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The Chinese ginger jars
The Chinese Ginger Jars
THE CHINESE GINGER JARS is a bright and
intimate portrait of the adventures, trials,
and achievements of an American house-
wife who lived through dangerous days in
When Myra Scovel arrived in Peking in
1930 with her medical missionary husband
and infant son, China was a land steeped
in an ancient culture, mellow as the smooth
cream ivory of its curio shops, relaxed as
the curves of a temple roof against the sky.
Twenty-one years later as the Scovels
were forced to leave China by the Com-
munists it was a country of fear, of terror,
of hatred toward the foreigner. The dra-
matic events that transformed China are
recounted here from the fresh and poignant
viewpoint of an extraordinary American j
wife and mother.
With Nette Keys BeU
The Chinese Qinger 'jars
Harper & Row , Publishers
New York, Evanston,
THE CHINESE GINGER JARS. COPYRIGHT 1962 BY
MYRA SCOVEL. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF
AMERICA. ALL RIGHTS IN THIS BOOK ARE RESERVED.
NO PART OF THE BOOK MAY BE USED OR REPRODUCED
IN ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER WITHOUT WRITTEN
PERMISSION EXCEPT IN THE CASE OF BRIEF QUOTA-
TIONS EMBODIED IN CRITICAL ARTICLES AND REVIEWS.
FOR INFORMATION ADDRESS HARPER & ROW, PUB-
LISHERS, INCORPORATED, 49 EAST 3 3RD STREET, NEW
YORK 1 6, N. Y. LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOG CARD
For the six of them, lest they forget
The Ginger Jars 1 1
The Jade Pagoda 13
The Ancient Poem 2,5
The Gourd 53
The Grape 69
The Chrysanthemum 89
The Peach 105
Lao Shou Hsing, The Birthday Fairy 127
The Mei Hua (Flowering Plum) 143
The Bamboo 167
The Chinese Ginger Jars
The Qinger *]ars
We found them, quite by chance, this afternoon in the junk
shop kept so carelessly by the old Sikh gentleman with the
long white beard two Chinese ginger jars, sitting squat and
proud among the empty bottles and the broken tins. The jars
were not a perfect pair, although identical in size and both
covered with the same rich, jadelike glaze.
We looked at them for a long moment; then my husband
smiled and put his hand in his pocket, pulling out the neces-
sary coins. He carried the jars carefully as we climbed the
steep hill back to the cottage.
They are green, the color of quiet water. My husband
crumples the newspaper wrapping from the second jar of
"Look at it," he is saying, as he puts one of the jars into
my hands. "Do you remember . . . ?" I turn it slowly, con-
templating the plaques embossed on its six sides. China,
home to us for more than twenty years! There is a memory
of that home in each design the gourd, the grape, the
chrysanthemum, the peach, the flowering plum, the bamboo.
The glaze feels like cold stone.
"Let me see the other," I say, and I give him the one I
This one has three scenes, once repeated the Jade Pagoda;
i 2 The Chinese Ginger Jars
the poem written in brush strokes in an ancient script; Lao
Shou Hsing, the birthday fairy. Yes, the memories are all
We look at each other across the ginger jars, across the years.
Peking in 1930! It was a city straight from the pages of Marco
Polo. The Temple of Heaven still retained its patina of age,
unaware of the desecrating renovations that were to come.
The whole city seemed steeped in the culture of its people,
mellow as the smooth cream ivory of its curio shops, wise with
a wisdom drawn from the deep pools of its clearest jade, re-
laxed as the curve of a temple roof against its sky. How did
I, born and brought up in Mechanicville, New York, happen
to be walking its streets?
Events had exploded one after another since that morning,
a little more than two years before, when Miss Montgomery,
the director of nurses, called me into her office in the
Cortland County Hospital, in New York State. I was young,
proud and confident in my new status as supervisor of the
maternity ward, but I flinched at the summons. What had I
done or what hadn't I done"? I can still feel the panic beneath
my starched white as I hurried through the corridors.
Miss Montgomery rose from her desk as I came in. This
was worse than I had thought. "Miss Scott, I understand you
are seeing a lot of Dr. Andrews/' (I am, but what is that to
you? I thought, a little resentfully.) But the cool blue eyes
were twinkling. "J ust don't give your heart away until youVe
met Frederick Scovel. He's the new medical student up in
the lab. That's all."
j^ The Chinese Ginger Jars
Frederick Scovel indeed! If he had that effect on the director
of nurses, he was probably handsome and knew it. He
was bound to be conceited, and pompous, and and icky!
I seethed all the way back to the ward.
Naturally I found an errand to take me to the lab. I had
to see this paragon. The first thing I noticed about him was
his ears. They were slightly reminiscent of faun's ears. He
was tall; I had to look way up to see the light brown hair,
brown eyes, and a Roman nose. Unbelievably, he was shy.
Of course, nothing about this man was of the slightest interest
to me. I picked up my test tubes and went back to the ward.
"Shy * was hardly the right word.
A week later, after eight hours on the ward, I hurried off
duty to keep my third date with him. I remember that, as
we sat in the living room, he bent to remove my shoes and
gently rubbed my tired feet. Then he smiled, amused at
"What's so funny?" I asked,
"I was just wondering what that Dr. Andrews would say
when he finds out that I'm going to marry you," he replied.
Before I could think of anything else to say, he'd risen and
walked across the room. He sat down in the chair farthest
away and said quietly, "I shouldn't have said that. I can't ask
you to share my life. I'm going to be a missionary."
A what? This mild, disturbing man who had so quickly be-
come the center of my existence did not look in the least like
my mental picture of a missionary. And I couldn't, by the
farthest stretch of the imagination, see myself in the role of
what I supposed was the typical missionary wife high-
topped shoes, umbrella firmly clutched in the middle, straw
suitcase tied together with twine, hair snatched back in a bun.
Me? Well, hardly! But he'd probably change his mind.
It was natural for Fred to be drawn to such a calling. His
The Jade Pagoda 15
father was a minister; his mother, the daughter of a minister.
Both grandfathers had been ministers, for that matter. Mission-
aries had been in and out of Fred's home for as long as he
I forgot all about missionaries in the whirl of happiness
It was a beautiful wedding with peonies everywhere. I
wanted to wear a mantilla, because the comb would make me
look taller. 'Well look silly standing in the front of the
church/' I had said, "y ou six feet one and a half, and I five
feet and half an inch/'
"If I'd wanted a tall wife, I could have had one/' he had
There was a halo around life together, around our planning
for the future. We talked of the day when we would go to
China as missionaries, but that seemed like another age to
come. I knew that Fred was in correspondence with what we
always spoke of as "the Board," meaning the Presbyterian
Board of Foreign Missions. But the joy at hand wrapped us
in a cloak that shut out the winds of the world. We did not
see each other often enough or long enough at a time to discuss
anything at length. Fred was interning at Memorial Hospital
in Syracuse, New York, and I was still working in Cordand,
some forty miles away.
All other considerations were temporarily put aside when
we knew we were to have our first child. During the last two
months I went to live with Fred's parents in Cortland. "Just
see how God answers prayer," said Father Scovel, who was
more like Christ than any man I have ever known. "For
twenty-six years I prayed for a daughter, and now God has
given me one who even looks like me/'
How Father's black eyes would shine when someone would
mistake me for his own daughter and think Fred the son-in-
16 The Chinese Ginger Jars
law! But both men were cut from the same pattern, the tall
frame, the slope of the shoulder, the "Scover nose. It was
only that Father and I had the same black hair and dark
eyes. And, as one friend put it, "I thought she must be your
daughter because you look as if you loved each other so
Mother Scovel was a tall, queenly, cultured lady of the old
school, with golden blond hair. She was a perfect minister's
wife kept a beautiful home, was an excellent cook, could
lead a meeting with sparkle and verve and never fail to give
you something that you could take home and live by. It might
have been a difficult position for me, being the wife of an only
son, but never in that home. I was accepted and loved.
Father Scovel wanted us to have a little girl. He always
spoke of the baby as Carlotta. (Father's name was Carl.) But
when our little son was born, we named him James Kiehle
Scovel. "James" because he looked as if he should be called
Jimmy and "Kiehle" because it was Mother Scovel's maiden
name. China didn't exist.
Then, in one moment of time, the vague future became
the crystallized present.
Young James Kiehle Scovel had been delivered in the
Syracuse hospital where his father was interning. I was lying
in bed that morning, a few days after the confinement, when
Fred came into the room with the day's mail in his hand. He
kissed me and sat down in the wicker chair beside the bed to
read aloud the congratulatory messages from friends.
" *. . . so delighted with the news . . / 'How lovely for
you . . .' Um, here's one from the Board."
What was he saying? "We are looking forward to your
sailing in August and have booked passage for you on the
President McKinley from Seattle. That will get you into
Peking in time for language school. . . "
The Jade Pagoda 17
Peking? Language school? August? This was April! I
looked at him, incredulous. But he had picked up another
letter and was reading.
". . . We are so happy to hear of the birth of . . ."
1 couldn't believe it. Our safe, comfortable world was crash-
ing down upon our heads, and to him this bombshell was
just another letter. After what seemed like hours, he was
called to see a patient and I was left alone to think.
It was high time I did some thinking. I hadn't looked ahead
to anything except the birth of our baby and a comfortable
little home of our own somewhere nearby. Now, while I was
still exhausted from a sixty-hour labor with complications,
life in far-off difficult China was laid in my lap. I hadn't
seriously considered Fred's call to a lifework.
There was little in my background to prepare me for a
missionary life. My practical father would snort at the idea.
"Aren't there enough heathen in this country?" I could hear
him say it. Mother would know that I must live where my
husband wanted to live. All that I knew of such a life in a
foreign country had been learned from a few stories told to
us as children when the mite boxes had been passed out in
our beautiful gray-stone Episcopal Church. China was the
picture of the sampan in our geography books, and my father's
detective stories of the Mandarin with the slim silver knife
hidden in his sash, Dr. Fu ManChu. My father called him
Dr. Fume and Chew.
But did Fred really want to be a missionary? Perhaps he
was doing it to please the parents he loved so much. It
would certainly be gratifying to them to have their only son
give his life in full-time Christian service. But surely they
would understand if he changed his mind now.
"If you could do anything in the world that you wanted to
iS The Chinese Ginger Jars
do, what would it be?*' I asked him when he came in that
<0 Why, I'd be a medical missionary and go to China/' he
said casually, folding his six-foot-one-and-a-half into the wicker
chair. "You know, I can remember wanting to be a medical
missionary before I knew that 'medical' meant doctor. Why do
"Oh, I was just wondering/' I replied.
He is so sure, I thought. Yet how can I bear it? How can
I take this beautiful baby halfway across the world to a
strange, germ-infested country? Is it fair to this child of
ours? Suppose something should happen? How can some-
thing not happen?
I thought of the new nursery furniture which our son
would probably never get to use, and came near to tears; but
suddenly a new picture began to form in my mind. I saw our
home in China neatly plastered mud walls, a thatched roof,
curtains at the window, the black, wrought-iron candlesticks
upon a shelf.
Then it came, the Voice of Gentle Calm: "How little you
trust Me who have brought you all the way/'
I would take that nursery furniture to China.
Father and Mother Scovel went with us across the country to
see us off at Seattle. Difficult as the parting was, for us it
was colored by our starting out on a great adventure. What
must it have been for the two on the dock as they watched
their only son sail away to be gone for five years!
We left the President McKinley at Kobe and boarded the
Chdku Moru, a tiny Japanese ship that carried us through
the Yellow Sea to Taku in northern China. We had a very
rough crossing; even the captain and the purser were seasick.
I turned out to be the world's worst sailor, a great disappoint-
The Jade Pagoda 19
ment to Fred, who loves a heaving deck. The voyage to Taku
was memorable for one great event the discovery of our
baby's first tooth.
China didn't look like the picture in the geography book
but it didn't feel like a strange country, as I had expected it
would. I was not frightened by the jostling coolies on the
dock, nor by the rickshaw-pullers haggling for fares, nor by
the crowds on the third-class train during the journey of
several hours from Taku to Peking. The sights and smells
were different from anything we had ever known, but from
the moment of our arrival in China, we felt at home. How
does one express that quiet quality of friendship with which
a Chinese reaches out to you? People were so good to us* A
wizened old man moved over to make room where there
was no room; a tiny, bright-eyed woman offered us chunks
of chicken with a bright-red glazed sauce. The flies were
thick and we didn't dare accept it, but we smiled our thanks
as best we could.
We were thankful that we were not making this first train
trip alone. Knowing how difficult travel with a small baby
would be for newcomers, sandy-haired, salt-witted Tex Eubank
had taken the trouble to come down from the language school
to meet us; so my first Chinese words were flavored with a
"How do you say, 'Please don't touch him*?" I asked Tex
when the first passengers pushed and shoved to handle the
white carrying-basket that held the baby, to feel the soft
wool blanket and, horrors, to pinch his fat little cheeks!
"Pia tung," said Tex.
"I don't hear the 'please/ " I said.
"Never mind. You just use the words I give you and
smile. They'll understand."
I was kept so busy with my first Chinese sentence that I
2o The Chinese Ginger Jars
had no time to learn another before the train chugged to a
stop in the Peking station.
We had talked about riding in rickshaws before coming
to China. We had agreed that we could not let another human
being pull us around behind him. I do not know what we have
done to our moral standards, but we both think now that of
all the modes of travel there are in the world today, travel
by rickshaw is by far the best. There is a snapshot in our
album, showing my first attempt at sitting in one. There was
no other conveyance to take us from the railway station to the
language school. There I sit, bolt upright, the baby held
stiffly in my arms, protest written in every line of my face.
"Relax, gal," said Tex.
The streets were wide. I had pictured them as narrow lanes.
And oh, there was so much to see! There were shop signs with
huge gold characters in bold relief against black lacquer;
there were chubby, pig-tailed children playing a game with
short sticks; there was a wedding procession coming down
the middle of the road with sedan chairs of bright red satin
heavily embroidered in gold. Three or four black-bristled,
scrawny pigs scurried into the street, their sagging bellies
dragging the ground. And there was a camel! Our eyes were
tired and we were sootier than we had ever been in our
lives when we pulled up at the gate of the College of
Chinese Studies on the street called T'ou T'iao Hut'ung.
The smooth green lawns of the interior courtyard with
their potted evergreens and pools of quiet, chiffon-tailed
goldfish were a welcome we will not forget. A smiling house-
boy in a long white garment took us to two comfortable
rooms overlooking the courtyard. It was our first home alone.
Such a new young family from such a new young world!
It was appalling how litde we knew. But we were there to
learn and we took our places in the classroom the morning
The Jade Pagoda 21
the language school opened. Our First-Born was left in his
basket at the hostel to learn Chinese as it should be learned.
We found a little old amah (almost entirely bald) to look
after him during school hours. We thought En Nai Nai was
perfection until we found her poking holes in the rubber
nipple with the silver pin she wore in her hair.
There must have been a hundred and fifty of us in the
classroom that first day of school businessmen, consular offi-
cials, Catholic priests, men in army uniform, Protestant mis-
sionaries. All of us had our eyes on the door through which
our first Chinese teacher would come. Someone had passed
on the incredible information that no teacher in the school
could speak English. This, we felt, was a serious mistake on
the part of the administration. If Chinese were anything like
what the laundries at home had led us to believe, these
teachers were going to need a considerable command of our
The door opened to admit one of the most charming gentle-
men I have ever seen. He was wearing a long black gown
with a sleeveless jacket of heavy brocade. His smooth young
face beamed happily as he approached the desk. Someone
murmured, "Dearest/* and from then on we never spoke of
him as anything else. Dearest wiped his heavy horn-rimmed
glasses, and the lesson began.
"Wo," he said, pointing to himself; "Ni," with a long
singing upward tone, pointing to us.
'What does he mean?" We looked at one another. Dearest
repeated the words and the gestures. Light broke "I," "You/'
With a gesture that included us all, he continued, 'Wo
men, ni men."
"Ah, the 'men' sound means plural," we guessed.
We were learning the language as First-Born was to learn
it after all. First we listened. We listened to the same thing
22 The Chinese Ginger Jars
over and over for days. We heard old teachers and young
teachers, men teachers and women teachers, teachers who
spoke crisply and distinctly, and teachers who insufflated their
words through a fringe of mustache. Only after many days
of listening were we allowed to speak the words ourselves.
Finally we were shown the printed character. We were not
surprised when we heard that John Dewey, the great educator,
had called Dearest the best teacher he had ever known.
The unfolding of the language revealed the beauty of this
ancient culture the calligraphy, the poetry, the wise old
sayings handed down since the time of Abraham. Every Friday
was Proverb Day. We were taught the sayings and the proper
time to use them: "A fat man is not made so by one mouth-
fur*; "The husband sings and the wife follows/'
"Doctor/* said the teacher one Friday, "what proverb cornes
to your mind when you think of your wife?"
Obviously the answer should have been, "The husband
sings and the wife follows."
I was a long time forgiving Fred for his reply: "If the old
doesn't go, how can the new come?"
Language study continued after school hours as we tried out
our new words on long-suffering shopkeepers and the rick-
shaw-pullers. What companions they were, those rickshaw
men! Even small shopping expeditions became personally
conducted tours. They would tuck the fur robe cozily about
our feet and start off on a jaunt to a side street to show us
the amusing shop signs "False teeth and eyes, latest Meth-
odists," "Tailor Shop. Ladies have fits upstairs." If we gave
directions in a brand of Chinese that was almost beyond com-
prehension, they were quick to sort out the meaning.
Best of all we liked the ride to church on Sunday morn-
ings. Then the streets were hushed and quiet. The fronts of
the shops were closed and boarded up. The air smelled like
The Jade Pagoda 23
orchards in the fall, and the sun spilled long shadows over
the pavement of rut-worn stone. The pat-pat-pat of the pullers'
feet echoed in the empty lane. Occasionally a slower pat
pat pat would be heard, and a caravan of camels would
appear. What a picture they were, their proud noses in the
air in spite of their ragged coats! Some of them would be
laden with coal and some would have flung over their backs
large burlap sacks containing hand-woven Mongolian rugs.
The whole caravan would move along the street like a stately,
These were thought-provoking days and I was troubled. Be-
fore we had left America, there were those who asked, 'Why
do you want to go way out there and impose your Western
religion upon the Orientals?"
I had been very sure of the answer then; now I wondered.
What did I have that these wonderful people didn't have?
And (did I dare whisper it, even to myself?) what did Chris-
tianity have to give them? I had thought that, seeing how
happy we were and how well we did everything, the Chinese
would flock to our gates to find out more about the God we
worshiped, the Christ we loved. So far no one had asked me
a question. The only Chinese we had even met aside from
the faculty of the school, who did not seem particularly im-
pressed with the benefits we had to offer was a young student
who came to practice his atrocious English and who invited
us out to eat impossible things like sea slugs. (Fred loved
As I stood looking out across the quadrangle one day,
Fred said, "Something is troubling you. Are you homesick?"
"Isn't it strange that in this strange country I have never
felt a moment of homesickness? No, it is something deeper
than that," I replied. "You never seem to have had a doubt in
2,4 The Chinese Ginger Jars
your life. Will you understand if I tell
He has always understood, usually before I can voice my
"Why don't you take this Weymouth translation of the
New Testament," he suggested, "and imagine you are a
Confucianist or a Taoist. You've never seen a church. All you
know of religion is the dusty temple where you go on feast
days to pray for a son without which you will be a disgrace
to your husband and mother-in-law. Read it through as if for
the first time. Don't even try to make any decisions. Just
The Bible suddenly came alive. Here, in this very city, sat
the beggar at the gate; here two women were often seen
grinding at a mill; here one had to know which were the high
seats and which were the low seats at a feast. I began to
wonder how such an Oriental religion as Christianity had
ever taken root in the West.
Then Christmas came, and like turning on the lights of
the tree, all the little lights turned on inside me and I knew
what I had to share. It would not be men seeking me to find
the way, perhaps not even men seeking God to find the way;
but God in His infinite love, in the humility of a manger and
the simpleness of a Baby, forever seeking men. "God, in
Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself."
"You've found a text," said my husband. "Shall I get you
Before my couch is the light of the effulgent moon.
Perhaps it is hoar frost on the ground.
Raising my head, I gaze at its brightness;
Lowering my head, I think of home.
Li Po (A.D. 701-762)
CPoem on the ginger jars,
translated by L. Carrington Goodrich)
In my complacent ignorance I had always pictured China
as a warm, sunny country. In spite of the specific instructions
from the Board to take plenty of winter clothing to Peking,
China was the Orient; and to me, the Orient meant hot
weather. Our first Chinese winter furnished another of the
enlightening experiences that China was constantly giving
me. It was cold, bitter cold. The wind that blew down on
Peking from the Gobi Desert felt as if it had been swept
across Arctic ice. And seeing red lacquer temples and green
pagodas through a whirling snowstorm was like living in a
mixed-up dream. Fred finally bought a ponyskin coat for me
from a Mongolian peddler. The Chinese teachers had their
long garments lined with fur, but most of the populace kept
warm by donning layer after layer of padded trousers and
coats. Their clothing was so bulky that if a child fell over, he
couldn't get to his feet and someone had to come and pick
26 The Chinese Ginger Jars
him up, I understood now why the pastor of the church
had told me that the seating capacity of the pews was ten in
summer and eight in winter.
The winter passed swiftly, though, for we were very busy.
We worked many hours a day at language school and at home.
Until we could communicate with the Chinese in their own
tongue, we could not begin the work which we had come so
far to do. Our mission considered language study of primary
importance. No matter how much Fred fretted and com-
plained that his medicine was getting rusty and he must see
some patients, there stood the inexorable rule that two years
of language had to be passed before he could take on the
responsibilities of the hospital. He was to be thankful for
that rule in the years to come. I was given a little more
leeway as to time, but we both had to pass five years of
language study before we could be voted back after our first
So we kept at it, that first winter in Peking, and at last our
diligence began to bear results. We practiced on anyone who
would talk to us. We were still far from thinking in Chinese,
but we could understand a little and we could, by repeated
efforts on our part and an uncanny perception on the part
of the Chinese, make ourselves understood.
Emboldened, I set out to learn another skill without which
I had been told one could not get along in China: bargaining.
One day in November as Fred and I were walking about the
temple fair, I had spotted an incense burner, a tall pagodalike
brass piece about ten inches high a hideous thing, I was
to learn later; but being new to the beauty of simple bronze,
I thought it was typically Chinese and I wanted it badly.
The shopkeeper was immediately aware of my interest.
After the usual exchange of greetings, I ventured to ask in
The Ancient Poem 27
my classroom Chinese, "To shao ch'ien?" "How much, how
'The price is fifty dollars/' said the shopkeeper, rubbing the
brass with the sleeve of his faded coat. "But you have just
arrived in our country and I want you to have this, so I will
give it to you for forty dollars/'
Um, not bad, I thought. Exchange is almost five to one.
Less than nine dollars our money. But I mustn't forget this
bargaining business. 111 begin ridiculously low.
"That is very kind of you/' I said, "but I really cannot
spend more than ten of your dollars for an incense burner."
"I am very sorry, Tai T'ai/' he replied. ("Tai Tai" meant
He put the incense burner back on his improvised shelf,
a board on two packing boxes, and smiled sadly. Round One
was finished and we retired to our corners.
Many times that winter I was tempted to meet the price of
my smiling, innocent-faced shopkeeper as he went from forty
to thirty-five, to thirty, to twenty-five. I could hardly resist as
his smile disappeared and his eyes grew sad. I would look
from the lengthening face of the shopkeeper to the stern face
of my husband and come away each week without my incense
Then suddenly it was blazing spring. The Orient with its
heat quickly redeemed itself. Within a week we were to
leave Peking and continue language study at the cool seaside
village of Peitaiho, northwest of Peking. We were eager to
get to our first mission station, Tsining, but the missionaries
there had written that on no account were we to bring First-
Born into the heat of the Shantung Plain before September.
In the midst of the packing, I remembered the incense burner
and dropped everything for one last round with my shop-
28 The Chinese Ginger Jars
keeper. Fred came along to pick up some old coins he had
seen at another shop.
"We are leaving Peking, as you know/' I began. "Do let
me have the brass piece for ten dollars."
"Yes, you are leaving/' he replied, "and though I cannot
afford it, I will give you the incense burner for ten dollars.
It will mean that my old mother and the children will have
to go without food today, but I want you to have it. Though
I lose money, I want you to have it" He actually brushed
away a tear with the back of his hand. For the fraction of an
instant I wavered, but I did not lose the fight. Fred, who'd
been off buying the coins, came up in time to rejoice with me
that, for once, I had stood my ground when left on my own.
As we were leaving the temple grounds, on an impulse I
ran back to the shopkeeper. "You and I have had an interest-
ing winter of bargaining," I said. "I am new to your country,
as you have said, but I am going to be here a long time. I
want to learn how to bargain properly. Tell me, how much
did you really pay for this incense burner in the first place?"
The shopkeeper laughed and said indulgently, "Just three
dollars. Good-by, Tai Tai. I lu ping an all the way, peace."
We had a glorious summer at Peitaiho, aside from Fred's
swimming miles and scaring me to death by staying out of
sight for hours. There were sharks off the coast. Sometimes
I would be so furious that I'd wish they'd bite him; then I'd
be so frightened at the thought that I would walk out into
the sea as far as I could just to be that much nearer to him.
I dared not swim out for fear of the sharks. He could never
understand why I worried. He could swim, couldn't he?
Cramps? Nobody ever had a cramp who used his head. And
he loved the ocean and the gulls and the feeling of being
alone in creation.
The Ancient Poem 29
First-Born added a few words to his vocabulary and learned
to walk by digging his fat toes into the wet sand of the beach.
He was so fat that his little mouth was lost in a hole in his
face. The Chinese thought that anyone who was fat was
beautiful. I took it rather badly the first time a friend tried
to compliment me by saying, "Teacher-mother, how fat you
are!" The only thing that troubled our Chinese friends was
that the baby had blue eyes. Once when some country women
were watching me bathe him, one of them said to the other,
"Shell kill that child, washing him so much. How beautiful
he is! So fat, so pretty, so white. If only he didn't have those
At last the day came when the train puffed into the Tsining
railway station. What a welcome we had from our fellow
missionaries, the Eameses and the D'Olives and the Walters,
Miss Stewart and Miss Christman; and from the Baptist
friends who lived across the city the Connelys, Miss Smith,
Miss Frank and Miss Lawton. They were all at the station
to meet us. Their first words were prophetic of what our life
in China was to be.
"The city was taken over by bandits last night," Frank
Connely said casually, picking up a suitcase and maneuvering
me through the crowd.
"Bandits!" I gasped.
Our senior missionary, the Rev. Charles Eames, who was
hurrying along behind us, stepped up to the rescue.
"There is nothing to worry about," he said quietly. "Shops
will be looted; there may even be some shooting, but life for
us will go on as usual. Really, there is nothing to worry about."
Maybe we should get right back on that train, I thought.
Fred looked as if he were enjoying the excitement. Just the
3 o The Chinese Ginger Jars
kind of an adventure he'd looked forward to, I could read
behind his twinkle.
But the streets were quiet as we drove through them in
our cavalcade of rickshaws. In Peking I had been surprised
to find that all Chinese houses were behind walls. Here, too,
the streets were lined with mud or brick walls; closed door-
ways with scrolls of letters across their tops and down each
side marked the entrance to a private courtyard. For that
matter, our compound was walled and the spacious grounds
of each of our homes were surrounded by another set of walls.
We did have access to one another through a path that ran
along the back of the compound an arrangement that was to
stand us in good stead in the years to come when it was too
dangerous for us to be on the street.
We stopped first at the Eames house where we were
served tea. I was impatient to see our home. And what a sur-
prise I got when I saw it! The thatched-roofed hut of my
imagination turned out to be an imposing structure of gray
brick that looked like a small factory with a front porch. Our
house had been the one most recently built. The other houses
on the compound were more in keeping with their Chinese
background, with lattices of Chinese design and pillars on the
porches. There had been an outcry when the first two-story
building went up, many years ago; it would be possible for
foreigners to look down from a point of vantage into the
courtyards below. But by the time we arrived, a few of the
more progressive Chinese inside the city wall were building
two- and three-story houses themselves.
Fred picked me up in his arms, carried me across the
threshold of our new home, dumped me in the front hall
among the luggage and was off to see the hospital.
The house looked huge after our two small rooms at the
language school. We had a living room, a dining room, a
The. Ancient Poem 31
kitchen and a study on the first floor, and three large bedrooms
and a small one on the second. There was a third floor that
could be finished off if we ever needed it.
"Well never get this much furnished/* I told Fred that
evening as we sat in borrowed chairs before our own fireplace.
"Mrs. D'Olive said something about furniture made at a
model prison. Somewhere in these trunks I have a furniture
catalogue. We can show them pictures of what we want. Ill
fish it out and we can have a couch and a chair made to
"I'm glad we brought our own beds, even though the freight
was so terrific. And we're lucky to pick up the dining-room
furniture that belonged to that couple whoVe gone home.
What were their names?"
"I didn't get it."
'Well, honey, there's one room you won't have to worry
about furniture for our goldfish bowl of a bathroom; doors
in three of the walls and a window off a porch on the fourth!
Did you find out what time of day the man comes to empty
(The can arrangement didn't last long. While walking
along the Grand Canal one day we discovered a house deserted
by the Standard Oil Company when the last foreign resident
left. Fred climbed to an upstairs veranda and saw through the
window that there was a good bathroom in the house. He
wrote at once to the office in Shanghai for permission to buy
the outfit complete with pipes. He installed it himself and
designed the septic tank from one of his medical books on
"Now tell me all about the hospital," I said as we drank
our bedtime coffee.
"There's too much to tell and you're tired. HI take you over
and show it all to you the first thing in the morning."
32, The Chinese Ginger Jars
That night when I got up to cover the baby and for months
afterward I looked down the stair well to see if one of those
bandits had broken into the house and was even now on his
Right after breakfast next morning we walked the half
block and crossed the road to the hospital. Could it be called
a hospital? The wards were rows of mud huts; the beds were
boards on trestles. There was, however, a good little operating
room in a small brick building which also housed the out-
patient department. I fell in love with the little room that
was the pharmacy. The shelves were filled with beautifully
painted porcelain jars. I found it difficult to believe that they
held such modern and prosaic things as zinc ointment and
unguentine. I felt that if I lifted lids I would find tiger claws,
lizard skins, and scorpion tails.
The operating room was across an open courtyard from the
"What do you do with postoperative cases in the dead of
winter?'* Fred asked the immaculate operating-room supervisor.
'We just wheel them across to the ward on a stretcher and
pray that they won't get pneumonia," he replied. (There were
no antibiotics.) This was only one of the reasons why, some
time later, we converted a well-built school building into a
very usable sixty-bed hospital.
We got a language teacher at once, for Fred was determined
to complete his second year by January so that he could take
over full responsibility for the hospital. He was allowed to take
a clinic for only an hour a day and the rest of the time had to
be devoted to language study. Adopted Uncle Eames, being
a minister, would be delighted if Fred could relieve him in
time for the spring itineration trips to the country Christians.
Young Mr. Wong, our teacher, had a silvery laugh and a
pleasant disposition. He was one of twenty-seven children, only
The Ancient Poem 33
three of whom lived to grow up. Old Mother Wong was a
tiny woman who looked like a gnarled crabapple tree. She
always ended the story of her children by saying with a sigh,
"I would have had more, but my husband died." Fred oper-
ated on her for an inflamed appendix when she was well
over seventy, and she walked after a fractured hip and re-
covered from pneumonia several years after that.
After he had passed his examinations, Fred went out every
morning and came back late at night. He took time out only
for a brief lunch and a more leisurely dinner. I would beg him
not to go back to the hospital at night when he was so
tired, but he would insist that sleep was half of getting
well, and he wanted to make sure that everyone was going
to settle down for the night. He did everything surgery,
medicine, obstetrics. We had a good Chinese surgeon off and
on (whenever we could persuade one to leave the port cities
and come into the interior for much less pay). Chinese
doctors seemed to prefer surgery and they were very adept
with their hands. Getting an internist was another story and
was probably the reason Fred eventually became a specialist
in internal medicine. And we had an excellent obstetrician.
Dr. Rung was a dear, tiny woman who had stopped counting
after her thousandth delivery. It was only when she was on
vacation or when her strength gave out that she had to call
on Fred to take over.
Almost all the patients were very ill. Few came to the
hospital in those days unless every other means had failed
to cure them. Typhoid, dysentery, malaria, an occasional case
of smallpox were apt to be found in the course of a day's
I helped out wherever I was needed sorting linen, making
inventories, making rounds with the superintendent of nurses
whenever she needed me; and I taught classes in nursing
34 The Chinese Ginger Jars
ethics, English, and bedside care to the students in the train-
The missionary wives had had servants for us waiting to
be interviewed. They assured me I was to make my own
choices, however. Servants who worked well for one family
did not necessarily do so for another, and servants who had
been failures with one family sometimes turned out very
well for other families. We finally settled down with Hu Shih
Fu, the cook, an old man who made noises as if he were
cooling broth all the time he was cooking, and who did not
like to have me in the kitchen trying out my own recipes;
Li Ta Ke, the gateman and gardener; Chen Wu, the houseboy
and washerman; and Ning Ta Sao, the amah. I rebelled at
having so many. Why did I have to have all these servants
around? I soon found out. It took all morning for the cook
to do the shopping; he had to bargain over the price of every
egg. Our food bills would have been astronomical if I had
attempted the bargaining. Li Ta Ke raised the vegetables for
our table, did the errands in a different part of the city from
the food market, bought light bulbs, carried mail, took notes
to people in the city, was gateman, telephone and messenger
between the hospital and the house. Chen Wu did the wash-
ing and ironipg, and there was a lot of it during the hot season
with Fred's daily uniforms; he did the cleaning and dusting
and there was a lot of it during the dust storms. Ning Ta Sao
looked after the children,
Ning Ta Sao was an arrogant, uninhibited little woman
who was a constant challenge to me because I simply could
not stand her. As time went on, neither her disposition nor
"I feel terrible about this/' I told Fred. "Here I am a
missionary and my attitude toward that woman is anything
but Christian. I ought to love her she needs love; and I
The Ancient Poem 35
cannot bear to have her near me. What am I going to do?"
"Let's face it," he replied. "You two are not tempera-
mentally suited to each other. We'll get her another job. You
will find that you can love her easily if she is a bit farther away
But I was not willing to fire her when I knew so well that
the failure was not hers but mine. In a short time the problem
solved itself. She ran off with a married man, and was soon
happily settled as the proprietress of her "husband's" grain
I struggled on without an amah, running home between
classes at the hospital to see if everything was all right. Then
one morning heaven opened. When I came into the garden
on one trip from the hospital, a happy little woman with a
pock-marked face was hanging diapers on the line. They
"I hope you will not mind, Tai Tai," she said when she
had taken a clothespin out of her mouth. "My name is Chang.
I came to apply for work and while sitting idle waiting for you,
I did this washing. I hope Tai Tai will not mind."
Tai Tai did not mind at all! From that day on, Chang
Ta Sao was a member of the family.
A short while later, special services were being held in the
church next door and Chang Ta Sao attended Christian wor-
ship for the first time in her life. She came home with tears
in her eyes.
"I can't believe it, I can't believe it," she kept saying, "I'm
only the Fourth Girl Child; I never even had a name. I'm a
poor, poor woman that nobody knows, and yet Christ who
is God died for me!"
Then it was true. Those words could pierce the heart, could
open a whole new world. It was a first experience for Chang
Ta Sao, and for me; we were both overwhelmed by it.
36 The Chinese Ginger Jars
I envied Chang Ta Sao. Though it took her two years to
memorize the few simple sentences in the catechism, she
never tired of it. She would say the same thing over and over
again as she leaned against the swing where First-Born was
playing, pushing it back and forth with her swaying body,
droning away the same words day after day.
"I should think that you'd be so bored by now that you'd
want to throw the book away/' I said to her one day.
"Every time I read it, it seems more wonderful," she re-
plied. "Doesn't it seem wonderful to you, too?"
I wished fervently that it could mean that much to me.
For I was having trouble with my soul again and at a time
when I wanted to be thinking only the happiest of thoughts.
Fred, First-Born and I, with Chang Ta Sao, traveled to Cheeloo
University Hospital in Tsinan where Dr. and Mrs. Randolph
Shields took us into their home to await the arrival of our
Second-Born. After nine tranquil, radiant months, I was more
depressed than I had ever been.
"Even my faith is gone/' I told Fred. "If religion means any-
thing, it should be a stand-by when you need it. My religion
is no good to me at all. I am depressed when I ought to be
happy, and I have not one ounce of courage left to face the
"You're not in any position to judge your religion or any-
thing else when you're not up to par physically," he said.
"When this is all over and you are completely well, you can
make your pronouncements. When you come right down to it,
is there anything of importance in your past life that you
would want changed?"
I thought about it for a few minutes, wanting the answer to
be a truthful one.
"No, not one/' I said slowly.
The Ancient Poem 37
"Of course not/' he went on. "You admit that 'all things have
worked together for good* in the past; there isn't any reason
to suppose that they won't in the future. It's a good verse to
hang on to."
The onset of a difficult labor followed shortly after. With all
my strength I clung to the verse he had given me. Then the
blessed relief of the anesthetic, and my vision if vision is
what one calls a more-than-dream.
I was moving back in Time down a long, long road by
the side of which the women of the ages were standing, pre-
senting me with gifts held in their outstretched hands. The
gifts were their suffering and pain. Because through the ages
women had suffered, it was now possible for me to have my
baby without pain. As I went back in Time, I knew beyond
all doubt that God is. I felt sorry for people on earth who
had to make an effort of faith in order to believe. Here in
Reality there was no striving for belief; one simply knew. It
was the greatest peace I have ever known.
Then words began to swim into my consciousness stubby,
blunt words through the haze of the anesthetic, and the
doctor's voice: "She'll never get these shoulders through. . . ."
And later, "Nurse, kao su Hsien Sheng shih i ke nan hai tze"
"Tell the father it's a boy."
We named him Carl Robert for Fred's father and for mine.
"Two sons. You are blessed," said our Chinese friends when
we got back to Tsining.
"Honey, I want you to meet Mr. Yang Ping Nan, the Magis-
trate from the county seat, Hsiang Wen," said my husband,
coming in for his tea one afternoon. He ushered in a dynamic-
looking gentleman wearing a loose-fitting foreign-style jacket.
"I am honored to meet you," I said.
"It's no honor, believe me," he replied in excellent English.
38 The Chinese Ginger Jars
"Wait until you see Hsiang Wen."
The two men took out their pipes, exchanged brands of
tobacco with the usual ritual, and settled down to talk. Chen
Wu brought in the tea.
'Til pour your tea and leave you to your discussion/' I said.
"No, no, no. We want you to hear this," said the Magistrate,
and launched into a vigorous recital of his plans for Hsiang
Wen, punctuated by rapid puffs on his pipe.
Mr. Yang had given up the chair of sociology in one of
Peking's leading universities because he wanted to see if
what he had been teaching in the classroom was applicable to
the poorest county in the province.
"Eventually our plan will take in fourteen counties/' he
said. "You know the setup agrarian reform, mass education,
flood control. . . . My immediate problem is to stamp out
opium smoking. And here's where I need your help. Doctor,
haven't you got something that will stop the horrible craving?
I've arrested everybody caught smoking the stuff, men and
women (that's why we want you to come too, Mrs. Scovel),
and they are all going mad in the prison up there. You can't
do this to people. Isn't there something you can give them?"
"Yes, there are several methods being used/' Fred replied.
"I'd like a chance to try out the one I read about just the other
day in the Journal of the Chinese Medical Association"
'Whatever it is, it will have to be cheap. I haven't much
money for this program, and this item doesn't come under any
category/' said the Magistrate, reaching for a homemade
"Ml be cheap/' said Fred.
Cantharides, the drug called for, could be purchased in-
expensively in local medicine shops. This was ground to
powder on a stone mill, mixed with vaseline fifty per cent
by weight, and bandaged to a spot the size of a silver dollar
The Ancient Poem 39
on the patient's upper arm, the bandage to be left on overnight.
By morning a large blister would have formed. With a hypo-
dermic needle and syringe, the fluid from the blister would be
withdrawn and injected into the patient's pectoral muscle. I
could hardly believe that it would work, but Fred was eager
to try it out.
"How soon can you come?" asked the Magistrate. 'We'll
need you at least three weeks."
Til have to arrange for the children," I said. "The women
on the compound will run in every day and Chang Ta Sao is
wonderful with them. But it won't be easy to leave them for
that long a time."
"Fortunately the hospital isn't too full right now. Dr. Liu
can carry on with the men and Dr. Kung with the women,"
Fred added. "How about Monday?"
Mr. Yang Ping Nan certainly carried us along on the wave
of his enthusiasm.
"First I will take you to the museum/' said the Magistrate
soon after our arrival at his headquarters. "Be careful as you
step over the doorsill. I've collected all the stuff of historical
interest and put it into this little room. Don't expect too much,
but we do have a few good things. Confucius himself was
once the Magistrate of Hsiang Wen. Here is one of his shoes."
"Such a long shoe," I said. 'Was Confucius such a big man?"
"Stop asking embarrassing questions," he replied. "How do
you expect a cloth shoe to last two thousand years? Someone
has to make a new one occasionally and every pattern must be
taken from the last shoe made. Eventually Confucius will have
been a giant. Just out here to the right is the mound where he
stood when he preached to the people. I gave them a good talk
from that spot myself the other day."
I wanted to linger in the museum, to touch the bronzes
40 The Chinese Ginger Jars
that Confucius had touched, but we were swept along by this
new day for Hsiang Wen and were powerless to stop long
enough to discover what place the old might have in the think-
ing of this present moment. Mr. Yang hurried us on toward
the jail where the opium smokers were imprisoned, the
women in one building, the men in another.
"Here we are/' said the Magistrate. "I hope that treatment
of yours works. These folks are pretty miserable."
At first the patients took the treatment to be slow torture.
It meant a sleepless night from the discomfort of the burn. But
on the whole they were good sports about it and when they
saw how the craving began to leave them after one injection,
they accepted the plaster gratefully. After three or four in-
jections they were well enough to be discharged, and the
craving had left them never to return unless they deliberately
went back to their opium smoking. Fred was delighted and
so was the Magistrate.
One morning after a delicious breakfast of crisp, fried cab-
bage leaves dipped in beaten egg, hot cereal gruel and long,
unsweetened crullers, Fred and the Magistrate went off on a
trip to examine the widening of the dikes. I was left alone to
change the dressings. Fred had applied the ointment to the
men's arms the previous day while I was doing the women's
section; this morning I was to take a look at the blisters to
see how they were rising. Those in the women's ward were
coming along nicely.
By this time I knew the men pretty well, and when I en-
tered their ward, I noticed that there were several newcomers
in the group. I began the usual banter. "If you will get me a
stepladder, Mr. Tall One, I will change your bandage." I
was met with a sullen silence. Strange, I thought. They
usually enjoy a laugh. Perhaps the dressings were more pain-
ful than usual. It didn't take long to discover that the men
The Ancient Poem 41
had removed the dressings and had wound a layer of gauze
around their arms with no medicine underneath.
'What is the meaning of this?" I demanded sternly. "Are
you babies that you are not willing to stand a little pain for
your own salvation? You know that you will be executed if
you are caught smoking again. The doctor has left a hospital
full of sick patients to come out here to help you, and I have
left my babies at home to give you my time so that your
children will not have to suffer from this terrible habit of yours.
And you big, strong men that you are will not even accept
one night's pain to help yourselves. Stand up here, every one
of you, and I will again apply the ointment."
At night I went back to see the results. But I had had time
to think, and by this time I was frightened. I remembered all
Td been told about loss of moral integrity among opium ad-
dicts; how, when thwarted, they would not stop at anything,
even murder. Why hadn't I just backed out of the place that
morning saying, "All right, all right," and left it for the men
to take care of when they returned? No, I had to wax eloquent.
Where were Fred and the Magistrate anyway? They should
have been back before dark.
The prisoners slowly surrounded me as I came into the
room. One small kerosene lamp hung from the ceiling, making
a circle of light on the clean straw covering the floor. There was
not a smile on anyone's face as the men drew within that
circle of light.
They know the doctor and the Magistrate are away, I
thought. They could finish me off in a minute and then
say I never came into the prison. I looked at the guard at the
door; he could have been my little boy, and . . . Oh, no! His
gun was plugged with cotton, I remembered. No help from
A huge man who seemed to be the leader stepped forward.
42 The Chinese Ginger Jars
"T'ai Tai," he began, "I have something to say to you/'
This is it, I thought.
'Tai T'ai, the men have asked me to speak to you. They
want me to say that they are very sorry for what happened
last night. After all that you and die doctor have done for us,
we want to assure you that what happened last night will
never happen again/'
What a relief! The tension had snapped and we were all
laughing. I thanked them for their cooperation, changed the
dressings and got out as quickly as I could lest anyone change
his mind. But not without giving them the farewell that
never failed to amuse them "Pu sung, pu sung/'
It is a delightful custom of the Chinese to accompany a
guest out of the door to the main gate and then to walk with
him some distance down the road, the guest all the while pro-
testing, "Pu sung, pu sung don't bother to accompany me.
I am not worthy of such honor." These prisoners, not being
allowed to even approach their own door, took a wry pleasure
in the parting words, "Don't bother to accompany me along
By the time two weeks were up the Magistrate was complain-
ing that the treatment was too successful. "These fellows are
eating me out of house and home," he said, running his finger
along the inside of the collar of his black uniform. "Their
appetite had been so deadened by opium that they ate nothing
at all when they first came in. Now they're hungry again and
enjoying it. Look at old Wong. He's gained pounds."
"Yes, the men are fine," Fred said. "I only wish that I could
have had as much success with the women. They are so much
harder to cure. That one old lady in the east wing is beating
the wall with her hands and begging me to give her opium
or kill her. Til try her on glucose injections today but it will
cost you money, brother.
The Ancient Poem 43
"When you women go in for anything, you never do it
halfway, do you, Honey?" he added, turning to me.
In no time at all the three weeks were up. It would be
so good to get back to the children, but we hated to leave
the village of Hsiang Wen. We took a last walk around the top
of the wall and watched the sun set over the rows of thatched
Tm so glad you could be with me on this trip/' Fred said
to me. "It's been interesting, hasn't it?"
"Yes," I said, remembering the episode of the prisoners,
"and I'm mighty glad to be going home with you, too. Do you
think the children are all right?"
"Sure to be with Chang Ta Sao looking after them," he
Only one more night and I would be seeing them again.
It must be bedtime for them now. Chang Ta Sao would be
standing between their beds with her hands folded in prayer.
"Cheemee, Kalo [her pet names for Jimmy and Carl],
pi shang yen close your eyes. Wa men ts'ai t'ien shang ti
Fu Our Father who art in heaven." Then sentence by
sentence she would repeat the Lord's Prayer in her own
language. They would tease her as usual by not saying amen
until she had called each one of them by name.
During the summer of 1932, Evy Shields and I took the
children to Peitaiho to escape the heat. So Fred was alone in
the house when the cable came Father Scovel had died sud-
denly from a heart attack. Fred shut himself in his room until
Li Ta Ke, the gateman, knocked softly at the door and said,
44 The Chinese Ginger Jars
"Don't cry any more, Doctor. It's too hot." The logic of it made
sense and Fred could face the world again,
We urged Mother Scovel to come to China, and bravely
she packed and sold and stored and came out to us; but she
was determined not to be a burden. We were able to get a
small house for her at the other end of the compound, since
that was what she wanted, and she soon became Beloved
Grandmother to the whole community. She taught English to
hospital staff members and in the schools; her home was a
haven to which we all turned; and she could read Browning
and Thackeray to children and make the reading fascinating.
One of her ministrations was to give up her little house, in
December of 1933, and to move into ours to look after the
family while I was at Cheeloo University Hospital for the
birth of our first little girl, Anne Elizabeth, the Golden-Haired
One. The big house was filling up.
Beloved Grandmother often said that her mission in coming
to China was to amuse the missionaries with her brand of
Chinese. She learned to speak the language in her own fashion,
to the amazement of our Chinese friends who wondered that
such an ancient lady should even attempt study. She did
remarkably well except for occasionally misplacing a word,
as she did that evening after dinner when she said to her maid
servant, "Big Sister Wu, go into the bedroom, open the top
drawer, look into the left-hand corner and bring me the
With never a smile Wu Ta Sao did exactly as she had been
told and returned with a small box of toothpicks!
There were times when Beloved Grandmother and I had
our difficulties, when our quiet disagreement left Fred puzzled
and helpless. But if we did not always see eye to eye, we did
see heart to heart. I wonder what we would have done without
her. In addition to hospital work, there was that five years of
The Ancient Poem 45
language study to complete before furlough. For my classical
examination I was translating a long poem of Po Chu Yi. How
I mutilated that beautiful poem! After the examination had
been passed, I found Arthur Waley's translation of it and tore
mine into bits.
And there was the daily teaching of the children to be done.
For their first year they attended the Chinese kindergarten
and had as their teacher a very pretty curly-haired Chinese
girl who became my close friend. She was the only curly-haired
Chinese I ever knew. Since there were no Chinese schools in
Tsining that would prepare our children for school and life
in America, I had to teach them myself. We had a classroom
and went into it every morning at eight-thirty. We used the
Calvert Course, a correspondence course sent out by the
Calvert School in Baltimore. I knew nothing about teaching,
but the instructions were so clear that "wayfaring men, though
fools, need not err therein/' to use Beloved Grandmother's
quotation from Isaiah. I stuck to my guns and saw each day's
lesson completed before play could begin. Fred was amused
by our being so conscientious and came in to snap a picture
of Second-Born and me sitting up in bed with high fevers,
Calvert books spread out before us.
But the children had fun, too. The boys had a feud with the
Li boys, the sons of a schoolteacher next door; the cook's
children were "on our side." The feud necessitated much
stalking through grass and running through gardens at top
speed. The Golden-Haired One helped to roll out the dough,
cook (and eat quantities of) the long, round noodles for the
One afternoon following an unusually tiring morning at the
hospital, Fred and I went for a short walk in the nearby
wheat fields. We came back refreshed, as we always did after
46 The Chinese Ginger Jars
a few moments out there in the quiet. As we entered the
house we heard great thumping noises coming from the nursery
overhead. In alarm we dashed for the stairs and reached the
nursery door breathless. Nothing seemed amiss; there were
our two innocent sons peering under the bed. What had
caused all the noise?
A huge, roly-poly figure in a cassock crawled slowly from
under the bed with a toy truck in his hand and an embarrassed
grin on his face. He looks just like Santa Glaus, I thought the
same apple cheeks, the same benevolent rotundity, the same
beatific, jolly smile.
Our guest delivered the retrieved truck to First-Born before
turning to us with a courteous explanation of his presence
under our son's bed* He was Brother Linoldhus, a German
lay brother from the Catholic monastery six miles north of
Tsining; one of the priests was ill, and he had cycled over to
ask Fred to visit him. Li Ta Ke had informed him that the
doctor was absent but would soon return, so he had taken
the opportunity to become better acquainted with the young
men of the family. From the affectionate smiles with which
the boys regarded him, it was obvious that he was already
Brother Li, as he was always called by Chinese and
foreigners alike, spoke to us in Chinese. We did not know
any German and he did not know any English, Chang Ta Sao
was highly amused that two foreigners had to speak Chinese
in order to be understood by each other. Didn't they even
know their own language?
A continual flow of Chinese was coming from Brother
"As I was coming through the village today, a smart young
fellow called me a foreigner, I got off my cycle and called him
over. The usual crowd gathered. Toung man/ I said, Tiow
The Ancient Poem 47
old are you?* Tm eighteen/ he replied. 'So, youVe been in
this country only eighteen years and you call me a foreigner.
I've lived in this country for over twenty years/ How the
We liked this cheerful, friendly man as much as the boys
did. That afternoon began a friendship that still endures. And
although we had no intimation then of the dreadful years
ahead, Brother Li was to be the instrument to bring us help
when we needed it most. But that is a story that belongs to a
One never knew what a day would bring forth in that city
so far from the stream of the world. A Chinese boy knocked
at our front gate one morning with the message that Fred
was needed at once; a foreigner was dying in the fur-buying
place across the canal.
"A foreigner?" the doctor asked. "Are you sure? There are
no foreigners in Tsining except at our missions. Never mind.
Ill be ready as soon as I pick up my bag."
The boy had been right. The man, a White Russian, was
dangerously ill with pneumonia. In those days before anti-
biotics, nursing care was essential if he were to live; so Fred
brought him home, and the whole family, including the
children, nursed him back to health. From then on, the
Russian fur-buyers would have turned the world upside down
for us and even juggled it a while with Venus and Mars for
our amusement. Fortunately they could speak English. They
were a gay lot, those Russian boys, and the children loved them.
Their laughter and rollicking music always made us feel as
if a blast of clean, fresh wind had blown through the house.
Oh, the wonderful dinners at the fur-buying warehouse, with
all the food brought in from the port city liver paste, egg-
plant fixed in a special way, caviar, salads, the table bearing
up proudly under the weight of the elaborate hors d'oeuvres
48 The Chinese Ginger Jars
called "zakuska"! There would be hot borsch soup with a
dollop of heavy cream floating upon its crimson surface, Kiev
cutlets of pounded chicken breasts waiting to be pricked
open with a fork to release the flow of hot melted butter,
piroshkis (triangles of pastry filled with chopped savory meat
and hard-boiled eggs), desserts, coffee and chocolate bonbons!
Then the ride home under the brilliant stars, the sound of the
rickshaw-puller's feet echoing hollowly against the boarded-up
shops in the deserted streets. Our little dog, Ber-ber, barking
with staccato insistence, would wake the gateman as we pulled
up in front of the house.
'Who is there?" the gateman would call sleepily.
"Bandits! " my husband would reply in a gruff voice. The
door would immediately be opened for us,
I wonder how many children in the world have camphorwood
boats sixty feet long to use as a playhouse. We certainly didn't
know what we were getting into that day when Adopted
Uncle Eames asked us casually, 'Wouldn't you like a nice
wooden boat for your children to play with? You can have it
for about fifty dollars."
The boat in question had been used by the evangelistic com-
mittee for reaching the floating population on the Grand
Canal. It had never been an unequivocal success, tending to
tip over in a high wind. There were two good-sized rooms in
it, one of them with a small kitchen attached. The evangelistic
committee, being short of funds and finding that the canal
people could be reached as easily by wheelbarrow along the
bank, had tried in vain to sell the boat. Its unseaworthiness
was well known along the canal. Adopted Uncle Eames
thought he had found a way out.
It was not until after the purchase was a fait accompli that
The Ancient Poem 4p
we realized that the boat was fully half a mile away and in
'Well take care of that/' said Adopted Uncle, who always
took care of everything; who was our rock, our fortress, our
bulwark of love.
One night it rained, and the next morning the roads were
covered with soft mud an inch deep. Sixty coolies hauled the
boat out of the water, up the short incline and into the muddy
road. Soon the "ayaho, ayaho" of their chant could be heard
as they slid the huge bulk along the main thoroughfare. The
children left the breakfast table to see what was happening.
"Daddy, Mother, come quick! A boat on land! Why, look,
it's stopping right in front of our house!"
And then everyone looked at everyone else with a "Now,
what?" expression on his face. The boat was far too wide to
get through the front gate. Nothing to do but call Lao San
and his workmen. While all the astonished traffic was held
up in both directions, the front wall, twelve feet high and
a foot thick, was torn down, and the boat slid across the wet
grass to its final resting place under the trees.
Not until some time later did we learn that the Christians
of the community thought the doctor had had advance warning
of a flood, as Noah had had. The doctor and his family
would, of course, be spared because of this preparation.
Not long after this, we actually had a flood, and though its
waters never reached the city, its tragedy did. The Yellow
Dragon was always bursting its bonds. Through the centuries
the water had come down from the hills, depositing layer after
layer of silt, so that now the floor of the river was many feet
higher than the surrounding land. It could be kept in its
channel only by high dikes. A few holes in one of these had
50 The Chinese Ginger ]ar$
passed unnoticed, and now the whole countryside was flooded.
We took a trip down the canal by boat to see the extent of
the devastation. It could have been the ocean, except for the
trees sticking their tops out of the water like growing celery.
Villages, constructed entirely of mud brick, had been washed
We took with us Mosely Eames, the teen-age son of
Adopted Uncle. As the corpse of a man floated toward us, I
did my best to divert the boy by pointing out a submerged tree
on the other side of the boat. I thought I had succeeded. On
the way back the same corpse, or another, came in sight.
"You again, pal?" said Mosely quietly.
Our city was the terminus of a branch line leading to the
main railway. This was the outlet to safety for all the flooded
area, and thousands of people collected at the railway station.
Illness broke out, babies were born under freight cars, and
our hospital was filled far beyond capacity. Fred and the
hospital staff became a team that worked as one man. The
challenge of the emergency called out the best in each member
of the staff. For days nobody thought of sleeping. Fred had
to insist that they take time out to eat.
Nobody could guess how many months it would be before
the waters would recede. The Yellow Dragon was in no
hurry to decide where it would cut its new channel. Governor
Han Fu Ch'u did an excellent job of moving each village as
a unit to a place where it could make a fresh start. Each
person's name was carefully written in a register as was the
place where he had formerly lived and the place to which
he was going. In this way friends and relatives did not become
separated. The Governor provided food and transportation for
the journey and even vacated a large section of his palace so
that the refugees would have a stopping place en route to their
The Ancient Poem 51
After the waters had subsided, we heard the exciting and
to me somewhat alarming news that Governor Han would
make an official visit to the hospital to thank the doctor and
his staff for all they had done. I did not have a notion of the
protocol attendant upon a Governor's visit. I asked myself,
"What would I do in America if a Governor came to call?"
That didn't help a bit, and there was no one to ask. I would
just have to pretend that the Governor was a stranger coming
to town for an informal cup of coffee. Coffee it would be, with
brownies and ice cream. I sent to the fish market for a cake
of ice and we borrowed the biggest freezer on the compound.
We had no idea how many there would be in the Governor's
I had a few bad moments when I saw two truckloads of
soldiers milling over the front lawn setting up machine guns.
Did they all expect to be fed? Why were they setting up ma-
chine guns, anyway? "To protect the Governor, of course/' the
cook enlightened me. For a brief second I wondered what
would happen if the Governor never came out of our house
if he had a heart attack and died there. Suppose he should
get acute food poisoning and collapse? Had the cook been
careful not to get any of that dirty ice into the ice cream?
The two boys were having a wonderful time with the sol-
diers, who were showing them how to fire a machine
gun! I had no time to make a tactful rescue; the Governor
and six giant bodyguards in long silk Chinese garments were
walking up the path and into the house with Fred. They were
chatting away as if they had known one another for years.
There would only be these seven to be fed. When they were
seated, I gave a nod to the cook to come forward with the
coffee tray. Standing in the doorway with his mouth wide
open and his hands hanging limply at his sides, completely
52 The Chinese Ginger Jars
overawed at having such an august personage in the house,
he could not move a step.
I got up and did the serving myself. Apparently the
Governor did not know I was in the room, so engrossed were
he and Fred in their discussion of the flood. "More brownies,
Governor Han?" I asked, passing him the plate. He took
"And let me fill your cup."
He passed it to me sideways without turning his head from
my husband. He liked his ice cream, I could see that. I'd
been a bit worried about it because most Chinese dislike any-
thing made with milk or flavored with vanilla. I'd given this
a heavy dose of maple and caramel.
"Doctor, are you a Christian?" the Governor asked as he
finished his coffee. "But of course you are. I do not need to
ask that question. You wouldn't be doing what you are for my
people if you weren't a Christian,"
As they rose to leave, the Governor said, "Doctor, I don't
understand this at all. Most of the American men I know have
to wait on their wives, but you seem to have this one pretty
well in hand. Thank you both for everything, Good-by."
"And I never gave you away at all," said Fred when we
were back in the house. "I let the Governor go away without
ever telling him the truth."
"The passengers think you two are on your honeymoon/' said
the stewardess. I cannot remember on which of the Dollar
Line ships we were traveling from Shanghai to San Francisco
for our furlough year at home after five years in China.
"Our honeymoon! With three children?" I asked.
"They think the doctor has been married before the
children are all blonds and you have such black hair," she
said. "And they think it is very generous of you to take your
mother-in-law on your wedding trip!"
It was June of 1936. We had had a spectacular send-off
at the railway station in Tsining, with flags and banners and
even a band which tootled its songs as we said good-by to our
friends. It stopped playing long enough for the school children
to sing their farewell song. The Chamber of Commerce was
there to a man to express their appreciation for what the
hospital had meant to the community. (We had been sur-
prised to find a full-fledged Chamber of Commerce in
Tsining.) It was hard to say good-by. These had been such
rewarding, happy years that we hated to leave.
But America is a wonderful country too! We hadn't realized
how wonderful it was until we came into it after six years
away. There was hot running water, crisp celery, smooth roads,
and comfortable cars in which to ride over them. There were
54 The Chinese Ginger Jars
rolling hills, clean villages with tall white spires catching the
sun. We could sit together as a family in church instead of
separating at the door for the men's side and the women's side.
There were friends who had known us all our lives. There
were family and home. My beloved father and mother were
suddenly converted into my children's grandparents, who
scolded us for not being strict enough with them and then
spoiled them outrageously themselves.
The year passed quickly. Fred attended clinics at Cornell
University, taking a course in X-ray diagnosis to help him in
one of our major medical problems, tuberculosis; and he was
buying equipment for the hospital. I was buying shoes for
the seven years ahead; patronizing every counter of the five-
and-ten; buying bolts of cloth for pajamas, underwear and
curtains, and yards of dress material for the Golden-Haired
One and me. The winter clothes could wait. I always knitted
dresses and suits for the children each winter, and yam for
these could be picked up in Japan on our way back.
There were days when the newspapers made us wonder if
we would ever get back to China. Remembering my qualms
of five years ago, it seemed ironical that now I had to pray that
I might be willing to remain in America if that turned out to
be God's will for us. I did not even try to defend myself when
friends said, "You are crazy to take those children out there
at a time like this." There was no explaining the deep com-
pulsion in any way that would make sense.
But we got off, and Beloved Grandmother was with us,
willing to face whatever might come.
While we were still on shipboard, it was announced that
the Japanese army had landed at Shanghai. We could take
our choice of getting off the ship at Japan or going on to
Hong Kong. There seemed a slight chance that we could
The Gourd 55
obtain passage from Japan directly to our province, Shantung,
so we disembarked at Kobe.
But we did not get away from Japan as easily as we had
hoped. We spent futile weeks trying to obtain passage and
permission to travel. The Presbyterian missionaries took us
into their homes, though it cast suspicion upon them for
harboring such close friends of their enemy, China. The David
Martins loaned us their dear little house at the foot of Mount
Fujiyama for several weeks.
What a gem of a country Japan is! It was here that Fred
first began to work with pastels. One of our neighbors, a China
missionary refugee too, would go off into the woods each
morning with her box of chalks and a pad of paper, and come
home at night with her achievement for the day.
"Look at this one/* she would say, laughing. "Did you ever
see such a tree?" We hadn't. "But you have no idea what it
has done for my morale/' she would add.
As the days wore on and Fred became more and more frus-
trated at not being able to get back to his work, I suggested that
he, too, might take up drawing.
"Me, draw?" he protested. "Never. When I was in school
I got my poorest grades in drawing/' But I sent to Tokyo for
One rainy day I said to him, "Go upstairs and take a look
at Fujiyama. It's just peeking its head above the clouds. And
here, take these with you. Not one bite of dinner do you get
until you have put something on paper/'
We were both surprised at the results. To some discrim-
inating individuals his painting might have appeared a very
amateur attempt, but to me it was as if he himself had created
the beautiful, snowcapped mountain.
Back at Kobe we made every attempt to get on to China.
56 The Chinese Ginger Jars
Reluctantly we decided that Fred would have to go on alone
and leave the rest of us in Japan. He talked it over with a
friend in the United States consulate, and though nothing
official was said, there was a sympathetic understanding of
Fred's desire to get back to his hospital. The first step was to
secure a passport for himself alone all five of us were now
included in his. Great care had to be exercised because the
true reason for obtaining separate passports could not be told.
No official sanction could be given to a civilian for taking
himself into the middle of a war.
We two walked into the office of an undersecretary that
gray, drizzling afternoon, feeling the burden of the separation
before us. I sat down on one side of the room and Fred on
the other. We could not trust ourselves even to look at each
"Name? Age? Which one of you will have the children?
Have you ever been divorced before?*'
Divorced? The ludicrousness of the situation dawned on us.
The secretary thought we were seeking a divorce! Well, she
would just have to go on thinking it.
Not many days later, when the clouds were so thick that I
couldn't even see the ship in the bay, Fred stepped into a little
gray cutter and was taken out to sea, the long V of ripples
widening the distance between us. I watched the small boat
disappear into the wall of mist and wondered if the children
and I would ever see him again.
Barbara Hayes, another China missionary refugee, and I
kept trying to find passage for our families. It did not look as
if the war would end in the near future and we decided that,
come what may, we were going back to our homes in China.
Together we walked the streets, going from one office to
another. At last we persuaded one company to take us on
board the Havel, a little German freighter. The captain did not
The Gourd 57
like missionaries and was perturbed when he found that some
twelve of us were booked to travel with him.
It had not been easy to manage alone the passage, visas,
finances, children and Beloved Grandmother. I hadn't realized
how much I had come to depend upon Fred for everything,
especially for thinking out loud to. We hadn't heard from
him in weeks. The newspapers in Japan had repeatedly told
of the bombing and complete demolition of our city, Tsining.
It was the repetition in the papers of the term "complete
demolition*' that gave us hope. Too many "complete demoli-
tions" couldn't mean accurate reporting. But the question
remained, where was he? Would he get our message? Would
he be on the dock to meet us?
It took seventeen days to make what was ordinarily a
three-day journey. In spite of Germany's being an ally of
Japan, the ship was held up by the Japanese authorities at
every port. Sometimes we were held in quarantine several
days before being allowed to proceed into the harbor. The
passengers became one family, and the distraught captain an
anxious father to us all.
But at last we did put into port at Tsingtao, and Fred was
on the dock to meet us; and he had brought Chang Ta Sao with
him. By some miracle our cable had reached him. Though
he could stay with us only a few days, we took comfort in
being in the same country together. We decided reluctantly
that, for the present, it was best for the family to remain in
Tsingtao rather than to risk the dangers of the road while
armies were on the move. We were able to rent a house
and we unpacked our Lares and Penates and set up a new
home. Then Fred went back to Tsining to continue his hospital
work. He did not open our big house, but made himself as
comfortable as he could in Beloved Grandmother's smaller
58 The Chinese Ginger Jars
one. Letters were frequent and we settled down to the long
It was late November when I received his telegram:
HOSPITAL FULL OF WOUNDED SOLDIERS
NEEDING OPERATION. NO ETHER
"He must want me to buy ether and bring it in to him/' I
said to Beloved Grandmother. "There is no other way to get
it into the interior; but I just don't see how I can do it. How
can I leave the children and you at a time like this?"
"If it is right for you to go, the way will open/* Beloved
Grandmother replied. "Chang Ta Sao and I will look after
the children with no trouble at all. Only do come back for
Christmas, both of you. That will give you more than three
"Don't worry; we'll be here for Christmas! I said.
I went from shop to shop, buying a can of ether here and
another there. I also bought Christmas presents for the
children and wrapped them in gay kite paper at odd moments.
I was determined to be back with them for Christmas, but so
many things could happen. At least they'd have their presents.
Supplies were not coming in and ether was hard to find.
I finally collected a suitcase full of it. The next step was to
get on a train. All of China was on the move. Crowds of
refugees clung to the sides and covered the roof of each train.
People were traveling in both directions in toward the line
of battle and out to the coast again. They seemed to feel they
were safe as long as they were moving.
We were only a few miles outside of Tsingtao when the
train screeched to a jerking stop. At once the myriad passengers
started to shove and claw their way out of the windows; all
exits were jammed. I didn't understand what was going on but
I had to protect that ether from damage. Whether or no, I
The Gourd 59
was swept along with the refugees who swarmed down the
sides of the train and scattered over the fields to cast them-
selves flat in any available ditch. As I threw myself down along-
side the suitcase of ether, fear and understanding reached me
at the same moment: Japanese bombers were flying low
Finally the engine tooted, and there was an equally mad
scramble to get on again before the train started. A few miles
farther on the same thing occurred: the jarring halt, the frantic
rush. This time I sat still. I thought it safer for the ether and
for me to avoid the jam. Again and again the train came to a
stop and each time I had the luxury of a few moments of space
around me, tinged with the thought, however, that I was a sure
After an all-day ride, the train pulled into Tsinan, where I
had to make connections for Tsining. I battled my way out of
the station and selected a rickshaw from the crowd of them
that hemmed me in. It took me across town to the other rail-
way station. Here people were packed in a radius a half mile
deep around the building all of them waiting and hoping
for transportation. I could not move forward one inch through
In desperation I told the man ahead of me that wounded
Chinese soldiers would die if I did not get through to them
with the medicine I carried, and asked him to pass the word
through the crowd to the station master. I don't know what the
message sounded like by the time it got to him, but eventually
he came out with a squad of policemen. People were un-
willing to give up their places so the policemen had to take
small rope cords and strike at the people on either side to make
a pathway to the train.
The policemen lifted me into the baggage car; it was
crammed with soldiers but again they beat a path through
60 The Chinese Ginger Jars
to a seat for me. I sat bolt upright on the hard bench with
the suitcase of ether in my lap, completely immobilized by
the soldiers jammed close on either side, and went sound
asleep. When I wakened the train was under way. A soldier
was asleep against my right shoulder, another on my left
shoulder, one across each knee, and two across my feet.
"At last/' I said to myself, Tve solved the problem of how
to keep warm on a train/'
From time to time someone would wake up and start a
conversation with me. The soldiers could not understand why
I was traveling alone under such circumstances in order to
help them. Why should anyone care whether they lived,
suffered or died?
"Brother, please do not smoke in here/* I would say to them.
"Please do not smoke near this suitcase. It is filled with ether
and may explode,"
'What difference does it make, Tai Tai, to be blown up
here or a few days later on the battlefield?"
"One very big difference, brother. I shall not be with you on
Wonderful, wonderful people! They could always laugh.
They had learned, over the long centuries, never to take
themselves, or life, too seriously.
I had wired Fred when I began the journey, and he met
me the next morning at Yenchow, the nearest railway station
on the main line. With unutterable relief I handed over the
ether. Our city had not yet fallen, Japanese newspaper reports
to the contrary notwithstanding. As we rode across the flat
plain with its fields sprouting winter wheat, Fred outlined
"You know the rumors we are hearing about the on-coming
army. They may be true and they may not, but the young
girls in the nursing school are afraid and want to go inland to
The Gourd 61
safety. I can hardly keep them here against their wishes. But
the Boys' School at Tenghsien has closed and the boys have
come home. Do you suppose you could take some of the most
promising of those boys and give them a short nurses' aid
course? Then well put them on the wards and teach them as
they go. A few of the older nurses have family responsibilities
and can't leave. Well put them on the women's wards, and
the boys can work with the men. With all these wounded,
most of the patients are men anyway. What do you think?"
"It sounds like a very good idea," I said. "But what about
the children and Grandmother? I promised we'd both be
there for Christmas."
"Yes, I know. . . . Well, we'll see what we can do in the
next three weeks, and if there is any possibility at all, we'll
try to get out for Christmas. If not, you'll have to go back
alone and . . . but I can't let you do that."
Somehow or other the work was accomplished. The boys
were given the fundamentals and an older nurse instructed on
how to carry on. We even managed to work in a birthday
party for Fred, inviting a few friends from the city. It was
an evening to be remembered. We sat around the fire singing
Christmas carols, each in his own language; the old German
woman and her son singing "Silent Night, Holy Night," the
Chinese singing it softly in Chinese, the Americans humming
softly too all of us with our eyes on the German woman's
beautiful face, as her still lovely voice rose above the rest.
And then it was time to take the journey back to the
children. What a trip the two of us had! We climbed in and
out of train windows, were carried along by the surge of
crowds, ate whatever scant food we could find along the way.
But we made it! We arrived in Tsingtao on the evening of the
twenty-first of December.
Since the Christmas gifts were already bought and wrapped,
6z The Chinese Ginger Jars
we planned to use these last few days making popcorn balls
with the children, melting old candles into wax stars with
wicks (for the Adopted Aunts and Uncles), and decorating
the house. We sank exhausted into bed, expecting a long
But I could not sleep. At first I thought it was because I was
overtired; but gradually I realized a firm, insistent urging, as if
God were trying to speak to me.
"Get up. Leave the city at once, all of you. You are to go
back to Tsining to your home. Now/'
This is just plain silly, I said to myself. Who would dream
of taking the children and Beloved Grandmother directly into
the line of battle? Why, I couldn't face the trip myself after
these last days on those awful trains!
But long before morning, I knew that I would have to wake
Fred and tell him. No, I wouldn't have to wake him.
"You know," he said, "I have the strangest feeling, a strong
compulsion that we must all get out of this city and go back
to Tsining children, Mother, all of us. It seems crazy. You
know I'm not like you, seeing visions and dreaming dreams;
but this is it and there is no doubt about it."
"I know/' I replied. "It's like Lot at Sodom, only this time
the wife is not going to be turned into a pillar of salt. Fm sure
that we must go/'
Beloved Grandmother did not seem at all surprised when
we told her. Had she, too, had a vision? Once again she was
ready to disrupt a peaceful life and to go with us into danger.
We found that she could go by a special train that had just
been put on, for which we would be able to buy reservations.
We telephoned the two "ladies" from our station, Miss Christ-
man and Miss Stewart. They, too, had been waiting at Tsing-
tao for an opportunity to go back to their work, and hadn't
heard about the special train. (The unmarried women of the
The Gourd 63
station were always called 'ladies" by the children to distin-
guish them from "mothers" who were not "ladies"!)
We worked all day packing. We put the children's Christ-
mas gifts in a separate suitcase, for it looked as if we would
spend Christmas on the road. We went to the landlord, who
was convinced that we were insane; we got Beloved Grand-
mother and the ladies off on the train; we wired young Adopted
Uncle, Deane Walter, who was already in our mission station,
to meet them with his car at the railway junction. We learned
later that that train was the last one to leave Tsingtao for many
Fred and I, the children, and Chang Ta Sao were going to
attempt a cross-country trip of something under seven hundred
miles in order to take with us the Ford truck a friend in
America had given us for use as an ambulance. Before day-
light on the twenty-third we started out, the children excited
with the new adventure. Chang Ta Sao was sure that she was
going to be seasick all the way. She was.
Looking back on it, I can remember only snatches of the
journey, as one recalls a bad dream. We went through a wind-
ing river eight times, never knowing how deep the water in the
middle of the stream might be. The truck had double wheels
in back; we crossed one bridge that was only as wide as the
inner wheels so that we bump-bump-bumped over the stumps
of piles that held the bridge. We spent the night at Ichowfu,
another of our mission stations, with Katherine Hand. Kathe-
rine could hardly have been more surprised when we drove up
to her gate. She hadn't seen one of her own countrymen for
In spite of Katherine's entreaties and the temptation to spend
Christmas with her, we hurried off early next morning for
another grueling day across the level plain. (The plain was
level enough but the road was anything else but.) At dusk
fy The Chinese Ginger Jars
snow began to fall, and by dark we found ourselves behind a
column of inarching soldiers whom we took to be Japanese.
We were afraid to ask. Apparently the soldiers thought that
the truck was part of their own unit, for they paid no attention
to us. The marching file eventually turned off. Some time
later the road petered out and became a small village. As a
last straw the truck slid into a deep hole previously used by
the village animals as a wallow.
I often wonder what the villagers thought when that
snorting monster of a truck came to such an abrupt halt at
the edge of their village that cold winters night, and such
queer-looking people piled out into their street. Exactly as
we would feel if a spaceship from Mars landed on Main Street
in River Bend, I suppose. No white person had ever been in
the village before.
"Hsiao h'ar che ma pang, lien che ma pei," the villagers said
as they crowded around us. ("So fat the children, so white
'Where have you come from and what do you want here?"
a thin-mustached old gentleman asked Fred.
"Ni kan. Ta ti t'ou fa ch'uan pei la!" "Just look/' said a
young girl carrying a baby, "the litde girl's hair has all turned
"It isn't white, it's like gold thread," said a woman who
might have been the girl's mother, "and it's all in little circles.
She pulled out a ringlet from the Golden-Haired One's
head, and was delighted when it snapped back into a tight
curl. At once everyone, young and old, wanted to try it. I
had all I could do to keep my daughter from being frightened
as I held her in my arms. Fortunately she was a very outgoing,
friendly child and rather enjoyed being the center of attention;
but the crowd almost smothered us.
The Gourd 6$
Fred asked for oxen to pull the truck out of the wallow,
but all their animals had been commandeered by the army.
He and a few of the men went off to the surrounding villages
to see if they could find some oxen. The other villagers pressed
closer, feeling our clothing and pinching the children's cheeks.
The questions they asked were endless; and we were so tired.
At last a motherly looking woman came out of her house,
took in the situation at a glance, and having elbowed the
people out of her way, swept the three children into her
"Come into my miserable hovel/* she said to us. "Here, Tai
T'ai, sit down on the bed. Boy, get some straw for the fire. I'll
have some soup ready in no time. You are so cold and hungry."
She called it a miserable hovel; but she said the words as
a queen would say them, asking you into her palace. A palace
could not have seemed more inviting.
Fred didn't come back and we grew even more tired and
The night wore on. I sat on the board bed with the weary
children and could not keep from crying. First-born, puzzled
at this phenomenon, crawled over beside me and whispered,
"Don't cry, Mother. Everything will be all right. God will take
care of us."
Finally Fred returned with the news that no oxen were avail-
able anywhere. What were we to do? The village men were
not easily thwarted. They put their backs to the huge, awk-
ward vehicle and by sheer manpower lifted it out of the
muddy pit and wheeled it into the road.
"Shall we stay here the rest of the night?" Fred asked. "The
villagers want us to spend the night here and go on in the
morning. We are about five hours from home, if nothing else
stops us. One of the men has offered to go with us to show us
the way." (When our guide returned to his village he had a
66 The Chinese Ginger Jars
Bible and other reading material for the village schoolteacher
to read to them all.)
'Well, what do you say? We'll do whatever you want/'
said my husband.
It was not difficult to see that he was longing to get out on
the road again, to finish this ghastly journey and see us all
safe at home.
"Let's go on/' I said.
"But not until you have had some of this hot soup/' said our
hostess, dipping a gourd ladle into the simmering kettle. The
light from the fire caught the satiny sides of the gourd as the
soup, with its hot chunks of sweet potato, slipped into the
heavy porcelain bowls. Never was hospitality more gratefully
At last we said our good-bys, after expressing our gratitude
as best we could, and started out with our guide on the final
lap of our journey. Aside from having to get the magistrate
out of bed to give us permission to go through one walled
city, nothing untoward happened; and not long before dawn,
the car turned in at the mission compound. It was Christmas
Christmas morning and home, with Beloved Grandmother
and Stella Walter there to welcome us! Stella had opened the
house, had it thoroughly cleaned, taken all the furniture out
of the storeroom and arranged it exactly as it had been the year
before. The beds were made and, joy of all joys, she had put
up a Christmas tree and decorated it! We opened the suitcase
full of Christmas gifts and laid them under the shining tree
to be unwrappeH later that morning.
Tired and thankful, thankful, thankful, we all fell into bed.
A few days later, Fred came back from the hospital with a
strange look on his face joy? bewilderment? wonder?
The Gourd 67
"What is it?" I asked.
Tve just learned/' he told me quietly, "that the Chinese
have begun to plow up the roads we came over; they're plant-
ing them with winter wheat so that the enemy won't find
any road at all. If we hadn't come the day we did, we could
never have made it."
Three weeks later our city fell to the Japanese. I had been
doing the rounds of the hospital one afternoon, chatting with
the patients and giving each one a flower. Even the men liked
to hold a blossom in their hands.
Now I noticed that the planes were zooming lower and
lower, and that the sound of the guns was getting louder and
louder. One deafening detonation must surely have awakened
the children from their naps. I hurried out of the hospital and
saw that planes were strafing the courtyard and the roads
nearby. Keeping close to the high compound walls, I reached
the street and ran as fast as I had ever run. From the sound
I thought thousands must be running behind me, and I turned
to see that I was leading the retreat of what seemed to be the
whole Chinese army. Well, they would have to continue with-
out my leadership. I slipped in at the gate of our compound,
negotiated the open space between the street wall and the
house, and arrived, breathless, in the front hall just as the
children were coming sleepily down the stairs.
Try to keep life normal for them, I thought.
"Let's have some fun this afternoon. Let's take a plate of
cookies and some books and go down into that little cellar
room that Daddy has built for us to play in." It was a bomb-
proof shelter we hoped.
I am not sure the children had ever been fooled by my
70 The Chinese Ginger Jars
efforts over the last weeks to keep things normal to continue
with school every day, to move casually to some other place
in the house when the bullets started to come through the
windows. I have a suspicion that they, too, played the game,
because they didn't want me to be frightened. Now they ami-
ably agreed that playing in the little room would be fun.
The cook's wife and children were already in the cellar.
We sat on the floor and told stories, first in Chinese and then
in English, lifting our voices in what First-Born called a
"quiet roar" in order to be heard above the noise of the guns
outside. We ate cookies and waited. We had no way of telling
which way the battle was going. Once I came upstairs and
found the cook standing in an open doorway watching the
progress of the fray.
"Hu Shih Fu, come down into the cellar with us. It's dan-
gerous here," I said to him.
"Never mind, Tai Tai, pu yao chin. I'm all right here. . . .
Ai yah! What was that?"
"That was a bullet through your hat, Hu Shih Fu. Now
will you come down with us?"
The battle lasted only three hours. It seemed like three
years. The din grew so terrible that all I could think was, "If
only the noise would stop! Let them come in. Let them take
the city anything to have it quiet again."
But when the battle closed we were stunned by the ominous
silence that fell upon the city. The next morning there was
a Japanese flag flying from every shop front.
It was a strange feeling to be "the enemy" completely at
the mercy of an army that had been promised the freedom
of the city and who took unspeakable advantage of that free-
dom. But the American flag was still respected by the Japanese,
and at least for the time being, our compound and the people
in it remained unmolested. Thousands of men, women, and
The Grape 7 l
children flocked into the compound for refuge, and it was
heartbreaking to have to turn away the thousands more for
whom there was no room.
We did our best to provide shelter for the refugees. Most
of them had been able to bring food with them. Sanitation
was the major problem; Fred realized that an epidemic in the
crowded compound would threaten the refugees with perhaps
even more danger than there was from the enemy outside.
Deane Walter was in charge of the committee who collected
able-bodied men to erect hasty shelters and make bore-hole
latrines, and try to control the myriad flies. We lacked sprays
in anything approaching the amount needed, so an offer was
made to the children: three pennies for a hundred flies. Dead
flies. The response was so overwhelming and the weather so
hot that Deane found it impossible to count the corpses of
the disintegrating insects, and quickly changed the offer to
three pennies an ounce.
Military victory can be a terrible thing an evil, corrupting,
fear-generating horror. As we walked the streets from our
compound to the Baptist mission to see how our friends there
had fared during the battle, evil was so palpable in the air
that you could almost reach out and touch it. Half the shops
were closed and the best wares buried lest they be confiscated,
but saki must have been available by the barrel. Drunken
soldiers roamed the streets. Women, no matter how old, hid
out in the fields at night, so a shopkeeper told us. I could not
believe it and thought he was exaggerating the danger, but
the day came when I, a Christian missionary, was glad to see
that the army had shipped in a trainload of prostitutes. Poor,
hard, unhappy little girls!
There were those among the Japanese, officers and soldiers,
who hated the whole situation as much as we did more,
perhaps, because it was closer to them. Our compound, our
72 The Chinese Ginger Jars
home, was a comparative lake of peace in this morass of mud.
Many times a day the doorbell would ring and our few words
of Japanese would make a soldier welcome. But I never heard
the clomp of army boots upon the stone walk without a mo-
ment of fear.
At the beginning this feeling of fearful uncertainty was al-
most overwhelming. What was happening? What was going
to happen? What was the rest of the world doing? Did our
families at home know what had happened to us? We could
learn little of real fact, although there were constant rumors.
One recurring rumor was that the Chinese army was about
to recapture the city. Certainly we could hear continual firing
in the outskirts of the city and there were times when the
guns sounded much closer. But the weeks passed and nothing
happened. We gradually grew accustomed to having the
soldiers drop in, and began to take the firing for granted.
In an effort to keep up morale and to break the monotony
of our restricted life, we celebrated every celebratable occasion
and some that are not ordinarily considered so. We had al-
ways been a station that made the most of any opportunity
to have a party the anniversary of someone's coming to
China, engagement anniversaries as well as wedding anniver-
saries, everyone's birthday including George Washington's,
which was celebrated by an Early-American fancy dress din-
ner and St. Patrick's Day. The same scanty food would be
served, but it was a challenge to cook it or serve it just a bit
differently; and it gave us a chance to be together, to hear
Adopted Uncle Eames tell his jokes, and to exchange the
One day, six months after the city had fallen, I was dressing
for a luncheon party the Walters were giving to celebrate
Stellas birthday. Bertha Smith, the children's Adopted-Aunt-
from-across-the-city, had come in from the Baptist mission and
The Grape 73
was sitting in the bedroom with me. I remember I was tying
the bow at the neck of my yellow cotton maternity dress when
the sound of a shot zinged through the air.
"That must be near here/' I commented. But gunfire was
so commonplace that we went on talking without a second
thought. Another shot crumpled the quiet.
"Fred will probably be late to lunch," I said. "He's so busy
at the hospital now. But there is still plenty of time, isn't
It was then that we heard the gateman's wife lumbering up
the stairs in a great effort of speed. She threw open the door
and stood there quivering.
"They've shot the doctor and we can't find his body!" she
blurted out. (She told me later that she had insisted she be
the one to tell me because she would break it to me gendy.
"After all, one needed to be careful," she said, "... in your
In her crude way she did break it to me gently because I
didn't believe her. I did not believe her at all. "Now, Li Ta
Sao, just because you have heard shots near the hospital, it
doesn't mean that the doctor has been hurt. You are always
The gateman appeared in the doorway. "Please, Teacher-
Mother/' he said gently, "will you go and see?"
As soon as we reached the street, I knew that it was true.
Not a word was spoken, but people were looking at me with
such compassion in their faces. At the hospital gate I faltered;
could I go on? Bertha caught my arm fiercely. "Come," she
said. "God can take care of this, too."
Stella Walter met us at the door. She had come over as soon
as she had heard the second shot. I looked at her mutely, and
she answered my unspoken question, "He is alive. He was
shot in the back and the bullet went all the way through his
74 The Chinese Ginger Jars
body. Dr. Rung is with him* She cannot tell yet how badly
he is hurt/'
As we hurried up the stairs she told me briefly what had
happened. A drunken Japanese soldier had come into the
hospital courtyard waving a gun and looking for nurses. (The
gun wasn't loaded, but nobody knew that then.) Fred and
a few of his staff had gone out to stop him. Two of the boys
in the nursing course took the gun away from the man; an-
other went out into the street to find a soldier on duty who
would taken the drunken one away. But the soldier from the
street, either misunderstanding the situation or interpreting
it as a slur on the Japanese army, drew his own gun and forced
the boys to return the weapon to the drunken soldier. Then
he immediately left the compound.
By this time the drunken soldier was furious. He put a clip
of five bullets into the gun. He singled out Fred, perhaps
because he looked different from the rest taller and wearing
his white uniform and motioned with the gun for him to
lead the way to the women's quarters. Fred stepped into the
path, thinking to guide him to the back gate and out into the
street. The rest of the group scattered.
Fred was about fifteen feet ahead when the soldier shot
him. A second bullet went wide of its mark because Fred had
fallen into a flower bed. ("Not fallen" he protested to me
later. "I knew I'd been shot, and people usually lie down when
they're shot. The flower bed looked like a nice, soft place.")
As he lay there, the berserk soldier came and stood over
him, with three bullets left in his gun. (Even now I am weak
with the miracle of it. "God sent an angel to touch that gun/'
said Brother Li later.) The soldier aimed at Fred's head and
pulled the trigger. Drunk as the man was, he could not miss,
but the gun did not go off. People who know those Japanese
guns tell us that they never jam not even when they are hot
The Grape 75
from having been fired all day. Again the soldier tried, and
again; finally he wandered off into the street. After a few
moments Fred was able to lift himself and walk into the hos-
pital that was why his body could not be found.
It was typical of him that, with two first-class rooms empty,
he had put himself to bed in the third-class ward with the rest
of his patients. I went over to him, afraid of myself and of
making a scene in front of that roomful of sick. "How are
you?" I said. "Will you be ... all right?"
His face was flushed and his eyes showed the strain, but
he answered quietly, "We won't know for a few hours yet.
But don't worry. Please, honey, don't worry."
The external bleeding had almost stopped, but there was no
way to tell whether the liver had been damaged. We might
need surgical help and need it badly and Fred was the only
surgeon. I did what I could to make him comfortable, as
cheerfully as possible, but underneath I was desperate. I had
to be alone for a minute to get hold of myself and to say a
fervent prayer in private.
As I opened the door, I saw a beautiful sight: Lay Brother
Li was bounding up the hospital stairs. "Is it true?" he gasped,
out of breath. "Will he. . . ?"
"Yes, it is true," I said. "As to the rest, it is in God's hands.
We won't know for at least twenty-four hours whether he is
safe from internal hemorrhages."
'What can I do for you? I was on my way to the city."
"You can take the message out. Get it to the nearest Ameri-
can consul if you possibly can."
I seized some blank temperature charts and wrote a report
of the incident, ending with the plea, "Please send help as
soon as you can. There is no other surgeon within this area
of five million people." (Our Chinese surgeon had fled to
West China a month earlier because he did not feel that he
j6 The Chinese Ginger Jars
could work under the Japanese.)
I quickly folded the papers and gave them to Brother Li.
"Do get this out as soon as you can/'
"Depend upon me. God give you courage/' he said, and
hurried down the stairs, rucking his cassock around his portly
waist as he went out to pick up the bicycle he had dropped at
the door. There was something very comforting in the sight.
Someone had gone for Beloved Grandmother, whose little
house was at the opposite end of the compound. Later our
wonderful friend, Dr. Kung, who stood staunchly by us
through it all, remarked, "I never realized before what the
long heritage of being a Christian through many generations
meant. Mother did not come in screaming or wailing, as we
would have done. She went to him smiling, and took his hand.
None of us could have done that."
As I sat beside the bed, looking across at Beloved Grand-
mother, we were overwhelmed with wave after wave of
gratitude that he was still alive. And, too, it was so like God
to have sent Lay Brother when He did. Now there was hope
that another doctor would arrive.
I watched Fred's respiration: the pulse held strong. No
sign of internal bleeding yet. (God, O God, don't let any-
thing happen to him!) Suddenly I remembered the children.
I must tell them before anyone else had a chance to. I told
Fred where I was going and that I would hurry back.
I was too late. Precious old Chang Ta Sao, overcome with
grief and anxiety, had somehow got hold of Fred's bloodstained
shirt and was sitting in the middle of the nursery floor, rocking
back and forth and wailing, 'Tour father was shot. Your father
was shot!" while the stunned children huddled in a circle
around her. They looked up at me as I came into the room
and did not say a word.
"Yes, Daddy has been shot/' I told them, "but he is all right.
The Grape 77
Chang Ta Sao, please get up. The doctor is all right and is
going to be all right. Come, children, we are going over to the
hospital now. You can see for yourselves that he is only hurt
a little. Chang Ta Sao, you come too, and then you can bring
the children back home and give them their tea/'
When the Golden-Haired One saw Fred, she went over
to the bed and very quietly felt him all over from head to foot
to see if any part of him was missing. Reassured, the children
went off with Chang Ta Sao and Beloved Grandmother went
with them to be sure they were no longer frightened.
Fred slept at intervals during that long day, while I stayed
with him, checking pulse, temperature, respiration. Occasion-
ally I would look up to find him watching me with a semblance
of the old grin on his face. By nightfall we knew that the im-
mediate crisis was over, and the prayers of intercession became
prayers of gratitude. As soon as we felt sure that he could be
moved without hemorrhaging, we put him on a stretcher and
brought him home to the quiet of his own bed. Every person
who had ever known him, it seemed, had come to the hospital
and demanded to see for himself that the doctor was alive. At
one point during that interminable day I had counted seventy-
five people jammed into the room and out into the hall. Their
loving solicitude was touching, but Fred was still in danger
and that had to be our first consideration.
Among the refugees living on the compound were several
Chinese businessmen. A few of them were firm friends of
Fred, although they had never been moved to become Chris-
tians; but most were shopkeepers whom he hardly knew. These
men went to the pastor of the church next door and asked,
"Sir, may we go into the church? We would like to kneel
down and thank the God who saved our doctor's life."
The Chinese church next door had come to mean a lot to
us. It had no beauty of architecture, being of the same gray-
78 The Chinese Ginger Jars
brick "factory construction" as our house, but helped a little
by tall, slim, glass windows. Too, the service was not the
hushed, dignified one we were used to. Though our splendid
Chinese pastor tried his best, nothing could prevent an oc-
casional outburst from someone breaking into the service to
announce that "Uncle Wong has just come in from the village
and you'd better hurry home/* During prayer a dog might
brush past you to pick up the steamed bread the child next to
you had dropped. Beloved Grandmother's first Sunday in
church had been quite a shock. I did not help her any when,
in reply to her question, "Myra, what are those Bible verses
written on the black lacquer pillar?" I replied, "It says, 'Don't .
spit on the floor/ "
But these were the "outward appearances" we completely
forgot as, Sunday after Sunday, we worshiped with our Chi-
nese friends. There was a holiness about the church that was
good for the soul. We all sang together lustily, "Chi-i-H lai!
Ch'uan shih chieh ti tsui jen" ("Arise, all ye of the world
who have sinned") and such old favorites as 'What a Friend
We Have in Jesus." Miss Christman pumped faithfully at the
little organ, Fred played the violin, and I directed the choir.
The preaching was done not by the missionaries but by the
Chinese pastor; for the church had fulfilled the aims of the
Board of Foreign Missions in becoming self-governing, self-
propagating, and self-supporting. When the pastors and elders
had called upon us that first autumn of 1931, we mentioned
a tithe of our salary as our regular contribution to the church,
and met a situation which we have never experienced in any
other church in the world.
'That will be too much," said the pastor. "Save part of your
money for starting new work. You see, we are self-supporting
and we do not want too large an amount to come from foreign
The Grape 79
I could not always understand our pastors sermons, which
were delivered at the speed of Morse code and with no more
inflection. But I loved to sit in the choir facing the congrega-
tion of earnest, seeking faces old Feng Ta Sao with her
patient, tranquil smile; the robust local carpenter; the intelli-
gent young professor with his head cocked to one side; the
mother with her crying baby, rocking her body back and forth
and patting the baby without taking her eyes from the pastor's
face; the ancient anesthetist, dozing as if he had succumbed
to his own ether. He would awaken presently, and fix the
pastor with that rapt attention one uses to cover a doze. And
the slim bamboos, swaying against the front window beyond
the crowded pews, were a benediction in themselves.
The church was opened the morning after Fred was shot,
though it was a weekday, and more than a thousand people
knelt to give thanks to God for saving their doctor's life. I
could not leave him to attend the service, but Adopted Uncle
wrote us an account of it, telling how the pastor had taken
this opportunity to tell again the story of Christ's coming to
earth and giving His life for us all.
"So God uses even the wrath of man to praise Him," the
We talked about it as Fred lay there how you work so hard
on the mission field, year after year, with no apparent results.
Then suddenly one day, doing just the next thing to be done
in a long routine of things to be done, something is accom-
plished, some wall broken down not by your planning at all,
but by the very circumstance of the hour. But Fred was em-
barrassed beyond words when people said to him, "You are
just like Jesus. You shed your blood for us."
Brother Li was one of the first visitors to call after we had
moved Fred home. He had got his message through and had
taken the first train back to tell us about it. Dr. Theodore Green
80 The Chinese Ginger Jars
would be arriving from Tsinan almost any time now.
"But how in the world did you manage to be here at the very
moment when we needed you most?" I asked.
"Ah, that was God's doing/' he replied. "I was cycling in
from the monastery to the railway station, and I thought to
myself, I'll just stop by and see the doctor and his family for
a moment. I can take the road past their house as easily as any
other. But no, Father Superior doesn't want me to spend so
much time visiting unless I have business. I cannot honestly
say that I have business there today/'
At this point, he had come upon an overturned ox-cart
which blocked the road completely. Estimating that it would
be a good three hours before the road could be cleared, Lay
Brother took it that the Lord Himself had barred his path.
There was nothing to do but take the other road, past the
As he pedaled into the south suburb, he felt a tenseness in
the atmosphere. Something had happened. He called to a
passing Chinese, "Peace to you, brother. How are you today?"
"Aya! Sir, have you not heard the terrible news? The doctor
has been shot. It is rumored that he "
"Oh, no-no-no! It cannot be!" Brother Li had raced to the
hospital and had met me just coming out of Fred's room. I
pondered again upon God's perfect timing.
Brother Li was a machine-gun conversationalist, "Did I tell
you the fun we had at the monastery last week? One of the
new priests is what did you call it the other day? An eager-r-r
beaver-r-r? The Old Brother who rings the bell for prayer at
four A.M. has been doing it for years. How Old Brother loves
to ring that bell! But this new young man decided to relieve
him of the job. Nothing the old man said made any difference.
So some of us fixed the bell so it wouldn't ring. We left the
rope intact, but wired the clapper so it wouldn't swing when
The Grape 81
the rope was pulled. Poor young man! But he took it well. He
is so young, and he will learn, he will learn. We all have had
to. It is not good to take oneself too seriously, is it?"
What a man Lay Brother is, I thought. I wonder what the
rest of his family is like? How could his mother stand to be
separated from such a son for over twenty years? I thought
of the story he had told me of his mother's death. One morning
at about two o'clock he had been awakened by a bright light
shining all around him. At first he thought that he had fallen
asleep while reading his book and had not turned off the light.
But this light was far brighter than any other he had ever seen.
While he was puzzling, his mother came into the room. "Son,
I have come to say good-by," she said. He knew then that she
had died, and that God in His infinite mercy had granted him
this blessing that he see his mother once more. It was six weeks
later that the letter got through telling him that she had died,
and the date and hour of her death. He was not at all surprised
to find that it coincided perfectly with the time of his vision.
Now he was off on another story.
"Last week I went down to the railway station with a truck
to pick up some boxes of clothing. On the way back the Chi-
nese guards stopped me and wanted to know what I had in the
boxes. It would be better for you not to know/ I said to them.
That did it. They demanded that I open every box. 'O.K/ 1 said
(I say O.K. just like an American, don't I?) 'O.K., you Ve asked
for it. You want those boxes opened? Then you take the
responsibility for what happens. Do you still want them
opened?' They started talking among themselves, not knowing
what to make of this crazy man. Well, Yd teased them long
enough, so I leaned over and whispered, 'Brothers, I've got
Japanese devils in these boxes. If I open them you'll have
devils all over the countryside/ They had a good laugh at that
and said, We might have known that Lay Brother would have
8 2 The Chinese Ginger Jars
something up his sleeve/ I asked them, Why else would I
wear such broad sleeves?* They love a joke, don't they?"
Fred was amused, but he was looking very tired.
"One would think that you never had a serious moment/'
I said, laughing. "Let's go downstairs and have a cup of coffee.
It's time for Fred to have a nap/'
"Brother Li ? you've made me feel like a new man/' said
Fred. "Happiness is good medicine,"
"Happiness is my mission in life/' Brother Li replied as he
rose to go.
"Happiness is my mission in life." I thought of the words
as he pedaled out of the front gate and I remembered the day
Brother Li showed me the pair of shoes he was making for an
old priest who was having trouble with his feet. He had ex-
plained his contrivings to make the shoes comfortable.
"You are wasting your time making shoes/' I said to him.
"You would have made a wonderful priest. Why didn't you go
on and study to become one?"
He had looked at me as if I were a child. "You do not
understand," he said. "I make shoes for God."
Dr. Green arrived next day and immediately gave Fred a
thorough examination. It was unutterable relief to learn that
the liver had not been damaged and that no surgery would be
necessary; the deep wound was beginning to heal and, given
time, would take care of itself. It only remained to see that die
dressings were changed daily.
Work at the hospital went surprisingly well in Fred's en-
forced absence, with the staff taking care of patients, and the
supervisor of the operating room doing what minor surgery
he could handle. Members of the staff came to Fred's bedside
for consultation, and carried out the treatments he directed,
Dr. Green did what he could in the few days he was with
The Grape 83
us, but he soon had to return to his own work at Cheeloo Uni-
versity. His biggest service was during the repeated investiga-
tions by the Japanese army. The first and from my point of
view, the worst of these had occurred before his arrival;
within an hour of Fred's being shot, a military doctor had come
to the hospital to examine the wound. Powerless, I watched
him fish dingy-looking forceps from one pocket, a metal box
of alcohol swabs from another, and with these doubtful objects
probe deep into the wound. From then on I stood guard over
Fred and would let no one but Dr. Green, or later our own
staff, touch the wound.
Another military doctor, whom we called "The Terrible/'
arrived every morning at six o'clock, ordered the gateman to
lead the way, and then kicked him all the way upstairs! I made
sure that the dressing was always finished before his arrival so
that there would be "no need to do more than look at it." If
the surly examiner moved to touch the wound, I would step
between him and Fred. When I think how powerless I was to
save the gateman his daily kicks, I marvel that I got away with
A few days after the shooting, the General in charge of the
town came to apologize. He was a soft-spoken, white-haired
gentleman whom I liked at once. He seemed genuinely grieved
at what had happened.
"But, Honored Lady," he said at the conclusion of a long
interview with Dr, Green and me, "how did you succeed in
getting the message out? This doctor-from-the-distant-city says
he is here because you sent for him through your consul. But
how did your consul know? I assure yo>u that within half an
hour of this dreadful occurrence every road was closed and
every means of communication no longer available to you. I
have checked back on everything very carefully. We know, too,
that you have no radio transmitting apparatus." (This all had
g^ The Chinese Ginger Jars
to go through an interpreter, the tallest Japanese I have ever
"My dear General, there is one more thing you know, isn't
there?'' I replied. "You must know that I cannot tell you how
I got the word out/' Brother Li had taken the road to Yen-
chowfu not ten minutes before every traveler on it was ex-
'We accept your apology/' Dr. Green went on, "but, Gen-
eral, we are citizens responsible to our government and we
would be wrong not to let our consul know what happened/'
"I understand," said the General, running his hand over his
short-cropped hair. "But this may mean my dismissal. You
see, I did not report it/'
"Oh, General, I hope it will not mean that," I said, and
(A year later he paid us his final visit, coming to say good-by
on his round of official calls before being transferred to another
"But now, may I see the doctor?" he was saying.
We went upstairs and we all began to talk of our happy
days in Japan. Then the interpreter said, "The General wants
to know if you want the man who wounded you shot."
"No, by all means, no," said Fred vehemently. "What good
would that do? He was drunk and didn't know what he was
doing. He had nothing against me personally. I feel sorry for
the poor fellow. I hear he has been sick and was left behind
by his regiment, and has nothing to do all day except to get
drunk and make trouble/'
'Then, sir, what do you want?"
'Td like to see better discipline in the city when the soldiers
are off duty. Do you know that no woman is safe in the streets?
And this isn't the first time that a civilian has been shot,"
The Grape #5
"It shall be as you wish, Doctor/' said the General "You
speak of having climbed Mount Fujiyama. I came here ex-
pecting to find an enemy and I find a man whose heart is as
kind as Fujiyama is high. Good-by, sir."
From that day on, order was restored. The reason for it was
so obvious that when we took our first walk through the city
after Fred's recovery, merchants came out of their shops to
shake his hand and to say, "Thank you, Tai Fu. You have
But the poor sick soldier was shot at last. I had asked about
him over and over again and had received only evasive an-
swers. Finally an officer said to me, "Madam, do not ask about
him, please. We know how your husband feels, but this was a
very bad man. Your husband was the seventh person he had
One day the tall interpreter came to call, bringing a box of
candy bars for the children. It was the first candy we had seen
for a long time.
"My mother sent these from Japan/' he said. "I want the
children to have them. May I see the doctor? My former visit
was an official one and today I want to say personally how sorry
I am. I have many American friends and this grieves me very
Coming into the bedroom a few minutes later with a trayful
of tea things, I stopped aghast at the threshold. The interpreter
was lying face down across a chair drawn up beside the bed.
His long samurai sword was dangling on the floor, and such
contortions as he was going through! Fred did not look at all
'What on earth " I began.
"I'm showing the doctor how to do the flutter stroke/' said
the interpreter. "I am a swimmer. I have just been telling him
how I swam in the Olympics against Johnny Weismuller."
86 The Chinese Ginger Jars
"I don't mind so much getting shot/' Fred said to me one day,
"but I surely do dislike being apologized to!"
This time the Major, the highest ranking officer in the whole
area, had sent notice that he would arrive with his retinue.
(I could never figure out why the Major seemed to have a
higher position than the General.) Our Chinese friends were
worried about the visit. "Remember, he is a very great man,"
they said to me. "If anything goes wrong, there may be retalia-
tions upon us/'
"Nothing will go wrong. Why should it? There is nothing
to worry about/' I told them with more assurance than I felt.
Just now, within a few minutes of the arrival of the great
man, I was anything but confident. I had asked the children
if they would like to wear the kimonos made for them in Japan
by the mother of their little Japanese friend. They would
help me serve tea to the Major in Beloved Grandmother's
Japanese wedding cups. The two boys allowed themselves to
be persuaded, but with no enthusiasm. Little Golden-Haired
One could hardly wait.
There was a bang on the door and I took the Golden-Haired
One by the hand and went downstairs; the boys followed
reluctantly. The Major had arrived. He stood there scowling.
A round-faced man he was, with a huge sunburst of a beaid
surrounding his face like the rays of the sun itself. I had never
seen anything like it before. Neither had the children. I began
to talk feverishly lest they make some remark about it.
The Major stalked upstairs and into the bedroom, brushing
aside the doctor's greeting with a wave of his hand. He stood
at attention and delivered his oration. It was translated by his
interpreter. His official duty done, the Major sat down in a
rocking cKair and relaxed. Like a flash, the Golden-Haired
One streaked across the room and jumped into his lap. She
leaned back against his shoulder happily and began to pull
The Grape 87
the hairs of his exquisite silky beard, one by one.
What do I do now? I wondered. How can I get her to stop?
How will the Major take it? He may be very sensitive about
that beard. I motioned the child to get down.
"My dear lady/' said the Major in perfect English, "please
do not disturb your little girl. It has been a long time since I
have had the privilege of holding my grandchildren on my lap.
Do you mind if she stays here?"
The next day the Major's orderly called to present a package
to the Golden-Haired One. It contained a beautiful Japanese
On January 10, 1939, little Fourth-Child was born a beauti-
ful yellow-haired baby with stars in his eyes.
We named him Thomas Scott Scovel.
Fred was now back at work in the hospital and I was busy at
home, adding the care of a new baby to the teaching of the
other three children. The Golden-Haired One was really too
young for school but she loved to sit at a desk and color a pic-
ture anything to feel that she was part of the classroom.
It was best to keep busy in the house, or at least near the
compound. If we went for a walk of any length, we had to
bow to the Japanese guards at the gate. This meant a really low
bow from the waist. It is not easy for Americans to bow low;
and this situation was not made any easier for us by our having
to cross a wooden bridge just before we got to the guards.
Across the bridge were nailed steel rails which clearly read,
"Bethlehem, Penn."; so we were furious before we even got
to the guard at the gate.
But we truly had much for which to be thankful. We had
enough food of a sort; we had a good home and enough
clothing and bedding to keep us warm, and we had friends.
88 The Chinese Ginger Jars
God was good to give us such friends as the adopted aunts
and uncles in the compound. They were really more than
friends, they became our family. Then there were the Baptist
mission aunts and uncles, the Russian fur-buyers, the Catholic
priests and nuns, Brother Li, the Swiss nurse from the north
suburb, the German friends who sang, and the Chinese with
whom we lived and worked daily. We spoke Chinese far more
hours of the day than we did English. Such good hosts were
our Chinese friends that we forgot we were guests in their
country and thought that China was our home.
It is difficult to choose out individuals above others the
teacher with the brilliant mind with whom Fred delighted to
converse, the manager of the Standard Oil Company in our
inland city who was lonely for life in Shanghai, the owner of
the ancient pickle factory who came out of seclusion to help
us with the refugee camp (and who wore an arm band that
read REFUGEESCAMP!). (How we loved to take visiting friends
through that pickle factory with its acres of huge porcelain
vats containing every variety of local vegetable aging in its
own particular brine! Inside there were special cheeses made
of bean curd and kept at just the right temperature to grow an
inch or so of feathery, yellow mold.)
There were others of our friends, but there is still enough
fear left in our hearts to keep from naming any except those
who, by now, have gone far beyond fear. It has been a long,
long time since the tranquility of China was broken. Even as
long ago as the summer of 1940, fear struck the heart of a little
family who were among our dearest friends.
"Han Fu Liang is in jail!" The cook brought the news with
our breakfast pomelos. "You know that Little Teacher's hus-
band has been a leader of guerrilla troops out in the country.
I can't understand why he, an educated man, the principal of
a school, should want to be a soldier. You know our saying,
'One does not use good iron to make nails nor good men to
make soldiers/ "
"But how did he get caught?" we asked.
"He came in last night to see his family, and some Judas
told the Japanese. They arrested him at the railway station
this morning." Hu Shih Fu snuffed and snorted his contempt.
"And do you know what Wang Lao San heard him say to
the men who arrested him?" he asked as he brought in the
eggs. " 'Yes, I am your enemy. I have worked against you and
I will work against you/ That's what Principal said/'
The Japanese were shrewd enough to recognize the poten-
tial value to them of such a loyal man. It would be worth
while to win him to their side; they used every means to do it.
When they found that their arguments, their promises, did not
sway him, they put full responsibility for her husband's life or
death in Little Teacher's small hands. "If you can persuade
him to come over to our side, he will be released," they told her.
"If not, he will be executed. It is entirely up to you."
"Little Teacher, how can you bear it?" I asked her.
po The Chinese Ginger Jars
"God gives me strength/' she said, "but do pray for me. I
am so afraid I will weaken."
Finding that she could not be moved, they tried to use the
"You don't want your daddy to die, do you?" they said. "Go
in and tell him that if he will work for us, he will live. He
may go home with you and your mother now/'
But those little children had the courage to say, "Daddy, the
soldiers have told us to say this to you, but you do what God
wants you to do."
Han Fu Liang asked for his Bible and read it through three
times during the following months of imprisonment. All of that
time he was questioned again and again, especially concerning
the American missionaries.
"It is true, isn't it, that they are spies in the employ of their
"No, it is not true."
"Then how do they get their money?"
"Well, you see, it is with them as it is with us in the support
of our temples. Several old women [sic!] in America give of
their money, a few cents here and a few cents there, and thus
the missionaries are supported."
"That is very hard to believe."
One day the Japanese officers came to him with a letter. It
was one of those being sent routinely by the consulate to all
Americans in China urging them to leave on a ship sailing
"Now you will know for certain that these foreigners are
spies for their government," they said to our friend. "Here are
their orders to leave at once."
"You will see," he replied. "They will not leave. Some of
them have already left, but that was because of bad health or
The Chrysanthemum pi
because their furloughs were due. This letter will not make any
difference. The ones who are here will stay. You will see/'
It was the evening of Thanksgiving Day, 1940. We had all
been across the city to the Baptist mission to have dinner with
Adopted Aunt and Uncle Connely. We had eaten all of the
traditional Thanksgiving dishes, some of them planned for
months in advance, the ingredients purchased on furlough
and carefully hoarded. We had sat around the living-room
fire with the traditional stuffed Thanksgiving feeling. We
had sung, 'Tor the Beauty of the Earth" and "Come, Ye
Thankful People, Come" and each of us had had his separate
memories. Now we were back at home. The children had been
put to bed and Fred and I had settled down in the little up-
stairs room over the kitchen which I used as a study, a sewing
room, and a place to bathe the baby. On this cold night it was
the warmest room in the house. And now we had one more
thing for which to be thankful the mail had come.
In the midst of reading those wonderful letters from home,
Fred handed me an official-looking letter. It was the one from
the American consulate. "May we advise you that ... the
ship will leave Shanghai on ... Women and children are
especially urged to . . ."
"I just can't walk out and leave a hospital full of sick
patients," Fred said flatly.
"Does this mean that I will have to go alone with the chil-
dren?" I faltered. "We've talked this over so many times. It's
the same old circle is it right to keep the children here? Is it
right to leave you here alone? In the end will separation from
you be harder on the children? I'm never myself when I am
away from you, and the children feel it. I've prayed and prayed
about this and the only thing that comes to me and it always
comes is the verse, Tor ye shall go out with joy, and be led
p2 The Chinese Ginger Jars
forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth
before you into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap
their hands/ If I am led forth now, it will not be with joy, it
will be with agony/'
' We've had such a wonderful day/' he said, "so very much
to be thankful for! Let's not say any more about this tonight.
Let's go to bed thinking about our happy Thanksgiving and
trust Him to guide us to His decision for us. In the morning
we will tell each other what He has made clear to us."
By morning I was still disturbed. I had a decided assurance
that the right thing to do was to stay, but I couldn't be one
hundred per cent sure that it was not my own strong desire
to stay that made me think it was divine guidance. We had
both been so critical of missionaries who had failed to heed
consular warnings in the past. We had vowed that we would
never fail to take the advice of our government, and here we
were doing that very thing. Again the old treadmill of thoughts
suppose we were lined up and shot? Suppose the children
should have to see us being shot?
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, ^hose mind is stayed
on Thee whose imaginations are stayed on Thee."
If this thing is right, it is right all the way through, no matter
what may come, I thought, I have to take only one step at a
"Another cup of coffee, dear? More milk for your cereal,
First-Born?" I went on with the usual routine of breakfast.
"No, thank you, Mother," said our ten-year-old First-Born.
He looked across the table at his father; then he turned
to me, and said steadily, "I heard you two last night when
you were reading that letter. I don't know what you're going
to do, but IVe prayed to God about it; I'm going to stay."
"That just about makes it unanimous." His father smiled.
What a wave of relief swept over me! And through all the
The Chrysanthemum 93
troubles that followed, we never doubted that this decision
was truly God's decision for us.
Little Teacher's husband was kept in jail for many months.
One night a Korean interpreter came to him and said, "The
whole garrison is changing. I am the only one left who knows
you are here. It might be a good time for you to walk out."
Sitting in our garden one moonlit night, our friend told us
his story. When we heard how he had answered his question-
ers, we were glad that we had not caused his prophecy regard-
ing our staying on at our work, to fail.
Early in the spring of 1941 Beloved Grandmother returned
to America to keep a promise made years before that she would
be with her sister on her Golden Wedding anniversary. We
hated to have her go, and she hated to leave us; but with the
future so uncertain it seemed the only wise thing to do.
One day after she had gone, I was shocked to hear First-
Born telling Second-Born and the Golden-Haired One that he
thought I was going to die.
"She gets whiter jnd thinner and she is in bed all the time
and Dr. Kung comes every day," he was saying,
I called each of them to me separately as I lay on a cot in
the garden and told them the wonderful secret. It was such a
happy day. The sun sparkled on every leaf. After I had been
carried into the house, the Golden-Haired One flew across
the room, knelt at the side of the cot, buried her head in my
lap and whispered ecstatically, "Baby, I'm your sister."
But aside from a few oases of happiness, it was a grim sum-
mer. I managed to get permission from the Japanese to travel
to the coast with the children, hoping to find some relief from
the fever. "Huo Tai," the Chinese called it, "the fire preg-
nancy." With no pun intended, it was the "freezing" that
finally cured me. I was too frightened and there was too much
94 The Chinese Ginger Jars
to be done to indulge myself any longer. Japan was freezing
all American assets in China in retaliation for a similar move
made in the United States on all Japanese assets. I was caught
with almost no money. Luckily we had friends in Tsingtao who
loaned me enough to buy the railway tickets for our return
When I tried to buy the tickets, I found that money was
almost the least of my troubles. The Japanese no longer per-
mitted any Americans to go into the interior. I kept pleading,
"I must get back to my doctor husband before it is too late."
C"One look should have been enough to convince them/'
Fred said later.)
They examined every inch of my luggage. The new baby
clothes helped to reassure them that I wasn't trying to smuggle
something in that way. The guards almost balked when they
found my brother's army address on a loose slip of paper in
my address book. They puzzled over it for a few moments; I
offered no explanations and they went on with the examina-
tion. Miss Christman, one of the "Ladies," was traveling with
us; we had another very bad moment when the soldiers were
leafing through her photo album. She grew more and more
nervous as they turned the pages. I could see that she was at
top tension when they stopped to look at a full-page photo of
her brother in the uniform of World War I, broad-brimmed hat
"So-o-o . . . American cowboy/' the examiner remarked, and
turned another page.
Just as the train was about to pull out, two more guards came
aboard and took away my travel permits and passport. Those
hard-f ought-f or permits . . , the weary miles I had trudged from
government office to government office, always in the heat of
the day, to obtain them. And my passport! Without it I was
helpless. Would I never see any of them again?
The Chrysanthemum 95
By now it was late at night. I undressed the tired children
and put them into their berths, wondering as I did so if I
would have to get them up, dress them and get them off the
train. No, I won't, I resolved. If they get us off this train, they
will have to drag us off.
The whistle was blowing when an officer rushed into the car
and put the precious documents into my hands. He looked at
the sleeping children, then at me. "It is difficult these days,"
he said with a sad smile. "Good luck to you/' That officer
never knew how close he came to finding himself in the happy
embrace of a foreign woman.
"And he got his wish; you did have good luck," Fred said
when I told him the story. "You got here. I was afraid you'd
never make it. And here we are with only eleven people in
the house to see that we do no wrong/*
I had arrived home to find nine Chinese soldiers, in the
employ of the Japanese, on duty in the house guarding Fred,
and two Japanese soldiers quartered in the study. Their total
mission seemed to be to watch his every move. It was disturb-
ing, of course, but we had lived on the edge of danger and
difficulty for so long that the thing that bothered me most in
the whole absurd business was the bayonet scratches on the
piano where the Chinese guards had rested their guns against
I consider it positive proof of my husband's genius that he
was able the next day to have the nine Chinese guards removed
by the simple expedient of telling the authorities he did not
think it suitable to have me alone in the house with that many
men all day while he was at the hospital! Headquarters, how-
ever, refused to withdraw the two Japanese soldiers; evidently
they felt I would be perfectly safe with them. As I was.
We have so often wondered what became of those two fine
young Japanese soldiers. They themselves closed the door to
p The Chinese Ginger Jars
the study when they first took up residence there, and it was
never opened except when we knocked at it each evening to
give them a plate of cookies or a bowl of fruit. They had all
their meals sent in, and even took their baths in the middle
of the night so as not to disturb us. We never heard them talk-
ing to each other. During the day they spent their time looking
after the cook's baby or playing with our children in the yard.
I longed to know more Japanese. Once when an interpreter
came in on hospital business, we learned that the sister of one
of the boys had begged him to become a Christian before he
had left home. After some effort we were able to get a New
Testament in Japanese. The young man seemed very grateful.
It was certainly no trouble to have them in the house. We
even felt a little sad, after their many weeks with us, when
they came to tell us they were being sent to Singapore to fight.
Night after night I prayed for them, never trying to fathom
what their living might mean to my own brothers, for in-
stance, who might one day be in that very place fighting. I
knew God was able to sort out my prayers and use them.
Before leaving for Singapore the guards returned with an
interpreter to thank the family for all that had been done for
them and to say "Sayonara," that loveliest of all farewells,
"Since it must be." After calling on us the Japanese guards
called at the home of each of the servants to thank them. When
we got back into the study, we found that the desk and papers
on it had remained untouched. There was not a single cigarette
burn on any of the furniture. We wondered how many of our
American boys would have done as well in a Japanese home.
It was autumn again the autumn of 1941. There were chry-
santhemums in every conceivable corner; pots of them in the
dark musty teashops, large gardens full of them ready for the
annual chrysanthemum shows, great golden sprays of them
The Chrysanthemum 97
spilling over the backs of the junks on the canal. There were
crisp, white, snowball ones, and tawny sparse-petaled ones like
dragons stretching their claws in the sun. And in our own
garden little Fourth Child ran about trying to catch the butter-
flies as they lit on the beautiful blossoms. It was time for me
to open Beloved Grandmother's house, which had been closed
since her return to America.
And at last it was over. I lay in Beloved Grandmother's big
mahogany bed thinking that to have produced five such won-
derful, healthy children was a good job well done. Five chil-
dren. A perfect family. Chang Ta Sao came in with Judith
Louise in her arms.
"Oh, Teacher-Mother/' she exclaimed, "at last the brown-
eyed ones have started to come!"
The miracle of it was that this baby, who was so beautiful
that she might have been carried off from a Reuben's canvas,
had not been born in a concentration camp, or in the corner of
a prison yard, though she might easily have been in those
troubled days. She had been born in Beloved Grandmother's
bed, cared for by our own doctor. I couldn't help thinking of
the words of one of our oldest friends: "I have had many
troubles in China. Most of them never happened."
But some of them did happen.
"Today is another week," Fred said as he got out of bed
that Monday morning of December the eighth still Sunday,
the seventh, back home in Mechanicville. I was never to
hear him say it again without shuddering; but then it seemed
like such a usual Monday morning. We were on our way
downstairs for breakfast when Second-Born came running up
the stairs to meet us.
"There are Japanese soldiers guarding our gate," he said.
Fred went out to ask the reason why, but the answers he got
p The Chinese Ginger Jars
were noncommittal. Not long after breakfast an officer, fol-
lowed by a group of soldiers, came up the front walk with the
characteristic d-lump, drag, cMump of heavy army boots the
sound that never failed to produce a sinking heart. The door
opened and the officer said, "You are under arrest/*
We stood in the front hall, stunned. Fred spoke to the officer.
"May I ask why we are under arrest? Have we done something
we should not have done?"
"You know very well why you are under arrest/' the officer
replied. "These are your orders/'
The Brown-Eyed One, just ten weeks old, began to cry.
The officer said, "Here, let me hold her/' As he rocked her in
his arms, he read to us the document from Tokyo.
"You are not to leave the house. Everything you formerly
owned is now the property of the Imperial Japanese Govern-
ment. . , . There, there, don't cry, little one, everything will
be all right. . . . You are to make lists in triplicate of everything
in the house. Your money is to be counted, the house searched
in the presence of this officer. . . . There, there, don't cry, don't
worry, little one."
This day was a blur of soldiers milling all over the house,
upstairs and down; of lists being made, corrected, remade; of
the scramble to find food enough to feed all the soldiers who
were tearing our house apart. I remember looking around the
table and thinking, "Thou preparest a table before me in the
presence of mine enemies."
Night came. The soldiers were getting ready to leave when
a message came from headquarters; they were to bring Dr.
Scovel with them. Fred walked down the path through the
garden, chatting to the soldiers as he went. How many more
times would I have to watch him go, not knowing whether or
not he would return? Or would this be the last? "Don't worry
about me, please," he had said. That is easy to say, I thought.
The Chrysanthemum pp
He was back within an hour.The chief officer at headquar-
ters had been most kind and communicative.
"I suppose you know that Japan has declared war on
America. Several American cities have been bombed. We
have not come away unscathed either," he told Fred. In the
light of what happened that day at Pearl Harbor, we have
always wondered why he added that last sentence.
For the next ten days we were not allowed to admit patients
to the hospital. Then the Chinese Chamber of Commerce re-
quested the Japanese to permit the doctor to carry on as usual,
and the request was granted.
It was quite an experience to be interned in one's own
home for a year. We were guarded by Chinese soldiers, one of
whom used to sit on a soapbox at the front gate and embroider
beautifully on pieces of grass linen, his gun propped up on
his shoulder. Fred was the only one allowed out of the com-
pound, and he was permitted to go only as far as the hospital,
a few doors down the street from our own gate. We read our
books over and over again, going through sets of Shakespeare
and Thackeray that before had only been dusted. We bicycled
around the tennis court for exercise. We had picnics on the
roof and in every corner of the yard, and did all the things we
had always thought we would do if only we had the time.
Once we had orders to prepare for repatriation. Trunks were
packed, examined by the Japanese, repacked, kicked open and
the contents strewn; repacked, re-examined and finally sealed
shut. But nothing more happened. Every time an officer came
to call, we would ask him, 'When do we go to America?"
'Wait one week. If you do not go then, wait one month. If
you do not go then, wait one year/' was one not-too-helpful
One day, after many weeks of waiting, we asked an officer
the same old question, 'When do we go to America?"
z 00 The Chinese Ginger Jars
His English was not too fluent and he had to think a long
rime. Then he said, "Long, long ago/*
"That's just what I thought/' I told Fred. "That settles it.
We unpack the trunks and go back to living normally again/'
There was a new arrangement at the hospital. A Japanese
who called himself a pastor-doctor had been appointed superin-
tendent; he came down from the capital city once a week to
make his inspections. He was a member of the newly formed
Church of Christ in China. (The already existent Church of
Christ in China, consisting of many denominations working
harmoniously as one church, had been functioning successfully
for many years.) The pastor-doctor seemed also to be a member
of what was called Special Services, whose duty it was to
investigate subversive activities. It was difficult to figure out
just what the pastor-doctor was doing. We had a good time
together one evening as he taught us to sing a hymn in
Japanese, "Where He Leads Me, I Will Follow/' His prayer
before retiring that night was in English, heavily sprinkled
with the Japanese word "No" which he seemed to use merely
for emphasis. Or was it the English word "No?"
"Doctor very good man. No. Doing very good work. No.
Bless him and his family. No/'
Fourth Child fell to the floor while he was jumping on his
bed one morning and broke his thigh bone. (What a day that
was!) Pastor-doctor was most gentle and skillful in applying the
cast after Fred had set the leg; we were so grateful to him for
his ministrations that day. Once I asked him why he didn't
wear the uniform of the Secret Service or rather, Special
Services Department. He seemed very shocked at my ques-
tion and said, "I am not worthy of it." Altogether he was a
very puzzling person.
One day during the six weeks that Fourth Child's leg was
strung up on pulleys, a soldier from the ranks, whom we had
The Chrysanthemum 101
never seen before, knocked at the door. He made us know that
he wanted to see the boy with the broken leg. He stood at the
foot of the bed for a long time, watching Fourth Child play
happily with his white rabbit, which ran all over the bed and
nibbled at his cast. Sobbing great sobs, the soldier turned
and plunged down the stairs and out the door. We have been
forever in the dark as to what prompted his visit or why he
was so moved.
The next problem that presented itself was that we ran out
of money. "Hu Shih Fu," I said to the cook at last, "as you
know, this is all the money we have left. Two dollars in this
currency won't buy much, but it ought to be enough for
food for your family and ours for today. I suppose people
can't understand why I still have a cook when we haven't
one cent of money. They don't know that you haven't been
paid, and that you have brought grain in from your land to
share with us, and that we share the little we have with you.
I feel very bad that we haven't been able to do more for you.
Perhaps you can find another job."
"No, no, Teacher-Mother. I will stay here. We have talked
about all this before. You are doing your best and we are
doing our best. But what shall we do now that the money
"I don't know, Hu Shih Fu. We have learned the meaning
of the prayer, 'Give us this day our daily bread.' God has
answered it so far. Just think what a miracle it was that we
were given a sack of rice last week. God has not forgotten
where we live/'
That very afternoon a member of the Japanese consulate
called to give us five hundred Chinese dollars from the Inter-
national Red Cross. We had had no idea that the world knew
we were still in Tsining. "Comfort money," they called it. I
hope the International Red Cross knew what comfort it
1 02 The Chinese Ginger Jars
brought. First of all, I paid Hu Shih Fu; then we laid in a
supply of fresh vegetables to supplement the diet of lentils
and blood sausages our German friends had given us.
And now it was Christmas again. There was no money to buy
gifts for the children; every cent of the five hundred dollars
had to be used for food. But there was a precious evergreen
in the front yard; we would cut it down and decorate it. There
must be some evidence of Christmas in the house.
This was not the first time we had been faced with a
presentless Christmas. Once the gifts we had ordered from a
mail-order house failed to arrive, and the Russian fur-buyers
came down from Tientsin in the nick of time, their arms full
of bundles. One package contained a toy gun that worried
me. The rule of our house had been no guns to play with.
Guns were used to do harm. We were people who healed. But
the boys wanted guns so badly. I finally rationalized myself
into agreeing that, since the children knew how I felt about
it and that I would never buy them a gun, it might be all
right for them to accept this gift of the kind Russian uncles.
But this time there were no Russian uncles. I looked through
the trunks and found a few books I had meant to save until
the children were older Huckleberry Finn, Pinocchio, The
Stars for Sam. There were some scraps of cloth with which I
could make and dress rag dolls for the girls. Fred carved out
a horse's head, painted it, and put it on a broom handle for
the boys. A strip of fur from the bottom of my coat made a
glorious black mane. Christmas cookies would have to be
omitted. There was no sugar.
There was no sugar at all. I had hoarded half a cup of it,
but a Japanese officer called one cold afternoon, bringing with
him a little prostitute waif who looked so thin and so sad that I
took out the sugar for their coffee. I put a meager teaspoonful
The Chrysanthemum 103
into each cup, but after the coffee had been handed around,
the poor little girl crossed the room, took the sugar bowl in
her hands and emptied its entire contents into her coffee. If
I tended to regret the loss of the sugar, I had only to think of
those burning eyes as the girl gulped down her coffee. My
children could do without cookies.
'Teacher-Mother/' It was the gateman with a message.
"The Catholic Sisters are here making their Christmas calls/'
(Each year they came to thank the doctor for what he had
done for them.)
The Sisters had brought a package which they now gave to
the children. "You must open it carefully/* they cautioned.
"Oh, Mother, look! Little angels and stars, and oh ... they
are made out of sugar cookies!''
"Sugar cookies! Sisters, how on earth did you " I stopped
myself. "Really, you shouldn't have done it," I finished feebly.
They ventured a smile at each other and began at once to
help the children hang the little angels on the Christmas tree,
insisting that a few cookies must be eaten while working.
"And you must come over to the church and see the creche,"
they urged. "The children of the school are giving a play/'
"Perhaps we may be able to get permission from the
Japanese this once," I replied. "It is such a special occasion/'
The creche with its exquisite figures, made by a brother of
one of the nuns and brought out carefully from Germany, the
old carols sung in stilted English by the Chinese children of
the school this was Christmas.
And Mother Superior confessing to me, "I vowed that these
poor Sisters, who have gone without so much all year, would
have sugar for Christmas, even if it cost every cent we had
in our meager treasury. So I bought a few pounds though the
price was unbelievable. The Sisters insisted on dividing the
sugar in half and making cookies for your children. We all
1 04 The Chinese Ginger Jars
love them very much 7 you know. I remember so well when
little Golden-Haired One was a baby. It was the first time I
had ever called on you. Do you remember? I hadn't seen a
white baby in fifteen years. She looked like a little cherub. And
now look at her, chatting away in Chinese to our girls. The
children are pleased with the cookies, then?"
This this was truly Christmas.
There was nothing we could put a finger on, but something
was in the air. We found ourselves becoming squirrels; we hid
things. We took all of Beloved Grandmothers old family
mahogany and stowed it behind a chimney in the attic. Then
we built a false wall across the room and plastered it over to
look as if there were nothing behind it. We took our precious
music records and slid them down on ropes between two walls.
We scrambled up to hidden recesses under the eaves and
concealed our best-loved pictures. Fred filled an old camphor
box with our wedding silver, sealed it shut, painted it with a
heavy coat of white lead, and buried it in a deep hole under
the porch, along with his stamp collection, Father Scovel's
pulpit Bible, and the children's baby books. We had no money
We tried to spread the remaining furniture around to look
as if nothing were missing. Beloved Grandmother's things
were no problem; they had been brought up from her little
house, and the Japanese did not seem to know that that house
existed. Once started, we couldn't stop. One room in the attic
had an outside window and a door leading into the attic guest
room. The room was as apparent as the front street gate, but
we put away dishes, some cherished curios, a few more pieces
of furniture, and plastered the doorway shut.
The plaster was still wet, the door clearly outlined, when a
The Chinese Ginger Jars
Japanese officer and five soldiers arrived to search the house.
Had they been tipped off? The officer was either extremely
stupid or extremely kind; I incline toward the latter view, for
he found nothing. He stood with his back to the plastered
doorway while his men made a cursory search of the guest
room, looking behind chairs, under the bed and in the drawers
of a washstand. They went through the house in the same
manner and then left.
Why were we hiding things? We said little to each other,
and nothing in front of the children, of the fear that hung
over us. Yet I couldn't believe it when the Japanese officer
began his polite conversation that afternoon in early March
"We fear for your health, here in the interior. Everything
is so dirty/' It looked like a routine call, but he shifted un-
easily in the rocker. Now he leaned forward. "So we are
putting all foreigners together in one place where we can
look after you properly under hygienic conditions."
"Oh, you mustn't worry about us. We re making out very
well and we'd be much more comfortable in our own home/'
I was slow to catch the implication of his words.
But Fred looked very serious. "When do we leave for the
concentration camp?*' he asked. "And, by the way, where
is the camp to be?"
"You will leave the day after tomorrow for Weihsien, half-
way between Tsinan and Tsingtao, Doctor. Here is the paper
with your instructions." He edged to the front of the rocker.
'Well, I must be going now. Ill be here at five in the morning
to take you to the station/'
'Why are you doing this to us?" I asked as the officer rose
to his feet
"Madame, it is in retaliation for what your government is
The Peach 107
doing to Japanese civilians; your country is putting them into
"But that can't be true!" I protested. "I know my govern-
ment would not do such a thing. I was in America during the
first World War and a German even taught in our school.
They were not put into concentration camps."
The officer only smiled. "What's the use of trying to explain
it to her?" the smile said.
I was furious but I tried to hide it. After all, the poor
fellow had been duped and deluded into believing tall tales
about the United States.
'Til see you at five, the day after tomorrow," he said as
Well, at least we knew now what was going to happen to
us. In a way it was a relief. We wouldn't have to worry now
every time the boots came up the walk. We were not going
to be shot; we were going to an internment camp. We could
take our beds with us, the instructions said. They were to be
shipped ahead. Ahead? We were leaving the day after to-
morrow. There was a lot to be done. Another glance at the
instructions informed us that we were to take all the food
possible. We had no money to lay in a supply, but we did have
enough to buy a large sack of whole-wheat kernels, I would
send the cook to the market at once and have the kernels
broken on the large stone mill But first we had to tell the
children. To this day they hold it against me that I told them
we were going on a camping trip.
Early next morning John and Agnes Weineke of the
Weimar Mission across the city came with a large pillowcase
full of the little fruit cookies called "pfeflEernuesse." They had
stayed up half the night baking them. (One cooky apiece was
to be our dessert for weeks.)
J0 g The Chinese Ginger Jars
"How did you find out so soon?" I asked them.
"Trust the grapevine," Agnes replied. "The whole city
knows it. Pfeffernuesse keeps forever so you won't have to
worry about these drying up before they are used/'
Chang Ta Sao was sure that she was "going to prison"
with us. The Japanese officer had to tear her away from us
that cold gray morning. The last time I looked back, she was
still sitting in the middle of the dusty road; her hands covered
her face and she was rocking back and forth as she wailed
her grief. For the first time since I had told them, the children
were shaken. They never saw her again.
The mission compound at Weihsien we knew very well, but
it looked sadly different to us when we arrived there next
evening. Japanese officers were living in the homes where
we had been entertained so hospitably in the past. School
buildings were barracks the girls' school for the women and
the boys' school for the men. But, unbelievably, we were
not separated. We were to be together as a family in two
tiny rooms in a small courtyard shared with five other families.
Our beds, sent ahead, hadn't come nor did they for several
weeks. We lay down with the children on the cold, damp
bricks and tried to sleep. I was sick, sick, sick; but I would
have to pull myself together. I would have to learn to take
it and to keep cheerful. Before morning I knew that it was
not fear that was disturbing me; it was pregnancy. Wave after
wave of nausea was all too familiar a symptom to be passed
off as anything else. I had ample time to consider the chances
for a child born in prison camp. Those long hours before
daybreak were an all-time low.
Hygienic conditions indeed! The first thing the men did
the next morning was to wall off a corner of our small court-
yard as a latrine. (It was in constant use as everyone had
"camp tummy/') The next project was the building of a
The Peach 109
stove out of old bricks. Having scrounged (a good camp word)
coal dust from the coal the Japanese officers burned, the men
would sit down on the ground, mix the coal dust with mud,
form it into balls and set it out to dry in the sun* This was the
fuel we used in our fireplace type of stove.
But for the first few weeks Fred had all the work to do
alone. I tried again and again to get up and finally got it
through my head that it was harder for him to have to clean
up after me and dress the children than it was to just dress
the children. Poor, dear man! I will never forget his efforts
to get the Brown-Eyed One's dress over her wiggling, fat
body, nor my agonizing to get my hands on it. "Worse than
delivering a head through a contracted pelvis/' he would
It was wonderful to be sleeping in a bed again and not
on the cold floor. And I was more than grateful for all the
kindness being shown me. Every day someone would come in
with a tray of some precious hoarded delicacy. A bowl of
mushroom soup became water from David's well, though I
never had David's courage to pour it out upon the ground.
Every drop was consumed and enjoyed, in spite of the
sacrifice of it perhaps because of the sacrifice of it.
Two of the nuns offered to go on teaching the two older
boys. The new teachers were careful to send home each book
for us to look over before they gave it to the children lest
it contain some Catholic doctrine that we might be unwilling
to have the children learn.
And there was the cold, bitter March day when everyone
was away from the house. The bare branch of the stripped
tree was tapping at the window with such a melancholy
sound that I burst into tears. The tapping of the branch be-
came a knock at the door.
"Come in," I said, when I had dried my eyes. Into the room
no The Chinese Ginger Jars
stalked a tall nun wearing a blue habit with a stiff white
headdress sweeping up in wings from her scrubbed, shining
face. She began to talk volubly in what I took to be Dutch.
When she saw that she was not being understood, she
made a quick tour of the room, searching everywhere, and
finally found what she wanted underneath one of the beds
a basket suitcase overflowing in all directions with dirty
clothes. The thought of that ever-filling basket and my in-
ability to do anything about it had been one of the reasons
for my tears. She took the clothes away and brought them
back a few days later transformed into sparkling clean and
neatly ironed garments. The children called her "the Dutch
Cleanser/* and until the day when the bare branch against
the window became a bough of pink, and I knew that I
could face the world once more, the Dutch Cleanser, bless
her beautiful soul, performed these devotional ablutions once
It was indeed good to be up again, to be taking some of
the burden from Fred so that he could be free to work in
the hospital. A small building had been set aside and the
sick of the camp were taken care of there. The doctors and
nurses had gone from door to door, asking for each family's
supply of drugs, huck towels to be used for operating towels,
and bandages. It was a little frightening to give over every-
thing for the common good when you did not know when
your own family was going to need a drug that might already
have been used up on someone else. But people were generous.
The doctors had been allowed to bring in their instruments,
and soon a reasonably well-equipped hospital was set up.
We feared epidemics, but aside from "camp tummy," none
broke out. When people complained to Fred that there
seemed to be a lot of sickness, he would say, "It's only be-
cause you know everybody and you know when a person is
The Peach 1 1 1
sick. There are really fewer than the average number who
We never ceased to marvel at the way the fifteen hundred
people in the camp met the emergency people from all
walks of life, businessmen (two of them millionaires),
Belgian and Dutch priests, nuns from several different coun-
tries and from different orders, beachcombers, Protestant mis-
sionaries, and prostitutes. These last came into camp with
lovely auburn, gold, or platinum hair. As time went on, inch
by inch of black, gray, or mouse appeared at the hairline, the
children wonderingly reporting the progress of it on each
We hadn't been in camp overnight before one of the
millionaires planted gladiolus bulbs. When they bloomed,
their flaming flags made us lift our heads a little higher as
we walked by. We thought it was a little disconcerting to
the Japanese to see the way this conglomeration of humanity
formed itself into a community, elected its officers for self-
government and appointed various camp duties. Three big
kitchens were set up and the food doled out to us so that
one could either eat it on the spot or carry it home. The
children took turns standing in line with the bucket, for we
preferred to eat together at home perched on beds and trunks
with a small table between us.
We were more than grateful for being allowed to live
together as a family. One of our two small rooms was so
filled with beds that the only way to get across the room was
to kneel from bed to bed. This took care of the children, and
our double bed all but filled the remaining room. To Fred,
the greatest horror of internment was sweeping underneath
those beds. But the two little rooms became home to us.
There were curtains at the windows and a clean cloth on the
little table. Our Chinese embroidered piece hung on one
1 1 2 The Chinese Ginger Jars
wall. We called it our culture corner. This, and a drop of
perfume on my handkerchief, kept me from forgetting there
was another world.
There came a time when the curtains at the window had
to be cut up and made into clothing. These were the curtains
that had hung in the schoolroom at home in Tsining. They
were of dark blue coolie cloth with appliqu<d suns and
moons on them, and though these had been carefully ripped
off, Fred's pair of shorts showed very clearly the outlines
of sun and moon over each rump, much to the delight of the
whole camp, especially when he bent over to do his stint of
a thousand strokes at the communal pump each evening.
Our own courtyard was a cross section of the entire camp
a Greek restaurant owner and his wife; a Belgian with his
wife and two boys; an American missionary couple, a British
businessman and his wife, their twin boys and an adorable
little girl whom everyone called "Queenie"; and another
British businessman who had a Russian wife and two teen-
aged children. In spite of the rumored "affair" of the Belgian
wife, the continual Mah Jong playing of the Russian wife,
and the continual pot-scouring of the Greek restaurant owner's
wife (putting all the other housewives to shame), we all got
along well together. We learned to walk softly on those days
when one of us had had all that he or she could take, and to
shut our ears tactfully when the angry shouts from one room
became too loud.
Fred was studying calculus, "I can think of only one thing
worse than being interned/* I told him. "Being interned and
studying calculus/' Certain of our number volunteered to
teach the eighty classes in adult education, and one could study
anything from flower arrangement to well, calculus; and
there was a full-fledged school for the children.
Sometimes I worked in the kitchen with a group of women,
The Peach 113
helping to prepare the stew, paring endless mounds of vege-
tables that seemed to vanish without a trace in the huge
cauldrons of water. One of my jobs was to help make break-
fast "porridge." Orange peelings were collected from those
who had been lucky enough to bring fruit in with them.
These were dried and then cut into tiny pieces, an infinitesimal
amount of sugar added and boiled with hunks of stale bread
that had been allowed to soak overnight. This made a hot
gruel that had better staying qualities for the working men
than tea and dry bread all we were allotted for breakfast.
Our family was able to avoid the hideous porridge for several
weeks, until the cracked wheat gave out. Breakfast of whole-
wheat porridge with no milk would have been a delight to
us if we had not had to endure the smell of frying bacon as
the Russian wife prepared quantities of it. She sometimes
gave us a little bacon fat, and this we would use to fry
potatoes fished out of the weak stew and covered with one
or two beaten eggs for the seven of us. It was a feast for us,
and to this day it is a favorite family dish, prepared now with
lots of bacon and lots of eggs.
The eggs were purchased from the black market and it went
against my conscience to use them.
"I know we don't actually buy the eggs ourselves/' I told
the family, "but I don't like the idea of asking anyone else
to sin for us."
For the black market was run almost entirely by the Catholic
Fathers who did not consider it a sin, and who did it as an act
of service for the entire camp.
"If we are caught and executed for this," they would say,
"well, there will be one less priest in camp, but if one of the
fathers of a family is caught, there is the added suffering of
his wife and children."
The priest at the head of the whole project was a mild-
ii4 ^ e Chinese Ginger Jars
mannered, saintly gentleman who belonged to an order whose
priests take the vow of silence. He had done almost no talking
in his fifteen years in the monastery, and now he was thrown
into this vocal vortex of humanity where all such vows had
to be laid aside temporarily. The priests used a clever system
to inform each other of the arrival of a Japanese guard while
the actual buying was in progress. Priests were stationed at
intervals in all directions from the scene of the buying a
corner of the back wall where the Chinese could bring their
eggs, peanut oil, fruit and vegetables. As a guard approached,
one watcher would scratch his head, the next man getting
the signal would flip out his handkerchief, the next would
bend over to pick up something, and in no time at all the
news had spread, and the buyers and sellers would retreat
to a place of safety.
One day the Silent Father was almost caught. He disap-
peared into a latrine, took off his cowled cloak, and came out
smoking the cigarette of a man who had gone in before him.
But though the Silent Father was threatened many times by
the Japanese officers in charge, he still continued his benevo-
lent, nefarious practices. At last he was caught with a chicken
in his hand and was given his sentence solitary confinement
in the small shed near the homes of the officers.
His reply must have been somewhat disconcerting. "Thank
you so much," he said to them. "I am used to solitary con-
finement and I like it. In my cell at the monastery I was
always alone and I could pray. Here in camp I have little
Overnight he became the camp hero. Children wrote him
notes and slipped them under the door of his shack; women
saved the choicest food and prepared it especially for him.
The officers in the nearby houses frowned upon this but had
little to say. They would play Mah Jong until two or three
The Peach 115
o'clock in the morning, and what really troubled them was
that this prisoner had the horrible habit of awaking at four to
begin his devotions with loud hymns of praise. It was thought
best to release him, and he was soon back at his old post by
the outside wall.
Thoughts of food filled all my waking hours. Nutritionists,
interned with us, assured us that we would not starve to death
on the diet we were getting. "Do our stomachs know that?''
my husband wanted to know. Mine felt as if it were in the
last stages of starvation. Within reason, one could have all the
bread one wanted, as the Japanese had confiscated large
quantities of white flour, and the Belgian priests had con-
structed ovens and were the self-appointed bakers. The chil-
dren were continually filling up on their nicely baked bread,
but the adults found it more and more difficult to face the
endless slices with nothing to spread on them to make them
These same nutritionists, realizing the lack of calcium in the
diet, prepared ground eggshells for the pregnant and nursing
mothers. We met everyday for "tea" of ground eggshells in
Eggshells in bonebroth! When all I wanted from life was a
plate of fried oysters and a mound of salted peanuts, and to
have hot water enough to be clean just once. To look at my
beautiful baby all grimy was bad enough, but to have to do
it on an empty stomach was even worse. I vowed that I
would never again accuse poor people of being shifdess and
lacking initiative. I could not get my mind one peg above
that plate of fried oysters. And I could do with a chair to
"People are imagining all sorts of things about what we
are suffering," I said to the missionary next door as we were
116 The Chinese Ginger Jars
doing our washing together, "and all I long for is food and
a chair with a nice, comfortable back. Anyone with a baby
in front needs a chair in back."
"I wish you had the nice litde rocker I brought out from
America with me," she said. "It belonged to my grandmother.
I tried to bring it into camp with me but the Japanese wouldn't
let me. Only beds, they said, could be brought. This little chair
was so comfortable it just fit the small of your back."
"Don't talk about it," I said.
"You know, for the first time I realized how much God
expected of Lot's wife, telling her to leave her beautiful home
in the city, with all those litde treasures she'd been accumu-
lating for years, and not even look back once. I tell you I
looked back a good many times when I left my house."
Lot's wife again. So much had happened since that night
we had decided to leave Tsingtao. If I had it to do over again,
would I do what I had done that next day or would I stay
on in Tsingtao? I had to admit that I would have gone on
into Tsining even knowing what I knew now.
"You're very quiet," said the husband of the missionary
next door as he came out of the house with a few more
clothes for his wife to wash. "Come on into the house a minute.
We have something for you."
"I wanted to give it to you, but he wouldn't let me. He
wants to have the fun himself," said his wife.
We wiped the suds from our hands and went into the house.
"Shut your eyes. Now open," said our friend.
In his hand was a luscious Shantung peach. At the very
sight of it I felt a lump rise in my throat. I knew that he
had risked the danger of dealing with the men outside the
wall, and oh, the peach was so beautiful that I had all I
could do to keep from bursting into tears.
'This is for you," he said, "but I will give it to you on one
The Peach 117
condition that you do not share it with anybody. You are to
eat the whole thing yourself."
After the long days of gristle floating in water with a few
anemic vegetables added, the peach was from heaven. In the
end I broke my promise, as he knew I would, and gave each
member of the family a bite of it.
Time lay upon us like a weight, but life fell into a pattern.
There was the one daily pail of hot water, and a small one
at that, for all the washing that needed to be done for the
seven of us, including faces, hands, baths, and clothes.
Little Brown-Eyed One, obsessed with getting her hands into
any water available, would start calling "wata, wata," as soon
as she was dressed. She would sit in the dust of the courtyard
happily washing handkerchiefs in her little basin as long
as I was there to work beside her.
But life in camp was not all drudgery. The Negro band
from the Peking Hotel was interned with us and they put on
a dance every Saturday night. We were fortunate to have
an excellent musician who led eighty voices in a glorious
Holy Week production of Stainer's "Crucifixion." Hearing
that music in such a place at such a time was an experience
to remember. The solemn occasion was not without its mo-
ment of humor when the Japanese commandant walked down
the aisle, having arrived late, to the chorus singing at its peak,
"Fling wide the gates, fling wide the gates, fling wide the
The boys, now aged thirteen and eleven, were busy with
scouting, organized games, and watching the baseball league
with another Catholic Father hero as pitcher. The scout badges
were squares of green felt with the scout emblem embroidered
in gold by the nuns.
The Golden-Haired One was happy as long as there were
1 1 8 The Chinese Ginger Jars
people around and she went from courtyard to courtyard,
calling on her little friends and talking with their mothers
and fathers. She came home with such bits of information as,
"The little Russian woman in the next-courtyard-from-the-
corner fought all night with her husband. She has a black
eye. She told me she was going to leave him as soon as she
can get out of here."
Or, "You know the family that lives next to Susie's? [The
other millionaire family.] Well, the children say they've never
had such a good time before in all their lives. The mother
used to leave them to the Nanny, that's a kind of amah, and
go to a lot of parties and things all the time. Now they're
having so much fun together that they don't want to leave
even when the war is over!"
Then one day little Fourth Child disappeared. We thought he
was with his favorite, the kindergarten teacher. When he
didn't come home, we sent the other children to his usual
haunts to find him. One by one they came back without him.
No one had seen him. Fred got tie men of the courtyard
to help him and they scoured the camp. The child just
hadn't been seen by anyone. I was so weak from anxiety that
I could only lie on the bed and pray. By late afternoon
Fourth Child still had not returned and the Japanese guards
joined the search. They even let the men go outside the camp
to the garbage pile to see if he had wandered out when the
men had gone out to empty the refuse. (That ghastly place,
the garbage pile, where poor, hungry Chinese beggars waited
to snatch the awful refuse that we, hungry as we were, could
By this time the whole camp was alerted. We prayed as we
had never prayed before. Then, just before dusk, he was dis-
covered leaving the Japanese Commandant's headquarters with
The Peach up
an apple in his hand. He had had a wonderful day. The
officers had taken him home with them and had shown him
a cow and the new puppies and had given him candy and
this apple and "Mummy, you're crying. What's the matter?'*
The Japanese loved all growing things, children and
plants. One afternoon when I was at home alone, a Japanese
guard knocked at the door. He said something in Japanese
that I didn't understand, but he finally made me know by a
gesture of his hand that he wanted a pair of scissors. He was
very gruff about all this and I couldn't imagine what he wanted
with scissors until he pointed to the straggling tomato plants
growing at our door. We had decided, after much discussion,
to plant tomatoes instead of flowers in our two-by-four garden,
since the children would need vitamin C. They were in for
a good bout of deficiency if they were to depend on our
tomato plants! When summer came and the pitiless Shantung
sun beat down on our one-story house, we scrounged a piece
of matting and made a slanting roof over the windows to keep
the worst of its rays from penetrating. This shaded the tomato
plants, which shot straight upward in pale shoots that bore
no sign of fruit on their stalks. The soldier spent the after-
noon skillfully trimming them, and in time the plants were
prolific. He did not smile once, in spite of my repeated
efforts to be friendly, and I never found out whether he felt
sorry for us or for the tomato plants.
I was ironing a little dress one morning when a friend of
ours from the British American tobacco company dropped in.
'Where's Fred?" he asked.
"Over at the hospital, I suppose. Sit down there on the bed.
And excuse my back. It's a major operation to turn around
in this room. How's everything with you?" I asked.
"Oh, fine. I hear Fred has a new recipe for tobacco," he
i2o The Chinese Ginger Jars
went on. Td like to try some. Would he mind?"
"Of course not." I passed him the tin and went on ironing.
He filled his pipe, lit it and took a few puffs.
"Say, this is good really good," he said. "How did he
The men swapped recipes for tobacco just as the women
swapped recipes for making pancakes out of soppy bread
'Tin not quite sure," I began, "I know he got the leaves from
some of the priests who seem to be able to get them in. It
must be grown near by."
"It is. At one time we had this whole area planted in good
seed. I never thought the day would come when I'd be
smoking the stuff almost straight from the fields. But go on
with the recipe."
"You know the usual routine, I suppose, choosing out the
good leaf and stripping away the stems and veins. Then he
spread them out on that flat stone outside the door and
smeared them all over thickly with some kind of goo."
"Yes, yes, I know. But what was in the goo?" he asked.
"I really don't know. You'll have to ask him. I know there
was tea in it and that the pharmacist made him an extract
of licorice. And then, of course, there was honey.
"Ah, licorice. That's the flavor I was wondering about.
"He spread the goo over the leaves, added another layer
and smoothed it on again until he had quite a pile. Then he
rolled the whole thing up in one of my precious pieces of
old sheeting; using my even more precious clothesline, he
tied one end of it around a tree for purchase and wound
the rope around the roll of tobacco, squeezing it with all his
strength until he had a long 'sausage' completely covered by
rope. This had to be dried and he put it up on the tin roof and
The Peach 121
had to run home from all meetings whenever rain threat-
ened. After all this tender care, he used my best carving
knife to shave the tobacco into shreds. Greater love hath no
woman than this that she allow her husband to use her best
carving knife for shaving tobacco. Fred will be flattered that
you like it. Do you want some to put in your pouch?" I
asked as I circled the starched ruffle with my iron.
There was no answer. There was not a sound in the room.
I twisted my head around and saw that I was alone. "How
long have I been talking to myself?" I puzzled, and went on
with my work.
In a few moments he returned, his face a morbid shade of
gray-green. "Whew! That stuff is powerful. I couldn't take it.
I doubt if anyone outside of a longshoreman or a missionary
could/' said our friend from the tobacco company.
I loved doing the ironing, but the sweeping was another
thing; I tried to get it done before Mr. Davies arrived. He was
a man well along in years, a member of our own mission, and
a tower of strength to me as the days went by. He would
come into the room at about the time I would be sweeping
the floor and, knowing that I would never let him do the work
if he asked, he would take the broom from my hands and
begin to scold me.
"Haven't I told you before that this is not the way to
sweep properly? First sprinkle the floor with water. Where
is that basin I used last time I was here? I wonder if you will
ever learn. [I liked mud even less than dust.] Now, sweep
toward the door with long, firm strokes like this/'
He didn't stop scolding until the floor had been swept.
Then he would put the broom back in its place, smile with
satisfaction and sit down for a while to philosophize. He was
suffering from diabetes and I worried about him. I knew there
were times when there was nothing at all that he could eat.
122 The Chinese Ginger Jars
'What have you learned so far from this concentration-
camp experience?" he might ask.
"I'm not at all sure that I have learned anything," I would
reply, "except perhaps that one must walk to the edge of the
gangplank and jump off before one can know that the limitless
sea is actually there/*
"Fairly good, but I don't like your metaphor. Say, rather,
that you have learned that you are a child standing on a
table, and that if you jump, you will surely find yourself in
the arms of your Father/'
"But you have to jump/' I would say.
"Of course/' said our friend, stroking his neat white beard.
Every month on a certain day the whole camp was turned
out on the athletic field to be counted. The daily roll call was
rather casually taken, courtyard by courtyard. On this scorch-
ing August day, the fifteen hundred of us were lined up in
rows of one hundred according to our assigned camp numbers.
It should have taken a matter of minutes to count us; it took
hours. Someone was at the hospital; another had lost his
number, two were watching the ovens and shouldn't leave,
and so forth. Children cried, babies vomited, adults fainted,
and still one person was missing. It turned out to be the man
they were sending to round up the others! After what
seemed an eternity spent in a furnace, we were dismissed.
I took the children back to the house while Fred went to the
hospital to take care of the new influx of patients. Our old
friend should have gone to bed at once* Instead, he came to
see if we were all right.
"Lie down there quietly with the children and I will tell
you a story/' he said. "Once upon a time there were three
ducks, a mother duck, a father duck, and a baby duck. While
they were out walking one day, they came to the bank of a
swollen stream. Father Duck said to Mother Duck, 'You swim
The Peach 123
across first; Baby Duck will follow you and I will come last
to see that there is no danger from the rear/ So Mother
Duck struggled bravely across and reached the bank safely.
Baby Duck had a more difficult time but he made it, and
at last Father Duck succeeded in getting across. They stood
on the bank, shook their feathers, and, said Baby Duck with
a sigh of relief, Isn't it wonderful that all five of us got
across safely/ Now why did Baby Duck say 'all five of us'?"
"I suppose Mother Duck was pregnant/' I offered.
"Silly! Mother Ducks don't become pregnant; they lay
eggs, remember? You have a one-track mind these days. No,
you see Baby Duck was a Japanese army duck and he couldn't
I knew now what Jesus meant when he warned the people to
beware of wars and rumors of wars. There were times when
the rumors were almost worse than the wars. One could hear
anything in camp. One group made it their business to start
rumors just to see how credulous people could be. The
rumors kept getting more and more far-fetched until the
bubble finally broke with the report that Churchill and
Roosevelt had been on their way to call at the camp in
person to do something about getting us out, when Churchill's
camel got stuck in the sand at the edge of the Yellow River.
When the rumormongers found that some people would
actually believe this, they gave up in disgust and tried to find
another method of relieving their boredom.
I was better off than most of my co-sufferers because, for
them, time stretched endlessly ahead, while I had something
lovely to look forward to at the end of a fixed period of time
the birth of my baby. It gave me something to count toward,
something very much worth living for.
Then, like a flowering cactus, the bulletin board blossomed
124 The Chinese Ginger Jars
a white notice. There was to be an exchange of internees!
Japanese from the internment camps in America (then the
Japanese officer in Tsining had been right after all!) were
to meet Americans from the internment camps of Asia at
the neutral port of Goa in Portuguese India. There the ex-
change would be made. We only half believed it, but again
the old question had to be faced would we have to be
separated? For there were only five categories under which
we could apply for repatriation; women and children came
under one heading, but there was no category under which
Fred could apply. We went to ask the advice of the obstetri-
cian who was to take care of me. She did not say it in so many
words, but she made it clear that anything might happen to
me at the delivery even death and that I was in no con-
dition to travel alone. Since we knew that the baby probably
would be born en route, her question, in a low voice, "What
would the children do then?" was more than enough to
swing the decision. We filled out the papers waiving my right
to repatriation and settled down for the "duration" (another
good camp word).
A few weeks later we were sitting on the stone in the court-
yard after the day's work was done. The children were in bed.
Fred and I were having a few moments before going in when
Ralph Lewis, another of the doctors, stopped by and dropped
down on the ground beside Fred.
"I suppose youVe heard that the list is up/' he said.
"What list?" Fred asked.
"The list for repatriation/' he replied.
"How can you be so calm about it?" I asked. "Isn't your
name on it? Oh, I do hope so. You and Roberta have had to
be separated so long."
"Yes, my name is there. So is yours, you know?"
"There must be some mistake," said Fred. 'We made out
The Peach 125
papers some time ago waiving Myra's right to go. No telling
what might happen en route; we didn't dare let her go
"Well, your name is on the list too, Fred, and so are all
We couldn't believe it, not even after we had lit matches
and read the names on the bulletin board.
Such a fever of excitement as we were in! One moment we
would be filled with hope and the next minute plunged into
despair, dreading the disappointment if our plans should once
again fall through. And suppose that at the last minute they
took Fred's name off and made me go alone with the
But we went ahead sorting and packing our few belongings.
Everything possible was to be left behind for those who were
to remain; for of the fifteen hundred people in camp, only
three hundred of us were chosen for repatriation. I exchanged
my dresses for a few maternity clothes offered to me by a
woman who had already had her baby.
At last the day came when the three hundred chosen ones
were to leave the camp. Another three hundred internees
from the Cheefoo camp had been brought in the night before
to take our places.
We were led through the streets of the camp, crowded with
people calling out "Good-by, and good luck!" then out of the
gate, down a steep little hill, across a small stream and into
a grove of trees. We sat on the ground to await the coming
of the lorries that would carry us to the railway. The Brown-
Eyed One crawled into my lap, and Fred took her litde hand
in his. The other children were exploring the grove, happy
in a new adventure.
Fred and I were very quiet, filled with conflicting emotions.
Fear were we really being taken out to safety or was this a
126 The Chinese Ginger Jars
trick, a way to rid the camp of three hundred extra people?
Sorrow at the thought of those who were left behind, and
joy surely joy that we were at least outside the gate with
the real possibility of freedom before us. A light breeze brushed
the trees and the leaves stirred.
"Fred, they are clapping their hands!" I said. "The leaves
are clapping their hands! The verse is coming true!"
Just then the whole hillside before us burst forth into
singing as the fifteen hundred clambered for places along the
wall and raised their voices in "There'll Always Be an
England," "God Bless America," and "God Be With You Till
We Meet Again."
We went out with joy, and were led forth with peace: the
mountains and the hills broke forth before us into singing,
and all the trees of the field clapped their hands.
Lao Shou IRsing,
the ^Birthday JPairy
Ralph Lewis made his way down the car toward us, lurching
back and forth with the movement of the train, picking his
way between the sleeping bodies on the floor. He reached the
place where we were sitting and leaned over to ask confi-
dentially, "Have you noticed the ankles?"
"Yes, I have/' said Fred. "Is there anything we can do
The two doctors went on talking. I remembered something
about swollen ankles and poor nutrition and could see that
the men were worried about us. The trip from the intern-
ment camp to the seaport of Shanghai should not have taken
more than thirty-six hours. None of us knew why it was taking
three days. We would go a few miles and then stop for long
periods of time. The food had long since been eaten all that
had not spoiled the first night and we were so crowded that
it was almost impossible to sleep. First-Born and Second-
Born and the other boys of their age had kept on their feet
so that the older folk might have a place to sit. They would
stand up as long as they could and then lie down in the aisle,
curling themselves up as small as possible to avoid being
stepped on. I looked down at our boys* ankles; swollen, yes,
but not as terribly swollen as some of those sitting near us.
J2 8 The Chinese Ginger Jars
Would we ever get to Shanghai? There we would at least
have food and water. The hours inched by and at last we
neared the city limits. The train stopped, we thought to get
the all-clear signal; but when it started again it was going
in the opposite direction and this it continued to do for an
hour or more. At once the rumors began to fly.
"Back to Nanking! They're taking us back to Nanking!
Well be put in a camp there! The repatriation is off. . . ."
Late in the afternoon the train stopped again, and when it
started this time, it was headed in the right direction.
At long last we arrived in Shanghai and piled out of the
train. The railway station had just been bombed in fact
was being bombed as our train had been about to pull in. But
the unloading was allowed to proceed, our men grumbling
at the weight of the heavy trunks some of the women had
insisted on bringing out of camp. Lifting a heavy trunk, even
with plenty of help, was almost more than most of the men
We were crowded into buses and taken out to the campus
of one of the universities; I think it was St. John's. Oh, the
smooth, green lawns! We stumbled out of the buses and
stretched full length on the sweet-smelling grass.
Here we were to await the arrival of our repatriation ship.
The time was filled with endless inspections of what luggage
we had. It meant constant repacking and we were so tired.
But there was just a little less to pack after each inspection.
American money was one of the objects of search. Hems of
dresses were felt carefully, shoulder pads ripped open, shoe
soles torn off, and long hair thoroughly combed out. The girl
in line in front of me turned and whispered, "What shall I
do? I have an American check that my father sent me for
Christmas two years age It is tucked into the roll of my hair/'
It was too late to do anything about it. When the Japanese
Lao Shou Hsing, The Birthday Fairy 129
police woman reached us, all she said was, "Never mind
taking your hair down/' We never knew why this particular
girl was thus exempted.
It was with mixed feelings that we boarded the Japanese
ship, the Teia Maru. We were not at all sure where we
were going to be taken. The Teia had come over from Japan
carrying American repatriates from that country. Later a
missionary already on board told me that as we walked up the
gangplank she had turned to a Japanese officer and said, "I
take it that the people with the blue rosettes in their lapels
are the diplomats. Who are these now coming up [indicating
our large family] wearing red rosettes?"
"Those," he replied, "are the hardened criminals."
When we were given our accommodations, I was surprised
to find that the three youngest children and I had been as-
signed to a very good cabin with three berths. Fred and the
boys were down in the lowest hold where the wooden bunks
had been hastily erected to hold several hundred passengers.
The boys, now thirteen and eleven, were suddenly thrust from
their sheltered living into a maelstrom of life in the raw;
for in this hold, under these terribly crowded conditions, were
men who were constantly drunk. Some of them smuggled
women into various off-corners (some of the corners not so
off!). There were constant fights with knives or fists. All
of this became a daily occurrence to the boys. They said little
but they looked very thoughtful.
Our ship had formerly been one of the French Line's
"Three Musketeers." It had been called the Aramis, and had
been a beautiful ship in its day, but after its capture it had
been allowed to deteriorate. There must have been a quantity
of excellent wines and liqueurs on board, for these were now
being sold to the long-deprived men at exorbitant prices.
Since the Japanese yen was the only currency we were
130 The Chinese Ginger Jars
allowed to use, and since it all had to be spent while on
board, it was no trial at all for the drinkers to pay the amounts
demanded. Even the missionaries were willing to spend ten
of these Japanese dollars for an extra cup of coffee now
I found it more and more difficult to eat the food set
before me. The diet of rice filled with worms was almost
more than I could take.
"Eat it," Fred would say to me, "eat every bit of it/'
"But the worms!" I would protest.
"You're just lucky to be getting that much extra protein/'
he would reply.
Fred was getting weaker too. It struck me with a blow when
I discovered that all of the passengers had to reach out
for the handrail in order to pull themselves up the short flights
of stairs. One day when Fred was carrying the Brown-Eyed
One up a ladder, his knees buckled under him and he fell.
Fortunately neither of them was hurt.
"It's the vitamin B deficiency," Fred told me, 'We'll make
it up when we get on board the other ship at Goa."
There came a day when I was too weak to get out of bed.
I just lay there wondering what I was going to do. Fred
tried to help me up, but I could not stand on my feet. I had
been saving one can of evaporated milk so that if there were
no milk at all when the baby was born, we could at least
have something to start on. There was a great feeling of
security in owning that can of milk, and it was with difficulty
that Fred persuaded me there just wouldn't be any baby unless
I drank it then. He borrowed some cocoa from a woman down
the hall, heated some water and gave me drinks of the
chocolate throughout the morning. By night I was able to
get up again.
Lao Shou Hsing, The Birthday Fairy 131
"Darling," I said to Fred one morning, "stop reading for a
minute and look around the deck/'
He looked up from his Bible and saw at once what I meant;
people sat propped up against smokestacks or lay full length,
chins cupped in hands; every person in sight was reading
a Bible! This, by the way, was the first time I had ever seen
a woman smoking a cigarette as she read her Bible. The only
other books allowed us were Japanese propaganda leaflets,
which the children used for making paper airplanes and
flying darts. With the exception of the Bible, nothing written
or printed could go with us out of camp, and if the Bible
were marked or underlined in any way, that too had to stay
behind. The Golden-Haired One had prayed that the Japanese
would not take away her Bible, and as the examiner had
flipped through its pages, not one of the many marked verses
did he find.
The ship continued on its course, down the coast of China
to Hong Kong, on to a port not far from Manila, then to
Saigon (a wonderful day it was, sailing up the Mekong
River with lush green on either side), then Singapore, through
the Straits of Sunda, past Karaktau, the volcanic island which
upset half the world by its eruption; steadily nearing Goa, our
neutral port of destination on the west coast of India. At no
port en route were we allowed to disembark; in fact, the
ship always anchored well out to sea.
At the Philippines we had taken on more internees, among
them the wives of some of the men already on board. It was
a glorious day of rejoicing; some of the couples had not seen
each other for two years.
Soon after this new influx of passengers, I was standing
on deck near a group of them one morning when they began
to pass around a box of salted Spanish peanuts. For all those
The Chinese Ginger Jars
months at camp I had been dreaming of salted peanuts, I
wanted some of those peanuts so badly that the craving for
them could hardly be suppressed. I was standing a little apart
from the group and only with difficulty could I keep from
thrusting myself forward. I waited greedily as the box passed
from person to person. Surely they had seen me there. But no,
they went on talking and laughing and the box of salted
peanuts went the rounds and was put away.
Fred found me later lying on the berth crying uncon-
trollably. Taking me in his arms, he tried to quiet me. He
was greatly relieved when Dr, Harold Loucks came in for
his daily call. (We hoped Harold would deliver the baby if
it were born en route.) In our embarrassment at being caught
thus, the story was blurted out. Harold asked his usual daily
questions about my condition and went out. He came back in
a few minutes with a medicine glass filled with the precious
salted peanuts. 'Just what the doctor ordered/' he said. It
did not lessen my embarrassment, but I ate the nuts one by
one, chewing each nut carefully, lingering over each one.
To this day, when any lack of security threatens, I find myself
having to go out to buy peanuts.
The days went by. There were games with the children and
there were long hours of interesting conversation on deck
with many colorful people: the General, a Canadian who had
spent years with the Chinese army and who told tales stranger
than fiction; the maiden authoress who had had a child for the
experience of child-bearing and who smoked long black cigars
in the evening; the beachcomber who, since coming on board,
had beaten up so many people that he had been confined to
the brig on deck. The two boys held conversations with him.
They had to be careful because at times he was really violent.
Conversation, Bible reading, and an occasional card game
helped to count off the calendar. It was during a rather boring
Lao Shou Hsing, The Birthday Fairy 133
game of bridge that we came to realize the danger we were in.
Our foursome was sitting on deck under a lifeboat, using it
as a shield from the tropical sun. One of the men began to
speak in a low voice. "Don't tell this to the others. I wouldn't
tell you except that IVe got to tell somebody or bust. The
other night I came up here completely frustrated by this
awful inactivity. I rammed my fist against one of these life-
boats in desperation. My fist went straight through the wood!
So I made a tour of the deck. Not one of these boats is sea-
worthy. That accounts for the fact that we haven't had a
boat drill since we've been on board. Fifteen hundred of us,
and no way to save us if a submarine happens to mistake us
for an enemy! It's a great life ... if you live."
Goa at last, her lovely green hill topped by the old-world church
of St. Francis Xavier; the comforting smell of wind blowing
across earth! I am sure I am a direct descendant of that first
little fish that crawled up out of the ocean to dry land. Now,
after all the miserable days at sea, we were allowed to walk
along the quay and a few steps farther down into the green
fields near by. Fred couldn't understand why I hadn't learned
to love the sea during our many voyages. Whenever we sailed
past a visible stretch of land, he would ask, "Do I have to lash
you to the mast as they did Ulysses to keep you from striking
out and swimming to shore?"
We had expected that the Swedish ship, the Gripsholm,
would be there to meet us. We scanned the horizon each day
but no ship came in sight. Again we were set upon by rumors,
this time in the form of a pun. "Goa is as far as we are Goan."
It wasn't very funny, and when you'd heard it even a few times
with fear at the pit of your stomach, you were ready to throw
the next punster overboard.
But one day the dream came true. A tiny speck appeared on
134 The Chinese Ginger Jars
the horizon and the news sped through the ship like a grass
"The Gripsholm is coming! The Gripsholm is coining!" Fif-
teen hundred of us crowded the forward decks. We sang, we
waved handkerchiefs, we shouted. Then, first one of us and
then another remembered the Japanese on board the incoming
vessel who would have to take our places here. Why had these
Japanese, so well off in America, chosen repatriation? No
doubt we would find out when they arrived.
I was humiliated to have the first-hand evidence that what
the Japanese officer had told me in Tsining was true. The
Japanese, so soon to board this ship carrying with them Ameri-
can cameras, sewing machines, good shoes and clothing, had
chosen to return to Japan in many instances because it was
their only hope of being reunited as a family, the father having
been interned in one camp and the mother and children in
another. No doubt there were zealous patriots among their
number too, but it was clear they had no idea of what lay be-
fore them; nor, if the tales of the American repatriates from
Japan could be trusted, of the weight of suspicion that would
fall upon them as soon as they reached their ancestral shores.
One youngster had a photograph album which she showed
to a missionary from Japan. It contained several photos of her
brother in the uniform of the United States Army.
"Do destroy these, or give them to me to keep for you/* the
missionary pleaded. "This can be a source of great difficulty
for you. 7 '
But the girl remained firm.
"Surely the authorities of Japan will excuse those who, like
my brother, have remained loyal to the United States, for
they were brought up from childhood there/'
It was evening and the exchange was to be made the next
day. We were to board the Gripsholm in the morning. Of-
Lao Shou Hsing, The Birthday Fairy 135
ficially none of us had even seen one of the Japanese from
America, but there had been many instances of "fraternizing,"
since both parties could hardly wait for news of what was
happening in their respective countries. Now Fred and I were
standing on the deck of the Japanese ship watching the clean,
fine-looking officers from the Griysholm as they walked back
and forth along the wharf.
"I wonder if one of them has an orange in his pocket/' I
said. Dear Heavenly Father, would I ever again be able to
think of anything except food?
Yet when it came, the abundance of it hurt us. We had
lined up that morning single file and had presented our papers.
We were asked not to go below until our cabins had been
thoroughly cleaned. The whole ship looked spotless to us
gleaming white smokestacks with the blue and gold crest,
shining brass, freshly uniformed staff. While we were still
waiting, the Red Cross personnel lined us up again. Each of us
was to receive a gift of the hugest chocolate bar I have ever
seen. Those in the approaching line were beside themselves
with impatience, so those of us in the line with bars already in
our hands would break off a piece to give to someone who had
not as yet passed the table, admonishing him to return the
piece when he had received his own bar.
And now a smorgasbord was being prepared on deck. The
waiters found it difficult to get through as the people crowded
for a sight of the food. Whole roasted turkeys, whole cheeses,
whole hams, heaped-up salads, gallons of fruit juices, real
butter and snowy Swedish breads were being brought up from
the galley, and with the arrival of each tray, cheers would ring
Fred and I stood a little apart to avoid being crushed in
the surge forward to see each tray. "I can't bear it," I said,
"when I think of those who are left behind. The whole camp
136 The Chinese Ginger Jars
could be fed for a week on this one meal This is a strange
experience, isn't it? Now we are free and have everything; the
day we dreamed of has come, and it is the very dream-come-
true, the abundance, that hurts/*
"I know," he said. "I suppose we are in a position to appreci-
ate the riches of life more fully than almost anyone we know,
and yet we will never be able to accept them again com-
What a feast that was! But how very little we could eat. It
was frustrating to see all this good food and to have a stomach
shrunk to a size that could hold only a small helping. The fruit
juice ran like a river in flood and I could get down only one
glass of it. We found that it was days before some of us could
digest anything as rich as whole milk. The Brown-Eyed One
was the wise one of the family; she didn't try to eat some of
everything, but contented herself with applesauce and bread
On the second day out at sea I met the captain. With my
characteristic inattention to stripes and bars, I thought he was
'When will we reach New York?" I asked him.
"That I am not allowed to tell you," he replied with a kindly
smile. "This much I will say you will not arrive before I do/'
"Somebody else may arrive before either of us gets to New
"Now, my dear, you are not to worry about that arrival. I
will get you to New York in time, and if I do not, we have
three doctors and six nurses and all of the needed equipment
to welcome the coming one."
And we will use it, I thought. This passenger was due to
arrive three weeks before we could possibly reach New York.
Lao Shou Hsing, The Birthday Fairy 137
Gradually it began to sink into our consciousness that we were
free, that we were approaching friendly waters, that we could
give way to the luxurious relaxation of free people. Strangely,
it was only then that I began to have nightmares. Up to that
time, even when there had been much to fear, I slept well
each night and was kept in peace the peace of God that
passes understanding. "If I could only accept Him fully with
my subconscious mind as well, I wouldn't have these terrible
dreams/' I told Fred.
I would hear again and again the scuff-clump-scuff of the
heavy-booted soldiers coming up the walk. The soldiers would
take Fred off and I would hear a shot; or we would all be lined
up against a wall and I would be trying to give the children
that one last reassuring word that would take them into heaven
without fear. I would wake up shaking as if I had malaria and
it would be a few minutes before I could realize that we were
all safe and on our way home.
Home was a wonderful word to think about; home and
family, after all these years of separation! We had had an un-
expected thrill in finding a large packet of letters waiting for us
at Goa. It had been two full years since we had received a letter
from anybody, and it hadn't occurred to us that there would be
mail en route. To my intense relief I learned that my father,
a semi-invalid, would be waiting to welcome us home. During
the two years of no letters I had dared to hope that he would
live to see us again, and God had answered my prayer. I found,
too, that I had my first sister-in-law. Letters were wonderful.
Some farsighted person had seen to it that copies of current
and back issues of magazines were placed on board our ship.
We were amazed to find that in the comparatively short span of
two years the language had changed so that it was often unin-
telligible. What was a "WAG" or a 'WAVE"? What was
138 The Chinese Ginger Jars
"ack-ack"? Above all, what was a "jeep"? Every other para-
graph contained a word that made the meaning of what we
read obscure. We finally guessed that a "jeep" was some kind of
vehicle and at last someone found a picture of one and it was
passed around the ship, so that that mystery, at least, was
Port Elizabeth on the tip of South Africa, and what a warmth
of welcome! The whole city turned out to meet us. We were
surprised to see so many people in uniform. One could hardly
find a man or a woman on the streets in civilian clothes. It
was good to feel pavement under my feet and to look up to
tall buildings again. We stood still for a moment, looking up
at the American flag flying from one of the buildings. It was
the first time we had seen it flying for years, and I, who had
always scoffed at sentimental patriots, who called myself a
citizen of the world, wept at the sight of it.
The children's one memory of Port Elizabeth is that each
of us was given a whole pint of ice cream and that the Brown-
Eyed One ate hers at one sitting, a feat which none of the rest
of us could accomplish.
Leaving Africa, we sailed toward the coast of South America
and on up to Rio, that fabulous city with its emerald harbor.
The ship's doctor advised against going ashore. "The baby
is a week overdue," he warned.
"I can't miss the one opportunity of a lifetime to see Rio,"
I said. "The baby has taken so many chances so far, can't we
risk one more?"
We were soon walking up the quay toward a sparkling white
building where members of the Evangelical Church were
waiting to take us out to see the city. A dear little picture-book
lady stepped forward to greet us. She was Mrs. Oliveira. She
told us afterward that when she saw the five children, she
Lao Shou Using, The Birthday Fairy 139
said to the man in charge, "Oh, do let me have that family/'
"You are certainly a brave woman to have taken this family/'
my husband told her. "It would be difficult to find a larger
one or one in a more bedraggled state. At least we are now
shod, thanks to the American Red Cross who rescued Second-
Born from his barefoot bliss just before we got off the ship/'
We had such a memorable day. We were driven by Mrs.
Oliveira's chauffeur to the top of Sugar Loaf to see the beauti-
ful panorama below. The boys were intrigued by the charcoal-
burning attachment at the rear of the car. There were many
such in Rio since gasoline was scarce due to the war. Mrs.
Oliveira then took us to her sunny home at the seashore to
spend the rest of the day. The next morning, before the ship
sailed, our new-found friend was at the wharf to see us off.
She had brought a gift for everyone of us, including the baby
for whom we were restlessly waiting.
Rio de Janeiro was still two weeks from New York. In some
ways they were the longest two weeks in the seventy-two day
voyage. We learned later that there had been a large number
of bets laid as to whether or not I would reach New York
before the baby's arrival. Fellow passengers also amused them-
selves by choosing names for the child. "Gripsholm Maru,"
for both ships, was one of the gruesome suggestions.
But at last the journey neared its close. The boys' only regret
was that we hadn't been hit by a torpedo so that they could
put to sea in one of the Gripsholm's well-equipped lifeboats.
The F.B.L, having come aboard at Rio, combed the entire ship.
We did not seem to be suspicious characters, much to Fred's
disappointment. He wanted a chance to chat with those men.
We were gathering on deck for our usual evening prayers.
The nuns would soon be singing their beautiful "Stella Mans"
and the whole ship would be joining reverently in the singing
of "God Bless America" as we had every evening since leaving
The Chinese Ginger Jars
Goa. One of the ship's officers came up to a Red Cross nurse
and, motioning across the deck to where we were standing,
said, "Can't you do something about that woman?"
"Why should I?" the nurse asked.
"She's three weeks overdue/'
"I guess you can stand it if she can."
"But you don't know what I'm up against. The ship's mani-
fest has to be complete before tomorrow. We don't know
whether we are landing with fifteen hundred passengers or
fifteen hundred and one. And besides, that one is going to
be an alien, don't forget. This ship is flying the Swedish flag,
and if the kid is born outside the three-mile limit, it'll be a
Swede. Do you know how many complications that will cause?
Brother! Well, see to it that she either has it tonight or not un-
til every last man is ashore."
"Aye, aye, sir. Just anything you say, of course."
The next night the ship moved slowly into the harbor.
There before us were the shores of our own country. We could
see the headlights of cars slipping through the blackness. What
would it feel like to ride in a car again?
Daylight of December i, 1943, and the whole ship going
completely mad! Before us stood the Statue of Liberty. We
were all shouting, singing, dancing. Fred took me in his arms
and together we danced around the deck.
"We're home," he said to me. "We're home!"
A Catholic priest standing near us took off his hat and
addressed the Lady in the Harbor. "Old girl, take it from me,
I'll never go so far away from you again that I can't be re-
patriated by streetcar."
"How much longer will it be before we get off the ship?"
the children asked.
"Several hours yet," said a passing steward. "You ought
to get oif about lunchtime."
Lao Shou Using, Tine Birthday Fairy 141
Lunchtime. Then I would have to see the ship's doctor.
There was no use putting it off any longer.
"No!" groaned the doctor. "You can't do this to me. We've
had everything ready for you for the last three weeks. How
many times have we had to resterilize that maternity packet?
Now everything is locked up; the quarantine officers are on
board. Listen, you can't have the baby now. Do you hear me?
You can't have it now. Go down to your cabin, get into bed
and don't move. I'll call for an ambulance right away and it
will be on the dock when we get there."
I felt like repeating the nurse's words to the ship's officer,
"Aye, aye, sir. Just anything you say, of course."
I lay in my bunk as quietly as I could. Fred sat beside me
holding my hand. It was then that I named her, knowing for
a certainty that it would be a girl Victoria "Thanks be
unto God who giveth us the victory."
Lunchtime came and went. Mrs. Ruth Shipley herself, the
head of the United States Passport Division, newly arrived
from Washington, cleared our passports for entrance. At last
the gangplank was down and our family were the first passen-
gers to disembark.
"You would fix it so that we go off before the diplomats/'
The ambulance was waiting for me, but what would we do
with the children? We piled them all into the ambulance with
us. There they sat in a row watching me with agonized ex-
pressions on their faces as I winced with pain.
"Drive to the hotel," I said to Fred. "You and the children
get off there and I'll go on to the hospital. You know how it is
with me. Some day I may learn how to have a baby quickly, but
you'll have plenty of time to give the children their supper and
put them to bed. Then you can come up to the hospital and
we'll have the baby in peace."
The Chinese Ginger Jars
The ambulance sped on through the city. I was determined
that the baby should be born before Fred could get there. He
had had to bear enough of my suffering already. The radio
had been giving hourly bulletins, "Grvpsholm races with
stork!" But of this I knew nothing.
Met by Dr. Theodore Reed, the kindest of doctors, I was
cared for lovingly and skillfully and, of necessity, with celerity!
Victoria Fairchild Scovel was born before I reached the de-
livery table. An intern came in when it was all over.
"You came thirty thousand miles/' he said, "and you couldn't
make the last three feet/'
I don't expect heaven to look any more wonderful than Presby-
terian Hospital did that next morning when I woke up. It
was all over the danger, the dirt, the hunger; the baby was
perfect, if weak and tiny. And the nurses and doctors and
dietitians were so good to me. I was among people who really
We had apparently made the headlines in our "Gripsholm-
races-with-stork" episode, and everyone was being very careful
not to let the press in to see me. There was a hospital rule to
the effect that newspapermen were not allowed in the mater-
nity ward for publicity purposes. This meant no visitors except
the carefully screened few, and I enjoyed the quiet with only
the family and a few friends.
We had hoped that Beloved Grandmother would be in New
York to meet us, but she was suffering from a virus infection,
and her doctor advised against her leaving Cortland where
she had gone to visit her old friends. Instead, Beloved Grand-
mother asked our cousin, Harriet Day Allen, who was more
like a sister than a cousin, to meet us in New York. Harriet
took over the care of the children at the Prince George Hotel.
The morning after our arrival, Harriet took the children
down to breakfast in the coffee room. Fred had left early to
144 The Chinese Ginger Jars
get our baggage through customs. As the children sat eating
piles of pancakes, a gentleman came into the room, and find-
ing no vacant table, sat down with Fourth Child and the
Brown-Eyed One. When his order of bacon and eggs arrived,
he pushed the plate away from him and called the waitress
to complain about the cooking of the eggs. The Brown-Eyed
One pushed the plate back in front of him, saying, "Eat it.
We literally sneaked out of the hospital and down a freight
elevator the day I was discharged, Dr. Reed coming with me
to put me into a taxi that would take me to the railway station.
I rather doubt that the press was that interested in me, but
at any rate, either we avoided the reporters or they weren't
there in the first place. Fred and the children met me at the
station. We were to spend Christmas in my home in Mechanic-
ville, and Beloved Grandmother would join us there.
Christmas in the bosom of my own family was all that I had
dreamed it would be. But now we had to hurry on to Rochester,
New York. Fred was to work in the medical department of
Eastman Kodak. No one could guess when, or if, missionaries
would get back to China, and the Board had asked us to find
other work if possible. Fred wanted to do something for the
war effort but was not well enough or strong enough to
enlist. He had lost forty pounds from his already thin frame.
At Eastman he would be working for the navy.
"You'll never find a house/' my father warned. "Do you
two have any idea what housing is in this day and age?"
But again I had a Bible verse to cling to. In the first batch
of mail to reach us at Goa, a friend had sent a verse that had
become a prayer: "Behold I send an angel before thee to keep
thee in the way, and to bring thee to the place which I have
prepared/' Fred went up to Rochester for one day and found
the first furnished house in the whole city that had been on the
The Mei Hua I45
real estate list of available houses that year. It was on the list
for one hour on the only day that Fred was able to be in Ro-
chester for house hunting*
Life in Rochester was perfect. And to make it even more
perfect, we had a visit from the Magistrate of Hsiang Wen.
He was now a famous man, serving on international com-
mittees for which purpose he was in America at the time.
After dinner that night I said to him, "Come now, you are
no longer a magistrate; you're taking orders from me. Let's
all do the dishes together because in the first place, I want
them out of the way, and in the second place, I don't want to
miss a word of your conversation/'
"I'd love to help with the dishes/' he replied. "Nobody but
you would ever ask me to wipe dishes."
When the last pan had been washed and the sink cleaned,
I reached for the bottle of hand lotion on the shelf and poured
a generous dollop into my palm.
"Just like American women," said the Magistrate. "The
hardest-worked women in the world, but they never forget to
In the living room, puffing his English pipe, he was thought-
ful. We had asked him to give the Littlest One her Chinese
"I've got it," he said. "Mei Hua is just the name for her.
'Mei' for America and 'Hua' for China. All of your children
have this 'Hua' character in their Chinese names in accordance
with true Chinese custom, so this is entirely appropriate."
"Mei Hua. I like it very much," I said. "It's the name of a
flower, isn't it?"
"Now you are getting your Chinese characters confused,"
he said. "The two characters for Mei Hua, the flowering plum,
are different ones and are spoken in a different tone. Here,
give me that envelope, I'll write them for you. See? These are
146 The Chinese Ginger Jars
the ones for the flowering plum. She is as sweet as a flower*
Call her that, if you like/'
"Oh, I remember the La Mei Hua!" I said. "It is like no other
flower on earth. We had a bush of it in our garden in Tsining.
The colder the winds blow, the more profusely it blooms and
the more fragrant it becomes/'
"That's something else again," said the Magistrate. "But
do you know that some famous gardeners tie ice along the
boughs of the La Mei in order to improve its flowers?"
"If our daughter could be like the La Mei!" I said. "Fragrant
in the midst of adversity . . ."
"Before my Woman-from-the-inside-of-the-house' becomes
even more confused, let's get back to the original idea," said my
husband. "I agree with you. 'America and China' is just the
name for her."
'We shall call her Mei Hua, certainly," I said. "You two
can think of her as 'America and China' if you like, but I shall
think of her as the La Mei."
America and China! The boys used to say there was only
one thing wrong with our kind of life when you were in
America, you wished you were in China, and when you were
in China, you wished you were in America. America certainly
looked wonderful to us this time. I never turned on a hot-water
faucet without being thankful for that continuing warm stream
flowing from it. The children would fill a glass with cold water,
drink what they wanted from it and put the remainder on the
shelf above the sink to be drunk later. And coffee! To be able
to have coffee again! We drank nine cups a day the first month
we were home.
We were appalled by the amount of food people wasted
whole slices of bread, leftover meat, fruit with a small spot
on it, all dumped into the garbage can. I remembered every day
what a peach had meant to me, or that handful of peanuts.
The Mei Hua
When we were in camp, we used to joke about eating in a
restaurant when we got out: we feared we would forget our-
selves and say to some well-dressed man at the next table,
"Pardon me, sir, but are you going to eat that piece of steak
youVe left on your plate? If not, Id be glad to eat it for you/'
The day the war ended we had invited friends for a picnic
supper at a nearby park. The food was spread out on the table
and we were just ready to eat it when every whistle and bell
and automobile horn in the city suddenly went wild.
'The war must be over!" we said to one another. First-Born
ran home to get the news over the radio and hurried back to
tell us it was true.
"Isn't it glorious? Isn't it wonderful? Now those back in
camp will be free! I almost wish I were there today, don't you
darling?" I asked.
Fred was looking up across the treetops, a sandwich halfway
to his mouth. "I must write the Board tonight," he said.
He went back to China alone. No passports were being
issued to women and children nor was there any passage avail-
able for us. Fred went out on a troop ship. He wrote long, daily
letters of his trip to our old mission stations through north and
north central China, trying to find a location for his future
medical work. He enjoyed the survey, traveling by train, by
river boat, by cycle, walking miles and miles over the Shan-
tung roads, sleeping at night with the farmers who gave him
their best accommodations the barn with the animals be-
cause the heat from their bodies made it the warmest room in
the house. He had a wonderful reunion with the friends in
Tsining and was almost caught by Communist troops when he
all but presented the wrong pass. It had been a temptation to
remain in Tsining, but the Communists were so active there
that he feared that no work would remain open long. The
hospital was being run by one of the nurses, so he left it at that
The Chinese Ginger Jars
and went on down to Anhwei province.
He finally chose Huai Yuan, a village at the fork of two
rivers. Our mission hospital there had been doing excellent
work before the war. Now there was nothing left but the shell
of a building. Floors, window frames and doors had been torn
out, and every movable piece of furniture had been removed.
Soldiers who had been left behind because they were ill were
lying on the dirt floors,
Fred's first task was to get these patients moved to a better
location and then to clean up one small building so that he
could open an outpatient department. He found a man in the
village who had once been a nurse in the hospital, and another
who had been a laboratory technician. A former hospital coolie
was added to the staff, and the work began. So great had been
the former reputation of the hospital that as soon as the doors
were opened, Fred was deluged with patients.
Then, almost at once, a cholera epidemic confronted the
meager staff. A village doctor offered his services and the tiny
crew worked day and night. There were no beds at all, and
the cholera sufferers were stretched out on the floor of the
clinic building so that it was hard to avoid stepping on them.
The treatment was normal saline solution intravenously, and
the small still was kept going constantly to prepare it; one of
the valuable men had to run it day and night. When they
could go on no longer, Fred and the village doctor took turns
lying down for a few hours at a time. Of the more than two
hundred patients they treated in their small clinic, not one was
lost from cholera, though two died later from kidney complica-
No sooner had the cholera epidemic subsided, and fortu-
nately it was a mild one, than the two rivers flooded. The
hospital, located on a rise of ground, became the scene of all
the activity of the village; families moved up by the hundreds,
The Mei Hua
as did the merchants with their wares. Even the post office set
up shop on the compound. As the waters receded and life be-
gan to fall back into a normal pattern, a plague of locusts de-
scended upon them.
"I had seen enough movies to know what that cloud of
locusts descending upon the land and destroying the crops
would mean," Fred wrote, "but I was not prepared for the
personal annoyance of having them up my pants-legs. Shake
them off and they come back with their sisters and their cousins
and their aunts. How they get into the room, I don't know,
but they are into everything."
The locusts were a small variety, and after they had eaten
their fill of green stuffs, they were unable to rise from the
ground. They died by the thousands, and the ensuing stench
was hard to endure.
Fred had many difficulties and we missed each other un-
bearably. It is better not to recall my year in America without
him; each day was a heavy link in an endless chain that grew
heavier and heavier as I dragged the weight of it around.
But one evening when a Fuller brush salesman was sitting
in the living room ready to show us his wares, the telegram
arrived granting us a passport and announcing a sailing for us
all, including Beloved Grandmother! At once there was a
cyclone of joy in that room. We screamed, we danced, we
hugged each other. First-Born finally made himself heard.
"Let's get it down to a quiet roar," he said with his character-
istic chuckle, which is really a vocal smile. (First-Born is the
only quiet Scovel.) It was then that we discovered the Fuller
brush man standing in the middle of the floor with a dazed
expression on his face.
Beloved Grandmother had not been at all well. Her right
arm was showing the effects of Parkinson's disease. But with
her usual high courage she insisted that we must all be to-
150 The Chinese Ginger Jars
gether in order for Fred to do his work efficiently and happily.
"Then he will not have the anxiety of separation," she said,
"nor will he need to waste energy worrying about us."
She even managed to persuade her doctor that it was the
right thing for her to do. So her passage was booked with ours,
much to the delight of the children.
That trip has still a nightmare quality for me; the one
compensation is that no other journey since has seemed diffi-
cult. During the final packing, and en route across country by
train, the three boys had bouts of virus pneumonia; they were
still weak when we reached San Francisco. The day before
the ship was supposed to sail, Fourth Child was rushed to the
hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Fortunately the
ship was delayed and Fourth Child was carried aboard on a
stretcher. I could not have managed alone; but John Rosen-
grant of our Board was on hand to put us all on the Marine
Lynx that December day in 1946.
We passengers soon rechristened the ship the Marine Stinks,
which was probably quite unfair of us. It was a troop transport
that had been hastily converted for use in sending out mission-
aries. We slept in the hold of the ship, some two hundred of
us in canvas bunks hung three deep and kept telling one
another how lucky we were to have any transport at all so soon
after the close of the war.
On Christmas Day I was stricken with lobar pneumonia. I
dimly remember crawling out of my bunk early that morning,
before the children were awake, to arrange the creche on top
of a suitcase with the gifts beside it. It was an endless task;
nothing would stay in place because the ship was rolling and
pitching and so was I. At last the task was finished and I col-
lapsed on my canvas bunk. For me the rest of the day was,
Many, many times during our life across the world we
The Mel Una 151
have had occasion to be grateful for friends. This was one of
them. Dorothy Wagner, the beautiful new recruit for our sta-
tion, Huai Yuan, took complete care of the two little girls.
Stella Walter, who was to join Deane in Shanghai en route
for Shantung, was also on board. She looked after the older
children. A young bride who was a nurse gave Beloved Grand-
mother constant care.
One always awakens from a nightmare, and this was a happy
awakening. As we approached the harbor, the ship's doctor
wired for Fred to come out with the pilot boat to help me to
"Trust you to do something different to get to see your hus-
band an hour ahead of time," he said as he extricated himself
from the children and made his way through the pile of suit-
cases to where I was lying.
We left the two older boys in Shanghai to attend the Shang-
hai American School, and the rest of us were soon on our way
to our new station in Huai Yuan.
For the past year Fred had been living in one room. "I
couldn't bear the big empty house without you/' he had writ-
ten. But now we had arrived and the children were surprised
to see their father lift me over the doorsill like a new bride.
He set me down in what would soon be the reception room
but which was now the room in which he had been living. I
was shocked when I saw it and I had expected the worst,
knowing what he could do to a house in a week's time if I were
away. I looked around at the camp cot, the desk, the chairs
every surface covered with a conglomeration of tins of food,
books, medicines, papers, a clock to be fixed, a couple of stones
picked up on the mountain, a clean shirt half unfolded. . . .
"Now I am disappointed/' he said when he saw the look
on my face. "I worked so hard to clean it all up for you/'
It was fun to be making a home for him again. The house
The Chinese Ginger Jars
was huge. It had been built by the father of one of the former
missionaries as a gift to him and his bride. Nothing had been
spared to make the house beautiful and useful. Many were
the tales told of the dinners and parties held in that house "in
the good old days''; for the people of the community loved
Duboise Morris and his wife and enjoyed recalling the days
of their sojourn among them. The house was surrounded by
a garden and we never tired of hearing of the exquisite roses, of
the chrysanthemum shows held here to which the gentry
from miles around would come to enter their choicest blooms.
The garden had been allowed to run wild during the war
years; when we moved great yucca plants, we would find be-
neath them such rare shrubs as the delicate tree peony. The
smaller "Poet's Garden" was across the little bridge in a quiet
spot. A stream of water flowed lazily through it and one could
picture the poets of those bygone days writing their verses in
the little covered "t'ingtze" or summer house with its lacquered
pillars and pointed roof.
It embarrassed me to live in such a "mansion" when there
was so much poverty around us, I would seek an opportunity
during conversations with our new friends to apologize for it,
saying that ours was the largest family and that none of the
other missionaries needed such a large place; that we didn't
really need such a large place either, but that the house had
been assigned to us, and so forth. One day a Chinese doctor
from the hospital was sitting in Fred's study looking up some-
thing or other in a medical journal; he heard me telling all
this to a guest who had dropped in. When the visitor left,
Dr. Li said, "Why are you always apologizing for this house?
Do you feel that you cannot be a good missionary because of
it? The house doesn't matter at all. It is what you are, not what
you have, that counts with us Chinese. The man who lived
here before you did a great deal for this community. For one
The Mei Hua 153
thing, he used to persuade the gentry to show their best paint-
ings in exhibitions for the poorest school children with the
result that you will find an appreciation of art and calligraphy
in this little village that you do not find in many of the cities.
I'm from the city myself and I know/'
"I've noticed that too," I said.
"But it was what Dr. Morris was that attracted men to him
and made them willing to take out those valuable paintings
and show them. He talked to them about Christ, but more
than that, he showed them what it meant to live a Christlike
life, to care whether or not those poor children saw the beauti-
ful in life. You mustn't be concerned because of the house.
We don't hold it against you. People feel free to come here;
weren't there fifty of us singing on the terrace Sunday night?
Why don't you relax and enjoy your home?"
Work at the hospital mushroomed. The doctors saw some
hundred and fifty patients a day in the outpatient department;
the hospital itself had been opened. It was astonishing to see
how ingeniously the staff had improvised equipment. Test-tube
racks had been carved out of wood; bedside tables had been
constructed and the tops covered with tin; thermometer trays
were of wood with handles for easy carrying; charts were
printed on the street by the local printer; a stretcher was made
of old piping. The wheels didn't work very well but it was
To equip a hospital beginning with nothing, at a time when
no equipment was available, had taxed everyone's ingenuity.
But such organizations as the British Red Cross and UNRRA
(through the China organization, CNRRA) came to the res-
cue. The British Red Cross gave beds the first requisite. Later
our Board bought a shipload of army surplus and that helped
all our hospitals as they reopened. However, one does not
pick and choose gifts, and there were great gaps in what was
154 The Chinese Ginger Jars
needed to carry on the work. At one time Fred had written, "I
have two hundred beautiful red corduroy bathrobes and not
one aspirin tablet/* Narcotics were almost impossible to get
and presented a real problem in postoperative care. Alcohol
was distilled from local wine and the ward smelled more like a
tavern than a hospital.
Added to the routine hospital work were a biweekly clinic
for the many sufferers from kala azar; a school of nursing and
a school of midwifery, both schools meeting government re-
quirements and all of this accomplished in less than two
In spite of his busy schedule Fred managed to spend a little
time each day with his family. This he was determined to do,
having been alone for thirteen months. In the midst of a teem-
ing clinic he would let the patient out of his consulting room,
and before calling in the next, he would climb through a win-
dow and come home through the back garden. After a fifteen-
minute lunch during which I read a little from some book that
would interest the whole family (a ruse to keep him a few
minutes longer), he would climb back through the window,
open the door and admit the next patient.
"Those farmers would get discouraged if the nurse told them
Fd gone to lunch/* he would say. "That would mean a couple
of hours to a Chinese. Most of these folks have come miles
to get here and they have to wait too long to see us as it is/*
Sometimes in the late afternoon the whole family would
climb the hill behind the compound, walking out past the
deep well a quarter of a mile from the house where the ascent
began. We would meet the hospital water carriers with their
dripping kerosene tins, now converted into water buckets,
slung from a pole on their shoulders. They would be singing
in spite of the fact that they were tired, having had to carry
all die water that was used in the hospital.
The Mei Una 155
One evening just at sunset we started out on a picnic. It
was a lovely evening; the quaint old village with its stone
houses was painted a soft rose by the setting sun. Two little
Chinese waifs ahead of us were leaning against the carved
stone pillars of a memorial arch, their baskets of fuel grass
lying at their feet. Bright blue jackets and the red trousers
of the smallest one gave just the right touch of color.
"What a picture!" I said as we approached. The youngest
child called out a greeting. The older one tried to but couldn't
speak. She was in the act of blowing a great wad of bubble
gum into its bubble! It broke against her dirt-stained face as
"And what wouldn't Life magazine give for that picture!"
said Fred as he helped the Brown-Eyed One over a bump in
Beloved Grandmother was now confined to her bed except
for a short time each day when Fred and the gardener lifted
her into a chair by the window. Again she had a small house
of her own near us. It was difficult for her to hold a book in her
hand, but her son read to her and Dot Wagner wrote letters
for her and the Golden-Haired One sang her favorite hymns by
the hour. So fertile was her mind and so well stored that she
told me once that she had never exhausted the possibilities
of what she could recall of the poetry and the literature she
had memorized. Each day, too, she would choose one of her
old friends and in her mind go down the street to that friend's
house and try to remember everything she had done with that
friend and the places they'd been together. I am sure that part
of each day was lived in the memory of the husband who
Two women servants looked after her as if she had been
their own mother, and the hospital staff enjoyed dropping in
156 The Chinese Ginger Jars
to see her. In her quiet little house at the end of the garden,
the hospital pastor would often be found consulting her about
"Are you giving enough time to your sermon preparation?"
she asked him one afternoon.
"But, Venerable Lady, God has promised to put the words
into our mouths/*
"Into your mouth, yes, but not into your head/' was her
'Til remember that/' he said, laughing. "I must thank you
again for your generous gift to the new hospital chapel. The
little organ was all that we needed to make it complete. Some
day we must arrange to wheel you over so that you may see it."
"Describe it to me," she said to him. She could see the chapel
in her mind's eye but she never tired of hearing about it. "My
daughter tells me that it was just a storeroom before you made
it into a chapel/'
"Originally it was a guest reception hall, a room for small tea
parties, art exhibitions, and so forth. The hall had been built
in perfect Chinese architecture with lacquered pillars support-
ing a curved roof of tiles. When we moved the packing boxes
from one end of the room, we found a round window with the
crosspieces carved in a bamboo design forming the lattice.
A touch of gold on the leaves here and there accentuated the
cross and gave us our worship center. The carpenter became
so interested that he carved an altar table to match; the
student nurses brought brass candlesticks. Each of us has had
a part in it/'
"You have done very well The hospital should be proud
to have such a pastor/' said Beloved Grandmother.
"Actually I have done very little. There was one thing I
wanted and the carving is even now being done. On the back
of the pulpit, facing the preacher, are to be the words from
The Mei Hua 157
the twelfth chapter of John, 'Sir, we would see Jesus/ You
see, Venerable Lady, I am even now heeding your advice/'
In the spring of 1947 the two hoys came home from the
Shanghai American School and saw their new home for the
first time. They brought with them two of their classmates
whose homes were too far-distant for them to return for the
short vacation. The Golden-Haired One, now in her early
teens, was ecstatic.
"At last there will be some excitement around here/ 7 she
But she was disappointed. The boys, with the lethargy of
adolescence, spent the entire vacation moving from one horizon-
tal surface to the other out of bed, to the dining table, to the
living-room floor, sprawled out with books, back to the table,
back to the floor with the record player beside them.
"Mother, they are horrid!" she said. "I had planned so many
hikes up East Mountain, picnics to the Milk White Spring,
games on the lawn, and they won't move!"
We hadn't been back to Tsining to visit our friends. Beloved
Grandmother had spoken often of her furniture and her fa-
miliar belongings which had been left behind. Travel was
dangerous but we decided to risk it and see what we could
do about bringing our things to Huai Yuan. My diary records
May 9, 1947. Taught school in the morning. Dot came over to
look after the family while we are gone. Started for Hsiichow
at noon. A perfect day. Stayed with the Hopkinses at night
May i o. Drove to Chin Hsiang riding on top of a truckload
of matches covered with a very slippery straw matting. Held
on for dear life. We'd been warned that if we fell off, the
truck would not stop. Too dangerous going through Com-
The Chinese Ginger Jars
munist territory. Road perfectly awful and had to watch
boughs of trees above us. Truck broke down; had to change
radiators en route. At Chin Hsiang, ran into Rung Yu Chen
[one of the nurses from Tsining] who brought us to the
offices of an official where we slept. Met Elder Han and
some of the Christians. They are so discouraged.
May 1 1 . Waited for trucks to come through from Tsining to be
sure road was safe. Two trucks had been taken and six people
killed the day before. Tore through another patch of Com-
munist territory and got to Tsining and the Baptist mission
a little after noon. Mary and Frank were thrilled to see us
as we were to see them. [There were no missionaries at
our compound then and we had planned to surprise our
May 12. What emotions flooded over us as we went into our
old home lived in by Communists, Japanese, and Central
Government troops, yet in good condition. Chang Ta Sao
came in to help us. How I hugged her! She looks a lot older.
She has a grandson and is as proud of him as she can be.
Chen Wu died of tuberculosis. Hu Shih Fu has gone, too.
Gateman and family back in country.
May 13. Opened secret room and found all in good condition.
Hole under porch broken into silver and stamps gone!
But nobody touched things like the horrible Peking incense
burner in the attic! Started packing. Out for all meals with
friends. Oh, it is good to see them! Church has raised funds
to repair and redecorate.
May 14. Tea party in afternoon given by street Elders. Packed
the trunk so full we couldn't get in one toothpick more, but
never mind, we're off tomorrow.
May 15. Started out from Tsining at seven A.M. driven by
dear Brother Sophronius from the Catholic mission (who
offered to do it). Schools lined up, even at that early hour, to
The Mei Hua
wave good-by. Drove to Hsuchow and then on to Sui Ning
where we stayed all night at the Catholic mission with Fa-
ther Brice, a young American from San Francisco. He
opened all his stores and feasted us royally. Learned the
next morning that I was the only woman who had ever
stayed at the monastery. He could hardly have turned me
out at midnight.
May 1 6. Rode all A.M. through wheat fields looking for a bridge
to cross. Had a narrow escape as bridge cracked. Another
time, truck almost turned over. Arrived at Ku Chen, couldn't
go by truck to Pengpu. Freight train coming. Got coolies
and threw everything on, including piano. Stayed at chapel
in kindergarten for die night.
May 17. Oh what a thrill to get home! Dot met us at the door
with "Mr. and Mrs. Livingstone, I presume." Fred had a
three-day growth of beard. Children were wonderful. Grand-
mother had had a bad spell but is better.
We had a year of peace in our lovely home in Huai Yuan,
then . . .
"Must I always be planting heavenly blue morning-glories
and having to leave them before they bloom?" I asked as I
handed the letter back to Fred. He had stopped in the garden
with the mail on his way to lunch. I dusted off my knees
and went into the house with him.
'We won't have to face moving again for a while yet. I'm
getting to hate it as much as you do/' he said. "The letter only
asks us to consider the need for a doctor to teach in Ling Nan
Medical College in Canton. As I see it, I can't possibly leave
this place now. There's still too much to be done. We couldn't
move Mother anyway. Let's forget it. I'll write them a note this
I knew he would not forget it. When the mission asked him
160 The Chinese Ginger Jars
to do a thing, he usually did it. I knew, too, that the mission
would not have asked him to consider it without having
weighed the relative needs in both places. Teaching was the
work he loved. He taught all the time he was in the hospital,
nurses, doctors, technicians. Our friend the Magistrate had
been urging him to go into medical education for years.
"Don't stay on in a small mission hospital/* he would say.
"When you die, the work will die with you. Get out and do
something big for China; teach and train men to carry on after
youVe gone. Remember our proverb: If I can help one hun-
dred men, why should I help ten? If I can help a thousand,
why should I help a hundred?' "
We had to consider also the rumors that the Communists
had an army five miles away and could come in and take the
strategic village at the fork of the rivers at any moment.
Wouldn't it be better to get Beloved Grandmother out now
while it was still possible? Was it possible to move her at all?
No, it certainly was not. An elderly woman, partially paralyzed,
how could we think of moving her all those hundreds of miles,
on and off trains, across crowded station platforms, through
cities and into crowded coastal steamers? It was out of the
question. Come what may, we would have to remain where
But I must not close the door in God's face, I thought. I
picked up the prayer notebook from the table beside me and
wrote out a list of all the reasons why we could not possibly
go to South China. At the top of the list I wrote, "Moving
Beloved Grandmother," and I added, "the new and difficult
language . . . the necessity of finding another doctor to take
over Fred's present work . . . uprooting the children again. . . ."
It was a formidable list, even for God.
I had not written "another packing up," though I had been
tempted to. Little things like that I should be able to take care
of myself. It had been so much fun unpacking the things
we had brought from America to make this house a home.
When I had had the trunks removed to the attic, I had hoped
they would remain there for a long time. I looked up at the
oil painting I had carried all the way by hand. Would I have
to start all over again? The dishes, the glassware . . .
"What are you laughing about, Mother?" asked the Brown-
Eyed One, coming into the room.
"I was thinking of the time when we unpacked the glass-
ware. Do you remember?"
We had just unpacked the navy-surplus drinking glasses,
which were unbreakable. The boys had been tossing them back
and forth, dropping one on the rug occasionally to prove their
indestructibility. Our new servant came into the room.
<r Wong Ta Ke, did you ever see glass that would not break?
Look," I said to him as I threw the tumbler on the floor. It
crashed into a thousand pieces. Wong Ta Ke looked at the
doctor with a shaU-we-put-her-in-a-straight-jacket expression
on his face. No amount of explaining ever convinced him that
I had not been temporarily deranged that winter morning
throwing glasses on the floor and saying they wouldn't break!
There was no doubt but that the war was moving closer to us.
After a terrible battle to the north, the wounded were being
sent into our quiet little village by the hundreds. The mission
primary school was temporarily converted into a field hospital.
The army doctors worked day and night. Most of the operat-
ing was done by our doctors at our hospital. Second-Born and
I went over to the school that first morning to see what we
could do to help. The patients were lying on the floor in an
unbelievable condition; their dressings had not been changed
i 62 The Chinese Ginger Jars
since they had received first-aid treatment on the battlefield;
their faces were still caked with mud and, worst of all, they
had had nothing to drink. Second-Bom and I went from sol-
dier to soldier passing out cups of hot water. (Cold water is be-
lieved to be harmful to anyone. No one in Shantung would
think of ever drinking anything cold.) The men who had
tetanus couldn't open their mouths and they looked at us in
anguish. We took wet cotton and squeezed water between
their clenched teeth. Then we set to work to wash faces and
hands. The flies swarmed over their wounds, crawling over
the eyes of the men, who were too weak to brush them off. Sec-
ond-Born went back to the house for a DDT spray and to get
some of the other women on the compound to help. (They
had not heard of the wounded in our midst and came at
once.) So diligent was Second-Born in his spraying that after
three days it was almost impossible to find a fly. The whole
missionary community helped daily until the soldiers were
moved to a base hospital in a larger city.
One morning not long after this I was suddenly called from
the schoolroom to see two policemen who were waiting in the
"We have come to tell you to leave the village before noon
today," said one of them.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because we have word that the Communists will be in the
village by noon. You should leave at once."
"Thank you for coming to tell us," I said, '"but I am afraid
the Communists will have to take us along with the village.
The doctor has gone to the hospital at Showchow for an
emergency. He cannot return for two or three days at least. His
venerable mother lies paralyzed upon her bed. So, gentlemen,
you see we cannot leave."
"Oh. We are very sorry," the policeman replied, "but . . *
The Mei Hua 163
well, perhaps the need to leave may not be urgent. Who
I went back to the schoolroom wondering what would hap-
pen to us before night. Nothing did. Nor did the Communists
enter the village. Some time later we heard it might possibly
be that the chief of police had been wanting our house for his
headquarters and that he had been using this method to have
it evacuated, but this story was never verified.
The village remained peaceful, and June of 1948 found us
in Shanghai attending First-Born's graduation from high
school. We came back together to Huai Yuan until it was time
for him to leave for America for college. I had known all his
life that this would come, but I was not prepared for the tearing
of my heart as the river launch took him away. We did not
know, though we might have guessed, that our days in that
lovely village were numbered.
"But Teacher-Mother/' the hospital pastor said, "the doctor
cannot leave us. You must not let him. This hospital is like a
baby less than two years old. It cannot walk alone. A mother
does not leave her baby with others until it is able to walk."
"Pastor Chang/' I said, "the doctor loves this hospital as
much as if it were his own child, but it is not his child; it is
God's child. Doctor Scovel is only the amah, and God is able
to find another amah for it. He will not leave unless another
doctor comes. And surely we cannot move Beloved Grand-
mother, so do not worry."
In the end it was Beloved Grandmother who settled every-
thing. She called Fred to her one afternoon and said, 'What's
this I hear about your being asked to go to South China to
"Oh, it's just an idea the mission had," he told her. "Don't
worry your head about it. I can't possibly go; too much to do
The Chinese Ginger Jars
here and no one to take over if I did want to leave. Did you
think we would go off and leave you here alone?"
"I don't see why you couldn't take me with you/' she said.
"Do you think because I am almost eighty years old I have no
interest in seeing new places? Besides, you have always wanted
to teach; you are a teacher to your finger tips from a long
line of teachers. It seems to me that the mission is entirely
right in sending you to a medical college.
"But, Mother, the mechanics of such a move alone would "
"If it is right for you to go, God is perf ectly capable of taking
care of the mechanics of it," she said.
Beloved Grandmother learned that the Lutheran mission
had a plane which had been flying in behind the lines of battle
to rescue missionary personnel, and she made it financially
possible for us to use this means of travel.
We were to meet the "St. Paul" at Pengpu, the nearest land-
ing field eight miles down the Huai River. (The Lutherans
had two planes, the "St. Peter" and the "St. Paul." The pilot
used to say he was always robbing Peter to pay Paul until at last
the "St. Peter" was grounded!)
Just at this time, too, Dr. Marshall Welles from one of our
mission hospitals in a port city offered to come into the interior
to take over the Huai Yuan hospital. This was a brave move on
his part because it meant leaving his family.
Sitting in church that last Sunday morning, I went down
the list of insurmountables in my prayer book; the new doctor,
moving Beloved Grandmother, the difficult language. . . .
Well, we would just have to learn the language. I looked
up at the carving above me, the tiny gold-leaf petals of the
La Mei Hua, the flower that flourishes in adversity. What a
symbol for the Chinese church! And a good symbol for me
to take as my own. But there were times when I would so
much rather have put down roots and become a carrot.
The Mei Una 165
The coolies had come before daylight to carry out the baggage.
I had gone through every room in the house for the last time.
We closed and locked the doors, walked through the garden,
past the morning-glory plants, to Beloved Grandmother's
cottage. She had already been moved to the smaller bed upon
which she was to be carried. As we reached the big gate at
the entrance to the hospital, the sun was just beginning to
spread its gold upon the river below us. The moment we
stepped out into the big thoroughfare, a loving crowd sur-
rounded us. A huge pole of firecrackers was raised and the
first one in the string set off. The ever-enlarging procession
moved toward the river bank where the launch was waiting.
Such a spluttering of firecrackers! Such farewells from every
doorway! The firecrackers never stopped until the whole family
was safely on board the launch.
As it drifted slowly from the shore, and the faces of our
friends became smaller and smaller, I thought of Paul leaving
the people of Tyre as they had come to the river bank to see
Our friends upon the shore were singing, "God Be With
You Till We Meet Again." We floated farther and farther away
from the singing until the last thread of song spun itself out.
We will never meet again, I thought, never this side of eter-
nity. O God, be with them; be with them.
The "St. Paul" dropped down upon the airstrip at Canton and
taxied to a stop. We had been all day in that bucket-seat plane,
part of the time flying over mountains at eleven thousand feet.
Beloved Grandmother and the children had been as blue as a
Chinese rug from lack of oxygen. Now the doors were thrown
open and the sweet, fresh air rushed in. The sun was setting
and beautiful White Cloud Mountain had its head in a heaven
of rose. Paul Snyder, a new Adopted Uncle, drove up with
the hospital chauffeur in a shining ambulance, and Beloved
Grandmother was taken at once to the well-equipped, modern
Hackett Medical Center where Fred was to work.
As Beloved Grandmother was wheeled down the green
parquet corridors and into her sunny room, Fred and I looked
at each other, marveling at what we saw.
"Am I walking in my sleep?" he asked. "This place is like
a dream come true. A few hours ago we were seeing the small
beginnings of medical missionary work, and this afternoon the
efforts have become reality."
It was thrilling to see the Chinese chiefs of staff in their
long white coats, followed by the inevitable brood of residents,
interns, and medical students. Except for the faces above the
coats, this might be any hospital in America. Nurses rustled
starchily as they carried out their ministrations. One of them
Chinese Ginger Jars
was explaining the earphones at the head of Beloved Grand-
"It's almost time for evening devotions/' she was saying.
'We broadcast them over a public address system morning
and evening. We like the idea of earphones instead of a loud-
speaker; then people are free to listen or not as they choose.
Here is your bell. If there is anything I can do for you, push
"You'll only be here for a few days," I told Beloved Grand-
mother. "As soon as we are settled, well be taking you home."
She was never to leave that bed. Her Parkinson's disease, with
complications, was advancing more rapidly than we had
We were soon settled in a double house in one corner of
the hospital compound. Dr. Cheung and his lovely family of
teen-agers lived in the other half of the house. I was a long
time getting to feel that that house was home. I felt as if I were
in a new country. The language was so very different, the
scenes were different, though at least they looked like the
geography book. Gradually we made friends and entertained
and did enough living in the house to have it begin to envelop
us with warmth.
Of all the rooms in the little house, I liked the schoolroom
best. Here I could look out over the fields to the distant horizon.
In the foreground was the canal that ran past the back wall of
the compound; here women were at work, washing their vege-
tables or their clothing or their babies. A flame-of-the-forest
tree made a beautiful silhouette against the bright blue sky.
It was difficult to keep my mind on the teaching before me.
Calvert was fun to teach. One never knew what was coming
next. It might be "the tremendous and appalling boom" when
the world broke off from the sun, or it might be an answer
The Bamboo 169
to a routine question such as Fourth Child gave me one morn-
"If a man found buried in the ground a coin which was
dated one hundred B.C., would the coin be authentic or not?"
I asked him.
Quick as a squirrel he replied, "Of course not."
"How did you figure that out so quickly?" I asked.
"Simple," he replied. "B.C. Bad coin."
Into the schoolroom one morning was wafted the syncopated
"thoom ta-ta-tum" of distant drums. Three pencils were
dropped, three chairs were pushed back and three pairs of eyes
looked questioningly at me. It was no use going on; if the
dragon boats were coming, the children would have to run
out on the porch to see them. I wouldn't miss that sight myself.
The slim, graceful shell, ninety feet long and one man wide,
was just coming into sight. The rowers cut the water with the
precision of Radio City Rockettes. The "dragon" in the center
writhed and tossed his head to the beat of the drums beside
"Is it a really, truly dragon, Mother?" asked the Littlest One.
"No, it's just a man with a big dragon's head made of cloth.
He is shaking it around with his arms. See, there are his legs in
his blue pants."
In a matter of seconds the boat whisked out of sight. But
another would be coming in a moment; the rowers were prac-
ticing for the races on the great day of the Festival of the River
"Let's get on with today's lesson," I said. "If we keep our
minds on it, we can finish by one o'clock. Perhaps we can
persuade Daddy to take one of the little picnic boats and go
down the river to watch the practice while we eat our lunch."
Teaching the children, three of them in three different
1 70 The Chinese Ginger Jars
grades, now took all morning, but here I was not needed in the
hospital. The nursing department was well organized under
the leadership of Rena Westra and Martha Wylie; Dorothy
Snyder, Paul's wife, taught English and had Bible classes for
the student nurses. So I spent my free time helping in the
School for the Blind.
It occurred to Alice Schaefer, the principal, that a little
knowledge of the hospital beforehand might soften the blow
later if any of the blind were to become patients; so we invited
the blind from the school, according to age groups, to spend an
afternoon at the hospital and in our home.
It was always fun to entertain them; everything seemed to
give them pleasure. The older women liked the rocking chair
best. Each one of them would take a turn having a good, long
rock. The older boys liked the refrigerator. What a joy it
was to have that refrigerator! After the hot summers in Tsining
and in Huai Yuan, with no refrigeration, where we had to
drink tepid water and throw out any leftover food each day,
Beloved Grandmother had insisted that we have a refrigerator
if we were going down to the heat of South China. Actually,
South China was much cooler, being near the ocean, than
either Tsining or Huai Yuan, but the refrigerator still saved
us money on our food bills. Beloved Grandmother little
guessed, when she gave us that refrigerator, that it would be
used as a toy for blind children. The boys liked opening the
door and feeling the rush of cold air on their faces. Each one
would be given an ice cube to hold and they would have such
fun with the slippery, cold, square things in their hands.
Today the youngest children were to be "shown'* the hos-
pital. The cook and I were setting the table for tea.
'The table will be crowded with fourteen children sitting
here," said Ah Yang with a twitch of her long black braid.
"And all of them blind/* she sighed. "They will surely break
The Bamboo 171
things. Why do you use these beautiful thin cups, your very
best ones? They can't see them anyway/'
"But they can feel them," I said, "and these cups will feel
different from the ones they use every day. They will be care-
ful, I know."
We took the children to the hospital first. We gave them
rides on the elevators, whizzed them down corridors in wheel
chairs and on stretchers, gave each one a turn at lying on the
X-ray table to reach up and touch the cone which would take
a picture of their insides and show us what was wrong if they
were ill. The children's ward was the most fun of all. Here
the chairs and tables were just the right size, and here was
the huge doll house with its tiny furniture. We decided that
they must have one of their own.
Then the children took hands and in pairs they walked
back to our house for tea and cakes. And Ah Yang was con-
vinced at last that not a thing on the table was unsafe in those
deft, sure little hands.
By late November of that same year, 1948, we were watching
at the bedside of Beloved Grandmother daily. She would look
up at us and say, "Oh, children, why can't I die?"
On December second, her prayers were answered and she
left her tired body lying there on the hospital bed. We were
thankful that she could go; we had even been praying that
she might be taken from her suffering, but we were in no way
prepared for the sudden emptiness of the world without her.
In that first hour we learned the meaning of the word bereft.
The next morning, after making plans for the service to be
held in the hospital chapel, Fred went out with one of the
men to make final arrangements for the interment. I picked up
Beloved Grandmother's Bible. There on the flyleaf was a
quotation from a poem by Whittier. I had often read from this
172 The Chinese Ginger Jars
Bible to Beloved Grandmother, but I had never seen the poem
before. When had she copied it in? It had been over a year
since she had been strong enough to hold a pen in her hand.
It was her message to us for this very day.
'Tet love will dream, and Faith will trust,
(Since He who knows our need is just,)
That somehow, somewhere, meet we must.
Alas for him who never sees
The stars shine through his cypress trees!
Who, hopeless, lays his dead away,
Nor looks to see the breaking day
Across the mournful marhles play!
Who hath not learned, in hours of faith,
The truth to flesh and sense unknown,
That life is ever lord of death,
And love can never lose its own!"
The Littlest One was sure that Beloved Grandmother had
gone straight to heaven that very day, taking her body with
her. The child had stayed with friends during the simple cere-
mony in the chapel That evening after the body of Beloved
Grandmother had been laid to rest in the beautiful English
cemetery by the river, the Brown-Eyed One, the Littlest One,
and I were taking a stroll out past the hospital buildings.
"Oh," said the Littlest One, stopping in the middle of the
walk, "Beloved Grandmother forgot her clothes!"
"She won't need her old clothes in heaven/' I said. "God
will have lovely new ones waiting for her/'
'What will they be like, I wonder?" said the Brown-Eyed
One. "Nicer than our clothes; like that light, Mother, don't
you think so?" And she pointed to the laboratory on the top
floor where all the fluorescent lights were lit, spreading a radi-
ant glow across the treetops.
The Bamboo 173
The Communist army was moving South and the Nationalists
were preparing to defend Shanghai. A telegram from the
children's school announced that Second-Born and the Golden-
Haired One were being evacuated on gunboats. Their destina-
tion was not made known, but America, Japan, Okinawa, or
Hong Kong were the rumored possibilities. We prayed that it
might be Hong Kong so that they could come home to us.
For several days we heard nothing further and then the looked-
for telegram came with the thrilling message: "ARRIVED HONG
KONG, COMING HOME/'
It was a wonderful reunion. Second-Born had completed
his high-school work. The Golden-Haired One was desolate
at having to leave her singing teacher, but somewhat cheered
that she would be going to school in nearby Hong Kong. No,
they didn't know anything about the fighting except what
they had read in the Hong Kong papers that Shanghai had
The army is moving rapidly, I thought. It is only a question
of time now.
We were grateful for the few extra months with Second-
Born, but it seemed no time at all before we had to take him
to Hong Kong to see him off for America and college. The
plane was an eagle carrying off our son in its talons. And we
had to leave the Golden-Haired One in Hong Kong to begin
her new school year.
Back in Canton the air was taut. Every day brought news of
the approach of the Communist army. I was so tired of excite-
ment. This time my reaction to imminent danger was no longer
exhilaration and challenge; my only feeling was one of numb-
ness and my only urgency was to finish the sweater I was knit-
ting for the Golden-Haired One so that I could get it to Hong
Kong before we were cut off.
174 Tta Chinese Ginger Jars
The "liberation" itself, on October 14, 1949, turned out to
be peaceful enough one army marching in as the other army
marched out. It might have passed as any other day had not
the retreating army decided at the last moment to blow up
the Lingnan bridge on its way out. A crash like the rending
of the earth at Judgment Day threw garish colors across the
sunset sky and all was quiet again.
Soon there were Communist soldiers all over the streets,
many of them from our former province of Shantung, as I
discovered one day when some of them were billeted in the
school building next door.
"I go housie," I heard the Brown-Eyed One saying; then the
slam of the screen door and the creak of it opening again. '1
come out housie."
Why is that child talking baby talk? I wondered, and left
my letter writing to see what was going on. Straddling the
ridgepole of the building next door was a row of Communist
soldiers. Below in the garden the children were teaching them
"You mustn't listen to this little one s English; she is teach-
ing you baby talk/' I said to them in the northern dialect into
which I always lapsed in an emergency.
'Where did you learn to speak Chinese?" one of them asked.
"Oh, I'm an old Shantung countrywoman," I replied, and
went on to tell them about the place where we had formerly
lived, far to the north on the Shantung Plain.
"I know, I know!" the soldier said. "My home is in Yenchow,
twenty-six miles from Tsining. Now I remember where you
lived. You come up the main road from the railway station,
cross the little bridge, and just before you get to the Memorial
Arch, on the right-hand side of the road, is the hospital. Your
house is on the left farther down the road/'
't/' I said. "You are making me homesick/'
"You are homesick, Tai T'ai, what about me? It has been
years since I have seen my home."
Such a happy fraternizing was frowned upon, and the
soldiers never appeared upon the rooftop again.
We loved these Shantung soldiers who reminded us so much
of the friends we had left behind. It always surprised the
soldiers to find people who could speak their own dialect; and
after our struggles with Cantonese, it was a relief to us to be
able to express ourselves freely once again. In some ways we
seemed less foreign to the Shantung boys than the Cantonese
whom they could not understand. And, as in almost any coun-
try in the world, there is a lasting feud between the north and
'Tai T'ai, from what country do you come?" one of the
soldiers asked one day when we were crowded together on a
"Sir, I dare not tell you," I replied.
"Ah, yes, America. We thought so. America is a good coun-
try. We Chinese have always been friendly with America.
There are many Communists in America."
When Fred made rounds in the wards where many of these
wounded Shantung soldiers were lying, it was like walking
through a country teahouse everyone talking, telling stories,
asking questions, and the ambulatory patients preparing spe-
cial bowls of meat dumplings which they made on their little
charcoal stove. It was a favorite northern dish and one they
knew would please the doctor. They loved to talk to him about
their old homes and their families. Later, when one of die ac-
cusations against Fred was that he had neglected the Com-
munist soldiers who were his patients, I was indignant.
"How can they say such things about you?" I remonstrated,
The Chinese Ginger Jars
"I could have done more for them than I did/' he replied,
"After they were up walking around, I only went in to see
them every other day/'
"But they didn't need medical attention then/' I said. "They
were really ready for discharge; and look at all the work you
had to do with the hospital full of really sick patients/'
But all this was much later. Now he was a hero, and how
he hated it! One awful day, the Central Government planes
had flown over and the bombing that had come upon us filled
the the whole city with terror. The fearful staccato of the
anti-aircraft guns, so close to our house, was almost worse than
the deep boom of the bombs. Ah Yang, our beloved little cook,
with no thought for her own safety, first ran to see if we were
out of danger. She herded us into a hallway where double
walls would keep the flying shrapnel from hitting us, then tried
to comfort the Littlest One, who was crying against my skirt.
When it was all over, we found that a bomb had stnack just
in front of the house and another just behind us. Over a hun-
dred of the wounded were brought into the hospital, and we
were all kept busy binding up the wounds. It was heartbreak-
ing to see the people going from bed to bed hoping to find
their loved ones, their lost children, or the mothers of their
children. Tears could not be held back when one man fell to
his knees beside his heavily bandaged wife, sobbing, "You
are all I have left. The children are gone, the house is gone,
but you are here, you are here!"
A few days later Fred went over to the hospital earlier than
usual. It was Sunday and not many people would be around.
A poor coolie woman had had her leg blown off and needed
a transfusion. She had no relatives left, and since Fred was a
universal donor, it would be simple enough to give her a pint
of blood. (It always seemed "simple enough'' to give someone
a pint of blood. I used to wish, for his own good, that he was
The Bamboo *77
not a universal donor. "It doesn't mean that you have to donate
blood to the universe/' I would tell him.) This time he swore
the nurses to secrecy, had the blood removed in one room and
carried into the patient's room to be administered.
'In these days of anti-American propaganda it might upset
her if she knew she had American blood in her veins," he ex-
But the story leaked out and Fred was one of fourteen heroes
chosen to receive the special Communist award of a "golden"
fountain pen. It was with difficulty that he was persuaded to
attend the ceremony.
"I don't like this idea of singling people out," he told them.
'We are all working to help those who come to us for medical
attention; this was nothing special or different. Some of the
patients need drugs, some of them need operations, and what
they need, each one of us here tries to supply. This woman
just happened to need blood."
But the crest of the wave spilled over and there was a gradual
ebb in the popularity of the foreigner. As one friend put it,
'We were allowed to attend the Christmas pageant, yes; but
for the first time in all my years in China, not a bathrobe of
mine appeared as a Wise Man's robe!"
Ginger, the cat, was lost. It was impossible to accomplish any-
thing in the schoolroom until something was done about find-
ing him. I didn't dare to take the children with me on the
search. I had looked out of the schoolroom window a few
minutes earlier in time to see a woman in the shack across the
canal skinning an animal for the family pot. The tawny fur
falling away from it was suspiciously like Ginger's.
I gave each child a written assignment and started out on
my unpleasant errand, I hadn't gone ten steps before I met
the gardener coming in with the precious pet in his arms. A
The Chinese Ginger Jars
tragedy narrowly averted if only I could spare the children
other blows as easily!
There was the afternoon when the two litde girls ran to me
''Mother, we don't want to be killed. We don't want to be
killed," they wailed.
"What is all this silly talk?" I asked. "Nobody is going to
"Yes, Mother. That girl in the gray uniform told us to come
in and tell you to go to America, and that if you don't go, we
will all be killed," the Brown-Eyed One insisted.
Why, oh, why couldn't they pick on somebody their own
size? I wondered.
"She's just saying that to be funny," I said. "You know how
Brother likes to tell you frightening stories to scare you just
for fun? Well, that is all this amounts to. Run and get your
faces washed, and dress your dolls in their party dresses. Aunt
Rena has invited you to a doll's tea party, and she has the
material all cut out for new pajamas for them. She's going to
help you make them this afternoon."
Bless Adopted Aunt Rena who entertained them through
the long afternoons when it did not seem safe for them to play
outside in our own compound, when they might have had to
hear something that would fill them with terror, as they had
Always the question kept pounding into my mind: Had we
been right in staying on in China? As medical workers, in-
terested only in the welfare of the people, we had been so
confident that we would be able to work under the Com-
munists. We all had the interest of the common man at heart,
didn't we? We had talked about it and prayed about it. We
had written First-Born saying, "This is your decision as well
as ours. It may mean being cut off from you for years. It may
The Bamboo 179
mean that we will not even be allowed to send or receive let-
ters. If you would feel better if Mother and the children were
in America, please say so, won't you? We can trust you to
tell us the truth about how you really feel."
"I've thought about it a lot," he had replied, "and it seems
to me that I would rather know that somewhere in the world
my father and mother were living happily together than to
have you two separated. My only unhappy times as a child
were the times when you were away, Dad. And as I see life
here in America, I realize that we as a family are closer to-
gether across the miles than many here who live in the same
Second-Born, with his realistic idealism, had added, "I
don't see that you two will have a leg to stand on if you go.
Why should you leave? You still have work to do, haven't
And now the Golden-Haired One was leaving for America.
Though the separation, with all its uncertainties, cut through
to our hearts, it was a relief to have one more child out to
The three children who were left with us seemed to be
having to bear the brunt of it all. The accusations made against
Americans that they were living in imperialist mansions,
controlling all the finances, receiving higher salaries, and so
on, did not apply in our case even in one particular instance.
We were living in a duplex with a Chinese doctor (his side
only was screened). Deep-voiced, gray-haired Dr. Cheung
had been in complete charge of the hospital for the past twenty
years, carrying the burden on his stocky little frame without
a tremble from the weight of it, and what an excellent job
he did! Fred was more than delighted to be in a place where
he did not have to worry about administration; he did not even
know about many of the finances of the hospital, nor was he
i So The Chinese Ginger Jars
the highest paid doctor on the staff. The Chinese children
in the school next door must have been puzzled by the con-
trast between what they heard in class about Americans and
what they could see before their eyes. Why had the doctor
come to China then? Their teachers had an answer.
One day, when our three were playing in the yard, a group
of children from the school joined them.
"Do you see that woman sitting on the porch?" one of them
"Yes, she's our mother/' was the reply.
"No, she isn't your mother. She stole your father away from
your real mother in America and made life so unhappy for
him there that he had to leave his practice and come to China."
The good joke was shuttled around the compound, and
there were many references to me as the "concubine/' It was
all very, very funny until we realized that the Littlest One
was not eating. At first we thought she might be coming down
with measles or chicken pox, but soon her loss of security
"Mother, are you a witch? Can you turn yourself into
something that you aren't?" were some of her questions.
It was only after a long time and after many reassurances
with stories of "when you were a little baby inside me/' that
she began to feel secure again.
To all outward appearances, life went on fairly normally.
We were allowed to go and come as we chose as long as we
kept well within the city limits. For that matter, no Chinese
could leave the city without permission either. It was a bit
disconcerting at times to be called a Russian devil as we
passed. People seemed to think that any foreigner now ap-
pearing in their city streets must surely be a Russian; and that
was not far from the truth since there were few foreigners of
any other nationality in the country. But the screws were grad-
The Bamboo 18 1
ually being turned. Visitors calling at our home were com-
pelled to register in a book stating their name, age, nationality,
profession, and the purpose of their visit to us. They were
required to leave any package which they might happen to
bring with them at the gatehouse with the guard until their
return from us when they signed out, giving the time. We
feared to have our Chinese friends get their names in what
we felt sure was a black book, but it did not deter them from
Once when we were all out for a short ride in a rickshaw
we passed a group of primary school children marching to a
meeting. One of them called out, "Look, Russians!" and the
rest of the children took up the cry. Knowing how our three
might react to that, I looked back quickly to their rickshaw
to see how they were taking it. The situation was ripe for an
international incident. I needn't have worried. They were
accepting the ovation with bows to the right and to the left
like visiting royalty.
Strange, incongruous things were happening which would
have been highly amusing were it not for the rising tension.
One Sunday all of the employees in the hospital were called
upon to march in an anti-American parade. (It was in vain
that the hospital administration pleaded that such an exodus
would deplete the staff to a point where it would be impos-
sible to care for the patients, let alone take care of an emergency.
The reply came back, "What are you putting first, the lives
of a few individuals or the State?") There was some question
in Fred's mind as to the wisdom of our walking through the
streets on such a day, but the bishop was counting on me to
play the hymns for the union service, and since we would
probably be taken for Russians anyway, we decided to risk it.
The Anglican church, where the service was held, was across
the street from the Russian Trade Embassy, and as we ap-
1 82 The Chinese Ginger Jars
preached we saw that part of the street was fenced off so that
no common person could interfere with the arrival of important
guests at a cocktail party now in progress. The guests were
arriving, one to a car, an American car. It would not do to
crowd two or three in one car together. So, as our Chinese co-
workers from the hospital were marching in an anti-American
parade, and as we were trying to listen to a sermon by an
English bishop, his voice was being drowned out by the
Russians entertaining their Chinese guests with such Ameri-
can records as "Rose Marie, I Love You/' played over a
Parades were the order of the day. One of our dearest
Chinese friends, a devout Christian woman who was obliged
to march in many of them, said to me one day, "I welcome
every opportunity to walk through the streets of this city.
There is nothing these people need more than love. I look at
them as I pass and love them. I pray for them too and, do you
know, they go home never knowing what hit them!"
It didn't seem like China any more. Nobody smiled or
laughed out loud. The wonderfully apropos quips were
dropped from all conversation. Suspicion and fear were tan-
gible enough to touch, and there were accusation meetings held
against Fred and our closest friends. That Fred neglected
Communist soldiers who were his patients, that he con-
trolled the finances of the hospital, that he was a spy of
American imperialism were some of the trumped-up charges.
This I rebelled against with all my being.
"What can you do, which way can you turn, when you have
no recourse to justice?" I would ask Fred. For no explanation
of an action, no answer to an accusation was accepted by those
Fred took it far more philosophically than I ever could. But
one morning we found the vicious placards posted on the
The Bamboo 183
walls of the hospital. When he saw that some of the signatures
were those of his own students whom he had worked with
and loved, it seemed as if his heart would break.
'What they say is not true/' he said sadly, "but I suppose that
if they had asked me, I could have told enough that was
true for them to make a case against me. I am human, I make
mistakes. Perhaps this amounts to the same thing/'
'"You may make mistakes/' I protested, "but you have
never wilfully done anything against anyone. You wouldn't
hurt a snake. And every single soul around here knows that
the accusations against you are not true!"
That was the diabolical part of it It was as if the Com-
munists were saying, "You all know these accusations are not
true; we, too, know that they are not true. But we have
absolute power to make them as if they were true. This too
can happen to you."
As the loud-speakers blared out speeches of frenzy against
us all day long and night after night until midnight, I won-
dered how long my sanity would hold out. "God has not
given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a
sane mind." Power, love, sanity! I tried to hold the words in
There were some evenings when the Chinese gentleman on
the nearby balcony would play his accordion. We could not
see him clearly through the heavy bamboo sprays, but he
appeared to be in uniform. When the accusation meetings
were at their loudest pitch, he would play American folk
songs. We never found out who he was and he may never
know how grateful we were for his friendly hand of song
across our darkness.
On December 3, 1950, we registered our application with
the police for permission to return to America. Fred had
hoped to complete the medical lectures he was giving before
1 84 The Chinese Ginger Jars
applying, but the day came when one of his Chinese colleagues
at the Medical College telephoned to say, "Don't come in
for your lecture today under any circumstances/' The walls of
the college had been plastered with accusations against Fred,
the sight of which his friends were trying to spare him.
"But I have only two more lectures to give before the
course is completed/' Fred replied.
"Just forget about those two lectures and don't come down
here at all," his friend warned.
A day or two later, following an official injunction that no
patient was to allow himself to be treated by a foreign doctor,
Fred's work at the hospital too was finished. We sat in the cold,
damp house huddled around the fireplace, popping the last
of the popcorn sent out from home, playing games with the
children, and waiting for the permit to come.
Christmas came and still no permit had been issued. The
gardener, intimidated, refused to bring in the Christmas tree
or to allow anyone else to dig it up and put it in its pot. But
the Chinese engineer in charge of repairs for the hospital went
out and cut down an evergreen from his family burial plot.
'These children are going to have a Christmas tree," he said.
It was a strange Christmas morning. We had decided against
taking the children with us through the streets to church.
It was well we had. Just as we were passing a primary school,
we heard jeers and looked up to see forty or more children
on the roof spitting down at us. Fortunately there was a good
wind and the barrage missed fire.
"I'd feel differently about it," I said as we walked along,
"if it weren't that I never get up that high without having
the desire to spit down on someone myself. Wasn't it Richard
Halliburton's poet friend who, on top of the Matterhorn,
looked at the beauty below him and came out with the un-
poetic remark, *I could spit a mile'?"
The Bamboo 185
One morning there were chalk marks on the walk in front
of the house: "Imperialist dog, do you not yet know enough
to leave China?"
Well as we knew who had put them there, and how little
it had to do with our friends and colleagues, the chalk marks
on the cement hurt. And part of the hurt came from the
stricken looks of our co-workers as they too read the words.
"Darling/' I said, "do go to the police again and ask them
if we may leave. I can't bear this any longer/'
"I know, Honey, but it was only day before yesterday that
we went, and the officer said no permission had been given,"
By now we both knew the route to the police station blind-
folded. We had made thirty-two trips (and presented twelve
photos) in order to get permission for the Golden-Haired One
to come in for ten days on her last visit before leaving for
America. But she had been allowed to come in, which was an
And there were the constant questionings. We were at a
distinct advantage during these hours of examination because
we did not need an interpreter and could speak directly to our
questioners in Mandarin, the official language. The mission-
aries who had never lived in the north and the businessmen
who did not speak the language were at the mercy of their
One Sunday morning we had been called in for another
of the questionings. For some reason we were alone with lie
examiner; usually the room was full.
"Why did you come to China in the first place?" the
Fred was trying to avoid the pitfall that China was a needy
country and he had come to help; he hesitated a moment to
phrase his answer.
1 86 The Chinese Ginger Jars
I turned to him and said quietly and quickly in English,
"Don't you think the real reason we came is because Jesus
said to go into all the world and teach and preach and heal?"
Fred turned back to the police official to give that answer
in Chinese and found him smiling and nodding in complete
accord with what I had whispered to Fred. But the serious,
dead-pan expression returned to his face at once as he barked
out another question.
The day the chalk marks appeared on the walk, Fred went
to the police station alone. When he came into the house
some two hours later, I knew at once that the permit had
not been granted.
"Do you remember that crazy Western movie we saw?" he
asked as he helped me remove the chalk marks, "the one
about the fellow with the two guns shoving the little guy
into the corner and saying, "You can't go and you can't stay.
What are you going to do?' I've been thinking about it all
the way home.
"Here is something for you/' he added as we went into the
house. "I thought you deserved a little surprise." And he gave
me a tiny package containing the beautiful opal stone that we
had looked at so often in the jade market.
Two days later the permit came through. Though it had
seemed like an age of time, we were actually far more fortunate
than most people in obtaining the permit in less than two
On January 24, 1951, we left Canton. Our staying on under
the Communists had justified every person who left early
because he felt he could not work under this regime. We
had been so sure that we could. By far the most difficult thing
we had to face was not the suspicion, not even the accusation
meetings, but seeing our Chinese friends placed in an
impossible position because of our being there. Any move
The Bamboo 187
toward us on their part put them in the bad graces of
the Communists. We urged them not to come to see us, not
to speak to us when they passed us on the street. We dreaded
the consequences of their having anything to do with us. In
spite of our entreaties they had continued to come to see us
at our home, and now two of them braved censure and
came to the railway station for a last farewell,
"At least we did not have the heartache of listening to
'God Be With You Till We Meet Again/ " said Fred as the
train pulled out of the Canton station.
At last the border, the gates flung open and the neat, black-
uniformed Hong Kong police saying, 'Welcome to Hong
Kong!" My knees felt weak. I threw my arms around our
faithful Ah Yang, who had elected to live in Hong Kong and
had left China with us. With my head on her shoulder, I
cried and cried and cried.
How great a deliverance! How great a deliverance! was all
I could say or think. Why had we been allowed to come out,
and why were some of our dearest friends still back there in
solitary confinement in prison? We did not deserve it; we did
not deserve it at all. How sweet it was to breathe the air of
freedom; how beautiful would be the low white house, the
soft green meadows, the flowering dogwood of River Bend!
I looked up at Fred. His gaze was down the long silver
tracks, but he was not seeing them.
"I wonder where we'll be two years from today/' he was
It is but a few months more than two years from that day.
We are in India, crumpling the newspaper wrappings from a
pair of Chinese ginger jars. We found them, quite by chance,
this afternoon in the junk shop kept so carelessly by the old
Sikh gentleman with the long white beard. There on his shelf
were the lovely green jars, sitting squat and proud among the
empty bottles and broken tins. We have brought them home
to our summer cottage in the foothills of the Himalayas.
"Look at it," Fred is saying as he places one of the jars in
He is now Professor of Medicine at the Christian Medical
College at Ludhiana in the Punjab, and we have come to this
hill station to study the language. It is strange to be starting
a new life in a new country a country as big, as colorful, as
confusing as India. And yet there is a familiarity that is
frightening. What course will India take? Are we beginning
a new life, or are we facing the same old round of uncertainty
and difficulty, the same old troubles?
The same old troubles those which we would never have
chosen, but which we wouldn't have missed for anything in
Whatever comes, we will not be facing it alone. I hold the
cold stone jar against my face and thank God.
1 32 655