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The Mirror of Kong Ho

Letter 8
Concerning the wisdom of the sublime Wei Chung and its application to the
ordinary problems of existence. The meeting of three, hitherto unknown to each
other, about a wayside inn, and their various manners of conducting the
enterprise.
VENERATED SIRE,--You will doubtless remember the behaviour of the aged
philosopher Wei Chung, when commanded by the broad-minded emperor of his
time to reveal the hidden sources of his illimitable knowledge, so that all might
freely acquire, and the race thereby become raised to a position of unparalleled
excellence. Taking the well-disposed sovereign familiarly by the arm, Wei Chung
led him to the mouth of his cave in the forest, and, standing by his side, bade him
reflect with open eyes for a short space of time, and then express aloud what he
had seen. "Nothing of grave import," declared the emperor when the period was
accomplished; "only the trees shaken by the breeze." "It is enough," replied Wei
Chung. "What, to the adroitly-balanced mind, does such a sight reveal?" "That it
is certainly a windy day," exclaimed the omnipotent triumphantly, for although
admittedly divine, he yet lacked the philosopher's discrimination. "On the
contrary," replied the sage coldly, "that is the natural pronouncement of the
rankly superficial. To the highly-trained intellect it conveys the more subtle truth
that the wind affects the trees, and not the trees affect the wind. For upwards of
seventy years this one has daily stood at the door of his cave for a brief period,
and regularly garnering a single detail of like brilliance, has made it the well-
spring for a day's reflection. As the result he now has by heart upwards of twenty-
five thousand useful facts, all serviceable for original proverbs, and an
encyclopaedic mind which would enable him to take a high place in a popular
competition unassisted by a single work of reference." Much impressed by the
adventure the charitably-inclined emperor presented Wei Chung with an onyx
crown (which the philosopher at once threw into an adjacent well), and returning
to his capital published a decree that each day at sunrise every person should
stand at the door of his dwelling, and after observing for a period, compare
among themselves the details of their thoughts. By this means he hoped to
achieve his imperial purpose, but although the literal part of the enactment is
scrupulously maintained, especially by the slothful and defamatory, who may be
seen standing at their doors and conversing together even to this day, from some
unforeseen imperfection the intellectual capacity of the race has remained
exactly as it was before.
Nevertheless it is not to be questioned that the system of the versatile Wei
Chung was, in itself, grounded upon a far-seeing accuracy, and as the need of
such a rational observation is deepened among the inconsistencies and fantastic
customs of a barbarian race, I have made it a useful habit to accept as a guide
for the day's behaviour the reflections engendered by the first noteworthy incident
of the morning.
Upon the day with which this letter concerns itself I had set forth, in accordance
with an ever-present desire, to explore some of the hidden places of the city. At
the time a tempest of great ferocity was raging, and bending my head before it I
 
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