|You make a very great mistake in thinking Christianity is a religion. It is not a religion,
it is a person.| -- Words of a converted Mohammedan.
|Lord! how wouldest Thou deal with this sick man -- in body, or spirit?| S. VINCENT DE PAUL.
|A sick person does so enjoy hearing good news.|
PREACHING THE GOSPEL, HEALING THE SICK
TELLING OF THE DAILY ROUTINE
LIKE the apostle of old, the missionary must be ready, however heavy the claim upon his time, to receive all who come.
At any hour of the day, we may hear the clatter of sticks upon the ground indicating that some of our neighbours, whose minute feet prevent them from walking unaided, have found their way through the open front door and brought some friends to see the house of the foreigner.
The Chinese woman is an inveterate sightseer, but unfortunately the attractions of Hwochow are not many; there is no end, however, to the marvels found within the walls of the Mission compound.
The leader of the party is frequently our old friend, Goat's Mother, the members of her clan being numerous and of an inquisitive nature.
The well-favoured Goat, aged five years, wears a brilliant yellow cotton jacket, on which are sketched in bold brush work every species of venomous insect. On his left shoulder is a scorpion, while centipedes, beetles, and other forms of poisonous insect life cover his back and chest. To his right shoulder is stitched a diminutive pair of red-and-green trousers. The yellow coat is his protection from stings and bites, the tiny trousers from measles, and longevity is secured by a heavy silver padlock, which hangs from his neck by a silver chain.
With much assistance from the Bible-women the whole party climb the few steps leading to the verandah, and exhausted by the effort, gratefully accept our invitation to be seated in the guest-room.
Tea is offered, but we know better than to press them to partake of any refreshment, for these women have been warned on no account to let food or drink pass their lips while under our roof, lest by a magic spell they find themselves compelled to become Christians.
The room is furnished in conventional Chinese style -- a square table with scarlet embroidered table-skirt, and backed by an ornate arrangement of banner, scrolls, vases, and teacups, with stiff chairs on either side. Our guests' first observation is to remark upon the surprising cleanliness of the apartment, the next is to ask where we sleep, and the third is to comment freely upon our personal appearance.
|Have you turned sixty yet?| I am asked, and much surprise is expressed at the information supplied by Goat's Mother that I have not yet seen my fortieth birthday. |It is the white hair that makes her look so old,| is the comment offered in explanation of my fair complexion.
Goat's Mother has brought her relations on a promise that they shall see the foreigner's bedroom and |little iron tailor,| hear the musical box, and be allowed to inspect the enormous saucepan in which the school food is made, ending up with a visit to the rooms where the women read the Bible.
Before, however, these favours can be granted, as she well knows, the party must be prepared to give its attention to the one topic upon which the missionaries never fail to speak. This proves to be more interesting than they had anticipated, for one wall of our guest-room is decorated with pictures which illustrate interesting stories, the application of which throws light upon that problem which confronts every human heart: |How can the burden of sin be removed?|
The time passes quickly and most of the wonders have been seen, when a piercing yell from the young Goat indicates that the limit of his patience has been reached. The orders of this small autocrat allow of no question, and further intercourse is impossible, for his shrieks will not cease until his wishes have been complied with. The whole party rises, and we follow them, urging them to |walk slowly| and to come again on Sunday. |We will come, we will come,| several answer, but others are deep in a discussion as to what provision is possible for our old age, seeing that we have neither husband nor son.
As they disappear through, the street door, they meet a fresh group entering who are in turn received by the Bible-women. Thus, from day to day, the Word is preached and cast as bread upon the waters. Sometimes a woman will return in a few days to hear more, and sometimes, years later, in a remote mountain hamlet a woman will greet us with a smile, surprised that we do not remember her visit to our house, when, as she reminds us, we told her about Jesus, the Son of God.
* * * * *
With those women who come as patients to the dispensary, we enter upon a more intimate relationship. The payment of their fee entitles them to three visits, of which they take full advantage and often come under our care for a much longer course of treatment.
They are an interesting crowd with their varied complaints. A child whose arm has been badly scalded months before, and who has received no treatment during that period but an application of rat oil and charred matting, is in a revolting condition, a pitiful sight indeed. A young woman who has lost her eyesight attributes her affliction to a fit of violent temper, when for a whole day she worked herself into a frenzy, and cried until the power of sight was gone. The victims of tubercular disease, the scourge of North China, never fail to appear, some evidently having fallen a prey to that form known as the |hundred days' illness| which will carry off an apparently healthy subject in three months.
At stated periods, children may be brought for vaccination. The method of inoculation for the prevention of smallpox is said to have been introduced into China by a philosopher of Szechwan, and has been practised since the year 1014. Vaccination is now freely practised by the Chinese doctors whose fees are generally 50 per cent. higher for boys than for girls, the lives of the former being of so much greater value.
The extraction of teeth is a popular diversion, and the tooth is carefully preserved by the patient, in order that with the other earthly remains it may be laid in the coffin on the day of her death.
Amongst the number are some whose diseases are hard to find, as in the case of one family whose several members persistently reappeared with such infinitesimal ailments that we felt compelled to tell them that no further treatment was necessary. The answer we received was, that the head of the house having become interested in Christianity had signified to his wife his desire that she should be under treatment for a whole year, in order that she might receive continued instruction in the Scriptures. They thought the dispensary would serve as the best face-saving subterfuge, therefore she said: |If there be nothing more serious, will you wash my ears!|
Broadly speaking, the patients only recognise two categories of illness -- one described as |fire,| and the other as |chill.| Their chief desire is for a diagnosis which shall clearly state under which heading their particular ailment should be classified, and we often receive a message to the effect that |inward fire| is causing trouble, and the sufferer would like medicine such as was given to her on the tenth day of the third moon, three years previously, which had wonderful fire-extinguishing properties.
Having been accustomed to the Chinese doctor and his methods, our patients, begging that the best may be done for them, assure the helpers that merit will be accumulated by those who work towards this end. All are surprised to find that a uniform fee is charged and that there is no opportunity for bargaining, as the regular physician writes prescriptions for first, second, or third-rate medicine, according to the purse.
[Illustration: THE TEACHING STAFF.
(See page 233.)
To face page 228.]
The male and female principle in nature, by which all things are produced and which has been called the |warp and woof of Chinese thought,| forms the basis of Chinese medical science, and every line of treatment must be in accordance with the laws laid down by this dualistic principle.
Unfortunately, many of the more nutritive articles of diet, such as the fowl and the egg, are frequently denied to the sick woman as falling under that principle which makes them unsuited to many of her illnesses, and while it is admitted that sleep is essential to a sick man, the female patient must not be allowed to indulge in it except at night. Milk is renowned for its heating properties, and is most unwillingly consumed by the tubercular patient, who believes her disease to fall under the heading of |fire| and knows that anything so heating will only feed the flame. Had pears, cooked or uncooked, been ordered she would fully have appreciated the wisdom which prescribed them.
All these startling innovations are carefully and intelligently explained by the dispensary helpers and normal students who take the practical side of their course in First Aid, Home Nursing, and Invalid Cookery, in the dispensary. Their labours have not been in vain, and the presence of the Great Physician has often been manifest in the midst, as weary, heart-sick women whose ills were beyond our help have found healing and, touching the hem of His garment, been made perfectly whole.
As the patients scatter, the students impress afresh upon their memory how, and in what quantity, the medicine should be taken. Only too often the printed directions are entirely disobeyed, and the week's supply swallowed in one dose, on the strength of that unanswerable argument with which we wrestled in the days of childhood:
If one dose = improvement,
Twenty doses = x, i.e. complete cure.