An enemy's battle-ships off the coast of Formosa! During all the spring rumors of trouble had been coming across the channel from the mainland. France* and China had been quarreling over a boundary-line in Tongking. The affair had been settled but not in a way that pleased France. So, without even waiting to declare war, she sent a fleet to the China Sea and bombarded some of her enemy's ports. Formosa, of course, came in for her share of the trouble, and it was early in the summer that the French battle-ships appeared. They hove in sight, sailing down the Formosa Channel or Strait one hot day, and instantly all Formosa was in an uproar of alarm and rage. The rage was greater than the alarm, for China cordially despised all peoples beyond her own border, and felt that the barbarians would probably be too feeble to do them any harm. But that the barbarians should dare to approach their coast with a war-vessel! That was a terrible insult, and the fierce indignation of the people knew no bounds. Their rage broke out against all foreigners. They did not distinguish between the missionary from British soil and the French soldiers on their enemy's vessels. They were all barbarians alike, the Chinese declared, and as such were the deadly foe of China. This Kai Bok-su was in league with the French, and the native Christians all over Formosa were in league with him, and all deserved death!
So hard days came for the Christians of north Formosa. Wherever there was a house containing converts, there was riot and disorder. For bands of enraged heathen, armed with knives and swords, would parade the streets about them and threaten all with a violent death the moment the French fired a shot.
In some places near the coast the Christian people dared not leave their houses, and whenever they sent out their children to buy food, often a heathen neighbor would catch them, brandish knives over the terrified little ones' heads and declare they would all be cut to pieces when the barbarian ships came into port.
Every hour of the day and often in the night, letters came from all parts of the country to Dr. Mackay. They were brought by runners who came at great peril of their lives, and were sent by the poor Christians. Each letter told the same tale; the lives and property of all the converts were in grave danger if the enemy did not leave. And they all asked Kai Bok-su to do something to help them.
Now Kai Bok-su was a man with great power and influence both in Formosa and in his far-off Canada, but he had no means of bringing that power to bear on the French. And indeed his own life was in as great danger as any one's.
He wrote to the Christians comforting them and enthusing them with his own spirit. He bade them all be brave, and no matter what came, danger or torture or death itself, they must be true to Jesus Christ. He went about his work in the college or hospital just as usual, though he knew that any day the angry mob from the town below might come raging up to destroy and kill.
The French had entered Kelung harbor and the danger was growing more serious every day when Mackay found it necessary to go to Palm Island, a pretty islet in the mouth of the Kelung river. It was almost courting death to go, but he had been sent for, and he went. He found the place right under the French guns and in the midst of raging Chinese. Some of the faithful students were there, and they were overcome with joy and hope at the sight of him. He gathered them about him in a mission house for prayer and a word of encouragement. Outside the Chinese soldiers paraded up and down. Sometimes indeed they would burst into the room and threaten the inmates with violence should the French fire. Kai Bok-su went on quietly talking to his students. He urged them to be faithful and reminded them of what their Master suffered at the hands of a mob for their sake. But, in spite of their brave spirits, the little company could not help listening for the boom of the French guns. It was fully expected that the enemy would soon fire, and when they did, the Christians well knew there would be little chance for them to escape.
But God had prepared a way out of the difficulty. The meeting was scarcely over when a messenger came in, asking for the missionary. A Christian on the mainland was very ill and wanted Kai Bok-su to visit him. Mackay with his students left the island at once and went to the home of the sick man.
They had been gone but a short time when the thunder of the French cannon broke over the harbor. The guns from the Chinese fort answered, and had the missionary been on Palm Island he and his converts would surely have been killed.
The Chinese were no match for the French gunners. The bombardment destroyed the fort and killed every soldier who did not manage to get away. A great shell crashed into the magazine of the fort, and the explosion hurled masses of the concrete walls an incredible distance. The city about the fort was completely deserted, for the people fled at the first sound of the guns.
As soon as the firing was over, the rabble broke loose and a perfect reign of terror prevailed. The mob carried black flags and swept over town and country, plundering and murdering. The Christians were of course the first object of attack, and to tear down a church was the mob's fiercest joy. Seven of the most beautiful chapels were completely destroyed and many others injured.
In the town of Toa-liong-pong was the home of Koa Kau, one of Kai Bok-su's most devoted students. Here was a lovely chapel built at great expense. The crowd tore it to pieces from roof to foundation. Then, out of the bricks of the ruin they erected a huge pile, eight feet high; they plastered it over with mud, and on the face of it, next the highway where every one might see it, they wrote in large Chinese characters:
MACKAY, THE BLACK-BEARDED BARBARIAN, LIES HERE. HIS WORK IS ENDED.
They knew that the first was not true, but they firmly believed the latter statement, for they understood little of the power of the gospel.
At Sin-tiam the crowd of ruffians smashed the doors and windows of the church. Then they took the communion roll and read aloud the names of the Christians who had been baptized. As each name was announced, some of the murderers would rush off toward the home of the one mentioned. Here they would torture and often kill the members of the family. The native preacher and his family barely escaped with their lives. One good old Christian man with his wife, both over sixty, were dragged out into the deep water of the Sin-tiam river. Here they were given a choice. If they gave up Jesus Christ, their lives would be saved. If they still remained Christians, they would be drowned right there and then. The brave old couple refused to accept life at such a cost.
"I'm not ashamed to own my Lord," was a hymn Kai Bok-su had taught them, and they had meant every word as they had sung it many times in the pretty chapel by the river. And so they were "not ashamed" now. They were led deeper and deeper into the water, and at every few feet the way of escape was offered, but they steadily refused, and were at last flung into the river -- faithful martyrs who certainly won a crown of life.
These were only two among many brave Christians who died for their Master's sake. Some were put to tortures too horrible to tell to make them give up their faith. Some were hung by their hair to trees, some were kicked or beaten to death, many were slashed with knives until death relieved their pain. And on every side the most noble Christian heroism was shown. In all ages there have been those who died for their faith in Jesus Christ; and these Formosan followers of their Master proved themselves no less faithful than the martyrs of old.
And where was Kai Bok-su while the mob raged over the country? Going about his work in Tamsui as of old. Only now he worked both night and day, and the anxiety for his poor converts kept him awake in the few hours when he might have snatched some sleep. He was here, there, everywhere at once, it seemed, writing letters to encourage the Christians in distress, visiting those who were wavering to strengthen their faith, teaching his students, praying, preaching, night and day, he never ceased; and always the mob surged about him threatening his life.
The French ships now sailed out of Kelung harbor and took up their position opposite Tamsui. Every one knew this probably meant bombardment, and Dr. Mackay and Mr. Jamieson, standing on the bluff before their houses, looked at each other and each knew the other's thought. Bombardment would mean that the mob would come raging up and destroy both life and property on the hill.
But just as they expected the roar of guns to open, there sailed into Tamsui harbor a vessel that flew a different flag from the French. Mackay, looking at her through a glass, made out with joy the crosses on the red banner of Britain! England had nothing to do with this Chinese-French war, but as a British vessel can be found lying around almost any port in the wide world, there of course happened to be one near Tamsui. She gained a passport into the harbor and sailed in with a very kindly mission; it was to protect the lives of foreigners, not only from the French guns, but from the Chinese mobs.
The ship had been in the harbor but a short time when a young English naval officer, carrying the British flag, came up the path to the houses on the bluff. Dr. Mackay was in the library of Oxford College, lecturing to his students, when the visitor entered.
The missionary made the sailor welcome and the young man told his errand. Dr. Mackay was invited to bring his family and his valuables and come on board the vessel to be the guest of the captain until the disturbance was over.
It was a most kindly invitation and Dr. Mackay shook his visitor's hand warmly as he thanked him. He turned and translated the message to his students, and their hearts stood still with dismay. If Kai Bok-su, their stay and support, were to be taken away, what would become of them? But Kai Bok-su had not changed with the changing circumstances. He was still as brave and undaunted as though trouble had never come to his island.
He turned to the officer again with a smile. "My family would not be hard to move," he said, "but my valuables -- I am afraid I could not take them." He made a gesture toward the students standing about him. "These young men and many more converts scattered all over north Formosa, are my valuables. Many of them have faced death unflinchingly for my sake. They are my valuables, and I cannot leave them."
It was bravely said, just as Kai Bok-su might be expected to speak, and the English officer's eyes kindled with appreciation. The words found a ready response in his heart. They were the words of a true soldier of the King. The officer went back to his captain with Mackay's message and with a deep admiration in his heart for the man who would rather face death than leave his friends.
So the British man-of-war drew off, leaving the missionaries in the midst of danger. And almost immediately, with a great bursting roar, the bombardment from the French ships opened. Sometimes the shells flew high over the town and up to the bluff, so Dr. and Mrs. Mackay put their three little ones in a safe corner under the house; but they themselves as well as Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson, went in and out to and from the college, and the girls' school as though nothing were happening.
Every day Mackay's work grew heavier and his anxiety for the persecuted Christians grew deeper. He ate very little, and he scarcely slept at all. It was not the noise of the carnage about him that kept him awake. He would have fallen asleep peacefully amidst bursting shells, but he had no opportunity. The whole burden of the young Church, harassed by persecution on all sides, seemed to rest upon his spirit. Anxiety for the Christians in the inland stations from whom he could not hear weighed on him night and day, and his brave spirit was put to the severest test.
Only his great strong faith in God kept him up and kept up the spirits of the converts who looked to him for an example. And a brave pattern he showed them. Often he and A Hoa paced the lawn in front of the house while shot and shell whizzed around them. During the worst of the bombardment they came and went between the college and the house as if they had charmed lives. One day there was a great roar and a shell struck Oxford College, shaking it to its foundations. The smoke from fort and ships had scarcely cleared away when, crash! and the girls' school was struck by a bursting shell. Next moment there was a fearful bang and a great stone that stood in front of the Mackays' house went up into the air in a thousand fragments.
But when the firing was hottest, Kai Bok-su would repeat to his students the comforting Psalm:
"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day."
But in spite of his brave demeanor, the strain on the shepherd of this harassed flock was beginning to tell. And when the bombardment ceased and the intense anxiety for his loved ones was over, Kai Bok-su suddenly collapsed. Dr. Johnsen, the foreign physician of Tamsui, came hurriedly up to the mission house to see him. His verdict sent a thrill of dismay through every heart that loved him, from the anxious little wife by the patient's side, to the poorest convert in the town below. Their beloved Kai Bok-su had brain fever.
"Too much anxiety and too little sleep," said the medical man. "He must sleep now," he added, "or he will die." But now that Kai Bok-su had a chance to rest, he could not. Sleep had been chased away too long to stay with him. Night and day he tossed about, wide awake and burning with fever. His temperature was never less than 102 during those days, and all the doctor's efforts could not lower it. The awful heat of September was on, and the great typhoons that would soon sweep across the country and clear the air had not yet come. The glaring sun and the stifling damp heat were all against the patient. At last one day the doctor saw a crisis was approaching. He stood looking down at the hot, flushed face, at the burning eyes, and the restless hands that were never still, and he said to himself, "If the fever does not go down to-day, he will die."
The doctor went along College Road toward his home, answering the eager, anxious questions that met him on all sides with only a shake of his head.
A Hoa followed him, his drawn face full of pleading. Was he no better? he asked with quivering lips. It was the question poor A Hoa asked many, many times a day, for he never left the house when not away on duty. The doctor's face was full of sympathy and his own heart weighed down as he sadly answered, "No."
"If I only had some ice," he muttered, knowing well he had none. "If there was only one bit of ice in Tamsui, I'd save him yet."
Over in the British consulate Dr. Johnsen had another patient. Mr. Dodd lay sick there, though not nearly as ill as the missionary, and the physician's next visit was to him. When he entered he found a servant carrying a tray with some ice on it to the sick room.
"Ice!" cried the doctor, overjoyed. "Where did it come from?"
The servant explained that the steamship Hailoong had just arrived in Tamsui harbor with it that morning. The doctor entered Mr. Dodd's room. Would he give him that ice to save Mackay's life? was the question he asked. To save such a life as Mackay's! That was an absurd question, Mr. Dodd declared, and he immediately ordered that every bit of ice he had should be sent at once to the missionary's house.
The doctor hurried back up the hill with the precious remedy. He broke up a piece and laid it like a little cushion on poor Kai Bok-su's hot forehead; that forehead beneath which the busy brain, resting neither day nor night, was burning up. It had not been there a great while before the restless eyes lost their fire, the eyelids drooped and, wonderful sight, Kai Bok-su sank into a sleep! The doctor hardly dared to breathe. If he could only be kept asleep now, he had a chance. Dr. Mackay had never been a sleeper, he well knew. He was too restless, too energetic, to allow himself even proper rest. When Dr. Fraser, his first assistant, had been with him, he had struggled to persuade him to stay in bed at least six hours every night, but not always with success. But now he was to show what he could do in the matter of sleeping. All that night he lay, breathing peacefully, the next day he slept on from morning till night, and little by little the ice melted away on his forehead. He did not move all the next night, and A Hoa and Mrs. Mackay and the doctor took turns at his bedside watching that the precious ice was always there. Morning came and it was all finished. The patient opened his eyes. He had slept thirty-six hours, and a thrill of joy went through every Christian heart in Tamsui, for their Kai Bok-su was saved!
But though the crisis was over, he was still very weak, and such was the state of affairs through the country that he was in no condition to cope with them. Riot and plunder was the order of the day. News of churches being destroyed, of faithful Christians being tortured or put to death, were still coming to the mission house, and no one could tell what day would bring Kai Bok-su's turn.
And now came an order from the British consul which the missionaries could not disobey. He commanded that their families must be moved at once from Formosa, as he could not answer for their protection. So at once preparations for their departure were made, and Mr. Jamieson took his wife and Mrs. Mackay and her three little ones and sailed away for Hongkong.
But once more Kai Bok-su stayed behind. It cost him bitter pain to part with his loved ones, knowing he might never see them again; he was weak and spent with fever, and his poor body was worn to a shadow, but he stubbornly refused to leave the men who had stood by him in every danger. The consul commanded, the doctor pleaded, but no, Kai Bok-su would not go. If the danger had grown greater, then all the more reason why he should stay and comfort his people. And if God were pleased to send death, then they would all die together.
But he was so weak and sick that the doctor feared that if he remained there would be little chance for the mob to kill him: death would come sooner. So he came to his stubborn patient with a new proposition. The Fukien, a merchant steamship, was now lying in Tamsui harbor. She was to run to Hongkong and back directly. If Mackay would only take that trip, his physician urged, the sea air would make him new again, and he would return in a short time and be ready to take up his work once more.
It was that promise that moved Mackay's resolution. His utter weakness held him down from work, and he longed with all his soul to go out through the country to helps the poor, suffering churches. So he finally consented to take the short journey and pay a visit to his dear ones in Hongkong.
He did not get back quite as soon as he intended, for the French blockade delayed his vessel. But at last he stepped out upon the Tamsui dock into a crowd of preachers, students, and converts who were weeping for joy about him and exclaiming over his improved looks.
The voyage had certainly done wonders for him, and at once he declared he must take a trip into the country and visit those who were left of the churches.
It was a desperate undertaking, for French soldiers were now scattered through the country, guarding the larger towns and cities and everywhere mobs of furious Chinese were ready to torture or kill every foreigner. But it would take even greater difficulties than these to stop Kai Bok-su, and he began at once to lay plans for going on a tour.
He first went to the British consul and came back in high spirits with a folded paper m his hand. He spread it out on the library table before A Hoa and Sun-a, who were to go with him, and this is what it said:
British Consulate, Tamsui,
May 27th, 1885.
To THE OFFICER IN CHIEF COMMAND OF THE FRENCH FORCES AT KELUNG:
The bearer of this paper, the Rev. George Leslie Mackay, D.D., a British subject, missionary in Formosa, wishes to enter Kelung, to visit his chapel and his house there, and to proceed through Kelung to Kap-tsu-lan on the east coast of Formosa to visit his converts there. Wherefore I, the undersigned, consul for Great Britain at Tamsui, do beg the officer in chief command of the French forces in Kelung to grant the said George Leslie Mackay entry into, and a free and safe passage through, Kelung. He will be accompanied by two Chinese followers, belonging to his mission, named, respectively, Giam Chheng Hoa, and Iap Sun.
A. FRATER, Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Tamsui.
They had all the power of the British Empire behind them so long as they held that paper. Then they hired a burden-bearer to carry their food, and Mackay cut a bamboo pole, fully twenty feet long, and on it tied the British flag. With this floating over them, the little army marched through the rice-fields down to Kelung.
It was an adventurous journey. But, wonderful though it seemed, they came through it safely. Poor Kai Bok-su's heart was torn as he saw the ravages the mob had made on his churches. But what a cheer his heart received when he found that persecution had strengthened the converts that were left and everywhere the heathen marveled that men should die for the faith the barbarian missionary had taught. They were taken prisoners once for German spies, and led far out of their way. But they came back to Tamsui safely, having greatly cheered the faithful Christians who still were true to their Master, Jesus Christ. It was early in June, just one year from the opening of the war, that the French sailed away. They were disgusted with the whole affair, the commander of one vessel told Dr. Mackay, and they were all very glad it was over.
Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson and Dr. Mackay's family returned to their homes on the bluff, and work started up again with its old vigor.
But everywhere the heathen were in great glee. Christianity had been destroyed with the chapels, they were sure. Wherever Mackay went, shouts of derision followed him, and everywhere he could hear the joyful cry "Long-tsong bo-khi!" which meant "The mission is wiped out!"
But strange though it may seem, the mission had never been stronger, and it soon began to assert itself. Dr. Mackay went at the work of repairing the lost buildings with all the force of his nature. First, he and Mr. Jamieson and A Hoa sat down and prepared a statement of their losses. This they sent to the commander-in-chief of the Chinese forces, who had been responsible for law and order. Without any delay or questioning of the missionaries' rights, the general sent Dr. Mackay the sum asked for -- ten thousand Mexican dollars.*
The next thing was to plan the new chapels and see to the building of them. And before the shouts of "Long-tsong bo-khi" had well started, they began to be contradicted by walls of brick or stone that rose up strong and sure to show that the mission had not been wiped out. Three of the chapels were commenced all at once -- at Sintiam, at Bang-kah and at Sek-khau. Before anything was done Dr. Mackay and a party of his students went up to Sin-tiam to look over the site. They stood up on the pile of ruins, surrounded by the Christians, and a crowd of heathen came around gleefully to watch them in the hopes of seeing their despair.
But to their amazement the little company of Christians led by the wonderful Kai Bok-su, suddenly burst into a hymn of praise to God who had brought them safely through all their troubles:
Bless, O my soul, the Lord thy God,
And not forgetful be
Of all his gracious benefits
He hath bestowed on thee!
The heathen listened in wonder to the words of praise where they had expected lamentation, and they asked each other what was this strange power that made men so strong and brave.
And their amazement grew as the chapels, the lovely new chapels of stone or brick, began to rise from the ruins of the old ones. And not only did the old ones reappear, new and more beautiful, but as Dr. Mackay and his native preachers went here and there over the country others peeped forth like the hepaticas of springtime, until there were not only the forty original chapels, but in a few years the number had increased to sixty.
The triumphant shout that the mission had been wiped out ceased completely, and the people declared that they had been fools to try to destroy the chapels, for the result had been only bigger and better ones.
"Look now," said one old heathen, pointing a withered finger to the handsome spire of the Bang-kah chapel, that lifted itself toward the sky, "Look now, the chapel towers above our temple. It is larger than the one we destroyed."
His neighbors crowding about him and gazing up with superstitious awe at the spire, agreed.
"If we touch this one he will build another and a bigger one," remarked another man.
"We cannot stop the barbarian missionary," said the old heathen with an air of conviction.
"No, no one can stop the great Kai Bok-su," they finally agreed, and so they left off all opposition in despair.
Yes, the cry of "Long-tsong bo-khi" had died, and the answer to it was inscribed on the front of the splendid chapels that sprang up all over north Formosa. For, just above the main entrance to each, worked out in stucco plaster, was a picture of the burning bush, and around it in Chinese the grand old motto:
"Nec tamen consumebatur" ("Yet it was not consumed.")