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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER X
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A.D. 1880-1881

The series of extracts from letters, through the year 1879, given in the last chapter, will convey a fair general idea of how many succeeding years were passed. To quote with equal fulness from each year would mean—not one comparatively small volume, but two large ones; and, however interesting the subject-matter in itself, readers might be expected to grow weary.

Year after year Charlotte Tucker lived on in the old palace, which had so strangely become her home, surrounded by the brown boys, whom she loved; and by the spring of 1880 they had grown to forty in number. Year after year she wrote little booklets for the Natives of India. Year after year she persisted in her steady round of Zenana visits; not, like the average district-visitor of England, going once a fortnight or once a week into her district,—which was the whole city of Batala,—but day after day giving hours to the work, never daunted because results seemed small, never apparently even tempted to throw up her arduous task in despair. She had to plough for the Master of the harvest; and she was content to leave results with Him.

It must have been a monotonous life, viewed from ordinary standpoints. Charlotte Tucker had had plenty of society in the past; and though she might laugh at stiff[332] dinner-parties or dull morning calls, she had fully enjoyed intercourse with superior and cultivated minds. Some amount of such intercourse she had still in the Panjab; but for months together, as time went on, she was thrown mainly upon her own resources, was left with absolutely no European companions. It is hardly within the bounds of possibility that she should not have suffered from the deprivation, cheerily as she received it.

‘Missionaries in work are usually rather “yoked two and two,”’ she wrote to an Aunt, in the beginning of 1880. Then after a slight allusion to her successive ‘yoke-fellows’ at Batala, she adds brightly: ‘And I look forward for the greater part of 1880 to going side by side with Babu Singha, the converted Hindu Head-master,’—with kind mention also of his wife and children.

Friends might say what they would. Miss Tucker had advanced far beyond the stage when it was possible to convince her that she ‘could not stay alone’ in Batala. Mr. Baring had decided to go to England for eight months; and no one else was free to join her in Anarkalli; but she refused to desert her post. In fact, she would not be ‘alone’ there now, as she would have been two years earlier. She loved and was loved by the little circle of Indian Christians in the place; and the merry boys of the household were very dear to her. None the less, her position was a singularly solitary one.

The frequent arrival of boxes from England afforded her never-failing delight; partly on her own account, and yet more for the additional facilities afforded thereby for giving away. Pages each year might be filled with quotations on this subject alone.

Also month by month fresh indications appeared of the reality of the work going on,—an inquirer here; a convert there; an abusive Muhammadan softened into gentleness; an ignorant Heathen enlightened; a bigot persuaded;[333] and now and again one coming forward, bravely resolute to undergo Baptism, willing to face the almost inevitable persecution following. All these things were of perpetual occurrence, and they lay very near to Charlotte Tucker’s heart.

On the 30th of January 1880 comes a pungent little sentence:—

‘What fearful people the Nihilists are! When one reads of them, one seems to see Satan let loose! There is some similarity between India and Russia. Perhaps some years hence a Nihilist crop may rise from tens of thousands of sharp conceited lads whom the Government so carefully educate without God! They cannot possibly all get the prizes in life which they look for; they won’t dig,—so will naturally swell the dangerous classes. Such dear lads as we have here will be, we trust, as the salt in the mass. But they may have a difficult work before them.’

Two letters in February to two nieces must not be passed over. In the first we have a glimpse of the dark as well as of the hopeful side:—

‘Feb. 2.—That most unhappy lad, ——, seems to be a thorough hypocrite. Only a day or so after professing himself a true penitent, and kneeling in seeming prayer at my side, he has, we hear, been actually preaching in the bazaar here against the Christians.... The subject is too sad to dwell upon; but it is better that I should let you know at once, as I sent home so hopeful a letter.

‘Fancy poor E. Bibi actually paying me a visit here yesterday evening. The delicate creature longed to come. I told her to ask her husband’s leave, and suggested that he had better come with her. She asked me to send my kahar in the morning, and she would send a message by him as to whether her “Sahib” consented or not. The answer was favourable; so I made arrangements to have two dulis at her door after dark, for E., her mother, and her two little girls. I warned our boys to keep out of the chapel, into which I first introduced the Bibis. I went to the harmonium, and sang to it, “Jesus lives,” and two or three verses of the Advent hymn, etc. While we were in the chapel the husband joined us, sat down, and quietly listened. He was very silent, which I think showed good manners.

‘We then all proceeded up our long staircase.... I offered tea,[334] but no one drank it; the children ate some pudding, and I presented each of them with one of the dolls which your dear Mother sent out, which I have had dressed.... I think the party were pleased. I wonder what thoughts were passing in the mind of that silent husband. He knows perfectly well what I visit his wife for; for in Batala we do not hide our colours at all. I sometimes think that dear M.[94] dashes right at the enemy almost too boldly; but as she is a supposed descendant of Muhammad, I dare say that her dauntless intrepidity has a good effect. I do not find the women made angry even by what must startle them. Of course one’s manner must be gentle and conciliating, even when meeting the question, “Do you think that Muhammad told lies?” with a simple straightforward, “Yes.”

‘I think that not a few Batala women do now believe that our religion is the right one, and that our Blessed Lord is the Saviour of sinners. But this belief may exist for years before there is any desire for Baptism.’

‘Feb. 6.—One visit which I paid in the former place (Amritsar) would have warmed your heart. In a cottage in the Mission compound, occupied by one of the Bible-women, I found three who doubtless will inherit the blessing promised to all who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. There was dear faithful Begum J., and her daughter, K. (now a Bible-woman). These are the two who, as you may remember, were threatened with a razor by Begum J.’s husband, and fled, and were afterwards baptized. They had come to see another brave Convert, who had been baptized on the previous day.

‘A fierce crowd had attacked her, tore the jewels from her ears, beat her on the head, threatened to cut off her nose! How she escaped she cannot tell; she was bewildered. Perhaps some unseen Angel took her by the hand. She reached somehow a duli, which was in waiting for her, and was baptized the same day.’

The school was so growing, that by March 1880 a good many of the boys had to sleep on the floor which formerly had been reserved entirely for Europeans. This Miss Tucker did not mind.

Before the end of March she had to bid good-bye to her dharm-nephew, who was starting for England. It must[335] have given her a strange feeling, thus to see one and another leave for the dear old country, which she so loved, and yet which she had resolved never of her own free will to see again.

The previous day a feast was given in Mr. Baring’s honour, the boys ‘subscribing to buy the little dainties’; and ‘speeches of love and gratitude’ being made. Then, in the early morning, long before dawn, Miss Tucker felt her way down the dark staircase, to see the traveller off. ‘The babies,’ as she called some of the tinier brown boys, were there also; one small orphan looking ‘sad and thoughtful’ over the farewell. Bigger boys also came down, and they waited in the Chapel till the Principal appeared. Shakings of hands were followed by cheers, as Mr. Baring drove away in the dak-gari,—‘probably with mingled feelings,’ writes Miss Tucker. One is disposed to wonder what her feelings were, as she turned back into the palace; alone among her companions; the only European in that Eastern city! Yet no signs of heart-quailing can be seen in the letter to her sister, written on the same day.

In this spring of 1880 came another event of importance,—the ‘Disruption’ of the older Zenana Society, under which Charlotte Tucker had worked as an Honorary Member.

There is no necessity to enter fully here into the causes which led to that disruption. To some of us it may seem to have been, sooner or later, almost inevitable. Until that date the attempt had been made to work on what are sometimes called ‘un-denominational lines,’—which meant that the Missionaries might be either Churchwomen or Dissenters, each teaching according to her own convictions. A difficult programme to carry out, one is disposed to imagine! After a while friction arose in the Governing Body at home. Since by far the larger majority of[336] workers in the field belonged to the Anglican Church, it was rightly considered that the Governing Body ought to consist of an equally large majority of Church people; and on this point the split took place. The Society broke into two parts. The one part remained more or less Dissenting; the other part became distinctly and exclusively Church of England. Each Missionary had to make her own decision as to which she would join; and Charlotte Tucker at least had no hesitation in the matter. On the 12th of May she wrote:—

‘Here I am at home again, after my strange little visit to Amritsar; short, but by no means unimportant. All our five ladies have crossed the Rubicon; they have sent in their resignations, with the usual six months’ notice. It remains to be seen whether the new “Church of England Zenana Society” will or can take them all on! We know not what the state of their funds will be, as they begin on nothing. Our ladies, with Mr. Weitbrecht the Secretary, seemed to have no hesitation as to what course to pursue,—that of resignation.... I am very desirous to know what dear Margaret Elmslie and Emily will do.... How the complicated machinery of the Mission will work during the strange interregnum I know not.... One expects a sort of little—not exactly chaos, but—struggling along in a fog, for the next six months; and then we shall probably see our way clearly.’

On the following day she sent in her own resignation. Little more appears about the subject in later letters. As an Honorary Worker her own position was not affected, nor was her income placed in jeopardy; and soon the new ‘Church of England Zenana Society,’ being warmly taken up, was in full working order. Amongst those who joined it were her friends, Mrs. Elmslie and Miss Wauton.

At this time she was becoming very anxious for the return of Mrs. Elmslie, who had been detained in England far longer than was at first intended, by family claims. Sometimes a fear was expressed that Mrs. Elmslie might never return; and no one else could fill her place. Charlotte Tucker did not dream of the happy consummation ahead.[337] Two or three references to her earlier days occur in June and July, as if some cause had sent her thoughts backward.

‘June 4, 1880.—I think, love, that one gets into a kind of social fetters. When we were young we had the worry of a footboy at our heels,—it was thought suitable for our position. (Do you remember dear Fanny’s lovely definition of that word?) When I was in Edinburgh, dear —— was surprised, and I think a little shocked, at “my father’s daughter” going in omnibuses. As if it were any disgrace to my father’s middle-aged daughter to do what her precious princely Sire had done a hundred times! O Laura, when one throws aside these trammels of social position, one feels like a horse taken out of harness, and set free in a nice green meadow. Our honoured Father! what true dignity was his,—but how he shook off the trammels!

‘To be mean and miserly is quite another thing. That dishonours our profession. One should be ready to entertain hospitably, and to pay for work done handsomely; there is a free hand and a generous spirit quite consistent with economy.’

‘July 13.—Yes, love, we did intensely enjoy those concerts in H. Square. I want you to enjoy more concerts. It is curious how useful I have found my little musi............
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