|It is Jesus who has introduced into virtue a passion before which vice is not condemned but
consumed as by fire.| -- Rev. CARNEGIE SIMPSON.
|Round the cape of a sudden came the sea,
And the sun looked over the mountain's rim:
And straight was a path of gold for him,
And the need of a world of men for me.|
MRS. HSI'S SECOND GIFT
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF HER LIFE FROM WIDOWHOOD
ONE direct result of the lack of foreign workers was the appointment of Mrs. Hsi to the oversight of the women's work in Chaocheng. During her husband's lifetime she had been eager to learn all she could, and had with difficulty mastered some of the Chinese characters. She often expressed to him her desire to learn more, but he told her to remember that the need for her to attend to the domestic side of the large establishment at the Middle Eden was essential, and her life until his death was largely a busy domestic one.
Not entirely, however, was this the case. When it became necessary to open a Refuge for Women in the city of Hungtung, it was to his wife that the Pastor looked for help, and she, there and in other places, did a truly Christlike work. It was in the city of Hsugo that she accomplished her most difficult task. It seemed as if the devil had a special power there, and Pastor Hsi was almost in despair. Man after man, amongst them some of his most trusted helpers, fell into sin, or were overcome by difficulties in that place.
How to hold it at all was a problem. He solved it by sending his wife, and alone she went to live six days' journey from the place where he was, and for the first time the work in Hsugo was successful.
Almost immediately after her return home, Pastor Hsi developed the illness from which he never recovered. He was at work on some Refuge accounts when he felt unwell, and his spirit became conscious that the messenger had come with a command |that he must prepare for a change of life, for his Master was not willing that he should be so far from Him any longer.|
For nearly six months he lingered still, making preparations for the journey ahead; he gave directions for the temporary closing of the Refuges, recognising, doubtless, that the time while he was still on earth, but unable to exercise control, might be an even more perilous period than that which would follow his death. Mrs. Hsi herself fell ill, and so seriously that her life was at one time despaired of. She was barely able to stand the fatigue of the public funeral to which hundreds gathered, yielding to their grief and sobbing as children who had lost a parent. She herself was bowed with sorrow, for they had been truly one in God's service, but strength was sent to her through a dream in which she saw her husband, in glory beyond her imagining, and with him the boy who had been their only son and had died in childhood. When she desired to join them he rebuked her, saying: |Nay, but you must return|; and obedient, she turned her back on the heavenly glory and faced |the need of a world| of sin.
Mrs. Hsi was now to realise to the full the unfortunate position of a childless widow. According to the custom of the country, the nearest male relative on her husband's side should have been her protector, but this duty devolved on a nephew who was an opium smoker, gambler, and unregenerate heathen, and what should have been protection took the form of persecution.
Elder Si, her brother-in-law, took over the control of the opium refuges and the preparation of the medicine used. Days of prayer and fasting always preceded the compounding of the drugs which were prepared in Pastor Hsi's own home, and sent out in the form of pills. It was in connection with the medicine that Mrs. Hsi's first difficulties occurred. Large quantities of the various ingredients were stored at Middle Eden, and the said nephew claimed possession of this stock, declaring his intention of defending his rights by stabbing any one who dared to touch it.
The time came when the drugs were required, and arrangements were quietly made for the removal of the material to the home of Elder Si. Before touching the goods, Mrs. Hsi called the young man to her, and addressing him by name told him to fetch his knife, as she intended to carry out her husband's wishes and supply the Refuges with the necessary medicine without delay. Abashed, and half-ashamed by her self-confidence and dignity, he muttered excuses and left her presence with an apology.
Nevertheless, it required all her wits and most of her time to prevent this ne'er-do-weel from robbing her of all she possessed. Opium he would eat, his gambling habits were strong, and how could she prevent him from stealing that which, as one of the family, he could partially claim as his own? The problem weighed upon her mind and she decided that division of the land, each taking half the produce of the farm, was the only solution. Even so she was not safe; there is a Chinese proverb which says: |It is hard to deal with a thief who is one of the family,| and she proved it to be true. If she left home for a few days she would return to find her door broken open, her clothes stolen, and her grain visibly less. Although the Chinese law would offer her redress, she, by reason of Christian principle and the example of her husband, never appealed for help to an earthly tribunal, but daily prayed: |Lord, have mercy on him, and change his heart.|
In the early days of her faith, Mrs. Hsi had earnestly desired to unbind her feet as witness that she was a Christian, but her husband, fearful lest any should be misled to regard Christianity as conformity to foreign customs rather than to a change of heart, was strongly opposed to her doing so. He strictly forbade the binding of children's feet, but saw no need for outward change of shoe in the foot already disfigured. During his lifetime she yielded to his wish, but after his death refused to let her mature judgment be held in abeyance by the dead hand of the past, and did that which she felt was a testimony to many of her weaker sisters. She unbound her feet and adopted a normal shoe and sock, and many who had made her supposed attitude on the question an excuse, now followed her example.
In order to give the Gospel to Hwochow Mrs. Hsi had parted with the most valuable of her worldly goods, and when the call came for the second great renunciation in response to the need for a woman worker in Chaocheng, she was ready to move into that city, knowing as she did so, that by leaving the family home she would finally close the way of return. She well knew that no seal on the door would prevent her nephew from stealing her goods, and her worst fears were realised when, a few years later, on the occasion of the erection of a memorial stone to Pastor Hsi, she revisited what had once been Middle Eden. All was gone, and she was thankful to hurry away and leave the scene that could only cause her pain.
On entering her new sphere of work, the missionaries at Hwochow assured her that all the love and sympathy which she had promised Mr. Taylor years before should be given to the first ladies who came to that city, was now to be bestowed on her. The loyal affection of the Chinese Church was hers, for she is regarded by them with an admiration and reverence which they consider the right of so worthy a woman. She knew that she could count upon a welcome, but it was a costly step.
City and village visiting, weekly classes for inquirers, and a Women's Opium Refuge occupy Mrs. Hsi's time in Chaocheng. A sentence easy to write, but only He to Whom the offering is made can know the cost at which ladies, with the refinements of their class, give themselves to the Christlike work of rescuing the opium sots who find their way to the Refuge. Women of the lowest moral type at times appear, dirty, coarse, and repulsive, and yet gladly and graciously they are received. The lady in charge will sleep with them in order to comfort and pray with them during the night watches, and no service is too menial for these saintly women to render. The impression made is never forgotten by those to whom they minister; and even if they return again to the ways of sin, the vision of that gentle lady with her kind heart will remain, a reflection, faint it may be, yet a reflection of the love of God, ever ready to welcome the wanderer from the far country.
[Illustration: A WOMAN OPIUM SMOKER.
To face page 82.]