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CHAPTER XVIII
A.D. 1890-1891
IN OLD AGE

Letters at this late period of Miss Tucker’s life become so abundant, from numerous quarters, that the main difficulty is in selection, the main cause of regret is that so few can be used. The history of 1891 and 1892 may be told chiefly by Miss Tucker’s details of what went on. Miss Dixie remained her constant companion in the little Mission bungalow all these years,—except when absent for her summer holiday, or on furlough. Others came and went, remaining a longer or a shorter time in Batala. Dr. Weitbrecht had settled down as C.M.S. Missionary in the place; and Mr. Bateman, stationed at Narowal, came and went on itinerating expeditions.

Charlotte Tucker still lived her life of rigid simplicity; though perhaps certain indulgences, immaterial when she was younger and in more vigorous health, had now become a positive necessity. Long Indian toil, as well as sharp illnesses, had told upon her; and at seventy she had every appearance of being ninety. Yet, through weakness, weariness, and languor, she struggled on, and kept up her steady round of work.

The little ‘Sunset’ house, in which she lived, consisted mainly of the following: bath-room, size 8 feet by 8; dressing-room, size 13 feet by 8; the one large principal room, size 24 feet by 13, divided by a screen into bedroom[462] and sitting-room; and the verandahs. Miss Tucker’s chief room has been described to me by one who spent months at Batala, as, at this date,—‘Rather bare and shabby, and used to have rather an untidy look.... As you went in from the verandah in front, the fireplace was on your left, and a sofa, with a screen behind it, screening off the bed, on your right. In front of you was the little table, where she used to write. I cannot remember all of the furniture; there was not very much,—I think some shelves on each side of the fireplace.’

This does not sound too luxurious. No doubt Miss Tucker might, without expense, have made her rooms much prettier, but for her passion for giving away. She seldom kept for herself more than was imperatively needed. While on this subject, it may be worth remarking, as regards the food of the Missionary ladies in Batala, that the cost of it has been found to amount, on an average, to about eight annas a day,—an anna being worth rather less than a penny. The said estimate applies to an ordinary time, including a certain amount of entertaining of visitors. Probably the cost would be much the same in other parts of the Panjab, unless it were slightly more in large Stations.

A few scattered sentences from the Journal may precede the letters of 1891:—

‘April 30, 1889.—Villages.... Sikh bibi very nice. I said, “I am very weak. If you heard that I died, what would you say?” Reply: “Gone to Jesus! Gone to Heaven!” After a while I asked, “Were I to hear of your death, what should I say?” A little delay; then a bibi observed on the kirpa, mercy, of Jesus, and thought that He might take them too.’

‘Aug. 31.—“Faint, yet pursuing,” must be my motto. The two boys from ——, who came to Anarkalli, as if resolved to embrace Christianity, but, being without root, left us again, seem to have done much harm. The Muhammadans more bitter than before. Twice this week I—an aged servant of Christ—have been turned away from the Zenanas, to which I went in gentleness and kindness. To-day[463] I was rejected at a fourth.... It is a strain upon the threefold cord of Faith, Hope, and Love, this deliberate choosing of darkness instead of light, Barabbas instead of Christ. We need the prayers of God’s people, and to remember the promise, “In due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.”’

‘Sept. 4.— ... Two places very nice. B. is determined to be a Christian, and teach his wife. Wants Urdu Gospel....

‘Sept. 5.— ... Felt ill; half-blind; yet generally well-heard....

‘Sept. 6.— ... Ophthalmia, but managed to go to Q. five places....

‘Dec. 12, 1889.—D.G. Hindus cross. As I mounted dark stair, heard “Buha band.”[127] However, I ventured up, smiling, and said,—“When you come to the Dispensary, the door is not shut.” There were four women; the two elder cross, not the younger. At first no seat was offered me; then some one said, “Buddhi,”[128] on which a small mat was brought, and the old woman meekly sat down. I tried to make my visit pleasant, showed my Golden Tree, and sang. It was a kind of breaking of ice. I took care not to stay very long. When I had risen, the two younger salaamed. I turned, smiling, to one cross old lady, and coaxed her to return my salaam. After a little while she did so; but I wanted to conquer the toughest also. The younger women listened, much amused, to my polite expostulations on her rudeness. At last the old hand went up to the brow, and I departed, contented. The ice was broken. One can go again.’

‘Dec. 25, Christmas, 1889.—Nice. D., B., and children, made catechumens.’

‘Dec. 27.—The best day, I think, that I have ever had in Zenanas.... N. B., A very nice visit. Two fine young men, and at least seven women of various ages, appeared pleased, interested, and without any bigotry. So much inclined towards Christianity did one man in particular seem, that I spoke of the advantage of a united family accepting the Truth, and expressed a hope that all would come out. “Sat!”[129] echoed the Hindu heartily, throwing up one of his hands, as though to give force to the word.’

‘June 29, 1890.—I have, three times in as many weeks, been able freely to show a Bible picture in Islami schools, and speak of Christ. To-day, as I walked in the streets, twice tradesmen in their little shops wished to see my picture. I stopped, and others gathered round, whilst I explained.’

[464]

‘Sept. 2, 1890.... K., she sad. Seems to regret death of her poor young S., whom she kept such a prisoner, and of whom I thought, “If any one in that quarter be a secret believer, it is she!” I could seldom get into the house. The sweet S. was quite a prisoner. I have even stood before the window, and sung in the open lane, hoping that S. would hear the sound of my voice, like imprisoned Richard. I hear that S. gave birth to a girl, “a very beautiful tiny child,” who only lived for a month, and the young mother soon followed. I have strong hopes that both are with the Lord Jesus.’

‘Feb. 9, 1891.— ... I have suffered greatly from chilliness this cold weather. Perhaps in no winter during my whole life more. Old age. Ague.’

‘March 25, 1891.—Song. W. B. Buckle; but my best hearer was R. L., very interesting schoolboy. He met me at my first Zenana, and followed me to all the others. He was so nice,—even singing bhajans—that I thought at first that he must have learned at the Plough. With interest, amid interruptions from women, listened to story of the three Jews in the furnace, and told it afterwards in another Zenana. He was a help to me, explaining the Buckle, etc., very nicely. When the subject was Christ’s Ascension, the boy said that He had gone up to God Almighty. I intend to write out the song for the dear fellow.... His heart seemed so impressionable, and his face brightened at the thought of the Crown to be given to “those who believe in Jesus.” “I want to be a Christian,” he said in English. Lord, bless him. Give him the Crown.’

‘April 13, 1891.... R. E. took me into her arms; felt so slim encircled by them. I noticed a quantity of jewels on her arms. She popped her bare feet on my knee,—I was seated on the ground,—to show me the jewels on them. Her amount of clothing was by no means proportionate. Presently down went her forehead on my lap. I silently hoped that there was not much oil on her hair.’

‘May 14.—Hindus very nice. My A. B., cheerful-looking C. D., another whom I do not know so well, E. F. These three all hope to meet me in Heaven. When I said to C. D., “But how can we go? We are sinners!”—her simple reply was, “Jesus Christ, Guide.” I have hopes of these three.’

[465]

‘May 15.—F. G., nice intelligent man. I was surprised at a little boy, H. I., being able to read. Gave him hymn-book. Was much followed about by boys....’

‘May 25, 1891.... Felt the weight of years much. Work a struggle! Lord, help me!...’

‘June 4.... L. very nice. When I said that she was patient, poor dying hand pointed upwards. Peace on face. Many listened....’

‘June 22.... I am to start to-day for Dalhousie. Feel old and rather worn out. If I live to 1892 must not stay down[130] so long....’

‘Aug 14, 1891.... I sat outside with Bibis, in front of ——‘s house. The door half open, behind it pretty smiling young Bibi, who again and again silently made signs to me to come in. Did so, and sat beside her. She did not utter one word, but by her looks tried to show me that she received the Word, and believed. She only said “Salaam,” when I left. I read to her of Christ being the Good Shepherd, His own words.’

‘Dec. 24.—J. ill; sweet. Told me that, sitting up in bed, she saw beings come in, clothed in white shining raiment. Felt frightened. Asked why they did not speak. Afterwards fell asleep, and dreamed of being taken to a beautiful place. She is, we think, a true believer, confesses herself sinful, and looks to Christ for salvation. Asked her if she would like baptism. “Yes.” “Would your husband allow it?” “No.”’

These are specimens of the longer entries. The majority are exceedingly brief, consisting for the most part of names, initials, and single words. Letters to Mrs. Hamilton in the early part of 1891 are unusually few: not that the usual number were not written, but few have been kept. In the spring of that year there was some discussion as to the name of ‘The Plough School,’—her own favourite name for the School, which meant much to her. One cannot but regret that any stir should have been made about the matter, when she had been the ‘mother’ of the school. The criticism having been put forward, however needlessly, she wrote to Mr. Baring:—

‘By-the-by, the name “Plough” is objected to, as sounding like a public-house.... How could we choose a name that would signify[466] entire dependence on God?... The Plough appears to be flourishing. Boys come to it even from what we call the large Government School. Numbers have arisen to about 113. To-day I had no fewer than seven rather superior boys from the Plough. They come for religious conversation and Bible pictures.’

On the 17th of June 1891 she wrote to Mrs. Gardiner about the recent death of that remarkable man, Bishop French,—no longer holding the position of a Bishop, but working as a simple Missionary.

‘My dear Mrs. Gardiner,—Though June in the plains is not the most favourable month for letter-writing, especially to a Septuagenarian, I will not let your kind note remain longer unanswered.

‘Yes, indeed, our late loved Bishop French was a saint, one whose memory is sweet, whose example is lofty. You will have seen the article in the Panjab Mission News. I think that it was written by Rowland Bateman, who, so like himself, feels not having rushed off in all the heat, to have been at the side of his venerated Friend, left alone in a land of strangers. But the dear Saint was not alone! What a glorious ending to his beautiful course! He reminds one, when dying in the grapple with Muhammadanism in the very home of its birth, of the Swiss hero, who broke the phalanx of the enemy by clasping the spears of the foremost in his arms, and so receiving them into his breast.
“‘Make way for liberty,’ he cried;
‘Make way for liberty!’—and died.”

‘Of course there will be a Memoir of Bishop French,—but where is the Boswell competent to write it? Who could give all the delicate touches, needed for a perfect portrait of one with so many idiosyncrasies?

‘How well I remember the dear Bishop coming all the way from Lahore,—when there was no railway,—to visit me, when I was supposed to be dying.[131] He sat by my bedside, gently talking. I do not remember that I said anything to him. I was looking up at his face, and thinking what a lovely medallion might be made of it in wax! It was an earthly thought; but when you recall the delicate features, pure complexion, and saintly look, of that countenance, you will hardly wonder at the sick woman’s reflection.

‘My letters, or rather letter, from England came in when I was[467] engaged in writing, and you will not wonder at the blot on the last page.... I feel now disinclined to write at all. My beloved sister, Mrs. Hamilton, has been seriously ill; but, thank God, to-day’s account of her is good.—Yours affectionately,

C. M. Tucker.

TO MISS MINNIE DIXIE.

‘(From the Hills) July 4, 1891.

‘I am not timid about snakes; but H. has seen four lately, and it is only common-sense to look under one’s bed, as the heat compels open windows and doors. I have only fish-insects and tarantulas at present, but am promised plenty of scorpions, centipedes, and leeches, in the rains. You know I have not your talent for squashing reptiles; and if I called out for help in the unpleasant business, I doubt whether any one would hear me. I rather think that this will be my last visit to the Hills, and that Amritsar will be my Sanatarium in future.’

The two next letters to Miss Dixie are about the outbreak of smallpox in Batala. She was ‘quite ready to nurse a smallpox patient, should the malady spread.’ And again,—’ Why should I delay my return? As a Missionary, I am liable any day to meet children with smallpox full out. I hope to be with you in about a fortnight.’

TO MISS LANGLEY.

‘Batala, July 29, 1891.

‘It is very kind of you to ask what kind of things would be most useful here. For sale, pretty little articles of dress for English children, from one day old to five years, are most readily disposed of. We are afraid of woollen articles, as they are so difficult to keep. White ants are a real puzzle at Batala.... Happily cotton or silk they attack much less. Gentlemen’s neckties, of a fashionable shape, would be likely to sell well. Station-people in India think at least as much about fashion as Londoners do. A few pretty cosies and toilet or tea-table covers would be nice, and some elegant dolls. These would suit for sales. For presents in schools—cheap dolls, gay and rather gaudy; bags, with cotton and tape; kurtas, common gay print, that will wash. I dare say that Miss Cockle could supply a pattern. The kurtas need to be made of Oriental shape, or they would not be worn by the school-children.’

[468]

An attack of ophthalmia in her eyes, which must have caused much suffering, is made light of in her letters; and in the same passing manner she alludes to a fall, whereby her face was turned black and blue. The main point i............
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