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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER VIII
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A.D. 1878-1879

It is clear that Charlotte Tucker was profoundly impressed with the sense of living, as she said, in the First Century, instead of the Nineteenth. In another letter, soon to be quoted, she describes her Batala experience as ‘being carried back to the days of the Apostles.’

For in Batala the complex conditions of modern life, the intricacies of Nineteenth Century Christianity, were absent. Here in England it is more or less the correct thing to be in some measure religious, to be at least nominally a Christian. People are on the whole expected to go to Church,—or, if Dissenters, just as much to go to Chapel,—and though the going to Church, as a matter of course, does not at all indicate the lack of deeper reasons, of purer motives underlying, it does make the going a very easy matter. So, also, a mother takes her little one to Church for Baptism, again almost as a matter of course; often indeed with heartfelt prayer and longing, but with no question of danger involved in the act. It is a perfectly simple thing to do. More attention would in fact be drawn by not doing it than by doing it.

At Batala, as in thousands of other Heathen and Muhammadan cities, things are widely different. Sharp lines of demarcation are drawn between the Christian and the non-Christian,—between the Church and the[300] heathen world around. It was so most markedly when Charlotte Tucker lived in Batala. There, as in Early Christian days, was the great mass of those who neither knew nor cared for the Names of God and Christ; and in their midst was the Infant Church, a tiny body of brave men and women, who had come out from amongst the Heathen and Muhammadans, to be known as the servants of Christ.[88]

And the step which led from the one to the other stood clear and defined, with no possibility of a mistake. The marching-orders which our Lord and Master issued were not only to go forth and teach. Here is the fuller version: ‘Go ye therefore, and teach’ (Rev. Ver. ‘make disciples of’) ‘all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.’

That was the great order given; that was the command which had to be obeyed, whether at Batala or elsewhere. And however easy a matter Baptism in England may be, it is no easy matter in the Panjab for Converts from Heathenism or from Muhammadanism. It is a step of overwhelming importance. It means leaving the world of idolatry, ignorance, superstition, behind, and entering the Church of Christ. It also means too often leaving all things earthly that have most been loved. It means persecution, beating, cruelty, hard words and harsher deeds. It means wives separated from husbands, mothers separated from children, loss of money, loss of the means of livelihood, danger not seldom to life itself. It is the passing of the Rubicon.

Again, in that Infant Church at Batala,—or, one may equally say, in the Church at Amritsar, and throughout the Panjab,—we find reproduced the various elements[301] which existed in Early Church days. There are strong Christians and weak Christians; there are whole-hearted ones and wavering ones; there are the true and the false. What wonder?—when the very foundation-stones of the Church of Christ included a Judas. Wheat and tares will grow together until the end; and bad fish as well as good will be caught in the net. The Church planted in a new place is seldom long without her Demas, who loves this present heathen world, and goes back to it again.

But for one who is unfaithful, for one who turns his back upon the Light, after seeming to be indeed a Convert, there are many who stand firm, persevering to the end, despite difficulties, discouragements, and bitter oppositions. These brave brown brothers and sisters of ours, who are still in the fires of persecution, from which England has been so long delivered, deserve our warmest sympathy.

In giving the story of Charlotte Tucker, and of the growth of the Church at Batala, with which she was so intimately associated, it is of very real importance to show frankly both sides of the picture,—the dark side, as well as the bright; the cloudy as well as the sunshiny. There were of course disappointments as well as encouragements. There were goings backward as well as pressings forward. Missionary life is no more one of unbroken success, even at its best, than any other kind of hard-working life, with a high aim before it; and to present it as such, by omitting to describe failure side by side with success, would—and often does—produce only a sense of unreality. The story of the Church throughout the ages has always been a chequered tale.

Hard as Miss Tucker toiled, she had not the delight of seeing many individuals won to Christianity through her own efforts. Results of what she did, still more of what she was, were visible enough to others,—but rather in the shape of a general and widespread influence than in the[302] shape of conversions directly due to her labours. The worth of any work can never be truly gauged by the amount of success which may appear to follow within a given time; and to measure the extent or the effects of her loving influence, alike among younger Missionaries and among Indian Christians, especially among the boys in the Baring High School, is utterly impossible.

No less impossible is it to measure the results of her years of toilsome work in Zenanas. Some here are disposed to assert freely that she accomplished very little. One Native Christian, sending a few slight memoranda, goes so far as to say: ‘I feel sorry to have to add that she signally failed as a Missionary, if by that term is meant the preaching of the Gospel to the heathen of India.’ A very great deal more than mere preaching is, of course, meant by the term; but in any case this would be a most rash judgment for any man to venture to pass, were he English or Indian. No man could have entrance into the scores upon scores of Zenanas which she visited, to test for himself the effects of her work; and we all know what hearsay evidence is worth. Even if he could find entrance, he would have no Divine power to see into the hearts of the people there. The fact that she herself saw few results says nothing; for the best results are often slowest in appearing. Judging from apparent results is always a defective and a shallow proceeding.

From beginning to end she never so far conquered the languages of North India as to speak them with ease. Grammar and construction she might and did to a considerable extent master, but colloquial fluency was not in her case attainable. Still, though she never became actually fluent, it is a matter of unquestionable fact that she did both understand and make herself understood, despite occasional verbal mistakes. There are testimonies from all sides which abundantly prove this.


Her mode of working in Zenanas was peculiar to herself; and though she always held to it, she did not put it forward as a model for every one else to imitate. She made no attempt at systematic instruction, probably feeling her knowledge of the languages unequal to the task; and this in itself was a drawback. ‘In point of fact,’ as one says who was associated with her, ‘she never considered herself as a teacher, but rather, like St. John the Baptist, as a “voice crying in the wilderness.” Her visits were almost always short,’—though to this rule there were evidently exceptions,—‘she seems to have gone in, greeted the people, given her message, and taken courteous leave. She always deprecated any attempt to judge of her work by the number of Zenanas on her visiting list; and indeed it would not be fair to do so, as she did not undertake regular teaching in them.’

Zenana-visiting was only one portion of her work; regarded by herself as the more important portion, but not necessarily the more important because she thought so. We ourselves are poor judges of the comparative worth of the different things which we have to do. She was also a warm and true friend to the Indian Christians, entering into their trials and difficulties, throwing herself into their interests, doing her utmost to help them onward, to lift them upward. In this direction she had a remarkable degree of influence; and in her intercourse with them she was absolutely without pride, she was full of kindliness, consideration, and affection.

With the schoolboys, as already seen, she was in her element. The old spirit of fun, the old devotion to games, were invaluable here; neither having faded with increasing age. One of her dharm-nephews, Dr. Weitbrecht, writing about the High School in Batala, says:—

‘From this time for years to come Miss Tucker was a mainstay of the Boys’ Boarding School, teaching the elder boys the English[304] language and history, taking a motherly interest in all their pursuits, writing for them Batala School songs, inviting them in the evenings to little social entertainments, enlivened by parlour games; visiting the sick, comforting the home-sick new boy; mothering the young convert, who had been sent to Batala not less for spiritual shelter than for instruction; and upholding the hands of workers in the School and Mission generally; besides carrying on without fail her regular visits to the town and villages, and her literary work for publication, both in England and India.’

One of the former schoolboys, now a Native surgeon in India, Dr. I. U. Nasir, writes on the same subject:—

‘Her good influence on the young minds cannot be overrated. Her Bible Classes were eagerly looked for and well attended,—it may be, for the sake of lozenges and bits of cake which she distributed at the end, but also for the interest she made everybody feel in the meeting. She would begin by asking the verse and subject of the morning sermon, and the various points of interest worth remembering. This led to the habit of closely attending to the sermon.... Then every one had a choice of a hymn to be practised for the evening services of the week; a short verse of the Bible was repeated; and Sunday enigmas from the Bible were solved.’

And also with reference to social week-day evenings:—

‘She amused us with stories, comic songs, historical anecdotes, making anagrams, giving riddles to be solved, and several amusements of the kind. Many an evening was spent in Miss Tucker’s drawing-room, playing various indoor games, of which chess and word-making and word-taking were her favourites. In the latter game she would consider it a great triumph to have made such long words as “Jerusalem artichoke.” But she took particular delight in showing her old scrap-album to any one who desired to see it. Many an interesting incident was dropped in connection with her relatives, as she turned leaf after leaf with her old slender fingers. She never got tired of this. Then she would select good scenes from Shakespeare, whom she called “The Poet of Conscience,” and give us lessons in recitation and acting.’

Charlotte Tucker had a profound belief in the good moral influence of Shakespeare. She is said to have[305] greatly wished that the Indians could have the benefit of Shakespeare translated into their Native languages.

In addition to the Baring School boys, she had a never-failing interest in the lads of the Mission Plough School, started mainly by herself, and afterwards endowed by her with the sum of £50 a year. She constantly visited there, and taught the scholars, knowing many of the older boys by name, and asking them from time to time to pay her Sunday afternoon visits.

Moreover, outside all these occupations, A. L. O. E. was still an Author. For some years, indeed, after her arrival in India she wrote for India only, and not especially for England. When, however, it became gradually clear that books suitable for Indian readers were not adapted for England, she found time to accomplish separate volumes for home publication. Some would say that her writings for the Native population of Hindustan are by far the most important part of her whole Missionary work. By her pen she could reach thousands, even tens of thousands, where by her voice she could reach at most only dozens. Her tiny Indian booklets, published by the Christian Literature Society at very low prices, are among the most widely selling of the Society’s productions.

It was only by an exceedingly systematic mode of life and endless toil that Miss Tucker could get through what she did. She was always up very early,—at 6 A.M. in winter, at 4? or 5 A.M. in summer,—and her day was carefully apportioned out. Six weeks’ holiday in the year was permitted by the Society under which she worked, and she would seldom take more than a month of this in the hottest weather, that she might be able to get away for a few days at some other time, without infringing on her full ten months and a half of work. Often part of her so-called holiday was spent in looking after or in acting as[306] companion to somebody else,—or in undertaking work during the absence of other Missionaries from their posts. The marvel is, not that after a few years she should have grown to look older than she was, but that her health could in any degree have stood so great and constant a strain. Few people in the prime of life could have done and endured what she did and endured in the evening of her days.

Very early after her arrival in India, as stated in a previous chapter, the Natives seemed disposed to credit Miss Tucker with an astonishing number of years; but too much must not be thought of this. It arose from the fact that a grey-haired English lady out there is a complete rara avis—a sight seldom to be seen. Miss Wauton’s first impressions of her, jotted down as follows, do not give the impression of a very old lady, dearly as Charlotte Tucker loved to describe herself in those terms: ‘Tall, slight, with lofty brow, sparkling eye, face constantly beaming with love and intelligence; genius in every look; figure frail and fairy-like, agile and graceful; very brisk movements and light tread.’ Hardly like a hundred years old! After a few years had passed she did no doubt age rapidly.

Mention has several times been made of Miss Tucker’s readiness to give; and when one recalls the abounding generosity of her father, not to speak of the story of her grandmother on the Boswell side giving away to a beggar the last coin in the house, one can hardly be surprised at the generous tendencies of Charlotte Tucker’s character. She had the gift of liberality by inheritance; and she cultivated her gift as a matter of principle. Giving was at all times a real delight to her. A quotation on this subject from Mr. Beutel may well come in here:—

‘Miss Tucker was always very liberal. Wheresoever there was need or distress that she heard of, she gave substantial help[307] immediately. I well remember, for instance, after I had taken over charge of the Boys’ Orphanage, one time there were between thirty and forty boys to be fed and clothed, and no money left in hand. As soon as Miss Tucker heard of it, she immediately sent me £10; and I must confess such a blessing rested on that money, that I never came into similar straits during the twelve years that I had charge of the Boys’ Orphanage.

‘And again, before we settled at Clarkabad, there was a great scarcity of grain, in consequence of the failure of crops among the Zamindars. They had very little to eat, and no seed-corn to sow. All wanted some help, and I had no money in hand.... When Miss Tucker heard of it, immediately she sent us Rs.300; and our greatest need was at an end.

‘Again, in 1889, when a dear friend of mine, Pastor and Teacher in the United States of North America, with whom I had come out to India in 1869, had decided to return to India as a Missionary, in order to join and to help me in the multifarious work at Clarkabad, and he found that the money in hand was insufficient to pay for his and his family’s voyage from Germany, and Miss Tucker heard of it, she immediately sent me £100, with the direction to forward that sum to him, on condition that he had not left Germany again for America. This, however, had already taken place in the meantime, and the money was returned to her.

‘Again, in 1892, after we had returned to Kotgur, where there was a great scarcity in the district, and many poor people had hardly one meal a day to eat, and Miss Tucker heard that I gave relief work to some forty or fifty people, she sent me another Rs.100.’

These are merely a few among innumerable instances which might be quoted; though generally the gifts were so quietly bestowed that few or none except the recipient knew about the matter. It was not, however, only in money that she was generous. The very necessaries sent for her own use, the very clothes sent for her own wear, would be given freely away to the first person who seemed in need of them. Mrs. Hamilton, learning something of this, at one time tried in despair calling her gifts ‘loans,’ in the hope that they might be thus secured for Charlotte Tucker’s own benefit. In later years, when a parcel arrived from England, Miss Tucker would sometimes[308] not allow her Missionary companions to see what it contained, that she might feel more free to give away as she felt disposed.

The Rev. Robert Clark speaks of Miss Tucker as ‘an English Christian Faqir,’—a curious use of the term, which he applies also to one or two other Missionaries. The original idea of ‘Christian Faqirs,’ sometimes referred to in Miss Tucker’s own letters, was of Native Faqirs, who, on becoming Christians, kept still to their old mode of life, going about as before, teaching Christianity instead of false religions, and not begging any longer, but receiving a small sum for their support from Englishmen. Mr. Clark, in speaking of A. L. O. E., doubtless uses the word in reference to her peculiar mode of entering into Indian ways, Indian customs, Indian thoughts,—as, for instance, sitting on the floor among them, instead of on a chair, travelling in an ekka like them, and so far as she was able living their life,—as well as to the rigid simplicity and self-denial which she cultivated.

After alluding to the manner of her earlier English life, and contrasting it with the manner of her existence at Batala, where ‘two chairs were placed on two sides of a table in a large and almost unfurnished room,’ Mr. Clark continues: ‘Miss Tucker ate very little. She always told us to tell her beforehand if we were going to see her, in order that she might have something to place before us. There was then no railway; and everything had to be brought from Amritsar once or twice a week. The bread often became very hard. She sometimes said, “Do try this piece; it seems a little softer.” Her guests were thinking all............
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