"I would be undone if I had not access to the
A VISIT TO THE BASE
FROM WHENCE WE ARE AGAIN SENT FORTH WITH FRESH SUPPLIES
IT was with mixed feelings that we came to realise that the days were few until that experience known as "taking furlough" was to be ours.
It was indeed hard to leave our post. England seemed so far away, and the thought of having to readjust oneself to English ways and English dress was not inviting. The desire to see relatives and friends pulled toward the West, but I realised that an even stronger magnet was drawing me with tremendous force to remain in the land of the Celestial.
It was arranged that two experienced missionaries, the Misses Higgs and Johnson, should join Miss Mandeville who had been with us for nearly two years, during our absence. A year of strenuous effort on their part in a post requiring the exercise of tact and forbearance, enabled us to see marked progress in the work upon our return a year later.
In order to carry out our plan of advance new buildings were necessary, and a consultation was held as to the sum required. On the most economical computation this would certainly be L500, and we left for England with the hope and prayer that if it were for the glory of God this sum might be forthcoming.
The months passed by, and sums various were contributed. We were due to leave England in March, and we were still far short of the required amount, when in February, my friend and Pastor, Dr. Campbell Morgan, arranged that I should have an opportunity of telling the members of Westminster Chapel of the work in Hwochow. It was Sunday morning and the usual collection for Church expenses had been taken, but at the close of the service Dr. Morgan announced that those who wished to do so might send contributions to him, which would be forwarded to me. Thanks to the generosity and kindness of those concerned, we left for China with our L500 less L50. In March we started on the interesting journey through Siberia, bringing with us that which was of more value than much gold, Miss French's younger sister, Francesca, to join us in our missionary work.
We reached Moscow, that fascinating city with its churches, Kremlin, and numerous historic interests. We seemed to be at the parting of the way where East and West meet and merge. Partly for the sake of economy and partly for the interest of being more with the people of the land, we decided to travel, not by the train de luxe, but by the Russian daily post train. We were thus able with comfort to do the journey from London to Peking for L20 each, whereas by the International train L35 is required for fare alone.
How keenly we enjoyed it all! The wide, roomy railway compartments, the slow, steady movement of the broad gauge train, enabling one to read and write with comfort; the rush with a tin kettle for hot water from the huge tanks with unlimited supply, provided at each station; the buying of the day's provision from the peasants who crowded to the platforms with eggs, butter, and milk; the reading aloud of some Russian book in the Slavonic surroundings, which contributed so much to make its disconcerting unexpectednesses seem the natural expression of the Russian temperament.
How delightful it all was; but when we reached Manchuria Town and found ourselves in the midst of Chinese, we felt the thrill which comes with the first sight of home. A few more days, and we were in Peking.
We walked in the acres of parkland which surround the Temple of Heaven, and saw its blue-and-yellow-tiled roofs outlined on the azure of the Eastern sky. We stood in the pavilion where the "Son of Heaven," fasting, rested before he proceeded to pray for his people in the double office of priest and king.
What gorgeous scenes the midnight skies have witnessed where the altar raises its marble carvings and mystic symbols to the open vault of heaven. No sign of idolatry is visible; here he worshipped Heaven and Earth, and bowed before the Supreme Ruler, praying for the millions of his people to whom he stood as father. A magnificent conception! The mind of man could scarcely rise higher in ethics of worship, as in solemn splendour the beasts are slain, and the prostrate Emperor under the starlit sky calls upon the unknown god. Confucius seemed to realise the unbridgeable chasm between the offender and his judge when he said: "If a man have offended against heaven, there is none to whom he can pray"; and here the ruler of this great people prayed, but with a recognition of limitation which brought him, later on, back to the familiar idol shrines with an offering of incense and acceptable gifts.
From the quiet dreams of that place, we returned to the hustle and bustle of native city life. Our rickshaw men, with marvellous speed and agility, were soon rushing us through the crowds of peddlers shouting, yelling, and calling on every passer-by to purchase their goods. Beggars, scarcely recognisable as human beings, knocked their foreheads on the ground, beseeching us to give them some cash. The moral support of a policeman is inadequate to the task of protecting the newcomer who has yielded to an impulse of pity.
On we rushed through massive gates, where we ran serious risks of an overturn in meeting a string of heavily laden camels, with sonorous bell hanging to the neck; brightly and gaily dressed ladies passed and repassed in rickshaws; men on horseback, coalheavers, foreign women on bicycles, shining motor-cars, and glass-panelled, silk-upholstered carriages composed a moving picture, with the gates and huge enclosure of the forbidden city as background. From the pandemonium of Chinatown we swung into Legation quarter, where macadamised roads take the place of cobblestones, and for this you call down blessings on civilisation, the rubber tyres of your rickshaw running rapidly and smoothly over the way. Without transition, you pass from East to West. The Wagon-Lits Hotel's fine buildings face you, large foreign shops abound, at night electric lights will blaze over the streets still filled with pleasure-seekers, thoughtless and forgetful, though the words written in days of siege can be clearly descried on the broken fragment of Legation wall: "Lest We Forget."
At the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank we entered to transfer money which was to enable us to erect those longed-for buildings in Hwochow. Whilst I was transacting my business, a voice behind me addressed Miss French by name, and the cashier looked up quickly. Immediately upon the conclusion of my business he asked: "Is that Miss French of Taiyueanfu? Fifty pounds have been lying to her account for three years, and we have been unsuccessful in tracing her whereabouts." Identity having been fully established the money with interest was paid to us, and with our L500 complete and some extra, we journeyed homewards. A strange coincidence you say! Yea, verily, unless "we take our courage in both hands, and call it God."
After a train journey for the next two days, came slow travelling from Taiyueanfu to Hwochow. Long and weary days, in which one takes many hours to accomplish thirty miles, turning in at night to a Shansi inn. A wonderful place it is, carried on with the minimum of expense and trouble to the owner, whose responsibility ends when he has provided you with a kettle of boiling water in an absolutely empty room, the walls and ceiling of which are dirty beyond description. In the courtyard are a few sheds where your mules are stalled for the night, while horses and donkeys, kicking and braying, vie with insecta in enlivening for you the hours of darkness. Meanwhile your landlord has sent to ask whether you are requiring food. The bill of fare offers mien, with accompanying condiments of salt, vinegar, and red pepper. Should you be a bon vivant you will ask for onion and a few bean sprouts, though this entail the reckless expenditure of the further sum of one penny. You lodge a protest at such extortionate charges, for, as your servant remarks, "at such a price we cannot afford to eat." Two sticks cut from a tree serve for table cutlery. "I hate luxury," said Goethe, "it kills the imagination." Here imagination flourishes. Through the dirt and grime of the wall I can decipher a poem which tells me that when I come to reckon with my landlord, my account will be as flowing river. Other scrawls eulogise him, and assure me: "Whoever sleeps upon this kang, sleeps in peace." (I must have been an exception!) An idol, half-torn, hangs in one corner of the room, and in another I discover a Christian tract. Who has passed this way before me? I am aroused from my reverie by the sound of a voice, which utters, without seeing the humour and pathos of the remark: "The foreign devil is reading characters." I turn to see an eye filling the space of a torn piece of window paper, shamelessly scrutinising me, and as I do so the intruder withdraws to discuss with the muleteers my failings, virtues, and intimate habits. Long before light the men are calling us, and we arise, anxious to lose none of the cool morning air. Delays occur, for last night a portion of the harness was pawned to pay for the men's supper. Either we supply the necessary money to redeem the pledge, or wait there indefinitely. We first declare that nothing will make us produce that sum which they are not entitled to receive until the journey's end, but both they and we know that a compromise must be effected. Alas, it is already light and the sun rises glorious, but to-day we are to reach home, and nothing seems hard. A short stay for dinner, and at sunset the gates of Hwochow are visible. I cannot describe these homecomings; the welcomers and welcomed know, and that is enough.
 Vermicelli -- cut with a knife.