|Some years ago England was stirred through and
through by revelations which were made as to the
'Bitter Cry' of wronged womanhood. In India the
bitter cry is far more bitter, but it is stifled
and smothered by the cruel gag of Caste. Orthodox
Hindus would rather see their girls betrayed,
tortured, murdered, than suffer them to break
through the trammels of Caste.|Rev. T. Walker, India.
THERE is another ancient town near Dohnavur, and in that town another temple, and round the temple the usual Brahman square. In one of the streets of this square we saw the girl whose face looks out at you. It struck us as a typical face, not beautiful as many are, but characteristic in the latent power of eyes and brow, a face full of possibilities.
[Illustration: Here is one who might be a queen. What she may be is very different. She is a Brahman girl; all her people are Hindus. She has never even felt a desire, or seen any one in her town who felt a desire, to |fall into the pit of Christianity.|]
We were rarely able to get anything we specially wanted, but we got this. I look at it now, and wonder how it will develop as the soul behind it shapes and grows. That child is enfolded in influences which ward off the touch of the grace of life.
We saw numbers of women that day, but only at the distance of a street breadth; they would not come nearer, for the town is still a Petra to us, we are waiting to be led in.
But if we were able to get in enough to take a photograph, surely we were |in| enough to preach the Gospel? Why not stop and there speak of more important matters? What was to hinder then?
Only this: in that town they have heard of converts coming out, and breaking Caste in baptism, and they have made a law that we (with whom they know some of these converts are) shall never be allowed to speak to any of their women. That hindered us there. But even supposing we had been free to speak, as we trust we shall be soon, and supposing she had wanted to hear, the barriers which lie between such a child and confession of Christ are so many and so great that when, as now, one wants to tell you about them, one hardly knows how to do it. Words seem like little feeble shadows of some grim rock, like little feeble shadows of the grasses growing on it, rather than of it, in its solidity; or, to revert to the old thought, all one can say is just pointing to the Dust as evidence of the Actual.
|What is to hinder high-caste women from being baptised, and living as Christians in their own homes?| The question was asked by an Englishman, a winter visitor, who, being interested in Missions, was gathering impressions. We told him no high-caste woman would be allowed to live as an open Christian in her own home; and we told him of some who, only because they were suspected of inclining towards Christianity, had been caused to disappear. |What do you suppose happened to them?| he asked, and we told him.
We were talking in the pleasant drawing-room of an Indian Hotel. Our friend smiled, and assured us we must be mistaken. We were under the English Government; such things could not be possible. We looked round the quiet room, with its air of English comfort and English safety; we looked at the quiet faces, faces that had never looked at fear, and we hardly wondered that they could not understand.
Then in a moment, even as they talked, we were far away in another room, looking at other faces, faces unquiet, very full of fear. We knew that all round us, for streets and streets, there were only the foes of our Lord; we knew that a cry that was raised for help would be drowned long before it could escape through those many streets to the great English house outside. There were policemen, you say. But policemen in India are not as at home. Policemen can be bribed.
And now we are looking in again. There is a very dark inner room, no window, one small door; the walls are solid, so is the door. If you cried in there, who would hear?
And now we are listening -- someone is speaking: |Once there was one; she cared for your God. She was buried into the wall in there, and that was the end of her.| . . .
But we are back in the drawing-room, hearing them tell us these things could never be. . . . Three years passed, and a girl came for refuge to us. She loved her people well; she would never have come to us had they let her live as a Christian at home. But no, |Rather than that she shall burn,| they said. We were doubtful about her age, and we feared we should have to give her up if the case came on in the courts. And if we had to give her up? We looked at the gentle, trustful face, and we could not bear the thought; and yet, according to our friends, the Government made all safe.
About that time a paper came to the house; names, dates, means of identification, all were given. This was the story in brief. A young Brahman girl in another South Indian town wanted to be a Christian, and confessed Christ at home. She earnestly wished to be baptised, but she was too young then, and waited, learning steadily and continuing faithful, though everything was done that could be done to turn her from her purpose. She was betrothed against her will to her cousin, and forbidden to have anything to do with the Christians. |She was never allowed to go out alone, and was practically a prisoner.|
For three years that child held on, witnessing steadfastly at home, and letting it be clearly known that she was and would be a Christian. A Hindu ceremony of importance in the family was held in her grandfather's house, and she refused to go. This brought things to a crisis. Her people appointed a council of five to investigate the matter. |She maintained a glorious witness before them all,| says the missionary; |declared boldly that she was a Christian, and intended to join us; and when challenged about the Bible, she held it out, and read it to the assembled people.|
For a time it seemed as if she had won the day, but fresh attempts were made upon her constancy by certain religious bigots of the town. They offered her jewels -- that failed; tried to get her to turn Mussulman, that being less disgraceful than to be a Christian; and last and worst, tried to stain that white soul black -- but, thank God! still they failed.
At last the waiting time was over; she was of age to be baptised, and she wrote to tell her missionary friend about it. He sent her books to read, and promised to let her know within two days what he could arrange to do. |Her letter was dated from her grandfather's house,| the missionary writes, |to which she said she had been sent, and put in a room alone. On the following day, hearing a rumour of her death, I went to N.'s house, and there found her body, outside the door. I caused it to be seized by the police, and the post-mortem has revealed the fact that the poor child was poisoned by arsenic. Bribes have been freely used and atrocious lies have been told, and the net result of all the police inquiries, so far, is that no charge can be brought against anyone.|
Last year we met one of the missionaries from this Mission, on the hills, and we asked him if anyone had been convicted. He said no one had been convicted, |the Caste had seen to that.|
Here, then, is a statement of facts, divested of all emotion or sensationalism. A child is shut up in a room alone, and poisoned; when she is dead, her body is thrown outside the door. It was found. There have been bodies which have not been found; but we are under the British Government -- nothing can have happened to them!
The British Government does much, but it cannot do everything. It is notorious in India that false witnesses can be bought at so much a head, according to the nature of witness required. Bribery and corruption are not mere names here, but facts, most difficult for any straightforward official to trace and track and deal with. We know, and everyone knows, that the White Man's Government, though strong enough to win and rule this million-peopled Empire, is weak as a white child when it stands outside the door of an Indian house, and wants to know what has gone on inside, or proposes to regulate what shall go on. It cannot do it. The thought is vain.
|Why not have her put under surveillance?| asked a friend, a military man, about a certain girl who wanted to be a Christian; as if such surveillance were practicable, or ever could be, under such conditions as obtain in high-caste Hindu and Mohammedan circles, except in places directly under the eye of Government. We know there are houses where, at an hour's notice, any kind and any strength of poison can be prepared and administered: quick poison to kill within a few minutes; slow poisons that undermine the constitution, and do their work so safely that no one can find it out; brain poisons, worse than either, and perhaps more commonly used, as they are as effective and much less dangerous. But we could not prove what we know, and knowledge without proof is, legally speaking, valueless.
And yet we know these things, we have heard |a cry of tears,| we have heard |a cry of blood| --
|Tears and blood have a cry that pierces heaven
Through all its hallelujah swells of mirth;
God hears their cry, and though He tarry, yet
He doth not forget.|