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The Black-Bearded Barbarian
Chapter 6 - The Great Kai Bok-Su


The missionary was now becoming a familiar figure both in Tamsui and in the surrounding country. By many he was loved, by all hd was respected, but by a large number he was bitterly hated. The scholars continued his worst enemies. They could never forgive him for beating them so completely in argument, in the days when A Hoa was striving for the light, and their hatred increased as they saw other scholars becoming Christians under his teaching. There was something about him, however, that compelled their respect and even their admiration. Wherever they met him--on the street, by their temples, or on the country roads--he bore himself in such a way as to make them confess that he was their superior both in ability and knowledge.

These Chinese literati had a custom which Mackay found very interesting. One proud scholar marching down the street and scarcely noticing the obsequious bows of his inferiors, would meet another equally proud scholar. Each would salute the other in an exceedingly grand manner, and then one would spin off a quotation from the writings of Confucius or some other Chinese sage and say, "Now tell me where that is found." And scholar number two had to ransack his brains to remember where the saying was found, or else confess himself beaten. Mackay thought it might be a good habit for the graduates of his own alma mater across the wide sea to adopt. He wondered what some of his old college chums would think, if, when he got back to Canada, he should buttonhole one on the street some day, recite a quotation from Shakespeare or Macaulay, and demand from his friend where it could be found. He had a suspicion that the old friend would be afraid that the Oriental sun had touched George Mackay's brain.

Nevertheless he thought the custom one he could turn to good account, and before long he was trying it himself. He had such a wonderful memory that he never forgot anything he had once read. So the scholars of north Formosa soon discovered, again to their humiliation, that this Kai Bok-su of Tamsui could beat them at their own game. They did not care how much he might profess to know of writers and lands beyond China. Such were only barbarians anyway. But when, right before a crowd, he would display a surer knowledge of the Chinese classics than they themselves, they began not only to respect but to fear him. It was no use trying to humiliate him with a quotation. With his bright eyes flashing, he would tell, without a moment's hesitation, where it was found and come back at the questioner swiftly with another, most probably one long forgotten, and reel it off as though he had studied Chinese all his life.

He was a wonderful man certainly, they all agreed, and one whom it was not safe to oppose. The common people liked him better every day. He was so tactful, so kind, and always so careful not to arouse the prejudice of the heathen. He was extremely wise in dealing with their superstitions. No matter how absurd or childish they might be, he never ridiculed them, but only strove to show the people how much happier they might be if they believed in God as their Father and in Jesus Christ as their Savior. He never made light of anything sacred to the Chinese mind, but always tried to take whatever germ of good he could find in their religion, and lead on from it to the greater good found in Christianity. He discovered that the ancestral worship made the younger people kind and respectful to older folk, and he saw that Chinese children reverenced their parents and elders in a way that he felt many of his young friends across the sea would do well to copy.

One day when he and A Hoa were out on a preaching tour, the wise Kai Bok-su made use of this respect for parents in quieting a mob. He and his comrade were standing side by side on the steps of a heathen temple as they had done at Kelung. The angry crowd was scowling and muttering, ready to throw stones as soon as the preacher uttered. a word. Mackay knew this, and when they had sung a hymn and the people waited, ready for a riot, his voice rang out clear and steady, repeating the fifth commandment "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." A silence fell over the muttering crowd, and an old heathen whose cue was white and whose aged hands trembled on the top of his staff, nodded his head and said, "That is heavenly doctrine." The people were surprised and disarmed. If the black-bearded barbarian taught such truths as this, he surely was not so very wicked after all. And so they listened attentively as he went on to show that they had all one great Father, even God.

He sometimes found it rather a task to treat with respect that which the Chinese held sacred. Especially was this so when he discovered to his amusement and to some carefully concealed disgust, that in the Chinese family the pig was looked upon with affection, and as a young naval officer, who visited Mackay remarked, "was treated like a gentleman."

Every Chinese house of any size was made up of three buildings joined together so as to make three sides of an enclosure. This space was called a court, and a door led from it to another next the street. In this outer yard pigs and fowl were always to be found. Whenever the missionary dropped in at a home, mother pig and all the little pigs often followed him inside the house, quite like members of the family. Every one was always glad to see Kai Bok-su, pigs and all, and as soon as he appeared the order was given--"Infuse tea." And when the little handleless cups of clear brown liquid were passed around and they all drank and chatted, Mrs. Pig and her children strolled about as welcome as the guest.

The Chinese would allow no one to hurt their pigs, either. One day as Mackay sat in his rooms facing the river, battling with some new Chinese characters, he heard a great hubbub coming up the street. The threatening mobs that used to surround his house had long ago ceased to trouble him. He arose in some surprise and went to the  door to see what was the matter. A very  unusual sight for Tamsui met his gaze. Coming up the street at a wild run were some half-dozen English sailors, their loose blue blouses and trousers flapping madly. They were evidently from a ship which Mackay had seen lying in the harbor that morning.

"Give us a gun!" roared the foremost as soon as he saw the missionary.

Mackay did not possess a gun, and would not have given the enraged bluejacket one  had he owned a dozen. But the Chinese mob, roaring with fury, were coming up the  street after the men and he swiftly pointed out a narrow alley that led down to the river. "Run down there!" he shouted to the sailors. "You can get to your boats before they find you."

They were gone in an instant, and the next moment the crowd of pursuers were storming about the door demanding whither the enemy had disappeared.

"What is all this disturbance about?" demanded Kai Bok-su calmly, glad of an opportunity to gain time for the fleeing sailors.

The aggrieved Chinese gathered about him, each telling the story as loud as his voice would permit. Those barbarians of the sea had come swaggering along the streets waving their big sticks. And they had dared--yes actually DARED--to hit the pet pigs belonging to every house as they passed. The poor pigs who lay sunning themselves at the door!

This was indeed a serious offense. Mackay could picture the rollicking sailor-lads gaily whacking the lazy porkers with their canes as they passed, happily unconscious of the trouble they were raising. But there was no amusement in Kai B ok-sn's grave face. He spoke kindly, and soothingly, and promised that if the offenders misbehaved again he would complain to the authorities. That made it all right. Heathen though they were, they knew Kai Bok-su's promise would not be broken, and away they went quite satisfied.

One day he learned, quite by accident, a new and very useful way of helping his people. He and A Hoa and several other young men who had become Christians, went on a missionary tour to Tek-chham, a large city which he had visited once before.

On the day they left the place, Kai Boksu's preaching had drawn such crowds that the authorities of the city became afraid of him. And when the little party left, a dozen soldiers were sent to follow the dangerous  barbarian and his students and see that they did not bewitch the people on the road.

The soldiers tramped along after the missionary party, and with his usual ability to  make use of any situation, Mackay stepped back and chatted with his spies. He found one poor fellow in agony with the toothache. This malady was very common in north Formosa, partly owing to the habit of chewing the betel-nut. He examined the aching tooth and found it badly decayed. "There is a worm in it," the soldier said, for the Formosan doctors had taught the people this was the cause of toothache.

Mackay had no forceps, but he knew how to pull a tooth, and he was not the sort to be daunted by the lack of tools. He got a piece of hard wood, whittled it into shape and with it pried out the tooth. The relief from pain was so great that the soldier almost wept for joy and overwhelmed the tooth-puller with gratitude. And for the remainder of the journey the guards sent to spy on the missionary's doings were his warmest friends.

After this, dentistry became a part of this many-sided missionary's work. He went to a native blacksmith and had a pair of forceps hammered out of iron. It was a rather clumsy instrument, but it proved of great value, and later he sent for a complete set of the best instruments made in New York.

So with forceps in one hand and the Bible in the other, Mackay found himself doubly equipped. Every second person seemed to be suffering from toothache, and when the pain was relieved by the missionary, the patient was in a state of mind to receive his teaching kindly. The cruel methods by which the native doctors extracted teeth  often caused more suffering than the toothache, and sometimes even resulted in death through blood-poisoning.

A Hoa and some of the other young converts learned from their teacher how to pull a tooth, and they, too, became experts in the art.

Whenever they visited a town or city after this, they had a program which they always followed. First they would place themselves in front of an idol temple or in  an open square. Here they would sing a  hymn which always attracted a crowd. Next, any one who wanted a tooth pulled was invited to come forward. Many accepted the invitation gladly and sometimes a long line of twenty or thirty would be waiting, each  his turn. The Chinese had considerable  nerve, the Canadian discovered, and stood  the pain bravely. They literally "stood" it, too, for there was no dentist's chair and  every man stood up for his operation, very much pleased and very grateful when it was over. Then there were quinine and other simple remedies for malaria handed round, for in a Formosan crowd there were often many shaking in the grip of this terrible disease. And now, having opened the people's hearts by his kindness, Kai Bok-su brought forth his cure for souls. He would mount the steps of the temple or stand on a box or stone, and tell the wonderful old story of the man Jesus who was also God, and who said to all sick and weary and troubled ones, "Come unto me, . . . and I will give you rest." And often, when he had finished, the disease of sin in many a heart was cured by the remedy of the gospel.

And so the autumn passed away happily and busily, and Mackay entered his first Formosan winter. And such a winter! The young man who had felt the clear, bright cold of a Canadian January needed all his fine courage to bear up under its dreariness. It started about Christmas time. Just when his own people far away in Canada were gathering about the blazing fire or jingling over the crisp snow in sleighs and cutters, the great winter rains commenced. Christmas day--his first Christmas in a land that did not know its beautiful meaning--was one long dreary downpour. It rained steadily all Christmas week. It poured on New Year's day and for a week after. It came down in torrents all January. February set  in and still it rained and rained, with only a short interval each afternoon. Day and night, week in, week out, it poured, until Mackay forgot what sunlight looked like. His house grew damp, his clothes moldy. A stream broke out up in the hill behind and one morning he awoke to find a cascade tumbling into his kitchen, and rushing across the floor out into the river beyond. And still it poured and the wind blew and everything was damp and cold and dreary.

He caught an occasional glimpse of snow, only a very far-off view, for it lay away up on the top of a mountain, but it made his heart long for just one breath of good dry Canadian air, just one whiff of the keen, cutting frost.

But Kai Bok-su was not the sort to spend these dismal days repining. Indeed he had no time, even had he been so inclined. His work filled up every minute of every rainy day and hours of the drenched night. If there was no sunshine outside there was plenty in his brave heart, and A Hoa 's whole nature radiated brightness.

And there were many reasons for being happy after all. On the second Sabbath of February, 1873, just one year after his arrival in Tamsui, the missionary announced, at the close of one of his Sabbath services, that he would receive a number into the Christian church. There was instantly a commotion among the heathen who were in the house, and yells and jeers from those crowding about the door outside.

"We'll stop him," they shouted. "Let us beat the converts," was another cry.

But Mackay went quietly on with the beautiful ceremony in spite of the disturbance. Five young men, with A Hoa at their head, came and were baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

When the next Sabbath came these five with their missionary sat down for the first time to partake of the Lord's Supper. It was a very impressive ceremony. One young fellow broke down, declaring he was not worthy. Mackay took him alone into his little room and they prayed together, and the young man came out to the Lord's Supper comforted, knowing that all might be worthy in Jesus Christ.

Spring came at last, bright and clear, and Mackay announced to A Hoa that they must go up the river and visit their friends at Goko-khi. The two did not go alone this time. Three other young men who wanted to be missionaries were now spending their days with their teacher, learning with A Hoa how to preach the gospel. So it was quite a little band of disciples that walked along the river bank up to Go-ko-khi. Mackay preached at all the villages along the route, and visited the homes of Christians.

One day, as they passed a yamen or Chinese court-house where a mandarin was trying some cases, they stepped in to see what was going on. At one end of the room sat the mandarin who was judge. He was dressed in magnificent silks and looked down very haughtily upon the lesser people and the retinue of servants who were gathered about him. On either side of the room stood a row of constables and near them the executioners. The rest of the room was filled with friends of the people on trial and by the rabble from the street. The missionaries mixed with the former and stood watching proceedings. There were no lawyers, no jury. The mandarin's decision was law.

The first case was one of theft. Whether the man had really committed the crime or not was a question freely discussed among the onlookers around Mackay. But there seemed no doubt as to his punishment being swift and heavy. "He has not paid the mandarin," a friend explained to the missionary. "He will be punished."

"The mandarin eats cash," remarked another with a shrug. It was a saying to which Mackay had become accustomed. For it was one of the shameless proverbs of poor, oppressed Formosa.

The case was soon finished. Nothing was definitely proven against the man. But the mandarin pronounced the sentence of death. The victim was hurried out, shrieking his innocence, and praying for mercy. Case followed case, each one becoming more revolting than the last to the eyes of the young man accustomed to British justice. Imprisonment and torture were meted out to prisoners, and even witnesses were laid hold of and beaten on the face by the executioners if their tale did not suit the mandarin. Men who were plainly guilty but Who had given their judge a liberal bribe were let off, while innocent men were made to pay heavy fines or were thrown into prison. The young missionary went out and on his way sickened by the sights he had witnessed. And as he went, he raised his eyes to heaven and prayed fervently that he might be a faithful preacher of the gospel, and that one day Formosa would be a Christian land and injustice and oppression be done away.

The next scene was a happier one. There  was an earnest little band of Christians in Go-ko-khi, and two of the young people were about to be married. It was the first Christian marriage in the place and Kai Bok-su was called upon to officiate. There was a great deal of opposition raised among the heathen, but after seeing the ceremony, they all voted a Christian wedding everything that was beautiful and good.


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