Some of Mackay's happiest days were spent with his students. He was such a wonder of a man for work himself that he inspired every one else to do his best, so the young men made rapid strides with their lessons. No matter how busy he was, and he was surely one of the busiest men that ever lived, he somehow found time for them.
Sometimes in his house, sometimes on the road, by the seashore, under a banyan tree, here and there and everywhere, the missionary and his pupils held their classes. If he went on a journey, they accompanied him and studied by the way. And it was a familiar sight on north Formosan roads or field paths to see Mackay, always with his book in one hand and his big ebony stick under his arm, walking along surrounded by a group of young men.
Sometimes there were as many as twenty in the student-band, but somewhere in the country a new church would open, and the brightest of the class would be called away to be its minister. But just as often a young Christian would come to the missionary and ask if he too might not be trained to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Whether at home or abroad, pupils and teacher had to resort to all sorts of means to get away for an uninterrupted hour together. For Kai Bok-su was always in demand to visit the sick or sad or troubled.
There was a little kitchen separate from the house on the bluff, and over this Mackay with his students built a second story. And here they would often slip away for a little quiet time together. One night, about eleven o'clock, Mackay was here alone poring over his books. The young men had gone home to bed except two or three who were in the kitchen below. Some papers had been dropped over a pipe-hole in the floor of the room where Mackay was studying, and for some time he had been disturbed by a rustling among them. At last without looking up, he called to his boys below: "I think there are rats up here among my papers!"
Koa Kau, one of the younger of the students, ran lightly up the stairs to give battle to the intruders. What was his horror when he saw fully three feet of a monster serpent sticking up through the pipe-hole and waving its horrible head in the air just a little distance from Kai Bok-su's chair.
The boy gave a shout, darted down the stair, and with a sharp stick, pinned the body of the snake to the wall below. The creature became terribly violent, but Koa Kau held on valiantly and Mackay seized an old Chinese spear that happened to be in the room above and pierced the serpent through the head. They pulled its dead body down into the kitchen below and spread it out. It measured nine feet. The students would not rest until it was buried, and the remembrance of the horrible creature's visit for some time spoiled the charm of the little upper room.
The rocks at Kelung harbor were another favorite spot for this little traveling university to hold its classes. Sometimes they would take their dinner and row out in a little sampan to the rocks outside the harbor and there, undisturbed, they would study the whole day long.
They always began the day's work with a prayer and a hymn of praise, and no matter what subjects they might study, most of the time was spent on the greatest of books. After a hard morning's work each one would gather sticks, make a fire, and they would have their dinner of vegetables, rice, and pork or buffalo-meat. Then there were oysters, taken fresh off the rocks, to add to their bill of fare.
At five in the afternoon, when the strain of study was beginning to tell, they would vary the program. One or two of the boys would take a plunge into the sea and bring up a subject for study, -- a shell, some living coral, sea-weed, sea-urchins, or some such treasure. They would examine it, and Kai Bok-su, always delighted when on a scientific subject, would give them a lesson in natural history. And he saw with joy how the wonders of the sea and land opened these young men's minds to understand what a great and wonderful God was theirs, who had made "the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that in them is."
When they visited a chapel in the country, they had a daily program which they tried hard to follow. They studied until four o'clock every afternoon and all were trained in speaking and preaching. After four they made visits together to Christians or heathen, speaking always a word for their Master. Every evening a public service was held at which Mackay preached. These sermons were an important part of the young men's training, for he always treated the gospel in a new way. A Hoa, who was Mackay's companion for the greater part of sixteen years, stated that he had never heard Kai Bok-su preach the same sermon twice.
On the whole the students liked their college best when it was moving. For on the road, while their principal gave much time to the Bible and how to present the gospel, he would enliven their walks by conversing about everything by the way and making it full of interest. The structure of a wayside flower, the geological formation of an overhanging rock, the composition of the soil of the tea plantations, the stars that shone in the sky when night came down upon them; -- all these made the traveling college a delight.
Although his days were crammed with work, Mackay found time to make friends among the European population of the island. They all liked and admired him, and many of them tried to help the man who was giving his life and strength so completely to others. They were familiar with his quick, alert figure passing through the streets of Tamsui, with his inevitable book and his big ebony cane. And they would smile and say, "There goes Mackay; he's the busiest man in China."*
The British consul in the old Dutch fort and the English commissioner of customs proved true and loyal friends. The representatives of foreign business firms, too, were always ready to lend him a helping hand where possible. His most useful friends were the foreign medical men. They helped him very much. They not only did all they could for his own recovery when malaria attacked him, but they helped also to cure his patients. Traveling scientists always gave him a visit to get his help and advice. He had friends that were ship-captains, officers, engineers, merchants, and British consuls. Everybody knew the wonderful Kai Bok-su. "Whirlwind Mackay," some of them called him, and they knew and admired him with the true admiration that only a brave man can inspire.
The friends to whom he turned for help of the best kind were the English Presbyterians in south Formosa. They, more than any others, knew his trials and difficulties. They alone could enter with true sympathy into all his triumphs. At one time Dr. Campbell, one of the south Formosan missionaries, paid him a visit. He proved a delightful companion, and together the two made a tour of the mission stations. Dr. Campbell preached wherever they went and was a great inspiration to the people, as well as to the students and to the missionary himself.
One evening, when they were in Kelung, Mackay, with his insatiable desire to use every moment, suggested that they spend ten days without speaking English, so that they might improve their Chinese. Dr. Campbell agreed, and they started their "Chinese only." Next morning from the first early call of "Liong tsong khi lai," "All, all, up come," not one word of their native tongue did they speak. They had a long tramp that morning and there was much to talk about and the conversation was all in Chinese, according to the bargain. Dr. Campbell was ahead, and after an hour's talk he suddenly turned upon his companion: "Mackay!" he exclaimed, "this jabbering in Chinese is ridiculous, and two Scotchmen should have more sense; let us return to our mother tongue." Which advice Mackay gladly followed.
His next visitor was the Rev. Mr. Ritchie from south Formosa, one of the friends who had first introduced him to his work. Every day of his visit was a joy. With nine of Mackay's students, the two missionaries set out on a trip through the north Formosa mission that lasted many weeks.
But the more pleasant and helpful such companionship was the more alone Mackay felt when it was over. His task was becoming too much for one man. He was wanted on the northern coast, at the southern boundary of his mission field, and away on the Kap-tsu-lan plain all at once. He was crowded day and night with work. What with preaching, dentistry, attending the sick, training his students, and encouraging the new churches, he had enough on his hands for a dozen missionaries.
But now at last the Church at home, in far-away Canada, bestirred herself to help him. They had been hearing something of the wonderful mission in Formosa, but they had heard only hints of it, for Mackay would not confess how he was toiling day and night and how the work had grown until he was not able to overtake it alone. But the Church understood something of his need, and they now sent him the best present they could possibly give, -- an assistant. Just three years after Mackay had landed in Formosa, the Rev. J. B. Fraser, M. D., and his wife and little ones arrived. He was a young man, too, vigorous and ready for work. Besides being an ordained minister, he was a physician as well, just exactly what the north Formosan mission needed.
Along with the missionary, the Church had sent funds for a house for him and also one for Mackay. So the poor old Chinese house on the bluff was replaced by a modern, comfortable dwelling, and by its side another was built for the new missionary and his family. One room of Mackay's house was used as a study for his students.
After the houses were built and the new doctor was able to use the language, he began to fill a long-felt want. Mackay had always done a little medical work, and the foreign doctor of Tamsui had been most kind in giving his aid, but a doctor of his own, a missionary doctor, was exactly what Kai Bok-su wanted. Soon the sick began to hear of the wonders the missionary doctor could perform, and they flocked to him to be cured.
It must not be supposed that there were not already doctors in north Formosa. There were many in Tamsui alone, and very indignant they were at this new barbarian's success. But the native doctors were about the worst trouble that the people had to bear. Their medical knowledge, like their religion, was a mixture of ignorance and superstition, and some of their practises would have been inexcusable except for the fact that they themselves knew no better. There were two classes of medical men; those who treated internal diseases and those who professed to cure external maladies. It was hard to judge which class did the more mischief, but perhaps the "inside doctors" killed more of their patients. Dog's flesh was prescribed as a cure for dyspepsia, a chip taken from a coffin and boiled and the water drunk was a remedy for catarrh, and an apology made to the moon was a specific for wind-roughened skin. For the dreaded malaria, the scourge of Formosa, the young Canadian doctor found many and amazing remedies prescribed, some worse than the disease itself. The native doctors believed malaria to be caused by two devils in a patient, one causing the chills, the other the fever. One of the commonest remedies, and one that was quite as sensible as any of the rest, was to tie seven hairs plucked from a black dog around the sick one's wrist.
But when the barbarian doctor opened his dispensary in Tamsui, a new era dawned for the poor sick folk of north Formosa. The work went on wonderfully well and Mackay found so much more time to travel in the country that the gospel spread rapidly.
But just when prospects were looking so fair and every one was happy and hopeful, a sad event darkened the bright outlook of the two missionaries. The young doctor had cured scores of cases, and had brought health and happiness to many homes, but he was powerless to keep death from his own door.
And one day, a sad day for the mission of north Formosa, the mother was called from husband and little ones to her home and her reward in heaven.
So the home on the bluff, the beautiful Christian home, which was a pattern for all the Chinese, was broken up. The young doctor was compelled to leave his patients, and taking his motherless children he returned with them to Canada.
The church at home sent out another helper. The Rev. Kenneth Junor arrived one year later, and once more the work received a fresh impetus. And then, just about two years after Mr. Junor's arrival, Kai Bok-su found an assistant of his own right in Formosa, and one who was destined to become a wonderful help to him. And so one bright day, there was a wedding in the chapel of the old Dutch fort, where the British consul married George Leslie Mackay to a Formosan lady. Tui Chhang Mai, her name had been. She was of a beautiful Christian character and for a long time she had been a great help in the church. But as Mrs. Mackay she proved a marvelous assistance to her husband.
It had long been a great grief to the missionary that, while the men would come in crowds to his meetings, the poor women had to be left at home. Sometimes in a congregation of two hundred there would be only two or three women. Chinese custom made it impossible for a man missionary to preach to the women. Only a few of the older ones came out. So the mothers of the little children did not hear about Jesus and so could not teach their little ones about him.
But now everything was changed for them. They had a lady-missionary, and one of their own people too. The Mackays went on a wedding-trip through the country. Kai Bok-su walked, as usual, and his wife rode in a sedan-chair. The wedding-trip was really a missionary tour; for they visited all the chapels, and the women came to the meetings in crowds, because they wanted to hear and see the lady who had married Kai Bok-su. Often, after the regular meetings when the men had gone away, the women would crowd in and gather round Mrs. Mackay and she would tell them the story of Jesus and his love.
It was a wonderful wedding-journey and it brought a double blessing wherever the two went. Their experiences were not all pleasant. One day they traveled over a sand plain so hot that Mackay's feet were blistered. Another time they were drenched with rain. One afternoon there came up a terrific wind storm. It blew Mrs. Mackay's sedan-chair over and sent her and the carriers flying into the mud by the roadside. At another place they all barely escaped drowning when crossing a stream. But the brave young pair went through it all dauntlessly. The wife had caught something of her husband's great spirit of sacrifice, and he was always the man on fire, utterly forgetful of self.
For two years they worked happily together and at last a great day came to Kai-Bok-su. He had been nearly eight years in Formosa. It was time he came home, the Church in Canada said, for a little rest and to tell the people at home something of his great work.
And so he and his Formosan wife said good-by, amid tears and regrets on all sides, and leaving Mr. Junor in charge with A Hoa to help, they set sail for Canada. It was just a little over seven years since he had settled in that little hut by the river, despised and hated by every one about him; and now he left behind him twenty chapels, each with a native preacher over it, and hundreds of warm friends scattered over all north Formosa.
He was not quite the same Mackay who had stood on the deck of the America seven years before. His eyes were as bright and daring as ever and his alert figure as full of energy, but his face showed that his life had been a hard one. And no wonder, for he had endured every kind of hardship and privation in those seven years. He had been mobbed times without number. He had faced death often, and day and night since his first year on the island his footsteps had been dogged by the torturing malaria.
But he was still the great, brave Mackay and his home-coming was like the return of a hero from battle. He went through Canada preaching in the churches, and his words were like a call to arms. He swept over the country like one of his own Formosan winds, carrying all before him. Wherever he preached hearts were touched by his thrilling tales, and purses opened to help in his work. Queen's University made him a Doctor of Divinity; Mrs. Mackay, a lady of Detroit, gave him money enough to build a hospital; and his home county, Oxford, presented him with $6,215 with which to build a college.
He visited his old home and had many long talks of his childhood days with his loved ones. And he was reminded of the big stone in the pasture-field which he was so determined to break. And he thanked his heavenly Father for allowing him to break the great rock of heathenism in north Formosa.
He returned to his mission work more on fire than ever. If he had been received with acclaim in his native land, his Formosan friends' welcome was not less warm. Crowds of converts, all his students who were not too far inland, and among them, Mr. Junor, his face all smiles, were thronging the dock, many of them weeping for joy. It was as if a long-absent father had come back to his children.
The work went forward now by leaps and bounds. Mackay's first thought, after a hurried visit to the chapels and their congregations, was to see that the hospital and college were built.
All day long the sound of the builders could be heard up on the bluff near the missionaries' houses, and in a wonderfully short time there arose two beautiful, stately buildings. Mackay hospital they called one, not for Kai Bok-su -- he did not like things named for him -- but in memory of the husband of the kind lady who had furnished the money for it. The school for training young men in the ministry was called Oxford College, in honor of the county whose people had made it possible.
Oxford College stood just overlooking the Tamsui river, two hundred feet above its waters. The building was 116 feet long and 67 feet wide, and was built of small red bricks brought from across the Formosa Channel. A wide, airy hall ran down the middle of the building, and was used as a lecture-room. On either side were rooms capable of accommodating fifty students and apartments for two teachers and their families. There were, besides, two smaller lecture-rooms, a museum filled with treasures collected from all over Formosa by Dr. Mackay and his students, a library, a bathroom, and a kitchen.
The grounds about the college and hospital were very beautiful. Nature had given one of the finest situations to be found about Tamsui, and Kai Bok-su did the rest. The climate helped him, for it was no great task to have a luxurious garden in north Formosa. So, in a few years there were magnificent trees and hedges, and always glorious flower beds abloom all the time around the missionary premises.
But all this was not accomplished without great toil, and Kai Bok-su appeared never to rest in those building days. It seemed impossible that one man should work so hard, he was in Tamsui superintending the hospital building to-day, and away off miles in the country preaching to-morrow. He never seemed to get time to eat, and he certainly slept less than his allotted four hours.
A great disappointment was pending, however, and one he saw coming nearer every day. The trying Formosan climate was proving too much for his young assistant, and one sad day he stood on the dock and saw Mr. Junor, pale and weak and broken in health, sail away back to Canada.
But there was always a brave soldier waiting to step into the breach, and the next year Kai Bok-su had the joy of welcoming two new helpers, when the Rev. Mr. Jamieson and his wife came out from Canada and settled in the empty house on the bluff. Yes, and in time there came to his own house other helpers -- very little and helpless at first they were -- but they soon made the house ring with happy noise and filled the hearts of their parents with joy.
There were two ladies now to lead in the work for girls and women. Their sisters in Canada came to their help too. The young men had a school in Formosa, and why should there not be a school for women and girls? they asked. And so the Women's Foreign Missionary Society of Canada sent to Dr. Mackay money to build one. It took only two months to erect it. It stood just a few rods from Oxford College, and was a fine, airy building. Here a native preacher and his wife took up their abode and with the help of Mrs. Mackay and two other native Christian women they strove to teach the girls of north Formosa how to make beautiful Christian homes.
And now to the two missionaries every prospect seemed bright. The college, the girls' school, the hospital, were all in splendid working order. Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson were giving their best assistance. A Hoa and the other native pastors were working faithfully. God's blessing seemed to be showering down upon the work and on every side were signs of growth. And then, right from this shining sky, there fell a storm of such fierceness that it threatened to wipe out completely the whole north Formosan mission.