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On Missionaries

June 12, 1915: "You ask where does the missionary come in. The missionary is a very peculiar individual and forms his own society and lives to himself and his family. In Chinkiang there are many missionaries who live in the most comfortable houses in the port located way up in the hills in back of the port, behind the Chinese fortresses. There are about twenty of them and they run hospitals and girls schools and orphanages. I have only seen a couple of them. The only ones that mix at all into the rest of the life in the port are the English ones but the Americans are pretty crude as a whole I guess. The daughter of an English missionary is a stenographer in our office and a rather quaint girl. The missionaries don’t get into the easygoing carefree spirit of the port, don’t approve of American sailors and a lot of things like that. The one or two American missionaries that I have met were very crude indeed and look as though they were a direct importation from Modesto, Cal., but they say that there are some very nice people among them." 

December 5, 1915: “At Paoying [Baoying] I stayed over night with Mr. Dyer, the Episcopal missionary and his wife, who has only recently spliced up to him. She is a Virginian and an exceedingly vivacious woman, who does much to banish dull care. They are the only white people in Paoying but Mrs. Dyer does not seem to mind it. I made a short and snappy visit at Hwaichen [Huai’an], and did not call on the brother of Doctor Woods who is also a doctor in that unhappy city. He has a nice daughter who is being initiated into the missionary service but does not seem crushed by the fate in store for her. I guess that I will have to count on those people for whatever Christmas entertainment that I get and believe me I will be glad to see them. I find that most of the missionaries that I have met are exceedingly pleasant people and those who have an education are exceedingly clever, but the same taint pervades them all, too much religion. Maybe they don’t indulge so much when they are by them selves but strange to say, as soon as I come around sure enough they have a prayer meeting. It is very hard on one’s trousers.”

April 14, 1916: “A terrible tragedy happened here. I first heard of it from the runners tearing up the Canal to notify Sutsien [Suqian]. A young missionary doctor, just from the Medical School, arrived here from the U.S. in Dec. to devote the rest of his life to mission work in T’sk’pu [Tsingkiangpu]. He was a very pleasant, quiet chap, and rather spiritual. On Sunday night Dr. Miller, the young man, talked as usual with Dr. Woods & then went up to bed. The next morning he did not show up & hundreds of men (natives) hunted for him for two days but not a man, woman, or child had seen him. Finally at sundown Mrs. Woods noticed two deep imprints of a foreigner’s heel just outside of one part of the 12 foot wall surrounding the compound, showing that some foreigner had scaled the wall. Indications led to a gloomy lake surrounded by a reed marsh. Here they pulled Miller out of 7 feet of water. He had committed suicide. The Missionaries, of course, are hard put to explain it to the Chinese. Miller was a fine young man & I can’t realize it, especially as he was apparently perfectly happy all day Sunday. But I do understand it. It is the terrible all compelling death drag of the Interior, the awful force that broke Miller’s brain cells and pulled him at 3 o’clock in the morning to die in the most ghastly, flesh crawling lake that there is on this earth. The missionaries say God called him. I say God probably did but He did it through the spell of the Interior.”

July 9, 1916: “I spent a little time in the not-overly lovely city of Hwaianfu [Huai’an], a very large Fu city, where I called on the fair Miss Lily Woods, who is peaches and cream, judged from Kiangsu viewpoints and not a bad armful judged from any standpoint. What’s your idea of a girl of 21 or so, of not bad looks and disposition, who will forsake a Virginia town and the rustics therein, to come out and jolly a lot of scurvy Chinese citizens in a town that looks like the working end of a garbage disposal plant? I have already given her my opinion on the matter, and proposed marriage to her on behalf of several ginks that I know in Chinkiang, who are looking for a dame to tie to, for in that case they hope to steer clear of the wild interior. Lily lives in a compound surrounded by a great high wall, impenetrable except with siege guns, right in the heart of the great Chinese city. Her father and mother also live there, and regard me as an interesting experiment, a soul to be saved, and an interior market for the Shanghai Brewery. They work their machinations on me but so far I have kept my fingers crossed. The family has now beat it for Kuling [Guling], the Mecca of all good Mish in the balmy summer months, while us men of leisure, who do nothing but travel through places where there isn’t sanitation all the year around, will pass a pleasant and doubtless profitable summer imbibing the seasons new odors here on the Banks of the Grand Canal in dear old Tsingkiangpu. They have to lead a hard life up on the mountain of Kuling, 2000 feet above the sea. There is nothing to do but swim, hunt, play tennis and games, have parties etc. for there are 5000 foreigners there every summer, and no Chinese allowed to live in the Concession. Most of the Missionaries in this part of the world go on this annual Hegira, for there are meetings of all Churches up there. At the present time the entire Canal bank is devoid of any foreigners except myself and a chap from Yangchow [Yangzhou], 260 [100] miles south. This district will remain thusly until the end of August when the fat and happy survivors will return from Kuling, by 3rd class foreign and [with] a new litter of kids, harvested on the mountain. No self respecting missionary goes to Kuling with out returning with a new brat or two. They surely believe in perpetuating the breed.”

September 15, 1916: “At the present time the joys of life aren’t many. I have a leaky houseboat on a not-overly sweet smelling Canal surrounded by a lot of cultured but unwashed Chinos, some 400,000 of them. Of course I am not entirely dependent on this select crowd for company. I can always rush clear across the native city to spend a hilarious afternoon with some of that sinless tribe, the Presbyterian missionary. A virtuous and spiritual life is undoubtedly better than the bird like Col. Bill Denby with 5 gin and bitters in him before breakfast, in some ways, but I’ll take the Col. for company any time. A big night in Canal circles is when the brethren gather around the old organ and sing Mr. Sunday’s inspiring ballads. I have not even seen much of the Mish since I returned from Sh’ai {Shanghai], only two or three times. Most of them are just returning from a summer of dissipation at Kuling. Dr. Woods is a mighty nice gent except for a few peculiar foibles. The Doc doesn’t favor Catholics and if the Pope ever came up before him for sentence he would get 30 yrs, sure enough. It is those little petty spites that make me feel like consigning even the best of the Mish to a pretty hot place at times.”

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