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HOME > Biographical > A Lady of England-The Life and Letters of Charlotte Maria Tucker > CHAPTER XXI
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CHAPTER XXI
A.D. 1893
THE HOME-GOING

Up to the end of October Miss Tucker had seemed to be on the whole much the same as usual; though more than one watcher had noted a gradual failure of strength. The expedition to Bahrwal, for the Dedication, proved to be too much for her powers; especially as she insisted on returning to Batala the same evening, so as not to break into another day’s work.

At the time she appeared, as Mrs. Wade afterwards wrote, ‘though frail, wonderfully bright, ... full of conversation while talking to the Bishop and others.’ When the ‘feast’ took place she sat upon the ground among the Indian Christians, after her old style, utterly refusing a chair. Some who were present left in the middle of the day, so soon as the Dedication was over; but Miss Tucker remained till the evening, so as to be present at the second Service. Notwithstanding her brightness, Mr. Clark was much impressed with the alteration in her look; and he has since said that ‘she evidently believed it to be her leave-taking.’

The day ended, Miss Tucker seemed very much exhausted; and when returning by rail, with Mr. and Mrs. Wade, she lay down on the seat to rest. The result of this expedition was a severe cold, with much hoarseness; and though her daily work went on as usual, she must[504] have felt very poorly. Mr. Clark speaks of her as, a few days later, passing through Amritsar, and calling to see himself and his wife. So ill did he think her looking, that the expression he makes use of is: ‘Death was even then written on her face.’

Others do not appear to have been so soon alarmed. On November 13, writing to Miss Dixie, Miss Tucker mentioned casually, ‘I have a cold,’ as an excuse for her shaking hand; and said no more. But it was ‘the beginning of the end.’

About this time she kindly took in a friend, Mrs. C——, who seemed poorly and in need of change; and who, after coming to ‘Sonnenschein,’ proved to be seriously ill. Miss Tucker sat much with her, in a hot room; going out from thence, late each evening, into the night air, to reach her own little dwelling. On the 11th, two days before her letter to Miss Dixie, she confessed to pain in the side, telegraphed for a nurse, and went to bed. Next day, Sunday, she was up again, and at Church. Then the Nurse appeared, to be sent off on Monday, in charge of Mrs. C——, to Amritsar; after which again Miss Tucker went down.

Dr. Clark came to see her; and though the fever was not very high, and no especial anxiety was felt, it was decided that she ought to go to Amritsar to be nursed—a Doctor there being on the spot. Miss Tucker was much grieved at the decision. She longed to remain, and to die in her dear Batala; and even then, evidently, she was making up her mind to the likelihood of death. But, however unwillingly, she submitted to the wishes of others, and went.

THE LAST PAGE OF A. L. O. E.’S DIARY

The journey did no harm; and on arrival at Amritsar Miss Tucker was most tenderly nursed by her friend, Miss Wauton, and others, with the help soon of a regular nurse. But though the fever yielded to remedies, and the[505] bronchitis improved, both the cough and pain becoming for some days better, she was worn out, and had no rallying power. The weakness was extreme, and the dislike to food could not be overcome. Steadily and slowly she sank, lasting just three weeks from the date of the latest tremulous entry in her Journal.

Dr. Arthur Lankester[142] had written on the 27th of October: ‘Sorry to say Auntie has taken a severe chill at Bahrwal; she looks very frail and weak; only, she is so wonderful that we all hope she will soon be about once more, to cheer us all with her bright, sweet smile.’ He wrote again on Nov. 22: ‘Dear Miss Tucker has been moved to the Mission-house here,[143] and I am thankful to be allowed to be with her. She is very, very ill, but so bright, and longing to go “Home.” I fear she is fast sinking. It is a great privilege to be allowed to help look after her.’ And again, on Nov. 30: ‘Auntie sinking fast; the end can’t be far off. O what joy and glory are waiting for her!—for us a terrible blank that nothing can fill. No one could be quite like her.’

The last dictated letter of Charlotte Tucker was to her niece, Mrs. J. Boswell, on the 21st of November:—

‘My dearest Bella Francis,—You will all like to know how I am getting on. I have come again to House Beautiful in Amritsar, where the four sweet damsels, Faith, etc., glide about to see to my comfort. Yesterday dear Gertrude joined us, and also Miss B. A., so there is a regular bevy. Dr. Clark said yesterday, with a very broad smile, that we were getting on; but I cannot quite see the pith of this. When a worn-out ekka horse tumbles down on the road, and no one can make him get up, one can scarcely say that he is getting on. Getting up must come first. I ought to be very thankful for so much kindness; but you can imagine, darling, that when I hope to soar on eagle’s wings, it is rather a trial to have the doctor tie them down so tightly, that when I hope to fly I cannot even creep.

‘I fancy this has been an attack of bronchitis and influenza. Now this is difficult to me even to dictate. Would you have little[506] bulletins roughly printed on my account, and put them in envelopes, and send them to ——?‘: after which follows a list of relatives and friends in England, together with one or two short messages, and a request that they would ask for her ‘patience and perfect submission.’

The day succeeding Miss Tucker’s arrival in Amritsar Mrs. Wade came to see her; and during either that call or the next Miss Tucker put the question, ‘Is my face altered?’ Mrs. Wade hesitated, unable to deny that she saw a change. Miss Tucker immediately added: ‘Don’t mind telling me. It is harder to be patient on this pillow than to go inside the Golden Gate.’ And to Miss Jackson she said: ‘To depart and to be with Christ is so very much better!’

Many friends came to ask after her; but on account of her excessive feebleness a very limited number could be admitted; only one or two in the day, and merely for a few minutes each.

One day, on hearing Mr. Clark’s voice outside, she said, ‘Is that Mr. Clark?’ They told her that she must not see any one; she was too weak. ‘But I must see him!’ she replied; and then, ‘I will see him!’—with a flash of the old determination. When he was brought in she said to him: ‘I am dying! I know it. I am very happy,—in perfect peace,—without a doubt or a care,—but I have none of the rapturous feelings of triumph, which I have rather looked forward to!’ Then she added: ‘It is best as it is!’ The next day and the day after, when Mr. Clark was again admitted, she was both times too ill to say anything.

She was indeed this time far too entirely worn out and exhausted, both bodily and mentally, for any shout of joy. All was quiet trust, perfect confidence; but eagerness and exultation were physically out of the question. She could only wait peacefully to be carried through the waters of the River. Rapture would come when she reached the Other Side.

[507]

Still, there was the same longing as ever to go. Several times she said: ‘Do not pray that I may stay here.’ And another time: ‘Christ has abolished death! I am longing to go Home!’

On Sunday, November 26th, Mr. Wade came to her room for Holy Communion; Miss Wauton and Miss Jackson being present. Miss Tucker was perfectly clear in mind, and able to join audibly in the responses; but the after-exhaustion was great.

Sometimes she would speak lovingly of her friends, and would wish that she could see one and another. ‘It is a pity Rowland Bateman is not here,’ she said. Also she would give directions for presents to be sent to one and another after her death. On the 27th she sent for Babu Singha, and mentioned particulars as to the manner in which she wished her funeral to be conducted. The boys—her dear brown boys, as she had so often called them—were to carry her to the grave, on a native charpai. No coffin was to be used; and the expenditure might not exceed five rupees. She was of course to be buried in Batala. Nobody was to shed tears; nobody was to put on mourning; and her own funeral hymn, one which she had written quite lately in Urdu, was to be sung.

One day Miss Jackson repeated the hymn, ‘For ever with the Lord!’—and Miss Tucker said, ‘That is my favourite hymn!’ So it too was afterwards chosen to be sung at the funeral.

On Wednesday, November 29, her temperature fell to 95°; and great difficulty was experienced in restoring it to normal. Two days later it fell again; and this time there was no rally. The cough and other symptoms were exceedingly trying; and all Friday night she suffered greatly from oppression, restlessness, and weariness. Again and again she could be heard to murmur, ‘Quickly! Quickly!’ Nothing else that she said could be distinguished.

[508]

Early in the morning of Saturday, December the 2nd, she became more placid; and when asked if she felt any pain she made a negative sign. Dr. Weitbrecht came to read and pray with her. She seemed to recognise him, and to understand what he said; but she had no power to articulate. Soon after this unconsciousness set in, and lasted to the end, broken only once by a lifting of the eyelids, and an upward look, as if she saw something which others could not see.

At a quarter-past three in the afternoon, calmly and without a struggle, she passed away.

The change which came over her in death was remarkable. A change is often seen; a return sometimes to greater youth and beauty. Death smooths away wrinkles, refines rugged features, sharpens the outlines. But in this case the transformation was of a rare type. ‘I never saw a face so altered,’ wrote Dr. Clark, who had attended her. ‘It became a face of massive power; more like that of the Duke of Wellington than anything else; the nose particularly so, and the jaw. A strong, massive, determined, powerful face. I suppose the power was always there, but masked by the habitual gentleness and tender consideration for all around, which was so beautiful a feature in her beautiful character.’

This allusion to the Duke of Wellington naturally recalls her ardent admiration for him. She would in life have probably counted no compliment greater than to have been called like him. But the description is singular, because her features had never been of the same type as the Duke’s features. She had not a Roman nose; and while many describe hers as a ‘bright face,’ ‘a sparkling face,’ ‘a long, thin face,’ and even in one case ‘a small face’ no one ever uses such words as ‘massive’ or ‘powerful,’ as descriptive of her appearance at any period of her life. The touch of death seems to have torn away[509] a kind of veil, leaving bare the original outlines; perhaps to some extent indicating what the face might have become, if unsoftened by the moulding influences of discipline.

Miss Jackson wrote from Amritsar, on Monday, December 4th: ‘Yesterday the Dead March was played in Church, and all the congregation stood. It............
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