|We can do nothing against the Truth, but for the
Truth.|St. Paul, Asia and Europe.
|There is too little desire to know what is the
actual state of mission work in India, and a
regard to the showy and attractive rather than to
the solid and practical. I will try, however, to
avoid being carried away by the tide, and to set
myself the task of giving as plain and unvarnished
a statement as possible of what is actually being
done or not done in the great field of our foreign
Bishop French, India and Arabia.
THREE friends sat Native fashion on the floor of an Indian verandah. Two of the three had come out to India for a few months to see the fight as it is. And they saw it. They now proposed that the third should gather some letters written from the hot heart of things, and make them into a book, to the intent that others should see exactly what they had seen. The third was not sure. The world has many books. Does it want another, and especially another of the kind this one would be? Brain and time are needed for all that writing a book means. The third has not much of either. But the two undertook to do all the most burdensome part of the business. |Give us the letters, we will make the book,| and they urged reasons which ended in -- this.
This, the book, has tried to tell the Truth. That is all it has to say about itself. The quotations which head the chapters, and which are meant to be read, not skipped, are more worthful than anything else in it. They are chosen from the writings of missionaries, who saw the Truth and who told it.
The story covers about two years. We had come from the eastern side of this South Indian district, to work for awhile in the south of the South, the farthest southern outpost of the C.M.S. in India. Chapter II. plunges into the middle of the beginning. The Band Sisters are the members of a small Women's Itinerating Band; the girls mentioned by translated names are the young convert-girls who are with us; the Iyer is Rev. T. Walker; the Ammal is Mrs. Walker; the Missie Ammal explains itself.
The Picture-catching Missie Ammal is the friend who proposed the book's making. This is her Tamil name, given because it describes her as she struck the Tamil mind. The pictures she caught were not easy to catch. Reserved and conservative India considered the camera intrusive, and we were often foiled in getting what we most desired. Even where we were allowed to catch our object peaceably, it was a case of working under difficulties which would have daunted a less ardent picture-catcher. Wherever the camera was set up, there swarms of children sprang into being, burrowed in and out like rabbits, and scuttled about over everything, to the confusion of the poor artist, who had to fix focus and look after the safety of her camera legs at the same time, while the second Missie Ammal held an umbrella over her head, and the third exhorted the picture, which speedily got restive, to sit still. So much for the mere mechanical.
Finally, I should explain the book's character. |Tell about things as they actually are|; so said the Two with emphasis. I tried, but the Actual eluded me. It was as if one painted smoke, and then, pointing to the feeble blur, said, |Look at the battle! 'the smoking hell of battle!' There is the smoke!| The Poet's thought was not this, I know, when she coined that suggestive phrase, |The Dust of the Actual,| but it has been the predominating thought in my mind, for it holds that which defines the scope and expresses the purpose of the book, and I use it as the title of one of the chapters. It does not show the Actual. Principalities, Powers, Rulers of the Darkness, Potentialities unknown and unimagined, gathered up into one stupendous Force -- we have never seen it. How can we describe it? What we have seen and tried to describe is only an indication of Something undescribed, and is as nothing in comparison with it -- as Dust in comparison with the Actual. The book's scope, then, is bounded by this: it only touches the Dust; but its purpose goes deeper, stretches wider, has to do with the Actual and our relation to it.
But in touching the Dust we touch the outworkings of an Energy so awful in operation that descriptive chapters are awful too. And such chapters are best read alone in some quiet place with God. For the book is a battle-book, written from a battle-field where the fighting is not pretty play but stern reality; and almost every page looks straight from the place where Charles Kingsley stood when he wrote --
|God! fight we not within a cursed world,
Whose very air teems thick with leagued fiends --
Each word we speak has infinite effects --
Each soul we pass must go to heaven or hell --
And this our one chance through eternity
To drop and die, like dead leaves in the brake!
. . . . . . .
Be earnest, earnest, earnest; mad if thou wilt:
Do what thou dost as if the stake were heaven,
And that thy last deed ere the judgment day.|
[Illustration: This is our bullock-bandy. The water was up to the top of the bank when we crossed last. The palms are cocoanuts.]