[b]The Unlucky Fifth[/b]
AND now crashed down on her a blow; nothing
she could do could ward it off from herself and
her beloved. Her fifth child was a boy.
The neighbours came to see. They compassed
her about like bees. They pitied her, they
blamed, according to their various dispositions;
they wagged their heads and turned up the palms
of their hands; and they prophesied terrible
Poor Mimosa, she was not wiser than her
generation. Had she not seen disaster follow
upon the birth of her elder sisters fifth child
(who was a boy)? And had not prosperity
attended her own family in the years following
Stars birth; for Star was a fifth child, a daughter
of good fortune. To go no farther than her own
household, had not the finding of the jewel and
the blessing on the field followed the birth of her
fourth, the Fortunate Fourth?
She listened now, downcast, unable to escape
from the feeling that she had failed them all;
vague fears haunted her; she had no word of
excuse or of explanation for her fault.
Let him perish. It is the only suitable thing
Give him away. Get rid of the danger. Give
him away. For there are those in India who
welcome such gifts and train them for their own
Kill him. There is a cactus hedge outside
that village where such children may be laid.
The crows find them and then the village dogs.
But Mimosa, true mother in every instinct,
could bear no more. Let my baby perish?
Give him to a stranger? Kill him? And her
voice rose at every question. Depart from me,
ye women. Be he ever so deadly a child of ill-
luck, he is my true Gods gift to me. And she
snatched the baby from reach of their eyes and.
held him close to her breast. Go, go, go, and
come. And she would have none of them.
And after they had gone, lamenting and
threatening, and explicitly announcing their
opinion of her, his poor fool-mother, she turned
to her God. Their Aiyos and Aiyaiyos deafened
her ears, distracted her soul, for every kind of
dreadful emotion can be crammed into that ex-
pletive. She could not speak for a while. And
then at last she found words, and she prayed that
her despised fifth might grow in strength and in
beauty, so that all must see he was fair to God.
The more they terrified her with their forebod-
ings, the more beautiful might he be. Oh, that
they might be compelled to admit her God was
stronger than all the gods, even the gods of ill-
luck even Saturn, if indeed he had returned.
She gave him no name. What name could she
give to such a son? All Indian names have
known meanings, and a Tamil will change a
letter in a word rather than use it unsuitably. L
is a letter for feminine name endings, N for mas-
culine. When a Christian wants to call his off-
spring The Sorrows of Mary, if the child be a
girl, the Madonna is Marial; if a boy, Marian.
With the usual careful regard for the suitable,
Mimosa, not finding it, waited. But when, later
on, we suggested Gift of God, she was delighted.
That was exactly it.
Her prayer was answered, and the boy grew
strong and fair. He could sit up alone at six
months, and never ailed for an hour. Then
measles came to the village, and measles is to
India what smallpox is to England. All four
boys sickened, her jewel child nearly died, and
the baby boy lay in her arms a little bundle of
Would it have been wonderful if her faith had
failed? Her husband, though restored to sense
and sight, was entirely regardless of her distress,
and he never took the least interest in her precious
little fifth. She had not money to buy the reme-
dies prescribed by the barber who doctored the
village, and, what was much more serious, could
not buy the extra nourishment required by the
poor little fellows to fortify them to fight their
illness, and they got weaker and weaker. Kept
at home as she was now, she had even less money
The temptation to give up the faith that
seemed to have failed and to resort to the ways
of those about her must have been tremendous
through those weeks. There were the demons of
disease to be appeased, and that vindictive god of
ill-luck. Only a cocoanut and a few flowers!
Was it much to give to win health again for the
poor sick children? said the voices around her
again; and again they urged charms to be bought
or found; one, sinless and inexpensive, a frog
which, if tied in a bag round the neck of the sick
and starved to death, gives its slowly departing
strength to the sufferer, at least should be tried.
There were many workers in magic among the
people of the village. They had ways of winning
help. Mimosa never doubted that. Nor can one
who has been among them doubt it either; they
also did in like manner with their enchantments.
There are no obsolete words in the Book written
for all time. Call the strange powers exercised
by those who give themselves to evil by any name
you will, those powers are.
Mimosa knew where to turn for help-at a
price. But she would not pay that price, so she
was bombarded again by the ceaseless chatter of
the women : Return to thine own gods, and will
not thy troubles cease?
Fear not, 0 thou fool-woman, the gods are
merciful. Offer the appointed sacrifice, and all
will yet be well.
What hinders thee? See, thy days are as
the surface of the water that is stricken by the
wind. Wave after wave come thy distresses;
they chase one another. So it must be with those
who depise the ancient gods.
And thy father, art thou better than he? Or
wiser? Did he forsake the gods of his people?
Did he not hear the foreign talk and refuse it?
Art thou superior to thy father? For that by
his last words he had confessed a faith, till then
hardly known to himself, had never occurred to
See her, the wisdomless! they would con-
tinue relentlessly. And harder words came at
call, and they pushed her and struck at her and
trampled her down.
And she was as sensitive as the mimosa by the
roadside that the cattle tread down on their way
home in the evening. A breath, and a tremor
runs through the little thing; it can feel even the
changes in the air caused by thunder. Touch it,
and one by one the leaflets close, each pinna
droops and the leaf-stalk drops with a jerk.
Only the pretty lilac balls look up to the sun.
It is dead, says the child who sees it thus for
the first time; but it is not. By the ditch where it
grows, there is a trickle of water from the rice
fields. Nourished by this it takes heart again and
shows its delicate bravery, as if nothing rougher
than the flicker of a butterflys wings were in the
world at all.
Succour came to our human Mimosa. The
secret hidden waters flowed about her roots and,
like her namesake by the roadside, she took heart
to live again. The very trials that befell her were
turned to means of strength for her; by them she
proved her Father. For if the work be of God
He can make a stepping-stone of the devil him-
self to set forward the work.
All four boys recovered. By my God was
their healing, she said in speaking of it after-
wards. By Him alone it came, for none of the
things I would have done for them was I at that
time able to do. And, moved by the love which
cannot rest without giving, unconcerned by ques-
tions about how the Lord of all the universe could
care to receive her trivial gifts, she sent part of
her first earnings, by the hand of her little boys,
to the church.
| 2007/5/18 21:08||Profile|
[b]The Ceremony Of The Corner[/b]
THY father, art thou better than he? Or
She had refused the word when they flung it
at her, but it rankled like a thorn in her soul, and
again and again she felt the hurt of it. And one
day, pitifully lonely, she seemed to walk back
through the years to the hour when she first
realized her father had indeed gone, never to
It was just eleven days after his death, and the
Ceremony of the Corner had begun. She saw it
now, felt it, lived in it, was part of it again.
* * * * *
The doors and windows of the long, low living-
room are shut. The air is heavy with a smothered
smell of frankincense. There, in the dimly
lighted corner, is her fathers muslin scarf out-
spread. On it she sees his little, dear, own
things, his brass betel-box, his betel-nut parer,
and a morsel of lime. She sees his books too,
some of paper, some of palm-leaf strung in a
frame. His gold rings are there, and his silver
waist-chain, his sandals and umbrella. Is that
not his step in the house? Will he not open the
door and come in ?
But no, it is only women who are coming.
Mimosa sees them, all her women relatives to
uttermost degree; for this is the Womens Fes-
tival ; no man comes near it.
Now the room is full to the doors. It is very
hot and stuffy. Each woman has a leaf in her
The doors are opening. Pressing through the
throng come Mimosas elder sisters. They are
spreading the feast for the Dead. Rice-cakes,
piles of knobbly sugar-balls, curly honey-cakes,
slabs of sticky, luscious gum, nutty lumps of moist
sugar. All except the rice-cakes are oily. Mimosa
smells the oily smells. Sesame and cocoanut mix
with the castor-oil that feeds the wicks afloat in
shallow cups in the tall brass lamp. Through
these mixed smells come little whiffs of frank-
Now by the flickering yellow light Mimosa sees
the women gather in a tight knot round the
white scarf in the corner. They are looking at
the little intimate things, and their hearts are
Mimosa is crying quietly. The sandals and
umbrella-why does he not need them for this
journey? Where has he gone?
Now one takes a censer and burns sweet spices
in it and drops incense on the flame, and slowly
censes the offerings. And each woman shakes
down her hair and, dipping her leaf into the in-
cense, lights a morsel of camphor and touches her
brow and breast and eyes with the ashes. And
she marks, each woman on her forehead, Sivas
And they chant the death dirge, swaying back-
wards and forwards till they are exhausted.
Mimosa, tears falling fast, hair in masses down
her back, sways with them, chants the death
dirge too, cries to the father perhaps not yet out
Then, with a quick change of feeling, the
women spring up, and Mimosa with them, dazed
as she is and startled; with them she twists up
her hair in a deft knot, picks up a fragment of
sweet or cake, goes out with the others to the
Now the clear blue is above them, and about
them the usual things of the day. They toss
their sweet things in the air, and call Ka, ka !
and the crows flock down pleased and noisy and
commonplace, and the wild frenzy of a moment
ago is as a dream when one awakes.
A little apart Mimosa stands, dazzled by the
bright light and the noise and the crows clamour.
And her mother pours into each outstretched sari
handfuls of the good things from that scarf in
the corner, and the Ritual of the Corner is
* * * * *
Mimosa drew a deep breath. Why had she
been so long away? She shook herself im-
patiently, the days work must be done, she must
come back to it. But still she stood among the
shadows. The spell of the drone of the dirge was
upon her. She was breathing still the heavy air,
smelling the incense and the oils, seeing through
the bluish smoke the flicker of yellow light, the
white cloth, the brown and golden cakes and
sweets, and the dear familiar things, feeling the
clutch of them at her heart. Drugged by the
scent of the frankincense, she was one of those
swaying women still, chanting the dirge of the
As one writes, one is there oneself. Such
experiences are unforgettable. Where there is
real sorrow, it is as if love, longing, a wistful
wonder, pity, sympathy, and almost awe and fear
-for the things of the dead bring him almost
back-like so many strings of a delicate instru-
ment, lie exposed for the play of unseen fingers.
The women seem to spread their very being bare
to the influences of emotion. And then the
dramatic change, the sudden releasing of a too
taut string, the run out into the open and the
light-hearted tossing of the food to the vociferous
crows, the simple, sensible turning from the
clouded mysteries of death and grief to the
commonplace of pleasant food-who that has
shared it could forget? Back to their homes the
women go, laden with sweets for the children
there, and all is good and normal again. Only
the sorely bereaved mourn still. For them the
pain is a devouring thing that cannot be appeased.
But of the meaning of it all they hardly seem
to think. No one troubles to tell them that the
throwing of food to the birds, like the laying of a
ball of rice on the dead mouth, is for the nourish-
ment of the subtle body which is all that now
remains between the departed and absorption in
the universal soul. All the women know is that
somehow the dead are helped, for a faith in life
after death continues imperishable in the human
heart, and they trust their dead live somewhere.
But Mimosa, coming slowly back from that hour
of memories, longed to know more, to be sure;
ached in every fibre for her father; above all,
yearned, burned with desire to know if indeed he
had turned to her own true God at last. He had
passed with only that one unexplained word : I
go to the Supreme.
Could it be that he had accepted the truth,
though at the very threshold of death? 0
father, she had almost cried, and then stopped,
knowing nothing of any such appeal, and turning
to the ever-living Father she rested her heart on
the knowledge of a love that she had proved and
could lay hold upon, undismayed by unanswered
questions. You know all these matters, my
Father, to You are not all such things perfectly
known? And as for me, I cannot leave You.
No, not even if my own mortal father did not
know You, can I leave You. You are known to
me, my Father. And will You not take care of
us, these my children and me?
| 2007/5/19 22:45||Profile|
[b]The Empty Oil Bottle[/b]
SHE was not through her troubles. That
treacherous illness had left weakness in its wake.
An affection of the skin attacked all four boys,
the poor baby was covered with sores and wailed
day and night. Lavish anointing with oil would
have helped: but the oil bottle was empty, and
she could not afford to buy in anything like suffi-
That was a painful hour. She could have
borrowed the oil; but the strange instinct in her,
uncommunicated by anything ever heard (and,
as we know, she could not read), drew her back
from borrowing. Our God knows, and He will
give it to us. He will help me to earn more, give
me more strength. If it be good for us, this He
will do, she said to her little boys.
But that night, as she saw the poor little fellows
distressed and crying, she must have been sharply
tempted. Ever since they were born, she had
sent thank-offerings by one of the children to the
God of the Christians whom she also worshipped.
Sometimes the gift was a small silver coin, some-
times a handful of salt, firstfruits, as it were, of
the season. The child laid it on the tray set for
such gifts and came away, no one inquiring.
Never had anyone thought anything of these
gifts, they were not published in any list. They
went into some general fund, unnoticed, except
that sometimes somebody would remark in a dim,
wondering kind of way : Why does this heathen
woman send offerings to our church?
But now all was different. If a trifle of these
often hardly spared gifts had been kept back, the
children would not be crying now. The poor
mother pulled herself together. Such thoughts
must never enter. She went to the little boys,
made them kneel on their mats: Our God can
help even in this, she said, and she prayed,
prayed for healing, for relief from the unendur-
able irritation which kept them awake, for help
for herself that she might be strong to work and
buy what was required, for comfort for them all.
Soothed and consoled, the children fell asleep.
But the oil?
Through all these years her sisters had never
thought of sending her anything. It was partly,
perhaps, that they lived far away and knew little
of her struggles, partly, it may be, they knew the
temper of her mind and did not care to risk send-
ing an unwelcome gift. She, of course, had never
spoken of her difficulties to them; if they knew
anything, they heard it from others.
For Mimosa, careful of her Gods good name,
said nothing to those who would not understand.
I know His love, how could I doubt Him? But
if I had told them they would have said, Ah,
your God is not so good as ours. See, we lack
But now, in their distant town, to the two
sisters came a thought of Mimosa and her chil-
dren, and moved by some kindly, sisterly feeling,
they sent twice during that period small, but
blessedly welcome gifts. (For so coming who
could refuse them?) The oil bottle was filled,
and there was enough to buy other necessities of
the moment. Cheered and warmed to the heart
(but she would have said cooled ), Mimosa
thanked God and took courage.
And in this way, by prayer and in confidence,
this untaught Indian woman dealt with all the
emergencies of life, taking sickness, when it
came, direct to Him, and looking to Him to heal.
She never seems to have worried over petty ques-
tions about the use of means. She would have
opened her brown eyes wide with wonder, had
anyone suggested that the good eucalyptus oil
which can take the pain from a scorpion sting
within one minute, was less a gift of her kind
Father than the rice was, and the vegetable curry
which nourished her little sons.
In a world where she had never walked, Chris-
tians were thinking and writing about healing in
answer to prayer. Of all this, of course, Mimosa
had not heard the lightest whisper, nor had she
heard a single story of the healing virtue of our
Lord. But, taught by the Spirit, she was led
straight to the heart of the matter. To her faith,
unperplexed by the talk of men, it seemed a
natural thing that He should heal. And, though
relief did not always come at once, peace did.
And is not peace of more importance? she said
in her sweet simplicity.
When asked to explain why some did not re-
cover-her little Mayil, for example-she turned
tranquil eyes upon the questioner. She did not
know; but her God did. So must it not be well?
And that was her answer continually about many
puzzling matters. With a turn of the hands
which, in Tamil, talk as much as the tongue, and
a smile that illuminates her otherwise serious face,
she says it now. Or she glances up with a quick
Father, You know. It is well, I think, Father;
it is certainly well.
Does it read like a story made up, or at least
touched up a little? But I have never con-
sciously written an untrue line, and a story, even
ever so little coloured, would be untrue.
And is there any need, even if it were allowed,
to invent or to colour where the truth of God is
concerned? Are not His doings, shown just as
they are, quite beautiful? Impossible things
are continually happening, for He has not gone
away from His world.
| 2007/5/20 21:16||Profile|
[b]Redeemer, Christ, Command Thy Double Healing[/b]
Nor has He left Himself without witnesses.
Mimosas village is well known to the police. The District Superintendent of Police once told us that there was more crime there and round about the village than anywhere else in the district. He told us stories such as only such men can tell, stories that would make weird books if anyone had the time to write them. And in the thick of this lived Mimosa and her children. But in the Clan, thus notorious for every kind of dare-devilry, was that gentle cousin, who had read Stars letter to Mimosa. No one had ever heard him say a rough word, and round about him there was a little quiet place always.
And it was he who, time and again, was a witness to the universal love of God whose poor children had forgotten Him and were becoming so terribly like the gods they had fashioned.
One day Mimosa, who had been slowly failing for some time, became very ill. Somehow she struggled through the cooking of a kind of food that would keep good for nearly three days. She had hardly got it made when she collapsed, and for three days she lay helpless. No one knew, and no one came to see her. Her frightened little boys kept close to their poor mother, not understanding what was the matter, and, when meal-times came, they took the food she had prepared before she was too ill to move. But she had nothing. She could not eat.
And she could not rise and spread her sari to the Lord; but that was her spiritual attitude. Her soul knelt.
Send help, I ask you, Father. I am sure you know how things are with me. And You know I should get up and look after my children. But see, I cannot get up. The pain holds me down. Kindly allay it, Father. This is what I ask You to do, that I may rise and look after my children and the house.
On the third day a neighbour looked in and gave the alarm. Mimosa seemed to her eyes to be dying. She had the dreaded death-delirium. She is dying, she is dying ! she cried, rushing out into the street.
And her cousin, the man of quietness, heard. Quickly he ran for a vessel of oil and, going straight to where she lay, began to anoint her with it, rubbing her gently in the Indian way. And to the amazement of the people who by this time had gathered for the last scene, she sat up.
Then her cousin went for food, and fed her children, who had just begun to be hungry, and to her he gave the rice-water given in illness; but she was soon ready for proper food, for healing had come, even health. I had no pain and soon was strong again.
And she told how astonished the people were; but to her sweet and simple faith it was wonderful so much as kind.
When she came to us for that joy is only a few chapters ahead, she lighted upon a time of new experiences with us, for healings given in answer to prayer, such as we had not had before in the same definite and public way.
And hymn sung at these meetings has a chorus which runs thus:
Touch them, O Lord,
Touch them, O Lord,
We kneel and pray Thee, touch them,
Oh, touch them, Lord.
And it goes on:
Redeemer, Christ, command Thy double healing :
For soul and body are in Thy sight are dear.
At a time of preparation for one of these meetings Mimosa sat with her calm, fixed gaze on the speaker. There was such a look of comprehension in her face that it was as if she had been through it all before. And this though she was only just beginning to learn what our five-year-old children had known ever since they were quite little, as one of them remarked. She cannot even say the twenty-third psalm off by heart, said another, astonished. It was true. She had lingered for days brooding over the first two verses, which seemed to her so beautiful that she could not hurry to go past them. And yet, veriest babe as she was in knowledge of the letter of Scripture, she seemed to have drunk very deep of its spirit, and here she was meeting us more than halfway in this, as in everything else. So the one who was speaking asked her if she would some time tell what she knew of our Lord Jesus Christ as Healer.
She smiled, and the smile that filled her grave eyes was like a glint of light on a mountain pool. And sitting by the well the next evening, while the children washed their saris , she told me the story just written down, feeling it would make it easier to tell it in the great congregation if she told it alone in the quiet like this.
But the joy of her heart was not only, or chiefly, in the healing of the body experienced in her village home, or seen now. It lay, it lies, in the blessed truth that the Lord, coming thus near to a company of His children, does, in a way impossible to describe to those who have not known it, convey a new, fresh sense of His presence and His love and His power to those thus brought into contact with Him. Mimosa had heard her son, him on whose brow Sivas ashes were rubbed, ask here :And is it really true ? Will He heal my soul as He has healed these childrenns bodies ? He had seen the one done; he was awakened to believe in the other.
It was this that filled his mothers eyes that evening with a light that cannot be expressed in terms of earths poor lights. It was starlight, moonlight, dawn, all in one; it was heavens light we saw in her dark eyes then.
| 2007/5/21 22:35||Profile|
[b]The Fears Of Love[/b]
Do love and fear always walk up and down together in a mothers heart ? Mimosa never knew what it was to be without fear for her little sons. She knew the perils of an Indian street. Thick as the dust on it, those perils lay about her boys. She could not forget the indelible impressions etched deep upon the mind of a young child by the sights and the sounds of the street.
Far back in memory lay a dreadful day when her father found his eldest son bringing into his own clean house boys with minds that were open sewers. He seized the wretched youth, tied him to a pillar in an upper room, and scourged him with a rope. Then, in his desperation, he did the most extreme thing known to Hindu fathers in the way of punishment. It is meted out sometimes to lads who want to follow Christ and have confessed at home. He put pepper in his eyes.
But vain, vain is all without the power of the cleansing Spirit to deal with the heart within. The boy was forbidden the privileges of the house, his mother and sisters saw little of him. The father wrestled alone with his trouble; his son had wasted his property, but that was nothing to this; and when at last the abject one declared his intention of joining the Way, his father smiled a grim smile; the Church was welcome to him.
The boy arrived at our bungalow on the Iyers birthday. Not a hint of his past was allowed to filter through to us; nor was his motive desire for education for commercial purposes discoverable at once. He was received as a birthday gift from heaven, a new oppurtunity; with joy and with love he was welcomed; and he lived to make more scars in hearts that had trusted him and toiled for him. Such are the griefs of angels, the shame of Christ. This boy, a man now, was back in his village, and he stung Mimosa with wasp stings of sharp words whenever he had a chance.
But she did not mind that, if only she could keep her boys from him and such as he. So she watched over them, combining that vigilant mother-duty with all else that she did.
They were almost always with her; for there was no one who felt as she did, with whom she could leave them. They helped her with her housework, though that was against custom; for in India boys are served, they do not serve.
At first they rather demurred.
Buy a little sister for us, they said to her one day. So-and-so and So-and-so naming boys of their acquantiance have little sisters who sweep the house for them and polish the brass vessels and help to cook. If we had one we need not work at all.
Mimosa smiled. In her wise heart she felt it was no bad training, this unusual training of the house, and she told the little boys it was all right. They helped her so nicely she really did not need to buy a little sister.
| 2007/5/22 17:59||Profile|
[b]Shall I Be Offended With You ?[/b]
But the childrens long illness had drained her resources, and there came a night when once again there was no food to give them.
She remembered the refused two rupees. She would not risk mans rebuff again. It will be enough, I think, if I tell my Father, was the word that lay deepest within her. But the noontide hour passed foodless; there was not a grain of rice or a single little green vegetable in the house. It was a time when it was impossible for her to go out to work.
She drew her little sons beside her. She had taught them that their Father would never forsake them, she had taught them to pray; from their babyhood they had knelt with her on their mats and followed her simple petitions. She had taught them to thank God before food, in the Christian way, for she had, in that one afternoon long ago, seen her sister do so. We have praised our God when we had food, she said to the boys as they looked up hungrily and rather tearfully. Now let us praise Him when we have none.
Then they knelt together. O God, O true God, O Father, we worship You, we praise You. And she asked that contentment might be given to them, and sleep.
The boys lay down, and they fell asleep; but the mother could not sleep. Hour after hour she knelt before her God, holding our her sari in the old way, and remembering her fathers proverb, these were the words she said:
If the gardener has to water a great many plants, will he not sometimes forget one little plant ? My children and I are Your plants. You have the whole world to look after; I think perhaps you have forgotten us to-night. But never mind. (The word is half apologetic. Who am I that I should mention it ? ) Shall I be offended with You ? Only I ask You to be as a the hen with her little chickens. Gather us under Your wings.
It was now near midnight. The house was far too poor to keep a light burning; the little boys had prayed in the dark, and gone to sleep in the dark; and these words and many more for she knelt there for a long time were spoken in the dark. The darkness is full of demons to the people of the South. I have gone out in cholera time down the unlighted streets of the villages of Dohnavur, tapping at the doors of the houses were the worst cases lay, and I have never known the door open without a cautious minute of frightened question from the inside. We were afraid of the demons, would be the apology as at last the door opened and let me in.
Now through the dark streets, lighted only by the stars, came the sound of footsteps. They stopped at her door.
She knew the voice and opened quickly. There, standing against the velvety star-sprinkled sky, she saw that same cousin who had been sent to her before. She had carefully kept the knowledge of her circumstances from him, for he was not a believer in her God.
Hast thou any food ? Have the children any food ? he asked.
What could she say ? She knew her God had sent him and throbs of joy shook her so that she could hardly speak. He had not forgotten; the Gardener had not forgotten His little plants.
But His honour was concerned in this matter, and she was very jealus fro the honor of the Lord her God; so she hesistated for a moment.
See,," she said, pointing to the sleeping boys, as the starlight coming in through the door showed them on their mats. We are happy. That is the chief thing, even more important than food. The children cried a little at first, but see, they are asleep. Our God has comforted them. Is not contentment more precious than food ?
But the cousin would not be denied.
Then she lighted a wick floating in a saucer of oil and woke the boys. In the yellow flicker those wondering children saw a brass vessel piled with white rice, and a joyful heap of the nice curried vegetables their little souls had yearned for, set on the top of the heap. The cousin could not explain why he came. All he knew was that he could not go to sleep, something in him kept on wakening him and stirring him to take that food at once, till at last he yielded, went to the place where the rice over from the evenings meal was kept, and, filling the brass vessel, brought it to them.
| 2007/5/23 21:47||Profile|
[b]I Know Him By Suffering[/b]
And so the last months passed before we were to meet. Her cousin was always kind to her. The rest of the world had only one word , turned on her always the same hard face. But it grew more and more difficult to guard the boys; and, as they began to understand and ask questions, and the pain of a divided house became more insistent, all the mother-love in her burned in one pure flame of desire that they should have what she had never had, the chance to learn fully of the true and living and holy God and themselves to choose His worship.
But how could it be accomplished ?
She gave herself to prayer. Streaming through the busy day, flowing far into the night, not always in words, for such longings as consumed her cannot wait for words: I am a prayer
This could not be wholly unknown to her world, and one day her brother, he to whom so much had been given, taunted her thus
Thou to think that thou canst pray ! From whom hast thou learned ? Thou canst not read, thou the ignorant who canst not even read the first letter (and he named it mockingly), thou to think that thou canst pray ! And he sniffed. She turned her wistful eyes upon him. He knew so much. If he would only teach her ! But far from him was such a thought.
She was only a poor woman, she said humbly to herself; she knew nothing at all. What if this her learned brother said were true ? What if it were all a mistake ? Sharply then and deep the sword entered into her soul, and that miserable brother thrust it again, twisting it around with malicious intent as his laugh rang down the street.
Wilt Thou be indeed to me as waters that fail ? Did her heart cry that at this hour ?
I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.
She had never heard the words, knew nothing of the truth that reinforces our fainting spirits. But wonderful, wonderful are the ways of the Lord. He is here, sometimes revealed to us, sometimes hidden, but always a God at hand and not a God far off. Near at that moment was the Lover of souls.
Have I been a wilderness unto thee ?
Then with a warm glow of joy she knew what He had been to her all through the bitter years. You know Him by learning, she said one day to Star, but I know Him by suffering.
It was a true word. She did not mean that Star knew Him by learning only, for Star has suffered too; but her reverent gaze was on Stars Bible and many books, and she knew that riches of knowledge lay in wonderful heaps in those rooms which she had never entered. But I know Him by suffering. That poignant little word tells all.
No, He had not been a wilderness ot her; He had comforted all her waste places; He understood that she had never learned to pray and did not know even the first letter of the Tamil alphabet, so had He not Himself taught her how to speak to Him, even as a mother teaches her little child ? And then, as if to reassure her, He came again in another small, gentle act of kindness like that of the midnight meal.
| 2007/5/24 19:45||Profile|
[b]The Five Rupee Notes[/b]
Not that Mimosa talked lightly on these matters. She seemed to have learned to guard the inner wealth from the squandering of common talk. But when she discovered, to her joyful surpise, that His children here were constantly proving His care even in these the ordinary needs of life, we met on common ground; and thus were drawn from her some of her own experiences to which we listened, wondering at the variety of our Lords loving-kindnesses, what one might call the ingenuity of love.
And, wondering more, we remembered that single afternoon so many years ago, with its medley of impressions; the excitement of the first look round a Christian house, the eager joy of being with her sister, the giving of that little fragment of truth with such a small hope on our part that so little could do anything (but oh, imperishable is every fragment of Gods eternal truth !) and then the blinding grief of the last ten minutes, which seemed as if it must have swept out of mind that one little fragment. Who could have thought that anything planted in such a confusion and upturn of circumstances would have lived, and put forth roots, and grown, and budded as a rose growing by a brook of water ? Who would have thought it possible ? How could it have been possible but for the unimaginable loving-kindness of Jesus Christ our Lord ?
And now, when things were hardest, came this new touch, as of a hand on her little affairs, that assured her of His presence. But assured is not the word. Have we a word for the incoming of that sweet sense of being taken care of, loved, not forgotten ? Perhaps such sweetness passes earths poor words.
Mimosas house-roof is made of palm leaves, and these require frequent renewal. If they are not renewed as soon as they begin to go, the roof leaks. And a leaky roof is a very miserable thing. Though one may stay in the house of sorrow, to be in a leaky roof is impossible, says the proverb.
Hers needed repair. Five rupees (between six and seven shillings) would buy leaves enough to make all safe before the heavy rain of the northeast monsoon, rain that empties itself on these plains in solid sheets of grey water, till life in our foolish South India is one great shiver. For we build for sunshine her, and improvidently forget rain and cold, except in that matter of palm-leaf roofs were try to keep them water-tight.
But food was dear, adn the boys, who were growing fast, consumed a great deal of it; food came first, roofs second; Mimosa could not spare that five rupees. And yet the roof must be repaired. She tried hard to earn more money, but she had touched her limit. Not another copper could she add to the days incoming. But no one knew. Only my God, He knew.
In the beautiful old Tuscany story, Suora Marianna, tired out after nursing a poor sick woman, fell asleep while the food she was cooking for her was still on the fire. But the Child Christ came and cared for that little pot of good, and it was not spoiled.
Oh, the Lord has many a way
That His children little think of,
To send answers whn they pray
He had finished all she failed in.
Not in legend only, in real everyday commonplace life, these things are happening still. Only we do not always see the Christ or His holy angels in the house or in the street. Perhaps we forget to look for them. Perhaps this story is meant to be a witness to the invisible.
One day, while Music and Mischief, the Fortunate Fourth, were playing near the house, a wedding procession passed with a beautiful braying band and much shouting. After the dust had subsided, Music, who had been enjoying the mad racket to the full, saw some small pieces of paper lying in the middle of the village street.
In a house where letters never come the one exception was that precious letter from Star, now stored away in the box where there are no newspapers or pamphlets, paper has to be bought by the farthings worth in the bazaar. The boy pounced on his treasure-trove; just the thing for holding safely the sticky brown palm-sugar which from time to time his mother gave him for a treat.
But one of the pieces was dirty. He left it, and a less fastidious playfellow picked it up.
Mother, mother ! he cried, running into the house. Look at what I have found. And he suggested that she might keep the five little slips of nice stiff paper for his sugar.
His mother took the crisp little slips form him, and noticed they were curiously cut and marked.
This is not common paper, she said to the boy, who waited eagerly; and, remembering that she had heard talk of paper money, though she had never seen it, she wondered if this could be that, and took the slips to a neighbour. Each one was a rupee note. The others carried off by her boys playfellow was for two and a half rupees. In her hand lay five rupees, the five rupees she wanted. Mimosa thought of her roof; but it might be possible to find the owner, so she waited.
Soon the story was noised abroad, and a man came to her door. Yes, her little boy had found the notes, she said, and she went to get them. But tender, tender are the mercies of the Lord. The man smiled and shook his head. Let the little one keep them, he said, and went his way.
Thus continually, unfailingly, she was helped, and she went on in the quietness of a sure confidence. Was ever one less defended ? But it was to the city that had no moat or river that the great word came: But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams.
The story loses sadly in the writing. First there is the poverty of bare words without any of the tender touches of living telling. And then there is the loss of even what little those same poor words can capture, as they are hammered out in type and sewn up in a book. With every change of element something eludes one, floats away like a fragrance in the air, vanishes like colour on the mountains when the living light of dawn passes into ordinary day. Often I have stopped and longed that this rare look into the life of an Indian woman might be given by means of some other sense than that of eye or ear. When shall we be able to think our tales across the sea ?
| 2007/5/27 0:48||Profile|
And now, away in Dohnavur, on Star, still unaware of all this, was laid a great burden of prayer. Mimosa and her little sons were never far from her mind. She longed to write to her and propose that she should come and see us. Over and over again she had all but written, and then it was if my hand were pulled back, she said in speaking of it afterwards, and she laid her left hand on her right hand and held it, drawing it back, like this; it was like this, I could not write, and I thought of Uzzah and the ark, and I felt I must not touch this matter, which was not mine but belonged to God.
Then she began to pray that to the boys themselves the desire to come might be given (for the desires of little sons have a certain weight with their parents quite out of proportion with their importance). This prayer lay on her for three months and then came four days fever. She was shut up to prayer.
It was a strange experience. She earnestly wanted to be well, for there was no one to do what she had to leave undone. But it was as if one work only were given to her to do. She was to live with God for Mimosa. Gradually a great peace grew in her heart, and though the thought of her sister and her sisters children was with her all the time, the sense of burden was gone.
On the fifth day it was as if the Lord Jesus came into the room. There was not the usual convalescence. She was at once quite well. He touched her hand and the fever left her; and she arose and ministered.
Letters from her old home take a week to reach Dohnavur. Within a week from that fifth day when healing was granted, a letter came from Mimosa, the first Star had ever received from her. It had been written at different times during the four days of her fever.
What takes place in the spiritual realm when such things happen ? How little we know of that which moves in and out of our ways, and hems us in on every side.
| 2007/5/28 0:03||Profile|
But we must look back a little to see how by simplest means causes are set in motion that lead to answered prayer.
Down in the dusty, noisy world a boy of fourteen sat in the stuffy twilight of a back room opening off an Indian bazaar. He was wrestling with accounts which would not come straight. He toiled earnestly, piling up little heaps of copper and silver and counting them over and over again; but there was some queer muddle somewhere, and they refused to square with the roughly scrawled figures on the tally. He was baffled.
Blockhead ! said his father tersely. Blockhead !
It was too much for the boy.
Is it just, is it fair, he flamed out, to call me `blockhead when you have never sent me to school ? Let me go to Dohnavur and learn !
If towards the end of a festivall day a cracker had walked across the street and gone off exactly under him, the father, a man of repose as he was, would have jumped. He jumped now, mentally speaking, and he stared at the boy, flabbergasted. Dohnavur !
From that day on the idea laid firm hold of Kinglet, and when he saw his mother he told her of it. She saw in it the answer to the longings of her heart. Of Stars, of course, she as yet knew nothing.
But the letter, written by dictation, told Star that for some time for about three months, Star read with awe her oldest boy had been beseeching to go to Dohnavur. Might she bring him ? Might she bring her second boy, too ? She wanted to give them to God. Her husband had consented. When might she come ?
About three months. It could not be a mere coincidence; but Star, who has all her life gone to the bedrock of things, knew that such words as I give my sons to God might mean much or very little, and she did not, let it be remembered, know anything of all we know of those brave years. She did not know that Mimosa was a worshipper of our God.
But she did know that the Hindu father did not fear that his boys would become true and earnest followers of Christ. Had he not seen many a lad, his own nephews, for example, sent to school to be educated, returned in the holidays to be subjected to all the ancient influences, finally turned out, what ? Christians, perhaps, but keeping caste as of old, which after all is the great matter, dealing with life in the Hindu way, not trammelled by Christian principles when they proved inconvenient; in fact, much like their fore-bears only more or less educated. Who fears veneer ? Not the Hindu father who knows the firm quality of the wood below. He would not deny that there have been a few exceptions. But they are not frequent enough to cause alarm.
Star wrote, therefore, explaining clearly that this, as an end of education, did not even come into our thoughts. And she told them our aim, even the conversion of the children, their deliverance from caste, and their devotion to the service of Christ; and she explained what the means were, which we felt led most directly to this end.
It was a hard letter to write, for it seemed to shut the door and turn the key in the lock. It would have been harder still to write, could Star have known what lay behind that letter of Mimosas, seen the marks of the tears on it, felt the throb of the years in it. These were for the moment hidden from her. But she did greatly long to have the handling of her sisters boys, and there was one moving word; a dictated letter can tell so little, but Mimosa referred to her childhoods desire, and said perhaps it was to be fulfilled in these her sons.
Back went Stars answer, slowly as letters go through country places, and at last it reached Mimosa. Who with even the faintest flicker of imagination can fail to see her, as she listened to the unimpressive readiing of it by her husband ? Star had thought it would almost certainly close the door. It had taken no common courage to write it. All Mimosas courage was needed to hear it read slowly and disapprovingly. Word by word it dropped into her heart like lead. It was impossible that her husband would ever agree to this.
But her Father would hear the prayer of His child. How often He had heard ! Deep in her spirit there was peace; she prayed again.
And the impossible happened. We call the opening of the iron gate of Peters prison a miracle. We know something of iron gates. We also know something of the Hindu, not as he is in the modern and modified India, but as he is in his own fastness of caste; we know that no iron gate that ever was hung is more firmly padlocked than is his mind where such things are concerned. Futile as the father had proved himself to be, poor-spirited as he undoubtedly is, he was and is a Hindu. He would have had his caste behind him had he said No. And yet he said Yes, and Mimosa wrote that they would come. Her heart sang with the birds that day.
| 2007/5/28 23:24||Profile|