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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER VII
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A.D. 1878

Once more Miss Tucker settled down in Batala—for life! She would only leave the place again for her short and well-earned holidays; and at the last for her passing away.

During many years her home was still to be in the quaint old palace, described by others as draughty, weird, forlorn, desolate; though she herself so resolutely looked upon the discomforts of the old building through rose-tinted glasses. But its dreary aspect was soon to be changed. The bright faces of Panjabi lads, the merry voices of Panjabi scholars, were to fill with fresh life those big and empty rooms. ‘The Baring High School,’ as it was called, had its first existence in the shape of a small boarding-school at Amritsar, which Mr. Baring decided to remove to the palace at Batala. About fifteen boys were, in the beginning, at Anarkalli,—described by A. L. O. E. as ‘our choicest young Natives, converts or descendants of converts; one is the grandson of a martyr!’ These boys or their friends paid fees, when they could, which was not always; and the fees, though perhaps sufficient to cover their food, were by no means sufficient to cover the cost of a good education.

From the spring of 1878 Mr. Baring resided there, as C.M.S. Honorary Missionary, with control of the Boys’ School, which indeed had been started mainly at his own[283] expense; while Babu Singha worked under him as the Master of the School. Miss Tucker, as she stated in her letters, held no such post as that of Matron. Her position was entirely independent, being that of Honorary Zenana Missionary. She paid for her own rooms and her own board in the Palace, and regarded Zenana visiting, and the writing of small books for Indian readers, as her prime occupations. But for Charlotte Tucker to live under the same roof with all those boys, and not to give them loving interest, not to attempt to teach or influence them, would have been a sheer impossibility.

Another Boys’ School had been started in Batala, which must not be confounded with the above. The Baring High School was—and is—distinctly for the education of Indian Christian boys. The Mission School, known later as ‘The Plough,’—Miss Tucker recognising strongly that this early stage of work in Batala could only be compared to a farmer’s ploughing of his fields,—was for Indian boys, not yet Christian. They received Christian teaching; and when a boy in the Plough School became a convert, he was passed on usually to the High School. The very starting of this ‘Plough School’ was due to Miss Tucker’s liberality. Out of her own purse she generously paid the main part of its expenses.

We must turn again to her letters, with all their curiously fresh, young eagerness and enjoyment, to realise what her life was at this time. Charlotte Tucker might call herself ‘old,’—she was very fond of doing so on every possible occasion; but certainly none of the weight of age had as yet descended upon her spirits.


‘Batala, April 13, 1878.

‘We hope next Sunday to have a Baptism in our lovely little lake; and we have been practising baptismal hymns to sing on the joyful[284] occasion. We had some anxiety about our young convert.... He went to Amritsar on business; and at the time when we expected his return he did not come back.

‘What could have happened? Had the dear youth been seized by his Muhammadan relations? Such things do happen; the danger is a very real one. It is often no easy matter to confess Christ in India. Mr. B., who was here, wrote off a note to a Christian Maulvi in Amritsar to search for the lad. He did so, and found him, and brought him here in safety last night; but not before —— had had a painful time of it in Amritsar.

‘I looked with interest on that Christian Maulvi, as he sat in our drawing-room, conversing with the English Missionaries.... He has known well enough to what dangers a convert may be exposed; for he has experienced them.... He was the first of his family to take up the Cross. His Muhammadan neighbours formed the fiendish design of burning him alive in his house. They piled up his clothes, etc., in an under room. He was sleeping above. The Muhammadans set fire to the pile; and the clothes, etc., were quickly consumed; but the fire did not, as was intended, set the whole house in a blaze. The ceiling was charred; that was all; and the Christian slept unharmed, watched over by the Eye that never slumbers nor sleeps.’

About this time A. L. O. E. wrote home to another quarter:—

‘Yesterday a letter arrived from the schoolmaster of O—— with tidings that a lad of fifteen has had the courage to declare to his friends his desire to become a Christian. The natural result of such a declaration has followed,—the young confessor has been beaten. It is no small matter to stand up thus openly for Christ in a heathen village. The lad may have to endure much. I have seen one who was made to stand in boiling oil by his own father, to hinder him from going to the Christians. Whether the O—— boy’s conversion has been the result of the Good Friday expedition we know not; but whether it be so or not, the lad claims our sympathy and interest. We shall try to bring him here, to the Batala Boarding-School, where he may at least receive food and protection. “It is a refuge,” said our Christian Maulvi to me yesterday, glancing up at the goodly building raised by the Maharajah Shere Singh, who little dreamed that he was preparing in it a home for a Christian Natives’ Boarding-School, and also for the ladies of a Zenana Mission. I am at present the sole English Agent of the latter Society here.’


TO MRS. E——.

‘May 10, 1878.

‘You may like to hear a little more about our School of young Panjabis, as it is rather a curiosity.

‘My nephew, Mr. Baring, has succeeded in making these young Natives like not only cricket, but gardening. We are to have a Horticultural Exhibition in August, when prizes are to be given for the best flowers and fruit. Considering that the gardens are all on ground redeemed from the lake this year, it will hardly be expected that the show will equal one in the Botanical Gardens. But oh, you should see our glorious pink water-lilies! They grow wild in the water, and would be a sight anywhere.

‘I want the boys also to take to intellectual games. I am much pleased at having succeeded in making one nice lad compose two Sunday enigmas. I by no means despise this small beginning of authorship. Sunday enigmas greatly increase knowledge of Scripture, and also help to make the holy day pass pleasantly. There is a great deal of singing here also; and such a lovely text for our Chapel wall is now almost ready.... Our dear lads cannot, as —— did, give a beautiful pulpit, but I think that they take a pride and pleasure in their Chapel.

‘It will look rather pretty, I hope, with its white walls, and striped pardahs of red and white, and the pretty blue ecclesiastical-looking carpet which is promised for it. A Baptismal Register Book is ordered. I want a large one! God grant that it may fill up rapidly. We shall require a cemetery too, and have rather set our hearts on a pretty mango tope[80] at a suitable distance from, but not quite in sight of, the house.’

‘Batala; my beloved Laura’s Birthday, May 20, 1878.

‘On this day of all days in the year I could not but write to my own precious sister, even if I had not such a nice, long, interesting letter to thank her for, as I received yesterday....

‘Like you, I earnestly hope that the Almighty will preserve our dear land from the fearful evil of war. You and I would scarcely now care to sing—
‘“In the proud battle-fields
Bounding with glee.”

‘How little realisation the juvenile writer had of what war is!...[286] We are in another kind of warfare here. This living in the First Century, instead of the Nineteenth, seems to give a more vivid colour to life. I suspect that I should find some Missionary stations so dull after one like this! Such as those where year after year passes without an adult baptism being witnessed,—hardly expected,—perhaps in some instances hardly hoped for!... The fact is that it needs some moral courage in the Missionary, as well as all sorts of courage in the Convert, to face the storm that may follow a baptism.

‘One feels almost ashamed of remaining in such perfect security,[81] when encouraging a poor brown brother or sister to go up, as it were, to the cannon’s mouth. I was thinking to-day what would be the most painful sacrifice which one could make. It seemed to me that of the love and esteem of all our dear ones. And that is just the sacrifice which some of our brethren have to make! No wonder that they hesitate, weep, shrink from the flood of sorrow before them; but the true-hearted ones make the plunge at last. “The love of Christ constraineth.”

‘The enclosed to —— will give you an idea of some people’s trials; but ever and anon new cases seem to crop up. I expect that our fair Batala will be a kind of harbour of refuge to hunted ones. Mera Bhatija has been telling me that a Missionary—I forget where—is about to have a Baptism, and wants to send the new Christian over to us for a week, to let the storm blow over a little. Another lad was all packed ready to come, but he was caught. He means to take the opportunity of escaping when he can....

‘Mera Bhatija and I are curious to see the Rainbow glass. Perhaps, if it be small, I may show it off in the Zenanas. New and curious things give much pleasure. From a little round pin-cushion of mine the pretty glass picture of a Cathedral came off. I often take it with me, and show it, and say, “This is an English Church, in which God is praised every day!” Mere prints do not take with the Natives. They like coloured things that glitter.’


‘May 21, 1878.

‘It is wonderful to me how an English lady can go without fear or danger all about Batala, meeting with so much respect and courtesy. I do not feel it the slightest risk. Into narrow lanes, up dark staircases,—amongst women, amongst men,—I go without the smallest[287] excuse for being alarmed. The people, too, generally listen very quietly, though what is said may be dead against their views. I make the slender concession of calling Muhammad “Mr. Muhammad”—“Muhammad Sahib”—but no one could object to so common a title. He is never called “Hasrat”—Saint—like Moses and David.’


‘May 29, 1878.

‘Three new boys have arrived to-day. I am glad that they did not come till I had pretty well learned up the first seventeen, tacking the right names to the right faces. It took me a good while to do this, for I have a difficulty in remembering faces....

‘The Natives who send their boys to this upper-class school are of course anxious that the lads should be good English scholars. At this time of high-pressure education it is necessary that they should be so. Mr. Baring drudges day after day at the English classes; but it occurred to me that I could give a little help in play-hours. I have written an English charade for our young Panjabis to recite; and the idea has, I think, taken with them. It needed a little management to give a separate part to every one of seventeen boys, apportioning it to the individual’s capacity. Pretty little P. (five years) could not be expected to manage more than a line and a half; but it would never have done to have left him out. Into each of the three divisions of the charade I have introduced a lively chorus, in which all can join. The song that takes most is—
‘“I am a brisk and sprightly lad,
But newly come from sea, sir!”

‘This is rather curious, as none of our Punjabis have ever seen the sea. The chorus will be first-rate practice for rapid, clear pronunciation; for
‘“When the boatswain pipes ‘All hands aloft!’”

would not be an easy line even for some English boys. If the lads manage tolerably well, the charade will be great fun. Who would ever have dreamt that part of a Missionary’s work should be to set boys to learn a lively charade!

‘I pity the City boys. I suspect that there is a sort of wistful longing raised in many a young heart, “I wish I were one of those Christian boys!” If there could be a blind ballot of Batala boys, as to whether the whole town should become Christian, I am by no means sure whether the votes would not be in our favour. I do not[288] mean that the poor, dear lads are converts, but that they use their eyes and ears,—and think that ours must be a very pleasant, genial kind of religion, connected in some sort of way with singing, and cricket, and kindness.’

Another short English play, written by Miss Tucker for the boys, was called The Bee and the Butterfly. Miss Mulvany, a Missionary, went one day, somewhere about this time, to Batala for a few hours; and in the course of her visit she was sent upstairs, while Charlotte Tucker gave the boys a lesson in acting the said little play. Miss Mulvany has never lost the impression made upon her by the peals and shouts of laughter which came up from the merry company below.


‘June 19, 1878.

‘I am reading the Granth,[82] the sacred book of the Sikhs. Like the Koran, it is very long,—I think more than 600 quarto pages,—and with an immense deal of repetition in it. But it leaves on the mind a very different impression from the Koran. As far as I have read, it is wonderfully pure and spiritual. If you could substitute the name “Almighty” for “Hari,” and “Lord Jesus” for “Guru,”[83] it might almost seem the composition of hermits in the early centuries, except that celibacy is not enjoined. Woman seems to be given her proper place. Many exhortations are addressed to women....

‘There is something touching in the longing—the yearning—after God,—the intense love of His Name! The Sikh idea of God is not that of the Hindus, with their fiend-like deities. The Creator is light, and goodness, and happiness. There is indeed the ridiculous idea of people having to pass through 840,000 states of existence,—unless the probation be shortened by meditation, purity, and the repetition of God’s name,—but this fearful number of births is regarded as very tiresome indeed.

‘One might call the Granth “the book of yearning,” and I feel humiliated that I, with Gospel light, should in spiritual contemplation and longing for closest communion with the Deity come so far behind these poor Sikhs. Unfortunately, the Sikh religion has been so much corrupted that it is almost dying out. I suppose that[289] it was too pure to please the Enemy; he knew that the Granth would offer no strong opposition to the Bible. Here, in Batala, his stronghold seems to me to be Muhammadanism. It shocks me to find how that invention of Satan darkens the moral sense. What would be thought sin in another, is by some openly defended as no sin if committed by Muhammad!!

‘The Muhammadans too are so ready to stand up for their false faith; far more inclined to defend it than the Hindus are to defend theirs. Mera Bhatija was saying to-day that no book has been written against Christianity by a Hindu. I have myself, however, seen a very bitter article in a paper. But, generally speaking, the Muhammadans seem to be much sterner opponents of Truth than the Hindus. I feel it in the Zenanas.

‘Now, my own Laura, I am going to my long task of reading the Granth. It puts me on vantage-ground when I can tell the Natives that I have read their Scriptures.’

The High School was not to have broken up before the middle of August; but circumstances caused Mr. Baring to fix upon a fortnight earlier, and this decided Miss Tucker to go to Amritsar on July 28. She at once planned that two of the hard-worked ladies at the Mission bungalow should then take their holiday, while she remained as a companion to the third. It does not appear that she had any idea of the Hills for herself. No doubt the change to Amritsar would mean pleasure, if not rest; and she was still able to speak of herself as ‘wonderfully well’; but the unselfish thought for every one else, rather than of her own needs, is not the less remarkable.

To one of her correspondents she wrote from Batala on the 6th of July: ‘You know that I am the only Englishwoman within twenty miles. Now and then friends pass a night here; but in the hot weather not often.... The 29th will, if I stay till then, complete sixteen weeks of steady residence, during which I have only twice seen English ladies,—for less than twenty-four hours. I doubt whether any European has ever stopped in Batala so long before without a single night’s absence.... Once from[290] Friday evening to Monday morning I saw no white face. There is a nice brown lady in the house.’[84]

At Amritsar she found herself as usual in the midst of engrossing interests. Fresh Baptisms were taking place; and about these she wrote to Mrs. Hamilton on the 21st of August, describing one just past:—

‘There was a sweet-looking woman, D., a convert from Hinduism, and her two dear little girls. Her husband, who is not brave enough, or perhaps not sufficiently led towards Christianity, to follow her example, saw her depart for church. “You know that she is going to be baptized,” said Emily. “Yes, yes,” was the reply. “You must be kind to her, and receive her back.” The man made no objection,—even to his two children being baptized; though he had formerly put obstacles in the way. There was a fourth, a convert from Muhammadanism, T., whose baptism was the most interesting of all.... The clergyman subjected the poor girl to the ordeal of a severe examination. She had never probably spoken to an Englishman before; and it would have been no wonder had she flinched or faltered. But she, who has already been beaten at home for Christ’s sake, showed no sign of weakness. Her answers came clear and firm. “Is it because of Miss Wauton’s speaking that you come?” “No, it is because of my heart’s speaking.”

‘The miseries and persecu............
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