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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER VI
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CHAPTER VI
A.D. 1877-1878
A BROWN AND WHITE ‘HAPPY FAMILY’

Though Miss Tucker had by no means fallen in love with Dalhousie during her former visit to the Hills, she was again this August to be, as she said, ‘almost trapped’ into going there. Mrs. Elmslie, albeit in need of rest, could not leave a child in the Orphanage who was dangerously ill, perhaps dying; and Miss Wauton, worn out with heavy toil through the very hot weather, imperatively needed change, yet was in no condition to manage the long distance alone. Miss Tucker therefore resolved to go with her; and the two started off in company, Miss Tucker in her duli, Miss Wauton on a pony. They travelled slowly, with frequent rests by the way, so as to extend the usual two days’ hard journeying into six days of easy advance. On August 22, before leaving Amritsar, Miss Tucker wrote:—

‘Man has been described as a “laughing animal,” “a cooking animal,” to distinguish him from the lower creation. I would suggest “a packing animal,” for neither birds nor beasts—except the elephant—have anything to do with filling trunks! What an amount of packing I have had in the last two and a half years! Of course, these thoughts are suggested by my present business of packing for the Hills.

‘One must be prepared for all sorts of weather, for burning heat, bitter cold, or furious rain. One may have all three in the course of a week. Then one must prepare—as for an attack of cavalry—for a[268] dinner-invitation from the Commissioner’s wife. One is pretty certain that one will meet some worldly folk, who are inclined to think Natives “niggers,” Converts hypocrites, and Missionaries half-rogues and half-fools; so that one must not “appear as a scrub.” I do not wonder that the weary Emily wants to keep in the jungle as long as she can. Ah! if we could but keep in the jungle all the time, I need not pack up my “Conference Cream,”[69] nor my faithful moire antique. There would be some fun in meeting with a cheetah or a hyena,—I should not like a bear unless there were a kud[70] between us,—but I shrink from the world and his wife. However, Missionaries, like sailors, are bound for all weathers....

‘If it won’t shock dear ——, I think that I must give you a laugh over a funny little story, which was told me the other day as a true one. A very attractive Scotch clergyman was teased in the same way that the Energetic used to be. At last a—one can’t call her lady, actually wrote to offer him “her purse, her hand, and her heart.” The cream of the story is the clergyman’s reply. He wrote to his silly sheep: “I advise you to give your heart to God, your purse to the poor, and your hand to him who asks for it.” Was it not clever? I hope that the lady profited by the pastoral rebuke, though she can hardly have enjoyed it....

‘Thanks for the paper about the Telephone. But I hope that we may not hear our Queen’s voice by it, if it is to sound like a trombone.’

From Dinaira, a place some twenty-two miles short of Dalhousie, she wrote:—

‘There is something more soothing to the eye in the softly wooded mountains in which we are now cradled, than in the cold, stern white peaks, seen higher up. The great want is water. One sees the rough, almost precipitous, channels of mountain torrents, but there is not a drop trickling in them. The land suffers sorely from drought. The early crops were partly spoilt by furious storms, the second crops are threatened with destruction by the failure of the rains. A peasant saw me yesterday very slowly getting down rather a rough bit, and with kindly courtesy came and offered me the help of his brown hand. He almost immediately afterwards began to speak of the want of rain; it is the uppermost thought amongst the poor, dear people....

‘I feel that I was rather ungrateful last year about Dalhousie.[269] Though I do not like the place much, it is a very great blessing to have it.’

‘Dalhousie, Sept. 3, 1877.—This ought to be a good day for letter-writing; for it is like an exaggerated November day in England: rain more violent; wind more furious.... I amuse our ladies by my indignation at one of our best hands, Miss H. of J——, deserting us for matrimony. Merrily laughed the bonny blue-bell at my proposition that, in addition to the fine of £100 imposed on Mission Miss Sahibas who marry within three years of coming out, it should be part of the contract that they should have all their hair shaved off on the day before the wedding. Don’t you approve, dear? In the Strathclyde, beside Miss F. and myself, there were four Mission Miss Sahibas going out for the first time. One of the four has gone home, invalided; two have married; only my noble Miss G. remains in the field! It is a great deal worse when experienced Missionaries marry; we do not know how to supply their places....

‘You must not fancy that we have always weather like this in the hills. When we first arrived, and for days afterwards, the weather was lovely, July in the middle of the day, October at night. The scenery was glorious. I hope, however, that I may get back next week. I intend to travel rapidly, as I travel alone.’

A few days afterwards saw Miss Tucker back in Amritsar; and later in the same month she went all the long journey to Murree, giving herself only six days of absence, to be present at the wedding of her nephew, Louis Tucker. Thence she again returned to Amritsar. Exciting events had happened at Amritsar during even that absence, in the shape of fresh Baptisms and fresh persecutions. In October she was once more off on a short itinerating tour through villages. A letter written on the first of October refers to the Batala work, of which her heart was full.

‘Mr. Beutel told me with regret that Mr. Baring, on account of low funds, had desired him on Nov. 1st to stop two village-schools near Batala, in which 50 or 60 boys are receiving instruction. I had my Laura’s £5—grown to £5, 10s.—half of her handsome gift, of which Margaret has the other half. This will keep the village schools going till April; and by that time, please God, others may send help.... People do not seem to care for village schools. Government[270] does not. And the people—our dear Natives—are so anxious to have them. The nicest boys seem the village ones.’

An undated letter belongs, probably, to about this time.

‘I think I mentioned to you that a troop of guests invaded my poor Margaret almost in the middle of the night, 3 A.M. She had too much bustle, too much discomfort. She fell ill, as was almost to be expected; but I left her up again, and going to work. When she was lying on her sick-bed,—lovely she looked, with her soft pink cheeks, and her long golden hair hanging loose,—I went and had a chat with her. She has had too few chats with those whom she loves since going to live at the Orphanage.... Says Margaret, “What caps are you going to take to your nephew’s?” “Oh, killing caps,” said I. Perhaps they would look killing if Margaret wore them! She would not believe me,—her playful banter, her arch smile, so reminded me of my Laura! Margaret went on exactly as you would have done. She was certain that my velvet cap must want a new ruche; would I send over a whole set of caps for her to improve? It would amuse her, she said. The Doctor came in, when I was having one of my playful chats with Margaret; and he highly approved of my giving her a little laugh.... She called me “sparkling champagne.” There is a fine name for a Missionary Miss Sahiba! Fancy my discovering one day that, in her crowded little dwelling, she had so emptied herself of needful comforts, that she had not so much as a basin to wash in. If she wished to wash her hands, she must stoop or kneel to perform the ablution in her bath! Off went I to the city, and procured a toilette-set for our house in Batala, which Margaret has the use of till we go,—when I hope that she will return to the Bungalow.’

The above must have been written before her visit to Murree, already mentioned. By the middle of October she was on the point of again starting for Batala; and she wrote cheerily beforehand, on the 15th:—

‘Many, many thanks to my own sweet Laura for the pretty sketch of what was once to me a very happy home. I am so pleased that your hand has not lost its skill. I am in great hopes that, like myself, you may have renewed vigour as you walk down the incline of life’s hill. My companions here wonder at me. In another month I shall have been two years in India,—only two months, journeys included, spent in the Hills; all the remaining twenty-two in the[271] Plains, with one peculiarly unhealthy season, and another of unusually prolonged heat;—and yet I am just as strong and well as if I had been just sauntering about an English garden all the time....

‘I am considered to have a wonderful constitution; and as my Laura is my own sister, I always hope that she has one also....

‘Take no fears about Batala. Fear is another thing with which Missionaries should have nothing to do. It seems to me that English folk in India rather change in character. I never imagined the effect of being in a land like this, where you belong to a conquering race. I must not just say that no one seems afraid of anything, for that would be an exaggeration; but physical courage seems to come quite naturally. Those who might be timid girls in England fearlessly travel at night, quite alone—save for the company of wild-looking natives,—through lonely mountain-passes, perhaps through lightning and storm, with the possibility of meeting cheetahs, bears, and snakes. I feel no more afraid of being at Batala, with or without Mr. Beutel, than you would of sleeping in a London hotel.’

FROM MRS. ELMSLIE TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘Oct. 18, 1877.

‘I have just returned from seeing our darling off to Batala. I know you will be sorry to hear she has gone there again; and Miss Wauton, Mr. Clark, and I have tried hard to prevent it,—in vain! She thinks it her duty to go, and she makes it her pleasure. How we miss her here, I cannot tell you. She is beloved and honoured by rich and poor, young and old. She is our Sunshine. Her bright fancies, her quick perceptions, her wise suggestions, are invaluable to all of us in the Mission.

‘While she frets over her want of power in speaking Urdu and Panjabi, we are rejoicing, not only in her power of writing for the people, but in her wonderful perception of the national character, her insight into the weaknesses and also into the virtues of our Native friends, Christian and heathen. Her loving, unselfish ways are wonderfully soothing and sustaining; and life has seemed to me a different thing since God brought her to us.

‘She has been wonderfully free of fever during the past year; and the excitability which used to make me anxious has quite passed away. I think she has been looking quite lovely of late; the expression of her dear face has been so restful, so sweet, so angel-like. She has been a little less thin too, and has been wearing more[272] becoming caps and bonnets. We find it necessary to look after her in such sublunary things; and many a laugh she has at our anxiety about her appearance. You asked me to tell you of anything she ever needs; and I think you may like to know that she has no intermediate dress for everyday use; nothing between the dark green cashmere and a very pale kind of Chinese silk.

‘A light material of a rather dark grey colour, nicely made up with a tunic bodice and belt, would be very useful to her. But what would she say to me, if she thought I had written this? Another thing is a feather pillow. Such a thing is not to be had in India; and her dear head is, I am sure, often tired. We put our only one into her gari just now, hoping she would not notice it. Off went her coach, and we were so pleased to think it was with her, but she found it out before reaching the end of the Avenue, and sent it back. If you could send one with a coloured cover, it could do either on bed or sofa; and I think it might be well to put her name on it in indelible ink, for she is so very likely to give away such a desirable thing....’

C. M. T. TO MRS. E——.

‘Batala, Nov. 15, 1877.

‘Where do you think the gay Mission Miss Sahiba has been to-day? Never consider mine a monotonous life! Why, I have been to a fair, a mela, as they call it here. I had never thought of a lady’s going to a heathen fair; but two of our Mission ladies are here for ten days, to conduct examinations in the schools. Our valuable Miss Wauton said that she would like to go to the mela. Of course, I would not let her go without a lady companion; so we both accompanied Mr. Beutel in his light covered cart, plunging over ruts in the kachcha road in fine style.

‘It was a pretty sight. The weather was delicious. Numbers of people in their picturesque costumes were threading their way to the village of A——, white being the prevailing colour of the men’s costumes, gay red that of the women’s, with a fair sprinkling of green, a touch of yellow and blue, and here and there a grand display of glittering gold. But we did not go just to look at the folk, or to buy fairings either. Emily and I went armed with books and pictures, to try and sow a little good seed amongst the women, whilst Mr. Beutel and the two Catechists preached to the men.

‘Mr. Beutel found a shady place for us, and Emily and I tried to gather women around us. The men were curious, and wanted to see and hear also. We could not secure an exclusively feminine audience.[273] It was a Hindu mela; and not many Muhammadans seemed to be present, which made matters easier for us.... No one objected to hearing as much about the Blessed Saviour as we could tell them. Emily speaks Punjabi famously; I have only about a thimble-full of it; so I chiefly listened to Emily, and held the umbrella to shield her from the sun.

‘It was interesting to look at the faces, when Emily, with admirable fluency, told the story of the Prodigal Son. At this time her audience seemed to be principally Sikh men. They crouched upon the ground around us, and listened with hearty interest. Nowhere, either from men or women, did we meet with any rudeness; nor did any one seem vexed with our describing what our Lord had done for us....

‘The way in which Batala is opening out is marvellous. I go from Zenana to Zenana, and have not by any means finished paying all my first visits!! Our Bible-woman thinks that about thirty Zenanas are open to her. I doubt that nearly so many are open in the large mother-stations of Amritsar or Lahore. We ought to have two or three clever, active, strong Miss Sahibas here, instead of one elderly lady, who is slow at both learning and teaching.

‘The two ladies from Amritsar are delighted with Batala. To-day is, I think, the anniversary of my arrival in India; so I have entered upon my third year! My Missionary life has, on the whole, been a very happy one....’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘Dec. 13, 1877.—The overland mail was particularly long in arriving this time. I hoped that it would bring me something particularly nice; and what should come to-day but your dear loving letter, and the first halves of your munificent contribution to our schools! How very kind and liberal my Laura is! I had been speaking to Mr. Beutel but yesterday of those two village schools, which would—from the lowness of funds—have been dropped, but for your last handsome gift. I was asking Mr. Beutel how far your Rs.55 would carry them on. He replied—till past the beginning of March. Beyond that there was no provision for them at all.

‘How delighted Mr. Beutel will be, on his return from Amritsar, to hear that a bountiful supply has come in! I think it better to apply your gift to the village schools, than to the girls’ schools in Batala. The latter, I think, excite more interest, and are not so likely to be in want of funds. These poor village schools—since for retrenchment sake they were cast off—are like waifs and strays. Government does not care for village schools; the School Society cannot afford to[274] keep up half the desirable number. Mr. Beutel often receives applications for new village schools, and is so much interested in them that he and our Catechist have one between them....

‘We are to have a grand tamasha here at Christmas-time. Mr. Beutel is going to gather, not only the boys of our Batala Mission School, but boys from village schools. Of course, this is not merely to give enjoyment, though the enjoyment will probably be great, but to bring more forcibly before the lads the tidings of great gladness. We are a little puzzled about the poor little girls; as their cruel and absurd pardah rules prevent the possibility of gathering them all together, even in the Bible-woman’s house.’

The beginning of 1878 found Miss Tucker at Batala; and though once more for a short time her work there was to be broken through, the spring of this same year, as explained earlier, would see an end of the difficulty which had attended her permanent residence in the place. The letter to her sister, written on January 5th, is all through a particularly characteristic one. A large amount will bear quotation.

‘The warm dress which you have so very kindly procured for me has not yet arrived; but I should not wonder if it were h............
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