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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER XV. RETURN TO BENARES.

Life And Work In Benares And Kumaon 1839-1877 by James Kennedy

CHAPTER XV. RETURN TO BENARES.

VOYAGE TO ENGLAND AND RETURN TO INDIA, A.D.1847-1857.

When two more years had passed, during which we were enabled to carry on our work with few interruptions, we found that, beneficial though our visit to the hills had been, we stood in need of a still greater change, and of a more thorough bracing of both body and mind. Health again began to fail, and we felt unequal to the work devolving on us. We accordingly left Benares for Calcutta towards the end of 1849. As our children were young, and travelling by land was both fatiguing and expensive, we hired a budgerow and sailed down the Ganges. Our voyage lasted over four weeks. It gave us the opportunity of touching at a number of places, Ghazeepore, Buxar, Monghyr, Dinapore, Patna, and Berhampore, in most of which we had the pleasure of meeting missionary brethren. Towards the end of January we embarked on the ship Monarch, and after a prosperous, though not a rapid, voyage we arrived in England in May, 1850. The only place at which we touched was St. Helena. We lay off it the greater part of a day, but none were allowed to land as we had measles on board.

I will dismiss our stay in England in a few sentences, as it is no part of my plan to give English reminiscences. Like other missionaries on leave, I visited many places in England and Scotland on behalf of the Society of which I was an agent. At the expiration of our leave in the autumn of 1852 medical opinion forbade our departure. By the autumn of 1853 health was so improved that the way was open for our return to India.

[Sidenote: VOYAGE TO INDIA.]

After a season of severe domestic trial, which delayed our departure, my partner, myself, and two children embarked on board the Indiana, one of a new magnificent line of steamers plying to India round the Cape of Good Hope, in November. The voyage extended to eleven weeks. The weather throughout was remarkably favourable. We touched at the Islands of St. Vincent, Ascension, the Cape of Good Hope, the Mauritius, Point de Galle, and Madras. We landed at most of these places, and this took away in a great measure the weariness of a long voyage, which I must say we felt increasingly on every successive occasion. We were detained at the Cape for three or four days, which gave us an opportunity of getting to the top of Table Mountain, and of visiting the vineyards a few miles out of Cape Town. We were hospitably entertained by Mr. Thompson, and attended his services on the Lord's Day. Mr. Ellis, who was at the time at the Mauritius, kindly came on board as soon as the Indiana came to anchor, and took us on shore to the house of our missionary, Mr. Le Brun. We attended his service -- it was the Lord's Day -- and were delighted to see so many present, several of whom we were told were refugees from Madagascar. The congregation was well-nigh entirely composed of people of colour, varying from the brown of the mixed race to the jet black of the negro. The white dresses formed a striking contrast to the dusky faces, many of which, dark though they were, were lit up with an expression indicative of intelligence and contentment. The service was conducted in French, which continues to be the language of the island, although many years have elapsed since it became a British possession. After the service we were taken to the house of the Secretary to Government, who hospitably entertained us. We embarked the next day. As we were proceeding to the shore we were struck with the familiar sounds of the Hindustanee language from the lips of Indian coolies. We were sorry we could exchange with them only a few passing words. During the few hours we were off Madras we had the pleasure of landing and seeing some of the missionaries there.

[Sidenote: JOURNEY TO BENARES.]

After a short stay in Calcutta, we set out for Benares. The journey was performed in a new fashion. We purchased a conveyance, and arranged to have it drawn by relays of coolies all the way. Arrangements were made by an agent in Calcutta to have word sent on in advance, so that at every sixth or eighth mile coolies might be in readiness for us. Before 1839 the great Trunk Road from Calcutta to Delhi had been made, but the streams and ravines were for the most part unbridged, and consequently travelling by a wheeled conveyance was very slow and difficult. By 1854 the road had been greatly improved, many bridges had been made, and thus the facilities for travelling were much increased. At every twelve or fourteen miles there were rest-houses for European travellers, called |staging bungalows,| all built on the same plan at the expense of two wealthy natives, each with two rooms and a bath-room attached, a bedstead in each room, a table, and two or three chairs, with a man in charge to take a small sum from each traveller for accommodation, and ready to furnish him with a good Indian meal at a very moderate rate. At some of these we stopped for rest and food. Our party consisted of our family, and a lady friend who wished to travel with us. Desirous to get on quickly, we were sometimes in our conveyance twenty hours out of the twenty-four, and dosed as we proceeded the best way we could. We met with no adventure worth relating, and were glad after ten days' journeying to find ourselves once more in our old dear abode. We had a most hearty and gratifying welcome from our brethren, both European and native. We reached it on a Saturday. I told the brethren that after my long absence, and entire disuse of the native language during that period, I must be a hearer the next day. They said that could not be, as the people were expecting me to officiate. Thus urged I ventured to conduct the service, and I was agreeably surprised to find that old scenes seemed to revive my knowledge of the language, and to bear me through with unexpected ease.

We resumed work at Benares recruited in health, and refreshed in spirit, and prepared by the experience of previous years to prosecute it with new effectiveness. We had a sense of the difficulties of the work, its trials and discouragements, and of the absolute necessity of Divine help in order to its being rightly prosecuted, which we could not have had at an earlier period; and we had at the same time a deeper realization of its greatness, blessedness, and final certain triumph. The missionary has little of the spirit of his office, and little fitness for it, who at every successive stage of his course is not increasingly bent on honouring his Master and promoting the good of the people among whom he labours, and who is not at the same time increasingly thankful for having been called to so high an office, while deeply humbled at his own unworthiness and his many shortcomings.

During the three years under review, our native Christian congregation was larger than it had been at any previous period, and, I am sorry to say, larger than it has been in later years. There were at that time about twenty Christian households in the mission compound, and several Christian families came from a little distance. There was a printing-press in our neighbourhood, which gave employment to a number of our people, and others succeeded in getting situations which gave them comfortable support. It was a gladdening sight, when the gong was struck for worship, to see them making their way to the chapel, and to find them, when assembled there, well-nigh filling the place, all cleanly clad, and devoutly engaged in the service of God. Many a time was my heart full of joy and hope when ministering to them. We had, indeed, our difficulties and trials. These are never long or far from us wherever we may be. There were inconsistencies and lapses among the native Christians which grieved us; but their general conduct was good, they were at peace with each other, and in some there were marked indications of growing piety.

Our tours during the cold weather of these years were mainly confined to the country within thirty or forty miles of Benares. Our only tour of any length was in January and February of 1857, when we went on the Calcutta road as far as Susseram, more than a hundred miles distant; and, leaving the Trunk Road, made our way to the rock of Rohtas, overlooking the Soane, where there are extensive remains of an imperial fort. We lodged one night in one of the deserted halls, of which there were several in a fair state of preservation, and we were told that to these the tigers of the surrounding forest occasionally resorted. During the Mutiny this fort was for some time the headquarters of a rebel chief. With the exception of this tour to the east of Benares, to which I shall afterwards refer, our experience in these itineracies closely accorded with that of former years. During this period the school and preaching work of the mission was steadily prosecuted by the catechists and missionaries.

[Sidenote: TWO GATHERINGS AT BENARES.]

Towards the close of 1856, and at the beginning of 1857, there were two interesting gatherings at Benares. The one was the meeting of boys and lads from all parts of the province for a Biblical Examination -- of which I have already given some account. The other was a Missionary Conference, which was largely attended and efficiently conducted. The facilities for travelling were not so great as they are now, but they were such as admitted the presence of a number of missionaries from distant places. We parted deeply thankful for the pleasant and profitable intercourse we had had with each other. Little did we think of the terrible storm which was so soon to break over us, in which several of our number were to lose their lives.

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