AS little is known of this interesting tract of mountain country, except by the very few who have traversed it, I think it may prove a pleasurable task for the lover of scenes and people strange and new to read of these Karen tribes, as I visited them in their mountain fastnesses, and saw their every-day life, domestic, social, and religious. I feel sure that even the boy who thirsts for and devours each new tale of travel and adventure will find something in my story to please him; and who knows but that this or other such simple narration of Missionary adventure may inspire some with a real desire to join the ranks of workers in these interesting countries. If my story affords the reader a tithe of the pleasure it gives me to relate it, I shall be amply repaid for the effort.
The country through which I am about to ask you to accompany me lies in the north-east extremity of British Burma, joining Independent Burma and the independent tribes which lie between British territory and China. Unlike the country round Rangoon, we here come to a perfect ocean of mountains, range after range, varying in height from one to eight thousand feet, between which lies an endless succession [563/564] of hills, so that literally there is no plain. This is the case until you reach China proper.
It will be necessary for me to give an historical sketch of the Karens who inhabit this country, and in so doing I shall give several extracts from the letters and papers of Dr. and Mrs. Mason, specially the latter.
Dr. and Mrs. Mason, with other agents of the American Baptist Mission, have for long been at work among the Karens. Unhappily for them a quarrel arose, which led to Mrs. Mason asking me to receive six thousand Baptist Christians into the Church. The overture led to my journey (now about to be described) amongst this people, to hear from themselves what they really desired. Dr. Mason has the experience of twenty years among these people, and forty years in Burma. The Karens are a distinct race from the Burmese, being the aboriginal inhabitants of the country, with no written language until Dr. and Mrs. Mason put it into Burmese character. The Burmese have had their monasteries and monastic schools for centuries previous to the Christian era, whilst the Karens have had no such advantages. They have no well digested and developed religious system, as we find amongst the Buddhists of Burma; hence the rapid progress of Christianity among them may be accounted for. With the Karens you have to battle with ignorance; amongst the Burmese Buddhists, a thoroughly well digested religious creed and practice, the more difficult because in so many points it resembles Christianity, and in morality is almost identical. The Karens comprise many tribes speaking various dialects, but whose language has a common root. Dr. Mason states that "eight distinct Karen tribes are known, who speak dialects so diverse that they cannot understand each other; and yet on examination the larger portion of the roots of each dialect are of common origin." These eight tribes are subdivided into numerous clans, differing in the patterns of their dresses, and at times in the structure of their houses. There is a vast extent of mountain territory lying to the north-east of the Toungoo Mountains, inhabited by independent tribes of most intelligent people; the "Red Karens," so called on account of the red striped trousers they wear, and the "Black Karens," of whose country little else is known except the name, but into which it is much to be desired that the Church may ere long find its way.
It is supposed by some that the Karens are part of the lost tribes of Israel. How numerous would be the members of these tribes were the sum of all who are set down as belonging to them told! It certainly is convenient when you meet with a people whom you cannot account for, to give "the lost tribes" the benefit of the doubt.
There is, however, this to be said for the above-mentioned theory, that [564/565] Dr. and Mrs. Mason found very remarkable and accurate traditions regarding the creation, the fall, and future regeneration of man.
The Karens who live on the plains are a short, muscular people, with large limbs; while the mountaineers are usually of little muscle, and small limbs. Dr. Mason states that "it is a popular idea that mountaineers are stronger and hardier than lowlanders, but however it may be in other lands, it is certain that in Burma the mountain tribes are weaker than those who live in the plains." The cause, however, may possibly be other than the locality.
With the exception of a few of the northern tribes, they are shorter than Europeans, the average height being from 5 feet 4 1/2 inches to 5 feet 5 inches. The shortest known height was 4 feet 8 inches, and the tallest 6 feet. The average height of the women is 4 feet 9 inches, and the shortest known was 4 feet 5 inches. A hill tribe called Mopghas is remarkable for short men, the average height of men being 5 feet; but the Bghais and Gaikhos, with whom I stayed, are our own average stature, perhaps on account of the lighter and cooler region that they inhabit.
The Karens are well proportioned, and of fair complexion; when not exposed to the sun they are remarkably fair, almost as much so as many Europeans of the north. The hair is straight and coarse, usually jet black, sometimes brownish. Their eyes are generally black, but among some of the northern tribes the hazel eye is found. The features are flat as a rule, but very rarely a Roman nose may be seen, with a depression between the eyes. Dr. Mason states that "experience has taught those who have worked among them that locality and education greatly affect the characteristic features."
The Karens, as a rule, do not marry out of their own race, but occasionally those who settle near the Burmese intermarry. The traditions and ceremonies of the Karens are curious and interesting, and I shall mention some of these as we pass through the villages of different tribes and clans.
Having now given you, patient reader, a preliminary sketch of the people we are about to visit, we will embark at Rangoon in a Burmese boat, a craft made out of one huge tree, round bottomed, and thatched fore and aft. When the wind is fair we shall put up a mast, and hoist a large, square sail. At other times we shall be propelled by means of long oars or sweeps.
The date is September 1st, so we are in the depth of the rainy season, when all the rivers are swollen to a great size, and the current is very swift, for the rainfall during the six months of the rainy season is 200 inches, compared with about an average of twenty-four inches annually in England. Our way will be for five miles down the Irrawaddy, then for about twenty up the Pegu river, which [565/566] flows into the Irrawaddy below Rangoon. At a point twenty miles up the Pegu river a tidal canal has been cut, joining the Pegu river with the Sittang, which is to form our road up to Toungoo. This canal is narrow, and only passable for large boats at the spring tides; the length of it is about twelve miles. Then we shall have 300 miles to row and sail against a current running like a mill-stream. Now we are off with a crew of five Burmans, one the captain, who sits on a high perch and steers with a long oar, generally singing some wild Burmese legend. I have with me a young Burmese student, Hpo Ming, a trusty old Madrassee Christian, Moslem by name, and also one of Mrs. Mason's Karen Baptist teachers, Isaya Matway, who has been with me in Rangoon six months. The tide is with us down the Irrawaddy, and we soon accomplish the first five miles of our journey; [566/567] then turning into the Pegu river we have a strong ebb tide against us, and at dark, which follows close upon sunset in these tropical regions, we pull up for the night, which is the invariable practice of Burmese boatmen. We are now ten miles up the Pegu river. Next morning we waited for the tide to turn and flow with us before starting; meanwhile I had gone on shore, talked to the people of the village, and shot some birds for my dinner, to save my store of provisions and get some fresh food. Doves being plentiful and good, they form a useful wholesome article of food. I found an exquisite flower, exactly like a gloxinia. We did not get very far when we had again to pull up for the night. At 8 a.m. the next day (Sunday) we entered the creek or canal, and were in it the whole day. In the morning I had a celebration of the Holy Communion, after which Matins and a talk with the boatmen. In the evening we arrived at Kyassoo, the village at the end of the canal where it enters the Sittang river; here we had to pull in to the bank, and all stand ready with long bamboos to hold the boat off the shore on the approach of the "bore," or tidal wave. It is very wonderful to see this huge wave rushing up the river, bringing the whole of the returning tide in at once, and raising the river several feet in a few seconds. This would upset any boat if it remained out in the stream. Not uncommonly one is overtaken and upset. The flocks of maraboos, or adjutant birds, were very curious by the canal marshes, standing from four to five feet high, sometimes sunning their enormous wings, at other times busily engaged in fishing. From the under part of the tail are procured the beautiful plumes so highly esteemed in this country. On Monday morning, after the tidal wave had passed, we again set out into the Sittang river. The canal enters this river about five miles from its mouth, so that we saw the open sea. The tide here was tremendous, and the wind strong, the river at this point being about three miles wide. We had all to take to the oars, two on each, to try to get out of the strong rush of tide. It took us four hours to get to the other side of the river. It was very rough, and poor old Moslem was sea-sick, and Hpo Ming, my Mission student, also was very sick. We all worked hard the entire day; but had made little progress when the sun bid us good night, and obliged us to pull up at a small village; here I went ashore for a few hours, finding the people most willing to receive me. I had a good many who came together to the house I was sitting in, who asked questions and listened well. Living is much less expensive in these villages than in Rangoon; for instance, I bought a large butter fish (one of the best of Burmese fish) for five anna (about sevenpence), and a good-sized basket of prawns for six pice (about three-halfpence). I shot some doves for the crew, who were most grateful for them. I gave the [567/568] sick some medicines, and would lief have shown the magic lantern, but even the villagers said the mosquitoes were TOO BAD. Truly they seemed to get worse every day. At eight next morning we started again, but had soon to stop to wait for the tide, for as yet we were not out of the reach of it. Here we were beside a large sandbank, no village near us, so I hailed a passing canoe, and getting into it, paddled up the river before my boat. The birds literally swarmed on, over, and in the water--duck, teal, &c.
Every morning I have a bath; when dressed, prayers with Hpo Ming and Moslem; breakfast at eight, dinner at four p.m. I never felt better in my life than during this trip, the variety of employments, the fresh cool air off the water, the kindness and heartiness of the villagers as I went along, all conduced to health and happiness; the mosquitoes were my only enemies, and truly the were cruel ones. An occasional roar of a tiger in the jungle by which we are lying reminds one of the presence of unpleasant neighbours, but a shot or two in the direction of the sound always seemed to have the desired effect of increasing the distance between us. I often wished I could prevail upon the boatmen to row a little harder, and often tried to help them and coax them with gifts, but all in vain.
On September 6th I arrived at Sittang, a very pretty Burmese town, rising from the river of the same name up a hill, the "High Street" being beautifully lined with cocoa-nut and tamarind trees. Overlooking the town is a strong native stockade, built of the material composing the hills round, a sort of porous ironstone called saterite. I went up to this stockade, in the centre of which is a good-sized pagoda, built of the same stone. This is of a peculiar shape, the lower portion rising from the level space; if continued and tapered off, as most of these structures are, it gives you the idea that a very lofty sacred monument was intended. After rising to the height of sixty feet it suddenly stops, and a very small pagoda in the centre of the discontinued structure brings what was intended to be a grand edifice to an untimely end. At Sittang during the Burmese wars the native troops entrenched in their stockade resisted the attack of our soldiers, and on one occasion repulsed them. This is now British territory, and our troops were in this stockade up to 1856. Now the barracks and magazine are left to take care of themselves, and are rapidly decaying. Close to the stockade is a European cemetery, with many graves, some with tombstones, but many without any further mark than the mound of earth. There is an assistant commissioner, the only European in the place. Here, however, I felt more in the world, for there is a post-office, and I was able to send off my first budget for Rangoon and England. There is no steam navigation as yet in the Sittang; the mails are carried in a [568/569] long and swift Burmese canoe, paddled by several men, so that they accomplish the journey, against and with the stream, in far less time than an ordinary Burmese boat. I remained only two hours at Sittang after posting letters. There is no Church Mission in this town, and one is greatly needed. As soon as it is light I generally go on to the roof of the boat, and if there is a canoe in sight, hail him, crying out, "O Kimyah bevzoon bene she de la?" "Oh! hi! have you any prawns?" This Burmese is spelt as pronounced. We made good runs for the next few days. The river winds tremendously, and is very monotonous, except here and there where the ground is higher and the hills capped with pagodas. The banks are generally low, and the river being very high during the rains, the jungles on either side are under water to a considerable depth. The elephant grass is high, varying from 10 to 20 feet. We hug the shore to keep out of the strong stream, and row and pole and pull by the long grass. At times the water is very deep even close to the bank, and if the boatmen lose hold of the grass, the boat is hurled down the stream, and you find yourself at the other side of the river, but a considerable distance lower down.
One day we made a very bad run, the stream was so exceedingly rapid, and we lost some time in a whirlpool at a bend of the river. These are sometimes dangerous, but always most tedious to get out from if once in the dead water in the middle. On this particular day we did not reach a village, but had to pull up in a very bad part of the jungle. The whole of this part of the country is densely wooded, and but very sparsely peopled. Oh, the mosquitoes were fearful!--as thick as bees. A net over one's mat at night of no use. Nothing but a constant slap, slap, slap all night from all on board, for the poor native boatmen suffer equally with us. Sleep was impossible, and morning most welcome. The boatmen pull up every morning about three hours after they have first started, to cook and eat curry and rice, generally in the jungle. Here, to, I provide myself and others with fresh food for the day, keeping close to the boat, to hasten them in as soon as their repast is finished. On two days in this week we made splendid runs, with a strong fair wind, which carried us beautifully against the rapid stream. You would be amused to see the villages along the river banks during the rains, all the houses--which stand on legs--being in water three to six feet deep. A large and very pretty village that we stopped at on Thursday night--The-eth-a-maing--was under water to the depth of three or four feet, and the natives told me that a few days ago the water was much higher and in their houses. I went ashore to speak to the people, and took Hpo Ming with me. I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my trousers, and set out from the boat up the principal street to the chief man's [569/570] house, and soon had a good congregation of men and women who had never heard of the Christian religion before. All were attentive, and some seemed to be impressed with the new religion, saying it was "good." After remaining in this house for two hours--it was perfectly dark, and the rain came down in torrents--having no lantern, we set out in the dark to return to the boat. We were soon drenched through, and were walking up to our knees in water. Moslem, thoughtful old fellow, always taking care of master first and himself last, sent a boatman with a lantern and my waterproof coat. I was glad of the former, but the latter was now of no use, as I was wet to the skin. We had up to this time groped our way by the light of a Burmese cigar. When the lantern arrived we got on all right, except that we were chased by a large snake swimming in the water. We got safely to the boat, and were right glad to get dry and to bed. The country about this particular part of the river Sittang reminded me somewhat of the Rhine--high hills with pagodas, instead of ruined castles, on them. On Saturday, September 9th, we arrived at Shevaygheen, a large Burmese town and small military and civil European station. Here the Church has no Mission, though the American Baptists have. An S.P.G. Mission in Shevaygheen as a centre would prove a great blessing to the people there and in the villages down the Sittang. The Church should have a connected chain of Missions and a staff of workers in the large towns, itinerating in different directions and meeting one another at certain points. Both Romans and American Baptists are far wiser than we are in establishing Missions in a new country. They do their work of placing their agents effectually. I was glad to reach Shevaygheen, for the rains had been tremendous for several days, and the thatch of my boat leaked very much over my bed, and I had slight fever in consequence. I made myself respectable, and, putting on my cassock, set out to go to the post and telegraph office. Thankful to be able to send and receive a message from Rangoon, I sent off letters, and hope to receive some before starting again. Shevaygheen is a beautiful place; high hills, indeed mountains, rise just behind the native town and the cantonments on the hill. There are a few Sepoys, and one European officer, a deputy and assistant commissioners, two European police officers, one of the Forest Department, a Government schoolmaster, two American Baptist Missionaries, make up the entire white population. Several Eurasians, however, reside here.
Hpo Ming set out with me to find the post office. We went along what seemed to be the main street, and met two men carrying a large black bear they had just killed. I stopped them, to see what they would take for the skin and claws; however, as they had just killed him in a pond near by, they first had to show him to the police [570/571] authorities to get the Government reward. I followed them to the police office, and here, to my great surprise, I met an old English friend. We constantly meet friends, or friends of mutual friends, thus linking us to the old country in a far distant land. My friend kindly asked me to dinner. Returning to my boat, I found we should have to stay over Sunday, as the roof of the boat had been leaking very much of late and required re-thatching. My friend, with an Eurasian doctor, the captain of the station, and the officer of the Forest Department, came to call upon me in my boat. We all then adjourned to my friend's house for dinner, I taking some of my stores, as in these jungle stations stores are very low at times. Arriving at the river-side, near the house, we had to pass over a plank about thirty feet long, as the house was standing in seven feet of water. We had dinner in jungle style--soup in a vegetable dish helped with a table spoon. However, it was all very nice, and my host exceedingly kind. I told the official of the station that I would gladly have service for them the next day, Sunday. Accordingly notice was sent round. I went to see the jail, where I found five wretched men under sentence of death, to be executed the following week, for decoyty, or highway robbery and murder, having shot two men. This was a well-known band of highwaymen, and one much dreaded through the country. These decoits or highwaymen are rapidly disappearing from Burma, I am thankful to say. One of these miserable men, as they sat chained to the floor, seemed sorry and penitent; the rest were sullen, and determined to meet their sad fate, as they thought, heroically. On Sunday morning I had Celebration in my boat, and then went to breakfast with my friend, all the other friends being there again. My friend of the Forest Department gave me specimens of Burmese woods, and kindly lent me his rifle, as he said I ought to have one on the mountains with me for fear of tigers, &c. Another friend lent me a mosquito-curtain made of muslin, as mine of net is of no use, the little tormentors getting through it. I, in return for favours, gave him two bottles of chlorodyne, which he uses constantly, as he suffers much from dysentery, a bottle of smelling-salts, a sausage in a tin, and a small jar of extract of meat. I gave the Eurasian doctor two bottles of "Pain Killer," which he very much wanted.
On Sunday evening I had service again in the school-room, there being no church. All the resident Christians except the Baptists were present, and I baptized the schoolmaster's baby. The chaplain of Toungoo pays Shevaygheen four visits in the year; but he is 150 miles away, the river being the only road in the rains, and it a very winding one. Whilst here I received a telegram from Mrs. Mason, saying boats full of Karens were coming down the river to meet me. The boat was not thatched after all, as no proper thatch could be [571/572] procured; so we started on our way up the river, still being well wet through the roof of the boat.
We got on very slowly after leaving Shevaygheen, the stream being very strong against us, and, with a strong head wind and pelting rain, our journey for some days was not very cheerful. The river winds tremendously, doubling round like a succession of the letter S, at times winding even more so. I can compare it to no rivers that I know except the Wye in Monmouthshire and the Ouse in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire, except that the Sittang is many times larger. It is most tantalising to be curling around in this way, for at times we seemed rapidly approaching the mountains of Toungoo, then suddenly we turned our back upon them, and appeared to be making our way down the river from them. My bed was kept wet by the leakage of the thatch, and everything was in the same state. It was determined that we should stop at the next large village, and try and keep out the rain, which was giving us all fever. When we arrived at the village of Doung-Bo I insisted on their repairing it; they took two days to do it. I went ashore, and found the chief man's house; he received me most cordially, as the Burmese always do, and soon we had the house full. No Church Missioner ever visited this village before, and the further I go and the more villages I visit, the more I long to see Burma.
The people are friendly towards the teachers of the new religion, and they see so much in common between the teaching of Christianity and Buddhism, and being to a certain extent an educated and universally a religious people who believe in and act up to their religious teaching, they begin to think of and weigh the matter seriously in their minds. You are not to suppose that the monastic system and teaching of Buddhism is confined to large, wealthy, and populous towns, for as I go from village to village I find that they either have their monastery and support their priest daily, or contribute towards a neighbouring kyoung or monastery, and send their sons there to be educated. I constantly met canoe after canoe laden with boys racing to the kyoung or monastery school. After a long and friendly discussion with the people, Isaya Matway, Hpo Ming, and I set out in a canoe to find some fresh provisions for ourselves and boat's crew, as ours were getting very low. We took a canoe and a man of the village, and paddled into the jungle, which we found full of water, so no tigers were to be feared. The trees were lovely, standing in twelve to twenty feet of water; it was delicious and cool as we paddled under these large forest trees. I got several splendid orchids and lovely ferns. There were not many birds, but I shot two large tookens, a maraboo about four feet high, and five monkeys, for the boatmen are very fond of [572/573] eating them. These birds, &c., provided us all with food. I have been most thankful for my stock of medicines and medical knowledge, for at each village, I have found it most useful. The natives are most kind, and several times have brought me fish, and, what has become quite a luxury with me, milk. Generally I am able to get fresh prawns very cheap, but at times none are to be had. Half my stock of chickens have died because of the wet, and but for my gun we should be badly off. However, generally we have been able to get plenty of doves, ducks, &c., when the boat has stopped at different times. We stayed beside a jungle one night, being unable to reach a village, and the men went ashore to sleep in an empty house they found. Soon after I had gone to bed I heard them shouting to me to fire my gin, and when I listened there were three or four distinct roars, as of more than one tiger, not many hundred yards off. I could not of course see them, but all night they were heard. I fired four shots in the direction of the noise, and they went further away, for which we all were most thankful.
Another day (September 20th), as the men were towing the boat along with a rope from the river bank, one of them was bitten by a snake in his foot. I called him at once to come on board, and tied a tourniquet round his knee. The snake left five teeth in his flesh. In the upper part of the foot were four teeth-marks, and in the lower part the same. I gave him some brandy and then some antitoxicum, and rubbed spirits of wine and a stronger antitoxicum into the wound; then extracted the teeth and cauterised the wound well. The snake could not have been a poisonous one, as in such a case I believe no remedies could have saved the poor fellow's life. I did not see the snake, and had not even the satisfaction of killing him. I confess to being very frightened when I saw the poor fellow's foot at first. Next day, however, he was nearly all right except for the harsh remedies, which of course were painful. We now were in a part of the river very full and rapid, and where it had burst its banks and formed rapids between one stream and another. I had plenty of time for reading as well as writing. At this time I had fever rather badly for two days, but I doctored and took care of myself, and was soon all right again. The mosquitoes became worse and worse, and various insects, making it impossible to do anything with any comfort after dark, for as soon as a lamp was lighted it was the signal for millions of insects of varied sizes and descriptions to assemble, and I have amused myself gathering them in handfuls. I found the nights very hot, but the early mornings cool, and was glad of a blanket. We had come in full view of the mountains, the object of my journey, and still further in a different direction were those in the Shan Independent States. The bends of the rivers now were more frequent and the [573/574] whirlpools more troublesome. We were obliged to keep a look-out, for enormous trees are washed down by the rains, and would prove disastrous to a boat if it came in contact with one. We passed numbers of rafts of teak floating down to Rangoon with the stream. These are made of the teak logs tied together, and are of great length, with two or more cottages built on them for the raft-men. They pull up every night by means of pointed posts, which canoes carry in advance of them; these are fastened to rattan canes about 100 yards long, and when the strain of the raft comes on the post held in an oblique position, it pulls it to a great depth in the sand, and holds it fast.
One morning at this time one of the boatmen came to me very early and whispered to me that there were two wild pigs quite close to the bank nearest the boat; so I fired and secured one, which was a great treat to us all, especially the boatmen, and was most opportune, for provisions were getting low. At last, after a long weary, wet, and hot journey, I began to near Toungoo. On the 27th September we arrived in the evening at the village of Tautabyn, a village about nine miles from Toungoo, but which is more by water. I was here met by about a dozen Karen men and women from Mrs. Mason's Mission; about fifteen more had gone to a village called Moung, about forty miles nearer Rangoon.
I started with my enthusiastic Karen friends next morning to walk to Toungoo, leaving the boat to follow me by water, knowing it would be some time after me, and, as it proved, was a day and a half. We walked by the Government road. It was very hot, and the road rough and straight. In one place a bridge had been completely washed away by the rains, carrying with it a good slice of the road on either side of the small river, now swelled to goodly size. We had to wade through the stream, up to our necks in water. I arrived at Toungoo about twelve noon, and went first to the post office for some Rangoon and English news, which is very welcome after a long interval, after which I dispatched a telegram to Rangoon to tell of my safe arrival. I passed by the only European shop or store, a branch of one in Rangoon, and the kind-hearted owner seeing me pass called me in, and asked me to tiffin (lunch), which I thankfully accepted, as I was weary, hot, and hungry. Mrs. Mason had written to me to say that the Karens had built me a small house on six acres of land on the opposite side of the river to Toungoo, and begged me to receive it as a gift from them, and take up my abode there, as it had been conveyed in open court to me as my personal property. She further wrote, asking me not to visit Dr. Mason, as he would not receive me. At the same time Dr. Mason wrote, saying this house was built on Baptist Mission land, and felt sure, as a gentleman, I could not enter it; [574/575] should, however, I do so, he would be obliged to prosecute me. I felt that a great deal of tact and wisdom was required, and that, should I at the outset, before any investigation, cause war, it would seriously injure my cause, specially as all Europeans in Toungoo were against Mrs. Mason. Accordingly I made up my mind to be brave, open and straightforward, and go and call on Dr. and Mrs. Mason before I went elsewhere. Accordingly I set out, and arriving at their house sent in a card for each. Dr. Mason came out first, and was cool but perfectly civil. He is an old, grey headed, grey bearded man, very thin and infirm, and I should say over seventy-five years of age. I began the conversation by saying, "I suppose I am not a very welcome visitor to Toungoo?" to which the old man replied, "Well, Mr. Trew, you have come to knock down what has taken me eighteen years to build up." I told him that I wished to do everything openly and in a straightforward way, that I had no wish to throw the apple of discord into their midst. He said that quarelling had been the ruin of their Mission, and instead of extending their work, as they ought to have done, they had sadly lost ground. I told him I had come after frequent applications had been made to my predecessors and myself; and now, in obedience to the order of the Bishop of Calcutta, I had come to learn the true state of the case. I wanted to know concerning several matters, and suggested that we should have a public meeting, that the Baptist ministers, and as many of the Karens as possible should meet me, and both sides should be fairly heard. The old man liked the idea, and so did Mrs. Mason. I told him I was anxious to find out--
1. Whether those Karens who expressed a wish to join the Church did so on doctrinal grounds?
2. If so, I should at once advocate their reception by S.P.G.
3. If it was not on doctrinal grounds but simply on the score of the present quarrel with the American Baptist Missionaries, would they not receive another Baptist minister who was in no way mixed up in the recent fight?
4. If they would not, what was to become of them if the English Church did not take them up?
I soon discovered, even before going to the mountains, that their wish was not based on doctrinal grounds, but because of the recent quarrel with the Baptist ministers; and also, that they will not receive an American Baptist minister. If the English Church does not take them up, they will either go to the Roman Church or become nothing at all.
This I have heard from an entire village opposite Toungoo, who sent in 468 names to me. I saw the matter was a very serous one, and I resolved to go and see the different villages in the mountains, and [575/566] learn from the people themselves what were their real wishes. My first interview with Dr. Mason ended by his asking me to dinner that evening. I next went to see another Baptist minister, a very much younger man, with neither the piety, the learning, nor the civility of Dr. Mason. He was exceedingly violent in his language, and did not fail to abuse the Church, the Bishop of Calcutta, and myself. I tried to assure him that an honest and open investigation was to be made by me, and should the proposed meeting not take place, my only course would be to go to the mountains and see and hear for myself from the Karens in their mountain homes what their real wish was with regard to the Church. He was very anxious to impress upon me that, if I went to the mountains at this season, the close of the rains, I should die; however, finding he could not deter me, he stated his determination to accompany me. I told him his presence would make no difference in my course of action. I found the residents (European and East Indian) of Toungoo very strong against Mrs. Mason's course of action, all fearing that I would receive the Karens without investigating the case. Churchmen, as well as Baptists, were equally strong in their opinion that the Church should not interfere. It was amidst this excitement that I arrived at Toungoo, and found many treated me as an interloper, and did not hesitate to show me that they entirely disapproved of my presence among them. My good friend the chaplain had his wife were exceptions to this rule, for though feeling strongly against interference on the part of the Church among the Karens, they knew that a patient and searching investigation would be held before I arrived at a definite conclusion. Their house was open to me while in Toungoo, and their kindness was that of brother and sister. I spent a Sunday in Toungoo before starting for the mountains, and assisted my kind host in all his services for the military and civilians, preaching in the evening, my text being what I desired specially to realise and practise myself in this most difficult and perplexing Karen question, "Trust in the Lord at all times, and lean not to our own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy ways. For His ways are ways of holiness and all His paths are peace."
Mrs. Mason was at church and in a most conspicuous place, her face showing the inward satisfaction she felt in so far having carried her purpose as to have brought an English priest from Rangoon to Toungoo to visit the people.
Before giving you an account of what led to this Karen investigation, and my visit to the mountains, it may be interesting to give a short description of the town of Toungoo. It is one of some importance, being a military station. There is no communication with [576/577] Rangoon except by river, and that by canoe for 350 miles in the rains; in the dry season there is a very indifferent road. In course of time no doubt steamers will ply the river and railways cross the land. There is a large Burmese and mixed population. Our military force there consists of a wing of a European regiment, a battery of artillery, and an entire native regiment; thus a little European community is formed, added to which a deputy and assistant commissioner, a chaplain, and some half dozen civil officials, constitute it a very compact station. Within the last year an S.P.G. Missionary, the Rev. C. Warren, has been placed there; beside which the Romans have a Vicar Apostolic and three priests, and the American Baptist ministers, of whom there are several, reside there.
The Burmese population cannot be less than 100,000, besides several thousands of Karens, Shans, and other mountain people who have [577/578] settled here. Toungoo was some time ago a very important native walled city, with its own king, and still the ruins of the wall are standing. On the site of the old native stockade now stands the European fort, which encloses a large area and many buildings, the purpose of which is to afford a place of safety for Europeans and loyal natives in the case of an insurrection, of which there is not the smallest fear. There are numerous kyoungs or monasteries (Buddhist) and pagodas; one of these being well situated and of good size, but not to be compared with the great pagoda in Rangoon, or many others I have visited. The Shans make Toungoo a halting-place annually, when they come down from their distant mountain homes, with their beautiful ponies, which they bring for sale. A few are purchased by the Europeans and others in Toungoo, but the greater number of them are taken to Rangoon by land march, at the close of the rains in December. These native horse-dealers are never very anxious to sell their ponies in Toungoo, or until they reach the large city of Rangoon; accordingly they demand higher prices here than there; their chief reason being that they do not wish to carry large sums of money 300 miles, for fear of being robbed between one market and another; for in Rangoon, when they have sold their ponies, they purchase goods to return home with. These ponies are about thirteen or fourteen hands high, strong build, good tempered, indeed most useful little creatures. In their unbroken and untrained state they fetch from £7 to £10, but there are some remarkably fine ones which sell for £15, or even £25. The vendors will always drive a hard bargain if they can, a characteristic feature not confined to horse-dealers in Burma.
The English church in Toungoo is an exceedingly pretty wooden structure, recently built; it accommodates about 300. It is well filled on Sunday mornings, when all the Church of England troops attend. It is pleasing to see a goodly number of soldiers present at the evening service, attendance at which is a voluntary act with the officers and men. The Romans have a strong and well-worked Mission here; their church and school are beautifully situated on high ground, above the old wall of the town. They work diligently and faithfully, according to their conscientious belief, among their own people; and from this town as a centre, also amongst the mountain tribes, of which work I shall have cause to speak further in my story. The American Baptist Mission is in great force, four or five Mission preachers living in the town, who have various fields allotted to them, either in the town or surrounding country in the mountains.
(To be continued.)