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

In December 1876 Charlotte Maria Tucker entered upon the final stage of her earthly career. Final in a sense; for though more than once Batala had to be temporarily deserted, the place was never given up. Thenceforward, Batala became in very truth her home; Batala work was essentially her work; and the remaining years of her life were devoted to Batala.

Having once made up her mind that she was definitely called to this particular post, nothing could withhold her. Difficulties, oppositions, hindrances, prospects of loneliness, imperfect knowledge of Indian languages, increasing age,—all these were as nothing in the way. If she was called, she would go! And Miss Tucker believed that she was called.

Others were not so sure. Mrs. Elmslie wrote on the 8th of December to Mrs. Hamilton: ‘I agree with you that your beloved sister’s power lies in gifts which can be used to perhaps greater influence here than in an out-station. This isolation from European society is not what I should have chosen for one who can exercise so much influence for good among her own countrymen; and whose pen can do more for India than perhaps the lives of many others.’ No doubt this view of the question weighed greatly in the judgment of many. For one who can[240] write books suitable to Indian requirements, there are scores of Missionaries who can with ease learn the Native languages, and who can visit and teach in Zenanas, perhaps far more effectually than A.L.O.E. did.

To lookers-on it may seem that she judged wrongly here; that her eagerness for personal work was a mistake; that she might have done more by following the advice of her friends, and remaining at Amritsar. Advice she had; for Mrs. Elmslie says in the same letter: ‘We have one and all of us tried to dissuade her from going; but she sees the Pillar going straight on before her. And who are we that we should gainsay it?’

Suppose she only fancied that she ‘saw the Pillar,’—in other words, that she was called or led or ordered to Batala? A mistake of this description is not impossible, especially in the case of an ardent and impulsive nature. If so, it was the mistake of burning love and self-devotion; and one can well believe that such a mistake must be dearer to the Heart of our Lord than the correct attitude of those who always decide on the safe and comfortable side.

But why should we imagine it to have been a mistake? The true gist of the matter is not, after all, to be found in the question as to which particular type of work she might be best fitted for intellectually. The main question was rather—to which especial work was she bidden by her Master? One can hardly live many years on Earth, with observant eyes, and believe that people are always or generally given exactly that work to do, for which they are by natural powers best adapted. Things often seem, indeed, just the other way; people being put to work for which they appear to be least well adapted, and simply having to do their best. To us it may seem that A.L.O.E.’s pen was worth more to India than all her heroic struggles to conquer the languages and to teach in[241] Zenanas. But if, as with her whole heart she believed, God had called her to work in Batala,—‘who are we,’ to say that she should have remained away? The Commander-in-Chief of an army has a perfect right to place his soldiers where he will; and so long as the soldier who is ordered to any particular post hears the word of command, it matters very little whether anybody else hears it also.

Suppose A.L.O.E. had not gone to Batala, but had taken the advice of others, and had remained at Amritsar! Possibly she might, by devoting herself to writing alone, have accomplished treble or quadruple the number of little books and tracts for India which she did accomplish. But then a very heroic example of courage and self-devotion would have been lost to the Church. At Amritsar she would have had plenty of loving friends, and would have been altogether more comfortable, altogether in easier circumstances. Easy and comfortable examples, however, are not rare. Even the writing of a good many more little books might not have made up to us for what we should have lost in other respects.

Besides,—she believed that she had her ‘marching orders.’ Even if, by any possibility, she were mistaken in that belief, she could not disobey. A soldier always instantly obeys what he believes to be the order given.

Yet it could have been no light matter,—this going forth alone, with only one young companion, into a very fastness of Muhammadanism and Heathenism. Miss Tucker herself was no longer young. Though marvellously strong and spirited for her time of life, she was now in her fifty-sixth year; hardly an age when, at the best, a woman is commonly willing to undertake great responsibilities in a new and untried direction. It was, however, true, as she said, that if she did not go, the Mission in Batala could not be at once started—as[242] a resident Mission. No two young women could have gone there alone. They must have waited for a married Missionary and his wife to head the effort.

In this step of Miss Tucker’s a clue may perhaps be found for some lives, here or there, where a vocation is earnestly sought and not yet found. Why should not other middle-aged ladies go out, as she went out?—not necessarily always to attempt full Zenana work; but to be protectors, housekeepers, nurses, to younger and more active ladies? Whether it would be right to use any portion of Mission-funds for such a purpose may be doubted; and in many a case Mission rooms could not be spared; but there are exceptions as to the latter. And as to the money part of the question, doubtless many a warm-hearted lady, over fifty years of age, free from home-ties, with a spirit full of love and self-devotion, could afford to spend £150 or £200 a year on such an object. Much might be done by her to cheer up the workers, to leave them more free for all that needed most to be done,—and indirectly she might help forward the work of evangelisation by the mere force of a fair Christian example in a dark land. There can be no question that Miss Tucker’s life worked far more effectually than her words. What she said may have been long ago forgotten. What she was will never be forgotten. Her spoken words doubtless had at the time some power; her written words perhaps had much more; her life had by far the most of all.

For any such line of life as is above suggested, however, only that type of woman is fit which has been already described in some of A.L.O.E.’s letters. Thin-skinned, anxious, feeble-spirited ladies, easily worried and easily vexed, will not do; and angular, managing, argumentative ladies would be quite as unsuitable. Those alone may venture who are not only fairly strong in health, vigorous in spirit, fearless as to difficulties, and careless as[243] to discomforts, but who are also gentle, kind-hearted, sympathetic, willing to yield to the judgment of others, ready to please and not to rule. Almost above everything else, there should be a freedom from grumbling tendencies. If such elderly ladies of England are willing to tread in A.L.O.E.’s footsteps, and to give the Evenings of their lives to Mission-work, openings enough for them might be found.

The closing words of Mrs. Elmslie’s letter to Mrs. Hamilton on December 8, show what Miss Tucker’s presence in the Amritsar bungalow had been: ‘I shall miss my darling Charlotte much. She has been sunshine to me ever since she came; and I am accustomed to think of her as a very precious gift from a loving Father Who knows our need. I hope to have her again at Christmas. Please feel assured that we shall tenderly watch over your dear one, even though not so closely together as formerly.’ Miss Wauton also, speaking of that time, says: ‘Her general presence was a great cheer to her fellow-workers there.’

Mention has been made of the Mission-tree,—a large banyan, in front of the Amritsar bungalow, where Miss Tucker had now spent so many months. The central trunk had received the name of Amritsar, and other slender trunks around, already rooted, had received the names of various out-stations, where occasional work had been begun, but where no Missionaries yet resided. One slender shoot was called after Batala. It had then just reached the ground, but was not firmly rooted. Now, in 1895, it is ‘a thick, substantial trunk.’

Batala, a walled town, about a mile across, has a population of some 25,000 people, and is twenty-four miles to the east of Amritsar. The Dalhousie range of the mighty Himalayas lies about fifty miles off; but the mountains, when snow-capped, look very much nearer.[244] In those days there was not, as there is now, a line of rail connecting Amritsar with Batala. The journey from one to the other had commonly to be accomplished, either by tum-tum, a light cart, with two or three changes of horses; or else by ekka, a country cart, which last mode of conveyance was very often used by Miss Tucker in coming years. It was a peculiarly rough and wearisome mode of travelling, the ekka having no springs; but very early she took to doing as far as possible what the Indians do in such cases. Anything that would tend to make her one with them was eagerly attempted. For instance, she began speedily to sit upon the floor as Natives do; and at Indian gatherings or feasts she would not only sit as they sat, but would share their food. She must have been singularly supple-jointed for her years, to be able to adopt this position without any serious inconvenience. The Rev. Robert Clark writes, with reference to her Batala mode of life:—

‘No conveyance was kept. Miss Tucker always travelled in her little dhoolie (or bird’s-nest carriage), or in an ekka, a native conveyance without springs, where a seat about a yard square was perched on wooden wheels. On this she spread her bedding, which is always carried about by Missionaries. She was so well accustomed to sit on the ground, that her legs in this conveyance never were in the way. She gracefully folded them before or under her—we never could tell how—in a position which was very painful to most English people, but which seemed quite natural to her. She often used to trot over in this way, in an ekka, to Amritsar, on a road which caused many bumps and aches to most people’s heads and arms and bodies; but she would never allow that the shaking of twenty-four miles of such travelling as this ever did her any harm. I think she wished to be an example to us all. We used to travel then in tum-tums or buggies, or other vehicles with springs. But ekkas have much more become the fashion in our Missionary circles.’

One idea Miss Tucker had, on first going to Batala, which the other Missionaries dissuaded her with great[245] difficulty from putting into execution. This was to dress as the Indians do! It was not considered a wise or desirable plan, from any point of view; but Charlotte Tucker had gone so far, in her enthusiasm, as to provide herself with a Native dress, and her heart was very much set upon wearing it. To make her give up this favourite idea was no easy matter.

Batala is a picturesque old town, with fine banyan-trees, and many old mango-tree gardens towards the north, enclosed either by walls or by aloe hedges, curiously appropriate for A. L. O. E. It is said that in her younger days a review of some of her books spoke of them as being ‘bitter, like the name of their Author.’ Did Miss Tucker ever recall this little notice when she looked upon the aloe hedges of Batala?

There is also a large lake-like tank close to the house in which Miss Tucker lived, and other tanks lie further off. This nearer tank has an ornamental pleasure-house in the middle; and the tomb of the man who dug the tank is on its bank. Many handsome old tombs are to be seen in the place. The town itself is old, with exceedingly crooked and narrow streets; so narrow, that a duli when carried through often touches the walls on both sides. The Batala people have the character of being particularly bigoted, hard-natured, quarrelsome, and difficult to deal with.

Early in 1876 Miss Wauton had written in the Society’s Report: ‘I think we may consider the Batala Mission now thoroughly established.’ This meant that about five Girls’ Schools had been opened for Hindu, Sikh, and Muhammadan scholars, under the superintendence of the Catechist’s wife, being from time to time visited by the Amritsar Missionary ladies. The children were taught elementary Christian truths; they learned to sing simple hymns; and books were given to them. The work,[246] however, was hardly more than begun, when A. L. O. E. decided to make Batala her home. One Native Catechist and his wife were there; one Batala man had been baptized; and a certain number of children had begun to learn a few simple truths. For the rest, Batala was ‘a stronghold of bigoted Muhammadanism.’

And the first thing which had to be done was not to reap a harvest, not to begin looking for results, but simply to plough the hard ground, and thus to make seed-sowing a matter of possibility. When the ground was broken and softened, then the seed might be sown; after that, the sown seed could be watered, and the harvest patiently waited for.

Almost every letter at this time contains something of interest. To quote half of what might be quoted is impossib............
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