Stories Worth Rereading: Ti-To and The Boxers

A True Story of a Young Christian

It was late in May when we last saw Ti-to’s father. He was attending the annual meeting of the North China Mission at Tung-chou, near Peking when word came that the Boxers were tearing up the railway between Peking and Pao-ting-fu. For twelve years he had been the pastor of the Congregational Church in Pao-ting-fu, having been the first Chinese pastor ordained in north China. Without waiting for the end of the meeting, he hastened to the assistance of the little band of missionaries.

During the month of June dangers thickened about the devoted band of missionaries and Christian Chinese who lived in the mission compound not far from the wall of Pao-ting-fu. There was no mother in Pastor Meng’s home to comfort the hearts of five children living face to face with death. But thirteen-year-old Ti-to, the hero of our story, was as brave a lad as ever cheered the hearts of little brothers and sisters. Straight as an arrow, his fine-cut, delicate face flushed with pink, with firm, manly mouth and eyes that showed both strength and gentleness, Ti-to was a boy to win all hearts at sight.

By the twenty-seventh of June it was plain that all who remained in that compound were doomed to fall victims to Boxer hate. Pastor Meng called his oldest boy to his side, and said: “Ti-to, I have asked my friend, Mr. Tien to take you with him and try to find some place of refuge from the Boxers. I cannot forsake my missionary friends and the Christians, who have no one else to depend upon, but I want you to try to escape.”

“Father,” said the boy, “I want to stay here with you. I am not afraid to die.”

“No,” the father replied. “If we are all killed, who will preach Jesus to these poor people?”

So, before the next day dawned, Ti-to said good-by, and started with Mr. Tien on his wanderings. That same afternoon Pastor Meng was in the chapel when a company of Boxers suddenly burst into the room and seized him. A Christian Chinese who was with him escaped over the back wall, and took the sad tidings to his friends. The Boxers dragged Pastor Meng to a temple, and there, having learned that his eldest son had fled, tortured him to make him tell Ti-to’s hiding-place. But the secret was not revealed. In the early morning scores of Boxer knives slowly stabbed him to death. But the face of the Master smiled upon this brave soul, “faithful unto death.”

Three days later, four of his children, his only sister and her two children, and the three missionary friends for whom he had laid down his life, were killed.

But what of the little one who had left home four days before? Determined that not one member of the family should be left, the Boxers searched for him in all directions. But Mr. Tien had taken Ti-to to the home of a relative only a few miles from Pao-ting-fu, and they escaped detection. This relative feared to harbor them more than two or three days, so they turned their faces northward, where a low range of sierra-like mountains was outlined against the blue sky. Seventeen miles from Pao-ting-fu, and not far from the home of an uncle of Mr. Tien’s, they found a little cave in the mountainside, not high enough to allow them to stand upright. Here they crouched for twenty days. The uncle took them a little food, but to get water they were obliged to go three miles to a mountain village, stealing up to a well under cover of darkness. In that dark cave, hunger and thirst were their constant companions, and the howling of wolves at night made their mountain solitude fearsome.

Ti-to had lived for five days in this retreat when word was brought to him that father, brothers, sisters, aunt, cousins, and all the missionaries belonging to the three missions in Pao-ting-fu, had been cruelly massacred, and that churches, schools, homes, were all masses of charred ruins.

After twenty days of cave life, Mr. Tien’s uncle sent them warning that Boxers were on their track, and that they must leave their mountain refuge immediately. Then began long, weary wanderings toward the southwest, over mountain roads, their plan being to go to Shansi. One day in their wanderings they had just passed the village of Chang-ma, about sixteen miles south of Pao-ting-fu, when a band of Boxers, some armed with rifles, some brandishing great swords, rushed after them, shouting, “Kill! kill! kill the secondary foreign devils!”

Escape was impossible. Before this howling horde had overtaken them, a man who was standing near them asked Ti-to, “Are you a Christian?”

“Yes,” the boy replied. “My father and mother were Christians, and from a little child I have believed in Jesus.”

“Do not be afraid,” the stranger said, “I will protect you.”

Then the Boxers closed about them. Mr. Tien was securely bound, hand and foot. Ti-to was led by his queue, and soon they were back by the Boxer altar in the village. When the knives were first waved in his face, and the bloodthirsty shouts first rang in his ears, a thrill of fear chilled Ti-to’s heart; but it passed as quickly as it came, and as he was dragged toward the altar, it seemed as if some soft, low voice kept singing in his ear the hymn, “I’m not ashamed to own my Lord.” All fear vanished.

When they began to bind Mr. Tien to the altar, he spoke no word for himself, but pleaded most earnestly for the little charge committed to his care, telling how all his relatives had been murdered, and begging them to spare his life. Perhaps it was those earnest, unselfish words, perhaps it was the boy’s gracious mien and winsome face, that moved the crowd; for one of the village Boxers stepped forward, saying: “I adopt this boy as my son. Let no one touch him. I stand security for his good behavior.”

Ti-to’s deliverer was one of the three bachelor brothers, the terror of the region. But it was evident that Mr. Chang’s heart was completely won by the boy. For three months he kept him in his home, tenderly providing for every want. Let Ti-to tell the story of those days in his own words:—

“Of course I could not pray openly. But sometimes when my adopted father was away with the Boxers on their raids, I would shut the door tight and kneel in prayer. Then every evening when the sun went down, I would turn my face to the west, and in my heart repeat the hymn:—

“‘Abide with me: fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens: Lord, with me abide.’

“Mr. Chang was in Pao-ting-fu when my father was killed, and told me how they stabbed and tortured him. I supposed that my uncle and his wife, who had gone to Tung-chow, had been killed, too, and all the missionaries in China. But I knew that the people in America would send out some more missionaries, and I thought how happy I would be sometime in the future when I could go into a chapel again and hear them preach.”

But Ti-to had not long to wait for this day of joy In October expeditions of British, German, French, and Italian soldiers from Peking and Tientsin arrived at Pao-ting-fu, and the Boxer hordes scattered at their coming. Soon to the brave boy in the Boxer’s home came the glad tidings that his uncle was still living, and had sent for him to come to Pao-ting-fu.

Mr. Chang loved the boy so deeply that he could not but rejoice with him, sad though he felt at the thought of parting with him. Fearful of some treachery or of harm coming to Ti-to, he went with him to Pao-ting-fu, then returned to the village home from which the sunshine had departed.

Later Ti-to studied in the Congregational Academy in Peking, and then in Japan. He is now an earnest teacher of Christianity, for which he so bravely faced death.


What the Flowers Say to Me

Our Father made us beautiful,
And breathed on us his love,
And gave us of the spirit that
Prevails in heaven above.

We stand here meekly blooming for
The stranger passing by;
And if unnoticed we are left,
We never stop to sigh,

But shed our fragrance all abroad,
And smile in shine or rain
And thus we do the will of God
Till he restores again

A realm of peace on earth, to last
The countless ages through;
Where flowers bloom and never fade;
And there is room for you.