BACK in the terrible days of the Tai-ping Rebellion, Captain Yu of the Imperial army was stationed for a short time in Ningpo, one of the famous cities of his own province. While there, he fell in with preachers of " the Jesus Doctrine," and learned something of the teachings of Christianity. Naturally a thoughtful, religious man, he could not but be impressed, but the little he had heard left him with no clear knowledge of the way of salvation. Fifteen long years went by without bringing him further light ; but he was seeking, groping after the truth, and doing all in his power to win and help others to win " the favour of Heaven."

Among a sect of reformed Buddhists strongly opposed to idolatry he had found kindred spirits, and was giving all his time to going from place to place as their accredited agent, though without remuneration. His preaching was necessarily rather negative than positive-denouncing the folly and sin of idol-worship, and proclaiming the existence of one true, supreme Ruler of the universe, the only God who should be worshipped, but of Whom he could tell his hearers practically nothing.

He was growing an old man before, in an inland city (Kin-hwa-fu), he met another foreign missionary. Dr. Douthwaite had come over from his station on the Tsientang river, and with Pastor Wang Lae-djun was preaching daily in a newly opened Gospel hall. Here the devout Buddhist heard in all its fulness the glad tidings of salvation-heard, believed, and found himself a new creature in Christ Jesus. After his baptism a year later (1876) he went down to Chu-chow-fu to be under Dr. Douthwaite's care, for medical treatment, and the latter was rejoiced to see how much progress he had made in knowledge of the Word of God.

" I well remember how, after we had been reading the Scriptures and praying together," he wrote, " Yu earnestly entreated me to let him go out as a preacher of the Gospel.

" ' I have led hundreds on the wrong road,' he said, ' and now I want to turn them to the Way of Truth. Let me go. I ask no wages ; I do not want your money. I only want to serve the Lord Jesus.' "

Three weeks later this ardent missionary, sent out with the prayers of the little church at Chu-chow-fu, returned with his first convert. He had crossed the watershed between Che-kiang and the adjacent province of Kiang-si, and in the beautiful district of Yu-shan had visited some of his former disciples. One of these it was who accompanied him now-a cheery farmer, also named Yu, who was himself to become an earnest soul-winner.

" He seemed to be just boiling over with joy," recalled Dr. Douthwaite. " As soon as he saw me he fell down on his knees, bumped his head on the floor, and said how grateful he was that I had come to that city.

" ' For forty years I have been seeking the Truth,' he said, and now I have found it ! '

" He was one of the many in China who are dissatisfied with all they have, and are groping in the dark for something that can really meet the heart's need. Well, this man earnestly requested to be at once baptized.

" ' Oh,' I replied, 'we cannot go so fast l We must know a little of you and your antecedents.'

" ' No,' he urged, `let me be baptized now. I am an old man, and have come three days' journey. I may never be able to travel so far again. I believe everything you have told me about the Lord Jesus. There is no reason why I should not be baptized to-day.'

" On further enquiry, I myself could see none ; so I baptized him and he went away rejoicing.

" But he did come back, bringing with him six or seven neighbours to whom he had been preaching the Glad Tidings (Feb. 1877). They, too, definitely expressed their faith in Christ, saying that from what they had heard they were convinced that idolatry was false and sinful, and were prepared to give it up. After a few months' testing, I had the joy of receiving them too into the church."

The ex-Captain meanwhile, continuing his labours, had been led to another man from the same district whose heart the Lord opened. Travelling to Yu-shan one day, carrying his few belongings, he had joined company with a stranger who soon became interested in his conversation. Perceiving the old " Teacher " to be a good man, Farmer Tung insisted on relieving him of his bundle of bedding, etc., as they tramped along together mile after mile. So fully did the story of the life, death and resurrection of Christ meet the young man's need, that from that day he too was not only a believer in Jesus but a preacher of the Gospel. On visiting his village (Ta-yang) some months later, Dr. Douthwaite was surprised to find the courtyard of the house filled with an orderly assembly of people waiting as if for a meeting. Stools, chairs, baskets, inverted buckets, whatever could be used as a seat had been requisitioned, and the company consisted of women as well as men-all eagerly expectant. They were waiting, he found, for him to address them ; and on asking how such an audience had been gathered at short notice, he was still more interested to learn that had he not been coming the meeting would have been held just the same. It was their custom to come together every evening in Farmer Tung's house or courtyard, to sing hymns and pray and read from the Word of God ; and in villages far and near, for miles around, the Good News had been made known.1{1 " During the year which followed this visit to Ta-yang, Dr. Douthwaits baptized fifteen converts from that village, and an equal number from other villages in the same district-all the fruit of the labours of Captain Yu and Farmer Tung. In this obscure village, on the eastern border of Kiang-si, the first Christian Church in the Kwang-sin River district was organised. Subsequently a house was rented in the city of Yfi-shan, which was made the centre of missionary effort in that district, and preaching-halls were soon opened in other places " (from The Jubilee Story of the C.I.M., by Marshall Broomhall, p. 138).}

But what has this story, interesting as it may be, to do with our subject-the opening up of Women's Work in the inland provinces ? Simply, that in this beautiful district and through the earnestness of these young converts, God was preparing for a remarkable development of that work ; just as, at Chefoo, He was making unexpected provision for future needs. The schools as we see them to-day, with their numerous activities and advantages, were not primarily of Mr. Taylor's planning ; nor was the chain of ladies' stations that now extends from Yu-shan all down the Kwang-sin River. With its native pastor and evangelists, its churches, schools, teachers, and scores of unpaid workers ; with more than three thousand five hundred believers baptized from the commencement, and thirty foreign missionaries all of whom are women, that chain of stations is unique in China and perhaps in any mission-field. It has afforded a singular demonstration of what God can do in using the weak things of the world to accomplish His purposes ; and by its confirmation of Mr. Taylor's convictions and the lines on which he and his fellow-workers were acting, it has inspired and strengthened similar efforts in many other places.

But all this was as yet undreamed of in the summer of 1880. Mr. Taylor only knew that God was leading ; and after taking the momentous step of sending single women inland, even without foreign escort, he set out himself for the older stations of the mission, little thinking that this journey was to be a link in the chain of such happenings. Thoroughly to investigate the work in Che-kiang was his object ; and the tact and sympathy with which he went about it greatly impressed his young companion, Mr. Coulthard.

" At some of the stations there would be many difficulties," he said in this connection, " but it was wonderful how they disappeared in the course of a visit from Mr. Taylor. Some said he was able to get his own way through personal magnetism, but I saw how he prayed about everything, and was so wise in not being influenced by the prejudices of others. His love and genuine interest were unmistakable. Was there a child in the station-his heart went out to it, and the little one would be sure to respond, opening the way for friendly intercourse with the parents. And his talks over the Bible were so helpful, He had meetings too with the Chinese-just the ordinary Sunday and week-day services, but full of blessing. It was all very simple, but real ; and difficulties were invariably settled."

Together they were keeping up as they journeyed the administrative work of the Mission - answering letters, sending out remittances, corresponding with the home department, and doing most of the preparation of China's Millions. After six weeks of such travelling, they struck across from Tai-chow-fu by a mountainous route never before taken by foreigners to what had been Dr. Douthwaite's station.1-{1- Failure of health had obliged Dr. and Mrs. Douthwaite to remove to more favourable surroundings (at Wen-chow), and before long led to their finding the sphere for which they were ideally suited, in the rapidly growing C.I.M. colony at Chefoo.} There, several years previously (1877), Mr. Taylor had met some of the early converts brought in through the labours of the ex-Buddhist, Captain Yu. The progress of the work interested him deeply, and he decided to cross into the neighbouring province, and return to the Yangtze by way of the Kwang-sin River.

Upon his visits to Farmer Tung and the newly opened out-station at Yu -shan we must not dwell ; but in the light of those lives touched with the love of Christ, the darkness of all that lay around them and beyond was felt the more. Three native evangelists on that long stretch of river, and nothing else in all the million-peopled province, save the work in and near Kiu-Kiang-it was a state of things to burden a - spirit less alive to its responsibilities than Mr. Taylor's. Upon reaching Chefoo a few weeks later,

" None can be more anxious than myself," he wrote, " to see Women's Work commenced in the interior of the various provinces. This has long been the consuming desire of my heart." 2-{2-From a letter to Mr. Sowerby, then a young missionary at Hweichow, An-hwei. October 26. 1880.}

Did the vision come to him-as he passed' those very cities day after day, which were to witness the loving, self-sacrificing labours of girls then free and happy in far-off Christian homes : the vision of lives laid down for Jesus' sake, quietly put into the upbuilding of that kingdom which is " righteousness, joy, and peace " in human hearts, into the comforting of sorrows and the lightening of darkness he could but deeply feel as he passed on ? Whether he saw it or not, there was One who knew why Hudson Taylor had been brought to the Kwang-sin River ; One who knew where to find the treasures of love, ready to be outpoured in His service from many a woman's heart.

And all the while in distant provinces, hundreds of miles farther north and west, a beginning was being made. Strange and new as was the presence of foreign ladies in the great inland cities they now called home, it was no more so than the experiences that were coming to them. Full of interest were the letters Mr. Taylor was receiving, though the pre-occupations they told of left little time for writing.

" We have had a busy time since our arrival," wrote Mr. Nicoll from the metropolis of Western China.1-{1 Chung-king, in Sze-chwan : a letter dated February 1880..} " As soon as it was known that my wife had come, the women flocked to see her.... Since the Chinese New Year we have been quite besieged. With the exception of yesterday and to-day, when it has been raining, we have had from two to five hundred daily."

And the interest did not pass away with the festive season.

" For nearly two months past," Mrs. Nicoll wrote somewhat later, " I have daily seen some hundreds of women. Our house has been like a fair. Men also have come to hear the Gospel in as large numbers. They are spoken to in the front part of the house ; the women I see in the guest-hall and the yard before it, for the room is soon filled.... Often while getting one crowd out at the front-door another has found its way in at the back."

How much she needed help may be imagined ; for, without a Christian woman anywhere within reach, the only person she could fall back upon was a member of their household who, being an old man, was tolerated among the guests in the inner courtyard. As the summer wore on she had to get up at three o'clock in the morning to obtain quiet for Bible study or letters. The busy day that followed rarely brought opportunity for rest ; and more than once she fainted from weariness in the midst of her visitors, returning to consciousness to find the women fanning her, full of affection and concern.1-{1 Mr. Henry Soltau, in giving an account of his visit to Chung-king (Jan. 1881) says : " At the service on Sunday I was much struck with the number of women present, all of whom remained to the close, and afterwards, when the men had left, had a service by themselves with Mrs. Nicoll and the old Cantonese Christian. This work among the women is a most important portion of the mission here. They pay great respect to Mrs. Nicoll and really seem to have an affection for her, while she is deeply interested in them, finding more work to do than she can compass. I could not help feeling what an honour I should regard it had I one of my own sisters labouring in such a field as this. Mrs. Nicoll has access to the homes of the rich and poor. Some of the women I have seen have been dressed in the most handsomely embroidered silks and satins and come in chairs. Mrs. Nicoll helps the women with a few medicines. And she is the only foreign lady in all this province of twenty-one million people! - the first Christian woman who has ever lived and worked among the women of Sze-chwan." It is now known that there are from sixty to seventy millions in this province.}

Among many well-to-do women who were her friends was one elderly lady who cared for her like a mother. From time to time, knowing how weary she must be, this lady would send round her sedan-chair with an urgent request for Mrs. Nicoll to return in it immediately. If she succeeded thus in getting her away from the Mission-house, she would put her on the most comfortable bed in her own apartment, send out all the younger women, and sit down herself to fan her until the tired missionary was fast asleep. Then she would prepare an inviting meal and on no account let her go home until she had taken a good dinner.

That was the surprise, the unexpected encouragement that everywhere awaited these first women who went-the people were glad to see them, were eager, often, to hear their message, and showed not only natural curiosity and interest, but real heart sympathy. Crossing the desperately anti-foreign province of Hu-nan, for example, on its western border where few if any European travellers had ever been seen, Miss Kidd- could write of friendly women wanting to detain them. 2-{2 " We set out on our journey with considerable fear and trembling," Mr. Bailer recalled. " We did not know what might happen.... We found, however, contrary to our expectations, that the people received us with a great deal of kindness. There is a very large floating population in Hu-nan, and many of the boats on the Tung-ting lake are manned by women and worked by them. These women came round our boat as soon as we anchored, and our sisters had not the slightest difficulty in preaching the Gospel to them; and instead of being hostile, they were highly delighted to see the foreign ladies. They stroked their hands and stroked their cheeks and said: 'Dear me, what beautiful white skins you have ! good looks, and enquired what they had come for. This our sisters were not slow to explain. They sang Chinese hymns to the women, with which they were delighted."}

Why do you go to Kwei-chow ? " they said in several places : " we too want happiness and peace. Stay here and be our teachers."

" All the way along," wrote Miss Kidd, " except at large cities, Mrs. M'Carthy and I have been able either to go ashore and visit the women ourselves, or to invite them on board our boat to see us. I do like these Hu-nan women so much! They have been very kind, most. willing to receive us, and ready to listen to what we have to say.... It was a great boon having our native sister with us. Of course, as the women had never seen foreigners before, they were a little afraid at first ; but she would speak to them and tell them all about us and what we had come to do, and soon they would draw near, take us by the hand and invite us to their homes. Once indoors, we would soon be surrounded by quite a crowd of them.

" At one village a little incident occurred that amused me a good deal. We had anchored for the night, and some women invited us to go ashore. Mrs. M'Carthy had toothache, so , I went alone. A woman about half my size, with a baby in her arms, took hold of one of my hands and a girl of about fifteen took the other and led me along the street, telling me not to be afraid, they would take care of me! At the house, such a number came to see me, and some of them seemed to understand the Gospel very well. The same woman with her baby led me back to the boat. May the Lord bless her, kind soul ! "

And their experiences on reaching Kwei-yang were no less encouraging.

" We find the people most friendly," Mrs. M'Carthy wrote during the following summer, " and we go in and out without the least inconvenience. As we walk about, we get many invitations to sit down and drink tea. We are always having our names called out, as is the manner of the Chinese, and many a face brightens when we come in sight."

With Miss Wilson and Miss Fausset it was just the same in their distant northern province. Arrived in Han-chung-fu they found Mr. and Mrs. King in the midst of an absorbing work. God had a people in that place, and it was all the missionaries could do to keep up with developments that before long gave them an unusually bright little church of over thirty baptized believers. One of these, an elderly woman who seemed all on fire with love to Christ, never wearied of accompanying Miss Wilson to the surrounding villages.

" Nothing could be kinder than our reception everywhere," Miss Wilson wrote in October 1880. " I am as well as ever I was, and the old lady, my companion, is radiant. If we should not be back by Tuesday, do not be anxious, for she takes me on to one place after another."

Their experiences were pretty strenuous, however, " eating and sleeping with the people, and walking and talking all day."

" We sit down on the dry path outside a hamlet," she continued on her return to Han-chung, " and soon the women come round us, and ask us probably to a house, in front of which they bring out low benches and sit down to listen very attentively. Then after giving our message we pass on, not accepting their kindly proffered pipes, and sit down again where we see people working in the fields. They leave their ploughs or pulling up of cotton-plants, and come to see and I think to hear, for they get to know our object. Scarcely any can read. I do so want them to have preaching nearer than twelve miles off, and hope Hwang may go to the market-town. He is anxious to do so, and could sell books and be better for the change, as he is always ailing-feet and hands sorely lessened through his leprosy. But God uses his weakness to keep him accessible in' one place, and at liberty for talking to any who may come to hear. He has a sweet Christian experience, and perhaps, had he not this thorn in the flesh,-might be exalted, for several have been led to Christ through him.

" While we were in the villages the people were so hospitable, asking us to meals whenever they were having them, and not willing to take any money. An old couple near our first village, when I was too tired to walk back, brought me out food to where I was resting, and would have me sleep at their house. A huge, round, flat basket, filled with straw, made us a comfortable and roomy bed. My companion had gone back and brought a wadded quilt and everything she could think I might want, on her back, dear old creature ! We managed without these etceteras on our two days' expedition.... My bed one night was quite luxuriously soft, on cotton-plant leaves, stored for fuel, which made a sort of eiderdown coverlet as well.... The people sat round the door in the dusk, listening to the old woman, and asking all about foreigners. Several young men had heard the preaching in the city, so were prepared to think well of our message. We were led step by step in such pleasant paths that we want to go again, hoping that other hamlets too may be equally accessible. Our experience next time may not be the same ; but we have precious seed to sow on whatever ground, and some will spring up we must expect ; for has not the Lord Jesus shed His blood for these, and will He not call out of this province a people for His Name, and send us to seek them ? "

A few weeks later, when Miss Wilson had been about six months in Han-chung-fu, Mr. and Mrs. Parker came up, on their way to a still more needy and distant sphere. They were bound for Kan-su, the farthest north-west of all the provinces, which, with its Mohammedan and Chinese population of ten millions, had but one solitary witness for Christ. Up there in his loneliness, Mr. Easton was longing for their coming, and though it meant another ten days' journey, over rough roads and mountain ranges, Miss Wilson could not let the little bride go on alone. To be her helper and companion, this brave lady set out again to face the unknown-riding on the top of her baggage on one of the pack animals, and accompanied by her faithful attendant the leper Hwang.

It was the depth of winter when they reached Tsin-chow, but hardly had they settled in their new home before the work began to take on a more encouraging aspect. Even the timid Tibetans were attracted by the fame of " the foreign doctor," and the friendliness of all classes was remarkable. Five months only after their arrival Mr. Parker wrote (June 2, 1881)

The wife of a Tao-ist priest had an ulcerated neck reaching from ear to ear, a disease very common in this district and believed by the people to be incurable. My wife visited her, and she began to mend very rapidly under her treatment. The news spread quickly, and for three weeks Mrs. Parker went into the city daily to visit the sick. Most of the women patients have long been sufferers, their ailments are constitutional, or the result of poor, indigestible food;. but many have been much relieved, and to Chinese eyes several remarkable cures have taken place. For several days I sat in the reception-room, making promises of calls and giving medicines from sunrise to sunset. The wife of the chief Mahommedan A-hung we have staying in our house, to be attended to. She has a gathered arm of two years' standing. People are beginning to come in from the country. I doubt whether there is a lane or courtyard in the city where a visit from my wife or Miss Wilson would not be welcomed. . . . Three candidates are waiting to be baptized."

Thus at point after point in the far interior, prayer was being answered and the seemingly impossible brought to pass.1-{1- Shortly before Mrs. Hudson Taylor had left home (May 1878) to lead in this pioneer movement, a special Prayer Union had been formed in England " to seek blessing upon the one hundred and twenty-five millions of heathen women in China." Daily prayer for those labouring among them was the condition of membership ; and who shall say how much the safety, happiness, and success of the first women workers to go to the far inland provinces was due to the united, definite prayer focussed thus upon their labours ? The circular setting forth the objects of the Union was headed with the promise : " If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven " (Matt. 18:19).} " Do love the Chinese women," Mr. Taylor had said to Miss Wilson when she first went out. " Whatever is your best time in the day, give that to communion with God ; and do love the Chinese women." This was the power that was telling now on hearts that were learning through human love, unknown before, the wonder of the Love that passeth knowledge."

" What is this strange, warm feeling we have when we come here to you ? " said a group of visitors to one of the first women missionaries in Ho-nan. " We never feel it anywhere else. In our own mothers' homes we do not feel it. Here our hearts are k'uan-ch'ao-broad and peaceful. What is it warms them so ? We have never felt it before."

But such service was not without its cost. While there was much to encourage-for by the end of 1880 the pioneers were rejoicing in sixty or seventy converts gathered into little churches in the far inland provinces-there was much also to call for faith and patience and the spirit of those who overcame " by the blood of the Lamb " and " loved not their lives unto the death." First to go to the women of western China, Emily King was the first also to be called to higher service. But before her brief course ended-the one precious opportunity in which she had given her all-she had the joy of seeing no fewer than eighteen women baptized on confession of their faith in Jesus. Dying of typhus fever in her far-off home (May 1881), this it was that raised her above the sorrow of leaving her husband desolate, and their little one but five weeks old without a mother. The Man of Sorrows was seeing of " the travail of His soul " among those for whom He had waited so long ! And she was satisfied.

This it was that strengthened the mother's heart by a little lonely grave, when in that same month of May Mrs. George Clarke went on from Kwei-chow, in which she had been the only woman missionary, to the still more distant and difficult province of Yun-nan. The sisters who had come to her help were able by that time to carry on the work ; and the precious child who had filled her hands as well as her heart had been taken to a safer, better Land.

" The Lord has been leading us by a painful path," the father wrote. "Doubtless He saw best to take our dear boy to Himself, to send us to Yun-nan for if he had been spared we should not have thought of leaving Kwei-chow. Now, where is the married couple who can go as well as we ? "

Forty days' journey westward lay the city in which a house was waiting ; and Yun-nan with its twelve millions was without a resident missionary, or any one at all to bring to its women and children the glad tidings of a Saviour's love. Kneeling beside that little grave, the mother consecrated herself afresh to God for this work, and went on to the loneliness and privations she. knew so well, to do in a second great province of western China what she had already been doing in Kwei-chow. And though only two and a half years later she too was called to her reward, the fruit of that life, the answer to her many prayers lives on.

" I seem to have done so little," she said to her husband toward the end. " I seem to have done less than any woman in China."

It was two years and more since she had seen a sistermissionary, or had had any one save her husband to share the prayers and tears over what, in those days and for long after, was a hard and fruitless field. But faith rose above discouragement.

" Others will come after us," she said when her brave task was nearly done. " Others will come after us-"

The harvest is white to the reaping now, in that province where her life was the first to be laid down. From the snowcapped mountains that reminded her of her own Switzerland, on which she loved to watch the sunset glow, the long neglected tribespeople are coming, coming in their hundreds to the Saviour she so truly loved and served. More than eight thousand baptized believers form the present membership of a church in Yun-nan and Kwei-chow that is growing beyond the power to overtake it of those who long and pray for fellow-workers, called of God, to garner the precious sheaves. Who will come while still the Master tarries, and share both in the present toil and in the endless joy of Harvest home ?

Chapter 22Table of ContentsChapter 24