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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XVII
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A.D. 1888-1890

The year 1888 closed with another sharp attack of illness, not so severe or so prolonged as that of 1885, but sufficient to cause anxiety. On the 16th of December, though ‘far from well,’ Charlotte Tucker went to church as usual; but all her ‘wraps upon wraps could not keep her from catching cold.’ On the 21st, Mr. Bateman, reaching Amritsar, was much disturbed by the arrival of a telegram from Batala, requesting Dr. H. M. Clark to go over immediately, as Miss Tucker was in high fever. There was some hesitation whether to start at once by ekka, or to wait for the early morning train; and the latter plan was decided upon. When Dr. Clark went, Mr. Bateman accompanied him; and he wrote to Mrs. Hamilton on the 23rd:—

‘We reached Batala—“Sonnenschein”—together at 10.30 yesterday. The Auntie was reported sleeping without fever. She woke about 11; and Dr. Clark, after seeing her, telegraphed, “No immediate anxiety,” to Mr. Clark, who on receipt would decide whether to go to Batala, or to come here (Lahore) for the “Quiet Day.” The Auntie was very much pleased at my going over, and would not rest again till I had been into her room. She is in a comfortable, warm room. To my uninitiated eye she seemed to have everything about her which she could desire.... As I passed into the room Dr. Clark passed out, and behind the screen he whispered, “She is all right.” She met me with almost a shout of welcome, and[446] said a number of quasi-comic solemnities, squeezing my hands with great energy. She was a little flushed, and owned that she was weak, but as far as appearances went I have often seen her look worse when in full work. I felt very happy about her; but Dr. Clark said that there was a blueness and a twitching about the lips which he did not like, and that she was very weak. His “All right,” he said afterwards, meant only, “You may safely go in.” The fever kept off all day, and only returned about four in the afternoon.... It was 105 on Friday night.... I noticed that she is very much more amenable to discipline than before. She admits that she can’t walk or write decently, and she takes her medicine, including five grains of quinine, every three hours, very carefully and with great docility....’

One little remark that she made to Mr. Bateman was, ‘Thank God, He has made me quite comfortable’; and again, ‘I don’t find that I can pray to God about myself; for I don’t know what to say.’

‘You are in a strait betwixt two,’ suggested Mr. Bateman.

Miss Tucker did not like this, and she showed that she did not. Her friend adds, ‘I attribute the slight twinge it gave her to her habitual dislike to being thought so well of, as that she might appropriate an Apostolic utterance.’

Another observation was as to the ‘Quiet Day’ in Lahore,—she was having a ‘Quiet Week’ given to her at Batala instead.

Some slight memoranda of things that dropped from her were jotted down at the time by Miss Dixie. ‘Nil Desperandum’ was often quoted in this and other illnesses; also she would generally try to sing ‘Charlie is my Darling,’—no doubt a reminiscence of her old Stuart enthusiasm.

With reference to a Muhammadan school which had been shut some months before: ‘The Muhammadans have done us a good turn! They have rubbed hard against our shield, and have caused our motto on it to shine bright.’


‘My little musician is playing all day,’ she said once. She was asked, ‘What kind of tunes?’ ‘Now—“The Heavens are Telling.” The harmony is beautiful. I can hear every note!’ She was asked again, ‘Does it play on its own account, or do you express a wish for special tunes?’ ‘It is sometimes wilful,’ Miss Tucker said, ‘and plays, “Charlie is my Darling,” when I would rather it played something else. It plays tunes I have not heard since I was a child,—so correctly,—all in harmony!’ One of her favourite hymns in illness was ‘Peace, perfect peace’;—but she ‘did not like the last verse; it contradicted what went before.’

Happening to speak about different kinds of love, she observed,—‘There is a passion, not a love, which I have known some women to have for another. That is not wholesome; it is a passion, not love.’ Again, on the question of bringing others to Christ,—‘We are only the housemaids! We open the door; but they come in, and go themselves up to the King.’

It was either after this illness, or after another of the same type that she said, ‘I have felt that a beautiful Wing has been spread over me, which is lined with down and stitched with gold; and I am quite safe. Nothing can harm me so long as I remain under it!’ Somebody rather unnecessarily remarked, ‘But it is our own fault if we do not remain under it.’ ‘No,’ Miss Tucker replied, ‘we can’t say that. Satan does give us a pull sometimes.’ She was reminded that God’s ‘favour is always towards us’; but again she asserted the undeniable truth that God does sometimes permit His servants to be thus tried.

A long letter from herself to Mrs. Hamilton is dated December 21st, or two days before that written by Mr. Bateman, and apparently the very day on which Dr. Clark was summoned by telegram to Batala. This must[448] have been a slip. The handwriting is shaky, but she speaks of her illness as past. With reference to the beginning of the latter, she says:—

‘When in the afternoon (of the 16th) it was evident that I was seriously ill, the effect was magical. Up went my spirits like a balloon,—the curious effect which severe illness seems to have naturally upon me.... To be bright and cheerful in sickness and suffering costs me nothing, for it seems to come naturally; but I dare say that I get credit for a great deal of grace. It is so difficult for others, so difficult for ourselves, to distinguish between Nature and Grace.’

One may perhaps add that it is also unnecessary to do so,—unnecessary as regards ourselves, and utterly impossible as regards others. Better to leave such questions in the Hands of Him with Whom alone ‘all things are naked and opened.’ But evidently the subject had been much in Miss Tucker’s mind. The long letter is half full of it.

On January 4 she wrote:—

‘Now I dare say that you will want to hear how I am. Wonderfully well, though, of course, not strong. I went a short distance in my duli to-day. My late illness has quite convinced me that God has given me a capital constitution. I had, apparently, so much against steady recovery. Yet—there is no doubt of it—I am recovering. Except rather more weakness of the eyes and slight loss of flesh, no dregs seem left.’

‘Batala, Jan. 24, 1889.—Many thanks for the printed extract from good Mr. Clifford’s letter about the cure for leprosy.... I dare say that it is a valuable medicine when properly used; but probably the secret of its great success in the Andamans is that it was tried on convicts, who dared not refuse to rub themselves properly. Mr. Clifford writes that the exercise is part of the remedy; but I think that it would be wellnigh impossible to persuade free lepers to rub themselves for four hours daily. They would greatly prefer leprosy and begging. Do you not know of the Indian mother who, when one of the Mission ladies told her to rub oil over her poor sick child’s body, refused to take such trouble? “I have another!” said she. With dear good Father Damien it would be different.’



‘Feb. 16.—The wood-pigeons are cooing, the little peach-trees displaying pink blossoms, the fields are green with young corn. Perhaps you will half envy us when you read this; but you would hardly envy us six weeks hence....

‘In Mission life so much depends on one’s companions.... One must not expect too much, for all Missionaries are fallible. One should remember one’s own infirmities, and make allowance for those of others. In India we seem to live in glass houses; people are so well known; such a one is quick-tempered, such a one—but you can imagine what it is. There is little privacy even in the dwellings. There is no hall; the upper part of the outer door is glass; people see through, tap, and walk in.... India is a good place for preventing one from growing stiff and precise, and determined not to be put out of one’s way. At Batala especially there is no starch.’


‘May 2.—I could give you curious anecdotes of the Ramazan, the grand Muhammadan Fast, which has now begun. Minnie tells me of women in an ostentatious way bringing their bottles, as if for medicine, to the Dispensary; and then saying that they cannot take it—it is their fast. Why did they come then? To be admired for piety! Others come, looking rather piteous, though perhaps not really ill, that the Doctor Miss Sahiba may forbid them to fast. Minnie asked one woman whether she fasted. “I am poor; what can I do?” was the helpless reply. One not acquainted with the case might interpret this as, “I am helpless—I am only too often obliged to fast.” It really means, “I am too poor to fast.” You might imagine fasting to be rather economical. Quite the reverse! For instance, the —— whom Minnie employs is laying out a whole month’s salary in food for the fast, to have it extra good. She will have two meat meals every night, to make up for not eating in the day. Does it not remind one of the Pharisees?’

Miss Tucker’s birthday this year was signalised by the Baptism of one of the servants, and his whole family, including a little brown baby. After describing the event to her sister, with great delight, she added,—‘Of course the new Christians were all invited to the simple feast under a moonlit sky, which dear Babu Singha gave in my honour. It certainly was one of the best, if not the very best birthday, kept by your now aged but truly loving Char.’


‘May 30.—These last two mornings I have gone to help Miss Dixie by reading to her patients in the waiting-room of her Dispensary. There should always be some one to read, talk, sing, and keep order. Dear good Rosie Singha is wanted to make up medicines. I do not know what poor Minnie would do without her.... It is strange what difficulty we have in getting Native helpers for her (Miss Dixie).... You will have seen in the papers that noble devoted Father Damien has sunk to rest; his form sleeps in a leper’s grave. What a wonderful life and death was his!’

‘Simla, June 13.—Here is Char in Simla, the queen city of the mountain; but I do not think that I shall see much of it. I have a nice quiet walk near, commanding a noble view; and I go backwards and forwards along it, not troubling myself at all with climbing or sight-seeing. The air is very pure and fine; so I drink it in, and if anything is to give strength it ought to do so.... There seems to be a great deal of etiquette here,—people placed exactly according to rank at the grand parties.... I do not care much for what are really trifles, and am thankful that I have not to go out and be gay. I make the most of my age, which enables me, as it were, to sit quietly in a corner, and not even take the fatigue of rounds of visits. A lady had paid sixteen in one day, she said. Evidently, it is a matter of congratulation to find friends (?) not at home.... We take our meals at a table d’h?te, happily a quiet one. I sit between Louis and Lettie, so hardly speak to any one else, for I am shy of conversing across the table.’

‘July 18.—Your “running about,” love, has been on a milder scale than mine. On Friday last, knowing that I was to rise at about 3 A.M. (after a dinner-party at the C.’s), I did not entirely undress. Miss Warren and I started on our long journey downhill by the dim light of a clouded moon. Laziness might have made us miss the evening train, for we had nearly a hundred miles’ drive, in a succession of vehicles, to reach it; and we knew not what the state of the road might be.

‘Vehicles, did I write? Would you call an elephant a vehicle? We came to a place where there was a good deal of water; the Gogra swollen by the rains. We were requested to quit the heavy gari, and go across on an elephant. The nice docile creature knelt down; and a man actually wished us to clamber up by its tail! He grasped it, so as to form a kind of loop for me to put my foot in! But I objected to this method of mounting, and managed to scramble up by means of a kind of big bag hung across the animal. There was no saddle[451] or howdah; but the beast’s back was broad, its pace gentle, and we held on by ropes fastened across the elephant. The good creature well deserved the two biscuits with which it was rewarded.’

The following letter was with respect to two young Indians, in whom Mrs. Hamilton had been much interested. One might hesitate to quote it, in fear of giving pain to the really true-hearted among Indian Christians; but they are not referred to! It seems necessary to show that Miss Tucker, despite her readiness always to think the best of people, was by no means always easily taken in; and that she gained wisdom through sad experience:—

‘Batala, July 31.—I have received the following reply from —— about that Native in whom you have so long taken kindly, I fear little merited, interest. You do not yet, darling, know how little it costs Indians to write or speak in a way to please. They deceive even old experienced Missionaries....

‘It seems almost cruel to throw cold water on my Laura’s warm generous feelings, but I confess to an impression that Natives try to deceive one so much more pure-minded and honest than themselves. We get so grievously deceived and disappointed here, where we have much better opportunities of judging. But I hope that your —— may prove one of the real jewels which are—though not so often as we could wish—to be found amongst Orientals.

‘Aug. 1.—Yesterday’s post brought me a loving letter from my Laura.... A man[124] whom my Laura calls “my friend, ——,” ought to turn out a fine fellow at last. Of course I cannot judge if the going to Paris will be good or not. I do not like hiding colours when a man has been baptized. With secret believers some indulgence is sometimes needed; but after Baptism, it seems to me that to pass for a Muhammadan is a sign—of danger at least. But you will talk over the subject with Rowland. Five minutes with him will be better than five long letters from me. O my Laura, I have so learned to mistrust myself, my judgment, my disposition; and I have been particularly tried this year by inconsistency in those of whom I had thought highly.’


‘Aug. 17, 1889.

‘J. D., exemplary young man, has put all three harmoniums to rights. He says that the largest has 223 tongues, and that 25 were[452] dumb. Perhaps I have not given the numbers quite correctly, but nearly so. A live scorpion was found in our drawing-room instrument. It cleverly managed to get away, but was happily found and killed. There was a regularly-conducted Batala Feast yesterday, given by M. in honour of Baby Baring’s second birthday. As I walked towards the Singhas, I spoke with regret of the nice old-fashioned feasts, which seem to have gone out, when every one sat on the ground. Pleased was I to behold the cloth laid in the verandah, with no tables! We were to have an old-fashioned feast, after all. And a very nice one it was! About forty partook of it. To-day my nephew gives a smaller party in honour of his dear wife’s birthday.’


‘Nov. 14, 1889.

‘I must give you good news. Another sheaf laid, by God’s grace, on our Mission Plough. A nice gentlemanly young Brahmin from that school, K. K., openly received Baptism in the large Church last Sunday. As notice had been given to his family, there was such a tamasha as I had never seen in Batala before. Crowds gathered behind the extempore barricade to divide off the heathen in the Church—line above line of turbaned heads; and the doors were thronged. Without exaggeration, there must have been at least 200 people, besides us Christians. R. C., K. B., and A. B. (all converts) made very dashing daring extempore policemen to keep the Hindus from swarming in. The font was very near the sort of barricade; so our young candidate had to face the crowd,—amongst them one or two angry members of his family,—at the distance of only about two yards; but he bore himself like a hero, giving all his answers in a clear distinct tone. The most exciting part was getting our lad out of the church and safe off! The Hindus tried to stop and make the horse back; our boys pushed on behind with energy; and at last the tum-tum was off and away. I would not have missed the scene for something.’

Before entering on the correspondence of 1890, the following verses may be given, written in the course of that year for Batala boys; spirited in style as ever, though Charlotte Tucker was now verging on the age of seventy:—

‘What is it makes a Gentleman? ’Tis not his high estate,
His liveried footmen, or the grooms that on his orders wait,—
The horses and the carriages that stand before his gate,
The tenants who bow low to him, and think him very great.
These do not make the Gentleman, whate’er his station be!
‘What is it makes a Gentleman? Not colour of his skin,—
The Negro, black as ebony, may yet be fair within;
The weak, the lowly, and the poor, a glorious race may win,—
There’s nothing makes a man so low as cowardice and sin!
He cannot be a Gentleman, whate’er his station be!
‘What is it makes a Gentleman? His dress is not the sign,—
Though on each finger of each hand a jewelled ring may shine;
His necktie may be elegant&mdash............
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