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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XX
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CHAPTER XX
A.D. 1892-1893
THE LAST GREAT SORROW

With the coming of autumn, accounts of Mrs. Hamilton’s state grew steadily worse. In the middle of October Miss Tucker went for a few days to Rawal Pindi; and the last letter which she received there, before starting on her return journey, prepared her for the coming blow. Arriving at Batala station in the early morning, her first question was—

‘Is there a telegram?’

There was a telegram, and it was given to her immediately. Before seeing a word, Miss Tucker knew what the missive had to tell,—knew that her dearly loved sister had passed away. She opened it, and burst into a flood of tears. Reaching home, Miss Dixie led her to her own room, and there left her for a little while alone.

Probably no sorrow in all her lifetime, except the death of her Father and the death of Letitia, had touched her so closely as this sorrow; and even they were not the same, because through them she always had still her Laura. Now the sense of loneliness pressed upon her heavily. Whatever she had thought, whatever she had wished, whatever had aroused her interest or appealed to her sympathies, the immediate impulse had ever been to tell it to Mrs. Hamilton,—perhaps even more during[492] these long years in a far-off land, than in her English life. But indeed from very childhood, from the time when Laura was a little rosy, sweet-tempered, merry maid of four, and Charlotte was a wild-spirited, impulsive, and ambitious child of eight, the tie between them had been of a very unusual nature. They did not love merely as sisters, but as the nearest and dearest of intimate personal friends. What made the one happy made the other happy. What grieved the one grieved the other.

And now for a while the tie was seemingly broken; intercourse was at an end. True, Charlotte Tucker had been for sixteen long years and more separated by land and ocean from her sister. But the communion of mind with mind had been incessant throughout. True, the break was for a very little while. But this she could not possibly know. Old as she was, old in some respects beyond her years, she yet had a strong constitution, and a marvellous amount even now of wiry vigour. Weak she might be, in a sense; nevertheless she could get through a round of work daily which few women of seventy would dream of attempting. It was well within the bounds of possibility that her life might be extended through another ten or twelve years, or even longer.

‘She felt her sister’s death most dreadfully,’ one of her nieces has said. Yet she did not lie crushed beneath the weight of her grief. Work had still to be done; and others had to be thought of and comforted.

On the very day that she received the telegram she wrote to Mrs. Hamilton’s daughter a letter full of sympathy for her niece’s loss, scarcely mentioning her own.

‘I would take you as it were into my arms, ... and weep with you, so that I might possibly even remind you of the sympathy of the precious Mother, whom you have not lost, but parted with for a little while. O, when you meet in Eternity, what a little while it will appear!... You have the blessing of holy memories;[493] you know that you were a great comfort to the precious Invalid; and you have the joy of hope, the hope of re-union. We are only pilgrims on the same road; and one arrives before the other. Both have the same Home.
‘“And who can tell the rapture, when the circle is complete,
And all the Family of God around the Father meet?”

’ ... It will be a solace to you to look after your beloved Mother’s poor. I am sure that many had cause to bless her. All her works of love done so quietly and unostentatiously; but every one marked down in God’s “book of remembrance.” What a wonderful joy the opening of that book will be! Little kindnesses, acts of love, words of holy counsel, all marked down, not one forgotten.... Try to realise your Mother’s happiness! Has she not looked on the Lord Jesus, heard His Voice, received His welcome?’

And again on the 27th of October:—

‘Try, dear one, to comfort others; and then you will find comfort yourself. This is a world of suffering; and the best Memorial to your precious Mother will be something that will be a blessing to others. To think of what she would have approved will be a solace to your mind.’

On the same day she wrote to her nephew, the Rev. W. F. T. Hamilton: ‘I go on with my daily Mission work; it seems what I have specially to live for. Is it not possible that your sainted Mother takes an interest in it still?’

In the first letter to Mrs. J. Boswell, after receiving the telegram, she spoke more openly of her own feelings:—

‘Oct. 23.— ... Your letter to Lettie, which I saw at Pindi, before my own followed me there, quite prepared me for Edith’s thoughtful telegram. I received that telegram at the Batala station, after my long dark night’s journey back from Pindi. I thank and bless God for my precious sister’s bliss; but to me the blank——! I suppose that the funeral will be to-morrow; in thought I follow my poor bereaved Leila,—but my mind dwells less on the grief of those left, than the joy of her who is with her Saviour. I thanked God for her to-day at Holy Communion.

‘I hope that there will be no unnecessary gloom to-morrow. It[494] seems to me so incongruous to throw a heavy black pall over the dear form, when the spirit is wearing the shining white robe. I hate black,—the colour of sin and spiritual death! My own beloved sister had nothing to do with either. My tears fall as I write; but I dare not, cannot, murmur; though life seems to me a weary pilgrimage. I am very home-sick, my Bella; but the Lord will call me when He knows that I am ready. He gives me some work to do for Him. I must live for that.’

And again, on the 4th of November:—

‘This has been a year of trials. Since I reached seventy, I feel as if my path had grown steeper, and flowers wither. But when the summit of the Hill is reached—what joy! I can hardly help envying my sweet Laura; and, oh, I am thankful that she was spared acute suffering! Her end—as regards this world—was indeed peace; her happiness will be never-ending. You see that I am again at Futteyghur, for about five days, to keep Miss Key company.... It was no sacrifice to me to come out to the village, for I was glad to be in a very quiet place just now. Batala is too full of friends and too cheerful for my present mood. Work is congenial; not cheerful meetings. Mrs. Corfield gave a sort of Concert on Wednesday, to which every one was invited; but I, of course, stayed at home. There is no one but Daisy Key and myself here.’

From the Journal entries it is evident that Miss Tucker gave herself only one clear day of rest—and that day a Sunday—for indulgence in any wise of her sorrow. She had the telegram on a Saturday; and on Monday the usual round of visiting went on.

‘Oct. 20.[141]— ... My precious Laura departed.’

‘Oct. 22.—Returned to Batala. Telegram.’

This is the brief Diary notice of what occurred.

The next few months were marked by no very especial events; only the usual ups and downs, anxieties, disappointments, encouragements, of Missionary work.[495] Missionaries came and went as usual; and partings took place, some of which tried her much. Miss Eva Warren, who had spent several weeks with her in 1889, came in November to be a permanent inmate of ‘Sunshine’; no small pleasure to Miss Tucker. But Miss Warren, like so many others, broke down under the Panjab climate; and in the spring of 1893 she had to give up her post and return home.

In April 1893 Miss Tucker wrote to her niece, Miss L. V. Tucker:—

‘Though I have written playfully to your father, I am not in a playful mood. This is such a year of partings for your poor old Auntie. You know about my Louis and Lettie; then energetic Minnie Dixie left us; to-day I go to the station for the last look of the dear, good Corfields ... and their three fine children, accompanied by Rosa Singha, who has been such a help and comfort here. On Monday week sweet Eva Warren, one of my most lovable companions, leaves me.... I do not expect to see her again on earth. Next month Rowland Bateman, my very tip-top favourite amongst all Missionaries, is to start for England. What a blessing it is that there is One Friend Who says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake”; “Even to hoar hairs I will carry you”!’

A few slight recollections of Miss Warren’s may well come in here. They are of particular interest, being almost entirely of this last year of Miss Tucker’s life, after the death of Mrs. Hamilton. The two had been very little together before November 1892, when Miss Warren returned from eighteen months’ sick-leave, to be again in three months invalided.

‘She was very impulsive,’ Miss Warren says. ‘We used to say of her sometimes that she needed cool young heads to guide her. Her energy was very remarkable. During the last cold weather I was with her, I could see how much she felt the cold, but she would not give in in the least.... Being an Honorary Missionary, she was very scrupulous about not taking any extra privileges in the[496] way of holidays.... My impression is that she had formerly known the language better than she did latterly. In spite of her efforts not to forget what she had learned, some had slipped away from her. She said to me one day: “I speak Hindustani as the Duke of Wellington used to talk French.” “Oh,” I said, “how was that?” “Bravely!” she said. She had a very merry way of laughing, when anything amused her.

‘She said to me once: “I think what is wanted out here is—Missionaries’ graves. Not the graves of young Missionaries, who have died here, but the graves of old Missionaries, who have given their whole lives for these people!” ... She was very humble about her own work, and used sometimes to be quite depressed after reading accounts of other people’s successful work, thinking that she had met with no success.’

Miss Warren relates also how she would not unfrequently say: ‘So-and-so is one of those people who think me a great deal better than I am.’ Her conversation was still very bright and full of interest; the active mind had by no means parted with its vigour. Sometimes she would talk eagerly about old days, and tell stories of the Duke of Wellington, a subject which always aroused her. Or again she would plunge into the topic of Shakespeare’s Plays. Or she would read some of her favourite Spurgeon’s Sermons. Another pet book of hers was Baxter’s Saints’ Rest; and this she read through with Miss Warren. Occasionally still she would read aloud one of her own stories in the evening. Happily, she retained her old love of games; and they must have been a great relaxation after the hard day’s work. Sometimes, when Miss Warren had been reading or studying, she would say: ‘Now you must come and frisk a little!’

The old untidiness in dress had never been overcome; and the mixture of colours was often remarkable. But[497] though the clothes might not be artistically chosen, or put on with great neatness, they were always daintily clean,—no matter how many years they might have been in use.

Thin and fragile-looking as Miss Tucker had always been, she was by this time hardly more than mere skin and bone; and her face was singularly covered all over with fine wrinkles. This it was, no doubt, which helped to give her the appearance, spoken of by so many, of being f............
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