A Little Chinese Girl
She was only a little Chinese girl, like ten thousand of others in the great heathen land in which she lived. She was the youngest of three children, and her father died while she was but a babe. The mother, being left a poor widow, was unable to support her little family. Therefore, according to Chinese custom, the son (who was the oldest of the three) was to receive the mother’s attention, but the two daughters were to be sold into other homes, to become wives as soon as they were of marriageable age.
It is about the baby girl, Baulin, of whom I wish to tell you in this story. The case was put into her grandfather’s hands for management, who arranged for her to go into her uncle’s home, and to finally become the wife of her cousin, who was a little younger than herself. As soon as she was a few years old she was trained to help wash the clothes, cook the family rice, and clean the bowls; and at an early age she had to work many long hours in a silk factory for only a few cents a day. These few cents helped to buy her own rice; for as her uncle was a poor man, he could not afford to support his si-fu (daughter-in-law) without receiving something for it. Never a day was this dear child sent to school. It was not customary to educate Chinese girls, except it should be those of greater wealth or rank.
Time went on until Baulin was about fourteen years old. In the meantime her uncle had come in contact with missionaries teaching the full gospel of Jesus Christ. As he became better acquainted with the doctrine, and obtained an experience of salvation, he saw that it would not be right to enforce the marriage of Baulin to his son; the matter was to be left to their own choice, when they grew old enough to decide. Still the responsibility was upon him to continue supporting her to the same extent that he previously had.
In the course of another year or two, Baulin not only had shown an interest in the gospel, but had a desire to take up her abode in the mission compound to assist with the cooking for the other natives who lived there. In this capacity she faithfully labored a few months, during which time she came for prayer and received salvation. The missionaries in charge had found difficulty in obtaining native help for their own kitchen. One day it suddenly dawned upon the mistress of the house that Baulin might be trained for the culinary department. When the idea was suggested, this dear young girl was delighted at the thought of promotion in usefulness. Arrangements were immediately made, and the new plan proved successful. Though she did not so much as know how to pare potatoes, fry eggs, nor set the table for foreign food, yet her eager willingness to learn made her easy to teach. Her natural inability to take responsibility, to manage, and to exercise her own judgment, were points greatly against her becoming a competent cook. However, by the mistress continuing to plan the meals and to bear the general responsibility, Baulin soon developed into a very reliable and useful worker.
Two years later when the missionaries moved to another station, she was pleased to accompany them and to continue as their cook. In the meantime, however, a serious change came over her uncle, which made Baulin entertain fears concerning her former engagement for marriage. This man, who was so dependable before, gradually became entangled in business matters, swindled others out of a considerable amount of money, resulting in his utter spiritual downfall. Instead of making efforts to rise again, he seemed to sink deeper and deeper into sin, until all hope was given up for his return. Baulin was exceedingly fond of her own people, and her relatives were not a few. But after her uncle had backslidden, she began to receive more or less persecution from her people. It so happened that the new station to which she accompanied the new missionaries was the city in which her mother lived. She was employed there as servant for a high-class family. The mother, though having been in contact with the Christian religion for many years, still remained a rank heathen, having great faith in the worship of idols. The time came when the missionaries were about to depart on furlough to the homeland, and now a serious question confronted Baulin: “What shall I do, or what can I do?”
But before continuing this narrative, let me say here that during the three years that she was employed as cook, she made a perfect record of honesty and uprightness—something which probably cannot be said of one out of a hundred of Chinese cooks. Not once was she even suspected of taking without permission, so much as a crust of bread or a spoonful of anything belonging to the foreign kitchen. When other natives of the compound would ask her for a bit of food which happened to be left in the dishes, she would never give it without first asking permission to do so. She seldom broke dishes, but when she did, she lost no time in making acknowledgment. Thus her honesty, conscientiousness, and modesty won a warm place in the hearts of those whom she served, and when she appealed to them for help in solving the problem which so perplexed her mind about the time that she must be separated from them, they gladly shared her burden. It was by seeing her steadfastness through this trial that her real worth could be appreciated more than ever before.
From a Chinese point of view, she was still under age, though she was now about eighteen. Her mother had never given up the idea that she should be married to her cousin when they both became old enough. At this time her uncle was in a backslidden state, and in all probability would insist on the marriage. The boy himself, her cousin, was growing up rather a worthless young man. He had been in school more or less, but was not extra bright. Recently his father had placed him as an apprentice in a shoeshop. He had shown no inclination whatsoever toward spiritual things, though he had had many advantages of hearing the gospel. Baulin knew that she would soon be out of employment, and this meant much to the young girl; for she was now fully self-supported and, besides, had helped her uncle more than once in his financial straits. To return to the former mission station, at which city most of her people lived, seemed the only open door before her. Yet this meant more persecution, and should she have to return to the silk factory to work, she would be deprived of attending meeting, for the girls and women employed there must toil on from early morn till late at night, seven days a week.
It was when she heard that her uncle was making a business trip to the city where she was now living and where her mother also lived, that she became more anxious concerning a quick settlement of that marriage question; and it was in this that she earnestly begged the missionary to help. A meeting was called at which Baulin, her mother, her uncle, the missionary, and a few others were present. Baulin requested a written agreement signed by her mother and uncle, that the engagement to her cousin was broken, and that they should have no power to compel her engagement to anyone else, but that she should have the right herself to make choice of her life companion. The question was discussed, but met with extreme opposition at first by the mother, insomuch that the girl finally declared that because she was a Christian and desired to do the right she would die rather than be compelled to marry a man who was not a Christian and one whom she did not love. The uncle’s greatest objection was that he had no money to buy another girl for his son, and the son would blame his father for not having a wife ready for him, according to Chinese custom.
After several meetings, hours of discussion, and much prayer on the part of the Christians, a paper and a duplicate were finally signed, which set this dear young Christian free from her childhood engagement, and, oh, what a beaming countenance she wore! Keenly did she realize it would not be easy to return to her home city and face her heathen relatives, who would all be against her on account of the step she had taken, but she was very happy in knowing that her persecution was for righteousness’ sake. Well able did she feel, through the grace of God, to meet the worst that might come.
Her joy was increased some days later, when word was received that the mission station in the same city where her people lived would be glad to use her as cook and general helper in the house. Thus she would not need to go back to the factory to earn a living, but could be employed more directly in the service of God and be under the care of the church.
I hope all who read this true story will not forget to breathe a prayer for this dear young girl, who so boldly took her stand for the truth and right, in the midst of opposition from heathen relatives. We cannot but hope that she may someday be as reliable a spiritual worker as she is today a temporal worker.