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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XVI
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A.D. 1887-1888

One matter of marked interest in the year 1887 was the retirement of Bishop French from the Bishopric of Lahore, and his return to the humbler post of simple Missionary. This step appealed strongly to Miss Tucker’s sense of admiration. On the 8th of October she wrote to Mrs. Hamilton:—

‘I have already, as you see, written a good deal by this mail, ... but I will not let the post for England go without at least a few loving lines to my own dearest sister. The dear good Bishop is resigning. I hear that he feels it sorely; but he has no intention of leaving work. He resigns the English part into what he feels to be stronger hands,—but will, I believe, continue Missionary work amongst Natives. He was first a Missionary; and—dear man!—it is not improbable that he will die a Missionary. To lay down a mitre is no degradation!’

A few days later, having heard that the Bishop purposed paying her a little visit at Batala, she wrote to him direct:—

‘Batala, Oct. 20, 1887.

Revered Bishop,—Though I know not whether this will reach you till after your return from Batala, I cannot forbear thanking you for your affectionate letter, and intention of gratifying me by visiting my simple little Missionary home. I received your letter at Amritsar, having—for a wonder—left Batala to be present at the wedding of dear old Mr. Newton’s grandson at Ludhiana. This has occasioned a little delay in my replying. Mr. Corfield also was absent, having gone to[428] bring his wife from Dharmsala; but we expect him to-morrow morning, and then he shall know your wishes. I think that you will find the Ghurub-i-Aftab very quiet. You will see visitors or not, just as you please,—only give a hint of your wishes. When the dear Lord’s Servants honour me with a visit, I say that they gild my floors.

‘If it be not presumptuous in me to say so, I would express my feeling that there is something beautiful and elevating in the idea of one who was a Missionary before he was a Bishop, becoming a Missionary after leaving his Bishopric; laying down the crozier and mitre, to take up the simple Evangelist’s staff. Perhaps, my honoured Friend,—if permitted to call you so,—your grandest work is yet to come.—Yours with affectionate respect,

C. M. Tucker.

‘P.S.—Please offer my affectionate and grateful remembrances to dear Mrs. French.’

The Bishop’s visit came about, as hoped for; and it was a great pleasure to Miss Tucker to receive him. Although they might differ on certain points, they were one in absolute love and obedience to the same Lord and Master; and each thoroughly appreciated, thoroughly delighted in, the whole-hearted and single devotion of the other. In some respects the two were much alike. There was in both, as Dr. Weitbrecht has said, ‘a fiery impatience of difficulty or delay which sometimes led to mistakes.’ In both also there was a remarkable upliftedness,—if the word is permissible,—an absorption in things spiritual, which made earthly matters seem altogether unimportant by comparison.

The one drawback to Miss Tucker’s enjoyment was that she gave up to the Bishop her own little ‘house,’—and such changes had at her time of life grown to be somewhat of a trial. But she would not hear of a gentleman being permitted to sleep in ‘Sonnenschein,’ with the younger ladies,—not even her beloved and revered Bishop!! She had not perhaps entirely even yet lost sight of her old favourite idea of a home for Mission Miss Sahibas, into which a man’s foot might not enter. At all events, she[429] decided to sleep there herself, and to give up her little Sunset home to the Bishop. Which she did.

‘It was beautiful to see them together,’ Miss Dixie has said, when speaking of this visit, which lasted somewhat under a week. The Bishop and Miss Tucker went about in company, attended church together, and had many a long talk,—both of them white-haired, fragile in look, worn out with heavy toil, aged beyond their years. Both would be so utterly absorbed in the subject under discussion, as to see nothing around, to hear nothing that went on. There was about each of them a remarkable Other-worldliness, to use a curious term, sometimes employed in this sense. They were citizens of Heaven, not of Earth; and they realised the fact to an extent not often equalled.

But with all her ‘Other-worldliness,’ Miss Tucker never lost the sense of fun and humour, as connected with the things of this world. One amusing little incident is told of the Bishop’s visit. He had brought with him a Muhammadan manservant. Miss Tucker habitually kept in her cupboard a small bottle of brandy, in case of need,—the brandy being well dosed with quinine, to render it unattractive. When the Bishop was gone, this little bottle was found to have vanished also. Miss Tucker, on making the discovery, went back to her friends, to exclaim, with an indescribable expression, ‘That greedy Muhammadan has taken the brandy?’—then bursting into a fit of laughter at the thought of his surprise on tasting the quinine. She often referred to this afterwards with great amusement.

It was remarkable in A. L. O. E. that she still, in old age, remembered and carefully followed in small matters her parents’ wishes. Not of course that her life was shaped by them. Probably old Mr. Tucker would have disapproved of few things more highly than of a woman undertaking such work as she undertook; but here she followed the dictates of her own conscience. In slighter questions,[430] where conscience was not involved, she loved to do what they had of old desired. Still, as always, she rose early to work, and went to bed in good time, according to the promise given long, long before. Still, when she drank afternoon tea, she always took something to eat with it, because ‘her Mother had liked her to do so.’ And often, though old and weak, when she caught herself to be stooping, she still would pull herself sharply upright, and say: ‘I remembered,—my dear Father always wanted me to sit straight.’

While habitually much interested in engagements and marriages, she was particular as to modes of speech on such subjects. Once or twice, when some girl-visitor spoke with what she considered an unbecoming lightness, upon some matter of love or love-making, Miss Tucker observed, after the girl’s departure,—‘My dear, what a vulgar person!!’

The same curious diversity of opinion as to particular points of Miss Tucker’s character which was observable in her English life, is also observable in her Indian life. Here again are opposite opinions. One says, ‘She was so peculiarly sympathetic!’ Another, with equally good opportunities for judging, says, ‘Exceedingly kind, but not sympathetic.’ One says, ‘She was so well able to put herself into the place of another in trouble!’ Another says, ‘No tact; the kindest intentions, but she did not always know how to manage.’

The explanation lies, no doubt, at least in part, in her own many-sidedness, and in the very different manner in which she was affected by different people. Some appealed to her tenderness; some only called out her kindliness. She could and did love intensely; but only in particular cases: and though to a wide outer circle she gave love, it was of a less ardent nature. Moreover, she could dislike people; and when she once took a marked dislike, though this was seldom, it would be not quite easy to make her view with fairness that person’s doings.


She was very impulsive still; the same eager, enthusiastic warm-hearted being, who had lived in girlhood at No. 3,—modified, but not intrinsically different. Possibly, in old age, with weakened health, after living practically much alone, the natural tendency to hasty judgments may have somewhat increased. But if so, there was also an increase in the spirit of humility, a far greater readiness than of old to acknowledge herself mistaken or in the wrong. By nature she was not gentle and had not self-control; and physical weakness doubtless often rendered the fight harder,—yet she persevered in the fight with never-failing resolution.

Sometimes she would hear of a thing done by one of the younger Missionaries, and would at once condemn it, not waiting to learn all the circumstances, and speaking with some severity. A few days later something would turn up, explaining more fully the why and the wherefore of the action in question; and then she would say frankly, ‘Well, I think I was wrong, after all! I think you were right to do as you did!’ A smaller and less noble nature would probably have refused to see the mistake, and would have clung obstinately to its own way of thinking.

Although she would occasionally speak hastily, she did not as a rule write hastily. If she could not in her letters praise a person, she would cease to bring forward that person’s name,—at all events in letters meant for general reading.

It may also be noted here that, as time went on, Charlotte Tucker, in her extreme desire for Missionary simplicity and economy, had become a little apt to push matters in that direction to an excess. Few people are constituted as she was, to toil hard and to live long upon the smallest possible minimum of food. As some of the weakness of old age crept over her, she was perhaps not always quite reasonable respecting Missionary requirements[432] and necessities. She would at times seem to expect others, for the sake of economy, to do with what she herself found sufficient, but which to their different constitutions meant something like semi-starvation. This at least is the impression of one who ought to be accounted a good judge, and it appears to have been in some degree a trouble to certain of her companions.

During all those long years of Indian life, amid the variety of people with whom she was thrown, while there were many whom she could love, and some whom she could love most warmly, there were also naturally a few who did not suit her, any more than she suited them. She may have been somewhat of a trial to them; and undoubtedly they were very much of a trial to her; yet despite all her natural impetuosity and impatience of disposition, she bore long and patiently in such cases. As one says, who was with her in some of those later years, ‘Although sometimes hasty in judging, she was also capable of much forbearance.’

It is noticeable that one who knew her well speaks of a remarkable softening and increase of gentleness during the last three years of her life. Naturally very ‘up and down’ in her moods, she became then far more uniformly bright. The fruit was growing very ripe, almost ready to drop from the tree. Miss Wauton, too, tells of the growing loveliness of expression in her face, as the end drew nearer. But we have not yet quite arrived at those last three years.

By this time Miss Tucker was a little apt to fall behind in new methods of work, and to cling to what was old-fashioned. Needful changes in the High School were at first a trouble to her, even though they might be real improvements, tending to render the school more efficient. She liked, for instance, to drop in at odd hours, and to ‘take a class,’ after the manner of an English squire’s daughter dropping into the village school. As numbers and discipline increased it was found to be not always a[433] convenient plan, and objections were made. Miss Tucker one day, in a fit of depression at having to give up this and other things, is recorded to have said, ‘My work is done! I don’t care how soon I go now!’

This happily was a mere passing fit of sadness. It was soon after arranged that a Class of the older youths should go to her for instruction on Sunday afternoons; and in the class she found very great interest. She would also ask her ‘dear boys,’ a few at a time, to spend week-day evenings with her, for games of play, which she enjoyed fully as much as they did. She was very much beloved by the boys; and they were no less delighted to come to her than she was to have them. Her influence over these boys, over Indian Christians generally, and over most of the Missionaries with whom she came in contact, will never be forgotten.

The springy step of earlier years was not quite lost, even in old age. Another thing that she kept remarkably long was, as earlier stated, her voice for singing. It had of course grown thin and weak, and was now a good deal cracked; still she did not sing out of tune; and her enjoyment in singing never failed. It was with her the natural expression of her feelings. When she sang in Church, and when she played the harmonium, her whole face would light up in a marvellous manner. Indians—not Christians—would walk long distances, and be present in Church, simply to look upon the face of the Buzurg Miss Sahiba, as she sang or played. Such an illumination on the face of a human being was counted well worth some exertion to see. Another account tells of a Native who would go to Church for the express purpose of watching her look, when she recited the Gloria. It was all so real to A. L. O. E. Her very smile was a sermon in itself.

All these years Zenana teaching went steadfastly on. She ever had before her mind a keen sense that her own[434] call might come before another morning’s dawn, and that the present might be her last opportunity of speaking. Sometimes she would be depressed when reading of others who had had more apparent results to their work; yet through countless discouragements she never slackened.

The same Native Christian from whom I have quoted earlier as to the non-success, in his opinion, of her Missionary labours, says also about Miss Tucker: ‘She was far from being a good judge of the Indian character. I remember her pointing to a Native Christian, and saying that the very light of Heaven was being reflected from his countenance, when in fact he had almost apostatised.’ But this was simply a repetition of the old tendency to think always the very best of everybody,—the habit being cultivated to such an excess as materially to interfere with her powers of perception in particular cases. It does not touch the question of her general understanding of the Indian character. Penetration, as to individuals, was hardly one of her gifts; and few would hesitate to agree to the assertion that she thought a great deal better of many Natives than, unfortunately, they deserved. Her eyes were opened slowly through bitter and repeated disappointments. But to the last she would probably have preferred to be sometimes deceived, rather than to be always suspecting.

In the continuous pressure of her work and trials, Charlotte Tucker was a woman of prayer. Not that she was given to long and wordy outpourings; but she lived on the border-land of the Unseen, and she held incessant intercourse with her Divine Master. Whatever she felt, whatever she wanted, when she was afraid, when she was depressed, when things went wrong, when she could not see her way, the first impulse of her heart was always—prayer! Then she would wait to see His Will.

Systematic as were the entries in her Journal, those last[435] few years of life, she was apt to be a little forgetful,—which no doubt was the very reason that she started the Journal. She would come in and say to Miss Dixie, ‘Such a sweet young Bibi in a Zenana to-day, dear. She wants to see you.’ When Miss Dixie asked where the young Bibi lived, her recollections were confused, and she could not say. The name of Bibi, husband, and house had all escaped. Miss Dixie would then have to question the bearers as to where they had taken Miss Tucker, and so find out particulars.

The writing of books and booklets still continued to some extent; indeed, it could not have been long before this that she achieved a good-sized volume for young English readers, called—Pictures of St. Peter in an English Home. As its name might imply, it was controversial in character, being written against the errors of the Roman Church. She could not, however, work so hard now with her pen as in earlier years. Dr. Weitbrecht states that ‘her books for publication in England, the proceeds of which went to support local work, were mostly written during her brief summer holiday. It was when she felt her powers failing in this line that she set aside part of her patrimony to endow the “Mission Plough.”’

The absence of allusions to her own writings in years of correspondence is remarkable. Once in a way she speaks of what she is doing, but this is quite the exception. Her natural reserve showed strongly here. She had also a curious dislike to being questioned—a fact noticed by relatives in her English life years before; and one of her Missionary companions tells of it also. If questions were put direct, she would say, ‘I am not your Mother-Superior; don’t appeal to me!’—when her questioner was longing to have the benefit of her years of experience. A story is told of one gentleman, who came from a considerable distance, on purpose to consult Miss Tucker about some books that he meant to publish. The call was[436] a failure. Instead of gradually getting into conversation, and luring her on to tell what she knew, he asked point-blank the things that he wanted to hear; and the result was nil. On his way back to the station, he inquired whether Miss Tucker had not lost her memory. Not at all, he was told,—but direct questioning always checked information.

In the November of 1887 the small Star-Dispensary was opened by Dr. Weitbrecht, for Miss Dixie. She had undergone some training in England; and though not ‘qualified,’ she had it in her power to do much more for the women and children of the neighbourhood than their own people could do for them. Many objections have been made to the idea of a Dispensary anywhere, without a properly qualified doctor; and no doubt as soon as possible the latter should in all cases be supplied. But where a doctor cannot be had, then in default of what is better, a trained nurse can do a great deal to help, in ordinary cases of sickness or accident. The reception given to this little Dispensary soon showed how much it was valued.

In a letter of December 9th are some words of depression under difficulties, especially the difficulty of finding a new master for the ‘Plough School,’ as the former master was going away.

‘I send you and dear Leila a few words of St. Paul’s which seem to me so sweet and restful,—a pillow for weary heads. “Beloved of God, called to be saints.” It is often difficult to realise that we are beloved of God, because conscience says we do not deserve to be so. I have often to fight against discouragements.’

On the 21st of January 1888 is a mention of the ‘Missionary Ladies’ Conference,’ to be held in Amritsar late in February, with a hope that all would be ‘as friendly and good-tempered’ as on the previous occasion, five years earlier. Towards the close of February comes her report of what had occurred:—


‘Feb. 24, 1888.—I found your letter awaiting me this evening, when I returned from the four days&rs............
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