one who could repeat
the three hundred and eleven poems comprising the Book of Odes from
beginning to end, and claim the degree "Assured Genius" would ever be
certain of a place.

"Yes," replied William Greyson,--"in the workhouse. Put your degree in
your inside pocket, Kong, and don't mention it. You'll have far more
chance as a distressed mariner. The casual wards are full of B.A.'s,
but the navy can't get enough A.B.'s at any price. What do you say to
an organ, by the way? Mysterious musicians generally go down well, and
I dare say there's room for a change from veiled ladies, persecuted
captains and indigent earls. You ought to make a sensation."

"Is it in the nature of melodious sounds upon winding a handle?" I
asked, not at the moment grasping with certainty to what organ he

"Well, some call them that," he admitted, "others don't. I suppose,
now, you wouldn't care to walk to Brighton with your feet tied
together, or your hair in curl papers, and then get on at a music
hall? Or would there be any chance of your Legation kidnapping you if
it was properly worked? 'Kong Ho, the great Chinese Reformer, tells
the Story of his Life,'--there ought to be money in it. Are you a
reformer or the leader of a secret society, Kong?"

"On the contrary," I replied, "we of our Line have ever been
unflinching in our loyalty to the dynasty of Tsing."

"You ought to have known better, then. It's a poor business being that
in your country nowadays. Pity there are no bye-elections on the
African Labour Question, or you'd be snapped up for a procession."

To this I replied that although the idea of moving in a processional
triumph would readily ensnare the minds of the light and fantastic, I
should prefer some more literary occupation, submissively adding that
in such a case I would not stiffen my joints against the most menial
lot, even that of blending my voice in a laudatory chorus, or of
carrying official pronouncements about the walls of the city, for it
is said with justice, "The starving man does not peel his melon, nor
do the parched first wipe round the edges of the proffered cup."

"If you've set your mind on something literary," said Beveledge
confidently, "you have every chance of finishing up in a chorus or
carrying printed placards about the streets, certainly. When it comes
to that, look me up in Eastcheap." With this encouraging assurance of
my ultimate success he left me, and rejoicing that I had not fallen
into the snare of opposing a written destiny, I sought the literary
quarters of the city.

When this person has been able to write of any custom or facet of
existence here in a strain of conscientious esteem, he has not
hesitated to dip his brush deeply into the inkpot. Reverting
backwards, this barbarian enactment of not permitting those who from
any cause have decided upon spending the night in a philosophical
abstraction to repose upon the public seats about the swards and open
spaces is not conceived in a mood of affable toleration. Nevertheless
there are deserted places beyond the furthest limits of the city where
a more amiable full-face is shown. On the eleventh day of this one's
determination to sustain himself by the exercise of his literary
style, he was journeying about sunset towards one of these spots,
subduing the grosser instincts of mankind by reviewing the wisdom of
the sublime Lao Ch'un, who decided that heat and cold, pain and
fatigue, and mental distress, have no real existence, and are
therefore amenable to logical disproof, while the cravings of hunger
and thirst are merely the superfluous attributes of a former and lower
state of existence, when a passer-by, who for some distance had been
alternately advancing before and remaining behind, matched his
footsteps into mine.

"Whichee way walk-go, John, eh?" said this unfortunate being, who
appeared to be suffering from a laborious deformity of speech. "Allee
samee load me. Chin-chin."

Filled with compassion for one who evidently found himself alone in a
strange land, in the absence of his more highly-accomplished
companion, unable to indicate his wants and requirements to those
about him, I regretfully admitted that I had not chanced to encounter
that John whose wandering footsteps he sought; and to indicate, by not
leaving him abruptly, that I maintained a sympathetic concern over his
welfare, I pointed out to him the exceptional brilliance of the
approaching night, adding that I myself was then directing a course
towards a certain spacious Heath, a few li distant in the north.

"Sing-dance tomollow, then?" he said, with a condensed air of general
disappointment. "Chop-chop in a pay look-see show on Ham--Hamstl--oh
damme! on 'Ampstead 'Eath? Booked up, eh, John?"

Gradually convinced that it was becoming necessary to readjust the
significance of the incident, I replied that I had no intention of
partaking of chops or food of any variety in an erected tent, but
merely of passing the night in an intellectual seclusion.

"Oh," said the one who was walking by my side, regarding my garments
with engaging attention, and at the same time appearing to regain an
unruffled speech as though the other had been an assumed device, "I
understand--the Blue Sky Hotel. Well, I've stayed there once or twice
myself. A bit down on your uppers, eh?"

"Assuredly this person may perchance lay his upper parts down for a
short space of time," I admitted, when I had traced out the symbolism
of the words. "As it is humanely written in The Books, 'Sleep and
suicide are the free refuges equally of the innocent and the guilty.'"

"Oh, come now, don't," exclaimed the energetic person, striking
himself together by means of his two hands. "It's sinful to talk about
suicide the day before bank holiday. Why, my only Somali warrior has
vamoosed with his full make-up, and the Magnetic Girl too, and I never
thought of suicide--only whether to turn my old woman into a Veiled
Beauty of the Harem or a Hairy Lama from Tibet."

Not absolutely grasping the emergency, yet in a spirit of inoffensive
cordiality I remarked that the alternative was insufferably
perplexing, while he continued.

"Then I spotted you, and in a flash I got an idea that ought to take
and turn out really great if you'll come in. Now follow this:
Missionary's tent in the wilds of Pekin. Domestic interior by
lamp-light. Missionary (me) reading evening paper; missionary's wife
(the missus) making tea, and between times singing to keep the small
pet goat quiet (small goat, a pillow, horsecloth, and
pocket-handkerchief). Breaks down singing, sobs, and says she feels a
strange all-over presentiment. Missionary admits being a bit fluffed
himself, and lets out about a notice signed in blood that he's seen in
the city."

"Carried upon a pole?" this person demanded, feeling that something of
a literary nature might yet be wrested into the incident.

"On a flagstaff if you like," conceded the other one magnanimously. "A
notice to the effect that it is the duty of every jack mother's son of
them to douse the foreign devils, man, woman, and child, and
especially the talk-book pass-hat-round men. Also that he has had
several brick-ends heaved at him on his way back. Then stops suddenly,
hits his upper crust, and says that it's like his blamed
fat-headedness to frighten her; while she clutches at herself three
times and faints away."

"Amid the voluminous burning of blue lights?" suggested this person

"By rights there should be," admitted the one who was devising the
representation; "but it will hardly run to it. Anyway, it costs
nothing to turn the lamp down--saves a bit in fact, and gives an
effect. Then outside, in the distance at first you understand, you
begin to work up the sound of the advancing mob--rattles, shouts,
tum-tums, groans, tin plates and all that one mortal man can do with
hands, feet and mouth."

"With the interspersal of an occasional cracker and the stirring notes
produced by striking a hollow wooden fish repeatedly?" I cried; for
let it be confessed that amid the portrayal of the scene my
imagination had taken an allotted part.

"If you like to provide them, and don't set the bally show on fire,"
he replied. "Anyhow, these two aren't supposed to notice anything even
when the row gets louder. Then it drops and you are heard outside
talking in whispers to the others--words of command and telling them
to keep back half-a-mo, and so on. See?"

"Doubtless introducing a spoken charm and repeating the words of an
incantation against omens, treachery, and other matters."

"Next a flap of the tent down on the floor is raised, and you
reconnoitre, looking your very worst and holding a knife between your
teeth and another in each hand. Wave a hand to your followers to keep
back--or come on: it makes no difference. Then you crawl in on your
stomach, give a terrific howl, and stab me in the back. That rolls me
under the curtain, and so lets me out. The missus ups with the
wood-chopper and stands before the cradle, while you yell and dance
round with the knives. That ought to be made 'the moment' of the whole
piece. The great thing is to make enough noise. If you can yell louder
than the talking-machine outfit on the next pitch we ought to turn
money away. While you are at it I start a fresh row outside--shouts,
cheers, groans, words of command and a paper bag or two. Seeing that
the game is up you make a rush at the old woman; she downs you with
the chopper, turns the lamp up full, shakes out a Union Jack over the
sleeping infant, and finally stands in her finest attitude with one
hand pointing impressively upwards and the other contemptuously
downwards just as Rule Britannia is played on the cornet outside and I
appear at the door in a general's full uniform and let down the

For acting in the manner designated--as touching the noises both
inside and out, the set dance with upraised knives, the casting to
earth of himself, and being myself in turn vanquished by the aged
female, with an added compact that from time to time I should be led
by a chain and shown to the people from a raised platform--we agreed
upon a daily reward of two pieces of silver, an adequacy of food, and
a certain ambiguously-referred-to share of the gain. It need not be
denied that with so favourable an opportunity of introducing passages
from the Classics a much less sum would have been accepted, but having
obtained this without a struggle, the one now recounting the facts
raised the opportune suggestion of an inscribed placard, in order to
fulfil the portent foreshadowed by William Greyson.

"Oh, we'll star you, never fear," assented the accommodating
personage, and having by this time reached that spot upon the Heath
where his Domestic Altar had been raised, we entered.

"All the most distinguished actors in this country take another name,"
he said reflectively, when he had drawn forth a parchment of
praiseworthy dimensions and ink of three colours, "and though I have
nothing to say against Kong Ho Tsin Cheng Quank Paik T'chun Li Yuen
Nung for quiet unostentatious dignity, it doesn't have just the grip
and shudder that we want. Now how does 'Fang' strike you?" and upon my
courteous acquiescence that this indeed united within it those
qualities which he required, he traced its characters in red ink upon
a lavish scale.

"'Fang Hung Sin' about fits the idea of snap and bloodthirstiness, I
should say," he continued, and using the brush and all the colours
with an expert proficiency which would infallibly gain him an early
recognition at any of our competitive examinations, he presently laid
before me the following gracefully-composed notice, which was
suspended from a conspicuous pole about the door of the tent on the
following day.

The Captured Boxer Chieftain.

Under a strong guard, and by arrangement with the British and
Chinese authorities concerned,

Fang Hung Sin

Will positively re-enact the GORY SCENES of CARNAGE in which

Or, What a Woman can do.

PANEL I. PEACE: The Missionary's Tent by Night--All's Well--
The Dread Warning--"I am by your side, Beloved."

PANEL II. ALARM: The Signal--The Spy--The Mob Outside--
Treachery--"Save Yourself, my Darling"--"And Leave
You? Never!"

PANEL III. REVENGE: The Attack--The Blow Falls--Who Can Save
Her Now?--"Back, Renegade Viper!"--The English Guns
--"Rule Britannia!"

FANG HUNG SIN, The Desperado.
There is only one FANG, and he must be seen.

I will not upon this occasion, esteemed one, delay myself with an
account of this barbarian Festival of Lanterns; or, as their language
would convey it, Feast of Cocoa-nuts, beyond admitting that with the
possible exception of an important provincial capital during the
triennial examinations I doubt whether our own unapproachable Empire
could show a more impressively-extended gathering, either in the
diverse and ornamental efflorescence of head garb, in the affectionate
display openly lavished by persons of one sex towards those of the
other, or even one more successful in our own pre-eminent art of
producing the multitudinous harmony of conflicting sounds.

At the appointed hour this person submitted himself to be heavily
shackled, and being led out before the assembled crowd, endeavoured by
a smiling benignity of manner and by reassuring signs of welcome, to
produce a favourable impression upon their sympathies and to allure
them within. This pacific face was undoubtedly successful, however
offensively the ill-conditioned one who stood by was inspired to
express himself behind his teeth, for the space of the tent was very
quickly occupied and the actions of simulation were to begin.

Without doubt it might have been better if this person had first made
himself more fully acquainted with the barbarian manner of acting. The
fact that this imagined play, which even in one of our inferior
theatres would have filled the time pleasantly for two or three
months, was to be compressed into the narrow limits of seven minutes
and a half, should reasonably have warned him that amid the ensuing
rapidity of word and action, most of the leisurely courtesies and all
the subtle range of concealed emotion which embellish our own wood
pavement must be ignored. But it is well and suggestively written,
"The person who deliberates sufficiently before taking every step will
spend his life standing upon one leg." In the past this one had not
found himself to be grossly inadequate on any arising emergency, and
he now drew aside the hanging drapery and prepared to carry out a
preconcerted part with intrepid self-reliance.

It has already been expressed, that the reason and incentive urging me
to a ready agreement lay in the opportunities by which suitable
passages from the high Classics could be discreetly woven into the
fabric of the plot, and the occupation thereby permeated with an
honourable literary flavour. In accordance with this resolve I
blended together many imperishable sayings of the wisest philosophers
to present the cries and turmoil of the approaching mob, but it was
not until I protruded my head beneath the hanging canopy in the guise
of one observing that an opportunity arose of a really well-sustained
effort. In this position I recited Yung Ki's stimulating address to
his troops when in sight of an overwhelming foe, and, in spite of the
continually back-thrust foot of the undiscriminating one before me, I
successfully accomplished the seventy-five lines of the poem without a
stumble. Then entering fully, with many deprecatory bows and
expressions of self-abasement at taking part in so seemingly
detestable an action, I treacherously, yet with inoffensive tact,
struck the one wearing an all-round collar delicately upon the back.
Not recognising the movement, or being in some other way obtuse, the
person in question instead of sinking to the ground turned hastily to
me in the form of an inquiry, leaving me no other reasonable course
than to display the knife openly to him, and to assure him that the
fatal blow had already been inflicted. Undoubtedly his immoderate
retorts were inept at such a moment, nor was his ensuing strategy of
turning completely round three times, striking himself about the head
and body, and uttering ceremonious curses before he fell devoid of
life--as though the earlier remarks had been part of the ordained
scheme--to any degree convincing, and the cries of disapproval from
the onlookers proved that they also regarded this one as the victim of
an unworthy rebuke.

"Not if the benches were filled at half a guinea a head would I take
on another performance like that," exclaimed the one with whom I was
associated, when it was over. "Besides the dead loss of lasting three
quarters of an hour it's tempting providence when the seats are
movable. I suppose it isn't your fault, Kong, you poor creature, but
you haven't got no glare and glitter. There's only one thing for it:
you must be the Rev. Mr. Walker and I'll take Fang." He then robed
himself in my attire, guided me among the intricacies of the all-round
collar and outer garments in exchange, hung a slender rope about his
back, and after completing the artifice by a skilful device of massing
coloured inks upon our faces, he commanded me to lead him out by a
chain and observe intelligently how a captive Boxer chief should
disport himself.

No sooner had we reached the platform than the one whom I controlled
leapt high into the air, dragged me to the edge of the erection,
showed his teeth towards the assembly and waved his arms menacingly at
them; then turning upon this person, he inflamed his face with
passion, rattled his chain furiously, and uttered such vengeance-laden
cries that, unable to subdue the emotion of fear, I abandoned all
pretence, and dropping the chain, fled to the furthest recess of the
tent, followed by the still threatening Fang.

There is an expression among us, "Cheng-hu was too considerate: he
tried to drive nails with a cucumber." Cheng-hu would certainly have
quickly found the necessity of a weapon of three-times hardened steel
if he had lived among these barbarians, who are insensible to the
higher forms of politeness, in addition to acting in a contrary and
illogical manner on all occasions. Instead of being repelled and
discouraged by Fang's outrageous behaviour, they clamoured to be
admitted into the tent more vehemently than before, and so
successfully established the venture that the one to whom I must now
allude throughout as Fang signified to me his covetous intention of
reducing the performance by a further two and a half minutes in order
to reap an added profit and to garner all his rice before the Hoang Ho

As for myself, revered, it would be immature to hold the gauze screen
of prevarication between your all-discerning mind and my own
trepidation. From the moment when I first saw the expression of
utterly depraved malignity and deep-seared hate which he had cunningly
engraved upon his face by means of the coloured inks, I was far from
being comfortably settled within myself. Even the society of the not
inelegant being of the inner chamber, whom it was now my part to
console with alluring words and movements, could not for some time
retain my face from a back-way instinct at every sound; but when the
detail was reached that she sank into my grasp bereft of all energy,
and for the first time I was just succeeding in forgetting the
unpropitious surroundings, the one Fang, who had entered with unseemly
stealth, suddenly hurled his soul-freezing battle-cry upon my ear and
leapt forward with uplifted knife. Perceiving the action from an angle
of my eye even as he propelled himself through the air, I could not
restrain an ignoble wail of despair, and not scrupling to forsake the
maiden, I would have taken refuge beneath a couch had he not seized my
outer robe and hurled me to the ground. From this point to the close
of the entertainment the vigorous person in question did not cease
from raising cries and challenges in an unfaltering and many-fathomed
stream, while at the same time he continued to spring from one
extremity of the stage to the other surrounded by every external
attribute of an insatiable tiger-like rage. It is circumstantially
related that the one near at hand, who has been referred to as
possessing a voiced machine, became demented, and bearing the
contrivance to a certain tent erected by the charitable, entreated
them to remove the impediment from its speech so that it might be
heard again and his livelihood restored. When the action of
brandishing a profusion of knives before the lesser one's eyes was
reached, so nerve-shattering was the impression which Fang created
that the back of the tent had to be removed in order to let out those
who no longer had possession of themselves, and to let in those--to a
ten-fold degree--who strove for admission on the rumour spreading that
something exceptionally repellent was progressing within.

With what attenuated organs of repose this person would have reached
the end of so strenuous an occupation had he been compelled to twelve
enactments each hour throughout the gong-strokes of the day without
any literary relief, it is not enticing to dwell upon. This evil was
averted by a timely intervention, for upon proceeding to the outer air
for the third time I at once perceived among the foremost throng the
engaging full-face of William Beveledge Greyson. This really
painstaking individual had learned, as he afterwards explained, that
the chiefs of exchange (those who in the first case had opposed me
resolutely,) had received a written omen, and now in contrition were
expressing their willingness to hold out a full restitution. With this
assurance he had set forth in an unremitting search, and guided by
street-watchers, removers of superfluous earth, families propelling
themselves forward upon one foot, astrologers, two-wheeled
charioteers, and others who move early and secretly by night, he had
traced my description to this same Heath. Here he had been attracted
by the displayed placard (remembering my honourable boast), and
approaching nearer, he had plainly recognised my voice within. But in
spite of this the successful disentanglement was by no means yet

Not expecting so involved a reversal of things, and being short-eyed
by nature, William Greyson did not wait for a fuller assurance than to
be satisfied that the one before him wore my robes and conformed in a
general outline, before he addressed him.

"Kong Ho," he said pleasantly, "what the Chief Evil Spirit are you
doing up there?" adding persuasively, "Come down, there's a good
fellow. I have something important to tell you."

Thus appealed to, the one Fang hesitated in doubt, seeing on the one
hand a certain loss of face if he declined the conversation, and on
the other hand having no clear perception of what was required from
him. Therefore he entered upon a course of evasion and somewhat
incapably replied, "Chow Chop Wei Hai Wei Lung Tung Togo Kuroki Jim
Jam Beri Beri."

"Don't act the horned sheep," said Beveledge, who was both resolute
and one easily set into violent motion by an opposing stream. "Come
down, or I'll come up and fetch you." And not being satisfied with
Fang's ill-advised attempt to express himself equivocally, those
around took up the apt similitude of a self-opinionated animal, and
began to suggest a comparison to other creatures no less degraded.

"Rats yourselves!" exclaimed the easily-inflamed person at my side,
losing the inefficient cords of his prudence beneath the sting. "Who's
a rabbit? For two guinea-pigs I'd mow all the grass between here and
the Spaniards with your own left ears," and not permitting me
sufficient preparation to withhold the chain more firmly, he abruptly
cast himself down among them, amid a scene of the most untamed

"Oh, affectionately-disposed brethren," I exclaimed, moving forward
and raising my hand in refined disapproval, "the sublime Confucius, in
the twenty-third chapter of the book called 'The Great Learning,'
warns us against--" but before I could formulate the allusion
Beveledge Greyson, who at the sound of my conciliatory words had gazed
first in astonishment and then in a self-convulsed position, drew
himself up to my side, and taking a firm grasp upon the all-round
collar, projected me without a pause through the tent, and only
halting for a moment to point significantly back to the varied and
animated scene behind, where, amid a very profuse display of
contending passions, the erected stage was already being dragged to
the ground, and a band of the official watch was in the act of
converging from every side, he led me through more deserted paths to
the scene of a final extrication.

With a well-gratified sense of having held an unswerving course along
the convoluted outline of Destiny's decree, to whatever tending.



Concerning a pressing invitation from an ever benevolently-
disposed father to a prosaic but dutifully-inclined son. The
recording of certain matters of no particular moment.
Concerning that ultimate end which is symbolic of the
inexorable wheels of a larger Destiny.

VENERATED SIRE,--It is not for the earthworm to say when and in what
exact position the iron-shod boot shall descend, and this person,
being an even inferior creature for the purpose of the comparison,
bows an acquiescent neck to your very explicit command that he shall
return to Yuen-ping without delay. He cannot put away from his mind a
clinging suspicion that this arising is the result of some
imperfection in his deplorable style of correspondence, whereby you
have formed an impression quite opposed to that which it had been the
intention to convey, and that, perchance, you even have a secret doubt
whether upon some specified occasion he may not have conducted the
enterprise to an ignoble, or at least not markedly successful, end.
However, the saying runs, "The stone-cutter always has the last word,"
and you equally, by intimating with your usual unanswerable and
clear-sighted gift of logic that no further allowance of taels will be
sent for this one's dispersal, diplomatically impose upon an
ever-yearning son the most feverish anxiety once more to behold your
large and open-handed face.

Standing thus poised, as it may be said, for a returning flight across
the elements of separation, it is not inopportune for this person to
let himself dwell gracefully upon those lighter points of recollection
which have engraved themselves from time to time upon his mind without
leading to any more substantial adventure worthy to record. Many of
the things which seemed strange and incomprehensible when he first
came among this powerful though admittedly barbarian people, are now
revealed at a proper angle; others, to which he formerly imagined he
had found the disclosing key, are, on the other hand, plunged into a
distorting haze; while between these lie a multitude of details in
every possible stage of disentanglement and doubt. As a final and
painstaking pronouncement, this person has no hesitation in declaring
that this country is not--as practically all our former travellers
have declared--completely down-side-up as compared with our own
manners and customs, but at the same time it is very materially

Thus, instead of white, black robes are the indication of mourning;
but as, for the generality, the same colour is also used for occasions
of commerce, ceremony, religion, and the ordinary affairs of life, the
matter remains exactly as it was before. Yet with obtuse inconsistency
the garments usually white--in which a change would be really
noticeable--remain white throughout the most poignant grief. How much
more markedly expressed would be the symbolism if during such a period
they wore white outer robes and black body garments. Nevertheless it
cannot be said that they are unmindful of the emblematic influence of
colour, for, unlike the reasonable conviction that red is red and blue
is blue, which has satisfied our great nation from the days of the
legendary Shun, these pale-eyed foreigners have diverged into
countless trifling imaginings, so that when the one who is now
expressing his contempt for the development required a robe of a
certain hue, he had to bend his mouth, before he could be exactly
understood, to the degrading necessity of asking for "Drowned-rat
brown," "Sunstroke magenta," "Billingsgate purple," "London milk
azure," "Settling-day green," or the like. In the other signs of
mourning they do not come within measurable distance of our pure and
uncomfortable standard. "If you are really sincere in your regret for
the one who has Passed Beyond, why do you not sit upon the floor for
seven days and nights, take up all food with your fingers, and allow
your nails to grow untrimmed for three years?" was a question which I
at first instinctively put to lesser ones in their affliction. In
every case save one I received answers of evasive purport, and even
the one stated reason, "Because although I am a poor widder I ain't a
pig," I deemed shallow.

I have already dipped a revealing brush into the subject of names.
Were the practice of applying names in a wrong and illogical sequence
maintained throughout it might indeed raise a dignified smile, but it
would not appear contemptible; but what can be urged when upon an
occasion one name appears first, upon another occasion last? A dignity
is conferred in old age, and it is placed before the family
designation borne by an honoured father and a direct line of seventeen
revered ancestors. Another title is bestowed, and eats up the former
like a revengeful dragon. New distinctions follow, some at one end,
others at another, until a very successful person may be suitably
compared to the ringed oleander snake, which has the power of growing
equally from either the head or the tail. To express the matter by a
definite allusion, how much more graceful and orchideous, even in a
condensed fashion, would appear the designation of this selected one,
if instead of the usual form of the country it was habitually set
forth in the following logical and thoroughly Chinese style:-
Chamberlain Joseph, Master, Mr., Thrice Wearer of the Robes and Golden
Collar, One of the Just Peacemakers, Esquire, Member of the House of
Law-givers, Leader in the Council of Commerce, Presider over the
Tables of Provincial Government, Uprightly Honourable Secretary of the
Outlying Parts.

Among the notes which at various times I have inscribed in a book for
future guidance I find it written on an early page, "They do not
hesitate to express their fathers' names openly," but to this
assertion there stands a warning sign which was added after the
following incident. "Is it true, Mr. Kong," asked a lesser one, who is
spoken of as vastly rich but discontented with her previous lot, of
this person upon an occasion, "is it really true that your countrymen
to not consider it right to speak of their fathers' names, even in
this enlightened age?" To this I replied that the matter was as she
had eloquently expressed it, and, encouraged by her amiable
condescension, I asked after the memory of her paternal grandsire,
whose name I had frequently heard whispered in connection with her
own. To my inelegant confusion she regarded me for a period as though
I had the virtue of having become transparent, and then passed on in a
most overwhelming excess of disconcertingly-arranged silence.

"You've done it now, Kong," said one who stood by (or, as we would
express the same thought, "You have succeeded in accomplishing the
undesirable"); "don't you know that the old man was in the tripe and
trotter line?"

"To no degree," I replied truly. "Yet," I continued, matching his
idiom with another equally facile, "wherein was this person's screw
loose? Are they not openly referred to--those of the Line of Tripe and
Trotter--by their descendants?"

"Not in most cases," he said, with a concentration that indicated a
lurking sting among his words. "Generally speaking, they aren't
mentioned or taken into any account whatever. While they are alive
they are kept in the background and invited to treat themselves to the
Tower when nice people are expected; when dead they are fastened up in
the family back cupboard by a score of ten-inch nails and three-trick
Yale locks, so to speak. And in the meantime all the splash is being
made on their muddy oof. See?"

I nodded agreeably, though, had the opportunity been more favourable,
I would have made the feint to learn somewhat more of this secret
practice of burying in the enclosed space beneath the stairs. Thus is
it set forth why, after the statement, "They do not hesitate to
express their fathers' names openly," it is further written, "Walk
slowly! Engrave well upon your discreet remembrance the unmentionable
Line of Tripe and Trotter."

Another point of comparison which the superficial have failed to
record is to be found in the frequent encouragements to regard The
Virtues which are to be seen, like our own Confucian extracts, freely
inscribed on every wall and suitable place about the city. These for
the most part counsel moderation in taking false oaths, in stepping
heedlessly upon the unknown ground, in following paths which lead to
doubtful ends, and other timely warnings. "Beware a smoke-breathing
demon," is frequently cast across one's path upon a barrier, and this
person has never failed to accept the omen and to retrace his steps
hastily without looking to the right or the left. Even our own
national caution is not forgotten, although to conform to barbarian
indolence it is written, "Slowly, slowly; drive slowly." "Keep to the
Right" (or, "Abandon that which is evil," as the analogy holds,) is
perhaps the most frequently displayed of all, and doubtless many
charitable persons obtain an ever-accruing merit by hanging the sign
bearing these words upon every available post. Others are of a stern
and threatening nature, designed to make the most hardened ill-doer
pause, as--in their own tongue--"Rubbish may be shot here"; which we
should render, "At any moment, and in such a place as this, a just
doom and extinction may overtake the worthless." This inscription is
never to be seen except in waste expanses, where it points its
significance with a multiplied force. There is another definite threat
which is lavishly set out, and so thoroughly that it may be
encountered in the least frequented and almost inaccessible spots.
This, as it may be translated, reads, "Trespass not the forbidden. The
profligate may flourish like the gourd for a season, but in the end
assuredly they will be detected, and justice meted out with the
relentless fury of the written law."

In a converse position, the wide difference in the ceremonial forms of
retaliatory invective has practically disarmed this usually eloquent
person, and he long since abandoned every hope of expressing himself
with any satisfaction in encounters of however acrimonious a trend. At
first, with an urbane smile and gestures of dignified contempt, he
impugned the authenticity of the Ancestral Tablets of those with whom
he strove, in an unbroken stream of most bitter contumely. Finding
them silent under this reproach, he next lightly traced their origin
back through generations of afflicted lepers, deformed ape-beings, and
Nameless Things, to a race of primitive ghouls, and then went on in
relentless fluency to predict an early return in their descendants to
the condition of a similar state. For some time he had a
well-gratified assurance that those whom he assailed were so
overwhelmed as to be incapable of retort, and in this belief he never
failed to call upon passers-by to witness his triumph; but on the
fourth occasion a young man whom I had thus publicly denounced for a
sufficient though forgotten reason, after listening courteously to my
venomous accusations, bestowed a two-cash piece upon me and passed on,
remarking that it was hard, and those around, also, would have added
from their stores had it been permitted. From this time onward I did
not attempt to make myself disagreeable either in public or to those
whom I esteemed privately. On the other hand, the barbarian manner of
retort did not find me endowed by nature to parry it successfully.
Quite lacking in measured periods, it aims, by an extreme rapidity of
thrust and an insincerity of sequence, to entangle the one who is
assailed in a complication of arising doubts and emotions. "Who are
you,--no one but yourself," exclaimed a hireling of hung-dog
expression who claimed to have exchanged pledging gifts with a certain
maiden who stood, as it were, between us, and falling into the snare,
I protested warmly against the insult, and strove to disprove the
inference before the paralogism lay revealed. Throughout the whole
range of the Odes, the Histories, the Analects, and the Rites what
recognised formula of rejoinder is there to the taunt, "Oh, go and put
your feet in mustard and cress"; or how can one, however skilled in
the highest Classics, parry the subtle inconsistencies of the
reproach, "You're a nice bit of orl right, aren't you? Not arf, I
don't think."

Among the arts of this country that of painting upon canvas is held in
repute, but to a person associated with the masterpieces of the Ma
epoch these native attempts would be gravity-dispelling if they were
not too reminiscent of the torture chamber. It is rarely, indeed, that
even the most highly-esteemed picture-makers succeed in depicting
every portion of a human body submitted to their brush, and not
infrequently half of the face is left out. Once, when asked by a
paint-applier who was entitled to append two signs of exceptional
distinction behind his name, to express an opinion upon a finished
work, I diffidently called his attention to the fact that he had
forgotten to introduce a certain exalted one's left ear. "Not at all,
Mr. Kong," he replied, with an expression of ill-merited
self-satisfaction, "but it is hidden by the face." "Yet it exists," I
contended; "why not, therefore, press it to the front at all hazard,
rather than send so great a statesman down into the annals of
posterity as deformed to that extent?" "It certainly exists," he
admitted, "and one takes that for granted; but in my picture it cannot
be seen." I bowed complaisantly, content to let so damaging an
admission point its own despair. A moment later I continued, "In the
great Circular Hall of the Palace of Envoys there is a picture of two
camels, foot-tethered, as it fortunately chanced, to iron rings.
Formerly there were a drove of eight--the others being free--so
exquisitely outlined in all their parts that one night, when the door
had been left incautiously open, they stepped down from the wall and
escaped to the woods. How deplorable would have been the plight of
these unfortunate beings, if upon passing into the state of a living
existence they had found that as a result of the limited vision of
their creator they only possessed twelve legs and three whole bodies
among them."

Perchance this tactfully-related story, so applicable to his own
deficiencies, may sink into the imagination of the one for whom it was
inoffensively unfolded. Yet doubt remains. Our own picture-judgers
take up a position at the side of work when they with to examine its
qualities, retiring to an ever-diminishing angle in order to bring out
the more delicate effects, until a very expert and conscientious
critic will not infrequently stand really behind the picture he is
considering before he delivers a final pronouncement. Not until these
native artists are able to regard their crude attempts from the other
side of the canvas can they hope to become equally proficient. To this
fatal shortcoming must be added that of insatiable ambition, which
prompts the young to the portrayal of widely differing subjects. Into
the picture-room of one who might thus be described this person was
recently conducted, to pass an opinion upon a scene in which were
depicted seven men of varying nationalities and appropriately garbed,
one of the opposing sex carrying a lighted torch, an elephant
reclining beneath a fruitful vine, and the President of a Republic.
For a period this person resisted the efforts of those who would have
questioned him, withdrawing their attention to the harmonious lights
upon the river mist floating far below, but presently, being
definitely called upon, he replied as follows: "Mih Ying, who was
perhaps the greatest of his time, spent his whole life in painting
green and yellow beetles in the act of concealing themselves beneath
dead maple leaves upon the approach of day. At the age of seventy-five
he burst into tears, and upon being approached for a cause he
exclaimed, 'Alas, if only this person had resisted the temptation to
be diffuse, and had confined himself to green beetles alone, he might
now, instead of contemplating a misspent career, have been really
great.' How much less," I continued, "can a person of immature
moustaches hope to depict two such conflicting objects as a recumbent
elephant and the President of a Republic standing beneath a banner?"

Upon the temptation to deal critically with the religious instincts of
the islanders this person draws an obliterating brush. As practically
every traveller who has honoured our unattractive land with his
effusive presence has subsequently left it in a printed record that
our ceremonies are grotesque, our priesthood ignorant and depraved,
our monasteries and sacred places spots of plague upon an otherwise
flower-adorned landscape, and our beliefs and sacrifices only worthy
to exist for the purpose of being made into jest-origins by more
refined communities, the omission on this one's part may appear
uncivil and perhaps even intentionally discourteous. To this, as a
burner of joss-sticks and an irregular person, he can only reply by a
deprecatory waving of both hands and a reassuring smile.

With the two-sided memories of many other details hanging thickly
around his brush, it would not be an achievement to continue to a
practically inexhaustible amount. As of the set days when certain
things are observed, among which fall the first of the fourth month
(but that would disclose another involvement), another when flat cakes
are partaken of without due caution, another when rounder cakes are
even more incautiously consumed, and that most brightly-illuminated of
all when it is permissible to embrace maidens openly, and if
discreetly accomplished with no overhanging fear of ensuing forms of
law, beneath the emblem of a suspended branch, in memory of the wisdom
of certain venerable sages who were doubtless expert in the practice.
As of the inconvenient custom when two persons are walking together
that they should arrange themselves side by side, to the obvious
discomfort of others, the sweeping away of all opportunities for
agreeable politeness, and the utter disregard of the time-honoured
example of the sagacious water-fowl. As of the inconsistency of
refusing, even with contempt, to receive our most intimate form of
regard and use this person's lip-cloth after a feast, yet the mulish
eagerness in that same youth to drink from a cup previously used by a
lesser one. As of the precision (which still remains a cloud of
doubt,) with which creatures so intractable as the bull are
successfully trained to roar aloud at certain gong-strokes of the day
as an agreed signal. As of the streets in movement, the lights at
evening, and the voices of those unseen. As of these and as of other
matters, so multitudinous that they crowd about this person's mind
like the assembling swallows, circling above the deserted millet
fields before they turn their beaks to the sea, and dropping his brush
(perchance with an acquiescent sigh), he, also, kow-tows submissively
to a blind but appointed destiny, and prepares to seek a passage from
an alien land of sojourning.

With the impetuous craving of an affectionate son to behold a revered
sire, intensified by the fact that he has reached the innermost lining
of his sleeve; with affectionate greetings towards Ning, Hia-Fa, and
T'ian Yen, and an assurance that they have never been really absent
from his thoughts.


Ernest Bramah, of whom in his lifetime Who's
Who had so little to say, was born in
Manchester. At seventeen he chose farming as a
profession, but after three years of losing
money gave it up to go into journalism. He
started as correspondent on a typical
provincial paper, then went to London as
secretary to Jerome K. Jerome, and worked
himself into the editorial side of Jerome's
magazine, To-day, where he got the opportunity
of meeting the most important literary figures
of the day. But he soon left To-day to join a
new publishing firm, as editor of a
publication called The Minister; finally,
after two years of this, he turned to writing
as his full-time occupation. He was intensely
interested in coins and published a book on
the English regal copper coinage. He is,
however, best known as the creator of the
charming character Kai Lung who appears in Kai
Lung Unrolls His Mat, Kai Lung's Golden Hours,
The Wallet of Kai Lung, Kai Lung Beneath the
Mulberry Tree, The Mirror of Kong Ho, and The
Moon of Much Gladness; he also wrote two one-
act plays which are often performed at London
variety theatres, and many stories and articles
in leading periodicals. He died in 1942.

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