Up and down the length and breadth of north Formosa, seeming to be in two or three places at once, went Kai Bok-su, during this time of reviving after the war. He would be in Kelung to-day superintending the new chapel building, in Tamsui at Oxford College the next day, in Bang-kah preaching a short while after, and no one could tell just where the next day.
But every one did know that wherever he went, Christians grew stronger and heathen gave up their idols. The Kap-tsu-lan plain, away on the eastern coast, seemed to be a sort of pet among all his mission fields, and he was always turning his steps thither. For the Pe-po-hoan who lived there, while they were simple and warm-hearted and easily moved by the gospel story, were not such strong characters as the Chinese. So the missionary felt he must visit them often to help steady their faith.
Not long after the close of the war, he set off on a trip to the Kap-tsu-lan plain. Besides his students, he was accompanied by a young German scientist. Dr. Warburg had come from Germany to Formosa to collect peculiar plants and flowers and to find any old weapons or relics of interest belonging to the savage tribes. All these were for the use of the university in Germany which had sent him out.
The young scientist was delighted with Dr. Mackay and found in him a very interesting companion. They met in Kelung, and when Dr. Warburg found that Dr. Mackay was going to visit the Kap-tsu-lan plain, he joined his party. The stranger found many rare specimens of orchids on that trip and several peculiar spear and arrow heads to be taken back as curios to Germany. But he found something rarer and more wonderful and something for which he had not come to search.
He saw in one place three hundred people gather about their missionary and raise a ringing hymn of praise to the God of heaven, of whom they had not so much as heard but a few short years before. He visited sixteen little chapels and heard clever, bright-faced young Chinese preachers stand up in them and tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love. And he realized that these things were far more wonderful than the rarest curios he could find in all Formosa.
When he bade good-by to Dr. Mackay, he said: "I never saw anything like this before. If scientific skeptics had traveled with a missionary as I have and witnessed what I have witnessed on this plain, they would assume a different attitude toward the heralds of the cross."
Not many months later Dr. Mackay again went down the eastern coast. This time he took three of his closest friends, all preacher students, Tan He, Sun-a, and Koa Kau. With a coolie to carry provisions, their Bibles, their forceps, and some malaria medicine, they started off fully equipped. By steam launch to Bang-kah, by a queer little railway train to Tsui-tng-kha and by foot to Kelung was the first part of the journey. The next part was a tramp over the mountains to Kap-tsu-lan.
The road now grew rough and dangerous. Overhead hung loose rocks, huge enough to crush the whole party should they fall. Underneath were wet, slippery stones which might easily make one go sliding down into the chasm below.
As usual on this trip they had many hair-breadth escapes, for there were savages too hiding up in the dense forest and waiting an opportunity to spring out upon the travelers. Dr. Mackay was almost caught in a small avalanche also. He leaped over a narrow stream-bed, and as he did so, he dislodged a loose mass of rock above him. It came down with a fearful crash, scattering the smaller pieces right upon his heels; but they passed all dangers safely and toward evening reached the shore where the great long Pacific billows rolled upon the sand. They were in the Kap-tsu-lan plain.
Their journey through the plain was like a triumphal march. Wherever a chapel had been erected, there were converts to be examined; wherever there was no chapel, the people gathered about the missionary and pleaded for one. They often recalled the first visit of Kai Bok-su when "No room for barbarians" were the only words that met him.
But Dr. Mackay wished to go farther on this journey than he had ever gone. Some distance south of Kap-tsu-lan lay another district called the Ki-lai plain. The people here were also aborigines of the island who had been conquered by the Chinese like the Pe-po-hoan. But the inhabitants of Ki-lai were called Lam-si-hoan, which means "Barbarians of the south." Dr. Mackay had never been among them, but they had heard the gospel. A missionary from Oxford College had journeyed away down there to tell the people about Jesus and had been working among them for some years. He was not a graduate, not even a student -- but only the cook! For Oxford College was such a place of inspiration under Kai Bok-su, that even the servants in the kitchen wanted to go out and preach the gospel. So the cook had gone away to the Ki-lai plain, and, ever since he had left, Dr. Mackay had longed to go and see how his work was prospering.
So at one of the most southerly points of the Kap-tsu-lan plain he secured a boat for the voyage south. The best he could get was a small craft quite open, only twelve feet long. It was not a very fine vessel with which to brave the Pacific Ocean, but where was the crazy craft in which Kai Bok-su would not embark to go and tell the gospel to the heathen? The boat was manned by six Pe-po-hoan rowers, all Christians, and at five o'clock in the evening they pushed out into the surf of So Bay. A crowd of converts came down to the shore to bid them farewell. As the boat shoved off the friends on the beach started a hymn. The rowers and the missionaries caught it up and the two groups joined, the sound of each growing fainter and fainter to the other as the distance widened.
All lands to God in joyful sounds
Aloft your voices raise,
Sing forth the honor of his name,
And glorious make his praise!
And the land and the sea, answering each other, joined in praise to him who was the Maker of both.
And so the rowers pulled away in time to the swing of the Psalm, the boat rounded a point, and the beloved figure of Kai Bok-su disappeared from sight.
Away down the coast the oarsmen pulled, and the four missionaries squeezed themselves into as small a space as possible to be out of the way of the oars. All the evening they rowed steadily, and as they still swept along night came down suddenly. They kept close to the shore, where to their right arose great mountains straight up from the water's edge. They were covered with forest, and here and there in the blackness fires twinkled.
"Head-hunters!" said the helmsman, pointing toward them.
Away to the left stretched the Pacific Ocean, and above shone the stars in the deep blue dome. It was a still, hot tropical night. From the land came the heavy scent of flowers. The only sound that broke the stillness was the regular thud, thud of the oars or the cry of some wild animal floating out from the jungle. As they passed on through the warm darkness, the sea took on that wonderful fiery glow that so often burns on the oceans of the tropics. Every wave became a blaze of phosphorescence. Every ripple from the oars ran away in many-colored flames -- red, green, blue, and orange. Kai Bok-su, sitting amazed at the glory to which the Pe-po-hoan boatmen had become accustomed, was silent with awe. He had seen the phosphorescent lights often before, but never anything like this. He put his hand down into the molten sea and scooped up handfuls of what seemed drops of liquid fire. And as his fingers dipped into the water they shone like rods of red-hot iron. Over the gleaming iridescent surface, sparks of fire darted like lightning, and from the little boat's sides flashed out flames of gold and rose and amber. It was grand. And no wonder they all joined -- Chinese, Malayan, and Canadian -- in making the dark cliffs and the gleaming sea echo to the strains of praise to the One who had created all this glory.
O come let us sing to the Lord,
To him our voices raise
With joyful noise, let us the rock
Of our salvation praise.
To him the spacious sea belongs,
For he the same did make;
The dry land also from his hand
Its form at first did take.
Dawn came up out of the Pacific with a new glory of light and color that dispelled the wonders of the night. It showed the voyagers that they were very near a low shore where it would be possible to land. But the helmsman shook his head at the proposal. He pointed out huts along the line of forest and figures on the shore. And then with a common impulse, the rowers swung round and pulled straight out to sea; for with Pe-po-hoan experience they saw at once that here was a savage village, and not long would their heads remain on their shoulders should they touch land.
The scorching sun soon poured its hot rays upon the tired rowers, but they pulled steadily. They too, like Kai Bok-su, were anxious to take this great good news of Jesus Christ to those who had not yet learned of him. When safely out of reach of the headhunters, they once more turned south, and, about noon, tired and hot, at last approached the first port of the Ki-lai plain. Every one drew a sigh of relief, for the men had been rowing steadily all night and half the day. As they drew near Dr. Mackay looked eagerly at the queer village. It appeared to be half Chinese and half Lam-si-hoan. It consisted of two rows of small thatched houses with a street between nearly two hundred feet wide.
The rowers ran the boat up on the sloping pebbly beach and all stepped out with much relief to stretch their stiffened limbs. They had scarcely done so when a military officer came down the shore and approaching Dr. Mackay made him welcome with the greatest warmth. There was a military encampment here, and this was the officer as well as the headman of the village. He invited Dr. Mackay and his friends to take dinner with him. Dr. Mackay accepted with pleased surprise. This was far better than he had expected. He was still more surprised to hear his name on every hand.
"It is the great Kai Bok-su," could be heard in tones of deepest respect from fishermen at their nets and old women by the door and children playing with their kites in the wide street.
"How do they know me?" he asked, as he was greeted by a rice-seller, sitting at the open front of his shop.
"Ah, we have heard of you and your work in the north, Pastor Mackay," said his host, smiling, "and our people want to hear of this new Jehovah-religion too.
The cook-missionary had evidently spread wonderful reports of Kai Bok-su and his gospel and so prepared the way. He was preaching just then in a place called Ka-le-oan, farther inland. When the officer learned that Dr. Mackay wanted to visit him he turned to his servant with a most surprising order. It was to saddle his pony and bring him for Kai Bok-su to ride to Ka-le-oan.
The pony came, sleek and plump and with a string of jingling bells adorning him. A pony was a wonderful sight in Formosa, and Dr. Mackay had not used any sort of animal in his work since that disastrous day when he had tried in vain to ride the stubborn Lu-a. But now he gladly mounted the sedate little steed and trotted away along the narrow pathway between the rice-fields toward Ka-le-oan.
Darkness had almost descended when he rode into the village and stopped before a small grass-covered bamboo dwelling where the cook-preacher lived. For years the people here had looked for Kai Bok-su's coming, for years they had talked of this great event, and for years their preacher had been writing and saying as he received his reply from the eager missionary in Tamsui, "He may come soon."
And now he was really here! The sound of his horse's bells had scarcely stopped before the preacher's house, when the news began to spread like fire through the village. The preacher, who had worked so hard and waited so long, wept for joy, and before he could make Dr. Mackay welcome in a proper manner the room was filled with men, all wildly eager for a sight of the great Kai Bok-su, while outside a crowd gathered about the door striving to get even a glimpse of him. The ex-cook of Oxford College had preached so faithfully that many were already converted to Christianity, many more knew a good deal of the gospel, and crowds were ready to throw away their idols. They were weary of their heathen rites and superstitions. They were longing for something better, they scarcely knew what. "But the mandarin will not let them become Christians," said the preacher anxiously. "It is he who is keeping them from decision. He has said that they must continue in idolatry, as a token of loyalty to China."
"Are you sure that is true?" cried Dr. Mackay.
The converts nodded. They had "heard" it said at least.
But Kai Bok-su was not the man to accept mere hearsay. He was always wisely careful to avoid any collision with the authorities. But remembering the kindness shown him back in Hoe-lien-kang, he could not quite believe that the mandarin who had been so kind to him could be hostile to the religion of Jesus Christ.
To think was to act, and early the next morning, he was riding back to the seacoast, to inquire how much of this rumor was true.
His reception was very warm. It was all right, the officer declared. Whatever had been said or done in the past must be forgotten. Kai Bok-su might go where he pleased and preach his Jehovah-religion to whomsoever he would.
It was a very light-hearted rider the pony carried as he galloped back along the narrow paths, with the good news for the villagers. The word went round as soon as he arrived. Kai Bok-su wanted to know how many were for the true God. All who would worship him were at once to clear their houses of idols and declare that they would serve Jehovah and him only. At dark a great crowd gathered in an open space in the village. Representatives from five villages were there, chiefs were shouting to their people, and when Dr. Mackay and his students arrived, the place was all noise and confusion. He was puzzled. It almost looked as if there was to be a riot, though the voices did not sound angry.
He climbed up on a pile of rubbish and his face shone clear in the light of the flaring torches. His voice rang out loud and commanding above the tumult.
"What is this noise about?" he cried. "Is there a difference of opinion among you as to whether you shall worship these poor toys of wood and stone, or the true God who is your Father?"
He paused and as if from one man came back the answer in a mighty shout:
"No, we will worship the true God!"
The tumult had been one of enthusiasm and not of dispute!
Kai Bok-su's heart gave a great bound. For a moment he could not speak. He who had so often stood up fearless and bold before a raging heathen mob, now faltered before this sea of eager faces, upturned to him. It seemed too good to be true that all this crowd, representing five villages, was anxious to become followers of the God of heaven. His voice grew steady at last, and standing up there in the flickering torchlight he told those children of the plain what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It was a late hour when the meeting broke up, but even then Dr. Mackay could not go to bed. Never since the day that A Hoa, his first convert, had accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, had he felt such joy, and all night he walked up and down in front of the preacher's house, unable to sleep for the thankfulness to God that surged in his heart.
Morning brought a wonderful day for the Ki-lai plain. It was like a day when freedom from slavery was announced. Had there been bells in the village they would certainly have been rung. But joy bells were ringing in every heart. Nobody could work all day. The rice-fields and the shops and the pottery works lay idle. There was but one business to do that day, and that was to get rid of their idols.
Early in the morning the mayor of the place, or the headman as he was called, came to the house to invite the missionary and his party to join him. Behind him walked four big boys, carrying two large wicker baskets, hanging from poles across their shoulders; and behind them came the whole village, men, women, and children, their faces shining with a new joy. The procession moved along from house to house. At every place it stopped and out from the home were carried idols, ancestral tablets, mock-money, flags, incense sticks, and all the stuff used in idol worship. These were all emptied into the baskets carried by the boys. When even the temple had been ransacked and the work of clearing out the idols in the village was finished, the procession moved on to the next hamlet. The villages were very near each other, so the journey was not wearisome; and at last when every vestige of the old idolatrous life had been taken from the homes of five villages, the happy crowd marched back to the first village. There was a large courtyard near the temple and here the procession halted. The boys dropped their well-filled baskets, and their contents were piled in the center of the court. The people gathered about the heap and with shouts of joy set fire to these signs of their lifelong slavery. Soon the pile was blazing and crackling, and all the people, even the chiefs of the villages, vied with each other in burning up the idols they had so lately besought for blessings.
And then they turned toward the heathen temple and delivered it over to Kai Bok-su for a chapel in which he and his students might preach the gospel.
And so the temple was lighted up for a new kind of worship. It had been used for worship many, many times before, but oh, how different it was this time! Instead of coming in fear of demons, dread of their gods' anger, and determination to cheat them if possible, these poor folk crowded into the new-old temple with light, happy hearts, as children coming to their Father. And was not God their Father, only they had not known him before?
The heathen temple was dedicated to the worship of the true God by singing the old but always new, one hundredth Psalm. The Lam-si-hoan were not very good singers. They had not much idea of tune. They had less idea of just when to start, and there was very little to be said about the harmony of those hundreds of voices. But in spite of it all, Kai Bok-su had to confess that never in the music of his homeland or in the more finished harmonies of Europe, had he heard anything so grandly uplifting as when those newly-freed people stood up in their idol temple and with heart and soul and voice unitedly poured forth in thunderous volume of praise the great command:
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
For a whole week with his pony and groom, which were still his to do with as he pleased, the busy missionary rode up and down this plain, visiting the villages, preaching, and teaching the people how to live as Jesus Christ their Savior had lived; for it was necessary to impress upon their childlike minds that it would be of no use to burn up the idols in their homes and temple unless they also gave up the still more harmful idols in their hearts.
But at last the day came when the pony had to be returned to its owner and the missionary and his helpers must leave. It was a sad day but a joyous one -- the day that great visit came to an end. Crowds of Christians, fain to keep him, followed him down to the shore, and many kindly but reluctant hands shoved the little boat out into the surf. And as the rowers sent it skimming out over the great Pacific rollers, there rose from the beach the parting hymn, the one that had dedicated the heathen temple to the worship of the true God:
All people that on earth do dwell,
Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice.
and from the rowers and the missionaries in the boat, came back the glad echo:
Know that the Lord is God indeed
Without our aid he did us make.
They were soon out of sight. The rowers pulled hard, but a stiff northeaster straight from Japan was blowing against them, and they made but little headway. Night came down, and they were again skirting those dark cliffs, where, here and there, along the narrow strip of sand, the night-fires of the savages flamed out against the dark tangle of foliage. All night long the rowers struggled against the wind. They were afraid to go out far for the waves were wild, they dared not land, for, crueler than the sea, the head-hunters waited for them on the shore. And so all that night, taking turns with the rowers, the missionary and his students toiled against the wind and wave. The dawn came up gray and stormy, and they were still tossing about among the white billows. No one had touched food for twenty-four hours. They had rice in the boat, but there was no place where they dared land to have it cooked. There was nothing to do but to pull, pull at the oars, and a weary task it seemed, for the boat appeared to make little headway, and the rowers barely succeeded in keeping her from being dashed upon the rocks.
They were becoming almost too weak to keep any control over their boat, when about three o'clock in the afternoon they managed to round a point. There before them curved a beautiful bay. Behind it and on both sides arose a perpendicular wall several hundred feet high. At its foot stretched a narrow sandy beach. It was an ideal spot, secure from savages both by land and sea. A shout of encouragement from Kai Bok-su was the one thing needed. Tired arms and aching backs bent to the oars for one last effort, and when the boat swept up on the sandy beach every one uttered a heartfelt prayer of thankfulness to the Father who had provided this little haven in a time of such distress.
The rest of the journey was made safely, and just forty days after their departure the four missionaries returned, worn out, to Tamsui.