The news was soon noised about Tamsui that one of the three barbarians who had so lately visited the town had returned to make the place his home. This was most unwelcome tidings to the heathen, and the air was filled with mutterings and threatenings, and every one was determined to drive the foreign devil out if at all possible.
So Mackay found himself meeting every kind of opposition. He was too independent to ask assistance from the British consul in the old Dutch fort on the bluff, or of any other European settlers in Tamsui. He was bound to make his own way. But it was not easy to do so in view of the forces which opposed him. He had now been in Formosa about two months and had studied the Chinese language every waking hour, but it was very difficult, and he found his usually ready tongue wofully handicapped.
His first concern was to get a dwelling-place, and he went from house to house inquiring for some place to rent. Everywhere he went he was turned away with rough abuse, and occasionally the dogs were set upon him.
But at last he was successful. Up on the bank of the river, a little way from the edge of the town, he found a place which the owner condescended to rent. It was a miserable little hut, half house, half cellar, built into the side of the hill facing the river. A military officer had intended it for his horse-stable, and yet Mackay paid for this hovel the sum of fifteen dollars a month. It had three rooms, one without a floor. The road ran past the door, and a few feet beyond was the river. By spending money rather liberally he managed to hire the coolie who had accompanied him to south Formosa. With his servant's help Mackay had his new establishment thoroughly cleaned and whitewashed, and then he moved in his furniture. He laughed as he called it furniture, for it consisted of but two packing boxes full of books and clothing. But more came later. The British consul, Mr. Frater, lent him a chair and a bed. There was one old Chinese, who kept a shop near by, and who seemed inclined to be friendly to the queer barbarian with the black beard. He presented him with an old pewter lamp, and the house was furnished complete.
Mackay sat down at his one table, the first night after he was settled. The damp air was hot and heavy, and swarms of tormenting mosquitoes filled the room. Through the open door came the murmur of the river, and from far down in the village the sounds of harsh, clamorous voices. He was alone, many, many miles from home and friends. Around him on every side were bitter enemies.
One might have supposed he would be overcome at the thought of the stupendous task before him, but whoever supposed that did not know George Mackay. He lighted his pewter lamp, opened his diary, and these are the words he wrote:
"Here I am in this house, having been led all the way from the old homestead in Zorra by Jesus, as direct as though my boxes were labeled, 'Tamsui, Formosa, China.' Oh, the glorious privilege to lay the foundation of Christ's Church in unbroken heathenism! God help me to do this with the open Bible! Again I swear allegiance to thee, O King Jesus, my Captain. So help me God!"
And now his first duty was to learn the Chinese language. He could already speak a little, but it would be a long time, he knew, before he could preach. And yet, how was he to learn? he asked himself. He was a scholar without a teacher or school. But there was his servant, and nothing daunted by the difficulties to be overcome, he set to work to make him his teacher also.
George Mackay always went at any task with all his might and main, and he attacked the Chinese language in the same manner. He found it a hard stone to break, however. "Of all earthly things I know of," he remarked once, "it is the most intricate and difficult to master."
His unwilling teacher was just about as hard to manage as his task, for the coolie did not take kindly to giving lessons. He certainly had a rather hard time. Day and night his master deluged him with questions. He made him repeat phrases again and again until his pupil could say them correctly. He asked him the name of everything inside the house and out, until the easy-going Oriental was overcome with dismay. This wild barbarian, with the fiery eyes and the black beard, was a terrible creature who gave one no rest night nor day. Sometimes after Mackay had spent hours with him, imitating sounds and repeating the names of things over and over, his harassed teacher would back out of the room stealthily, keeping an anxious eye on his master, and showing plainly he had grave fears that the foreigner had gone quite mad.
Mackay realized that the pace was too hard for his servant, and that the poor fellow was in a fair way to lose what little wits he had, if not left alone occasionally. So one day he wandered out along the riverbank, in search of some one who would talk with him. He turned into a path that led up the hill behind the town. He was in hopes he might meet a farmer who would be friendly.
When he reached the top of the bluff he found a grassy common stretching back toward the rice-fields. Here and there over these downs strayed the queer-looking water-buffaloes. Some of them were plunged deep in pools of water, and lay there like pigs with only their noses out.
He heard a merry laugh and shout from another part of the common, and there sat a crowd of frolicsome Chinese boys, in large sun hats, and short loose trousers. There were about a dozen of them, and they were supposed to be herding the water-buffaloes to keep them out of the unfenced fields. But, boylike, they were flying kites, and letting their huge-horned charges herd themselves.
Mackay walked over toward them. It was not so long since he had been a boy himself, and these jolly lads appealed to him. But the moment one caught sight of the stranger, he gave a shout of alarm. The rest jumped up, and with yells of terror and cries of "Here's the foreign devil!" "Run, or the foreign devil will get you!" away they went helter-skelter, their big hats waving, their loose clothes flapping wildly. They all disappeared like magic behind a big boulder, and the cause of their terror had to walk away.
But the next day, when his servant once more showed signs of mental exhaustion, he strolled out again upon the downs. The boys were there and saw him coming. Though they did not actually run away this time, they retired to a safe distance, and stood ready to fly at any sign of the barbarian's approach. They watched him wonderingly. They noticed his strange white face, his black beard, his hair cut off quite short, his amazing hat, and his ridiculous clothes. And when at last he walked away, and all danger was over, they burst into shouts of laughter.
The next day, as they scampered about the common, here again came the absurd-looking stranger, walking slowly, as though careful not to frighten them. The boys did not run away this time, and to their utter astonishment he spoke to them. Mackay had practised carefully the words he was to say to them, and the well-spoken Chinese astounded the lads as much as if one of the monkeys that gamboled about the trees of their forests should come down and say, "How do you do, boys?"
"Why, he speaks our words!" they all cried at once.
As they stood staring, Mackay took out his watch and held it up for them to see. It glittered in the sun, and at the sight of it and the kind smiling face above, they lost their fears and crowded around him. They examined the watch in great wonder. They handled his clothes, exclaimed over the buttons on his coat, and inquired what they were for. They felt his hands and his fingers, and finally decided that, in spite of his queer looks, he was after all a man.
From that day the young missionary and the herd-boys were great friends. Every day he joined them in the buffalo pasture, and would spend from four to five hours with them. And as they were very willing to talk, he not only learned their language rapidly, but also learned much about their homes, their schools, their customs, and their religion.
One day, after a lengthy lesson from his servant, the latter decided that the barbarian was unbearable, and bundling up his clothes he marched off, without so much as "by your leave." So Mackay fell back entirely upon his little teachers on the common. With their assistance in the daytime and his Chinese-English dictionary at night, he made wonderful progress.
He was left alone now, to get his own meals and keep the swarms of flies and the damp mold out of his hut by the riverside. He soon learned to eat rice and water-buffalo meat, but he missed the milk and butter and cheese of his old Canadian home. For he discovered that cows were never milked in Formosa. There was variety of food, however, as almost every kind of vegetable that he had ever tasted and many new kinds that he found delicious were for sale in the open-fronted shops in the village. Then the fruits! They were fresh at all seasons -- oranges the whole year, bananas fresh from the fields -- and such pineapples! He realized that he had never really tasted pineapples before.
Meanwhile, he was becoming acquainted. All the families of the herd-boys learned to like him, and when others came to know him they treated him with respect. He was a teacher, they learned, and in China a teacher is always looked upon with something like reverence. And, besides, he had a beard. This appendage was considered very honorable among Chinese, so the black-bearded barbarian was respected because of this.
But there was one class that treated him with the greatest scorn. These were the Chinese scholars. They were the literati, and were like princes in the land. They despised every one who was not a graduate of their schools, and most of all they despised this barbarian who dared to set himself up as a teacher. Mackay had now learned Chinese well enough to preach, and his sermons aroused the indignation of these proud graduates.
Sometimes when one was passing the little hut by the river, he would drop in, and glance around just to see what sort of place the barbarian kept. He would pick up the Bible and other books, throw them on the floor, and with words of contempt strut proudly out.
Mackay endured this treatment patiently, but he set himself to study their books, for he felt sure that the day was not far distant when he must meet these conceited literati in argument.
He went about a good deal now. The Tamsui people became accustomed to him, and he was not troubled much. His bright eyes were always wide open and he learned much of the lives of the people he had come to teach. Among the poor he found a poverty of which he had never dreamed. They could live upon what a so-called poor family in Canada would throw away. Nothing was wasted in China. He often saw the meat and fruit tins he threw away when they were emptied, reappearing in the market-place. He learned that these poorer people suffered cruel wrongs at the hands of their magistrates. He visited a yamen, or court-house, and saw the mandarin dispense "justice," but his judgment was said to be always given in favor of the one who paid him the highest bribe. He saw the widow robbed, and the innocent suffering frightful tortures, and sometimes he strode home to his little hut by the river, his blood tingling with righteous indignation. And then he would pray with all his soul:
"O God, give me power to teach these people of thy love through Jesus Christ!"
But of all the horrors of heathenism, and there were many, he found the religion the most dreadful. He had read about it when on board ship, but he found it was infinitely worse when written in men's lives than when set down in print. He never realized what a blessing was the religion of Jesus Christ to a nation until he lived among a people who did not know Him.
He found almost as much difficulty in learning the Chinese religion as the Chinese language. After he had spent days trying to understand it, it would seem to him like some horrible nightmare filled with wicked devils and no less wicked gods and evil spirits and ugly idols. And to make matters worse there was not one religion, but a bewildering mixture of three. First of all there was the ancient Chinese religion, called Confucianism. Confucius, a wise man of China, who lived ages before, had laid down some rules of conduct, and had been worshiped ever since. Very good rules they were as far as they went, and if the Chinese had followed this wise man they would not have drifted so far from the truth. But Confucianism meant ancestor-worship. In every home was a little tablet with the names of the family's ancestors upon it, and every one in the house worshiped the spirits of those departed. With this was another religion called Taoism. This taught belief in wicked demons who lurked about people ready to do them some ill. Then, years and years before, some people from India had brought over their religion, Buddhism, which had become a system of idol-worship. These three religions were so mixed up that the people themselves were not able to distinguish between them. The names of their idols would cover pages, and an account of their religion would fill volumes. The more Mackay learned of it, the more he yearned to tell the people of the one God who was Lord and Father of them all.
As soon as he had learned to write clearly, he bought a large sheet of paper, and printed on it the ten commandments in Chinese characters. Then he hung it on the outside of his door. People who passed read it and made comments of various kinds. Several threw mud at it, and at last a proud graduate, who came striding past his silk robes rustling grandly, caught the paper and tore it down. Mackay promptly put up another. It shared the fate of the first. Then he put up a third, and the people let it alone. Even these heathen Chinese were beginning to get an impression of the dauntless determination of the man with whom they were to get much better acquainted.
And all this time, while he was studying and working and arguing with the heathen and preaching to them, the young missionary was working just as hard at something else; something into which he was putting as much energy and force as he did into learning the Chinese language. With all his might and main, day and night, he was praying -- praying for one special object. He had been praying for this long before he saw Formosa. He was pleading with God to give him, as his first convert, a young man of education. And so he was always on the lookout for such, as he preached and taught, and never once did he cease praying that he might find him.
One forenoon he was sitting at his books, near the open door, when a visitor stopped before him. It was a fine-looking young man, well dressed and with all the unmistakable signs of the scholar. He had none of the graduate's proud insolence, however, for when Mackay arose, he spoke in the most gentlemanly manner. At the missionary's invitation he entered, and sat down, and the two chatted pleasantly. The visitor seemed interested in the foreigner, and asked him many questions that showed a bright, intelligent mind. When he arose to go, Mackay invited him to come again, and he promised he would. He left his card, a strip of pink paper about three inches by six; the name on it read Giam Cheng Hoa. Mackay was very much interested in him, he was so bright, so affable, and such pleasant company. He waited anxiously to see if he would return.
At the appointed hour the visitor was at the door, and the missionary welcomed him warmly. The second visit was even more pleasant than the first. And Mackay told his guest why he had come to Formosa, and of Jesus Christ who was both God and man and who had come to the earth to save mankind.
The young man's bright eyes were fixed steadily upon the missionary as he talked, and when he went away his face was very thoughtful. Mackay sat thinking about him long after he had left.
He had met many graduates, but none had impressed him as had this youth, with his frank face and his kind, genial manner. There was something too about the young fellow, he felt, that marked him as superior to his companions. And then a sudden divine inspiration flashed into the lonely young missionary's heart. THIS WAS HIS MAN! This was the man for whom he had been praying. The stranger had as yet shown no sign of conversion, but Mackay could not get away from that inspired thought. And that night he could not sleep for joy.
In a day or two the young man returned. With him was a noted graduate, who asked many questions about the new religion. The next day he came again with six graduates, who argued and discussed.
When they were gone Mackay paced up and down the room and faced the serious situation which he realized he was in. He saw plainly that the educated men of the town were banded together to beat him in argument. And with all his energy and desperate determination he set to work to be ready for them.
His first task was to gain a thorough knowledge of the Chinese religions. He had already learned much about them, both from books on shipboard and since he had come to the island. But now he spent long hours of the night, poring over the books of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, by the light of his smoky little pewter lamp. And before the next visit of his enemies he knew almost more of their jumble of religions than they did themselves.
It was well he was prepared, for his opponents came down upon him in full force. Every day a band of college graduates, always headed by Giam Cheng Hoa, came up from the town to the missionary's little hut by the river, and for hours they would sit arguing and talking. They were always the most noted scholars the place could produce, but in spite of all their cleverness the barbarian teacher silenced them every time. He fairly took the wind out of their sails by showing he knew quite as much about Chinese religions as they did. If they quoted Confucius to contradict the Bible, he would quote Confucius to contradict them. He confounded them by proving that they were not really followers of Confucius, for they did not keep his sayings. And with unanswerable arguments he went on to show that the religion taught by Jesus Christ was the one and only religion to make man good and noble.
Each day the group of visitors grew larger, and at last one morning, as Mackay looked out of his door, he saw quite a crowd approaching. They were led, as usual, by the friendly young scholar. By his side walked, or rather, swaggered a man of whom the missionary had often heard. He was a scholar of high degree and was famed all over Formosa for his great learning. Behind him came about twenty men, and Mackay could see by their dress and appearance that they were all literary graduates. They were coming in great force this time, to crush the barbarian with their combined knowledge. He met them at the door with his usual politeness and hospitality. He was always courteous to these proud literati, but he always treated them as equals, and showed none of the deference they felt he owed them. The crowd seated itself on improvised benches and the argument opened.
This time Mackay led the attack. He carried the war right into the enemy's camp. Instead of letting them put questions to him, he asked them question after question concerning Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. They were questions that sometimes they could not answer, and to their chagrin they had to hear "the barbarian" answer for them. There were other questions, still more humiliating, which, when they answered, only served to show their religion as false and degrading. Their spokesman, the great learned man, became at last so entangled that there was nothing for him but flight. He arose and stalked angrily away, and in a little while they all left. Mackay looked wistfully at young Giam as he went out, wondering what effect these words had upon him.
He was not left long in doubt. Not half an hour after a shadow fell across the open Bible the missionary was studying. He glanced up. There he stood! His bright face was very serious. He looked gravely at the other young man, and his eyes shone as he spoke.
"I brought all those graduates and teachers here," he confessed, "to silence you or be silenced. And now I am convinced that the doctrines you teach are true. I am determined to become a Christian, even though I suffer death for it."
Mackay rose from his seat, his face alight with an overwhelming joy. The man he had prayed for! He took the young fellow's hand -- speechless. And together the only missionary of north Formosa and his first convert fell upon their knees before the true God and poured out their hearts in joy and thanksgiving.