"There must be something in it," he said, "to make them do these good works. To build up character is to acquire merit," and he set himself diligently to read the book of Matthew.
Any one who could have seen Wang Sao Tze sitting in her doorway at the set of sun with a group of village folk around her, would easily realise that the New Testament teaching was not a religion foreign to the Chinese. For her methods were a good deal like the Master's of old. Looking out on the harvest fields, very similar to the fields in Palestine, she would tell them of the seed and the sower, of the prodigal son—they had several in their own village—of the man who fell among thieves, and of the woman who lost the coin. They could understand, for they seemed pictures of their own village life, and the Chinese are accustomed to the story form of teaching. Wang Si Fu and the teacher would often come and listen on the outskirts of the group, and the teacher would read a few words from his book.
According to the rules of the church at Feng Ti Fu, inquirers must attend at least two inquirers' classes that were held six months apart, before they could be admitted. Once or twice through the six months, the foreigners had been able to come out to the Twin Dog Village for a brief visit, and to do a little teaching, but it was really the efforts and life of Wang Sao Tze that made Wang Si Fu and the teacher determined to accompany her to Feng Ti Fu.
"Now I know," she joyfully exclaimed, "why the preacher told me to come home and tell my friends."
To her this class was all important, for after it, if she passed her examination, she would become an active member of the church. It was a very timorous Wang Sao Tze that finally appeared before the session at Feng Ti Fu; she realised her ignorance, and that her knowledge could not compare with that of the city women who had received daily instruction. Very tightly did she clasp the hand of Miss Waring as she sat close beside her.
"Why do you believe the gospel?" she was asked.
"Because Miss Waring says it's true, and she has never yet told me an untruth, and besides any one who knows her must know that there is a God just like the one she tells about."
"Do you love God?"
"How could I not love him after his amazing grace in sending Miss Waring so many thousand miles to teach me?"
There were other questions and other answers wherein love to God and love for Anne
Waring were strangely intermingled, but the session voted to accept her, and the following Sunday Wang Sao Tze became a member of the church at Feng Ti Fu.
From this day forward the new faith gradually spread in the village and after two years of growth and struggle the foreigners were surprised one noon to have the gatekeeper announce that some men from the Twin Dog Village were outside wishing to speak to them. As soon as the greetings were given, the schoolteacher, who acted as spokesman, said,
"We have presumed on your honourable patience in the past far more than is polite, but if you will hear us again, we will try and not be long. For many months we have felt that we should have a house for the worship of God in our village, and to that end we have each laid aside what savings we could afford. We also promise to contribute enough labour to erect a building. We now bring our money to you to know if it is sufficient for the purpose."
A sum of money was laid on the table. To a foreigner it was a paltry sum enough, but saved from the sordid poverty of Chinese homes it was a fortune indeed. The foreigners were quite overcome and gladly promised that they should have their desire and the men returned home, rejoicing, to tell their good news.
Six years have now elapsed since Wang Sao Tze took the bit in her teeth and went to the hospital at Feng Ti Fu. No longer does the Twin Dog Village exactly resemble the neighbouring villages; it has a character and individuality all its own. An unprecedented prosperity has set in; gambling, opium smoking, and other vices have almost disappeared, and the money spent on these has been put into property and business. The teacher studied in the school in the city, and returned with a new vision of his profession; the boys in the school went to the boarding-school after they had learned all that he could teach them; there they studied carpentry and other trades, and also improved methods of farming.
As a result, the value of land has advanced in the vicinity, and new building is going on apace. When one enters the village, the streets that were once so full of holes have been levelled and some of the ponds filled up. The mud walls of the houses no longer gape with holes, and the thatch that had such a moth-eaten appearance is now kept in order. At the doors the women look neat and well cared for, and the children are neither so ragged nor so dirty.
Above all, what marks the village from its neighbours is the tiny church standing under the soft shade of the willows by the cool spring, and near it the belfry and the bell, the pride of many a heart; while opposite the school-house holds its sway. And when the work of the day is done, and the labourers turn toward home, their faces lighten and their paces quicken as they catch sight, perhaps several li away, of the bell-tower, for they know that near it is shelter, rest, and peace.
Not long since a carpenter from a neighbouring town was called by business to the hamlet. He walked through it with amazement asking, "How is this? What has happened here?" The schoolmaster did the honours, explaining the change and general prosperity.
"Do you tell me that the new doctrine did all this?" the visitor asked. "Why have I not known about it before? Every one told me it was to teach men how to die, but instead it teaches them how to live."
To-day, of all the families in the village, Wang Sao Tze's is the happiest, for she is capable and thrifty, and whatever she does seems to prosper. All the military lords of creation might talk to her until doomsday about the power of force, but Wang Sao Tze knows better, for she has tried both love and hate and has found from her own experience that love is the greatest thing in the world. And the universal verdict will surely be that it was a fortunate day for the Twin Dog Village when the foreigners put magic in Wang Sao Tze's tea.