In Anne Waring's company the dreaded examination was easy, and when the doctor announced that her case was serious but curable, requiring, however, an operation and several weeks and perhaps months of treatment, she consented without a word. As briefly as need be she ordered her husband home, saying he could expect her when he saw her.
For the first day or two all went merrily, everything was so new and strange and comfortable withal, Wang Sao Tze's temper was lulled to sleep, and no one suspected its sharp power. Every morning there was a short service, and Wang Sao Tze listened as though in a daze, although she liked the music and the sweet voice of her friend and her winsome smile. She was shown a brightly coloured picture-card and told she could have it for her own if she would learn a verse of a hymn, which one of the children in the ward offered to teach her. The gay colours seemed to her the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, and so she eagerly consented.
One morning, however, in passing her, one of the women spilled a bowl of hot tea on Wang Sao Tze's card. Then the tempest broke; the hospital had never heard anything to equal it; the storm of rage and abuse would have been almost artistic had it not been so frightful. The whole ward quailed before it; dying patients sat up in their beds, while any one in her vicinity, who was able to walk, fled.
The foreigners were sent for, and Wang Sao Tze, inwardly pleased at the sensation she was causing, and beside herself with rage, kept growing more violent every minute. So noisy was she that she did not hear a door open behind her, and was quite startled when a gentle hand was laid on her arm and she beheld her foreign friend. This friend's expression made Wang Sao Tze stop a moment; it was not fear, that she was used to seeing, but a look of disappointment and grief, and almost of abhorrence.
"Wang Sao Tze, be still!" said her friend in a firm voice. "Are you not ashamed to have any respectable person hear such vile words? How can you bear to have those children know that you have those loathsome thoughts? lYou will have to go home without being cured, for we cannot have such things said here."
Now, all her life Wang Sao Tze had been accustomed to have people cower before her, and she considered her rages rather clever. To have them spoken of in this way was an unpleasant surprise, and she started again, but the hand was still firm on her arm.
"Come with me!" she was commanded, and she was pushed into a small room.
"I shall lock you in here until you are yourself again; remember the way you are acting is not the custom here, and you are losing face."
Then seven other demons more dreadful than the first seemed to enter into Wang Sao Tze. That she, the autocrat of her home, nay of the whole village, should be treated like a naughty child was unbearable. She beat her head against the wall and tore her hair, while her voice rose and fell, and all the time the still small voice of shame kept whispering in her heart. Like her native typhoon the storm raged all that day; it was unbelievable that any human frame could keep it up so steadily. But, like the wind of the tempest, her voice began to die down at sunset, and when the doctor made her evening rounds the noise had ceased and she found Wang Sao Tze lying fast asleep from utter exhaustion. Tenderly they lifted her upon her bed, but she never stirred.
When Wang Sao Tze awoke the next morning she found herself gazing into the sad eyes of her friend. For a moment she felt inclined to scream again, but something in their steady depths held her quiet, and she sullenly turned her face to the wall.
The soft voice spoke in words that she alone could hear, "Wang Sao Tze, I am still your friend; if you want me, send for me." Then she moved quietly away.
The next few days were hard enough for Wang Sao Tze; she found that Miss Waring had spoken only too truly when she said that she had lost face. Women she had been friendly with, and who had done her many kindnesses, shunned her or cast scornful glances in her direction; and, hardest of all, the little child, of whom she had made a pet, refused to come near her, and ran and hid when she approached.
At last she sent for Miss Waring and said, "Miss Waring, I do not understand your strange foreign ways; in the village all I had to do to get what I wanted was to go into a rage, and I got it, and the neighbours seemed to think it was the proper way, for there the woman who raged the longest and loudest came out victorious. But here it is different; they all seem to despise me. I have lost all face; I might as well go home."
"Oh, do you not understand? We are trying to teach you a better way. Love and kindness are stronger than all rage, for people will do things for love they would never do for anger. I came to China because of love for the people, but if I had had hate in my heart I should have stayed in my own country; so love drew me all these thousands of miles. Do you not see when you are angry you spoil the spirit of the place, and make it like a den of snarling dogs ? Please remember also it does you more harm than it can possibly do any one else, for it spoils your happiness."
"Well, Miss Waring, your ways are very strange, and may work here, but you do not know our village. I will think over your words."
Shortly after this conversation Wang Sao Tze was operated upon, and for several weeks was very ill, so that there was no display of anger. In her time of weakness she unconsciously absorbed many a lesson from her foreign friends and from the people in the wards. The very gentleness with which the doctor dressed her wound was a revelation in kindness to her. The patience of the nurse, who never seemed to tire, and who never said a sharp word, no matter how trying the sick woman might be, all made her marvel. Now Wang Sao Tze was no fool, and by the time she was able to crawl around the wards she began to realise that there might be something in the new ways.
She knew that without the operation she would certainly have died a painful death; and if the foreigners could be so amazingly clever about illness, why should they not be right about this doctrine of love they talked so much about? Moreover, the operation removed the terrible nagging pain from which she had suffered so many years, and without it she found that she was far less inclined to burst into a passion. Do not think that in a few short days this woman, who had been surrounded with the blackest forms of immorality and superstition from her earliest childhood, was turned at once into a Raphael's cherub, for that was far from the case. She had many a battle with her old vices, and many a time she fell. But gradually, as the weeks went by, her nature softened and the hard lines of suffering and temper on her face changed, and she began to look, as one of the foreign children expressed it, "as if a lamp had been lighted in her face."
She was forced to stay in the hospital several months for treatment, and as she grew stronger she helped with the light work in the wards, learning many a lesson about hygiene and cleanliness. She was a good worker and quick at her tasks, so that she would have plenty of time to sit and pore over a simple reading book. At this she was very much slower, but she was eager to learn enough to be able to read the story of the Man who first went among poor people, healing their diseases and forgiving their bad tempers, "which may have been exactly like mine," she often thought.
One Saturday morning the doctor examined her and announced that she was absolutely well and might return home on Monday. Wang Sao Tze was not too well pleased at this; all the joy that she had ever known was centred around the hospital, and her face was overcast as she went to tell the news and get her treasures together. These consisted of a collection of picture-cards, together with a hymn-book and Testament. Her face was anything but a sunbeam for the remainder of that day, and when she started for church the next morning with her books tied up in a gaily coloured handkerchief, she was still the personification of gloom.
It was a matchless winter day with the sky an unfathomable blue; the air stirred one's pulses and made one glad to be alive. The women sat in the transepts and the men in the main aisle of the church. Wang Sao Tze enj oyed it all, the beautiful building, the choir, and the responses. She had learned that it was decidedly not the thing to talk aloud throughout the service, or call to an acquaintance in a distant corner, and she liked the importance which was attached to one who kept newcomers in order. When the Chinese pastor arose to preach, she settled herself back with a well satisfied air to listen.
With quiet dignity he read the words, "Go home to thy friends and tell them what great things the Lord has done for thee and has had compassion on thee." Simply he drew the picture of that scene beside the Galilean lake, and of the man who had lately been healed, and of the Master's command to him. Skilfully he applied the lesson to these new believers in another Oriental land; and they seemed to grasp the thought as many a more sophisticated audience has failed to do, for all eyes were fixed on the preacher's face. Wang Sao Tze never stirred until the last hymn was sung; then, as one awakened from a trance, she turned from the church.
An hour later Anne Waring was surprised by a loud knock at the front door. She opened it herself to find Wang Sao Tze standing before her. In her hand was a small bundle tied in a light blue cotton cloth. Before her friend had a chance to speak, Wang Sao Tze said, "Well, Miss Waring, I have come to say-good-bye, for I'm off."
"Off where?" exclaimed her startled teacher.
"Why, home, to be sure, the way the preacher said, to tell my friends, of course."
"But your husband is coming for you tomorrow; why do you not wait for him? I am afraid you will find it too far."
"If I start now I can reach home by nightfall. My husband can call for my things tomorrow; and you know, teacher, the preacher did not say anything about waiting. He said go right home and tell your friends. Of course, when I heard that I just had to start. I have tarried too long already, but you see I did not know."
After this Anne Waring felt that she could not dissuade her, and she bade the woman an affectionate farewell. With pity and gladness she watched the sturdy figure start off gallantly to meet the conservatism and persecution of a Chinese community single-handed, and she made a resolution that the very first place she visited on her next itinerating trip would be the Twin Dog Village.