|It seems to have been a mistake to imagine that
the Divine Majesty on high was too exalted to take
any notice of our mean affairs. The great minds
among us are remarkable for the attention they
bestow upon minutiae . . . 'a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without your Father.'|David Livingstone, Africa.
WE have now left Dohnavur, on the West, and returned to our old battlefield on the East. The evening after our arrival one of those special things happened, though only a little thing some will say -- a little child was brought.
[Illustration: This is not Pearl-eyes. Pearl-eyes is tinier, and has more sparkle; but the Caste is the same, and as we have not got Pearl-eyes, we put this small girl here.]
There is a temple in the Hindu village near us. We have often tried to reach the temple women, poor slaves of the Brahmans. We have often seen the little girls, some of them bought as infants from their mothers, and trained to the terrible life. In one of the Mission day schools there is a child who was sold by her |Christian| mother to these Servants of the gods; but though this is known it cannot be proved, and the child has no wish to leave the life, and she cannot be taken by force.
Sometimes we see the little girls playing in the courtyards of the houses near the temple, gracious little maidens, winsome in their ways, almost always more refined in manner than ordinary children, and often beautiful. One longs to help the little things, but no hand of ours can stretch over the wall and lift even one child out.
Among the little temple girls in the Great Lake Village was a tiny girl called Pearl-eyes, of whom we knew nothing; but God must have some purpose for her, for He sent His Angel to the house one afternoon, and the Angel found little Pearl-eyes, and he took her by the hand and led her out, across the stream, and through the wood, to a Christian woman's house in our village. Next morning she brought her to us. This is what really happened, I think; there is no other way to account for it. No one remembers such a thing happening here before.
I was sitting reading in the verandah when I saw them come. The woman was looking surprised. She did not know about the Angel, I expect, and she could not understand it at all. The little child was chattering away, lifting up a bright little face as she talked. When she saw me she ran straight up to me, and climbed on my knee without the least fear, and told me all about herself at once. I took her to the Iyer, and he sent for the Pastor, who sent a messenger to the Village of the Lake, to say the child was here, and to inquire into the truth of her story.
|My name is Pearl-eyes,| the child began, |and I want to stay here always. I have come to stay.| And she told us how her mother had sold her when she was a baby to the Servants of the gods. She was not happy with them. They did not love her. Nobody loved her. She wanted to live with us.
But why had she run away now? She hardly seemed to know, and looked puzzled at our questions. The only thing she was sure about was that she had |run and come,| and that she |wanted to stay.| Then the Ammal came in, and she went through exactly the same story with her.
We felt, if this proved to be fact, that we could surely keep her; the Government would be on our side in such a matter. Only the great difficulty might be to prove it.
Meanwhile we gave her a doll, and her little heart was at rest. She did not seem to have a fear. With the prettiest, most confiding little gesture, she sat down at our feet and began to play with it.
We watched her wonderingly. She was perfectly at home with us. She ran out, gathered leaves and flowers, and came back with them. These were carefully arranged in rows on the floor. Then another expedition, and in again with three pebbles for hearthstones, a shell for a cooking pot, bits of straw for firewood, a stick for a match, and sand for rice.
She went through all the minutiae of Tamil cookery with the greatest seriousness. Then we, together with her doll, were invited to partake. The little thing walked straight into our hearts, and we felt we would risk anything to keep her.
Our messenger returned. The story was true. The women from whose house she had come were certainly temple women. But would they admit it to us, and, above all, would they admit they had obtained her illegally? -- a fact easy to deny. Almost upon this they came; and to the Iyer's question, |Who are you?| one said, |We are Servants of the gods!| I heard an instructive aside, |Why did you tell them?| |Oh, never mind,| said the one who had answered, |they don't understand!| But we had understood, and we were thankful for the first point gained.
They stood and stared and called the child, but she would not go, and we would not force her. Then they went away, and we were left for an hour in that curious quiet which comes before a storm. Our poor little girl was frightened. |Oh, if they come again, hide me!| she begged. One saw it was almost too much for her, high-spirited child though she is.
The next was worse. A great crowd gathered on the verandah, and an evil-faced woman, who seemed to have some sort of power over Pearl-eyes, fiercely demanded her back. When we refused to make her go, the evil-faced woman, whose very glance sent a tremble through the little one, declared that Pearl-eyes must say out loud that she would not go with her, |Out loud so that all should hear.| But the poor little thing was dumb with fear. She just stood and looked, and shivered. We could not persuade her to say a word.
Star was hovering near. She had been through it all herself before, and her face was anxious, and our hearts were, I know. It is impossible to describe such a half-hour's life to you; it has to be lived through to be understood. The clamour and excitement, and the feeling of how much hangs on the word of a child who does not properly understand what she is accepting or refusing. The tension is terrible.
I dared not go near her lest they should think I was bewitching her. Any movement on my part towards her would have been the signal for a rush on theirs; but I signed to Star to take her away for a moment. The bewilderment on the poor little face was frightening me. One more look up at that woman, one more pull at the strained cord, and to their question, |Will you come?| she might as likely say yes as no.
Star carried her off. Once out of reach of those eyes, the words came fast enough. Star told me she clung to her and sobbed, |Oh, if I say no, she will catch me and punish me dreadfully afterwards! She will! I know she will!| And she showed cuts in the soft brown skin where she had been punished before; but Star soothed her and brought her back, and she stood -- such a little girl -- before them all. |I won't! I won't!| she cried, and she turned and ran back with Star. And the crowd went off, and I was glad to see the last of that fearful face, with its evil, cruel eyes.
But they said they would write to the mother, who had given her to them. We noted this -- the second point we should have to prove if they lodged a suit against us -- and any day the mother may come and complicate matters by working on the child's affections. Also, we have heard of a plot to decoy her away, should we be for a moment off guard; so we are very much on the watch, and we never let her out of our sight.
By this time -- it is five days since she came -- it seems impossible to think of having ever been without her. Apart from her story, which would touch anyone, there is her little personality, which is very interesting. She plays all day long with her precious dolls, talking to them, telling them everything we tell her. Yesterday it was a Bible story, to-day a new chorus. She insisted on her best-beloved infant coming to church with her, and it had to have its collection too. Everything is most realistic.
Tamil children usually hang their dolls up by their limbs to a nail in the wall, or stow them away on a shelf, but this mite has imagination and much sympathy.
In thinking over it, as, bit by bit, her little story came to light, we have been struck by the touches that tell how God cares. The time of her coming told of care. Some months earlier, the temple woman who kept her had burnt her little fingers across, as a punishment for some childish fault, and Pearl-eyes ran away. She knew what she wanted -- her mother; she knew that her mother lived in a town twenty miles to the East. It was a long way for a little girl to walk, |but some kind people found me on the road, and they were going to the same town, and they let me go with them, so I was not afraid, only I was very tired when we got there. It took three days to walk. I did not know where my mother lived in the town, and it was a very big town, but I described my mother to the people in the streets, and at last I found my mother.| For just a little while there was something of the mother-love, |my mother cried.| But the temple woman had traced her and followed her, and the mother gave her up.
Then comes a blank in the story; she only remembers she was lonely, and she |felt a mother-want about the world,| and wandered wearily --
|As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what It knows not.|
Then comes a bit of life distinct in every detail, and told with terribly unchildish horror. She heard them whisper together about her; they did not know that she understood. She was to be |married to the god,| |tied to a stone.| Terrified, she flew to the temple, slipped past the Brahmans, crossed the court, stood before the god in the dim half-darkness of the shrine, clasped her hands, -- she showed us how, -- prayed to it, pleaded, |Let me die! Oh, let me die!| Barely seven years old, and she prayed, |Oh, let me die!|
She tried to run away again; if she had come to our village then, she could not have been saved. We were in Dohnavur, and there was no one here who could have protected her against the temple people. So God kept her from coming then.
About that time, one afternoon one of our Tamil Sisters, whom we had left behind to hold the fort, passed through the Great Lake Village, and the temple women called the child, and said, |See! It is she! The child-stealing Ammal! Run!| It was only said to frighten her, but it did a different work. One day, the day after we returned, the thought suddenly came to her, |I will go and look for that child-stealing Ammal|; and she wandered away in the twilight and came to our village, and stood alone in front of the church, and no one knew.
There one of our Christian women, Servant of Jesus by name, found her some time afterwards, a very small and desolate mite, with tumbled hair and troubled eyes, for she could not find the one she sought, that child-stealing Ammal she wanted so much, and she was frightened, all alone in the gathering dark by this big, big church; and very big it must have looked to so tiny a thing as she.
Servant of Jesus thought at first of taking the little one back to her home, but mercifully it was late (another touch of the hand of God), and so instead she took her straight to her own little house, which satisfied Pearl-eyes perfectly. But she would not touch the curry and rice the kind woman offered her. She drew herself up to her full small height and said, with the greatest dignity, |Am I not a Vellala child? May you ask me to break my Caste?|
So Servant of Jesus gave her some sugar, that being ceremonially safe, and Pearl-eyes ate it hungrily, and then went off to sleep.
Next morning, again the woman's first thought was to take her to her own people. But the child was so insistent that she wanted the child-catching Ammal, that Servant of Jesus, thinking I was the Ammal she meant (for this is one of my various names), brought her to me, as I have said, and oh, I am glad she did!
Nothing escapes those clear brown eyes. That morning, in the midst of the confusion, one of the temple women called out that the child was a wicked thief. This is an ordinary charge. They think it will compel submission. |We will make out a case, and send the police to drag you off to gaol!| they yell; and sometimes there is risk of serious trouble, for a case can be made out cheaply in India. But this did not promise to be serious, so we inquired the stolen sum. It came to fourpence halfpenny, which we paid for the sake of peace, though she told them where the money was, and we found out later that she had told the truth.
I never thought she would remember it -- the excitements of the day crowded it out of my mind -- but weeks afterwards, when I was teaching her the text, |Not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold,| and explaining how much Jesus had paid for us, she interrupted me with the remark, |Oh yes, I understand! I know how much you paid for me -- fourpence halfpenny!|
And now to turn from small-seeming things to large. Ragland, Tamil missionary, is writing to a friend in 1847. He is trying to express astronomically the value of a soul. He asks, |How does the astronomer correct the knowledge of the stars which simple vision brings him? First, having discovered that the little dot of light is thousands of miles distant, and having discerned by the telescope that it subtends at the eye a sensible angle, and having measured that angle, a simple calculation shows him the size of the object to be greater perhaps than that of the huge ball which he calls his earth.| Then, |Take the soul of one of the poorest, lowest Pariahs of India, and form it by imagination into, or suppose it represented by, a sphere. Place this at the extremity of a line which is to represent time. Extend this line and move off your sphere, farther and farther ad infinitum, and what has become of your sphere? Why, there it is, just as before. . . . It is still what it was, and this even after thousands of years. In short, the disc appears undiminished, though viewed from an almost infinite distance. Oh, what an angle of the mind ought that poor soul to subtend!|
The letter goes on to suggest another parallel between things astronomical and things spiritual. He supposes an objector admits the size as proved, but demurs as to the importance of these heavenly bodies. |They are, perhaps, only unsubstantial froth, mere puffs of air, vapoury nothings.| But the astronomer knows their mass and weight, as well as their size: |Long observation has taught him that planets in the neighbourhood of one given heavenly body have been turned out of their course, how, and by what, he is at first quite at a loss to tell but he has guessed and reasoned, has found cause for suspecting the planet. He watches, observes, and compares; and after a long sifting of evidence, he brings it in guilty of the disturbance. If it be so, it must have a power to disturb, a power to attract; and if so, it is not a mere shell, much less a mere vapour. It has mass and it has weight, and he calculates and determines from the disturbances what that weight is. Just so with the Pariah's soul. Oh, what a disturbance has it created! What a celestial body has it drawn out from its celestial sphere! Not a star, not the whole visible heavens, not the heaven of heavens itself, but Him Who fills heaven and earth, by Whom all things were created. Him did that Pariah's soul attract from heaven even to earth to save it. Oh that we would thence learn, and learning, lay to heart the weight and the value of that one soul.|
And just as the majesty of the glory of the Lord is shown forth nowhere more majestically than in the chapter which tells us how He feeds His flock like a shepherd, and gathers the lambs with His arm, and carries them in His bosom, so nowhere, I think, do we see the glory of our God more than in chapters of life which show Him bending down from the circle of the earth, yea rather, coming down all the way to help it, |attracted by the influence| of the need of a little child.