Keswick Missionary C.E.Z.M.S.
Author of "Things As They Are"; "Overweights of Joy"; "The Beginning of a Story," Etc.
With Fifty Half-Tone Illustrations from Photos Specially Taken for This Work
Morgan and Scott Ld. 12 Paternoster Buildings London MCMXII
Copyright, Morgan & Scott Ld., 1909
First Edition, Quarto (Fifty Photogravure Illustrations) 2,000 Nov., 1909 Edition De Luxe (Fifty Photogravures on Japon Vellum) 250 Nov., 1909 Octavo Edition (Fifty Half-tone Engravings) 5,250 July, 1912
TO THOSE WHO CARE
DOHNAVUR, TINNEVELLY DISTRICT, SOUTH INDIA
Each for himself, we live our lives apart, Heirs of an age that turns us all to stone; Yet ever Nature, thrust from out the heart, Comes back to claim her own.
Still we have something left of that fair seed God gave for birthright; still the sound of tears Hurts us, and children in their helpless need Still call to listening ears.
OWEN SEAMAN. From "In a Good Cause."
FOREWORD TO THE PRESENT EDITION
WHEN first "Things as they are" trod the untrodden way, it walked as a small child walks when for the first time it ventures forth upon young, uncertain feet. It has to walk; it does not know why: it only knows there is no choice about it. But there is an eager looking for an outstretched hand, and an instant gratefulness always, for even a finger. A whole hand given without reserve is something never forgotten.
It was only a child after all, and it had not anticipated having to find its way alone among strangers. It had thought of nothing further than a very short walk among familiar faces. If it had understood beforehand how far it would have to walk, I doubt if it would have had the courage to start; for it was not naturally brave. But once on its way it could not turn back; and thanks to those kindly outstretched hands, it grew a little less afraid, and it went on.
Then another small wayfarer followed. It also was very easily discouraged; an unfriendly push would have knocked it over at once. But nobody seemed to want to push so unpretentious a thing, so it gained courage and went on.
And now a more grown-up looking traveller (though indeed its looks belie it) has started on its way; more diffident, if the truth must be told, than even its predecessors. For it thought within itself—Perhaps there will be no welcoming hands held out this time; hands may grow tired of such kind offices. But it has not been so. And now the sense of gratefulness cannot longer be repressed.
All of which means that I want to thank sincerely those kings of the Book World—Reviewers—and those dwellers in that world who are my Readers, for their insight and the sympathy to which I owe so much.
Once I read of a soldier who wrote a letter home from the midst of a battle, on a crumpled piece of paper laid upon a cannon ball. His home people he knew would overlook the appearance of the paper and the lack of various things expected in a letter written in a quiet room upon a study table. And he knew he could trust them not to bring too fine a criticism to bear upon the unstudied words hot from the battle's heart.
I have thought sometimes that these books were not unlike that soldier's letter; and those who read them seem to me very like his home people, for they have been so generous in the kindness of their welcome.
Amy Wilson-Carmichael. Dohnavur, Tinnevelly District S. India.
Feb. 19, 1912.
THE WRITER TO THE READER
THE photographs (except two) were taken by Mr. Penn, of Ootacamund, whose work is known to all who care to possess good photographs of the South Indian hills. The babies were a new experience to him, and something of a trial, I fear, after the mountains, which can be trusted to sit still.
The book has been written for lovers of children. Those who find such young life tiresome will find the story dull, and the kindest thing it can ask of them is not to read it at all.
CHAPTER PAGE I. LOTUS BUDS 1 II. OPPOSITES 5 III. THE SCAMP 15 IV. THE PHOTOGRAPHS 23 V. TARA AND EVU 31 VI. PRINCIPALITIES, POWERS, RULERS 41 VII. HOW THE CHILDREN COME 51 VIII. OTHERS 61 IX. OLD DEVAI 67 X. FAILURES? 75 XI. GOD HEARD: GOD ANSWERED 85 XII. TO WHAT PURPOSE? 95 XIII. A STORY OF COMFORT 103 XIV. PICKLES AND PUCK 113 XV. THE HOWLER 121 XVI. THE NEYOOR NURSERY 129 XVII. IN THE COMPOUND AND NEAR IT 141 XVIII. FROM THE TEMPLE OF THE ROCK 153 XIX. YOSEPU 159 XX. THE MENAGERIE 169 XXI. MORE ANIMALS 183 XXII. THE PARROT HOUSE 191 XXIII. THE BEAR GARDEN 201 XXIV. THE ACCALS 213 XXV. THE LITTLE ACCALS 227 XXVI. THE GLORY OF THE USUAL 235 XXVII. THE SECRET TRAFFIC 245 XXVIII. BLUE BOOK EVIDENCE 253 XXIX. "VERY COMMON IN THOSE PARTS" 261 XXX. ON THE SIDE OF THE OPPRESSORS THERE WAS POWER 269 XXXI. AND THERE WAS NONE TO SAVE 279 XXXII. THE POWER BEHIND THE WORK 291 XXXIII. IF THIS WERE ALL 301 XXXIV. "TO CONTINUE THE SUCCESSION" 309 XXXV. WHAT IF SHE MISSES HER CHANCE? 321 XXXVI. "THY SWEET ORIGINAL JOY" 331
PAGE THE GREAT ROCK Frontispiece LOTUS FLOWERS 3 "GOD'S FIRE" 8 "AIYO! DID YOU THINK I WOULD HAVE DONE IT?" 12 CHELLALU WATCHING THE PICTURE-CATCHER 18 "OH, IT'S A JOKE!" 20 "THAT THING AGAIN!" 25 PYARIE AND VINEETHA 26 "DISGUSTING!" 28 "LOOK AT THE POSE!" 30 TARA 33 STURDY AND STOLID, AND LITTLE VEERA 63 PEBBLES 66 LATHA (FIREFLY) BLOWING BUBBLES 72 SEELA, MALA, AND NULLINIE 105 THE COTTAGE NURSERY 108 "PICKLES" AND HER FRIENDS 115 THE DOHNAVUR COUNTRY IN FLOOD 124 PAKIUM AND NAVEENA 126 ON THE ROAD TO NEYOOR 131 ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF NAGERCOIL 132 THE NEYOOR NURSERY 136 THE OLD NURSERY (THE "ROOM OF JOY") 143 THE COURTYARD 144 A COMING-DAY FEAST 146 THE RED LAKE 148 AT THE DOOR OF THE TEMPLE 150 THE WATER CARRIERS 161 THE BELOVED TINGALU 164 TWO VIEWS OF LIFE 171 MORE ANIMALS: DEPRESSED 185 TUBBING 188 RED LAKE, AND HILL AS SEEN FROM THE TARAHA NURSERY 193 CHILDREN WADING 196 CHILDREN WADING 197 ESLI, AND LITTLE KOHILA 198 PREETHA AWARE OF A FOE 200 JULLANIE AMONG THE GRASSES 203 ARULAI AND RUKMA, WITH NAVEENA 210 PONNAMAL, PREETHA, AND TARA 215 SELLAMUTTU AND SUSEELA 216 SUHINIE, AND HER BABY, SUNUNDA 218 THREE CONVERT WORKERS: SUNDOSHIE, SUHINIE, AND JEYANIE 220 SEWING-CLASS IN THE COURTYARD 222 THREE LITTLE ACCALS 229 PREENA AND PREEYA 230 AFTER HER BOTTLE 237 NORTH LAKE AND HILLS 238 FROM THE ROCK, DOHNAVUR 338 THE PLACE OF BAPTISM 340
NEAR an ancient temple in Southern India is a large calm, beautiful pool, enclosed by stone walls, broken here and there by wide spaces fitted with steps leading down to the water's edge; and almost within reach of the hand of one standing on the lowest step are pink Lotus lilies floating serenely on the quiet water or standing up from it in a certain proud loveliness all their own.
We were travelling to the neighbouring town when we came upon this pool. We could not pass it with only a glance, so we stopped our bullock-carts and unpacked ourselves—we were four or five to a cart—and we climbed down the broken, time-worn steps and gazed and gazed till the beauty entered into us.
Who can describe that harmony of colour, a Lotus-pool in blossom in clear shining after rain! The grey old walls, the brown water, the dark green of the Lotus leaves, the delicate pink of the flowers; overhead, infinite crystalline blue; and beyond the old walls, palms.
With us was a young Indian friend. "I will gather some of the lilies for you," he said, with the quick Indian desire to give pleasure; but some one interposed: "They must not be gathered by us. The pool belongs to the Temple."
It was as if a stone had been flung straight at a mirror. There was a sense of crash and the shattering of some bright image. The Lotus-pool was a Temple pool; its flowers are Temple flowers. The little buds that float and open on the water, lifting young innocent faces up to the light as it smiles down upon them and fills them through with almost a tremor of joyousness, these Lotus buds are sacred things—sacred to whom?
For a single moment that thought had its way, but only for a moment. It flashed and was gone, for the thought was a false thought: it could not stand against this—"All souls are Mine."
All souls are His, all flowers. An alien power has possessed them, counted them his for so many generations, that we have almost acquiesced in the shameful confiscation. But neither souls nor flowers are his who did not make them. They were never truly his. They belong to the Lord of all the earth, the Creator, the Redeemer. The little Lotus buds are His—His and not another's. The children of the temples of South India are His—His and not another's.
So now we go forth with the Owner Himself to claim His own possession. There is hope in the thought, and confidence and the purest inspiration. And, stirred to the very depths, as we are and must be many a time when we see the tender Lotus buds gathered by a hand that has no right to them, and crushed underfoot; bewildered and sore troubled, as the heart cannot help being sometimes, when the mystery of the apparent victory of evil over good is overwhelming: even so there will be always a hush, a rest, a repose of spirit, as we stand by the Lotus-pools of life and seek in His Name to gather His flowers.
BALA is nearly four. There are so many much younger things in the nursery, that Bala feels almost grown up: four will be quite grown up; it will be nice to be four. Bala takes life seriously, she has always done so; she thinks it would be monotonous to have too many frivolous babies. But Bala's eyes can sparkle as no other eyes ever do; and her mirth is something by itself, like a little hidden fountain in the heart of a wood, with the sweetness of surprise in it and very pure delight.
When Bala came to us first she was between one and two, an age when most babies have a good deal to say. Bala said nothing. She was like a book with all its leaves uncut; and some who saw her, forgetting that uncut books are sometimes interesting, concluded she was dull. "Quite a prosaic child," they said; but Bala did not care. There are some babies, like some grown-up people, who show all they have to show upon first acquaintance and to all. Others cover the depths within, and open only to their own. Bala is one of these; and even with her own she has seasons of reserve.
Her first remark, however, shown rather than said, was not romantic. She was too old for a bottle, and she seemed to feel sore over this. But she noted the time the infants were fed, and followed the nurses about while they were preparing the meal; and when they sat down to give it, each to her respective baby, Bala would choose the one of most uncertain appetite, and sit down beside it and wait. There was an expression on her face at such times which suggested a hymn, set it humming in one's head in fact, in spite of all efforts to escape it. More than once we have caught ourselves singing it, and pulled up sharply: "Even me! Even me! Let some droppings fall on me."
Most of our family remind us very early that they trace their descent to the mother of us all. Bala, on the contrary, was good: so we almost forgot she was human, and began to expect too much of her; but she got tired of this after a while, and one day suddenly sinned. The surprise acted like "hypo," and fixed the photograph.
The place was the old nursery, which has one uncomfortably dark corner in it. Something had offended Bala; she marched straight into that corner and stamped. We can see her—poor little girl—as she rumpled her curls with both her hands, and flashed on the world a withering glance. "Scorn to be scorned by those I scorn" was written large all over the indignant little face.
After this shock we were prepared for anything, but nothing special happened; only when the demands made upon her are unreasonable, then Bala retires into herself and turns upon all foolish insistence a face that is a blank. If this point is passed, the dark eyes can flash. But such revealings are rare.
When Bala was something under three, she was very tender-hearted. One evening, after the first rains had flooded the pools and revived the mosquitoes, the nursery wall was the scene of many executions; and Bala could not bear it. "Sittie, don't kill the poor puchies!" she said pitifully; and Sittie, much touched, stopped to comfort and explain. The other babies were delighting in the slaughter, pointing out with glee each detested "puchie"; but Bala is not like the other babies. Later, the ferocious instinct common to most young animals asserted itself in a relish for the horrible, which rather contradicted the mosquito incident. Bala visibly gloats over the gory head of Goliath, and intensely admires David as he operates upon it. Her favourite part of the story about his encounter with the lion is the suggestive sentence, "I caught him by the beard"; and Bala loves to show you exactly how he did it. But then that is different from seeing it done; and after all it is only a story, and it happened long ago.
I have told how the ignorant once called Bala prosaic. Bala knows nothing of poetry, but is full of the little seeds of that strange and wonderful plant; and the time to get to know her is when the evening sky is a golden blaze, or glows with that mystic glory which wakens something within us and makes it stir and speak.
"God has not lighted His fire to-night," she said wistfully one evening when the West was colourless; but when that fire is lighted she stands and gazes satisfied. "What does God do when His fire goes out?" was a question on one such evening, as the mountains darkened in the passing of the after-glow; and then: "Why does He not light it every night?"
"Amma! I have looked into Heaven!" she said suddenly to me after a long silence. "I have seen quite in, and I know what it is like." "What is it like? Can you tell me?" and the child's voice answered dreamily: "It was shining, very shining." Then with animation, in broken but vivid Tamil: "Oh, it was beautiful! all a garden like our garden, only bigger, and there were flowers and flowers and flowers!"—here words failed to describe the number, and a comprehensive sweep of the hand served instead. "And our dolls can walk there. They never can down here, poor things! And Jesus plays with our babies there" (the dear little sisters who have gone to the nursery out of sight, but are unforgotten by the children). "He plays with Indraneela—lovely games."
"What games, Bala?" I asked, wondering greatly what she would say. There was a long, thoughtful pause, and Bala looked at me with grave, contented eyes:—
"New games," she said simply.
Bala's opposite is Chellalu. We never made any mistake about her. We never thought her good. Not that she is impossibly bad. She was created for play and for laughter, and very happy babies are not often very wicked; but she is so irrepressible, so hopelessly given up to fun, that her kindergarten teacher, Rukma, smiles a rueful smile at the mention of her name. For to Chellalu the most unreasonable thing you can ask is implicit obedience, which unfortunately is preferred by us to any amount of fun. She will learn to obey, we are not afraid about that; but more than any of our children, her attitude towards this demand has been one of protest and surprise. She thinks it unfair of grown-up people to take advantage of their size in the arbitrary way they do. And when, disgusted with life's dispensations, she condescends to expostulate, her "Ba-a-a-a" is a thing to affright. But this is the wrong side of Chellalu, and not for ever in evidence. The right side is not so depressing.
It is a brilliant morning in late November. The world, all washed and cooled by the rains, has not had time to get hot and tired, and the air has that crystal quality which is the charm of this season in South India. Every wrinkle on the brown trunks of the trees in the compound, every twig and leaf, stands out with a special distinctness of its own, and the mountains in the distance glisten as if made of precious stones.
Suddenly, all unconscious of affinity or contrast, a little person in scarlet comes dancing into the picture, which opens to receive her, for she belongs to it. Her hands are full of Gloriosa lilies, fiery red, terra-cotta, yellow, delicate old-rose and green—such a mingling of colour, but nothing discordant—and the child, waving her spoils above her head, sings at the top of her voice something intended to be the chorus of a kindergarten song:—
Oh, the delight of the glorious light! The joy of the shining blue! Beautiful flowers! wonderful flowers! Oh, I should like to be you!
"But, Chellalu, where did you get them?" for the lilies in the garden are supposed to be safe from attack. Chellalu looks up with frank, brown eyes. "For you!" she says briefly in Tamil; but there is a wealth of forgiveness in the tone as she offers her armful of flowers. Chellalu wonders at grown-up hearts which can harbour unworthy suspicions about blameless little children. As if she would have picked them!
"But, Chellalu, where did you get them?" and still looking grieved and surprised and forgiving, Chellalu explains that yesterday evening the elder sisters went for a walk in the fields, and brought home so many lilies, that after all just claims were met there were still some over—an expressive gesture shows the heap—so Chellalu thought of her Ammal (mother) and went and picked out the best for her. Then by way of emphasis the story is attempted in English: "Very good? Yesh. Naughty? No. Kindergarten room want flowers? No. I" (patting herself approvingly) "very good; yesh." With Chellalu, speech is a mere adjunct to conversation, a sort of footnote to a page of illustration. The illustration is the thing that speaks. So now both Tamil and English are illuminated by vivid gesture of hands, feet, the whole body indeed; curls and even eyelashes play their part, and the final impression produced upon her questioner is one of complete contrition for ever having so misjudged a thing so virtuous.
But Chellalu wastes no sympathy upon herself. She is accustomed to be believed; and perfectly happy in her mind, casts a keen glance round, for who knows what new delights may be somewhere within reach! "Ah!"—the deep-breathed sigh of content—is always a danger signal where this innocent child is concerned. I turn in time to avert disaster, and Chellalu, finding life dull with me, departs.
Then the little scarlet figure with its crown of careless curls scampers across the sunny space, and dives into the shadow of a tree. There it stays. Something arresting has happened—some skurry of squirrel up the trunk, or dart of lizard, or hurried scramble of insect, under cover out of reach of those terrible eyes. Or better still, something is "playing dead," and the child, fascinated, is waiting for it to resurrect. And then the song about the lilies begins again, only it is all a jumble this time; for Chellalu sings just as it comes, untrammelled by thoughts about sequence or sense, and when she forgets the words she calmly makes them up. And I cannot help thinking that Chellalu is very like her song; here is an intelligible bit, a line or two in order, then a cheerful tumble up, and an irresponsible conclusion. The tune too seems in character—"Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing"; the swinging old Jacobite air had fitted itself to a nursery song about the brave fire-lilies, and something in its abandon to the happy mood of the moment seems to express the child.
It is not easy to express her. "If you had to describe Chellalu, how would you do it?" I asked my colleague this morning, hoping for illumination. "I would not attempt it! Who would?" she answered helpfully.
"Chellalu! Oh, you need ten pairs of eyes and ten pairs of hands, and even then you could never be sure you had her"—this was her nurse's earliest description. She was six months old then, she is three and three-quarters now; but she is what she was, "only more so."
Before Chellalu had a single tooth she had developed mother-ways, and would comfort distressed babies by thrusting into their open mouths whatever was most convenient. At first this was her own small thumb, which she had once found good herself; but she soon discovered that infants can bite, and after that she offered rattle-handles. Later, she used to stagger from one hammock to another and swing them. And often, before she understood the perfect art of balance, she would find herself, to her surprise, on the floor, as the hammock in its rebound knocked her over. She felt this ungrateful of the baby inside; but she seemed to reflect that it was young and knew no better, for she never retaliated, but picked herself up and began again. These hammocks, which are our South Indian cradles, are long strips of white cotton hung from the roof, and they make delightful swings. Chellalu learned this early, and her nurse's life was a burden to her because of the discovery.
"She could walk before she could stand"—this is another nursery description, and truer than it sounds. Certainly no one ever saw Chellalu learning to walk. She was a baby one day, rapid in unexpected motion, but only on all fours; the next day—or so it seems, looking back—she was everywhere on her two feet. "Now there will be no place where she won't be!" groaned the family, the first time she was seen walking about with an air of having done it all her life. And appalling visions rose of Chellalu standing on the wall of the well looking down, or sitting in the bucket left by some careless water-drawer just on the edge of the wall, or trying to descend by the rope.
Before this date such diversions as the classic Pattycake had been much in favour. Chellalu's Attai (the word here and hereafter signifies Mrs. Walker, "Mother's elder sister") had taught it to her; and whenever and wherever Chellalu saw her Attai, she immediately began to perform "Prick it and nick it" with great enthusiasm. But after she could walk, Chellalu would have nothing more to do with such childish things. "Show us Edward Rajah!" the older children would say; and instead of standing up with a regal dignity and crowning her curls with the appropriate gesture, Chellalu would merely look surprised. They had forgotten. She was not a baby now. Such trifles are for babies.
"PAT-A-CAKE is a thing of the past, but the stage from the highest point of view is still distinctly attractive"; so decided Chellalu, and resolved to devote herself thenceforth to this new and engrossing pursuit. She chose the scene of her first public performance without consulting us. It was the open floor of the church, on a Sunday morning, in the midst of a large congregation. This was how it happened.
Chellalu's Attai, who in those days was unaware of all the painful surprises in store, had taken her to morning service, and allowed her to sit beside her on the mat at the back of the church. All through the first part of the service Chellalu was good; and as the sermon began, she was forgotten. In our church we sit on the floor, men on one side, women and children on the other. A broad aisle is left between, and the Iyer (Mr. Walker), refusing to be boxed up in the usual manner, walks up and down as he preaches. This interested Chellalu.
That morning the sermon was to children, and the subject was "Girdles." The East of this ancient India is the East to which the prophet spoke by parable and picture; and, following that time-worn path, the preacher pictured the parable of Jeremiah's linen girdle: the attention of the people was riveted upon him, and no one noticed what was happening on the mat at the end of the church. Only we, up at the front with all the other children, saw, without being able to stop it, the dreadful pantomime. For Chellalu, wholly absorbed and pleased with this unexpected delight, first stood on the mat and acted the girdle picture; then, growing bolder, advanced out into the open aisle, and, following the preacher's gestures, reproduced them all exactly. It was a moment of tension; but if ever a child had a good angel in attendance, Chellalu has, for something always stops her before the bitter end. I forget what stopped her then; something invisible, and so, doubtless, the angel. But we did not breathe freely till we had her safe at home.
Chellalu's visible angel is the gentle Esli, a young convert-helper, of a meek and lowly disposition. At first sight nothing seems more unsuitable, for Chellalu needs a firm hand. But firmness without wisdom would have been disastrous; so as we had not the perfect combination, we chose the less dangerous virtue, and gave the nursery scamp to the gentlest of us all. Sometimes, to tell the whole unromantic truth, we have been afraid less Esli was spilling emotion in vain upon this graceless soul; and we have suggested an exchange of angels—but somehow it has never come to pass. Once we almost did it. For a noise past all bounds called us down to the nursery, and we found the cause of it in a huddled heap in the corner. "Chellalu! what is the matter?" Only the softest of soft sobs, heard in the silence that followed our advent, and one round shoulder heaved, and the curly head went down on the arm in an attitude of woe. Now this is not Chellalu's way at all. Soft sobbing is not in her line; and I turned to the twenty-nine children now prancing about in unholy glee, and they shouted the explanation: "Oh, she is Esli Accal! She was very exceedingly naughty. She would not come when Accal called; she raced round the room so fast that Accal could not catch her, and then she jumped out of her cumasu" (the single small garment worn), "and ran out into the garden! And Esli Accal sat down in a corner and cried. And Chellalu is Esli Accal!"
But the pet opportunity in those glad days was when some freak of manner in friend or visitor suggested a new game. We used to wish, sometimes, that these kind people understood how much pleasure they were giving to the artless babe who was studying them with such interest, while they, all unconscious of their real use, imagined probably she was thinking of nothing more serious than sweets. After an hour in the bungalow, Chellalu would wander off, apparently because she was tired of us, but really because she was full of a new and original idea, and wanted an audience. Once she puzzled the nursery community who had not been visiting the bungalow, by mincing about on pointed toes, with shoulders shrugged like a dancing master in caricature. The babies thought this a very nice game, and for weeks they played it industriously.
Chellalu talked late—she has long ago made up for lost time—but she was never at a loss for an answer to a question which could be answered by action. "Who is in the nursery now?" we asked her one afternoon when she had escaped before the tea-bell, that trumpet of jubilee to the nursery, had rung. She smiled and sat down slowly, and then sighed. Another sigh, and she proceeded to perform her toilet. When the small hands went up to the head with an action of decorously swinging the back hair up and coiling it into a loose knot, and when a spasmodic shake suggested it must be done over again, there was no doubt as to who was in charge. No one but the excellent Pakium, one of our earlier workers, ever did things quite like this. No one else was so ponderous. No one sighed in that middle-aged manner, no one but Pakium. We never could blame Pakium for Chellalu's escape. As well blame a mature cat for the escapades of her kitten. Chellalu, watching for a clue as to her fate, would sigh again profoundly. It was never easy to return her.
We were not sorry when this phase passed into something safer for herself, though perhaps not so charming to the public. Chellalu at two and three-quarters had surgical ambitions. Medical work she considered slow. She liked operations. Her first, so far as we know, was performed upon the unwilling eye of a smaller and weaker sister. "Lie down!" she had commanded, and the patient had lain down. "Open your eyes!" At this point the victim realised what she was in for, and her howls brought deliverance; but not before Chellalu had the agitated baby's head in a firm grip between her knees, and holding the screwed-up eye wide open with one hand, was proceeding to drop in "medicine" with the other. Mercifully the medicine was water.
Thwarted in this direction, Chellalu applied herself to bandaging. She would persuade someone to lend her a finger or a toe; the owner was assured it was sore—very sore. She would then proceed to bandage it to the best of her ability. But all this was mere play. What Chellalu's soul yearned for was a real knife, or even only a needle, provided it would prick and cause red blood to flow. Oh to be allowed to operate properly, as grown-up people do! Chellalu had seen them do it—had seen thorns extracted from little bare feet, and small sores dressed; and it had deeply interested her. The difficulty was, no one would offer a limb. She walked up and down the nursery one morning with a bit of an old milk tin, very jagged and sharp and inviting, and secreted in her curls was a long, bright darning needle; but though she took so much trouble to prepare, no one would give her a chance to perform, and Chellalu was disgusted. Someone who did not know her suggested she should perform on herself. This disgusted her still more. Do doctors perform on themselves!
Chellalu's latest phase introduces the kindergarten. For an educational comrade, perceiving our defects in this direction, furnished a kindergarten for us, and gave us a kind push-off into these pleasant waters; so the little boat sails gaily, and the children at least are content.
Chellalu has never been so keen about this institution as the other babies are. "Do you like the kindergarten?" some one asked her the other day; and she answered with her usual decision: "Yesh. No." We thought she was talking at random, and tested her by questions about things which we knew she liked or disliked. But she was never caught. "Well, then, don't you like the kindergarten?" "Yesh. No." It was evident she knew what she meant, and said it exactly. Bits of it she likes, other bits she thinks might be improved. The trouble is that she has an objection to sitting in the same place for more than a minute at longest. Other babies, steady, mature things of five, are already evolving quite orderly sentences in English—the language in which the kindergarten is partly taught—and we feel they are getting on. Chellalu never stops long enough to evolve anything, and yet she seems to be doing a little. From the first week she has talked all she knew in unabashed fashion. "Good morning very much" was an early production; and it was followed by many oddments forgotten now, but comical in effect at the time, which perhaps may explain the otherwise inexplicable fact that she sometimes learns something.
One only of those early dashes into the unexplored land is remembered, because it enriched us with a new synonym. It was at afternoon tea that a sympathetic Sittie (the word means "Mother's younger sister"), knowing that Chellalu had received something thoroughly well earned, asked her in English: "What did Ammal give you this morning?" Chellalu caught at the one familiar word in this sentence (for the babies learn the names of the flowers in the garden before they are troubled with lesser matters), and she answered brightly: "Morning-glory!" So Morning-glory has become to us an alias for smacks.
This same Morning-glory is the subject of one of the kindergarten songs. For after searching through two or three hundred pages of nursery rhymes, and interviewing many proper kindergarten songs, we found few that belonged to the Indian babies' world; and so we had to make them for ourselves. These songs are about the flowers and the birds and other simple things, and are twittered by the tiniest with at least some intelligence, which at present is as much as we can wish. All the babies sing to the flowers, but it is Chellalu who gives them surprises. One day we saw her standing under a bamboo arch, covered with her favourite Morning-glory. She had two smaller babies with her, one on either side. "Amma! Look!" she called; but italics are inadequate to express the emphasis. "LOOK, Morning—glory—kissing—'chother," and she pointed with eagerness to the nestling little clusters of lilac, growing, as their pretty manner is, close to each other. Then, seizing each of the babies in a fervent and somewhat embarrassing embrace, she hugged and kissed them both; and finally wheeling round on the flowers, addressed them impressively: "For—all—loving—little—Indian—children—want— to—be—like—you."
I DO not know how they will strike the critical public, but the photos are so much better than we dared to expect, that we are grateful and almost satisfied. Of course, they are insipid as compared with the lively originals; but the difficulty was to get them of any truthful sort whatsoever, for the babies regarded the photographer—the kindest and mildest of men—with the gravest suspicion: and the moment he appeared, little faces, all animation before, would stiffen into shyness, and the light would slip out of them, and the naturalness, so that all the camera saw, and therefore all it could show, was a succession of blanks.
Then, too, when our artist friend was with us we were in the grasp of an epidemic of cholera. Morning and evening, and sometimes into the night, we were tending the sick and dying in the village; and in the interval between we had little heart for photographs. But the visit of a real photographer is a rare event in Dohnavur, and we forced ourselves to try to take advantage of it. Remembering our difficulties, we wonder we got anything at all; and we hope that stranger eyes will be kind.
Often when we looked at the pretty little reversed picture in the camera, with its delicate colouring and the grace of movement, we have wished that we could send it as we saw it, all living and true. The photos were taken in the open air; underfoot was soft terra-cotta-coloured sand; overhead, the cloudless blue. In such a setting the baby pictures look their brightest, something very different from these dull copies in sepia. An Oriental scene in print always looks sorry for itself, and quite apologetic. It knows it is almost a farce, and very flat and poor.
Then there were difficulties connected with character. Our photographer was more accustomed to the dignified ways of mountains than to the extremely restless habit of children; and he never could understand why they would not sit for him as the mountains sat, and let him focus them comfortably. The babies looked at things from an opposite point of view, and strongly objected to delays and leisureliness of every description. Sometimes when the focussing process promised to be much prolonged, we put a child we did not wish to photograph in the place of one upon whom we had designs, and then at the last moment exchanged her. But the baby thus beguiled seemed to divine our purpose; and, resenting such ensnarements, would promptly wriggle out of focus. It was like trying to observe some active animalculae under a high power. The microscope is perfect, the creatures are entrapped in a drop of water on the slide; but the game is not won by any means. Sometimes, after spoiling more plates than was convenient, our artist almost gave up in despair; but he never quite gave up, and we owe what we have to his infinite patience.
Pyarie was the most troublesome of these small sitters, though she was old enough to know better. My mother was with us when she came to us, a tiny babe and very delicate. She had loved her and helped to nurse her, and so we wanted a happy photograph for her sake; but nothing was further from Pyarie's intentions, and instead of smiling, she scowled. Our first attempt was in the compound, where a bullock-bandy stood. Pyarie and Vineetha, a little girl of about the same age, were very pleased to climb over the pole and untwist the rope and play see-saw; but when the objectionable camera appeared, they stared at it with aversion, and no amount of coaxing would persuade Pyarie to smile. "Can't you do something to improve her expression?" inquired the photographer, emerging from his black hood; then someone said in desperation: "Do smile, you little Turk!" Vineetha, about whose expression we were not concerned, obediently smiled; but Pyarie looked thunderclouds, and turned her head away. She was caught before she turned, poor dear, so that photograph was a failure.
Once again our kind friend tried. This time he gave her a doll. Pyarie is most motherly. She is usually tender and loving with dolls, and we hoped for a sweet expression. But in this we were disappointed. She accepted the doll—a beautiful thing, with a good constitution and imperturbable temper; and she looked it straight in the face—a rag face painted—smiling as we wanted her to smile. Then she smote it, and she scolded it, and called for a stick and whacked it, and called for a bigger stick and repeated the performance. Finally she stopped, laid the doll upon the step, sat down on it, and smiled. But she was hopelessly out of focus by this time, and it was weary work getting her in. She smiled during the process in a perfectly exasperating manner, but the moment all was ready she suddenly wriggled out; and when invited to go in again, she shook her head decidedly, and pointing to the camera with its glaring glass eye, covered at that moment with its cloth, she remarked, "Naughty! Naughty!" and we had to give her up.
"Perhaps she would be happier in someone's arms," next suggested the long-suffering artist; and so one morning, just after her bath, she was caught up, sweet and smiling, and played with till the peals of merry laughter assured us of an easy victory. But the camera was no sooner seen stalking round to the nursery, than suspicions filled Pyarie's breast. That thing again! And the photograph taken under such circumstances is left to speak for itself. Why did it follow her everywhere? Life, haunted by a camera, was not worth living—in which sentiment some of us heartily concur.
Once an attempt was made when Pyarie and two other little girls were busily playing on the doorstep. Pyarie soon perceived and expressed her opinion about the fraud—for the camera's stealthy approach could not be kept from the children. "Disgusting!" she remarked in explicit young Tamil, and looked disgusted. The photograph which resulted was perfect in detail of little rounded limb and curly head, but it was lamentable as regards expression; so once more our persevering friend tried to catch her unawares. He showed us the result at breakfast in the shape of a negative which we recognised as Pyarie. He seemed very pleased. "Look at the pose!" he said. There was pose certainly, but where was the smile? Pyarie's one idea had evidently been to ward off something or someone; and our artist explained it by saying that in despair of getting her quiet for one second, he had directed his servant to climb an almost overhanging tree, and the child apparently thought he was going to tumble on the top of her, and objected. "I got another of her smiling beautifully, but the plate is cracked," we were told, after the table had admired the pose. That is a way plates have. The one you most want cracks.
Poor little Pyarie; we sometimes fear lest her "pose" should be too true of her. She takes life hardly, and often protests. "I want a birthday!"—this was only yesterday, when everyone was rejoicing over a birthday jubilation. Pyarie alone was sorrowful. She stood by her poor little lonely self, with her head thrown back and her mouth wide open, and her tears ran into her open mouth as she wailed: "Aiyo! Aiyo! (Alas! Alas!) I want a birthday!"
But she is such a loving child, so loyal to her own and so unselfish to all younger things, that we hope for her more than we fear. And yet underneath there is a fear; and we ask those who can understand to remember this little one sometimes, for the world is not always kind to its poor little foolish Pyaries.
I am writing in the afternoon, and two little people are playing on the floor. One has a picture-book, and the other is looking eagerly as she turns the pages and questions: "What is it? What is it?" I notice it is always Pyarie who asks the question, and Vineetha who answers it: "It is a cow. It is a cat." "Why don't you let Vineetha ask you what it is?" I suggest; but Pyarie continues as before: "What is it? What is it?" varied by "What colour is it? What shape is it? Who made it?" and the mischief in her eyes (would that our artist could have caught it!) explains the game. It is decidedly better to be teacher than scholar, because suitable questions can cover all ignorance. Pyarie has not been to the kindergarten of late, and has reason to fear Vineetha is somewhat ahead of her; so she ignores my proposals, and continues her safe questions. We sometimes think we shall one night be heard talking in our sleep, and the burden of our conversation will be always—"What is it? What colour is it? What shape is it? Who made it?"
Tara and Evu
OUR nurseries are full of contrasts, but perhaps the two who are most unlike are the little Tara and Evu, aged, at the hour of writing, three years and two and a half. I am hammering at my typewriter, when clear through its metallic monotony comes in distinct double treble, "Amma! Tala!" "Amma! Evu!" They always announce each other in this order, and with much emphasis. If it is impossible to stop, I give them a few toys, and they sit down on the mat exactly opposite my table and play contentedly. This lasts for a short five minutes; then a whimper from Tara makes me look up, and I see Evu, with a face of more mischief than malice, holding all the toys—Tara's share and her own—in a tight armful, while Tara points at her with a grieved expression which does not touch Evu in the least. A word, however, sets things right. Evu beams upon Tara, and pours the whole armful into her lap. Tara smiles forgivingly, and returns Evu's share. Evu repentantly thrusts them back. Tara's heart overflows, and she hugs Evu. Evu wriggles out of this embrace, and they play for another five minutes or so without further misadventure.
Only once I remember Evu sinned beyond forgiveness. The occasion was Pyarie's rag-doll of smiling countenance, which had been badly neglected by the family. But Tara felt for it and loved it. She was small at the time, and the doll was large, and Tara must have got tired of carrying it; but she would not tell it so, and for one whole morning she staggered about with the cumbersome beauty tilted over her shoulder, which gave her the appearance of an unbalanced but very affectionate parent.
This was too much for Evu, to whom the comic appeals much more than the sentimental. She watched her opportunity, and pounced upon the doll. Tara gave chase; but Evu's fat legs can carry her faster than one would suppose, and Tara's wails rose to a shriek when across half the garden's width she saw that ruthless sinner swing her treasure round by one arm and then deliberately jump on it. It was hours before Tara recovered.
Such a breach of the peace is happily rare; for the two are a pretty illustration of the mutual attraction of opposites. At this moment they are playing ball. This is the manner of the game: Tara sits in a high chair and throws the ball as far as she can. Evu dashes after it like an excited kitten, and kitten-wise badly wants to tumble over and worry it; for it is made of bits of wool, which, as every sensible baby knows, were only put in to be pulled out. She resists the temptation, however, and presents the ball to Tara with a somewhat inconsequent "Tankou!" "Tankou!" returns Tara politely, and tosses the ball again. This time Evu sits down with her back to Tara, and proceeds to investigate the ball. It is perfectly fascinating. The ends are all loose and quite easily pulled out. Evu forgets all about Tara in her keen desire to see to the far end of this delight. "Evu!" comes from the chair in accents of dignified surprise. "Tala!" exclaims Evu abashed, and hurries up with the ball. "Tankou!" she says as before, and Tara responds "Tankou!" This is an integral part of the game. If either forgets it, the other corrects her by remarking inquiringly, "Tankou?" whereupon the echo replies in a tone of apology, "Tankou!"
Both these babies are devout, as most things Indian are. But Evu cannot sit still long enough to be promoted to go to church; and perhaps this is the reason why in religious matters Tara takes the lead, for she does go to church. In secularities it is always Evu who initiates, and Tara admiringly follows. The ball game was exceptional only because Evu prefers the role of kitten to that of queen.
This little characteristic is shown in common ways. The two are sitting on your knee entirely comfortable and content. The prayer-bell rings. Down struggles Tara. "To prayers I must go!" she says with decision in Tamil. "Evu too," urges Evu, also in Tamil. "Tum!" says Tara in superior English, and waits. Evu "tums," and they hastily depart.
Or it is the time for evening hymns and good-night kisses. We have sung through the chief favourites, ending always with, "Jesus, tender Shepherd." "Now sing, 'Oh, luvvly lily g'oing in our garden!'" This from Tara. Echo from Evu: "Yes; 'Oh, luvvly lily g'oing in our garden!'" You point out to the garden: "It is dark, there are no lovely lilies to be seen; besides, that is not exactly a hymn; shall we have 'Jesus, tender Shepherd,' again, and say good-night?" But this is not at all satisfactory. Tara looks a little hurt. "Tender Shepperd, no! Oh, luvvly lily!" Evu wonders if we are making excuses. Perhaps we have forgotten the tune, and she starts it:—
Oh, lovely lily, Growing in our garden, Who made a dress so fair For you to wear? Who made you straight and tall To give pleasure to us all? Oh, lovely lily, Who did it all?
Oh, little children, Playing in our garden, God made this dress so fair For us to wear. God made us straight and tall To give pleasure to you all. Oh, little children, God did it all.
Then Tara smiles all round, and you are given to understand you have earned your good-night kisses. Evidently to Tara at least there is a sense of incompleteness somewhere if the lovely lilies are excluded from the family devotions.
To Tara and to Evu, as to most babies, the garden is a pleasant place. But when they grow up and make gardens, they will not fill them with forbidden joys as we do. One of the temptations of life is furnished by inconsiderate ferns, which hold their curly infant fronds just within reach. Then there are crotons, with bright leaves aggressively yellow and delightful, and there are "tunflowers"; and the babies think us greedy in our attitude towards all these things. The croton was especially alluring; and one day Tara was found tiptoe on a low wall, reaching up with both hands, eagerly pulling bits of leaf off. She was brought to me to be judged; and I said: "Poor leaves! Shall we try to put them on again?" And hand in hand we went to the garden, and Tara tried. But the pulled-off bits would not fit on again; and Tara's face was full of serious thought, though she said nothing. Next day she was found on the same low wall, reaching up tiptoe in the same sinful way to the shining yellow leaves overhead. Quite suddenly she stopped, put her hands behind her back, and never again was she known to pick croton leaves to pieces.
The same plan prevailed with the ferns. The poor little crumples of silver and green moved her to pity, and she left them to uncurl in peace when once she had tried and sadly failed to help them. But the sunflowers' feelings did not affect her in quite the same way. The kind we have in abundance is that little dwarf variety with a thin stalk, and a cheerful face which smiles up at you even after you behead it, and does not seem to mind. Tara was convinced such treatment did not hurt them. They would stop smiling if it did. But one day she suddenly seemed to feel a pang of compunction, for she looked at the little useless heads and sighed. I had suggested their being fitted on again, as with the croton leaves and ferns. But this idea had failed; and what worked the change I know not, for Tara never told. But "tunflowers" now are left in peace so far as she is concerned; and she is learning to pick the free grasses and wild-flowers, which happily grow for everybody, and to make sure their stalks are long enough to go into water, which is the last thing untutored babies seem to think important.
There is much to be done for all our children, but perhaps for Tara especially, if she is to grow up strong in soul to fight the battles of life. We felt this more than ever on the day of our last return from the hills, after nearly seven weeks' absence. On the evening when we left them, we had gone round the nurseries after the little ones had fallen asleep, and said goodbye to each of them without their knowing it; but when we came to Tara's mat, and kissed the little sleeping face, she stirred and said, "Amma!" in her sleep; and we stole away fearing she should wake and understand. Now in the early morning we were home again, and all the children who were up were on the verandah to welcome us, each in her own way. It was Tara's way which troubled us.
At first most of the babies were shy, for six weeks are like six years to the very young; but soon there was a general rush and a thoroughly cheerful chatter. Tara did not join in it. She stood outside the little dancing dazzle of delight—the confusion of little animated coloured dots is rather like the shake of a kaleidoscope—and she just looked and looked. Then, as we drew her close, the little hands felt and stroked one's face as if the evidence of eye and ear were not enough to make her sure beyond a doubt that her own had come back to her; and then, as the assurance broke, she clung with a little cry of joy, and suddenly burst into tears.
If only we could hold her safe and sheltered in our arms for ever! How the longing swept through one at that moment: for the winds of the world are cold. But it cannot be, it should not be, for such love would be weak indeed. Rather do we long to brace the gentle nature so that its very sensitiveness may change to a tender power, and the fountain of sweet waters refresh many a desert place. But who is sufficient for even this? Handle the little soul carelessly, harden rather than brace, misinterpret the broken expression, misunderstand the signs—and the sweet waters turn to bitterness. God save us from such mistake!
We covet prayer for our children. We want to know that around them all is thrown that mysterious veil of protection which is woven out of prayer. We need prayer, too, for ourselves, that our love may be brave and wise.
Evu's disposition is different. It would not be easy to imagine Evu overcome by her feelings as Tara was at that hour of our return. One cannot imagine a kitten shedding tears of joy; and Evu is a kitten, a dear little Persian kitten, with nothing worse than mischief at present to account for. Of that there is no lack. "Oh, it is Evu!" we say, and everyone knows what to expect when "it is Evu." Evu's chief sentiment that morning, so far as she expressed it, was rather one of wonder at our ignorant audacity. "You vanished in the night when we were all asleep, and now you suddenly drop from the skies before we are properly awake, and expect us all to begin again exactly where we left off. How little you know of babies!" Doubtless this sentence was somewhat beyond her in language; but Evu is not dependent on language, and she conveyed the sense of it to us. She backed out of reach of kisses, and stood with a small finger upraised; much as a kitten might raise its paw in mock protest to its mother. She soon made friends, however, and proved herself an affectionate kitten, though wholly unemotional.
When Tara is naughty, as she is at times, like most people of only three, a reproachful look brings her spirits down to the lowest depths of distress. Evu is more inclined to hold up that funny little warning first finger, and shake it straight in your face. This, at two and a half, is terrible presumption; but the brown eyes are so innocent, you cannot be too shocked. Sometimes, however, the case is worse, and Evu tries to sulk. She sits down solemnly on the ground, and throws her four fat limbs about in a dreadful recklessness, supposed to strike the grown-up offender dumb with awe and penitence. Sometimes she even tries to put out her lower lip, but it was not made a suitable shape, for it smiles in spite of itself; and then there is a sudden spring; and two little arms are round your neck, and you are being told, if you know how to listen, what a very tiresome thing it is to feel obliged to sin. Then, with the comforting sense of irresponsible kittenhood fully restored, Evu discovers some new diversion, and you find yourself weakly wishing kittens need not grow into cats.
Principalities, Powers, Rulers
IT may seem a quick transition from nursery to battle-field; but rightly to understand this story, it must be remembered that our nursery is set in the midst of the battle-field. It is a little sheltered place, where no sound of war disturbs the babies at their play, and the flowers bloom like the babies in happy unconsciousness of battles, and make a garden for us and fill it full of peace; but underlying the babies' caresses and the sweetness of the flowers there is always a sense of conflict just over, or soon coming on. We "let the elastic go" in the nursery. We are happy, light-hearted children with our children; sometimes we even wonder at ourselves; and then remember that the happiness of the moment is a pure, bright gift, not meant to be examined, but just enjoyed, and we enjoy it as if there were no battles in the world or any sadness any more.
And yet this book comes hot from the fight. It is not a retrospect written in the calm after-years, when the outline of things has grown indistinct and the sharpness of life is blurred. There is nothing mellowed about a battle-field. Even as I write these words, the post comes in and brings two letters. One tells of a child of twelve in whom the first faint desires have awakened to lead a different life. "She is a Temple girl. Pray that she may have grace to hold on; and that if she does, we may be guided through the difficult legal complications. Poor little girl! It makes one sick to think of her spoiled young life!" The other is a Tamil letter, about another child who is in earnest, so far as the writer can ascertain, to escape from the life planned out for her. She learned about Jesus at school, and responded in her simple way; but was suddenly taken from school, and shut up in the back part of the house and not allowed to learn any more. "Like a little dove fluttering in a cage, so she seemed to me. But she is a timid dove, and the house is full of wickedness. How will she hold out against it? By God's grace I was allowed to see her for one moment alone. I gave her a little Gospel. She kissed it with her eyes" (touched her eyes with it), "and hid it in her dress."
Only a little while ago we traced a bright young Brahman girl to a certain Temple house, and by means of one of our workers we made friends with her. The child, a little widow, was ill, and was sent to the municipal hospital for medicine. It was there our worker met her, and the child whispered her story in a few hurried words. She had been kidnapped (she had not time to tell how), and shut up in the Temple house, and told she must obey the rules of the house and it was useless to protest. "If we could help you," she was asked, "would you like to come to us?" The child hesitated—the very name "Christian" was abhorrent to her—but after a moment's doubt she nodded, and then slipped away. Our worker never saw her again. The conversation must have been noticed by the child's escort, and reported. She was sent off to another town, and all attempts to trace her failed.
And the god to whom these young child-lives are dedicated? In South India all the greater symbols of deity are secluded in the innermost shrine, the heart of the Temple. In our part of the country the approach to the shrine is always frequented by Brahman priests, who would never allow the foreigner near, even if he wished to go near. "Far, far! remove thyself far!" would be the immediate command, did any polluting presence presume to draw near the shrine. There are idols by the roadside, and these are open to all; but they are lesser creations. The Great, as the people call that which the Temple contains, is something apart. It is to these—The Great—that little children are dedicated; the whole Temple system is worked in their name.
"Have you ever seen the god to whom your little ones would have been given?" is a question we are often asked; and until a few days ago we always answered, "Never." But now we have seen it, seen it unexpectedly and unintentionally, as we waited for an opportunity to talk to the crowds of people who had assembled to see it being ceremonially bathed. We cannot account for our being allowed to see it, except by the fact that the Brahmans had withdrawn for the moment, and we being, as our custom is, in Indian dress, were not noticed in the crowd.
Near the place where the idol was being bathed, with much pomp by the priests, was a little rest-house, where we had waited till some child told us all was over. Then we came out and mingled with the throng, not fearing they would misunderstand our motive. While we talked with them, the Brahmans, who had been bathing in the river after the water had been sanctified by the god, began to stream up the steps and pass through the crowd, which opened respectfully and made a wide avenue within itself: for well the smallest child in that crowd understood that no touch might defile those Brahmans as they walked, wringing out their dripping garments and their long black hair.
How we searched the faces as they passed!—sensual, cynical, cold faces, faces of utter carelessness, faces full of pride and aloofness. But there were some so different—earnest faces, keen faces, faces sensitive and spiritual. Oh, the pathos of it all! How our hearts went out to these, whose eager wistfulness marked them out as truly religious and sincere! How we longed that they should hear the word, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest"! They passed, men young and old, women and children, and very many widows; and then suddenly two palanquins which had been standing near were carried down to the awning where the idol had been bathed; and before we realised what was happening, they passed us. In the first was the disk, the symbol of the god; in the second, the god itself.
"We wrestle not against flesh and blood; but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places"—this was the word that flashed through us then. That small, insignificant, painted, and bejewelled image, in its gaudy little palanquin, was not only that. It was the visible representative of Powers.
We thought of a merry child in our nursery who was dedicated at birth to this particular Power. By some glad chance that little girl was the first to run up to us in welcome upon our return home in the evening. We thought of her with thankfulness which cannot be expressed; but the sorrow of other children bound to this same god swept over us as we stood gazing after the palanquins, till they became a coloured blur in the shimmering sunshine. There was one such, a bright little child of eight, who was in attendance upon an old blind woman belonging to that Temple. "Yes," she had answered to our distressed questions, "she is my adopted daughter. Should I not have a daughter to wait upon me and succeed me? How can I serve the god, being blind?" We thought of another, only six, who was to be given to the service "when she was a suitable age." Her parents were half-proud and half-ashamed of their intention; and when they knew we were aware of it, they denied it, and we found it impossible to do anything.
We turned to the people about us. They were laughing and chatting, and the women were showing each other the pretty glass bangles and necklets they had bought at the fair. Glorious sunshine filled the world, the whole bright scene sparkled with life and colour, and all about us was a "lucid paradise of air." But "only as souls we saw the folk thereunder," and our spirit was stirred within us. There is something very solemn in such a scene—something that must be experienced to be understood. The pitiful triviality, the sense of tremendous forces at work among these trivialities; the people, these crowds of people, absorbed in the interests of the moment—and Eternity so near; all this and much more presses hard upon the spirit till one understands the old Hebrew word: "The burden which the prophet did see."
Does this sound intolerant and narrow, as if no good existed outside our own little pale? Surely it is not so. We are not ignorant of the lofty and the noble contained in the ancient Hindu books; we are not of those who cannot recognise any truth or any beauty unless it is labelled with our label. We know God has not left Himself without witnesses anywhere. But we know—for the Spirit of Truth Himself has inspired the description—how desolate is the condition of those who are without Christ. We dare not water down the force of such a description till the words mean practically nothing. We form no hard, presumptuous creed as to how the God of all the earth will deal with these masses of mankind who have missed the knowledge of Him here; we know He will do right. But we know, with a knowledge which is burnt into us, how very many of the units live who compose these masses. We know what they are missing to-day, through not knowing our blessed Saviour as a personal, living Friend; and we know what it means to the thoughtful mind to face an unknown to-morrow.
A Hindu in a town in the northern part of our district lay dying. He knew that death was near, and he was in great distress. His friends tried to comfort him by reminding him of the gods, and by quoting stanzas from the sacred books; but all in vain. Nothing brought him any comfort, and he cried aloud in his anguish of soul.
Then to one of the watchers came the remembrance of how, as a little lad, he had seen a Christian die. In his desperation at the failure of all attempts to comfort the dying man, he thought of this one little, far-back memory; and though he could hardly dare to hope there would be much help in it, he told it to his friend. The Christian was Ragland, the missionary. He was living in a little house outside the town, when a sudden haemorrhage surprised him, and he had no time to prepare for death. He just threw himself upon his bed, and looking up, exclaimed, "Jesus!" and passed in perfect peace. Outside the window was a little Hindu boy, unobserved by any in the house. He had climbed up to the window, and, leaning in, watched all that happened, heard the one word "Jesus," saw the quick and peaceful passing; and then slipped away unnoticed.
The dying Hindu listened as his friend described it to him. And this little faint ray was the only ray of comfort that lightened the dark way for him.
Compare that experience with this:—
The missionary to whom this tale was told by the Hindu who had tried to console his dying friend, was himself smitten with dangerous illness, and lay in the dim borderland, unable to think or frame a prayer. Then like the melody of long familiar music, without effort, without strain, came the calming words of the old prayer: "Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O Lord; and by Thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of Thine only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ."
Could any two scenes present a more moving contrast? Could any contrast contain a more persuasive call?
As we went in and out among the crowd, there were many who turned away uninterested; but some listened, and some sat down by the wayside to read aloud, in the sing-song chant of the East, the little booklets or Gospels we gave them. We, who are constantly among these people, feel our need of a fresh touch, as we speak with them and see them day by day. We need renewed compassions, renewed earnestness. It is easy to grow accustomed to things, easy to get cool. We pray not only for those at home, who as yet are not awake to feel the eloquence and the piteousness of the great "voiceless silence" of these lands, but we pray for ourselves with ever deepening intensity:—
Oh for a love, for a burning love, like the fervent flame of fire! Oh for a love, for a yearning love, that will never, never tire! Lord, in my need I appeal unto Thee; Oh, give me my heart's desire!
How the Children Come
THEY come in many ways through the help of many friends. We have told before[A] how our first two babies came to us through two pastors, one in the north, the other in the south of our district. Since then many Indian pastors and workers, and several warm-hearted Christian apothecaries and nurses in Government service, have become interested; with the result that little children who must otherwise have perished have been saved.
One little babe, who has since become one of our very dearest, was redeemed from Temple life by the wife of a leading pastor, who was wonderfully brought to the very place where the little child was waiting for the arrival of the Temple people. We have seldom known a more definite leading. "I being in the way, the Lord led me," was surely true of that friend that day, and of other Indian sisters who helped her. Later, when she came to stay with us, she told us about it. "When first I heard of this new work, I was not in sympathy with it. I even talked against it to others. But when I saw that little babe, so innocent and helpless, and so beautiful too, then all my heart went out to it. And now——" Tears filled her eyes. She could not finish her sentence. Nor was there any need; the loving Indian heart had been won.
My mother was with us when this baby came; and she adopted her as her own from the first, and always had the little basket in which the baby slept put by her bedside. When the mosquitoes began to be troublesome, the basket was slipped under her own mosquito net, lest the little pink blossom should be disturbed. But the baby did not thrive at first; and the pink, instead of passing into buff, began to fade into something too near ivory for our peace of mind. It was then the friend who had saved the little one came to stay with us; and she proposed taking her and her nurse out to her country village, in hopes of getting a foster-mother for her there. So my mother, the pastor's wife, the baby, and her nurse, went out to the Good News Village, and stayed in the pastor's hospitable home. The hope which had drawn them there was not fulfilled; but the memory of that visit is fresh and fragrant. We read of alienation between Indian Christians and missionaries. We are told there cannot be much mutual affection and contact. We often wonder why it should be so, and are glad we know by experience so little of the difficulty, that we cannot understand it. We have found India friendly, and her Christians are our friends. In these matters each can only speak from personal experience. Ours has been happy. There may be unkindness and misunderstanding in India, as in England; but nowhere could there be warmer love, more tender affection.
All sorts of people help us in this work of saving the children. Once it was a convert-schoolboy who saw a widow with a baby in her arms. Noticing the bright large eyes, and what he described as the "blossoming countenance of the child," he got into conversation with the mother, and learned that she had been greatly tempted by Temple women in the town, who had admired the baby and wanted to get it. "If I give her to them, she will never be a widow," was the allurement there. The bitterness of widowhood had entered into her soul, and poisoned the very mother-love within her; and yet there was something of it left, for she did not want her babe to be a widow. The boy, with the leisureliness of the East, dropped the matter there; and only in a casual fashion, a week or so later, mentioned in a letter that he had seen this pretty child, and that probably, the mother would end in yielding to the temptation to give her to the Temple—"but it may be by the grace of God that you will be able to save her." We sent at once to try to find the mother; but she had wandered off, and no one knew her home. However, the boy was stirred to prayer, and we prayed here; and a search through towns and villages resulted at last in the mother being traced and the child being saved.
Christian women have helped us. One such, sitting on her verandah after her morning's work, heard two women in the adjoining verandah discuss the case of a widow who had come from Travancore with a bright little baby-girl, whom she had vowed she would give to one of our largest temples. The Christian woman had heard of the Dohnavur nurseries, and at once she longed to save this little child, but hardly knew how to do it. She feared to tell the two women she had overheard their conversation, so in the simplicity of her heart she prayed that the widow might be detained and kept from offering her gift till our worker, old Devai, could come; and she wrote to old Devai.
Happily Devai was at home when the letter reached her; otherwise days would have been lost, for her wanderings are many. She went at once, and found the mother most reasonable. Her idea had been to acquire merit for herself, and an assured future for her child, by giving it to the gods; but when the matter was opened to her, she was willing to give it to us instead. In her case, as in the other, our natural instinct would have been to try to make some provision by which the mothers could keep their babies; but it would not have been possible. The cruel law of widowhood had begun to do its work in them. The Temple people's inducements would have proved too much for them. The children would not have been safe.
Once it was a man-servant who saved a lovely child. He heard an aside in the market which put him on the track. The case was very usual. The parents were dead, and the grandmother was in difficulties. For the parents' sake she wanted to keep the dear little babe; but she was old, and had no relatives to whose care she could commit it. Mercifully we were the first to hear about this little one; for even as a baby she was so winning that Temple people would have done much to get her, and the old grandmother would almost certainly have been beguiled into giving her to them. How often it has been so! "She will be brought up carefully according to her caste. All that is beautiful will be hers, jewels and silk raiment." The hook concealed within the shining bait is forgotten. The old grandmother feels she is doing her best for the child, and the little life passes out of her world.
"It is a dear little thing, and the man (its grandfather) seemed really fond of it. He said he would not part with it; but its parents are both dead, and he did not know what might happen to it if he died." This from the letter of a fellow-missionary, who saved the little one and sent her out to us, is descriptive of many. "Not the measure of a rape-seed of sleep does she give me. I have done my best for her since her mother died, but her noise is most vexatious." This was a father's account of the matter only a week or two ago. "Have you no women relations?" we asked him. "Numerous are my womenfolk, but they are all cumbered with children: how can they help me?"
Given these circumstances of difficulty, and the strong under-pull of Temple influence—is it wonderful that many an orphaned babe finds her way to the Temple house? For in the South the child of the kind we are seeking to save is never offered to us because there is no other place where she is wanted. Everywhere there are those who are searching for such children; and each little one saved represents a counter-search, and somewhere, earnest prayer. The mystery of our work, as we have said before, is the oftentimes apparent victory of wrong over right. We are silent before it. God reigns; God knows. But sometimes the interpositions are such that our hearts are cheered, and we go on in fresh courage and hope.
Among our earliest friends were some of the London Missionary Society workers of South Travancore. One of these friends interested her Biblewomen; and when, one morning, one of these Biblewomen passed a woman with a child in her arms on the road leading to a well-known Temple, she was ready to understand the leading, and made friends with the mother. She found that even then she was on her way to a Temple house. A few minutes later and she would not have passed her on the road.
There was something to account for this directness of leading. At that time we had our branch nursery at Neyoor, in South Travancore, ten miles from the place where the Biblewoman met the mother. On that same morning, Ponnamal, who was in charge there, felt impelled to go to the upper room to pray for a little child in danger. She remained in prayer till the assurance of the answer was given, and then returned to her work. That evening a bandy drove up to the nursery, and she saw the explanation of the pressure and the answer to the prayer. A little child was lifted out of the bandy, and laid in her arms. She stood with her nurses about her, and together they worshipped God.
This prayer-pressure has been often our experience when special help is needed to effect the salvation of some little unknown child. It was our Prayer-day, July 6, 1907. Three of us were burdened with a burden that could not be lightened till we met and prayed for a child in peril. We had no knowledge of any special child, though, of course, we knew of many in danger. When we prayed for the many, the impression came the more strongly that we were meant to concentrate upon one. Who, or where, we did not know.
Five days later, a letter reached us from a friend in the Wesleyan Mission, working in a city five hundred miles distant. The letter was written on the 8th:—
"On the morning of the 6th, a woman who knows our Biblewomen well, told them of a little Brahman baby in great danger; so J. and two others went at once and spent the greater part of the morning trying to save the child. It was in the house of a so-called Temple woman, who had adopted it, and she had taken every care of it. For some reason she wanted to go away, and could not take it with her. Two or three women of her own kind were there and wanted it. One had money in her hand for it. But J. had already got the baby into her arms, and reasoned and persuaded until the woman at last consented. They at once brought it here. Had the friendly woman not told J., the baby would now be in the hands of the second Temple woman. I visited the woman afterwards. She had two grown girls in the room with her, the elder such a sweet girl. She told me openly it was all according to custom, and that God had arranged their lives on those lines, and they could not do otherwise. It is terribly sad, and such houses abound."
Happenings of this sort—if the word "happen" is not irreverent in such a connection—have a curiously quieting effect upon us. We are very happy; but there is a feeling of awe which finds expression in words which, at first reading, may not sound appropriate; but we write for those who will understand:—
Oh, fix Thy chair of grace, that all my powers May also fix their reverence . . . Scatter, or bind, or bend them all to Thee! Though elements change and Heaven move, Let not Thy higher court remove, But keep a standing Majesty in me.
[A] "Overweights of Joy."
WE have some children who were not in Temple danger, but who could not have grown up good if we had not taken them. "If peril to the soul is of importance," wrote the pastor who sent us two little girls, "then it is important you should take them": so we took them. These little ones were in "peril to the soul," because their nominal Christian mother had, after her husband's death, married a Hindu, against the rules of her religion and his. The children were under the worst influence; and both were winning little things, who might have drifted anywhere. We have found it impossible to refuse such little ones, even though danger of the Temple kind may not be probable.
Such a child, for example, is the little girl the Moslem is ready to adopt and convert to the faith. Our first redeemed from this captivity (literally slavery under the name of adoption) was a cheerful little person of six, with the sturdy air the camera caught, and a manner all her own. An American missionary in an adjoining district heard of her and her little sister, and wrote to know if we would take them if he could save them. We could not say No; so he tried, and succeeded in getting the elder child; the little one had been already "adopted," and he could not get her. "The whole affair was the most astonishing thing I have ever seen in India," he wrote when he sent the little girl. The child upon arrival made friends with another, and confided to her in a burst of confidence: "Ah, she was a jewel, my own little sister—not like me, not dark of skin, but 'fair' and tender; and the great man in the turban saw her and desired her, and he took her away; and she cried and cried and cried, because she was only such a very little girl."
"The business was being discussed out in the open street"—the writer was another missionary—"the pastor heard of it from a Christian who was passing, and saw the cluster of Muhammadans round the mother and her children. It was touch-and-go with the child." These two, Sturdy and Stolid, side by side in the photograph, are in all ways quite unlike the typical Temple child; but the danger from which they were delivered is as real, and perhaps in its way as grave.
One of the sweetest of our little girls, a child with a spiritual expression which strikes all who see her, came to us through a young catechist who heard of her and persuaded her people to let her come to Dohnavur. She is an orphan; and being "fair" and very gentle, needed a mother's care. Her nearest relatives had families of their own, and were not anxious for this addition to their already numerous daughters; and the little girl, feeling herself unwanted, was fretting sadly. Then an offer came to the relations—not made expressly in words, but implied—by which they would be relieved of the responsibility of the little niece's future. All would not have been straight for the child, however, and they hesitated. The temptation was great; and in the end it is probable they would have yielded, had not the catechist heard of it, and influenced them to turn from temptation. It was the evening of our Prayer-day when the little Pearl came; and when we saw the sweet little face, with the wistful, questioning eyes like the eyes of a little frightened dog taken away alone among strangers, and when we heard the story, and knew what the child's fate might have been, then we welcomed her as another Prayer-day gift. We do not look for gratitude in this work; who does? But sometimes it comes of itself; and the grateful love of a child, like the grateful love of a little affectionate animal lifted out of its terror and comforted, is something sweet and tender and very good to know. The Pearl says little; but her soft brown eyes look up into ours with a trustful expression of peaceful happiness; and as she slips her little hand into ours and gives it a tight squeeze, we know what her heart is saying, and we are content.
Two more of these "others" are the two in the photograph who are playing a pebble game. Their parents died leaving them in the care of an aunt, a perfectly heartless woman whose record was not of the best. She starved the children, though she was not poor; and then punished them severely when, faint with hunger, they took food from a kindly woman of another caste. Finally she gave them to a neighbour, telling her to dispose of them as she liked.
About this time our head worker, Ponnamal, was travelling in search of a child of whom we had heard in a town near Palamcottah. She could not find the child, and, tired and discouraged, turned into the large Church Missionary Society hall, where a meeting was being held to welcome our new Bishop. As Ponnamal was late, she sat at the back, and could not hear what was going on; so she gave herself up to prayer for the little child whom she had not found, and asked that her three days' journey might not be all in vain.
As she prayed in silence thus, another woman came in and sat down at the back near Ponnamal. When Ponnamal looked up, she saw it was a friend she had not met for years. She began to tell her about her search for the child; and this led on to telling about the children in general, and the work we were trying to do. The other had known nothing of it all before; but as she listened, a light broke on her face, and she eagerly told Ponnamal how that same morning she had come across a Hindu woman in charge of two little girls. The Tamils when they meet, however casually, have a useful habit of exchanging confidences. The woman had told Ponnamal's friend what her errand was. Ponnamal's talk about children in danger recalled the conversation of the morning. In a few hours more Ponnamal was upon the track of the Hindu woman and her two little charges. It ended in the two little girls being saved.
SHE has been called "Old Devai" ever since we knew her, twelve years ago; and she is still active in mind and body. "As I was then, even so is my strength now for war, both to go out and to come in," she would tell you with a courageous toss of the old grey head. Her spirit at least is untired.
We knew her first as a woman of character. One Sunday, in our Tamil church, a sermon was preached upon the love of the Father as compared with the love of the world. That Sunday Devai went home and acted upon the teaching in such fashion that she had to suffer from the scourge of the tongue in her own particular world. But she went on her way, unmoved by adverse criticism. Some years later, when we were in perplexity as to how to set about our search for children in danger of being given to temples, old Devai offered to help. She was peculiarly suitable, both in age and in position, for this most delicate work; and we accepted her offer with thanksgiving. Since then she has travelled far, and followed many a clue discovered in strange ways and in strange company. Perhaps no one in South India knows as much as Devai knows about the secret system by which the Temple altars are supplied with little living victims; but she has no idea of how to put her knowledge into shape and express it in paragraph form. We learn most from her when she least knows she is saying anything interesting.
When first we began the work, our great difficulty was, as it is still, to get upon the track of the children before the Temple women heard of them. Once they were known to be available, Temple scouts appeared mysteriously alert; and it is doubly difficult to get a little child after negotiations have been opened with the subtle Temple scout. How often old Devai has come to us sick at heart after a long, fruitless search and effort to save some little child who, perhaps, only an hour before her arrival was carried off in triumph by the Temple people! "I pursued after the bandy, and I saw it in the distance; but swiftly went their bullocks, and I could not overtake it. At last they stopped to rest, and I came to where they were. But they smiled at me and said: 'Did you ever hear of such a thing as you ask in foolishness? Is it the custom to give up a child, once it is ours?'" Sometimes a new story is invented on the spot. "Did you not know it was my sister's child; and I, her only sister, having no child of my own, have adopted this one as my own? Would you ask me to give up my own child, the apple of my eye?" Oftener, however, the clue fails, and all Devai knows is that the little one is nowhere to be found. Once she traced it straight to a Temple house, won her way in, and pleaded with tears, offering all compensation for expenses incurred (travelling and other) if only the Temple woman would let her take the child. But no: "If it dies, that matters little; but disgrace is not to be contemplated." When all else fails, we earnestly ask that the little one in danger may be taken quickly out of that polluted atmosphere up into purer air; and it is startling to note how solemnly the answer to that prayer has come in very many instances.
The clue for which we are always on the watch is often like a fine silk thread leading down into dark places where we cannot see it, can hardly feel it; it is so thin a thread. Sometimes, when we thought we held it securely, we have lost it in the dark.
Sometimes it seems as if the Evil One, whose interest in these little ones may be greater than we know, lays a false clue across our path, and bewilders us by causing us to spend time and strength in what appears to be a wholly useless fashion. Once old Devai was lured far out of our own district in search of two children who did not even exist. She had taken all precautions to verify the information given, but a false address had baffled her; and we can only conclude that, for some reason unknown to us, but well known to those whom we oppose, they were permitted on that occasion to gain an advantage over us. We made it a rule, after that will-of-the-wisp experience, that any address out of our own district must be verified; and that the nearest missionary thereto, or responsible Indian Christian, must be approached, before further steps are taken. This rule has saved many a fruitless journey; but also we cannot help knowing it has sometimes occasioned delays which have had sad results. For distances are great in India. Devai herself lives two days' journey from us, and her address is uncertain, as she sets off at a moment's notice for any place where she has reason to think a child in danger may be saved. Then, too, missionaries and responsible Indian Christians are not everywhere. So that sometimes it is a case of choosing the lesser of two evils, and choosing immediately.
Once in the night a knock came to Devai's door. A man stood outside, a Hindu known to her. "A little girl has just been taken to the Temple of A., where the great festival is being held. If you go at once you may perhaps get her." The place named was out of our jurisdiction; but in such cases Devai knows rules are only made to be broken. Off she went on foot, got a bandy en route, reached the town before the festival was over, found the house to which she had been directed—a little shut-up house, doors and windows all closed—managed, how we never knew, to get in, found a young woman, a Temple woman from Travancore, with a little child asleep on the mat beside her, persuaded her to slip out of the house with the child without wakening anyone, crept out of the town and fled away into the night, thankful for the blessed covering darkness. The child was being kept in that house till the Temple woman to whom she was to be given produced the stipulated "Joy-gift," after which she would become Temple property. Some delay in its being given had caused that night's retention in the little shut-up house. The child, a most lovable little girl, had been kidnapped and disguised; and the matter was so skilfully managed, that we have never been able to discover even the name of her own town. We only know she must have been well brought up, for she was from the first a refined little thing with very dainty ways. She and her little special friend are sitting on the steps looking at Latha (Firefly), who is blowing bubbles. The other little one has a similar but different history. Her father brought her to us himself, fearing lest she should be kidnapped by one related to her who much wanted to have her. "I, being a man, cannot be always with the child," he said, "and I fear for her."