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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XI
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CHAPTER XI
A.D. 1881-1882
CLOUDS AFTER SUNSHINE

The greater part of 1881 passed much as 1880 had passed; Miss Tucker continuing to live in the old palace, busy and happy among her Indian friends, and cheery with the boys, having no second European within easy reach. But in the spring came an unexpected joy. News arrived that her dharm-nephew, the Rev. Francis Baring, was engaged to be married to her dearly-loved friend, Mrs. Elmslie, and that the two might be expected in Batala before the close of the year. Could Charlotte Tucker have had the shaping of events for herself, for her friends, and for Batala, one can well imagine that this is precisely what she would have chosen to take place. In the opening of the year, however, she had no idea of what would soon come.

‘Jan. 5, 1881.—In looking over my records of 1880, I find that in the nine, or rather eight months, of Mera Bhatija’s absence,—as I was away myself for a month,—I have given nearer seven hundred than six hundred teas to boys or young men. The expense is trifling; it seems as if a couple of pounds of tea lasted for ever; but all these little marks in my book represent a good deal of innocent enjoyment, not, I hope, unmixed with profit. All the boys, save two lately come, have again and again sat at my table, chatted or played with me.’

‘Jan. 11.—I was with a poor weeping Bibi yesterday. Her heart was very heavy. She told me that her husband had forsaken her; he has gone away and married another. When I asked her in the presence of her companions who Christ is, she replied, “God’s[345] Son.” “Why did He come from Heaven?” “To save us.” I wish that this forlorn one would throw herself on His love, and come into the Church. I read God’s Word to another Bibi to-day, who is in the same position,—desolate, forsaken, ready to listen. A third case is somewhat similar. You would think it comparatively easy for these forsaken ones to come out; but even to them the difficulties are immense. Where the husband is tolerably kind, the difficulty is next to insuperable; for marriage by Muhammadan law,—and I have lately been shocked to hear, by English law also,—is dissolved by Baptism. This is dead against St. Paul’s directions as to the duty of believing wives towards unbelieving husbands; and you can imagine how it complicates the difficulties of Zenana visitors!... If one would express in one word the Missionary’s worst perplexity, I think that I would put down the word “marriage.”’

‘Feb. 5, 1881.—I went to a wedding yesterday, one of the silly child-marrying affairs, with which the Hindus delight to ruin themselves and run into debt. Poor —— quite agreed with me that it is very foolish; but he and his relatives cannot resist dastur,[95] so both my kahars receive next to nothing for five months, to work out their debt to me. I had to do rather a difficult thing for an old lady, in order to get to the wedding-party, climb a real ladder—not very good—of eight rounds. I am not as agile as I used to be, and had to go up and up, and then down and down, very slowly and cautiously. To parody Byron’s lines—
‘“The feat performed I—boots it well or ill,
Since not to tumble down is something still....”

‘May 10.

‘I thought that my birthday would pass over very quietly and silently, as it fell on a Sunday.... But my Native friends would not let me go without my birthday tamasha, merely delaying it till the Monday. I could not regret it, for certainly it was one of the most gratifying evenings that I have ever enjoyed. We had our feast, given by the Singhas, on the top of their house, with the glorious dark-blue sky as our ceiling, and our lamp the beautiful moon.... I was presented with a Batala scarf or chaddah, for which my dear boys had subscribed. A wonderful chaddah it is, with borders of red and gold. I thought by moonlight that the colour was grey.... In the morning I saw the exceedingly gay green, of which I enclose a thread.... It is precious to me, as a token of affection.

[346]

‘The Native Christians not unfrequently subscribe to give a parting gift to a Missionary whom they love, when starting for England; but I suppose they thought that, in my case, if they waited for that they would never give me anything, and that it was no harm to present me with something for not going away! Mr. K. was rather astonished at the wild bhajans, which he declares are all on one note—but that is a mistake—but he says that they helped to cure his earache; a very curious and novel effect, which I never knew before to belong to a bhajan!...

‘I think, love, that these little particulars will amuse you. I write playfully, but the real undermost feeling in my heart is that of humble gratitude to Him from Whom all blessings flow,—the love of true and God-fearing hearts being one of the most precious of those blessings.’

TO MRS. J. BOSWELL.

‘March 17, 1881.

‘The Hindus appear to be particularly silly at this time of the year. They throw about coloured water, so as to make almost all the white dresses of their companions look dirty and disreputable. My poor —— came particularly badly off, for he not only had three times his raiment dirtied, but his hand rather severely hurt. Said I to him, “Do you think such a religion is from God?” “It is devilish,” he frankly assented. “A devilish religion; a devilish deed.” “Why do you not leave it?” The poor fellow was silent. It is not faith in his nonsensical religion that holds him back, but love of social ties and surroundings.’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘April 13.

‘Our good pastor Sadiq and I had a long talk together to-day. We two almost, as it were, form a little party by ourselves; we are regular old-fashioned Panjabis, something like Saxons after the Norman Conquest. Sadiq highly approves of this school, because we don’t Anglicise the boys.... But the Anglicising tide runs too fast for Sadiq and me. We get spoilt by Batala, where there are no Europeans or Eurasians.... This is a grand transition time in India; and the Conservatism, which I drank in at old No. 3, remains in me like an instinct now. I would keep everything unchanged that is not wrong or foolish—and there is such a fearful amount of things that are wrong and foolish, that one might think that to get rid of them would give all occupation sufficient. But I know that I am old-fashioned, and live too much in one groove to be able to judge correctly.’

[347]

TO MRS. E——

‘July 29, 1881.

‘You have perhaps heard that I am to have a charming lady to be with me; for my adopted nephew, the Rev. F. H. Baring, is bringing out a lovely bride, one whom I know well, and whom I have been accustomed to call my Queen-Lily, because she is so tall and fair. I expect her to do Mission-work much better than I can; and will not our boys love her! They seem to have made up their minds that she is to be their mother; so she will have a fine large family to look after, thirty-seven boys, or more; some of them really not boys, but men. Rowland Bateman is to perform, or rather, I believe, has performed, the marriage service for his friend. We expect to have grand rejoicings here on the arrival of the happy pair. It was a feast to see the way in which the news of their Principal’s engagement was received by his boys.... There was such clapping and delight, that you might have thought all the boys were going to be married themselves!’

TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘Sept. 4, 1881.

‘I visited to-day a poor mother who has lost a fine little boy. I seated myself amongst the mourners, and talked with the mother. What she said gave me a gleam of hope regarding the child of ten. He had till lately attended our Mission School, so of course had received religious instruction. He had the opportunity also of learning something in the Zenana, and knew Christian Hymns. His illness was very short; and what he said no one could understand; but, as his mother assured me more than once, “he smiled twice.” This seems but a sunbeam to build upon; yet as I have never known or heard of Muhammadans or Heathen smiling when about to die,—the death-smile seems exclusively Christian!—I cannot but hope that the dear little fellow had looked to the Saviour. I told the mother of the hope in my mind, and spoke to the weeping little brother also.’

‘Oct. 3.—It is a real pleasure to look forward to, that of welcoming the Barings back, and placing the reins in younger and stronger hands than my own. Not a giving up of work, please God, but a lightening of responsibility. How often we say or think, “Oh, we’ll leave that till the Padri Sahib comes.” He is to do the thinking and ordering and arrangement in his little bishopric. As for sweet, lovely Margaret, I expect to see her gentle influence bearing on all[348] sides. We are not likely to disagree, unless it be on the subject of who is to sing first, and who is to take the coveted second part.’

‘Peshawar, Oct. 18, 1881.—A large military station like Peshawar is rather a contrast to Batala. But, poor India! Where one sees less of the enemy attacking in one direction, we find him advancing in another. Over the Hindus and Muhammadans he throws the chains of Superstition, Idolatry, Self-righteousness,—he makes them choose a murderer instead of the Prince of Life. For the Europeans he has coldness, deadness, infidelity! I noticed at Church that but one man stayed to Holy Communion.’

‘Nov. 7.—I am so much stronger after my visit to Peshawar,—quite a different being. It must be a comfort to Babu Singha, who thought me ageing with wonderful rapidity. But at Peshawar I took a backward spring. I was more than six hours to-day on an expedition to the village of Urduhi, going in my duli; and I was very little tired,—quite ready for Henry VIII. and his six wives in the afternoon, and for Agamemnon and Achilles in the evening. It is amusing to go back to the old stories one read in one’s childhood.’

TO MISS ‘LEILA’ HAMILTON.

‘Nov. 22, 1881.

‘The visit of the two Bishops,[96] Mr. Clark, and the Chaplain, Mr. Deedes, went off beautifully. Everybody seemed pleased with Batala; and the Bishop of Calcutta wrote such handsome things in the school-book, that I am sure dear Babu Singha was gratified. The Bishop of Calcutta is a striking-looking man; tall, with a simple, unaffected dignity.... He gives one the impression of both physical and intellectual strength, combined with true piety. As the vigorous, energetic practical man, he forms an interesting contrast to the fragile-looking, saintly Bishop of Lahore. Then Mr. Clark has a calm charm of his own,—described by a lad as “looking like an angel, with his beautiful white beard.” ...

‘Of course we had a feast. Then followed brief recitations from Shakespeare, and choruses. To-day the school was examined in Scripture, and pleased the Bishop. We had Divine Service, and an interesting, forcible sermon, well translated, sentence by sentence, by Mr. Clark. The Bishop of Calcutta afterwards went over the place, examining the boys’ beds, etc., struck at Native lads having such clean sheets, and at hearing that they were changed weekly. He kindly visited our poor sick M., who is much better, thank God,[349] though still—after six weeks—confined to bed. I gave my guests plenty to eat; and my bottle of wine held out bravely, two of the gentlemen preferring tea, while the wine-drinkers were very moderate. I had to manage a little to make my furniture suffice for four guests. There was a little borrowing, but not much. I put two of your sweet mother’s lovely tidies, quite fresh, over chair and sofa, to look elegant. I wore the pretty cap, trimmed with blue, and my graceful grey dress, both gifts from No. 31.[97]

‘The Bishop of Calcutta, before leaving, kindly put into my hand a note for 100 rupees. I asked him to what purpose I should apply it; he replied to whatever purpose I liked; so I at once decided on our City Mission School, our Batala Plough, which has almost come to the end of its means, and must on no account be suffered to drop through. I was very glad of the seasonable supply.

‘Now all the boys’ thoughts are turned to the reception of the dear Barings. The Natives take the whole affair into their own hands, I merely helping by paying for the refreshments. I see a wooden arch in course of erection, and hundreds—perhaps a thousand—little earthen lamps cumbering our hall. Perhaps the Bishops wondered what all those funny little concerns could be for. There are to be fireworks too; but I have nothing to do with either illumination or fireworks.’

Before the end of November Mr. and Mrs. Baring arrived, to be received lovingly by Charlotte Tucker, and enthusiastically, not by the boys alone, or even by the Christians alone, but by many of the people of Batala. On the 9th of December a letter went from Mrs. Baring home:—

‘My dear Mrs. Hamilton,—I have but few uninterrupted minutes, but long to send you at least a few lines, to assure you that your beloved sister is well. She gave us a most delightful welcome; and a very great joy it is to be with her. I thought her looking extremely white and thin, although not lacking in her wonted energy, when we first came. Now I think she is looking a little better; and we shall tenderly watch over her, and cherish her, so far as she will allow us; but I assure you it is very hard work to persuade her to reduce her work, or to increase her nourishment. I see that my best plan is quietly to put things in her way that may be strengthening, but not[350] to trouble her by pressing; and to ensure soups, puddings, etc., being all thoroughly nutritious, so that the amount she does take may all do her real good. And as to the work, I hope she will gradually let me have part of it, leaving herself more time for writing.

‘You will be pleased to see how the people love and honour her. The tahsildar[98] came one day to see us; and reverently bowing his head before her, he asked her to lay her hand upon it, and pray for him,—which she did, most earnestly asking that Heavenly light might be poured into his soul. I think she is very wise in her dealings with the Christians, but is apt to over-estimate some of the heathen,—and to cast precious “pearls before swine,” at too great an expense of her own time and strength. However, I am perhaps mistaken about this. We must pray that all her loving efforts may be abundantly blessed, and that she may be allowed the joy of seeing some fruit of her city labours. Among the boys she has been much blessed. I hope to write often, if you will kindly excuse my notes being hurried. Much love to dear Leila. Kindest remembrances to Mr. Hamilton.— Ever yours lovingly,

Margaret.’

One little touch of depression had appeared a few weeks earlier, in a letter written before the visit of the Bishops, wherein Miss Tucker alluded to a slight sketch or account of herself which had been inserted in a Missionary periodical. The tone of sadness was probably due to those long city labours, spoken of by Mrs. Baring, so few results of which could then be detected.

‘Nov. 16, 1881.— ... Last Sunday was my sixth Indian birthday; it fell on a Sunday, like my natural one. In 1880 I felt joyous on my Indian birthday. Somehow or other I had quite a different sensation this year. I felt so dissatisfied with myself,—my work seemed all sowing, and never reaping! Oh, what a false impression the —— gives of me! And Miss —— never published my refutation.... Do you remember the noble lines in “Camoens”—
‘“Praise misapplied
Is to the generous mind not callous grown
A burning cautery.”

‘I do not mean that I am burnt; but I feel like one breathing an unwholesome, sickly odour. Here is the Bishop of Calcutta wanting[351] to see me; he has probably been reading some painted description, and imagines me a highly capable and successful Missionary. O dear! O dear! If Miss —— had only published my honest, blunt letter!’

For once in this little fit of down-heartedness, she seems to have somewhat lost her usual balanced view of the comparative unimportance of seemingly successful ‘results.’ But if in all these years of toil Charlotte Tucker had never known depression, she would have been more than human. Even her brave and dauntless spirit had occasionally to pass under a cloud; more often, as years passed on, and strength decayed. This time it had been a very slight one; and the coming of her two dear friends had brought bright sunshine into her life.

Early in the next year another letter went to Mrs. Hamilton from the bride:—

‘Jan. 21, 1882.

‘Dearest Mrs. Hamilton,—I often want to have ............
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