"If it had not been for the foreigners I might be doing that," thought Dong Sien Sung; "I am not so badly off after all."
Unfortunately, such worthy thoughts were banished, for not far away the young doctor caught sight of a little procession. Some military official and his retinue were travelling in state. "Rather a scratch lot," an English soldier would have called them, but to Dong Sien Sung they typified much that he admired. The official rode on horseback on a gaily caparisoned animal, and in front and behind him marched ragged soldiers with large red characters printed on their uniforms, and bearing paper parasols or flying pennants. The officer rode in dignity with a fan held up to his eyes to keep the rays of the setting sun from them. Firearms seemed to be generally lacking, but as long as the party had fans and parasols what need had they of muskets? *
Dong Sien Sung did not care much for the military glory; that part of the procession had no attractions for a man of education, but it was the sight of the official button and the many coloured peacock feathers that wrought the mischief. What would he not give to have one of his sons attain that honour, dear to every right-thinking Chinese heart- Surely it was a legitimate ambition, for China sorely needed Christian statesmen. In the end, therefore, it was a very small thing that decided Dong Sien Sung—a glass button brought him to the firm ground of his resolve, and he battled no longer with the current.
Having at length made up his mind, Dong Sien Sung took more note of his surroundings; he found that they had come nearly to the end of their journey and were about to descend the banks of a real river. He knew that he must now be more alert, for this river had a ferry, and if there was anything his donkey despised and fought shy of, it was a ferry. Dong Sien Sung might be a changed being since he had been educated, but the donkey was still unregenerate; in fact, he had never recovered from the cruel handling which he had received in his youth, and had distrusted all mankind ever since. With the assistance of the ferrymen and fifteen or twenty yelling, swearing coolies, the unwilling animal was at length coaxed on board the ferry by dint of being jerked forward while every one kept at a safe distance from his heels.
* This was in the days before the Revolution; Chinese soldiers are much more military now.
Once on board, the animal subsided and Dong Sien Sung had a chance to resume his thoughts. Though his mind was now firmly settled, he was not particularly happy; he was tired after his trip, and this last tussle with his donkey had not helped his temper. A pang of homesickness went over him as the city on the river-bank drew nearer, and he recognised familiar objects. Beyond that high gate was his home, which his busy wife kept cosy and neat— so different from that of their heathen neighbours—and this was another thing for which they could thank the foreigners. On the high ridge behind the town rose the walls of the new hospital that was being built; it was to be very sanitary, and there he could at least try some of the latest inventions of medical science. There, too, was the church and, also, the Boys' School; when he went away he would be taking his children into a city where there was absolutely no Christian environment. Only a Chinese can know the degradation which that implies; those who have been through the pitch-black midnight can realise the full beauty of the light.
Dong Sien Sung shook himself from such thoughts as being foolish; his decision was made, and his children could now go to boarding-school, where he would pay the tuition himself without help of scholarships. The boat touched the shore, the donkey alighted willingly, and with a brief good-night to the boatman, Dong Sien Sung moved toward home. As he turned into the little street the boys recognised him and ran forward with shouts of glee. At the door of their courtyard stood Dong Si Mu all bows and smiles; when they entered their home together, there was no kissing as there would be in America—that would be highly improper—but there was great good will and many inquiries about each other's welfare.
After several bowls of tea Dong Si Mu, without noticing his weary, gloomy face, started to recount the news to her husband. With great enjoyment she showed him some red hard-boiled eggs sent over that day by the Liu family to announce the glad news that Liu Sien Sung was the father of a son. Dong Sien
Sung listened quietly for a while, for he was a patient man, but at last he remarked,
"Silence in a virtuous woman is golden."
Looking up and catching sight of his expression, his wife decided that silence would also be wisdom in this particular virtuous woman. Nevertheless, she wondered what had come, over her husband's usually sunny temper. Dong Sien Sung was a keen man; he decided it would be better to wait to tell his decision to his wife until after he had seen Dr. Scott, then it would be irrevocable, for he had an idea that Dong Si Mu would resist the change with all the determination of which a Chinese woman is capable. Her friends and interests were here, and she was not ambitious to go elsewhere.
The next morning Dong Sien Sung delayed reporting at the hospital until the latest possible moment, for he loved his friend and he hated to disappoint him. He waited so long that the dispensary was full of patients and there was only time for an exchange of greetings, but Dr. Scott fairly beamed when he looked at him. "I wish he would not make it so hard," thought Dong Sien Sung, fretfully. At length all the dressings were done and the prescriptions given out; over the dispensary fell a silence, for the last patient had departed.
"I am so glad to see you back," Dr. Scott exclaimed. "There have been several new operative cases I wish to try, but did not dare to do so without your assistance to help me watch afterwards, for it means several weeks in bed. But best of all, my venerable mother has come to visit us from America, and I want you to be sure to see her."