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The Black-Bearded Barbarian
Chapter 5 - Soldiers Two


And now a new day dawned for the only lonely young missionary. He had not a convert but a helper and a delightful companion. His new friend was of a bright, joyous nature, the sort that everybody loves. Giam was his surname, but almost every one called him by his given name, Hoa, and those  who knew him best called him A Hoa. Mackay  used this more familiar boyish name, for Giam was the younger by a few years.

To A Hoa his new friend was always Pastor Mackay, or as the Chinese put it, Mackay Pastor, Kai Bok-su was the real Chinese of it, and Kai Bok-su soon became a name known all over the island of Formosa.

A Hoa needed all his kind new friend's help in the first days after his conversion. For family, relatives, and friends turned upon him with the bitterest hatred for taking up the barbarian's religion. So, driven from his friends, he came to live in the little hut by the river with Mackay. While at home these two read, sang, and studied together all the day long. It would have been hard for an observer to guess who was teacher and who pupil. For at one time A IIoa was receiving Bible instruction and the next time Mackay was being drilled in the Chinese of the educated classes. Each teacher was as eager to instruct as each pupil was eager to learn.

The Bible was, of course, the chief textbook, but they studied other things, astronomy, geology, history, and similar subjects. One day the Canadian took out a map of the world, and the Chinese gazed with amazement at the sight of the many large countries outside China. A Hoa had been private secretary to a mandarin, and had traveled much in China, and once spent six months in Peking. His idea had been that China was everything, that all countries outside it were but insignificant barbarian places. His geography lessons were like revelations.

His progress was simply astonishing, as was also Mackay's. The two seemed possessed with the spirit of hard work. But a superstitious old man who lived near believed they were possessed with a demon. He often listened to the two singing, drilling, and repeating words as they marched up and down, either in the house or in front of it, and he became alarmed. He was a kindly old fellow, and, though a heathen, felt well disposed toward the missionary and A Hoa. So one day, very much afraid, he slipped over to the little house with two small cups of strong tea. He came to the door and proffered them with a polite bow. He hoped they might prove soothing to the disturbed nerves of the patients, he said. He suggested, also, that a visit to the nearest temple might help them.

The two affected ones received his advice politely, but the humor of it struck them both, and when their visitor was gone they laughed so hard the tea nearly choked them.

The missionary was soon able to speak so fluently that he preached almost every day, either in the little house by the river, or on the street in some open square. There were other things he did, too. On every side he saw great suffering from disease. The chief malady was the terrible malaria, and the native doctors with their ridiculous remedies only made the poor sufferers worse. Mackay had studied medicine for a short time while in college, and now found his knowledge very useful. He gave some simple remedies to several victims of malaria which proved effective. The news of the cures spread far and wide. The barbarian was kind, he had a good heart, the people declared. Many more came to him for medicine, and day by day the circle of his friends grew. And wherever he went, curing disease, teaching, or preaching, A Hoa went with him, and shared with him the taunts of their heathen enemies.

But the gospel was gradually making its way. Not long after A Hoa's conversion a second man confessed Christ. He had previously disturbed the meetings by throwing stones into the doorway whenever he passed. But his sister was cured of malaria by the missionary's medicine, and soon both sister  and mother became Christians, and finally the stone-thrower himself. And so, gradually, the lines of the enemy were falling back, and at every sign of retreat the little army of two advanced. A little army? No! For was there not the whole host of heaven  moving with them? And Mackay was learning that his boyish dreams of glory were  truly to be fulfilled. He had wanted always to be a soldier like his grandfather, and fight a great Waterloo, and here he was  right in the midst of the battle with the victory and the glory sure.

The two missionaries often went on short trips here and there into the country around Tamsui, and Mackay determined that when the intense summer heat had lessened they would make a long tour to some of the large cities. The heat of August was almost overpowering to the Canadian. Flies and mosquitoes and insect pests of all kinds made his life miserable, too, and prevented his studying as hard as he wished.

One oppressive day he and A Hoa returned from a preaching tour in the country to find their home in a state of siege. Right across the threshold lay a monster serpent, eight feet in length. A Hoa shouted a warning, and seized a long pole, and the two managed to kill it. But their troubles were not yet over. The next morning, Mackay stepped outside the door and sprang back just in time to escape another, the mate of the one killed. This one was even larger than the first, and was very fierce. But they finished it with sticks and stones.

When September came the days grew clearer, and the many pests of summer were not so numerous. The mosquitoes and flies that had been such torments disappeared, and there was some relief from the damp oppressive heat. But he had only begun to enjoy the refreshing breaths of cool air, and had remarked to A Hoa that the days reminded him of Canadian summers, when the weather gave him to understand that every Formosan season has its drawbacks. September brought tropical storms and typhoons that were terrible, and he saw from his little house on the hillside big trees torn up by the root, buildings swept away like chaff, and out in the harbor great ships lifted from their anchorage and whirled away to destruction. And then he was sometimes thankful that his little hut was built into the hillside, solid and secure.

But the fierce storms cleared away the heavy dampness that had made the heat of the summer so unbearable, and October and November brought delightful days. The weather was still warm of course, but the nights were cool and pleasant.

So early one October morning, Mackay and A Hoa started off on a tour to the cities.

"We shall go to Kelung first," said the missionary. Kelung was a seaport city on the northern coast, straight east across the island from Tamsui. A coolie to carry food and clothing was hired, and early in the morning, while the stars were still shining, they passed through the sleeping town and out on the little paths between the rice-fields. Though it was yet scarcely daylight, the farmers were already in their fields. It was harvest-time--the second harvest of the year --and the little rice-fields were no longer like mirrors, but were filled with high rustling grain ready for the sickle. The water had been drained off and the reaper and thrasher were going through the fields before dawn. There was no machinery like that used at home. The reaper was a short sickle, the thrashing-machine a kind of portable tub, and Mackay looked at them with some amusement, and described to A Hoa how they took off the great wheat crops in western Canada.

The two were in high spirits, ready for any sort of adventure and they met some. Toward evening they reached a place called Sek-khau, and went to the little brick inn to get a sleeping-place. The landlord came to the door and was about to bid A Hoa enter, when the light fell upon Mackay's face. With a shout, "Black-bearded barbarian!" he slammed the door in their faces. They turned away, but already a crowd had begun to gather. "The black-bearded barbarian is here! The foreign devil from Tamsui has come!" was the cry. The mob followed the two down the streets, shouting curses. Some one threw a broken piece of brick, another a stone. Mackay turned and faced them, and for a few moments they seemed cowed. But the crowd was increasing, and he deemed it wise to move on. So the two marched out of the town followed by stones and curses. And, as they went, Mackay reminded A Hoa of what they had been reading the night before.

"Yes," said A Hoa brightly. "The Lord  was driven out of his own town in Galilee."

 "Yes, and Paul--you remember how he  was stoned. Our Master counts us worthy to suffer for him."  But where to go was the question. Before they could decide, night came down upon them, and it came in that sudden tropical way to which Mackay, all his life accustomed to the long mellow twilights of his northern home, could never grow accustomed. They each took a torch out of the carrier's bag, lighted it, and marched bravely on. The path led along the Kelung river, through tall grass. They were not sure where it led to, but thought it wise to follow the river; they would surely come to Kelung some time. Mackay was ahead, A Hoa right at his heels, and behind them the basket bearer. At a sudden turn in the path A Hoa gave a shout of warning, and the next instant, a band of robbers leaped from the long reeds and grass, and brandished their spears in the travelers' faces. The torchlight shone on their fierce evil eyes and their long knives, making a horrible picture. The young Canadian Scot did not flinch for a second. He looked the wild leader straight in the face.

"We have no money, so you cannot rob us," he said steadily, "and you must let us pass at once. I am a teacher and--"

"A TEACHER!" he was interrupted by a dismayed exclamation from several of the wild band. "A teacher!" As if with one accord they turned and fled into the darkness. For even a highwayman in China respects a man of learning. The travelers went on again, with something of relief and something of the exultation that youth feels in having faced danger. But a second trouble was upon them. One of those terrible storms that still raged occasionally had been brewing all evening, and now it opened its artillery. Great howling gusts came down from the mountain, carrying sheets of driving rain. Their torches went out like matches, and they were left to stagger along in the black darkness. What were they to do? They could not go back. They could not stay there. They scarcely dared go on. For they did not know the way, and any moment a fresh blast of wind or a misstep might hurl them into the river. But they decided that they must go on, and on they went, stumbling, slipping, sprawling, and falling outright. Now there would be an exclamation from Mackay as he sank to the knees in the mud of a rice-field, now a groan from A Hoa as he fell over a boulder and bruised and scratched himself, and oftenest a yell from the poor coolie, as he slipped, baskets and all, into some rocky crevice, and was sure he was tumbling into the river; but they staggered on, Mackay secure in his faith in God. His Father knew and his Father would keep him safely. And behind him came brave young A Hoa, buoyed up by his new growing faith, and learning the lesson that sometimes the Captain asks his soldier to march into hard encounters, but that the soldier must never flinch.

The "everlasting arms" were around them, for by midnight they reached Kelung. They were drenched, breathless, and worn out, and they spent the night in a damp hovel, glad of any shelter from the wind and rain.

But the next morning, young soldier A Hoa had a fiercer battle to fight than any with robbers or storms. As soon as the city was astir, Mackay and he went out to find a good place to preach. They passed down the main thoroughfare, and everywhere they attracted attention. Cries of "Ugly barbarian!" and oftenest "Black-bearded barbarian" were heard on all sides. A Hoa was known in Kelung and contempt and ridicule was heaped upon him by his old college acquaintances. He was consorting with the barbarian! He was a friend of this foreigner! They poured more insults upon  him than they did upon the barbarian himself. Some took the stranger as a joke, and laughed and made funny remarks upon his appearance. Here and there an old woman, peeping through the doorway, would utter a loud cackling laugh, and pointing a wizened finger at the missionary would cry: "Eh, eh, look at him! Tee hee! He's got a wash basin on for a hat!" A Hoa was distressed at these remarks, but Mackay was highly amused.

"We're drawing a crowd, anyway," he remarked cheerfully, "and that's what we want"

Soon they came to an open square in front of a heathen temple. The building had several large stone steps leading up to the door. Mackay mounted them and stood facing the buzzing crowd, with A Hoa at his side. They started a hymn.

All people that on earth do dwell Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.

The open square in front of them began to fill rapidly. The people jostled each other in their endeavors to get a view of the barbarian. Every one was curious, but every one was angry and indignant, so sometimes the sound of the singing was lost in the shouts of derision.

When the hymn was finished, Mackay had a sudden inspiration. "They will surely listen to one of their own people," he said to himself, and turned to A Hoa.

"Speak to them," he said. "Tell them about the true God."

That was a hard moment for the young convert. He had been a Christian only a few months and had never yet spoken in public for Christ. He looked desperately over the sea of mocking faces beneath him. He opened his mouth, as though to speak, and hesitated. Just then came a rough and bitter taunt from one of his old companions. It was too much. A Hoa turned away and hung his head.

The young missionary said nothing. But he did the very wisest thing he could have done. He had some time before taught A Hoa a grand old Scottish paraphrase, and they had often sung it together:

I'm not ashamed to own my Lord
Or to defend his cause,
Maintain the glory of his cross
And honor all his laws.

Mackay's voice, loud and clear, burst into this fine old hymn. A Hoa taised his head. He joined in the hymn and sang it to the end. It put mettle into him. It was the battle-song that brought back the young recruit's courage. Almost before the last note sounded he began to speak. His voice rang out bold and unafraid over the crowd of angry heathen.

"I am a Christian!" he said distinctly. "I worship the true God. I cannot worship idols," with a gesture toward the temple door, "that rats can destroy. I am not afraid. I love Jesus. He is my Savior and Friend."

No, A Hoa was not "ashamed" any more. His testing time had come, and he had not failed after all. And his brave, true words sent a thrill of joy through the more seasoned soldier at his side.

That was not the only difficult situation he met on that journey. The two soldiers of the cross had many trials, but the thrill of that victory before the Kelung temple never left them.

When they returned to Tamsui they held daily services in their house, and A Hoa often spoke to the people who gathered there.

One Sunday they noticed an old woman present, who had come down the river in a boat. Women as a rule did not come out to the meetings, but this old lady continued to come every Sunday. She showed great interest in the missionary's words, and, at the close of one meeting, he spoke to her. She told him she was a poor widow, that her name was Thah-so, and that she had come down the river from Go-ko-khi to hear him preach. Then she added, "I have passed through many trials in this world, and my idols never gave me any comfort." Then her eyes shone, "But I like your teaching very much," she went on. "I believe the God you tell about will give me peace.. I will come again, and bring others."

Next Sunday she was there with several  other women. And after that she came every Sunday, bringing more each time, until at last a whole boat-load would come down to the service.

These people were so interested that they asked the missionary if he would not visit them. So one day he and A Hoa boarded one of the queer-looking flat-bottomed river-boats and were pulled up the rapids to Go ko-khi. Every village in Formosa had its headman, who is virtually the ruler of the  place. When the boat landed, many of the villagers were at the shore to meet their visitors and took them at once to their mayor's house, the best building in the village. Tan Paugh, a fine, big, powerfully-built man, received them cordially. He frankly declared that he was tired and sick of idols and wanted to hear more of this new religion. An empty granary was obtained for both church and home, and the missionary and his assistant took up their quarters there, and for several months they remained, preaching and teaching the Bible either in Go-ho-khi, or in the lovely surrounding valleys.


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