The Mirror of Kong Ho HTML version

Letter 13
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