The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 12
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