Early Monday morning Mackay
peeped out of the big warehouse door
at the great calm mountain shrouded in the pale mists of early
dawn. The other two travelers were soon astir, and were surprised
to find their young companion all ready. They were not yet well
enough acquainted with him to know that he could do with less
sleep at night than an owl. He was in high spirits and as eager
to be off as he had ever been to start for a day's fishing in the
old tunes back in Ontario. And indeed this was just a great
fishing expedition he was commencing. For had not One said to
him, long long ago when he was but a little boy, "Come follow me,
and I will make you to become a fisher of men"? and he had
obeyed. The first task was to go out and buy food for the
journey, and to hire a couple of coolies to carry it and what
baggage they must take.
Dr. Dickson went off on
this errand, and being well acquainted
with Formosan customs and language, soon returned with two
Chinese carriers and plenty of food. This last consisted of
canned meats, biscuits, coffee, and condensed milk, bought at a
store where ships' supplies were kept for sale. There was also
some salted water-buffalo meat, a Chinese dish with which the
young missionary was destined to become very familiar.
They started out three
abreast, Mr. Ritchie's blue serge figure
capped by a white helmet on the right, Dr. Dickson on the left in
his Scotch tweed, and between them the alert, slim figure of the
newcomer, in his suit of Canadian gray. The coolies, with baskets
hung to a pole across their shoulders, came ambling along behind.
The three travelers were
in the gayest mood. Perhaps it was the
clear spring morning air, or the breath of the salt ocean,
perhaps it was the intoxicating beauty of mountain and plain and
river that surrounded them or it may have been because they had
given their lives in perfect service to the One who is the source
of all happiness, but whatever was the cause, they were all like
schoolboys off for a holiday. The coolies who trotted in the rear
were very much amazed and not a little amused at the actions of
these foolish foreign devils, who laughed and joked and seemed in
such high spirits for no reason at all.
They swung along the bank
of the river until they came to the
ferry that was to take them to the other side. They sprang into
the boat and were shoved off. Before they reached the other side,
at Dr. Dickson's suggestion, they took off their shoes and socks,
and stowed them away in the carriers' baskets. When they came to
the opposite bank they rolled up their trousers to their knees
and sprang out into the shallow water. For a short distance they
had the joy of tramping barefoot along the hard gleaming sand of
But shoes and stockings
had to be resumed, for soon they turned
inland, on a path that wound up to the high plain above the
river. "Do you ever use a horse on your travels?" asked young
Mackay as they climbed upward.
Mr. Ritchie laughed. "You
couldn't get one in north Formosa for
love or money. And if you could, he wouldn't be any use."
"Unless he was a second
Pegasus, and could soar above the
Formosan roads," added Dr. Dickson. "Wait a bit and you'll
The young missionary
waited, and kept his eyes open for the
answer. The pathway crossed a grassy plain where groups of
queer-looking, mouse-colored animals, half ox, half buffalo, with
great spreading horns, strayed about, herded by boys, or lay
wallowing in deep pools.
said, remembering them as he had seen them
in the south.
"The most useful animal
on the island," remarked Mr. Ritchie,
adding with a laugh, "except perhaps the pig. You'll have a taste
of Mr. Buffalo for your dinner, Mackay."
And now they were up on
the heights, and the lovely country lay
spread out before them. Mackay mentally compared this walk to
many he had taken along the country roads of his native land. It
was early in March, but as there had been no winter, so there was
no spring. It was summer, warm, radiant summer, like a lovely day
in June at home. Dandelions, violets, and many gay flowers that
he did not recognize spangled the grassy plain. The skylark high
overhead was pouring out its glorious song, just as he had heard
it in his student days in Scotland. Here and there were clumps of
fir trees that reminded him of Canada, but on the whole the scene
was new and wonderful to his Western eyes.
They were now on the
first level of the rice-fields. The farms
were tiny things, none larger than eight or ten acres. They were
divided into queer-shaped little irrigated fields, separated not
by fences, but by little low walls of mud. Every farm was under
water now, and here and there, wading through his little flooded
fields, went the farmer with his plough, drawn by a useful
water-buffalo,--the latter apparently quite happy at being
allowed to splash about in the mud.
These rice-farms soon
became a familiar sight to the newcomer. He
liked to see them at all times--when each field was a pretty blue
or green lake, later when the water was choked with the fresh
green growth, or in harvest days, when the farmers stripped the
fields of their grain. Just now they were at their prettiest. Row
above row, they went up the mountainside, like a great glass
stairs, each row reflecting the green hills and the bamboo groves
above. And from each terrace to the one below, the water tumbled
in pretty little cascades that sparkled in the sunlight and
filled the air with music. For travelers there were only narrow
paths between farms, and often only the ridge of the dykes
between field and field. As they made their way between the tiny
fields, walking along the narrow dykes, and listening to the
splashing sound of the water, Mackay understood what Dr. Dickson
meant, when he remarked that only a flying horse could be of use
on such Formosan cross-country journeys.
Soon the pathway changed
once more to the broader public highway.
Here there was much traffic, and many travelers carried in
sedan-chairs passed them. And many times by the roadside Mackay
saw something that reminded him forcibly of why he had come to
Formosa--a heathen shrine. The whole countryside seemed dotted
with them. And as he watched the worshipers coming and going, and
heard the disdainful words from the priests cast it the hated
foreigners, he realized that he was face to face with an awful
opposing force. It was the great stone of heathenism he had come
to break, and the question was, would he be as successful as he
had been long ago in the Canadian pasture-field?
The travelers ate their
dinner by the roadside under the shade of
some fir trees that made Mackay feel at home. They were soon up
and off again, and, tired with their long tramp, they arrived at
a town called Tionglek, and decided to spend the night there. The
place was about the size of Tamsui, with between four and five
thousand inhabitants, and was quite as dirty and almost as noisy.
They walked down the main street with its uneven stone pavement,
its open shops, its noisy bargains, and above all its horrible
smells. With the exception of an occasional visit from an
official, foreigners scarcely ever came to Tiong-lek, and on
every side were revilings and threatenings. One yellow-faced
youngster picked up a handful of mud and threw it at the hated
foreigners; and "Black-bearded barbarian," mingled with their
shouts. Mackay's bright eyes took in everything, and he realized
more and more the difficulties of the task before him.
They stopped in front of
a low one-story building made of
sun-dried bricks. This was the Tiong-lek hotel where they were
to spend the night. Like most Chinese houses it was composed of a
number of buildings arranged in the form of a square with a
courtyard in the center. Dr. Dickson asked for lodgings from the
slant-eyed proprietor. He looked askance at the foreigners, but
concluded that their money was as good as any one else's, and he
led them through the deep doorway into the courtyard.
In the center of this
yard stood an earthen range, with a fire in
it. Several travelers stood about it cooking their rice. It was
evidently the hotel dining-room; a diningroom that was open to
all too, for chickens clucked and cackled and pigs grunted about
the range and made themselves quite at home. The men about the
gateway scowled and muttered "Foreign devil," as the three
strangers passed them.
They crossed the
courtyard and entered their room, or rather
stumbled into it, in semi-darkness. Mackay peered about him
curiously. He discovered three beds, made of planks and set on
brick pillars for legs. Each was covered with a dirty mat woven
from grass and reeking with the odor of opium smoke.
A servant came in with
something evidently intended for a lamp--a
burning pith wick set in a saucer of peanut oil. It gave out only
a faint glimmer of light, but enough to enable the young
missionary to see something else in the room,--some THINGS
rather, that ran and skipped and swarmed all over the damp
earthen floor and the dirty walls. There were thousands of these
brisk little creatures, all leaping about in pleasant
anticipation ot the good time they would have when the barbarians
went to bed. There was no window, and only the one door that
opened into the courtyard. An old pig, evidently more friendly to
the foreigners than her masters, came waddling toward them
followed by her squealing little brood, and flopping down into
the mud in the doorway lay there uttering grunts of content.
The evil smells of the
room, the stench from the pigs, and the
still more dreadful odors wafted from the queer food cooking on
the range, made the young traveler's unaccustomed senses revolt.
He had a half notion that the two older men were putting up a
joke on him.
"I suppose you thought it
wise to give me a strong dose of all
this at the start?" he inquired humorously, holding his nose and
glancing from the pigs at the door to the crawlers on the wall.
"A strong dose!" laughed
Mr. Ritchie. "Not a bit of it, young
man. Wait till you've had some experience of the luxuries of
Formosan inns. You'll be calling this the Queen's Hotel, before
you've been here long!"
And so indeed it proved
later, for George Mackay had yet much to
learn of the true character of Chinese inns. Needless to say he
spent a wakeful night, on his hard plank bed, and was up early in
the morning. The travelers ate their breakfast in a room where
the ducks and hens clattered about under the table and between
their legs. Fortunately the food was taken from their own stores,
and in spite of the surroundings was quite appetizing.
They started off early,
drawing in great breaths of the pure
morning air, relieved to be away from the odors of the "Queen's
Hotel." Three hundred feet above them, high against the deep blue
of the morning sky, stood Table Hill, and they started on a brisk
climb up its side. The sun had not risen, but already the farmers
were out in their little water-fields, or working in their tea
plantations. The mountain with its groves of bamboo lay reflected
in the little mirrors of the rice-fields. A steady climb brought
them to the summit, and after a long descent on the other side
and a tramp through tea plantations they arrived in the evening
at a large city with a high wall around it, the city of
Tek-chham. That night in the city inn was so much worse than the
one at Tionglek that the Canadian was convinced his friends must
have reserved the "strong dose" for the second night. There were
the same smells, the same sorts of pigs and ducks and hens, the
same breeds of lively nightly companions, and each seemed to have
gained a fresh force.
It was a relief to be out
in the fields again after the foul
odors of the night, and the travelers were off before dawn. The
country looked more familiar to Mackay this morning, for they
passed through wheat and barley fields. It seemed so strange to
wander over a man's farm by a footpath, but it was a Chinese
custom to which he soon became accustomed.
The sun was blazing hot,
and it was a great relief when they
entered the cool shade of a forest. It was a delightful place and
George Mackay reveled in its beauty. Ever since he had been able
to run about his own home farm in Ontario his eyes had always
been wide open to observe anything new. He had studied as much
out of doors, all his life, as he had done in college, and now he
found this forest a perfect library of new Things. Nearly every
tree and flower was strange to his Canadian eyes. Here and there,
in sheltered valleys, grew the tree fern, the most beautiful
object in the forest, towering away up sometimes to a height of
sixty feet, and spreading its stately fronds out to a width of
fifteen feet. There was a lovely big plant with purple stem and
purple leaves, and when Dr. Dickson told him it was the
castor-oil plant, he smiled at the remembrance of the trials that
plant had caused him in younger days. One elegant tree, straight
as a pine, rose fifty feet in height, with leaves away up at the
This was the betel-nut
"The nuts of that tree,"
said Mr. Ritchie, standing and pointing
away up to where the sunlight filtered through the far-off
leaves, "are the chewing tobacco of Formosa and all the islands
about here. The Chinese do not chew it, but the Malayans do. You
will meet some of these natives soon."
On every side grew the
rattan, half tree, half vine. It started
off as a tree and grew straight up often to twenty feet in
height, and then spread itself out over the tops of other trees
and plants in vine-like fashion; some of its branches measured
almost five hundred feet in length.
The travelers paused to
admire one high in the branches of the
"Many a Chinaman loses
his head hunting that plant," remarked Mr.
Ritchie. "These islanders export a great deal of rattan, and the
head-hunters up there in the mountains watch for the Chinese when
they are working in the forest."
Mackay listened eagerly
to his friends' tales of the head-hunting
savages, living in the mountains. They were always on the lookout
for the farmers near their forest lairs. They watched for any
unwary man who went too near the woods, pounced upon him, and
went off in triumph with his head in a bag.
The young traveler's eyes
brightened, "I'll visit them some day!"
he cried, looking off toward the mountainside. Mr. Ritchie glanced
quickly at the flashing eyes and the quick, alert figure of the
young man as he strode along, and some hint came to him of the
dauntless young heart which beat beneath that coat of Canadian
Two days more over hill
and dale, through rice and tea and
tobacco-fields, and then, in the middle of a hot afternoon, Mr.
Ritchie began to shiver and shake as though half frozen. Dr.
Dickson understood, and at the next stopping-place he ordered a
sedan-chair and four coolies to carry it. It was the old dreaded
disease that hangs like a black cloud over lovely Formosa, the
malarial fever. Mr. Ritchie had been a missionary only four years
in the island, but already the scourge had come upon him, and his
system was weakened. For, once seized by malaria in Formosa, one
seldom makes his escape. They put the sick man into the chair,
now in a raging fever, and he was carried by the four coolies.
They were nearing the end
of their journey and were now among a
people not Chinese. They belonged to the original Malayan race of
the island. They had been conquered by the Chinese, who in the
early days came over from China under a pirate named Koxinga. As
the Chinese name every one but themselves "barbarians," they gave
this name to all the natives of the island. They had conquered
all but the dreaded head-hunters, who, free in their mountain
fastnesses, took a terrible toll of heads from their would-be
conquerors, or even from their own half-civilized brethren.
The native Malayans who
had been subdued by the Chinese were
given different names. Those who lived on the great level
rice-plain over which the missionaries were traveling, were
called Pe-po-hoan, "Barbarians of the plain." Mackay could see
little difference between them and the Chinese, except in the
cast of their features, and their long-shaped heads. They wore
Chinese dress, even to the cue, worshiped the Chinese gods, and
spoke with a peculiar Malayan twang.
The travelers were
journeying rather wearily over a low muddy
stretch of ground, picking their way along the narrow paths
between the rice-fields, when they saw a group of men come
hurrying down the path to meet them. They kept calling out, but
the words they used were not the familiar "foreign devil" or
"ugly barbarian." Instead the people were shouting words of
Dr. Dickson hailed them
with delight, and soon he and Mr.
Ritchie's sedan-chair were surrounded by a clamorous group of
They had journeyed so far
south that they had arrived at the
borders of the English Presbyterian mission, and the people
crowding about them were native Christians. It was all so
different from their treatment by the heathen that Mackay's heart
was warmed. When the great stone of heathenism was broken, what
love and kindness were revealed!
The visitors were led in
triumph to the village. There was a
chapel here, and they stayed nearly a week, preaching and
The rest did Mr. Ritchie
much good, and at the end of their visit
he was once more able to start off on foot. They moved on
from village to village and everywhere the Pe-po-hoan Christians
received them with the greatest hospitality.
But at last the three
friends found the time had come for them to
part. The two Englishmen had to go on through their fields to
their south Formosan home and the young Canadian must go back to
fight the battle alone in the north of the island. He had
endeared himself to the two older men, and when the farewells
came they were filled with regret.
They bade him a lingering
good-by, with many blessings upon his
young head, and many prayers for success in the hard fight upon
which he was entering. They walked a short way with him, and
stood watching the straight, lithe young figure, so full of
courage and hope until it disappeared down the valley. They knew
only too well the dangers and trials ahead of him, but they knew
also that he was not going into the fight alone. For the Captain
was going with his young soldier.
There was a suspicion of
moisture in the eyes of the older
missionaries as they turned back to prepare for their own journey
"God bless the boy!" said
Dr. Dickson fervently. "We'll hear of
that young fellow yet, Ritchie. He's on fire."