The Mirror of Kong Ho

The Mirror of Kong Ho
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第12章

Concerning a desire to expatiate upon subjects of philosophical importance and its no accomplishment.Three examples of the mental concavity sunk into by these barbarians.An involved episode which had the outward appearance of being otherwise than what it was.

VENERATED SIRE (whose genial liberality on all necessary occasions is well remembered by this person in his sacrifices, with the titles "Benevolent" and "Open-sleeved"),--I had it in my head at one time to tell you somewhat of the Classics most reverenced in this country, of the philosophical opinions which prevail, and to enlighten you generally upon certain other subjects of distinguished eminence.As the deities arranged, however, it chanced that upon my way to a reputable quarter of the city where the actuality of these matters can be learnt with the least evasion, my footsteps were drawn aside by an incident which now permeates my truth-laden brush to the exclusion of all else.

But in the first place, if it be permitted for a thoroughly untrustworthy son to take so presumptuous a liberty with an unvaryingly sagacious father, let this one entreat you to regard everything he writes in a very wide- headed spirit of looking at the matter from all round.My former letters will have readily convinced you that much that takes place here, even among those who can afford long finger-nails, would not be tolerated in Yuen-ping, and in order to avoid the suspicion that I am suffering from a serious injury to the head, or have become a prey to a conflicting demon, it will be necessary to continue an even more highly-sustained tolerant alertness.This person himself has frequently suffered the ill effects of rashly assuming that because he is conducting the adventure in a prepossessing spirit his efforts will be honourably received, as when he courteously inquired the ages of a company of maidens into whose presence he was led, and complimented the one whom he was desirous of especially gratifying by assuring her that she had every appearance ofbeing at least twice the nine-and-twenty years to which she modestly laid claim.

Upon another occasion I entered a barber's stall, and finding it oppressively hot within, I commanded the attendant to carry a reclining stool into the street and there shave my lower limbs and anoint my head.As he hesitated to obey--doubtless on account of the trivial labour involved--I repeated my words in a tone of fuller authority, holding out the inducement of a just payment when he complied, and assuring him that he would certainly be dragged before the nearest mandarin and tortured if he held his joints stiffly.At this he evidently understood his danger, for obsequiously protesting that he was only a barber of very mean attainments, and that his deformed utensils were quite inadequate for the case, he very courteously directed me in inquire for a public chariot bound for a quarter called Colney Hatch (the place of commerce, it is reasonable to infer, of the higher class barbers), and, seating myself in it, instruct the attendant to put me down at the large gates, where they possessed every requisite appliance, and also would, if desirable, shave my head also.Here the incident assumes a more doubtful guise, for, notwithstanding the admitted politeness of the one who spoke, each of those to whom I subsequently addressed myself on the subject, presented to me a face quite devoid of encouragement.While none actually pointed out the vehicle I sought, many passed on in a state of inward contemplation without replying, and some--chiefly the attendants of other chariots of a similar kind--replied in what I deemed to be a spirit of elusive metaphor, as he who asserted that such a conveyance must be sought for at a point known intimately as the Aldgate Pump, whence it started daily at half-past the thirteenth gong-stroke; and another, who maintained that I had no prospect of reaching the desired spot until I secured the services of one of a class of female attendants who wear flowing blue robes in order to indicate that they are prepared to encounter and vanquish any emergency in life.To make no elaborate pretence in the matter this person may definitely admit that he never did reach the place in question, nor--in spite of a diligent search in which he has encountered much obloquy--has he yet found any barber sufficiently well equipped to undertake the detail.

Even more recently I suffered the unmerited rebuke of the superficial through performing an act of deferential politeness.Learning that the enlightened and magnanimous sovereign of this country was setting out on a journey I stationed myself in the forefront of those who stood before his palace, intending to watch such parts of the procession as might be fitly witnessed by one of my condition.When these had passed, and the chariot of the greatest approached, I respectfully turned my back to the road with a propitiatory gesture, as of one who did not deem himself worthy even to look upon a being of such majestic rank and acknowledged excellence.This delicate action, by some incredible process of mental obliquity, was held by those around to be a deliberate insult, if not even a preconcerted signal, of open treachery, and had not a heaven-sent breeze at that moment carried the hat of a very dignified bystander into the upper branches of an opportune tree, and successfully turned aside the attention of the assembly into a most immoderate exhibition of utter loss of gravity, I should undoubtedly have been publicly tortured, if not actually torn to pieces.

But the incident first alluded to was of an even more elaborately- contrived density than these, and some of the details are still unrolled before the keenest edge of this one's inner perception.Nevertheless, all is now set down in unbroken exactness for your impartial judgment.

Ernest Bramah

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