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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XIII
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A.D. 1884-1885

Some little time before this Mr. Baring had, for various reasons, decided to leave Batala, though not, it seems, to give up his interest in the High School. His departure was fixed for the last day of the year 1883; and Miss Tucker, after her usual cheerful fashion, congratulated herself upon the fact that, at least, the New Year would not begin with a parting.

Much uncertainty had prevailed as to who should be chosen to carry on Mr. Baring’s most important work among the boys; but before the end of December suspense was ended. Another of Miss Tucker’s dharm-nephews, the Rev. Herbert U. Weitbrecht, with his wife and children, would come to live in Anarkalli, and Mr. Weitbrecht would be the Principal. By this time a Mission Bungalow in Batala was finished, and two German ladies, Miss Hoernle and Miss Krapf, came in the course of December to reside in it. Miss Tucker, however, does not yet appear to have thought of changing her quarters. Indeed, the little bungalow was built to contain only two ladies.

On December 27th she wrote home as to arrangements:—

‘The Weitbrechts are to come here on Jan. 15 for about a fortnight. I am to keep house until they come for good about the[375] middle of March; and then my fair niece, Ellie, is to take the reins. She and her two children must go to the Hills in May. All purpose going to England in the following March. As Herbert did not wish to be buying much furniture, when so soon to be on the wing, I felt it the best plan to take some off dear Francis’ hands, and let the Weitbrechts have the use of them. Thus, I find myself the possessor of a very large bed, immensely long table, and a variety of other things too numerous to recount.

‘There is no use in my not wanting possessions,—they will come! I have even a large coffin, which is not the slightest use to me! I did not buy that from Francis!...’

The fact of Miss Tucker including a coffin amongst her possessions requires a word of explanation. About this time the Rev. Robert Clark went to pay a little visit to Batala; and on his first arrival he was shown straight to the room which he would occupy while there. Miss Tucker came running in, and exclaimed—

‘I hope you have not seen it,—have you?’

Mr. Clark naturally inquired what was the thing in question which she wished him not to have seen.

‘I had better tell you all about it,’ she said. ‘A poor woman was dying, and we thought they would take her away and burn her; and we wished to give her Christian burial. So I ordered a coffin to be made. But they were late in making it, and she died before it was ready; and they took her away and burnt her. And then they brought the coffin. It was a very good coffin, and I thought it would be useful; so I told them to put it under the bed in the guest-room! You did not see it, did you?’ Mr. Clark no doubt assured her that he had not yet made the discovery; and she went on eagerly: ‘You must not think I kept it for myself; for I have directed in my will that I should be buried without a coffin, and that my funeral expenses must not exceed five rupees.’

The latter injunction was with a view to lessening funeral expenses among Indian Christians generally,[376] many of them being apt to spend heavily at such times. But the whole story is eminently characteristic. Many people shrink from the very mention of a coffin, because of its associations. Not so Charlotte Tucker! There was to her absolutely no sadness whatever in the thought of death. She looked forward to the day of her departure from earth as to a day of release from bondage, of an upward spring into a new and radiant life. It was a subject to be spoken of cheerily, and with a smile.

What became of the coffin in the end Mr. Clark does not say; but he too speaks, as do others, of her entire fearlessness with regard to death. Once, when talking of it to him, she quoted impressively the words, used long before by her gentle sister, Fanny: ‘Whenever, wherever, however, He will!’

One time, when Mr. Clark was spending a Sunday at Batala with Miss Tucker, she read aloud to him the 31st verse of the 40th chapter of Isaiah, and drew attention to the fact that the verse had in it instruction and comfort for persons of all ages.

‘“They shall mount up with wings as eagles,”—that is something for our young people; they are always soaring and flying. “They shall run, and not be weary,”—that is for our middle-aged people; they run and work on, and never seem to tire. And there is something for us old people too,—“They shall walk and not faint.” We old people cannot fly; we cannot run; but we can walk, and do not faint. And so we all of us renew our strength by waiting on the Lord.’

Mr. Clark, from whom these details have come direct, writes also:—

‘On another occasion, she came walking up to me in her genial, brisk manner, with a book in her hands, as I entered the room, and said, “You will be surprised when I tell you what book I am reading! You know I am a good Churchwoman; and yet I often like to read[377] Spurgeon’s sermons. They are full of apt illustrations, and he never repeats himself. I find them so useful in my writings; and I know hardly any other work which so much helps me.” In her latter years she often read Shakespeare, and recommended it to educated Natives, who were averse to the study of the Bible. The recitations from Shakespeare, at the Prize-giving in the Baring High School in Batala, originated with her; and she thought them very valuable in the formation of character. The Prologues in these Prize-givings were, I think, till last year all written by her.’

Not only in later days, but all through her life from very childhood, she had delighted in Shakespeare, as we have already seen; and she had a very high opinion of the value of Shakespeare in the general education of the Indian mind.

In confirmation of certain words above, spoken by herself, Mr. Clark observes: ‘As regards her religious views, she was sincerely attached to the Church of England, firmly believing that the teaching of the Church of England, as set forth in the Book of Common Prayer and in the Thirty-nine Articles, is in accordance with the Word of God.’ Another also, who knew her well, has said: ‘A warm Churchwoman, she would always be ready to see the best of those with whom she could not agree on many points.’ This undoubtedly was the case,—in practice, if not always in theory. She was, however, greatly opposed to Ritualism, and would be much distressed when she came across aught of the kind in her various visits to different places.

The subject recalls involuntarily certain words uttered by Bishop French of Lahore,—‘our saintly Bishop,’ as Miss Tucker called him. When he was at home some years ago, and staying at Eastbourne, I happened to put to him a question bearing on this matter; and his reply was one not soon to be forgotten. He said: ‘It is no question out there of High Church and Low Church! It is a question simply of[378] Christianity and Heathenism!’ To this wide and comprehensive view Charlotte Tucker could not have fully subscribed. In her letters, from time to time, though not often, the subject crops up, and she expresses her fears strongly as to one individual or another. But it is noteworthy that when, soon after, she meets with the individual himself, her fears are usually quieted; and while conscious of differences on certain points, she is yet able fully to recognise—and to recognise with delight—real devotion of heart and life to the Service of the Master Whom she loved. No more unmistakable token can well exist of true large-heartedness. There was in her no innate love of controversy for its own sake; and though, as might be expected with one of her impulsive temperament, she sometimes expressed her views with energy, she did not love fighting, nor was she a violent partisan. As a general rule, her aim was rather to build up than to pull down.

The years 1884 and 1885 passed in the main quietly, marked by no especial events. Work went steadily on as usual; holidays were short as usual; failure and success fluctuated as usual. Miss Tucker’s loneliest time in Batala was over. Now she not only lived with the family of Mr. and Mrs. Weitbrecht, but two other lady Missionaries were settled in Batala, helping to carry on the work. Not that Charlotte Tucker’s toil was lessened thereby. She had a less heavy weight of responsibility; but so far as actual work was concerned it could never be overtaken,—and it could not have been overtaken by twice or thrice the number of workers. Fresh openings were continually appearing, continually calling for attention.

In the hot weather, indeed, she had a taste of her old manner of life. Then, when other Europeans were compelled one after another to flee to the Hills, Miss Tucker could safely remain on many weeks longer; up to a certain[379] point even enjoying the heat. On the whole, however, things were altered. Not only were other Europeans in Batala most of the year, but a railway had now been completed between Amritsar and Batala, bringing all the Amritsar friends within a very easy distance. It became possible to run over to Batala for a day’s visit; and Miss Tucker grew jealously anxious, lest such visitors should in any wise hinder her work. ‘I have let it be known,’ she wrote, ‘that I do not consider myself off duty till 2 P.M., so that if friends come in the morning they visit the house and not me. I must try to be firm in this, and make no exceptions.’

A certain little incident of this period may be mentioned. With a new Principal, naturally new plans were adopted in the training of the boys; and Miss Tucker did not always at first take kindly to fresh ideas. She was now of an age to prefer the old to the new, simply because it was the old. Dr. Weitbrecht writes:—

‘In 1885, by way of encouraging muscular exercise in the hot weather, I tried the experiment of having the boys taught wrestling by a Native athlete. The Auntie was at first inclined to be a little shocked at the new development, and would not grace the wrestling practice with her presence. One day, as it was going on, Mrs. Weitbrecht went to a window overlooking the arena, and there found Miss Tucker, stretched on the floor, her head out of the low window. In some alarm lest the old lady should have fainted, she offered to raise her, but was only met with the reply, “Hush! I’m looking at the boys.” The ladies soon saw they were discovered, as a handsome young Pathan looked up with a smiling “Salaam.”’

Extracts from the letters of these two years, 1884 and 1885, must unfortunately, for lack of space, be very limited in number.

‘New Year’s Day, 1884.—I had a very sore parting with Mera Bhatija; but on that I will not dwell....

‘The last day of 1883 was a very sad one to me; but I had some[380] of the little boys in the evening, and amusing them shook me out of my melancholy. I awoke early—as usual—on the New Year’s Day, and sang New Year’s hymns. After that I heard unwonted music below my window. Good Miss Krapf and three of the Singha girls had come to salute the New Year with a holy song. Of course, I went to the city after breakfast.’


‘Jan. 21.

‘I am quite glad that my furniture is so simple. Had I had plenty of gimcracks, I might have been a fidgety old maid. As it is, there is no harm in having a nursery instead of a drawing-room. But I have a nice little drawing-room of my own; a screened-off bit of my fine large sleeping-room. I used it for my classes when sweet Margaret was here; for I think that a married couple should not be always having interruptions. This arrangement does nicely in the cool weather; and in the hot weather dear Nellie and her babes will be in the Hills. It will be the old arrangement of Auntie and one choice nephew,—for Herbert is choice, and kind to my Leila’s attached godmother.’


‘Jan. 28, 1884.

‘I feel as if I must have a talk with my Laura to-night; for my spirit feels pensive and my heart tender. The ladies came and took tea with us; and Miss Krapf brought her music. As Herbert wanted to see a photo of St. George and Francie, I took my dear old album into the drawing-room, which it very seldom enters. While the sweet, rich music was going on, I was—yes, sighing over my Album. More than twenty of the faces in it no longer of earth! Sweet Mother, Fanny, Henry, Letitia, Aunt E——,—oh, so many gone before! Then my Laura looked so like what she did in old days. I must not look often over that Album; it is like my youth between two boards. What a changing world!’

‘March 26.—I met with a perfectly mad woman in a Hindu Zenana. She came and sat down beside me. V. and others made me change my seat to another bedstead—the usual seat. I did not at first know why, but was soon aware of the cause. The poor, afflicted woman put her head right down on my lap. She did not seem to be mischievous. It was insanity, not idiotcy.’



‘April 22, 1884.

‘Among the little matters which vary our regular life at Batala, I may mention almost nightly alarms about robbers. The servants have got into a nervous state.... It is not a comfortable state of affairs.... The Weitbrechts and I have been putting our heads together. I forget which of us suggested the plan which we hope may succeed. I sleep in the front room, opposite to the servants’ house; so a great tumult naturally awakens me, especially as my windows are open for air. The Weitbrechts are more out of the way.

‘Herbert is to lend me his revolver, loaded, and we are to take care that every one knows that I have the formidable weapon; but no one but ourselves is to know that I would on no account hurt any one with it. On the next alarm of robbers, I am to jump up, and—fire—at the trees or the stars. The report will probably awake Herbert, who has a rifle. Now you see the double use of this arrangement. My Ayah may possibly even sleep out-of-doors, if she knows that a yell from her may bring a pistol-shot from her vigilant Miss Sahiba; and robbers, if such there be, will doubtless dread my prowess, not knowing how peculiarly peaceable I am, and that I would prefer being shot myself to shooting another! I am to have a very determined look; and we have all tutored each other not to laugh! Both Herbert and Nellie have some fun in them, but they are to look as grave as judges, as if Miss Sahiba were a dead shot; especially on a very dark night, when there is no moon! Have I not spectacles?’


‘April 23.

‘Well, my loved sister, if you read my little note to Leila first, you will be pleased to hear that the night went over serenely. Even my frightened Ayah seems to have slept peacefully under the wing of the Buzurg Miss Sahiba, armed with a revolver! Would not dear Rowland have laughed to see old Auntie learning from Herbert how to cock and fire a pistol! I wonder how Nellie kept her countenance, when one of the servants expressed a hope that Miss Sahiba would give some notice before firing, for fear of a casualty to one of the household; and then wanted to know what would happen if Miss Sahiba killed a thief! Nellie told the inquirer that we English—she was too truthful to say the Miss Sahiba in particular—only[382] aimed at limbs to disable, not at bodies to kill. Nellie knows pretty well that, if I aimed at anything, it would be at the stars.

‘I took care to lock up my dangerous weapon before sunrise, treating my revolver with great respect. Do you remember that, when I was known to be coming out to India as a Missionary, dear, kind H. Boswell wanted to make me a present of his pistol? I declined it, as a very unnecessary part of a Missionary’s outfit; but I could not help remembering H.’s kindness yesterday. Though I never fired Herbert’s revolver, yet the report of it—to speak in Irish style—had a great effect.’

‘May 3.—O yes, my Laura, love your K.[115] The Native is affectionate. Indians are not usually considered grateful; perhaps they are not grateful for benefits bestowed through general benevolence or a sense of duty; but my impression is that they readily respond to affection. This is one of the great secrets of ——‘s power.... I was rather amused yesterday, when I was describing Philemon’s funeral to the dear Pandit of O—— (K. S.), and had said that we went singing towards the grave. “I will not sing at your funeral,” said he. And then he told me how he had tried to sing at dear Margaret’s—but it was quite a failure; he could not sing, his heart was much troubled. The Pandit is a lovable man; and he loves.’

‘May 8, 1884. (Her Birthday.)

‘When I came down in the morning before 6 A.M. I found in letters of gold on a purple ground over the large front door, “God save our beloved Miss Sahiba.” I told dear Babu Singha when we met, as I walked on towards the city, that I liked the “our.” He observed that “buzurg” seemed to put me farther away from them. I quite agreed. I like “our,” which makes me seem like the boys’ property....

‘I was surprised in a Zenana to-day by a request for some old article of my clothes for a baby. “I will give you some new cloth,” said I; for I make exceptions to my rule of not giving presents to Natives in Zenanas, in favour of new babies and brides. But the grandfather did not want new cloth at all. He insisted on something old. So I humoured him, and looked out on my return home for something that I had worn....

‘How much I have to be thankful for, my Laura! I begin my Tenth September with a quiet, peaceful feeling. “Oh, how kindly hast Thou led me, Heavenly Father, day by day.” But the best is[383] to come. “Light after darkness—” Not that my present position is darkness; but there is often weariness, of course.’

‘May 15.—I can so well enter into the “thought and anxiety” caused by ——. His mind is probably in an effervescing state; but we must trust and pray that, after the froth works down, something precious may remain. Young India is at present in a peculiar state; and —— does not stand alone in his dangerous love for oratory. You must expect, love, to see some of the weaknesses of the Native character even in those on whom our Blessed Religion has made an impression. With the English—Truth, Honour, and a sense of Duty are often found even in those not very religious, and it shocks and disappoints one to find the want of this kind of moral foundation in some Natives, whose piety one cannot doubt!! “I must do my duty,”—“Honour bright!”—are expressions that in this land need to be taught.

‘The Native character is a study. We can hardly disconnect pious feeling from purity and conscientiousness. One must make great allowance for those brought up in a tainted atmosphere. Do not be easily discouraged, love. India does turn out some really fine fellows; but a school like this is greatly needed, to begin moral tuition early. We want our flowers to have stalks and leaves, and not to spread out their petals so close to the earth as to be defiled by its dust. Let —— expand his eloquence in trying to draw ryots[116] to Christ. Close contact with really hard evangelistic work, if persevered in, would probably do much to sober his mind. Let him be persuaded that the Baptism of one true Convert, however ignorant and poor, is a far higher honour than the plaudits of an English audience.’

‘July 3, 1884.—I have had two comical though not very pleasant incidents.

‘I sent dear Mrs. Singha as a present what I believed to be a bottle of lemon syrup, delicious in hot weather.... When next I went to the Banyans, Mrs. Singha told me that I had sent her a bottle of brandy! I was astonished,—I, who am virtually a teetotaller! I could hardly believe it. She produced the bottle; and, sure enough, it was full of brandy. What a villain of a grocer must have sold it, thought I, smuggling brandy in this way.... “This is sure to be trashy brandy,” thought I, “which I should not dare to give in a case of illness.” So, in my indignation, I poured it all[384] out on the grass. I also thought that I would write to good Babu —— at Lahore, who had bought the bottle for me, to tell him of the wicked cheat played on him. Most fortunately, I first mentioned the matter to Herbert. “Do you not remember,” said he, “that when we wanted a large bottle, you emptied your brandy into a small one?” I had perfectly forgotten the fact. O stupid, most stupid, old Auntie! And I had emptied my bottle on the grass!

‘The next incident was also a provoking one. You know that I have had boils. Well, Herbert said ... that the best way to stop a boil was, at the very first threatening, to put caustic to the place. So I bought a bit of caustic, knowing as much about it as I do of Hebrew.... Just before starting for afternoon Wednesday Service in the city, I thought that I had the slightest possible sensation of a boil on my nose. “Not a pretty place to have a boil on,” thought I; so I took out my wee grey stone, dipped it in water, and applied it. It did not burn at all, so I applied it again. Then, seeing a black spot, hardly visible except through spectacles, off I went to Service.

‘On returning home, to prepare to go out to Miss Hoernle’s, how surprised—I may say almost shocked—was I, on looking in my glass! A big black smutch on my nose; another on my chin; and another on my thumb. Washing was of no avail; salts of lemon none; chloride of lime none; soap useless! I could not help laughing, I was such a figure; and my Ayah laughed too. I determined to give it to Herbert roundly for putting me up to make such a fright of myself.... As soon as I could get hold of my naughty nephew, who was playing at lawn tennis as happily as if nothing had happened, I scolded him in Miss Hoernle’s presence as hard as I could,—considering that both of us we............
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