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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XII
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A.D. 1882-1883

About the middle of August Miss Tucker went for change to Allahabad; and very soon after her arrival she was able to speak of herself as ‘less tired’ than before leaving Batala; despite two nights of severe travelling, inclusive of sixteen hours straight off in her duli. ‘The change of air already tells on my bodily frame,’ she wrote; ‘and the change of scene on my mind and spirits.... I was becoming low in every way.’ Before the end of September she was back again in Batala; and there she was soon joined by Mr. Baring, after his most sad absence. For a while, but only for a while, Batala was still to be his home.

In October for the first time the idea came definitely up of building a ‘Mission Bungalow’ in the place, an idea which afterwards developed into A. L. O. E.’s last earthly home.

It was also in the course of 1882 that some one wrote a sketch of her life, and requested her to revise the same before publication. Miss Tucker had not attained to modern composure on such questions, and she wrote with indignation: ‘I am afraid ... neither you nor others may like my note to ——.... I need not dwell upon the part about the little book; it is too personal to myself. What would you think of a little book being written about yourself,—and sent to you to correct? Oh! Oh!! Oh!!!’


For some time past Charlotte Tucker had been watching with great interest the movements of the Salvation Army in India; at first with a disposition to admire and approve, which tendency gave place gradually to strong disapproval, as she saw more of the methods employed, and found the exceedingly defective nature of the religious teaching given.

Some very curious glimpses of Indian modes of life and thought, and of the manner in which Miss Tucker dealt with them, appear in the letters of 1882 and 1883, as will be seen in succeeding extracts. Among the singular things constantly happening, an old woman in a Zenana, at about this time, composedly offered to sell to A. L. O. E. one of her daughters-in-law. ‘If you will give me a hundred rupees, you may have her,’ the old woman said frankly. Needless to remark, Miss Tucker did not buy the poor girl!

‘Nov. 17, 1882.—I had, I thought, finished my Zenana-visiting to-day, when a man, at a loom in a room which I had not entered, called out to me, “I wish a Gospel. I want to compare it with the Koran.” He and the bibi wanted me to come into their room; so of course I went and sat down. Says the man, “I think my religion good. I want to compare our books.” “Much better,” said I. The man brought his Koran, a translation into Urdu, probably made by some Christian, or at least printed in some Christian press. The good man treated me to such a long reading of the Koran, page after page, I did not know when he would stop! I felt it not only common politeness to sit and listen attentively, but good policy also, for how can I expect an earnest Muhammadan to give the Gospel a fair hearing, if I will not even listen to the Koran?

‘The man was anxious that I should understand as well as hear, stopping every now and then to translate a word that he thought might puzzle me. But the Urdu was particularly simple for anything doctrinal. To understand anything doctrinal, even such sermons as I hear, it is absolutely necessary to know some Arabic words. I have written out more than two hundred,—chiefly Arabic,—all beginning with M, and mostly three-syllabled words, which I feel that I ought to know; yet they are hardly of any use with women; and if I have[361] them all at my fingers’ ends, I shall still be very imperfectly furnished. Is it not a puzzling language? Of course, some of these two hundred words are provokingly similar to each other, but the meaning is different.’

In the same letter she mentions a visit from the Indian Christian Faqir, M., who a quarter of a century before had given up a lucrative situation, and ever since had wandered about India, preaching the Gospel. On 20th November the same subject recurs:—

‘His type of devotion is thoroughly Hindu, transfigured into Christianity.... One part of our conversation, however, amused me.... It was when we came on the subject of celibacy. The Hindu evidently thought it better than marriage. He seemed to regard it as an objection to the latter, that when a husband lost his wife he would cry for two or three days!—the Faqir’s[104] religion is a very joyful one, and when his eyes moisten it is with religious emotion. I stood up for marriage. The dear man is no stern ascetic; he smiled and half gave way, and said that he liked people to be happy. It is pretty clear, however, as regards himself that it is better for him to be unwedded. He walks long distances; sometimes forty—fifty—sixty—miles. He says that he is not so strong as he was. But he thinks nothing of age; the spirit never grows old.... M.’s voice is peculiar; one could always tell without seeing him whether he were in chapel or not; for his “Amen” sounds like a note from a bassoon.’

‘Nov. 21, 1882.—While it is fresh in my mind I had better give you a description of our grand day, the laying of the first stone of our Church by the Lieutenant-Governor....

‘Since the old days of the Sikhs I doubt whether Batala ever saw such a tamasha. Numbers and numbers of boys were gathered together by dear Francis, lining the roads, and cheering. Gay looked the many-coloured turbans. Mr. Wade thought there must be about one thousand boys, for we had Government School, City School, our Village Schools, and our own boys. We had a fine triumphal arch at the opening into our grounds, with “Welcome” in gold on scarlet; but it was far surpassed by the lovely one in Persian Urdu, prepared by our boys for the Church site: “Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.” Dear Emily Wauton came and helped us greatly; she specially took the luncheon-table under her care; and very elegant it looked, with the cold collation, and plenty of flowers from Amritsar.[362] My bedroom overlooks our front door, so in this room our three pardah-nishin were hidden.... I dare say that these poor prisoners[105] of pardah specially enjoyed what was to them so novel. The good Lieutenant-Governor was more than punctual; a happy thing, as we had much for him to do, and only about an hour and a half to do it in. He brought with him his daughter, a winsome young maiden, ... whom I called “dear” before we parted. I liked the Lieutenant-Governor very much; a man of fine presence but simple manners....

‘The luncheon was preceded by the reading by one of the Batala non-Christian magnates of an address, emblazoned with gold; other Batala folk, some in very grand dresses, standing in line. The Lieutenant-Governor gave a reply in English, which I doubt whether many understood. Then we went to our collation; fifteen sat down.... You should have seen our servant ——; he was quite magnificent. He had on such a gold-adorned pagri that it might have graced the head of a rajah, and had as much gold on his dress. I did not think that he looked like a Missionary’s servant, but we left him to enjoy his splendour. I had thought, darling, whether I should wear your silk dress:[106] but no, thought I; in my Batala I will not wear silken attire; so I wore my Laura’s purple, which was just the thing, sober and handsome. The collation went over nicely; we could not linger at it long, and no one could drink too much, as water was our beverage. After seeing the view from the roof, we started in the borrowed carriages for the Church. The first carriage, which held the Aitchesons, Mera Bhatija, and myself, had highly conservative horses, decidedly opposed to progress. No use coaxing and urging them; the “nat-khats” would not go. The only thing was to get out and go into another carriage.

‘Of course, there were many people at the site of our church. We had four surpliced clergymen, my three nephews, Francis, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Weitbrecht, and Nobin Chanda.[107] ... The religious Service was very nice; of course, in Urdu. Then Sir Charles[108] spread mortar over the place on which the marble block was to descend, in what was considered a very workmanlike manner. We sang “The Church’s One Foundation” in Urdu; Mr. Weitbrecht’s and Mr. Wade’s fine voices making it sound so well. Sir Charles made such a nice religious speech; it was almost like a little Missionary address. He had had, he said, a very private conversation for an hour with a Native of distinction, who was in concern about his soul; and it ended by the Native saying that he had sometimes prayed to the[363] Lord Jesus, but would now pray to Him every day. Thank God for a Lieutenant-Governor who thus shows his Christian colours!

‘We drove to the station, after again forsaking the carriage drawn by the “nat-khats.”[109] Sir Charles made me come into the railway carriage, to see its comfortable arrangements. Thoughtful Francis had caused tea and cake to be taken to the station. All went off so nicely; and my dear Bhatija feels that he has not had his labour and expense for nothing.’

‘Nov. 28.—In three days I am to go up to Amritsar, ... where I am to sleep on that Friday night.... By some afternoon train I shall probably then go to Lahore.... On Sunday there are to be special services for the Conference, and Holy Communion is to be administered; a meet commencement for a gathering together of sisters from nine different Societies. But Char has a special interest of her own. We have at least a dozen of those who were Batala boys at Lahore.... I have arranged that my boys should meet me on Sunday afternoon. This is to me one of the most interesting parts of my visit to Lahore.... I have been obliged to prepare two little papers, but have made them mercifully short. I think that one takes about five and the other three minutes to read aloud,—I timed the reading,—so no one will have time to be tired.’

Of the above event Miss Wauton says: ‘In 1882 she came to a Conference in Lahore, in which all the Zenana Missions of the Panjab were represented, and was with one consent elected President of the Meetings. None who were present could ever forget the tactful, graceful way in which she conducted the proceedings. Many, I believe, felt that the harmonious spirit, which prevailed in that assembly, was largely due to the loving and Catholic spirit of our President.’

‘Dec. 15, 1882.—I have written to the ——s about the Salvation Meeting at Lahore, at which I was present. I have not told them, however, how sad an impression it left on my mind.... To me there was no real joyousness in the sound of the drum and the tambourines.... The puzzle is to me how such music CAN be the means of converting any, unless it be English roughs. X.[110] was eager to join the “Army,” and go with them for a month to Calcutta. But he went to the meetings, and his wish appears to have evaporated;[364] at least here he is.... The prevailing feeling in my heart (at the meeting) was—pity. Though I knelt, I really could not pray. The big drum and tambourines seemed to silence any whisper of real devotion in my soul.... I think that I have just ascertained one thing which has cooled our really devout X. It appears that he asked ——[111] about Holy Communion, and found that he had not received it since coming to India! Alas! alas! and if he lets Natives consider themselves saved and sure of Heaven without Baptism,—where will all end? The Blessed Saviour’s two clear commands neglected! And —— just killing himself to introduce such a mere—one almost fears—shadow of religion! It is just grievous! How inconceivably artful the Enemy is!’

‘Dec. 21.—I paid a visit to a village to-day. I first went to the school, then paid my respects to the lady of the place.... She showed me into a pretty bare room,—a chair was brought for me afterwards. But I thought little about the room; its strange occupants attracted my attention. I seemed transported into the Middle Ages, and found myself amongst the retainers of some bold baron,—men who looked like the stuff out of which freebooters are, or were, made. There were four powerful men, with four falcons; and the hoods of the falcons were grand. I suspect that they were valuable birds, used for hunting.

‘I had an animated conversation with these burly fellows—not the birds, but the men—if that could be called a conversation, where the talking was almost entirely on one side. I had my Parable of the Two Paths with me, and spoke very plainly about Paradise and Hell;—and they listened to the old lady with perfect good-humour. I dare say that the bold falconers were rather surprised to find such an apparition in the village; for they seemed to have nothing to do with Batala, where of course my face is very familiar.

‘As I was returning in my little duli, I saw a bullock-cart in front, with a kind of red, dome-shaped vehicle on it, which of course contained some pardah-lady, perhaps a bride. I noticed that the curtain was drawn back. Probably the prisoned inmate of the red cage had caught sight of the duli, and was curious to see its occupant. As my kahars went faster than the bullocks, I passed the red cage, and a bright jewel-bedizened lady—smiling, as if amused at seeing a white woman—exchanged brief glances with me. I thought her a pretty creature. I wonder what she thought of the old lady who smiled at her.’
A head and shoulders photo of Miss Tucker

Taken at Amritsar about 1882

F. Jenkins Heliog Paris


The New Year begins with a line from Mrs. Wade to Mrs. Hamilton, in reference to the recent Conference:—

‘Amritsar, New Year’s Day, 1883.

‘I wish you could have seen dear Miss Tucker as President of our Lahore Ladies’ Conference. She did all so perfectly; one only feared her being over tired, but I think she is stronger than she was some months ago. We had the pleasure of her staying a night with us on her way; and her walking powers are wonderful! You will no doubt have a report of the Conference, and of her solemn and helpful words on John xiii., as it is to be printed in England.’

Although Mrs. Wade could speak of her ‘walking powers’ as ‘wonderful,’ Miss Tucker had at this period hardly the same unvarying good health as in earlier years. A few days later she was laid by with an attack of ‘shingles,’ with pain in the side. The Native doctor, called in, informed her that nothing was wrong with either lungs or heart,—the pain which troubled her being ‘simply from the nerves,’ which were ‘affected by the eruption.’ Miss Tucker assured him that she was not nervous. Upon which, as she relates, ‘the Hindu doctor smiled quietly, and gave me to understand that nerves are real things. He had not meant that I was fanciful. So the whole thing was simple enough,’ she philosophically adds. ‘To make a bull, I had a little toothache in my side.’ The attack gave way readily.

‘Jan. 25, 1883.—One is so apt to feel for the poor, down-trodden Muhammadan women, that, until I began to read a novelette written by a Native, I had no idea how they sometimes turn the tables on their husbands. I am reading the book with N. N., who quite confirms the truthfulness of the picture. It appears that a woman will sometimes be asked a question ten times by her husband, before she vouchsafes an answer. Some women burn the soles of their shoes, and make a preparation of them to put on the eyes, believing that by this strange superstitious means they will always keep their husbands under their feet! With all the talk about Woman’s Rights, we have hardly got so far as this!’


‘Feb. 20.—Mera Bhatija and I took rather a long walk this afternoon, to look at a lovely little mosque. I had said before to Francis, “How is it that the mosques are so beautiful, and our churches here—unless expensively built—so ugly?” Francis gave me a simple but good reason: “We want people to go into our churches; the Muhammadans worship outside theirs.” You see, love, we have first to think of room and comfort; so beauty gets shoved into a corner.

‘We went to look more closely at the graceful mosque, to see if we could gain hints. I made a rough sketch of the front. Francis says that it would be much too expensive for us to have anything so ornamental. We want room for one hundred people at least; and that dot of a mosque would hold comparatively very few. Mera Bhatija thinks that we might indulge in two minarets, and ornament our church with clay vessels turned upside down, and painted white, with a little Cross on the top of each. We must have a good-sized Cross, gilt, to glitter in the sun, on the top of all.... The Cross is our Banner, the Sign of Faith in the Son of God, rejected by Muhammadan and Hindu! It should crown—and sparkle on, too—every religious edifice in this land.’

‘March 8, 1883.—I had an extraordinary conversation with a Muhammadan boy to-day. His name is Y. He lives in what I consider a nest of bigotry. I am more likely to have to dispute there than in any other place in Batala. I had with me, besides my Bible, the “Mirror of the Heart,” which contains beautifully coloured pictures of the human heart, with allegorical vices represented by various animals, the serpent, rat, etc. It is a valuable help to a Missionary. The first heart is that of the natural man, before repentance; the second, that of a man repenting. The fourth is a horrid heart, of a dingy colour, with a black cross in it, and seven devils, mounted on the bad emblems, wanting to get in. It is the heart of a hypocrite. Well, dear one, I was showing this picture in a Zenana, and a grave-looking boy, to whom before I had given a portion of Scripture, and who I think once studied in our Missio............
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