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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.

KONG HO.

LETTER XII

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 mouse.

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 despair.

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 over–“

“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 pretext.
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 shines,
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 cycle.”

“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. KONG HO.

THE THREE GIFTS

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 bounty.

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 orange-tree.”

“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 destruction.

LETTER XIII

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 money-lender.”

“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 next?”

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 referred.

“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 resourcefully.

“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 curtain.”

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.

FANG HUNG SIN
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 he took a LEADING and SANGUINARY PART during the LATE RISING.

ALONE IN PEKIN
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. FANG! FANG!! FANG!!!

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 rose.

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 accomplished.

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 confusion.

“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.

KONG HO.

LETTER XIV

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 sideways.

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.

KONG HO.

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.