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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER II
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A.D. 1875-1876

In the previous spring, when first Charlotte Tucker decided to go out, she wrote in one letter a statement of the financial plan to be followed. ‘I have arranged with the Society,’ she said, ‘to pay 200 rupees a quarter for my board and lodging, exclusive of Munshi[36] and conveyance.’ For this she had been told to expect a bedroom and a bathroom; meals being taken with the other Missionaries. She had also been told that she would require an Ayah and ‘half a tailor.’ ‘I do not want superfluities,’ she wrote; ‘for mine is a modest income, and I should not like to spend it all on myself.’

Modest though it might be, she gave away largely, restricting herself to a limited amount, and practising great economy. After being for a while in India, she seems to have been strongly impressed with a dread of needless luxuries, and to have become eager to set an example of extreme simplicity in the Missionary life. The rigid simplicity which she cultivated was, no doubt, partly a matter of pure economy, that she might have the more to give away,—partly a matter of her innate generosity; but partly also it arose from a deep-rooted desire to remove the reproach, which has of late been often levelled[210] at the ease and luxury, real or supposed, of many Missionaries in India or elsewhere.

It is always a difficult question to decide in such cases what does or does not constitute luxury. For example, the number of servants kept, which often startles an Englishman, is unavoidable to some extent, arising from the very low wages given, and the small amount of work which each servant will undertake. Indian servants sleep often in the verandah or in outside huts, and provide their own food out of their small wages; so, keeping several of them is a very different matter from keeping many English servants. Moreover, an Englishman, still more an Englishwoman, labouring in such a climate as that of India, must as a matter of simple safety have many things which in England would be entirely needless. To walk any distance under the heat of the Indian sun would for the ordinary European often mean death. To ‘rough it,’ to brave the climate, to be reckless of hardships, would in the majority of instances be tantamount to suicide. Yet, on the other hand, it may well be that under the guise of necessity some things not necessary have here and there crept in. A story has been told of an officer, himself a hearty supporter of Missions, who received a very unfavourable impression of one particular Missionary from observing the large amount of comfortable furniture which arrived at the said Missionary’s bungalow, for the latter’s use. The officer felt at once, as he said, that the Missionary ‘was not made of the right stuff.’ He may have judged hastily, and he may have been mistaken. It is by no means impossible that the Missionary may have been ‘of the right stuff,’ despite his superabundance of home-comforts. Nevertheless, such judgments will be passed, and it is well if Missionaries can live a life that shall render them uncalled for.

The more closely modern Missionaries can approximate[211] to Early Church Missionaries, the better. One can hardly picture S. Paul as settling down in a very luxurious bungalow, with a very huge amount of luggage; and though the conditions of life are greatly changed, and allowance has to be made for the change, yet the principle and spirit of Missionary work remain the same. Things harmless may become harmful, if they prove an actual hindrance to success in the work, if they cause an actual lessening of influence. The question should be,—not, How much may I allow myself?—but, How little can I do with? This was the question asked by Miss Tucker, and she set herself bravely, as the years went on, to test and to prove how much or how little was truly needed.

On first arriving she had of course to do simply as she was told,—not always even that, without protest. When the first Sunday came, she was informed that they would all drive to church. Miss Tucker objected. She did not like horses to be made to work on Sunday. She was told that it was a necessity, but she was not convinced. She would put her large thick shawl over her head, and walk. Nothing could hurt her through that shawl! Others had to yield to her will; not without fears of consequences; and Miss Tucker trudged off alone, with the thick shawl well over her head—heroically half-suffocated. When they all came out of church, she would not wait to be driven, but again severely marched off alone. However, the result of this was so bad a headache—though in general she never suffered at all from headache—that she was once and for all convinced. Evidently she could not do in India precisely as in England; and from that time she consented, when it was necessary, to be driven to church like the rest. Of course this question of walking or driving depends largely on the time of year, as well as upon the hour at which the Service is held. As will be seen later, Miss Tucker never lost her habits of good[212] walking until quite late in life; and when the hour of Service or the time of year rendered walking safe, she always preferred it to being driven.

Some friends who knew her best in India have been requested to jot down their recollections, and have most kindly responded. Certain ‘side-lights’ upon what she was will be best thrown by quotations from two of these papers as to the beginning of her Indian career.

Miss Wauton writes:—

‘I have been asked to put down a few reminiscences of A. L. O. E. in her Missionary life in India. But how shall I do it? It seems like being asked to help in painting a rainbow. We can hardly compare her to anything else; so varied, so harmonious, so lovely were the rays of light which she reflected. Spirit and mind were as a clear prism, through which the light of Heaven fell, irradiating the atmosphere in which she lived, and which shone out all the more brightly when seen against the dark clouds of heathendom.

‘The first mention of her intention to come out to India reached us in May 1875. Well do I remember the evening when Mr. Clark, coming to our Bungalow, with a letter in his hand, said, ‘Who do you think is coming to join you here as a Missionary?—A. L. O. E.!’ The title instantly brought to mind books such as The Young Pilgrim, The Shepherd of Bethlehem, which had delighted us in our childhood’s days. And now we were to welcome the well-known and gifted authoress into our house! This was a privilege; and earnestly did we look forward to the pleasure of receiving her; though at the same time we were perhaps conscious of a slight shadow of doubt crossing our minds, as to how far one of Miss Tucker’s age would be able to accommodate herself to the new surroundings, and bear the trials incident to life and work in a tropical climate.

‘If such doubts did occur to us, they were soon dispelled by a closer acquaintance with the object of them. The letters received during the following months by her future fellow-Missionaries showed with what whole-heartedness she was coming forth, prepared from thenceforth to make her home in the land of her adoption, and to devote all she was and all she had to the grand work of winning the people of India to Christ....

‘Miss Tucker reached Amritsar on the 1st Nov. 1875. The warm[213] kiss with which she greeted her sister-Missionaries showed the affectionate nature; and it was not long before we felt that we had in her, not only a fellow-worker, but a loving and true friend. At her own request the formal “Miss” was soon dropped, and she was always addressed as “Auntie.” The family of adopted nephews and nieces, beginning with three or four, gradually widened, till it finally embraced more than twenty members. Nor was this relationship a mere formality. It represented on her part a very special share in the sympathetic interest extended to all fellow-Missionaries, and on their side a reverential love and esteem, which in many cases could not have been deeper, had the tie been one of natural kinship.

‘She soon became known amongst the members of the Indian Church as the “Buzurg,” or “Honourable” Miss Sahib; and the title of “Firishta” or “angel” was not unseldom heard in connection with her name. And indeed they might well call her so. Every time she spent even a few hours under our roof we felt that we had entertained an angel, though not unawares, so bright were the memories she left behind in loving words and deeds....

‘She was so considerate for servants, that she would, during the first hot weather, often stop her pankah-walas at two or three o’clock in the morning, for fear of tiring them. Her face and hands covered with mosquito-bites showed what she endured in practising this self-denial. It took a long time to convince her that there was no hardship in employing these men in night-work, seeing they had plenty of time to rest during the day.

‘A. L. O. E. lost no time in beginning to use her pen in the service of India. I think it was the very day after her arrival that she came to us with the MS. in her hand of a little book she had written on her way up-country. It was called The Church built out of One Brick; its object being to stir up the Christians of this land to give more liberally, and to work more heartily, for their own Churches. We were amazed, on hearing the little story read, at the wonderful knowledge which Miss Tucker had even then gained, or rather, which she seemed to have intuitively, of the people amongst whom she had come to live. She said, “I want to Orientalise my mind”; but she seemed to have been born with an Oriental mind. Parable, allegory, and metaphor were the very language in which she thought; and her thoughts always seemed naturally to clothe themselves in those figures of speech in which the children of the East are wont to express themselves.

‘She always wrote her books in English, as there was never any difficulty in getting them translated into the vernaculars. Many[214] thought that, on this account, she would not care to study the language; but she had no idea of reaching the people only through her pen. She was determined, as far as it was possible, to use her own lips in telling out the message of salvation she had come to bring.

‘Accordingly, she was soon hard at work with primer, grammar, and dictionary. At the end of a year she passed the Hindustani Language Examination, and then began Panjabi. She learnt to express herself intelligibly in both these tongues, though the acquisition of them cost her many an hour of hard labour.

‘How she did toil over them! I remember, when sharing a room with her once, waking about four o’clock on a cold winter’s morning, to see her, already dressed, with a book before her, in which she had herself written in very large printed characters, that she might the more easily read them, a long list of Hindustani and Panjabi words, which she was busily learning off by heart. By this incessant industry she acquired a large vocabulary, and was also soon able to read intelligently many vernacular books, which gave her an insight into the religious life of the people.’

The Rev. Robert Clark writes:—

‘I remember well her arrival, when she was received by Mrs. Elmslie and Miss Wauton in the Mission House.... We felt that a spiritual as well as an intellectual power had come amongst us.... Like the great Missionary Swartz, she never went home on furlough; and she never took more than a month’s[37] holiday in the year, but remained at her post, hot weather and cold weather, sometimes eleven months, sometimes twelve months in the year, during her whole service....

‘Her first endeavour on her arrival in India, as she said, was to seek to “Orientalise her mind.” She noticed everything, watched everything around her, sought intercourse with the people, and tried to think with their thoughts and feel with their feelings, and to realise their position and circumstances, in order that she might bring God’s Word to bear on them as they were. It was in this way only that she could hope to do them good....’

During the greater part of 1876 Miss Tucker remained at Amritsar, cementing her friendship with the ladies there, learning the Hindustani and Panjabi languages, studying[215] the ways of the people, and writing little books for translation into the Native tongues. At her age it was by no means so easy to master a new language as for a younger person;—indeed, hard as she toiled, she never did absolutely master any Indian language colloquially, though for a time she became thorough mistress of the Hindustani grammar and construction. In later years much that she had conquered, with such hard and persevering toil, slipped from her again.

Also, it was less easy for her, than for a younger person, to fall in with modes of work, so entirely unlike aught to which she had been accustomed. Her very warm-heartedness and impetuosity were now and then somewhat of a hindrance,—as when, on her first arrival, going into a Zenana, she pressed forward and eagerly shook hands with a bibi,—an Indian lady,—forgetting the difference of Indian customs and English ones. Had it been a Christian bibi, this would not have mattered. As it was, the mistake was so serious, that it might have resulted, and very nearly did result, in the closing of that particular Zenana to all further efforts.

The letters home from this time are so full and so abundant, that the only difficulty lies in selection. By far the larger number are of course to her much-loved sister, Mrs. Hamilton. For the saving of space, it may be understood in the future that letters not especially stated to have been written to any one else, were written to her.

‘Jan. 8, 1876.—My expenses have been less than I expected. I think that Margaret must be a very good manager.... I can now form a rough idea of my expenses, and I think my sweet Laura will like to see a rude estimate.[38] As rupees and annas may puzzle you, I write in English fashion—

Board and Servants (there will be pankahs to pay for), say—     per annum,     £80
Carriage     ”     15
Travelling     ”     25
Munshi, say     ”     10
Postage, say     ”     5
Dress, etc., etc.     ”     20

‘As I allow myself £270 in India, you see that I have a nice balance to spend; so you may be quite easy, and I quite thankful, regarding finances. One ought to thank God for independent means; and I am very grateful to my honoured father also.’


‘Jan. 13.

‘I am sorry to have been unable to write to you sooner, as I should have wished to tell you how much we love your dear sister, and how truly she has already become an honoured and trusted member of our Mission circle. You know her gentle, loving, winning ways too well to doubt our soon learning to love and cherish her; but I dare say you also know her unselfish character so well, that you will often feel anxious lest she should suffer on that account. She had not been one hour with us before I found out that it is her delight to be giving to others the comforts and honours which are due to herself; and it shall be my endeavour that she shall not lose one iota of anything that should help her, or of anything that is truly good for her. Being the housekeeper here, I can manage this....

‘Her understanding of the language and character of the people is quite wonderful. I hardly think any one ever read character so clearly and truly as she does,—or so charitably. She sees good in all. And when she must acknowledge some blemishes, she finds some kind excuse for them. “Thinketh no evil” seems written on her brow. I believe she will do much for India, if spared; she sees where teaching is needed, and her ready mind so cleverly weaves the lessons into sweet stories which, when read by the people, will do wonders in opening their minds. I hope she will be persuaded to go to the hills in summer, for this work, which is so peculiarly her own, can be carried on there as well as here, and at one-thousandth part of the expense to physical strength.’



‘Feb. 1, 1876.

‘I feel as if one of my chief works her............
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