Chapter XVIII. Welcome.
Welcome to danger's hour,
Short greeting serves the time of strife.
IT was a pretty village, lying on the side of a steep hill covered with bamboos and flowering trees. There was a narrow lane, with a brick wall on either side, and a door opened into a courtyard, with a fish-pond and artificial rockery, approached by a frail bridge with a zigzag railing, with gay flowers planted all round: rooms with cane-latticed windows, and ribbed roofs with fantastic tiles, eaves and ridges bordered it. And when the three travellers had been carried up in open chairs, by large-hatted, long-robed Chinamen, they were received at the door by their old friend Archdeacon Goodrich (in a long cassock, looking very English); by an English lady (in. a somewhat loose wrapping dress), and by two unmistakable Chinese, man and woman.
 The lady, Miss Waring, held out her arms and embraced the two weary arrivals with the most eager joy. She had been spared from the dispensary and school in Tientsin to make ready the house with the help of the two Christian Chinese, whom Edward was greeting as old friends, almost as warmly as the Archdeacon.
"I do not know whether we have met before," he said, as the bride was presented to him, and he warmly pressed her hand; "but here we all meet as old friends, especially when you come from Langbridge. And, truly, I am glad to welcome you," he added, next shaking hands with Mabel, "you will be a great reinforcement."
"It has been the longing of my life," she answered, blushing.
"We shall find plenty for you to do," said Miss Waring. "Here you see is Loo, as we call her--a part of her Christian Chinese name--who will be glad to help you."
"My Christian sister," said Aline, holding out her hand, while Mable ventured on the word or two of Chinese greeting that Edward had taught her, and which evidently gave great pleasure.
These two were to wait on them, as, in fact, [198/199] they had been Edward's servants previously; and the house had been given to the mission by a Chinese Christian. There was a good deal more of court and garden behind, laid out in the same taste, so that, as Mabel said, it was like living in a magnified teacup; but at present they were taken into the rooms with bamboo supports, and low table and cane chairs, to wash off their dust, and enjoy their tea, in tiny cups brought by Loo. She was a Tartar, and had never had pinched feet, but moved about in thick soles; and both she and her husband understood a little English, enough to comprehend and to reply in that strange dialect known as pigeon-English.
The rooms had been attended to by the friends at the mission, and had an amount of home comfort that Aline and Mabel declared made them quite ashamed; but the permanent fixtures had a good deal of the elaborate beauty and taste of the Chinese, and the view from the curiously latticed window and the garden was exquisite. Blossoming trees were near at hand, but a vista was opened in them, showing the blue water of the land-locked harbor of Tientsin, the frill, or fan-like, sails here and there of junks cruising in [199/200] it, and the smoky feather of an entering steamer. "Much too like home!" said Aline.
"Ah," said Miss Waring, "before long you will love it as your communication and protector."
That evening was spent in hearing the latest news of the place. The Chinese monosyllabic name meant the "Bower of Bliss," and had been adopted from an inn round which the village had grown up, and which numbered about five hundred inhabitants, of whom at least a hundred were baptized Christians, more Tartar than genuine Chinese. Many more were willing to listen, as Edward had already found; but they, for the most part, only did so intellectually, and were satisfied to say: "You have your sublime religion, I have my sublime religion." No fresh converts had begged for baptism in his locality during Edward's absence, and when he inquired after one of his own, a young man of much promise, he was answered, half sadly, half triumphantly, that James Chang had sealed his faith.
"How? They did not dare------?" asked Edward, not ending his sentence.
"Not avowedly for his faith," said the [200/201] Archdeacon; "but, poor lad, he refused to help his father in that nefarious wayside gambling with dice that goes on at their inn in the town, and stood out against all commands or inducements with: 'How should I do this great wickedness and sin against God?' till he was actually beaten to death--calling upon his Master to forgive his father, even like St. Stephen."
Edward hid his face in his hands, between thankfulness and sorrow, as Mabel gasped: "Even as a martyr; "and Aline asked whether such things were permitted.
"Alas! yes," said the Archdeacon. "I applied to the mandarin, and heard that the father has power of life and death over a disobedient son."
"Then none of our people will be safe," said Aline.
"You are come to a cruel country, Mrs. Bryant," was the grave reply. "But," he added, seeing that the elder sister looked a little pale, "the neighborhood of the Legations, and the shipping in the port gives us English much more security and protection to our people! You see this was a legalized murder. If it were not for [201/202] the old Empress we should prosper, but she is a regular intriguante."
"She cannot stop the railway?" said Aline.
"No, and that will give us an additional hold."
He went on to explain that there would be a small number of Europeans connected with the railway in course of formation who would be grateful for Mr. Bryant's attention, and there was, as said before, a congregation of actual Christians, and there were women in various stages of hearing, civilization, and conversion, to whom the two ladies would be invaluable; and likewise at the school, which was at present taught only by a Christian man, with occasional visits from one of the staff of clergy at Tientsin.
To Aline and Mabel all sounded delightfulthe fulfilling of all Mabel's dearest hopes; and they were most eager to be at work.
In the morning, however, they were still at breakfast, when there was a tremendous noise, partly from instruments of all kinds, and apparently playing all tunes in rivalry, accompanied with shouts, and up the lane came a troop of [202/203] Chinese, their parasols waving above their broad hats. "A deputation to welcome home Edward Bryant," explained the Archdeacon; and Edward, going out in front in the courtyard, was received with a speech from the foremost, and three scrolls were hung up on the walls, each covered with Chinese characters and containing the address.
After this, all the Christians proceeded to the church--which was really one of the halls of the house, opening into a court, with a fountain in the midst with delicate lilies, red, blue and white, adorning it--an ideal spot for baptisms. The sides were pillared and cloistered, and elaborately carved, and, within, the end most nearly eastward had been fitted up for an altar. Here a service of thanksgiving for the safe arrival of the party was held, in Chinese, which Aline and Mabel, after their studies on the voyage, were able to follow with their understanding as well as in spirit.
Afterward Miss Waring presented them to one or two of the women, but she advised them not to go about among the houses or to the school till they were equipped in the loose, [203/204] shapeless skirts, and broad-sleeved upper garment of the Chinese women, who consider it as improper to wear clothes adapted to the figure, and would be prejudiced against the "foreign devils." She undertook to have the needful dresses sent up from Tientsin. Aline wondered to see no cramped feet; but she was told these were poor women, chiefly, too, of Tartar birth, and that it was only the aristocratic ladies whose infants were put to such torture. She only knew a few in the city who had grown up with feet compressed to half their proper size, and, in case of a Christian lady, the wife of a considerable shop-keeper, it had been a bitter struggle to give up the practice, and let her poor baby daughter spread her pink toes and enjoy life.
"It could not have been worse to ask a countess to let her child go barefoot," said Miss Waring.
"But she did?"
"Oh, yes, in the end. Her husband, who has, of course, had his mind enlarged, and is, besides, a real Christian, insisted on it, and she obeyed as a duty. He is a good man."
"Yes," said the Archdeacon, "John Chinaman [204/205] is hard to be brought beyond the merely convinced stage to the converted point; but, when there, he has a substance in him that makes him of especial worth."