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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XV
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CHAPTER XV
A.D. 1886-1887
IN HARNESS ONCE MORE

So severe an illness could not fail to leave traces; and Charlotte Tucker came out of it more distinctly an old lady than she had ever been before. Ten years of perpetual toil had used up a large amount of even her superabundant vitality; and she could not expect to be again fully what she had been, either as to vigour or powers of endurance.

But although strength did not return quickly, and work had to be very slowly resumed, her interest in all that concerned Batala was as vivid as ever. The letters of 1886 are full of details about various High School boys,—either those who had been or those who still were scholars. Letters to Mrs. Hamilton were as long as ever,—longer indeed than in times of greater work-pressure,—and the shaky hand soon regained its firmness.

Immediately after her return to Batala, she wrote as to work generally:—

‘O, there have been such stirring times in our Panjab Mission field lately! On one side, or rather various sides, the poor, low-caste people are joyfully receiving the Gospel. One hears of them listening, with tears running down their brown cheeks. Dear Miss Hoernle, my chum, is off to Futteyghur, with a new Bible-woman specially for the poor peasants. There, after due examination, Mr. Weitbrecht has baptized whole families,—fifty-six individuals,—and I shall probably hear of many more when Miss Hoernle returns....[411] All this is comparatively smooth, for people do not flare up at poor people being saved; but there has been desperate fighting over dear lads of good family; prosecution, persecution, pelting, lying, hand-to-hand struggling; even our chivalrous Missionary, Mr. Bateman, always ready to be foremost in the fight, owns that he has never had such a hard case as the last. The dear Convert, not yet baptized, refused an offer of 10,000 rupees down and 40,000 in reversion, rather than give up Christ....’

Many other particulars, too long to quote, follow.

The 4th of March was to be, as she wrote, ‘a very great day here; the greatest Batala has ever known! Our Church is to be consecrated; and Christians will gather from far and near. One of the most interesting features of the occasion will be, I trust, the presence of converts.... I believe that many of them will gladly walk fifteen miles to be present. One said, in regard to their dress, which is, as you may suppose, of a very rough kind, “We will come in clean clothes, if it take us four days to wash them!”’ The last few words were in allusion to very poor village converts.

A letter to a little great-nephew, the day after the Consecration, gave some particulars:—

‘We had a very grand day in Batala yesterday. The Bishop came to open our fine new Church. A great many ladies and gentlemen came also. There were two meat meals for them; we sat down about thirty-four. But one of the most interesting things was that a good many poor men and boys, whom dear Mr. Weitbrecht had baptized in the villages, came too. Now, some people are proud enough to scorn these poor men, because they are of the low Mihtar caste. But, you know, my T——, that there is plenty of room in Heaven for Mihtars; and when they shine in white garments and crowns no one will despise them then. We thought that it would be a good thing to eat a little with the poor men, to show that we do not scorn them.... Mr. Bateman, Mrs. Weitbrecht, and I sat down on the straw, where the poor folk were eating their dinner, and ate some too. I own that I did not eat much,—I had had the two meat meals already!...

‘Our Church looked very nice. We had to lend three mats for it;[412] and other things were lent also.... But three beautiful cushions were not lent. Dear Aunt Mina, her Wilhelmina, and Cousin Laura worked them years ago for our Church. We took great care of them, and they look in fine condition.’

The Church of the Epiphany at Batala, consecrated on March 4, 1886, by the Bishop of Lahore, is described as being ‘of brick, plastered with lime. The style chosen is that of the Mogul period, adapted to the requirements of a Christian Church. The Church at present consists of a nave, with clerestory windows, chancel, and porch. Two side-aisles remain to be added. The present accommodation is 200; when completed it will be about 500. The Church is situated near the chief gate of Batala, on the road leading to the railway.’

Then came the parting with the Weitbrechts; a sorrowful matter, after two years together under the same roof. Miss Tucker, though still far from strong, was sufficiently recovered to travel with them as far as to Delhi, where she paid a short visit to a widowed niece. While there, on March 18, she wrote:—

‘Here am I, in the famous old city of Delhi, long the capital of India; but I go about to see none of its many sights.... The dear Weitbrechts and I lunched with the Cambridge Mission yesterday. A fine set of Missionaries, whom one is glad to have met. I was invited to dine also, I fancy, but I did not care to have my parting at a dinner-party. I returned here; and dear Herbert came at past 9 A.M. just to bid me farewell. It was very kind in him. We were alone in the verandah; and the parting was almost like that between son and mother....

‘There is an interesting young Missionary here, Mr. Maitland of the S.P.G. He has been almost at death’s door, and now appears much in the same state as I was in Amritsar six or seven weeks ago, coddled and taken care of. He wanted me to come and take a cup of tea with him, which I did most willingly; and we had a good chat together. Invalids like visitors, I think. I know that I did....

‘22nd.—O, my Laura, have you actually been sending more money, to meet the expenses of my illness? I do not know what to say or how to thank you. You must indeed stop overwhelming your Char!’

[413]

A very troublesome horse, who broke his harness and refused to be controlled, was named by her ‘Buzdil,’ or ‘Coward.’ ‘I never attempted to drive,’ she observed in an April letter, ‘but exhorted him, when I was beside Maria; but he never minded what I said.’ Then came some ‘rough lines,’ adapted to an old Scotch air, ‘He’s a terrible man, John Tod, John Tod!’
‘He’s a terrible horse, Buzdil, Buzdil,
He’s a terrible horse, Buzdil!
He gives start and skip,
Fears all—but the whip,
And cares not a straw for our will!
‘He’s broken his harness, Buzdil, Buzdil,
He’s broken his harness, Buzdil!
He’d plunge in a hedge,
Or back on a ledge,
But when urged to go on—he stood still!
‘He puzzles his syce, Buzdil, Buzdil,
He worries his syce, Buzdil!
If you take my advice,
He’ll be sold in a trice,
Ere our poor Mission ladies he kill!’

Miss Tucker planned starting ‘a very sober, safe kind of vehicle’ to carry to Church those who could not or might not walk so far, even in cold weather. It was to be a cart, with a cover to ward off the heat of the sun, and was to be drawn by bullocks,—a humble conveyance, which fact was no trouble at all to the mind of Charlotte Tucker. The more humble, the better fitted in her estimation for a Mission Miss Sahiba!

In June she went for a complete change to Murree, and was soon able, while there, to speak of herself as being decidedly stronger, ‘able without injury to walk twice to Church and back,’ despite a tough hill on the way.

[414]

One friend, Mrs. Rowland Bateman, meeting her at this time, wrote afterwards:—

‘It was so very delightful to see her dear face again, and so nice to get her warm and loving welcome. You know what “pretty” things she says; so on this occasion she said, “I came (to the station) for silver, and I found gold!” Very pretty, was it not? And now let me tell how I thought her looking. It is five years since I saw her; so of course I saw a good deal of change. She is looking very much older; but she is as bright as ever, cracking jokes, and making us all laugh. Then of course, since her illness, she is very thin, and that makes her face look older than she would do, were she a little stouter. And she eats more than she used to do. Five years ago she hardly ate enough to keep a sparrow alive.... Another thing I was very glad of, and that was that she does not attempt to do so much. She gives herself time to rest.’

In July Miss Tucker welcomed with eager pleasure a present from her sister of an ‘excellent likeness’ of the Queen. Charlotte Tucker’s love for Her Majesty went far beyond ordinary loyalty. It was more of the nature of a personal romantic passion.

By the middle of August she was at work again. Mr. Weitbrecht was now gone, and Mr. Corfield had been seriously ill; so once more the School was for some time without a Principal on the spot. Many of the boys did not return to their homes for the holidays; indeed, some young converts literally had no homes to go to. A. L. O. E. therefore exercised her powers to find interests and amusements for them. About this time also she started Shakespeare readings in Batala, of which she says:—

‘Aug. 11.—Perhaps I told you that I had begun Shakespeare readings. I had five readings of Henry VIII., with fair success; so I thought that I would begin Macbeth, which I think the most striking of all Shakespeare’s dramas. But it was a dead failure here! The Natives could not understand it; and those who came to the first reading were non inventus at the—what would have been the second reading. So I have changed my book, and intend to-day to begin to read aloud my Laura’s capital present, the particularly[415] amusing Life of Buckland. Fish instead of furies!—salmon instead of slaughter!’

From many letters it may be seen that she was soon in a steady swing again, both with Zenana and with Village visiting; but the amount attempted seems to have been more moderate than formerly. Few quotations must suffice:—

‘Oct. 15, 1886.—Now I will tell you about a visit which I paid yesterday to a Zenana, where the Bibi used to be very bigoted. Yesterday I came on her husband, a grave, middle-aged man. So he heard what I had to say. Then he asked me to give him a picture of Christ. Very strict Muhammadans object to pictures; but he wanted one of the Saviour. I, as a rule, never give pictures, though I show them; but I happened to have three small pictures, cut out from periodicals,—not coloured,—and I felt impelled to grant the grave man’s request. I let him choose. He took the copy of the famous picture—is it not Leonardo da Vinci’s?—of the Blessed One, crowned with thorns, and put it carefully by in a paper. Will that suffering, pathetic Face speak to the Muhammadan’s heart? N. is no unlearned man. He told me that he had been our K. B.’s teacher. “Were you angry with K. B.?” I asked,—meaning for becoming a Christian! The grave man quietly replied in the negative.’

‘Nov. 6.—I have lately been paying more attention to children in the Zenanas,—partly perhaps because they seem to pay more attention to what I say. When they listen in perfect stillness, one cannot but hope that the young hearts are receiving some seed of life. I had very quiet, attentive little listeners in a Zenana yesterday. When I went to another, some of the children followed me, but the bibi forbade them to come in. In vain I pleaded that they did not make the least noise; she bade them go and play. But after I had read to that woman, and proceeded to another house, children came after me, I think two or three of the same ones. That little book, with gaily-coloured pictures, about little Daisy, which you sent me, is invaluable....’

Miss Krapf in her turn had had a serious breakdown; and she did not return to Batala. In her place, towards the end of the year, came Miss Minnie Dixie, who was to be Miss Tucker’s constant companion and fellow-inmate[416] of the Mission Bungalow for seven years or more. By the time Miss Dixie arrived, as ‘Sonnenschein’ was made only to take in two ladies, and Miss Hoernle was still there, Miss Tucker had doubtless moved into her own little annexe,—the new west wing of the Bungalow, which she had prettily named ‘Sunset!’

A ground-plan of the Bungalow gives a good idea of this latest earthly home of Charlotte Tucker. One large room was divided by screens into bedroom and sitting-room. In front and behind were verandahs; while one side was joined to ‘Sonnenschein,’ and on the other lay dressing-room and bathroom. Miss Tucker lived in her own tiny ‘Sunset,’ but she took her meals with the other ladies in ‘Sunshine,’ and their evenings were often, if not regularly, spent together. ‘We are a happy little band of Europeans at Batala,’ she wrote in the November of 1886.

The year closed with a characteristic little episode, by which it might be seen that the old energy and impetuosity were by no means snuffed out of existence. A young lady, not of the Batala party, was going to a certain doctor at ——, of whose skill Miss Tucker was more than dubious. She had, as we have seen, no very flattering opinion of the medical faculty in general; always with charming exceptions, where personal intercourse interfered with theories. On the present occasion it was not a man but ‘a dreadful woman doctor’ in the case. On learning that all was arranged, Miss Tucker exclaimed, ‘You shall not go alone, dear. I will go with you.’ And go she did; regardless of age, of weakness, of cold weather, of long journeying.

Nor was this all! On reaching ——, Miss Tucker was so utterly dissatisfied with the apparent state of things, that she flatly refused to give up the patient to the doctor. After what she describes as ‘a fight,—will against will!’ she fairly carried off her charge to the house of a friend[417] in the place; and next day ran away with her, by train, to a distant town. The patient happily fell thereafter into kind and skilful hands; and Charlotte Tucker congratulated herself upon her own prompt and decisive action. Whether or no her fears were well founded, one cannot but admire her self-sacrificing readiness to endure any amount of worry, fatigue, and responsibility on behalf of another. The last thing Charlotte Tucker ever did was ‘to pass by on the other side,’ when a human being was in need of help. She never dreamt of sparing herself.

Many letters this year bear reference to the different pretty and useful articles sent out by friends and working-parties for sale or for gifts. With respect to those for sale, she did indeed exclaim in one letter: ‘I wish dear kind friends would sell the things themselves, and simply give us the money! They do not think of the added difficulty of insects and climate! I fear that a good many things get spoiled.’ This however was not the usual strain in which she acknowledged such parcels. Here are a few specimen sentences, culled from letters of different dates, to Miss Longley:—

‘I received your kind letter to-day, and do not delay thanking you heartily for the account of what the dear Warwickshire children are doing for the Mission cause.... The dolls are capital gifts to send. Our little Fatimas and Barakats, etc., like them so much.’

‘Your very nice box of attractive dolls, those that can open and shut their eyes, and a number of prettily-dressed sisters clustering together like birdies in a nest, safely reached me to-day.... They have come in excellent time, for our annual examination has been delayed.... How pleased our little Panjabi maidens will be with their dolls,—even blind girls would be charmed, I think! The clever dolls that can open and shut their eyes ought to be very special prizes.... Dolls are great favourites with Native children, and I do not wonder at this. The Native toys look very coarse beside the elegantly-dressed little ladies from dear old England.’

‘Dolls are much liked by our dark-eyed little maidens. Not only little girls; but I suspect that many a mother would be pleased to[418] possess one of the quiet, rosy-cheeked babies from England, that never cry nor give any trouble. Your useful work-basket must, I think, be presented to some Native Christian girl who is fond of work.... Native Christians also would, I think, most value the scrap-books so kindly prepared. At Christmas we have a bran-pie, only for Christians, and we have to get ready about eighty gifts, even in this out-of-the-way Batala. I begin my preparations very early. I assure you that our children are not “black.” Some of the Natives are quite pretty, and I think not darker than Spaniards. I every now and then see a child with brown hair, perhaps curly.’

‘We have numbers of young people here. It would amuse some of your workers to hear a few of their names translated. We have amongst girls, Flower, Beloved, Lady of Light, An Offering, etc.,—amongst boys, Valiant, Feet of Christ, Diamond-pearl, Welfare, etc. A nice young convert has the pretty name of “Gift of the Merciful.” A little boy is “The Mercy of God.” His father’s name is “The Power of God.” Fancy a number of dark-eyed men, women, and children, with these curious names, assembled around our bran-pie (it is really a bath), and some of the pretty presents from Warwick popping out to delight them.’

Dolls are spoken of again and again, as if too many could not possibly be sent; but many other things are mentioned also,—such as antimacassars, pretty handkerchiefs, boxes of sugar-plums, a nice inkstand, and so on. An unlimited amount of presents for Indian Chris............
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