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CHAPTER IX
A.D. 1879
THE CHURCH AT BATALA

The annals of 1879 are as usual very abundant, and space can only be found for a limited selection of extracts. Miss Tucker was much distressed about the Afghan war; not because of any possible peril or discomfort to herself, but because her judgment disapproved of it as a whole, and also because of the sufferings which she knew it must entail upon the soldiers.

While the larger number of extracts given are, throughout her Indian career, in reference to the work going on round about her, it must not be supposed that her love for relatives and old friends, or her interest in all that concerned them, ever for a moment waned. The letters teem with loving words and messages; and every item of news from England is received with delight. Her affections seem to have grown stronger rather than weaker, through long separation.

‘Batala, Jan. 16, 1879.—Mine own Laura, how could you write regarding the little meeting, at which you and sweet Margaret were, “Would you not like to be in my shoes at the time, and hold your darling friend in your arms?” I would much rather have been in Margaret’s shoes, and have held some one else in my arms,—only for the wrench that would have followed! But O love, we are travelling in the same train, only in different carriages; and I am thankful that though we cannot see each other, we can as it were talk to each other out of the windows. What a blessing the Post is!’

[319]

TO MISS ‘LEILA’ HAMILTON.

‘Jan. 20, 1879.

‘Ours is not to be a village church, dear, but one in a city of more than 25,000 inhabitants, where there are graceful mosques, a large idol-temple, etc. A mere mud shed would be quite out of character; our present room in a schoolhouse would be better than that. There is considerable difficulty and expense in buying a site. It ought to be in the city. I have written to dear —— about one which Mr. Baring has seen, but it is very doubtful whether the place can be purchased.

‘My nephew and I are both economical, and I think that you and dear Fred may depend on money not being wasted in useless decorations. But the sacred edifice ought to be of brick, and pretty strong, not only to endure for years, but also to keep out the heat. A tiny church would not cost much; one so small that beams could reach from side to side. But if our Church is to go on growing, as we hope and pray that it may, what would be the advantage of having a tiny chapel, which would not comfortably accommodate ourselves in a fiery climate, and in which there would be no room at all for heathen spectators? We should be wanting a second; and how could we procure a second clergyman? Please thank dear Fred very, very much for his kindness in collecting, and assure him that we wish to make the money go as far as possible.’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘Jan. 31.—I sometimes think that it is well for me that I have no one to carry cushions after me,—as the dear A——s made the boys do in George Square,—or to watch my face to see if I look pale. I have been enabled to make efforts, for which I might not have thought my frame capable, and have kept my health wonderfully.

‘This is the eighth day that I have not seen an English person! Mera Bhatija has been away on duty; but I hope to have him back to-morrow. I shall not be sorry to see him again; we are becoming more and more like real Aunt and Nephew. He wanted me to go to Amritsar during his needful absence; but there were strong reasons against that....

‘As regards health, we are between Scylla and Charybdis. People in India cannot help thinking a great deal about it, because five minutes’ carelessness may wreck health for life; yet it is a great matter for us, if possible, to keep from sinking to the languid “cannot-do-anything” point. To rest there is something like letting the head go under water. I often think of dear Uncle Tom’s expression,—“Never say die!”’

[320]

TO MRS. E——

‘Feb. 4, 1879.

‘My nephew, the Rev. F. Baring, has organised little relief works; for, owing to drought, and partly to the war, there is much distress in Batala. If you were here, dear Aunt, it would interest you to walk about, leaning on my arm, and see poor men in their rags, women and children, carrying baskets of earth on their heads, to fill up that part of the tank which is nearest to the house. It is a good thing for us, but a better thing for the poor folk, who are thankful to earn their pice. Mr. Baring intends also to give poor women in the city employment in spinning, and to get a Christian native weaver to make the cotton into towels or napkins....

‘Both my nephews, Mr. Bateman and Mr. Baring, are very clever in finding ways to start the Converts in life, giving them means of earning an honest livelihood. One fine lad has a place in the Woods and Forests Department; another is learning work in the Press; a third is to be employed in a religious book-shop; a fourth convert is doing profitable business as a small wood-merchant. Another, who has a little money of his own, intends to set up a small shop in his own village. This is rather brave, as, only a month or two ago, he was driven forth by his own family with threats and curses. It seems to me that a very important part of a Missionary’s work is to watch over converts after Baptism, both as regards body and soul. In the Church, in the time of the Apostles, converts were not left to starve. They must not be idle, but they must have the means of earning their bread. We also greatly wish that every Native convert should feel it to be his or her work to bring in others to Christ....

‘We intend to have a Fancy Fair in April, for the Church which we hope to build; but the great puzzle will be to find buyers,—Mr. Baring and myself being the only white folk in Batala, and Natives generally disliking to spend money, except on marriages, funerals, jewels, and sweetmeats.’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘March 3.—I have another dear letter, to-day received, to thank you for. You need take no thought, love, about where I sit. We have benches in chapel; and as for my duli—to sit on its flat floor does not hurt me in the least. I dare say that dear E. never got into the way of it; but I take to it as a duck to the water. The only difficulty is the scrambling out of the box; but this does me no harm; it is wholesome exercise. As for a carriage, it would be[321] useless in Batala. I was regularly blocked in to-day, even in my tiny duli. The streets are so narrow and so crowded....’

TO W. F. T. HAMILTON.

‘March 17.

‘Our saintly Bishop, Dr. French, is now our guest.... We are having such an interesting time, a heart-warming time! There is to be a Confirmation to-morrow; and oh, through what fiery trials some of the dear candidates have come! There is B—n, ... the first man who dared to be baptized in bigoted Batala. His Baptism cost him wife and child. There is the thin, worn B. D., with his hair turning grey; the only Christian in his village, he whom his own mother has reviled.... There is the aged Faqir and his stalwart sons,—but I need not enumerate all. I have told you enough to show what peculiar features of interest may attend a Confirmation in India,—especially perhaps in so thoroughly Oriental a place as this, where there are no Europeans at all but my nephew and myself.

‘Ours is such a dear little Church,—I am not aware that there is one really black sheep in it, though there are some infirm ones. Ten women are to receive Confirmation. I think that all but perhaps one have been converts from Muhammadanism or Hinduism. I do not mean to say that they are all Batala people; but Batala is a genial place to which converts seem drawn.

‘To-morrow, after Confirmation, we hope to spread, not the board but the floor, for a goodly number of welcome guests, more even than we had at Christmas. One feels very thankful to see such a nice large Christian family.... Of course some Stations are more trying to faith; some of God’s servants have to toil for years, and apparently catch nothing; but about here in various directions one hears of converts and inquirers. There is feeling of life stirring among the dry bones.’

TO MISS ‘LEILA’ HAMILTON.

‘April 1, 1879.

‘Do you ever enter Trinity Church?[93] Probably not, it is so far from you. To your sweet Mother and myself many memories are connected with it. Weddings and Christenings,—the overflowing pew,—the corner of it where we used to see the dear bald head of our venerated Father!...

[322]

‘We have a dear young convert from a village, who, like others, finds in Batala a refuge. A simple guileless lad, who likes to come, as dear U. did, to sit at one’s feet, and have a talk about God’s Word.... He does not know much, but enough to have enabled the lad to resist temptation and endure persecution.... I wish that dear —— would take up the subject of portable Bibles in Persian Urdu. Even the children of clever Christian parents are apt to be sadly ignorant of Old Testament Scriptures. How much would English school-children know of them, if they could only buy Bibles in three (Persian Urdu) large volumes,—or in one (Arabic Urdu), very large and heavy?

‘It is not only the expense but the extreme inconvenience of such bulky books that must be considered. Mera Bhatija has English Urdu Bibles for his boys, but some read them with difficulty; and we cannot expect a nation to adopt a new type utterly different from its own. There is a beautifully written New Testament in Persian Urdu ... light, easily carried about, and costing only half a rupee. This is a great boon; but we want the Old Testament Scriptures.... They are at present almost shut out from the people. Our great want is a complete Bible, as delicately written out, and on as fine light paper, as the New Testament, and not very expensive. Most of the Natives are so very poor. I can scarcely imagine how they manage to live.’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘Batala, April 20, 1879.

‘Your dear, sweet letter received to-day was like a nice little visit to me in my comparative loneliness. Mera Bhatija and Babu Singha are both away at Amritsar.... If, when proposing to come out, I could have been told that I should be all alone in a house with thirteen Native boys,—my Ayah is absent from late illness,—I should have been startled, perhaps half-frightened. But these dear fellows do not worry me at all. I asked one of them yesterday: “If I were ill, which of you would nurse me?” “All of us,” was the reply. I thought that thirteen boys would be too much for a sick-room; so—“We would take it in turns,” was the second answer....

‘Many thanks, love, for the two copies of the nice work on Prophecies in the Old Testament. It ought to convince any candid mind.... It might be valuable to English-reading Muhammadans. But it is not at all necessary with them to avoid the Blessed Saviour’s Name. Yesterday, in a Zenana a bright-looking young woman[323] exclaimed, not particularly apropos to anything that I was saying: “Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” “Beshakh!” (Without doubt!) instantly rejoined an older Bibi.

‘Not that the offence of the Cross has ceased. The persecution which dear —— is enduring shows this. He has been beaten five or six times; and I think that we shall have to try to get his enemies bound over to keep the peace. Personally, I am courteously, sometimes affectionately, treated. The poor converts are those who have to endure hardness!’

‘April 27.—I know that some of my dear ones think that I must be very lonesome, with no white woman near me. But there are three things to prevent this:—1st, The Presence of the Master. 2nd, The feeling that separation of body is nothing compared to separation of soul. My ties to loved ones in England are not, thank God, broken! They do not depend on mere space. 3rd, Real loneliness, as regards even this world, is the want of love and sympathy. Some count my brown friends for nothing in this way. I do not do so. They draw out one’s affections, and respond to them. The heart does not shrivel up in India, even when one lives in such an out-of-the-way place as Batala.’

TO MISS ‘LEILA’ HAMILTON.

‘May 1, 1879.

I am sure that your dear Mother and you would peruse with interest Keshab Sen’s lecture, or rather the review of it in the Statesman which I sent home.... Keshab Sen was a brave man, not only as regards the Hindus, but the English officials, to say what he did. To aver that it is Christ’s Religion—not our superior strength, wisdom, intelligence—that holds India for us, is likely to give great offence in high quarters. To say what this Hindu did of despised Missionaries, a band of weak-minded amiable enthusiasts, if not something more contemptible,—as the world thinks them,—showed moral courage.... He has probably made a good many people, both white and brown, angry. His cry, “Jesus alone!—Jesus alone! India for Christ!” would find no echo in the large majority of hearts....

‘I suspect that there is an impression amongst some Europeans, as well as Natives, that Auntie is very old. I have three times heard the latter say that I am a hundred; and I notice that in the last Female Evangelist I am pronounced “advanced in years.” To my mind that means at least seventy!!! I was guessed to-day[324] as eighty in a Zenana. But I must be thought a pretty active old dame, to get up such steep stairs as I do.’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘June 2, 1879.—Of course I cannot tell what God wills for me. I do not intend to do anything foolish. I do not even let my mind dwell much on the joy of going to a Heavenly Home, because it would seem selfish at present to wish to desert others. I realise more the value of life below than I used to do, and am thankful that at former periods God did not fulfil my wish to leave this Earth for a better. He is a poor soldier who is always pining for the end of the campaign!’

‘June 14.—I never felt so that the Word of God in my hand was rejected, as in a Zenana to-day. When I came out, V., my kahar, said, “You ............
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