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CHAPTER XIX
A.D. 1892
LIGHT AT EVENTIDE

The Evening of Miss Tucker’s life was passing fast away. Sixteen years of her long Indian campaign were over. Only two years remained. But the end of her Evening was to be Day, not Night. For nearly forty years she had looked forward with joy to the great change; for more than twenty she had longed with an impassioned craving for a sight, Face to face, of that dear Lord and Master whom she loved. And though she did not know it, the time was drawing very near. Could she have known it, the passing troubles of these months would have seemed easy to bear, in the light of coming glory. Barely two more years of toil and weariness,—and then—the Home-going!

One more heavy sorrow had to come first; one more sharp blow upon the golden staff of her Will. Many a blow had fallen since she wrote her little book, The Giant-Killer; many dear ones had been called away by death. And now the summons was going forth for the dearest of all; the sister-friend, who from very infancy had been one with herself. No shadow had ever fallen on their love one for another. Before the close of 1892 the shadow of death was to fall across it, leaving Charlotte Tucker more lonely in heart than she had ever been before. But the shadow was to fall for a very little while. Only a few months of separation; and then the sisters would be together again.

[476]

‘“Stay thy hand!”’ Fides exclaimed, in the story by A. L. O. E., as blow after blow fell on the golden staff. ‘“It can bear no more!”’

‘“Yet a little patience,” cried Experience, and struck it again. Then the Will was restored to Fides,—straight, pure, beautiful,—oh, how unlike that staff which had been so deadly in the grasp of Pride!

‘As Fides stood gazing on the fair gift before him, once more, and for the last time, the shining robe and star-wreath of Conscience flashed on his sight. Never before had her smile been so glad, so beaming with the radiance of Heaven.

‘“The work is done,—the fight is over!” she exclaimed. “Thou art summoned to the Presence of thy King! A messenger is even now waiting to conduct thee to the Home which thou so long hast desired! Go, bearing with thee the offering of a conquered Will, the acknowledgment that not even that should be thine own, and the remembrance of foes bravely met and overcome, through the might of Him Who armed thee for the fight.... Go where all is gladness and rejoicing and peace,—where war and danger shall be known no more!”‘[135]

The work was nearly done; the fight was nearly over. But Charlotte Tucker could not yet see the starry form, could not yet hear the gentle accents, which soon would bid her to ‘rise and come away.’ Before many days of 1892 had passed, she was back again in Batala; deep in her usual round of work and interests.

‘Batala, Jan. 10.—Here am I at home again. I did so enjoy and benefit by my visit to Narowal. It was not leaving work but leaving cares. I worked every day, but the work was more encouraging, and the feeling of repose so refreshing. If I live to see another Christmas, I think that I shall run away to some quiet spot, like Narowal, where the railway whistle is never heard....

‘When I was at peaceful Narowal, I happened to read in a printed paper a kind of fable, which has been such a comfort to myself, that I have put the idea into verse, and my Laura shall have a copy.... As we Missionaries have a great many more little annoyances than great afflictions, I am inclined—for myself—to change the last line but one into
‘“Change petty worries to plumage on wings.”

‘You know there are on a bird’s pinion, not only the long feathers,[477] but the little tiny ones; but how that fluffy downy sort add to beauty and comfort!...

“WEIGHTS AND WINGS.
‘“Sweet is a parable which I have read;
Birds at the first could not soar into air,
Bound to the earth; till their Maker, ’tis said,
Gave to each two little burdens to bear.
Proud ones refused the least burden to lift;
Others, submissive, obediently cried,—
‘All that He sends we will take as a gift;
Feeble are we, yet will strength be supplied.’
“Raising her burdens, each bird with surprise
Finds to her weak frame most closely it clings;
Soft, light and beautiful, radiant with dyes,
Lo! every weight has expanded to wings!
Woe to the creatures that clung to the ground!
They could not flutter bright wings in the sky;
Ne’er could they rise above Earth’s narrow bound,—
Whilst their companions were soaring on high.
“Take we up burdens of sorrow or care,
Looking to Him Who the trial has given,
Grace will give courage and patience to bear,
Make burdens wings to uplift us to Heaven.
When disappointment its heavy cross brings,
Lord, in each trial Thy love let us see;
Change e’en our heaviest woes into wings,
Onward and upward to bear us to Thee!”’

‘Feb. 12, 1892.

‘Mine own precious Sister,—Again have you been called to the trial of sickness and suffering.... These trials may seem strange and unaccountable to the children of earth, but how differently they are regarded by the children of light! They make us keep closer to the Father’s side,—cling more to His supporting Hand,—the weights do turn into wings! O how often have I during late days thought of that little parable! And when we reach the Blessed Shore, and “know as we are known,” we shall fully realise why it is good that we should be afflicted....

‘I was reading the Commandments aloud in a village yesterday, when a bright young Hindu Pandit—rather well read—objected to the Second. The poor fellow was probably conscious that he himself was constantly breaking the Second Commandment. It interested[478] me to hear a middle-aged sensible-looking Sikh take the other side, quietly, and with perfect good-temper. Each of the men afterwards accepted a Gospel, one in Gurmukhi, one in Urdu.’

‘Feb. 18.—I am thankful for improved accounts of you.... We have had rather an eventful week for Batala.... On Monday the dear Bishop came in. Herbert asked me to take luncheon with him on Tuesday. It was very nice; just the Bishop, Herbert, and four nice Native Christians. I was the only lady.... At half-past three we had a very interesting Confirmation Service in the Church, to which the Bishop drove me. He gave a very nice address, which Herbert translated beautifully into Panjabi, for the benefit of the simple peasants. On the following morning the Bishop gave in English such a practical heart-searching address to us workers! He looked so earnestly at us ladies, and was evidently anxious to do us real good. His was no idle display of eloquence; rather did his address resemble the admonition of a kind wise father. We did not see him after we left the chapel....

‘We have had a singularly mild and bright cold weather.... How curious it would be to an English farmer to see fields green with corn in February,—the Spring crop,—and, at the same time, other bits of ground being ploughed up for the sowing of another crop! There seems something always growing. There are lovely roses and fruit blossoms, but the weather is now comparatively dark and dull.’

‘April 8, 1892.—The Muhammadans in Batala seem to be in a much better humour than they may be expected to be during the Ramazan—their grand fast. I have visited a good many Muhammadan Zenanas this week; and in not one, so far as I remember, have I heard a word about the fast, which was apt to make them so bigoted and self-righteous. No one objects when I repeat in Urdu the precious text, “By grace ye are saved, through faith,” etc. Indeed, I believe that a good many Batala folk think that after all our religion is better than their own. I repeat “God so loved ——” more often, I think, than any other text; and I have not lately heard the shocked exclamation, “Tauba! tauba!”[136] Perhaps it will be different to-morrow, when I propose visiting two villages, which were so bigoted and disagreeable, that I at one time struck both out of my visiting-list. Minnie induced me to give them—at least one of them—another trial, as she had given medical aid to the wife of the Maulvi (Muhammadan religious teacher of the place), and had found him very polite. No doubt the Dispensary opens doors.[479] I found the Maulvi bigoted but civil, and ... willing to receive a New Testament.... I enjoy the quiet walk, and then ride in my duli, in the cool fresh morning, when I visit villages. The harvest has commenced. Here I see fields of ripening corn, there the scattered sheaves. But the harvest is not so plentiful as it was last year. We had too dry a cold weather; not nearly so chilly as the former one. I am taking out illuminated texts just now. I have beautiful ones, both in Persian, Urdu, and Gurmukhi. It is interesting to see peasants, somewhat more intelligent than their fellows, spelling out the precious verses from Scripture.’

‘April 12.—Precious darling Laura,—The Mail has to-day brought me in your letter of March 24th; the first clear intimation of the nature of your illness. I will not say that my eyes are dry. I own that the selfish thought arose,—“Would that I had had it instead!” And yet I prefer knowing the plain truth. I have comfort in the thought, “I am old; whichever of us is taken first, the meeting—O what a joyful meeting!—may not be far off!” ...

‘I am thankful that you do not suffer greatly. I fondly hope that this trial may be spared. I do not feel inclined to add more. I need not,—you know so much of your own loving Char.’

TO MISS ‘LEILA’ HAMILTON.

‘April 13, 1892.

‘Though I wrote to your beloved Mother yesterday, and shall only be just in time to catch the post, my heart impels me to send a letter to you, my dear afflicted God-daughter. I know that you try bravely to bear up under your sore trial, so as not to add to that of your precious invalid.... I am glad that I have been told the worst. It has been good for my soul! Only the day before the mail came in, I had been foolishly, sinfully, brooding over trifles, till I even showed outward irritation, instead of reflecting that small annoyances as well as great troubles are God’s loving discipline for us. Alas! that I should have shown temper! The next day the Lord sent a quiet, holy sorrow, and it did me good,—tears were wholesome,—I felt that I had been petty and irritable, and deserved a different kind of trial. I have been more under discipline since I attained the age of seventy than I have perhaps ever been before in India. But should trifles disturb the serenity of a Servant of a Crucified Saviour?... Thinking of your real grief, I hope to be more patient with petty annoyances....

‘Write freely to me, dear Leila. To help you in your trouble will not do me harm but good.’

[480]

‘April 17, 1892.—Beloved Laura, “The Lord is Risen indeed!” This is the Easter greeting, and this is Easter morn. I shall soon start for church; but first I would remind my darling sister and myself of words like the clarion of a silver trumpet, followed by the sound of an angel’s harp:—
‘“The Lord hath triumphed gloriously;
The Lord shall reign victoriously!
Seals assuring,
Guards securing,
Watch His earthly prison!
Seals are shattered,
Guards are scattered,—
Christ hath Risen!”
‘“No longer then let mourners weep,
Or call departed Christians ‘dead!’
For death is hallowed into sleep.
Each grave becomes a bed.”
‘“It is not exile—peace on high;
It is not sorrow,—rest from strife;
To fall asleep is not to die;
To be with Christ is better life!”

‘How beautiful are these lines,—how true!...

‘Oh, what Heavenly wisdom Missionaries need!... It seems to me that dear people at home have a very imperfect idea of Missionaries, and, in their prayers, probably ask for comfort in trial for God’s servants, rather than for the wisdom which is from Above,—the gentle influence of the Holy Spirit. Ask this for me, my Laura. I do get impatient sometimes, and I make mistakes.’

‘May 2, 1892.—Books are a great enjoyment when I am alone, or sitting, as I am at present, by the bedside of one who has been ill, though now, thank God, recovering. We have had such a sick house, your Char keeping well, when it seemed as if nobody else would; delicate Miss —— coming next on the roll of health. She has been able to take the housekeeping, and to help in the nursing, so we are getting on, and hope that all will come right soon. Miss Dixie took four children to Clarkabad, and returned April 23rd, quite ill.... Miss Wright is nursing her. Then ... Daisy and Miss Copes came almost suddenly in from Futteyghur; Daisy’s fever had alarmed Miss Copes.... Miss Copes had her turn next, and has suffered severely.... Char has felt some comfort from being of some use here.’

[481]

FROM THE REV. R. CLARK.

‘Cheshire, May 3, 1892.

‘My dear Mrs. Hamilton,— ... I saw dear Miss Tucker shortly before I left Amritsar. She is, as you know, not strong; 2 Cor. iii. 13, R.V., always occurs to me when I see her. God is daily using her to be a blessing to us all.’

C. M. T. TO MRS. HAMILTON.

‘May 8 (Seventy-first Birthday).

‘I am sure that my precious Laura has been thinking of me to-day, as I have been thinking of her....

‘I think that it was some time before 5 A.M. that Mr. Corfield and his boys came to greet me with a hymn. I was in my dressing-gown, but hastily popped on my bonnet and went out to shake hands with everybody. As it is well known that I do not wish gifts, and prefer simple trifles that are useful, my presents were judiciously chosen, and are, to my mind, curiously symbolical.

‘The Corfields gave me a box of soap,—fragrant, and typical of cleansing. Miss Wright, a pretty little box of vaseline. This pleased me particularly. I have said, and I think written, that every Missionary should have a box of ointment, symbol of peace-keeping and peace-making! Now I have one myself. Minnie gave pens. May I make a good use of them!... Dear Babu Singha has given me a hand-pankah (fan), which I waved gratefully in church this morning. This is an emblem of refreshment in oppressive heat....

‘Dear Mr. Baring’s admirable building for the Mission Plough is to be opened to-morrow by the Deputy Commissioner; and I suppose that Muhammadan and Hindu big or little wigs will be present. I am glad that my birthday falls on Sunday; so that the tamasha is postponed till the next day. There is something solemn about the Anniversary, when one has travelled so far on the Homeward road. You will feel this, darling, on the 20th.[137] ... Dear Herbert’s sermon to-day was on “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!” We should never have known Baruch’s failing but for that warning word. I have been very much tamed down, dearest.’

TO THE REV. F. H. BARING.

‘May 9, 1892.

‘I must tell you of the grand opening of your beautiful School[482] building to-day, while the scene is fresh in my mind, and before the coming in of the home mail.... The thermometer has been nearly 92° in my room this morning.

‘The fine building was well filled; the part nearest the table with Europeans and Baring boys; the Plough boys, very numerous, had the larger space; and in front, on chairs, in stiff dignity, sat the city magnates.... We sang a hymn; Mr. Wright ... read a Psalm; and, we Christians standing, Herbert led the prayer. Then my Nephew[138] made a short speech, followed by a nice one from dear Babu Singha, and a kind of brief, satisfactory report from Nobin Chanda.

‘And then up rose the Deputy Commissioner, and, to my great surprise and great amusement, gave, in rough Urdu, such a whipping to Batala and her magnates, as I never heard in a speech in my life. First,—Batala, poor Batala, was not like any other city; it was so quarrelsome! Clearly, the Deputy Commissioner (like Mr. ——, who told me nearly sixteen years ago that Batala was the most troublesome and litigious city in the district) has no fancy for the place. Then the whip came down on the shoulders of the poor rais;[139] and it was mercilessly plied. The magnates had to bear the indignation of the Englishman for doing their best—or worst—to prevent our getting ground for the school or the proposed Mission Hospital. For whose benefit was the latter? asked the irate Deputy Commissioner. Not for our own, but that of the women and children of Batala! In short, the Englishman whipped the poor magnates, till he made them bleed—in their purses. He told them that money was wanted for school-benches, etc., and let them know that their aid would be desirable. Paper was on the table.... Some put down rupees; some wrote down promises. About 701 were thus collected.... The whole thing was so funny that I could not help being greatly amused. I wonder what the scolded Mu............
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