Away over on the east of the island ran a range of beautiful mountains. And between these mountains and the sea stretched a low rice plain. Here lived many Pe-po-hoan, -- "Barbarians of the plain." Mackay had never visited this place, for the Kap-tsu-lan plain, as it was called, was very hard to reach on account of the mountains; but this only made the dauntless missionary all the more anxious to visit it.
So one day he suggested to his students, as they studied in his house on the bluff, that they make a journey to tell the people of Kap-tsu-lan the story of Jesus. Of course, the young fellows were delighted. To go off with Kai Bok-su was merely transferring their school from his house to the big beautiful outdoors. For he always taught them by the way, and besides they were all eager to go with him and help spread the good news that had made such a difference in their lives. So when Kai Bok-su piled his books upon a shelf and said, "Let us go to Kap-tsu-lan," the young fellows ran and made their preparations joyfully. A Hoa was in Tamsui at the time, and Mackay suggested that he come too, for a trip without A Hoa was robbed of half its enjoyment.
Mackay had just recovered from one of those violent attacks of malaria from which he suffered so often now, and he was still looking pale and weak. So Sun-a, a bright young student-lad, came to the study door with the suggestion, "Let us take Lu-a for Kai Bok-su to ride."
There was a laugh from the other students and an indulgent smile from Kai Bok-su himself. Lu-a was a small, rather stubborn- looking donkey with meek eyes and a little rat tail. He was a present to the missionary from the English commissioner of customs at Tamsui, when that gentleman was leaving the island. Donkeys were commonly used on the mainland of China, and though an animal was scarcely ever ridden in Formosa, horses being almost unknown, the commissioner did not see why his Canadian friend, who was an introducer of so many new things, should not introduce donkey-riding. So he sent him Lu-a as a farewell present and leaving this token of his good-will departed for home.
Up to this time Lu-a had served only as a pet and a joke among the students, and high times they had with him in the grassy field behind the missionary's house when lessons were over. In great glee they brought him round to the door now, "all saddled and bridled" and ready for the trip. The missionary mounted, and Lu-a trotted meekly along the road that wound down the bluff toward Kelung. The students followed in high spirits. The sight of their teacher astride the donkey was such a novel one to them, and Lu-a was such a joke at any time, that they were filled with merriment. All went well until they left the road and turned into a path that led across the buffalo common. At the end of it they came to a ravine about fifteen feet deep. Over this stretched. a plank bridge not more than three feet wide. Here Lu-a came to a sudden stop. He had no mind to risk his small but precious body on that shaky structure. His rider bade him "go on," but the command only made Lu-a put back his ears, plant his fore feet well forward and stand stock still. In fact he looked much more settled and immovable than the bridge over which he was being urged. The students gathered round him and petted and coaxed. They called him "Good Lu-a" and "Honorable Lu-a" and every other flattering title calculated to move his donkeyship, but Lu-a flattened his ears back so he could not hear and would not move. So Mackay dismounted and tried the plan of pulling him forward by the bridle while some of the boys pushed him from behind. Lu-a resented this treatment, especially that from the rear, and up went his heels, scattering students in every direction; and to discomfit the enemy in front he opened his mouth and gave forth such loud resonant brays that the ravine fairly rang with his music.
A balking donkey is rather amusing to boys of any country, but to these Formosan lads who had had no experience with one the sound of Lu-a's harsh voice and the sight of his flying heels brought convulsions of merriment. "He's pounding rice! He's pounding rice!" shouted the wag of the party, and his companions flung themselves upon the grass and rolled about laughing themselves sick.
With his followers rendered helpless and his steed continuing stubborn, Mackay saw the struggle was useless. He could not compete alone with Lu-a's firmness, so he gave orders that the obstinate little obstructer of their journey be trotted back to his pasture.
"And to think that any one of us might have carried the little rascal over!" he cried as he watched the donkey meekly depart. His students looked at the little beast with something like respect. Lu-a had beaten the dauntless Kai Bok-su who had never before been beaten by anything. He was indeed a marvelous donkey!
So the journey to the Kap-tsu-lan plain was made on foot. It was a very wearisome one and often dangerous. The mountain paths were steep and difficult and the travelers knew that often the head-hunters lurked near. But the way was wonderfully beautiful nevertheless. Standing on a mountain height one morning and looking away down over wooded hills and valleys and the lake-like terraces of the rice-fields, Mackay repeated to his students a line of the old hymn:
Every prospect pleases and only man is vile.
Around them the stately tree-fern lifted its lovely fronds and the orchids dotted the green earth like a flock of gorgeous butterflies just settled. Tropical birds of brilliant plumage flashed among the trees. Beside them a great tree raised itself, fairly covered with morning-glories, and over at their right a mountainside gleamed like snow in the sunlight, clothed from top to bottom with white lilies.
But the way had its dangers as well as its beauties. They were passing the mouth of a ravine when they were stopped by yells and screams of terror coming from farther up the mountainside. In a few minutes a Chinaman darted out of the woods toward them. His face was distorted with terror and he could scarcely get breath to tell his horrible story. He and his four companions had been chipping the camphor trees up in the woods; suddenly the armed savages had leaped out upon them and he alone of the five had escaped.
At last they left the dangerous mountain and came down into the Kap-tsu-lan plain. On every side was rice-field after rice-field, with the water pouring from one terrace to another. The plain was low and damp and the paths and roads lay deep in mud. They had a long toilsome walk between the rice-fields until they came to the first village of these barbarians of the plain. It was very much like a Chinese village, -- dirty, noisy, and swarming with wild-looking children and wolfish dogs.
The visitors were received with the utmost disdain. The Chinese students were of course well known, for these aborigines had long ago adopted their customs and language. But the Chinese visitors were in company with the foreigners, and all foreigners were outcaste in this eastern plain. The men shouted the familiar "foreign devil" and walked contemptuously away. The dirty women and children fled into their grass huts and set the dogs upon the strangers. They tried by all sorts of kindnesses to gain a hearing, but all to no effect. So they gave it up, and plodded through the mud and water a mile farther on to the next village. But village number two received them in exactly the same way. Only rough words and the barks of cruel dogs met them. The next village was no better, the fourth a little worse. And so on they went up and down the Kap-tsu-lan plain, sleeping at night in some poor empty hut or in the shadow of a rice strawstack, eating their meals of cold rice and buffalo-meat by the wayside, and being driven from village to village, and receiving never a word of welcome.
And all through those wearisome days the young men looked at their leader in vain for any smallest sign of discouragement or inclination to retreat. There was no slightest look of dismay on the face of Kai Bok-su, for how was it possible for a man who did not know when he was beaten to feel discouraged? So still undaunted in the face of defeat, he led them here and there over the plain, hoping that some one would surely relent and give them a hearing.
One night, footsore and worn out, they slept on the damp mud floor of a miserable hut where the rain dripped in upon their faces. In the morning prospects looked rather discouraging to the younger members of the party. They were wet and cold and weary, and there seemed no use in going again and again to a village only to be turned away. But Kai Bok-su's mouth was as firm as ever, and his dark eyes flashed resolutely, as once more he gave the order to march. It was a lovely morning, the sun was rising gloriously out of the sea and the heavy mists were melting from above the little rice-fields. Here and there fairy lakes gleamed out from the rosy haze that rolled back toward the mountains. They walked along the shore in the pink dawn-light and marched up toward a fishing village. They had visited it before and had been driven away, but Kai Bok-su was determined to try again. They were surprised as they came nearer to see three men come out to meet them with a friendly expression on their faces.
The foremost was an old man who had been nicknamed "Black-face," because of his dark skin. The second was a middle-aged man, and the third was a young fellow about the age of the students. They saluted the travelers pleasantly, and the old man addressed the missionary.
"You have been going through and through our plain and no one has received you," he said politely. "Come to our village, and we will now be ready to listen to you."
The door of Kap-tsu-lan had opened at last! The missionary's eyes gleamed with joy and gratitude as he accepted the invitation. The delegation led the visitors straight to the house of the headman. For the Pe-po-hoan governed their communities in the Chinese style and had a headman for each village. The missionary party sat down in front of the hut on some large flat stones and talked over the matter with the chief and other important men. And while they talked "Black-face" slipped away. He returned in a few moments with a breakfast of rice and fish for the visitors.
The result of the conference was that the villagers decided to give the barbarian a chance. All he wanted it seemed was to tell of this new Jehovah-religion which he believed, and surely there could be no great harm in listening to him talk.
In the evening the headman with the help of some friends set to work to construct a meeting-house. A tent was erected, made from boat sails. Several flat stones laid at one end and a plank placed upon them made a pulpit. And that was the first church on the Kap-tsu-lan plain! There was a "church bell" too, to call the people to worship. In the village were some huge marine shells with the ends broken off. In the old days these were used by the chiefs as trumpets by which they called their men together whenever they were starting out on the war-path. But now the trumpet-shell was used to call the people to follow the King. Just at dark a man took one, and walking up and down the straggling village street blew loudly -- the first "church bell" in east Formosa.
The loud roar brought the villagers flocking down to the tent-church by the shore. For the most part they brought their pews with them. They came hurrying out of their huts carrying benches, and arranging them in rows they seated themselves to listen.
Mackay and the students sang and the people listened eagerly. The Pe-po-hoan by nature were more musical than the Chinese, and the singing delighted them. Then the missionary arose and addressed them. He told clearly and simply why he had come and preached to them of the true God. Afterward the congregation was allowed to ask questions, and they learned much of this God and of his love in his Son Jesus Christ.
The wonder of the great news shone in the eyes upturned to the preacher. In the gloom of the half-lighted tent their dark faces took on a new expression of half-wondering hope. Could it be possible that this was true? Their poor, benighted minds had always been held in terror of their gods and of the evil spirits that forever haunted their footsteps. Could it be possible that God was a great Father who loved his children? They asked so many eager questions, and the story of Jesus Christ had to be told over and over so many times, that before this first church service ended a gray gleam of dawn was spreading out over the Pacific.
It was only the next day that these newly awakened people decided that they must have a church building. And they went to work to get one in a way that might have shamed a congregation of people in a Christian land. This new wonderful hope that had been raised in their hearts by the knowledge that God loved them set them to work with glad energy. Kai Bok-su and his men still preached and prayed and sang and taught in the crazy old wind-flapped tent by the seashore, and the people listened eagerly, and then, when services were over, every one, -- preacher, assistants, and congregation, -- set bravely to work to build a church. Brave they certainly had to be, for at the very beginning they had to risk their lives for their chapel. A party sailed down the coast and entered savage territory for the poles to construct the building. They were attacked and one or two were badly wounded, though they managed to escape. But they were quite ready to go back and fight again had it been necessary. Then they made the bricks for the walls. Rice chaff mixed with clay were the materials, and the Kap-tsu-lan plain had an abundance of both. The roof was made of grass, the floor of hard dried earth, and a platform of the same at one end served as a pulpit.
When the little chapel was finished, every evening the big shell rang out its summons through the village; and out from every house came the people and swarmed into the chapel to hear Kai Bok-su explain more of the wonders of God and his Son Jesus Christ.
Mackay's home during this period was a musty little room in a damp mud-walled hut; and here every day he received donations of idols, ancestral tablets, and all sorts of things belonging to idol-worship. He was requested to burn them, and often in the mornings he dried his damp clothes and moldy boots at a fire made from heathen idols.
For eight weeks the missionary party remained in this place, preaching, teaching, and working among the people. It was a mystery to the students how their teacher found time for the great amount of Bible study and prayer which he managed to get. He surely worked as never man worked before. Late at night, long after every one else was in bed, he would be bending over his Bible, beside his peanut-oil lamp, and early in the morning before the stars had disappeared he was up and at work again. Four hours' sleep was all his restless, active mind could endure, and with that he could do work that would have killed any ordinary man.
One evening some new faces looked up at him from his congregation in the little brick church. When the last hymn was sung the missionary stepped down from his pulpit and spoke to the strangers. They explained that they were from the next village. They had heard rumors of this new doctrine, and had been sent to find out more about it. They had been charmed with the singing, for that evening over two hundred voices had joined in a ringing praise to the new Jehovah-God. They wanted to hear more, they said, and they wanted to know what it was all about. Would Kai Bok-su and his students deign to visit their village too?
Would he? Why that was just what he was longing to do. He had been driven out of that village by dogs only a few weeks before, but a little thing like that did not matter to a man like Mackay. This village lay but a short distance away, being connected with their own by a path winding here and there between the rice-fields. Early the next evening Mackay formed a procession. He placed himself at its head, with A Hoa at his side. The students came next, and then the converts in a double row. And thus they marched slowly along the pathway singing as they went. It was a stirring sight. On either side the waving fields of rice, behind them the gleam of the blue ocean, before them the great towering mountains clothed in green. Above them shone the clear dazzling sky of a tropical evening. And on wound the long procession of Christians in a heathen land, and from them arose the glorious words:
O thou, my soul, bless God the Lord,
And all that in me is
Be stirred up his holy name
To magnify and bless.
And the heathen in the rice-fields stopped to gaze at the strange sight, and the mountains gave back the echo of that Name which is above every name.
And so, marching to their song, the procession came to the village. Everybody in the place had come out to meet them at the first sound of the singing. And now they stood staring, the men in a group by themselves, the women and children in the background, the dogs snarling on the outskirts of the crowd.
The congregation was there ready, and without waiting to find a place of meeting, right out under the clear evening skies, the young missionary told once more the great story of God and his love as shown through Jesus Christ. The message took the village by storm. It was like water to thirsty souls. The next day five hundred of them brought their idols to the missionary to be burned.
And now Mackay went up and down the Kap-tsu-lan plain from village to village as he had done before, but this time it was a triumphal march. And everywhere he went throngs threw away their idols and declared themselves followers of the true God.
He was overcome with joy. It was so glorious he wished he could stay there the rest of his life and lead these willing people to a higher life. But Tamsui was waiting; Sin-tiam, Bang-kah, Kelung, Go-ko-khi, they must all be visited; and finally he tore himself away, leaving some of his students to care for these people of Kap-tsu-lan.
But he came back many times, until at last nineteen chapels dotted the plain, and in them nineteen native preachers told the story of Jesus and his love. Sometimes, in later years, when Mackay was with them, tears would roll down the people's faces as they recalled how badly they had used him on his first visit.
It was while on his third visit here that he had a narrow escape from the head-hunters. He was staying at a village called "South Wind Harbor," which was near the border of savage territory. Mackay often walked on the shore in the evening just before the meeting, always with a book in his hand. One night he was strolling along in deep meditation when he noticed some extremely large turtle tracks in the sand. He followed them, for he liked to watch the big clumsy creatures. These green turtles were from four to five feet in length. They would come waddling up from the sea, scratch a hole in the sand with their flippers, lay their eggs, cover them carefully, and with head erect and neck out-thrust waddle back. Mackay was intensely interested in all the animal life of the island and made a study of it whenever he had a chance. He knew the savages killed and ate these turtles, but he supposed he was as yet too near the village to be molested by them. So he followed the tracks and was nearing the edge of the forest, when he heard a shout behind him. As he turned, one of his village friends came running out of his hut waving to him frantically to come back. Thinking some one must be ill, Mackay hurried toward the man, to find that it was he himself who was in danger. The man explained breathlessly that it was the habit of the wily savages to make marks in the sand resembling turtle tracks to lure people into the forest. If Kai Bok-su had entered the woods, his head would certainly have been lost.
It was always hard to say farewell to Kap-tsu-lan, the people were so warm-hearted, so kind, and so anxious for him to stay. One morning just before leaving after his third visit, Mackay had an experience that brought him the greatest joy.
He had stayed all night at the little fishing village where the first chapel had been built. As usual he was up with the dawn, and after his breakfast of cold boiled rice and pork he walked down to the shore for a farewell look at the village. As he passed along the little crooked street he could see old women sitting on the mud floors of their huts, by the open door, weaving. They were all poor, wrinkled, toothless old folk with faces seamed by years of hard heathen experience. But in their eyes shone a new light, the reflection of the glory that they had seen when the missionary showed them Jesus their Savior. And as they threw their thread their quavering voices crooned the sweet words:
There is a happy land
Far, far away.
And their old weary faces were lighted up with a hope and happiness that had never been there in youth.
Kai Bok-su smiled as he passed their doors and his eyes were misty with tender tears.
Just before him, playing on the sand with "jacks" or tops, just as he had played not so very long ago away back in Canada, were the village boys. And as they played they too were singing, their little piping voices, sweet as birds, thrilling the morning air. And the words they sang were:
Jesus loves me, this I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
They nodded and smiled to Kai Bok-su as he passed. He went down to the shore where the wide Pacific flung long rollers away up the hard-packed sand. The fishermen were going out to sea in the rosy morning light, and as they stood up in their fishing-smacks, and swept their long oars through the surf, they kept time to the motion with singing. And their strong, brave voices rang out above the roar of the breakers:
I'm not ashamed to own my Lord,
Or to defend his cause.
And standing there on the sunlit shore the young missionary raised his face to the gleaming blue heavens with an emotion of unutterable joy and thanksgiving. And in that moment he knew what was that glory for which he had so vaguely longed in childish years. It was the glory of work accomplished for his Master's sake, and he was realizing it to the full.