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Extracts from the Sisters' Letters,

August 11th to December 29th, 1895.






Online reproduction by kind permission of the Archivist of the Anglican Church of Korea, 2008.

August 15th, 1895.

"After waiting ten days for the rain to cease, it improved a little on Sunday evening, and Sister R. and I started off to Chemulpo early on Monday morning, in a sampan--an open boat sculled by three men, and with a tiny house at the stern--where we could shelter from rain if necessary; but it was not necessary, I am glad to say, and I sat at the top instead so as to thoroughly enjoy the scenery, and had my face well blistered in consequence. We admired the river, islands, and mountains; owing to the rain, the current was strong, and we got down in three and a half hours, very little more than it took to come back in a steamer yesterday. . . We found the mail waiting for us at Chemulpo. It was delightful to get letters again, but how sad about the typhoid at Woking, and the drainage troubles. I think mother earth must be far more sanitary; about here they burn refuse in heaps and then use it on the fields. The streets are cleaner than many English villages, the cottages beautifully clean, nothing offensive of any sort. ... The Bishop celebrated for us at Chemulpo on Tuesday at 7.30, in the Church, and gave us breakfast in his verandah. ...

"Monday, August 19th, we started from Kanghoa at 9 a.m., and had to wait two hours at St. Nicholas' Mission House for the steamer leaving there at noon.

"We had such a lovely day, with bright sun and pleasant breeze, so that Sister R. saw the river and mountains at their best, and Ponte Nau looked quite lovely as we round round him and saw his triple crown from three different sides. We reached Mapu at 6 p.m., and Mr. Davies sent his Korean servant to get us coolies and Korean chairs--just square frames with sacking bottoms--upon which is one of the round mats, of which we sent several in the box of curios. We sit on the mats, and the two bearers have a cord arrangement round their chests and hold the shafts in their hands. We got up to the Mission house in an hour.

[4] September 6th.

"Sister M. left this on her way to Neuchwang at 4.45 a.m. on Saturday, the 31st of August, and had to wait at Chemulpo a few days. Mrs. Meyer took her in, and Nurse Webster left on Monday. She is sure to write to you her travelling experiences, so I shall not do so. Nurse Webster came back looking very well and bright. They are to have two serious operations in S. Matthew's Hospital to-day, which means constant night-work as well. It is that which tries them so much at Nak Tong . . ."

"September 17th.

"I am writing now at the Hospital of the Advent, and have borrowed the child's carriage from the Consul to take a little girl, who has lost her foot, round our compound. You should have seen her delight. She had never been in a wheeled conveyance before, and was not at all frightened. She has been with us some months now. . . "

"We are having our winter supply of wood brought in to-day, 200 pony loads, three bundles by each pony and 100 sticks in each bundle. Each pony has a boy to lead it and all talk loudly at once in unloading. Then each stick is counted by a man as he piles it up, to a monotonous chant, our porters superintending to see that it is all right. . . .

"The rain has spoiled the garden a good deal; still the flowers are plentiful and well grown; zinnias, asters, geraniums, large white Chinese lilies, and towering over them, sunflowers eight to ten feet high, and dark red castor-oil trees quite as tall with leaves twelve inches across; tomatoes in abundance, beans, cabbages, akra, carrots, parsnips, leeks, &c. We certainly have done well this year. The Consul says our garden is far better than his, and as I planted it nearly all myself I feel justly proud.

"September 26th.

"A Chinese man brought a baby he had picked up in one of the large thoroughfares, evidently deserted, a boy about a year old, with a severe cold from exposure; excellent [4/5] lungs, which he exercised day and night for three days. I think he must have belonged to a tramp, and lived being carried on a woman's back, as is the usual thing here. However, he is taking to more civilized ways now, and seems very intelligent. He was baptized on S. Matthew's Day, Matai (Anglicé Matthew), L.S. Lois his godmother, Mr. Davis and Mr. Hodge his godfathers. I was congregation. Mrs. Stewart has given a wooden crib for him, which we have got the Chinese carpenter to make, as he crawls off the other beds. . . .

"I cannot describe the love autumn we are having. Brilliant sunshine, blue sky, and the temperature 70º to 82º in the day-time; at night a moon like a most powerful electric light--it is most beautiful. We do not feel hot, the atmosphere is so dry and exhilarating. Owing to continual warmth the garden still looks well; the white Chinese lilies are over, but heliotrope and scarlet geranium make our little quad. and still look gay, and the Wandering Jew from Woking has grown all over the lattice and hangs down several feet, and convolvulus major still in blossom peeping out from the green festoons.

"We shall remember our Associates in Retreat on the 7. Owing to the great difference of time it is rather perplexing. We pray for them while they are asleep, and so with your Retreat also; and of course, vice versâ, you pray for us as we sleep or watch.

"I have only just finished the cross for the graves of the two wee babes, for the Chinese carpenter was too busy to make it before I went to Kang Hoa. It is a plain Latin cross, 3 ft. long and 3 in. wide. I painted it with black enamel, then put the sacred monogram in two shades of gold colour in the centre, and the text "Suffer the little children to come unto Me," in enamel on the stem, and on the back the names in Chinese characters, the dates in English. . . . Mr. Warner has gone off across country to the East Coast; on his way he spent a few days in Seoul; he spoke very hopefully about the work in Kang Hoa, where many of the better class live and are now coming to him for instruction, and he hopes some may be admitted as catechumens before long . . . .

[6] "October 13th.

"No doubt you will have heard of the horrors of last Tuesday morning--the attack on the Queen in her palace. A little before 6 a.m. I heard musketry not far off, three volleys with about 10 minutes interval between them, and I wondered if it were soldiers practising or a military execution, for there had been a street battle between the Korean soldiers and police last week, in which five of the latter had been killed, and the soldiers arrested. The hospital-boy brought news of another attack on the palace, and the death of many Koreans. Our teacher arrived full of it, and said that the wounded had been taken to S. Matthew's Hospital. I thought at once I had better ascertain for myself the truth of the report, and the number of the wounded, and if necessary summon Sister A. from Chemulpo if extra help were wanted, for with a very serious operation pending at the Women's Hospital we could not possibly send Sister L. to help at Nak Tong. I went down and found only four had been able to escape, and were brought in all badly wounded. Sister R. and Nurse were quite able to do what was necessary for them.

"October 20th.

"There is nothing further of interest here, except that a guard of fifteen Marines is expected to-night from the 'Edgar' now at Chemulpo, more for the dignity of Her British Majesty's government than for protection. As the Russians and Americans have a guard, it is supposed that England should have one too. They will be of more use to us than they were last year, if there should be a riot, which is very unlikely, as the poor Koreans seem to have neither the spirit or the power to rise. There is little doubt that the Queen was killed on the 8th and then burnt so as to be unrecognizable. It was a horrid way of stopping her political interference and must lead to further difficulties.

"In answer to your question, the 'Arrowhead gates' are a token of Royalty and only placed before the King's Palaces; the one in the middle of Seoul before the Chinese Residence has been taken down by the Japanese, and also one on the road to Pekin, through which the Korean [6/7] Ambassadors passed on their way to pay the Annual tribute and fetch the Chinese Kalendar."

"We miss the Arrowhead gate in the town much, it was high, and a landmark above the low thatched roofs which are bewilderingly alike, one street or lane twin sister to the next. . . .

Sister M. writes:--

"S. Peter's Hospital,
"Tyeng Tong, Seoul,
"August 11th, 1895.

"Mr. Davies came up here to take the services to-day, he seems very much better and says he has been quite busy at Massu dosing the cholera patients and seeing that they take their doses when he has given them. The rains have been dreadful, sixteen inches fell in about five days; there are bits of wall down everywhere, and leakages in the roofs, the worse thing that has happened to the Mission is up at the cemetery, at Hoa-won-chin. About a month ago a wall was put round our piece of it at a cost of forty dollars, and when Mr. Davies went up there last week he found not an inch of wall left . . . . . (Monsoi the invaluable boy) is still coming regularly to me to be taught, and to his class with Mr. Hodge on Sunday. One is so thankful each week that they keep on . . . . . The Chinese store-keeper "On Chesny" who you must have heard of is back again; it was really quite nice to see his beaming face again, but it put us into a difficulty, for we could not have got on without the Japanese stores when the Chinese ran away! I am going to solve the difficulty by dealing with both; I always pay ready-money instead of having a book, and then I say pathetically, they must let me have the things cheaper as it is for "sick man," and I usually get five cents or twenty taken off each article. Did I tell you of our domestic troubles in an endeavour to get a second hospital boy? I hope they are over for the present, as we have got a very nice No. 2 who rejoices in the name of Tong-souni; he is big and strong, and good tempered, and lazy and stupid, very good [7/8] and patient with both the women and the dogs, so I think he will do; but he is so lazy that I have always to watch him if he has anything to do out of the usual routine, or it is only begun, and then left for a future occasion. When he is porter, I have to insist on his sitting outside the room, or he goes fast asleep and no shouting will wake him. He is very pleased with us just now, he thought he was going to die of Cholera and we cured him up in a day--the Koreans are so astonished at our rapid cures . . . I think the turn of the rainy season has come, and we are going to have some sunshine. It will indeed be pleasant, for it is horrid to find everything mouldy; my black habit was covered with blue mould this morning, and it is only a week since I have worn it, boots and shoes are in this condition daily."

"S. Peter's Hospital,
"August 22nd.

"I see with the ingratitude of human nature, I have not mentioned the Cholera now that it is better. The heat of the last ten days seems to have almost stopped it in the city, and the American Cholera Hospital is entirely closed; we feel so thankful. Our Teacher who nearly died of it appeared on Tuesday to report himself, he looked quite a wreck."

"Bay View, Cheefoo,
"N. China.
"Sept. 6th, 1895.

"Mr. Brown called yesterday afternoon, he was going to S. Peter's for baptisms and offered to take me to see the Church; it is the little old Church at the other end of the settlement of which our Bishop has often spoken. Then he shewed me the new Church, which will be really lovely when it is finished, which they hope may be by S. Andrew's Day. . . . Mr. Brown celebrated for me on Friday morning and sent Andrew to fetch me as I did not know the way; it was so pleasant to see Andrew again, he is doing so well and learning a great deal, I believe he was the Chinese boy at Chemulpo when Sister N. [8/9] was in there two years ago, he used to look after her most beautifully, and do everything he could to make her comfortable. The Bishop sent him to Mr. Brown to be taught, and he is baptised and confirmed. Some day, perhaps, he will come back to Korea and act as a sort of Chinese Catholic interpreter, and teach the Chinese there; something of the sort is very much wanted, there is our "tasufu" for instance, who has only had Presbyterian baptism, and his wife, though anxious to be taught, has not even been baptised, as there is no one to teach her. . . . . There is also a native Chapel, S. Luke's, where all the services are in Chinese, it has Matins and Evensong daily, I used to go there, it was strange, but very nice, and of course one could follow quite easily with an English Prayer Book. The congregation consists of 20 boys whom Mr. Brown has living on the premises to be properly brought up, and about half-a-dozen Chinamen, and two Chinese women; we women had a place to ourselves at the west end, railed off from the rest of the Chapel. It made one feel quite hopeful for the future to see a Chinese congregation. Imagine what it will be when we have Korean Christians; the canticles were sung to Gregorians, and they use Chinese translations of the ordinary hymns sung to their proper tunes. I recognised our little Peter among the twenty boys, he grinned with pleasure at seeing me, he looked very well and happy. Mr. Brown says he has forgotten his Korean and English with the exception of "naughty boy." . . . .

"North China.
"Sept. 13th.

"You see I have really reached my destination, though I began to think I never should, as I managed to take eleven days to get from Seoul to Neuchwang. I got such a warm greeting from Mr. and Mrs. Doxat and they really seemed delighted to have one of us with them; they are so good and kind to me, they are both very busy, and I get plenty of quiet time to myself. Mr. Doxat has a Chinese teacher in the morning, and teaches [9/10] some boys in the afternoon. Mrs. Doxat has two pupils, one in the morning, and the other in the afternoon. Neuchwang is the ugliest and dullest place I have ever seen; it is all mud, either wet mud or dry mud, the town is surrounded by mud walls, low and ugly, everywhere there are graves or coffins without the graves, and outside this house there is a small grave-yard. Of course the river is pretty, water always is, but it is a place with remarkably few natural beauties without the river; however, they say, the inhabitants are very pleasant, and when you have plenty of work to do it does not so matter what your surroundings are. It is so very odd to be away out of our own houses and not to be at home, and there can be no letters for me till I get back to Seoul again. I mean to lay in a good stock of health and strength and energy during my nice rest here.

"Oct. 27th.

"I am very anxious to get as much time for Korean now while my brain is rested, teaching makes one long to know more and more. Our second boy Pongsona went to Mr. Hodge's class to-day for the first time, I am so thankful. Though he is not nearly such a nice boy as Monsoi, still there is a great deal that is really nice in [10/11] him, and as he learned to read, expressly to learn about Christianity, I hope that he may in the end turn out well. . . . .

"We are very busy getting the hospital furnished with window curtains, &c., so as to be ready to meet the great cold.

"Mrs. Bishop arrived last Wednesday and of course saw her new hospital. We are beginning to fill up again. . . . ."

"November 7th.

"Monday was the anniversary of our arrival at Seoul three years ago. The day was marked by our beginning ward prayers in both the hospitals. The Bishop has prepared a short form for morning and evening prayers which have been printed. They consist of a few verses of a Psalm, versicles and response, and three prayers, and a form of blessing, such as heathen can use. Mr. Davies reads them at Nak Tong, but I am obliged to read them here. Both the boys come in to prayers and make the responses, for none of the patients we have at present can read. I feel that little as they understand what it means, it may make some of them think and ask questions. Of course I explained to the best of my ability what we were going to do, and they all sit up and behave properly, the boys kneel in the most devout way, and as yet no one has mocked. We were so thankful for the Quiet Day which the Bishop was good enough to give us, and the work in both hospitals being so light, we were all able to join in it. . . . .

"I have just been interrupted by the husbands of two of our patients who came first to look at my writing, and then to ask questions about the only two religious pictures we have in this ward--S. peter walking on the water, and the Good Shepherd. It seems to me that we have now reached the stage when good and simple religious pictures might be of use. I think the two patients must have been talking to their husbands about these pictures, for they asked nothing about the secular ones of which there are half-a-dozen. How this makes one long to be able to talk fluently! I am doing my best [11/12] to talk religiously to each patient in the ward, but it is terribly difficult; their utter absence of any want, and their terrible feeling that they are much better than we are, adds considerably to the difficulty. . . ."

"November 13th.

"Our lovely autumn ended with St. Martin's summer, and now we are suddenly launched into winter, for a north-west wind is blowing like a blizzard with occasional dashes of snow. The changes and chances of this climate are greater even than in Old England. We are pretty well acclimatized now and do not mind them. The absence of fog, and intensity of sunshine even in frost is superior to England.

"This ought to be in time to take our Christmas cards two photographs taken by Mrs. Bishop, which we have had printed by the Japanese photographer, as Mrs. Bishop kindly gave us the negative. We are sending them to Woking and Cheddar also. One is the front of the Women's Hospital, with a portion of the dispensary or out-patients' department on the left-hand side--two Sisters in the foreground, whom I think you may recognise even after three years absence in a foreign land!

"The other photograph is the garden side of our mission house with a corner of the Doxats' house, which is now the abode of Miss Cooke, and the gate leading through to the Hospital. The large tropical-looking plans are castor-oil plants with copper coloured leaves. . . . "


"A Corean man has just set up as a watchmaker! He has repaired and cleaned a little clock for a shilling so that it goes better than ever. It is the little one with an alarum which you sent out; you will soon be sending to Korea all the Community watches and clocks to be mended and cleaned! . . . .

"The Bishop is probably going to the Consecration of St. Andrew's Church, Cheefoo, next week, so we shall not have any special service or gathering on S. Andrew's Day, but postpone it to S. Peter's Day. . . . "

[13] "December 3rd.

"Sister A. is visiting several Korean houses now, distributing books, and reading with some women."

"December 17th.

"A notice is posted outside the palace warning the people to have nothing to do with Christians. While all foreigners are kept out, the poor king is kept a prisoner in strict seclusion, in two rooms close to where the queen's body lies. He has to mourn, or rather to howl, for the departed four times daily; the Crown Prince is with him and has to howl more frequently, as a mother is of much more importance than a wife. As the Queen's body is to be kept in the Palace for seven months this howling will continue all the time, and it cannot be done by proxy. . . .

"I have been interrupted by Mr. Caldwell coming to say he has had no interview with the Minister yet, and cannot delay his departure to England any longer. The Minister evidently does not intend to see him, or care whether the Kang Hoa soldiers starve or not. The poor things are beginning to steal from pure want of the necessaries of life, and one can hardly blame them. They work for their pay and can get none; they do not belong to Kang Hoa, but come from all parts of the country, so they have no houses or fields to fall back on. If only discontented Englishmen could have a taste of this country!"

"November 15th.

"We are all feeling very sad at the news of this terrible disaster at Chemulpo. The news only came by telegraph to-day--the sinking of the cutter of the "Edgar," with the loss of 47 men out of the 69 who manned her. It happened yesterday, and as yet no bodies have been found. One dreadful part of it is that it was quite within sight of shore, and yet it was impossible to save more than the 22 men. You will hear of it almost as soon as we do; perhaps it was in to-day's paper, our time being so much ahead of yours. One drummer boy, the only Marine who was lost, died afterwards from [13/14] the shock and was buried yesterday. He had a "mother dependent on him." The American launch broke down on its way to help them, and no boat arrived until ten minutes after the cutter went down. They were out for pistol practice. Our hearts are all very full of it as you can imagine."

"December 1st.

"The Queen's death has been publicly proclaimed to-day with blowing of trumpets, and in six days' time general mourning for a year will begin.

"December 17th.

Sister R. writes from S. Matthew's Hospital, Nak Tong:--"Each patient's bed has a "Lumen" belonging to it, and some of the patients read it most zealously, always at the top of their voices with a particular sing-song, the invariable accompaniment to their reading aloud. It is curious and sad to hear them pronounce the Sacred Name, and know that it conveys no meaning whatever to them. Yet if they are in earnest I cannot think it is wrong, and they call it a most beautiful story."

"The boys' class is doing very well. Mr. Hodge teaches them every Sunday afternoon, and they love it.

"We have one little child now in the Hospital recovering from typhoid, whose mother is a terrible woman, a tramp I think. She promised to come and fetch him but has not yet appeared. He is quite well, but we are not anxious to send him out to tramp about the country. If only we had a little fund that would enable us to keep such urgent cases. Alas! all the money goes in rice, or in coal and wood, or in repairs; and my little luxury fund is absolutely melted away, leaving me with so many wants. What will happen if we do not get the blankets from England! S. Peter's Hospital is even worse off than this.

"We have a Korean doctor as a patient. It is very amusing to watch him; as each new patient comes in he goes through a list of questions, and generally enquires what sort of evil spirit the patient has, as most of these [14/15] Korean doctors' work is dealing with evil spirits. He is much astonished at the skill of our doctors, and was greatly struck by seeing the number of remedies we tried in the absence of the doctor, to keep a poor patient alive."

"Festival of S. John, 1895.

"I must tell you about our forth Christmas in Korea. It differs little from the former ones except that year by year our numbers grow a little--for instance our Chinese steward brought in his three little Christian children this year; Peter being away at school on Cheefoo, we had Maria, Lydia, and baby Andrew. They had little presents and cake and oranges, and looked at the crèche, which has done good duty this year, for Sister M. showed it in the Hospital to her patients, and Mr. Hodge showed it to his class of boys, who were much delighted with it.

S. Peter's Hospital.
December 29th, 1895.

Sister M. writes . . . . "We have a patient in the third ward now, a high class Korean; she is a girl of 14, her father in prime minister or some such dignity, and her father-in-law Minister of the Treasury, she has an attendant with her, a Roman Christian. She is very dull and ignorant, does not even know her alphabet. . . . . On Christmas Even I borrowed our crèche, you know we have a cardboard one, and showed it to be boys instead of a lesson, they really enjoyed seeing it very much, and afterwards I gave them cake, oranges, and nuts. It is a joy to feel they knew even a little what Christmas is and why we try them to give everyone pleasure; they had each a big Christmas card, with a coloured sacred picture in the middle, which they are busy now making frames for so as to hang them up in their rooms. . . . We are in a great state of excitement at the hospital, the cause being the cutting of the Korean men's hair. They say the King and the Tai-won-konn had theirs cut last night, and all the soldiers to-day; and they are to cease to wear the maukenn (the horsehair band which kept the [15/16] hair in place on the top of the head). We are told that before very long we shall see all the Koreans in English hats and foreign clothes; it does not seem very silly to insist on such things, when so entirely against the wish of the people. It has always been said that cutting the hair would cause a rebellion, but they seem to submit to this as quietly as they have done to everything else. During the excitement of haircutting it is almost impossible to get any work out of the servants, they are too excited to remember anything. The boys are having their hair put up in topknots for a night at any rate, so that in the future they may be able to say they once did wear a topknot (a topknot you know is a sign of manhood.) they are a curious people and seem to have had all spirit taken out of them.

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