Kwaw, when he crossed the Yellow Sea, was of the full age of thirty-two years. The twenty previous equinoxes had passed over his head as he wandered, sole human tenant, among the colossal yet ignoble ruins of Wei Hai Wei. His only companions were the lion and the lizard, who frequented the crumbling remains of the officers' quarters; while in the little cemetery the hoofs of the wild ass beat (uselessly, if he wished to wake them) upon the tombs of the sportsmen that once thronged those desolate halls.
During this time Kwaw devoted his entire attention to the pursuit of philosophy; for the vast quantities of excellent stores abandoned by the British army left him no anxiety upon the score of hunger.
In the first year he disciplined and conquered his body and its emotions.
In the next six years he disciplined and conquered his mind and its thoughts.
In the next two years he had reduced the Universe to the Yang and the Yin and their permutations in the trigrams of Fo-hi and the hexagrams of King Wu.
In the last year he abolished the Yang and the Yin, and became united with the great Tao.
All this was very satisfactory to Kwaw. But even his iron frame had become somewhat impaired by the unvarying diet of tinned provisions; and it was perhaps only by virtue of the talisman that he succeeded in his famous attempt to outdo the feats of Captain Webb. Nor was his reception less than a triumph. So athletic a nation as the Japanese still were could not but honour so superb an achievement, though it cost them dear, inasmuch as the Navy League (by an astute series of political moves) compelled the party in power to treble the Navy, build a continuous line of forts around the sea-coast, and expend many billions of yen upon the scientific breeding of a more voracious species of shark than had hitherto infested their shores.
So they carried Kwaw shoulder-high to the Yoshiwara, and passed him the glad hand, and called out the Indians, and annexed his personal property for relics, and otherwise followed the customs of the best New York Society, while the German Band accompanied the famous Ka Ru So to the following delightful ballad:
Blow the tom-tom, bang the flute!
Let us all be merry!
I'm a party with acute
Monday I'm a skinny critter
Blow the cymbal, bang the zither!
Tuesday I have dropsy.
Wednesday cardiac symptoms come;
Blow the fiddle, strum the drum!
Friday I'm paretic.
If on Saturday my foes
Join in legions serried,
Then, on Sunday, I suppose
I'll be beri-beried!
One need not be intimately familiar with the Japanese character to understand that Kwaw and his feat were forgotten in a very few days; but a wealthy Daimio, with a taste for observation, took it into his head to inquire of Kwaw for what purpose he had entered the country in so strange a manner. It will simplify matters if I reproduce in extenso the correspondence, which was carried on by telegram.
- Who is your honourable self, and why has your excellency paid us cattle the distinguished compliment of a visit?
- This disgusting worm is great Tao. I humbly beg of your sublime radiance to trample his slave.
- Regret great toe unintelligible.
- Great Tao — T.A.O. — Tao.
- What is the great Tao?
- The result of subtracting the universe from itself.
- Good, but this decaying dog cannot grant your honourable excellency's sublime desire, but, on the contrary, would earnestly pray your brilliant serenity to spit upon his grovelling "joro."
- Profound thought assures your beetle-headed suppliant that your glorious nobility must meet him before the controversy can be decided.
- True. Would your sublimity condescend to defile himself by entering this muck-sweeper's miserable hovel?
- Expect leprous dragon with beri beri at your high mightiness's magnificent heavenly palace to-morrow (Thursday) afternoon at three sharp.
Thus met Kwaw, the poet-philosopher of China; and Juju, the godfather of his country.
Sublime moment in eternity! To the names of Joshua and Hezekiah add that of Kwaw! For though he was a quarter of an hour late for the appointment, the hands went back on the dial of Juju's chronometer, so that no shadow of distrust or annoyance clouded the rapture of that supreme event.