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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER V
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A.D. 1877

The year 1877 dawned full of work and full of hope, in Batala. Fresh openings were appearing on all sides; and to the four Zenanas which at first could alone be entered, others had been already added. Then suddenly came a check. Miss Tucker’s hard-working companion, who had all through suffered much from the Panjab climate, broke down, and was ordered off to England. For Miss Tucker to remain alone at Batala, without a single European companion, could not be thought of; and so many Missionaries had been invalided during the past unhealthy year, that no one else could possibly be spared. She had perforce to return to Amritsar.

The great disappointment—and very great it was—she took patiently, even cheerily. Some considered a few months more at Amritsar no bad thing for her or for her future work. She had freedom from responsibility, and more leisure in consequence for study and for writing. Many a short story went forth from her busy pen that winter for India’s millions. But her eyes were still bent longingly upon Batala; and her whole desire and prayer were that she might soon return there again.

Nor had she to wait long before the granting of her wish. Mr. and Mrs. Beutel, then resident at Amritsar, were appointed C.M.S. Missionaries at Batala; and when[254] they went she could go also. Mr. Beutel describes as follows the course of events:—

‘One day—it was early in 1877—after returning from a preaching-place in the city (Amritsar), I met Miss Tucker on my way home. She was glad to see me, and then told me of her intention of going to settle at Batala, provided that my wife and I were willing and prepared to go with her. After a while this was sanctioned, and consequently we left Amritsar for Batala in April, and settled in the old house ... which is still used for the Christian Boarding School. It then looked like a haunted house, inhabited by owls,—which regularly had a dance in the loft almost every night!—bats and wasps, etc. Miss Tucker occupied the one wing of the upper story, and we the other. The centre-hall served as a dining-room. She was our daily boarder.

‘As a rule she rose very early in the morning. After her morning walk, service, and breakfast, she regularly went out into the city, to see and teach some women in their houses, occasionally accompanied by my wife. Now and then she also paid visits, like myself, to the villages in the neighbourhood. As a rule the afternoons were filled up by her with the study of the language, reading and writing, etc.

‘But, alas! not quite two months had passed, when both Miss Tucker and my wife were laid up with fever. The chief cause of this, as the Doctor afterwards explained, seemed to be the stagnant water almost all around the house; and he ordered them both away as quickly as possible. Consequently we all returned to Amritsar by the end of May 1877, and settled again in our old quarters.

‘As soon as the hot season was over, we all went back to Batala, a second time. The condition of the house was as bad as before; but Miss Tucker immediately offered her help, and I set about fifty people to work. The ground near the house was soon raised about two feet or more; and consequently the place became more healthy, so that this time we could stay there all the winter, doing our work as before.’

After a few months, however, came a renewed check. Mr. Beutel was required for work in Amritsar; and when he and his wife left Batala, Miss Tucker had to leave also. Once more she was obliged to settle down for a term of patient waiting and study at Amritsar.

Not till the spring of 1878 was any really permanent arrangement made. Then a school of Panjabi boys was[255] removed from Amritsar to the old palace, under the presidency of the Rev. Francis Baring; and Miss Tucker went to live under the same roof, to carry on the work among women of Batala. Thenceforward her home was at Batala to the end. Throughout the year 1877 she had much of doubt and disappointment to endure; but her brave trustfulness never broke down under the strain. Charlotte Tucker was a thoroughly loyal soldier of the Cross,—willing to go, or willing to stay, as her Master might dictate. Her heart’s desire was to live and toil in Batala; but a yet deeper desire of her whole being was to carry out His Will, whatever that Will might be. The Centurion’s words, ‘I am a man under authority,’ may be cited as peculiarly applicable to her. If God’s Will for her were Amritsar, not Batala, she would be content.

For a short time, seemingly, things were so; but not for long. Fresh plans in 1878 would make all clear. Meanwhile some months of change and uncertainty did no harm. They were but part of the polishing of the golden staff of her Will,—to revert to her own allegory of earlier days.

The history of these months, beginning with the time when she was first at Batala with Miss Swainson, will best be told by occasional extracts from the abundance of letters remaining.


‘Batala, Jan. 4, 1877.

‘Here we are in a regular “fix,” as the boys would say,—no bread nor butter in the house, and with the probability of a grand lady, a Commissioner’s wife, coming to-day, perhaps to stop the night. Pity the sorrows of—of ladies twenty miles from civilised life. I’m not housekeeper, so I can laugh; but poor dear Florrie!! You can feel for her. This is how we got into the fix.


‘We settled on to-day, Thursday, for a general giving of prizes in the six City schools. Several pounds have been spent on prizes, and Florrie and I were for hours yesterday ticketing and preparing them. The prize-giving is of real importance; for we give prizes instead of money, as the Government gives. To throw éclat on the affair, we asked Mrs. T. to give the prizes away, which she kindly consented to do. A note was sent to her on Tuesday morning by a kahar,[59] to tell her the day, and the kahar was to bring back bread and butter, which we have always to get from Amritsar, twenty-four miles off.

‘Thursday morning, the grand morning, has arrived,—nay, it is nearly eleven o’clock, and the children of six schools, their teachers and their mothers, and perhaps scores of women besides, will be on the tiptoe of expectation,—and our kahar has never returned!!! We don’t know whether Mrs. T. is coming; we don’t know whether she is sticking half-way on the road, waiting for the horse which we offered to send twelve miles, if she required it! Like the famous little pig, we have eaten all the bread and butter; and if the grand lady arrives—without that faithless kahar—what shall we give her to eat? I urged Florrie at least to send to the city for meat; but she fears that in the absence of the cook the guest may arrive.

‘O dear! O dear! Why did we trust that sust[60] kahar,—or eat up all the bread? O how shall the bari Bibi ever be fed? I must go and try to cheer up poor Florrie, who suffers from her head, in addition to being in this “fix.” I must tell you how the matter ends afterwards.

‘Don’t fancy we’re starving! Oh, nothing like it! We had a famous breakfast, chapatties,[61] eggs, etc. We don’t starve!

‘Later.—No one has appeared. No tidings either of lady or kahar; but Florrie has sent for meat. She told me that the poor children had said that they would be ready at 7 A.M. If so, they must be rather tired by this time, nearly 11? A.M. ...

‘Later.—The kahar came at last, and brought the provisions, and a note from Mrs. T. to say that she is coming to-morrow.

‘Jan. 6.—I was rather glad when yesterday’s grand affair was over. As we had two dulis for three ladies, we had to manage by Florrie always going first,—i.e. she proceeded to School 2, while we lingered at No. 1—to School 3, while we stopped at 2, etc. I had to try to amuse and show off the children to Mrs. T. during the waiting[257] time, which sometimes seemed rather long, especially where the girls would not sing. In vain I started even a bhajan[62] in one of the schools.


‘Batala, Jan. 6, 1877.

‘How well I can fancy you in your home, with the wide blue expanse of Ontario stretching in front. I suppose the world looks very white with you just now; with us it is pretty green. We have no garden, but our large house stands in the country, without any enclosure. Herds of goats or strings of camels could pass near to our mansion. There is certainly not much noise of carriages. Here the sight of a dak-gari is somewhat rare; and in the city I have never seen any wheel vehicle, except bullock-carts in the wider streets. We can sometimes hardly get through the narrow streets in our duli; and I am not aware that there are any other dulis in Batala except that of the Catechist’s wife.

‘Very funny things we hear of ourselves; and I dare say many funny things are said that we do not hear. In one place which my companion visited, in company with E., the Catechist’s wife, she overheard the remark that she—-Miss Swainson—was the husband, and E. her bibi. I think that I excite more curiosity than my companion on account of my age. On account, I suppose, of an Englishwoman with any silver hair being a rarity in India, I seem to be sometimes considered wonderfully old. Florrie told me that she had heard the women talking as they might have done had I been a hundred years old.

‘One day I wore brown kid gloves. My hands were looked at with surprise. I suppose that the women wondered why I should have brown hands and a white face. I pulled off my gloves, and this seemed a new cause for surprise. Natives are very curious. One ... young man of good family acts as my Munshi. He told me to-day that his aunt wished to know whether I have any salary. How astonished we should be if French or drawing masters asked such questions in England! I have been asked what salary my nephew receives. My being unmarried makes me doubly an object of curiosity to the Hindu women.

‘A poor woman came the other day to see us, and brought us some common yellow flowers. I did not at all admire them, but I thought it only courteous to accept so small a present graciously. Miss Swainson did not like to accept the flowers—I did not know why....[258] She told me afterwards that she was afraid they were brought as religious offerings,—flowers are what are used for such offerings,—and she had heard repeatedly that we are ‘devi.’[63] What gross, fearful ignorance! I heard on good authority that in one place in India, not the Panjab, offerings are actually made to a dead European, who was a special object of dread to the Natives, and whom they therefore wish to propitiate as a kind of demon! Do not the poor, deluded creatures want teachers? I find the women in general very gentle and courteous, and quite willing to listen when they are spoken to on the subject of religion. With the men—except of course the servants—we have little to do.’


‘Batala, Jan. 9.

‘Florrie and I hired four extra kahars, took earlier breakfast, and started this morning for O——, the village in which, as you may remember, I encamped for two or three days with my Margaret, about ten or twelve months ago.

‘We started on foot, as it was not at all too hot for a walk; and though we never walk in the city, we have no objection to doing so in the country. Our dulis, white and red, with eight kahars, followed us. When we had walked about a mile, whom should we meet but the postman, with the English letters! I popped the rest of the things into the duli, but read my Laura’s despatch as I walked along the dusty lane. Very many thanks both to you and to dearest Leila. The bonnet has not yet arrived,—I dare say it will be very elegant,—and yet, as well as the bag, owe its chief value to the love sewn up in it. Your lovely tidies ornament my Batala home.

‘When F. and I returned from the village, being rather tired of going about twelve miles in a canvas box,—of course there is no seat in it; one sits half-Oriental style on a kind of coarse carpet,—I got out to walk the last mile home.’

‘Amritsar, Jan. 13.—My note to dear Leila will tell you of the change which now a good deal engrosses my mind. You did not like my going to Batala; and as far as we can see, our Heavenly Father does not intend us to remain there. He is Wisdom; and what to us seems mysterious and trying must in the end be seen to be right....

‘Ah, well, it is doubtless good to have the branches shaken, on which we perch; and happily I have built no elaborate nest.’



‘Batala, Jan. 20.

‘I am writing in such a dismantled room, making a table of a chair, and sitting on the floor. My luggage went off yesterday—such a quantity! My big boxes and little boxes, chairs, tables, almira, sofa, etc. I do not intend to unpack more than I can help, for I rather hope to have another move before long,—a move back to dear Batala....

‘I have been round to the six schools and three Zenanas, explaining the sad cause of our sudden departure. I have found sympathy and kindness. On three faces at least there were tears. Facts are often more eloquent than words! The Batala people have seen B—n suffering keen anguish for Christ’s sake; they see that the property which was ——‘s is his no more, for Christ’s sake. They have seen two ladies going fearlessly, trustingly, amongst them, one of them old, and the other so ill that she has fairly broken down in her work—for Christ’s sake! These things may tell more even than preaching.... With God’s blessing Batala will yet be ours.

‘Strange to say, the Mission has just bought a house in the midst of the City; not hired, but bought it out and out. I went over it yesterday.... There is room on that ground to build a church on. And, please God, we shall have a church there some day. Nil desperandum.’

To another she wrote on the same day: ‘It seems very sad, when there had been such a promising beginning; a new and interesting Zenana opened to me only yesterday; and I must quit Batala to-day, for one lady cannot stay by herself. But I am not in the least discouraged. I believe that the Almighty will not suffer the Mission to be permanently broken up. He will send some one to take poor Florrie’s place; and then I am ready, at twenty-four hours’ notice, to return to my post. I hear that the women are very sorry for our going. I have myself seen tears on brown faces.’ Her confident hope was soon to come true.

‘Mission Bungalow, Jan. 29.—Here I am, back again in my nice large room. My nieces would have it so, and made all arrangements during my absence.... I must tell dear Leila what C. H. said one day, absurd as it sounds; but it was a compliment to her work, therefore I repeat it. “How bonny the Auntie looks in her[260] new bonnet!” There is a bit of flattery, spoken for once by one who is particularly plain-spoken! But it was the bonnet that was bonny, not your loving old sister.’


‘March 5, 1877.

‘Many thanks to you and your sweet Mother for your loving notes and the Illustrated. I am glad that I have not been sent Froggy’s Brother. Not only am I afraid of shedding one useless tear; but I seem to have scarcely any time for reading ............
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