CHAPTER 20--THE FIRST EVANGELISTIC JOURNEY- DECEMBER 1854. AET. 22.

IT was with no little interest, as may well be imagined, that Hudson Taylor made preparation for this first inland journey. In addition to clothes and bedding, a good supply of drugs and instruments had to be packed, for there was no knowing what demands might be made upon him as a medical man. Then there were food-baskets to be stored with provisions ; a stove, cooking utensils, and fuel to be provided ; and last but not least, an ample assortment of books and tracts. The native house-boat engaged by Mr. Edkins was happily large and clean. It had one tall mast with a sail in proportion, and a cabin capable of affording considerable shelter from wind and rain, without causing its occupants any concern as to want of ventilation." Here, then, their belongings were arranged as conveniently as possible, and commending themselves to the care and blessing of God an early start was made on Saturday, December i6.

They were absent the whole of the following week, and in city after city had wonderful opportunities for preaching the Gospel. Everything about their experiences, it need hardly be said, was memorable to Hudson Taylor-from the crowds that thronged them to the least detail of life upon the water, and the look of the low-lying country as it glided by, with its innumerable homes of the living and grave-mounds of the dead.

But that first night on the river had an interest all its own. Anchored amid a fleet of other boats, for mutual protection, they were out among the people at last as he had so often longed to be. Each boat had its family as well as crew, and cheerful was the clatter that went on while the evening meal was in preparation. Then came the little service in their cabin, when the dim light fell on faces full of interest in the old, old story. Born, brought up and married on the water, many among the boat-people never live ashore, and three generations may well have been represented in that evening meeting. Of the talk that followed we know nothing, save that it cannot have been much prolonged. Rising before daylight means retiring early, and soon the young missionary would hear nothing on all the boats around them but an occasional voice or movement and the gong of the night-watchman above the soft lapping of water along the shore.

With the turn of the tide after midnight, a stir began on the boats. Anchors were drawn up, sails hoisted, and junks got under way. As it was still dark our travellers slept on, awakening to find themselves within sight of Sung-kiang, a Fu city 1 {1 A Fu is the governing city of a prefecture (or group of counties), seven to fourteen of which go to make up a province. The word is also applied to the prefect himself and to the district he governs. So that the Sung kiang Fu (mandarin) resides in Sung-kiang Fu (the city) and from that centre controls the entire Sung-kiang Fu (prefecture).} some forty miles south of Shanghai.

Of their work in this place and others en route for Kashing we must not attempt to tell much in detail. A few scenes, however, may be touched upon as showing how the busy days were passed.

In a Buddhist monastery in the first city visited a poor recluse was living, a "holy man," walled up in a tiny chamber in which he had been practically buried alive for years. In the temple-courtyard a great crowd was gathered, listening to some strange religious teachers in the dress of Western lands. They were giving away books as well as preaching, and not until their supply was exhausted did they make a move to pass on. Some of the brotherhood then pressed forward, inviting them to rest awhile in the monastery, and especially to visit the " holy man."

Thus it was that Hudson Taylor saw for the first time one of these unhappy beings. Surrounded by the yellowrobed, shaven-headed priests, the missionaries were escorted to the cell. The only access to the poor devotee was a small opening left when the wall was in process of building, through which a man could scarcely pass his hand. There, almost without light or motion, unwashed, unkempt, and alone, the " holy man " passed his days and nights of silence. How strange must have seemed to him those voices with their foreign accent, and the pale faces of which he caught a glimpse through that little opening, his one point of contact with the outer world. Mr. Edkins, happily, could speak a dialect with which he was familiar, and very earnest were their prayers that the " glad tidings of great joy," heard under these circumstances for the first time, might bring light and salvation to his soul.

In the same city a very different experience awaited them, and one that made them appreciate the eighty-nine stone bridges to be found within its walls. Followed by a noisy rabble as they were seeking their boat, the visitors turned down a side street leading to a landing-stage, which they took to be that of the public ferry. To their dismay it was a private wharf protected by a pair of gates they had hardly noticed in passing. To return by the way they had come was impossible, for the narrow street was filled with an uproarious crowd, who, to prevent escape in that direction, swung to the gates and swarmed all over them, watching between the bars for the next move of the strangers. The position was far from pleasant in an unknown city, with the crowd growing larger and more noisy all the time, and no bridge in sight. But the missionaries quietly looked to the Lord in prayer, and kept their wits about them.

" There were plenty of boats at hand," wrote Mr. Taylor, " but none of them would take us. We called to several, to the great amusement of the crowd, but in vain.... At length seeing that something must be done I took `French leave,' jumped into a boat that was passing, and pulled it to the side for Mr. Edkins. Taken by surprise the men made no objection, and off we went to the chagrin of our tormentors who opened the gates and rushed to the waterside shouting tumultuously."

A first experience of trying crowds ; and he was to meet so many

Before leaving the city that night, a second or third supply of literature being all distributed, a turn in the road brought them suddenly on the base of the Square Pagoda. Grey and imposing the massive structure rose before them that for nine hundred years had been the glory of Sungkiang. The priest in charge consented to admit them, and soon the crowding of the streets gave place, to the sombre quiet of the old pagoda and the view to be seen from a gallery near the top.

Long and silently they stood looking down upon the myriad homes outspread before them. Far reached the ancient wall enclosing its hundreds of thousands, and beyond it the tent-like roofs still stretched away toward the setting sun. And this was only one great centre. All about it lay the rich, level country, dotted as far as eye could see with villages and hamlets, while distant pagodas and temples told of other cities within easy reach.

It was the first time Hudson Taylor had looked out on such a scene, and the fact of China's immense population began to assume new meaning from that hour. In the quiet of their boat that evening he was thinking of it still, pen in hand,

" I think you will join me sooner or later," he wrote to his friend Mr. Broomhall. " Consider the use you could be out here. Oh, for the sake of Him who loved you even unto death, leave all, follow Him, come out and engage in this all-important work."

More important than ever did their work appear next morning when the city of Ka-shan was reached. Could the young missionary ever forget the crowd that awaited them in one of its temple courts ? Having unintentionally disturbed a group of ladies engaged in idol-worship, the missionaries had retired to the pagoda, and upon returning found a sea of faces filling the courtyard, men of all sorts and ages eager to see and hear. For a long time Mr. Edkins held their attention, reasoning with them of sin, righteousness and judgment to come, while Hudson Taylor beside him laboured fervently in prayer.

The address finished and their books distributed, Mr. Edkins asked the crowd to make way for them to leave the temple, and they had just reached the main entrance when an imposing cavalcade arrived. To their surprise it soon transpired that the handsome, dignified official who stepped from his chair, and came down the avenue of soldiers to meet them, was no less a person than the Mayor of the city, intent upon turning back the foreigners. An anxious hour followed, but by explaining their object fully and promising not to go beyond the next prefectural city, the missionaries obtained permission to continue their journey.

" Your books are good," he admitted, " and you may take them as far as Ka-shing, provided some of my attendants accompany you."

And to this requirement he held firm, pointing out the men who were to "shadow " the foreigners. But it does not appear that their presence proved any drawback to the work in hand.

The sun was setting on the fourth day of their journey when at length the city for which they were bound came in sight. Far reached its suburbs along the river-bank, following the grey line of the turreted wall. Informed already as to its history, the travellers knew that Ka-shing Fu was far more ancient and important than any of the places yet visited. Dating from a dynasty that flourished twenty centuries before the Christian era, it had been contemporaneous in its early history with the cities of Abraham's time. Not until A.D. 888, however, had its present wall been built, four miles in circumference, with the moat that surrounds it still.

Despite its long history and many changes, Ka-shing at the time of this visit was a notable centre of wealth and learning. Printing and publishing employed many of its people, but the manufacture of silk and cotton, and a variety of articles in copper and brass, were also among its special industries. The population was vast, but in common with all other places removed by any distance from the Treaty Ports, it was wholly destitute of the Gospel.

Unspeakably thankful to have been able to reach a point so far in the " interior," the missionaries realised that great tact and caution would be needed in making the most of their opportunity. They had learned something already of the difficulties that might arise from showing themselves too freely on the crowded streets, and determined to work in the extensive suburbs rather than enter the city itself. Their presence would soon become known, and those who wished to obtain books or see them personally would have no difficulty in finding out their junk.

Immediately upon arrival, therefore, they went ashore, and before people had awakened to the fact that foreigners had appeared outside the West Gate, they had distributed a large number of tracts. But even so,

" Returning to our boat," wrote Mr. Taylor, " we unintentionally gratified hundreds of spectators ... including many ladies, elegantly dressed. But soon the gathering shades of evening emptied the windows and closed the doors. Boats ceased coming for tracts, the people went home for the night, and we ourselves were glad of a little rest."

Next morning they were up betimes, and even before breakfast made a good beginning in the Liu-li-Kiai, or TwoMile Street, bordering the Grand Canal. Whenever a crowd collected they passed on in their boat to another part of the river-bank, their movements being so quick that they were able to leave tracts along the whole length of this suburb before it became prudent to absent themselves for a time. This they did by poling round to the south side of the city, where a wide expanse of water and some picturesque islands formed • a favourite pleasureresort. Here they were accessible to any who wished to follow them, and even if the crowds were large business would not be interrupted, nor the shopkeepers annoyed.

Little were they prepared, however, for the invasion of the Yen-yu Leo (Mansion of Smoke and Rain) that followed. Out in the middle of the lake, this attractive island was the place chosen by the Emperor K`ien-lung of the present dynasty for a summer residence, and the beautiful building and gardens preserved a. romantic interest, though falling somewhat into decay. Mooring their boat near the palaces now used as a temple, Mr. Edkins and his companion went ashore to see what was to be seen. But they themselves were the sight of supreme interest, as they soon discovered.

Before we had finished looking round we observed a number of boats putting off in our direction, and soon a regular ferry was established between the island and the opposite suburb. The people came in multitudes, and those who could read were quickly supplied with tracts. When a large number had collected, Mr. Edkins preached, and afterwards I had a long talk with some who gathered round me for books. By this time the numbers who had come were so great that we were obliged to go on board our boat, from which Mr. Edkins again addressed the people, to many of whom tracts were given..

As the crowd was continually receiving accessions, we thought it wiser to put off a little from the island, to prevent those who 'were behind from pushing the foremost into the water in their eagerness to see and hear. Immediately, however; the people followed us, and in the middle of the lake we were surrounded by boats and kept hard at work supplying the newcomers with portions of Scripture and tracts. As fast as one boat was supplied it pushed off and another took its place. It must have been a paying business for the boatpeople ! The boats were a better class than those commonly seen about Shanghai, and almost without exception they were sculled by women. Supplying tracts and talking without intermission proved tiring work as the afternoon wore on. But what joy it was to remember the promise that cannot be broken, " My Word shall not return unto Me void," and to think that not a few around us might shine forever like the stars of heaven in the Kingdom of our Lord.

Later in the day visits were received from several intelligent men who wanted to know more about the contents of the books they had received. Some were strangers from a distance, others Mandarins awaiting office, and one an Inspector of Grain in the Ka-shing district. These persons engaged Mr. Edkins in prolonged conversation, while Hudson Taylor continued supplying tracts from the deck. Not until evening was there any cessation in this work, and then boat-people and foreigners were alike weary and thankful for rest.

The following morning found them again near the Two Mile Street, as the island would not have been a safe anchorage for the night. After breakfast, and united prayer for blessing, they visited several smaller suburbs before moving off to the South Lake as before. Here the people began coming at once, and much of the day was occupied in preaching and seeing patients as well as in supplying literature, for which there was a great demand.

" We found no difficulty," wrote Mr. Edkins of the entire journey, " in distributing a full share of the Million Chinese Testaments."

In the course of the afternoon they spent an hour or two in a famous temple containing several idols of twenty to thirty feet in height. A most impressive view was obtained from the pagoda near at hand, and the brief respite for prayer that it afforded sent them back refreshed to the crowd below. Until evening they were again the centre of a busily-plying ferry-system on the South Lake, for only when dusk was falling did the last of their visitors row away.

A stormy night followed, ushering in a change of weather that put a stop to their work for the time being ; but not before one rainy day had been spent in conversation with specially-interested callers.

" Your words are true and your books are true," said some of these on leaving. " It is a good doctrine."

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