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VISIT TO THE MISSIONARY SETTLEMENT OF BORSUD, GUGERAT.
IN the month of February, 1857, Mrs. A. W. Forde, an English lady residing at Baroda, paid a visit to the Society's Mission in Gugerat, comprising the three settlements of Borsud, Dewan, and Jambusir, at present under the sole charge of the Rev. Alfred Corbold. This lady had been so much interested by the accounts of the Mission contained in the Rev. W. Clarkson's small volume, entitled Missionary Encouragements in Gugerat, or the Christian Village, that she determined to ascertain by personal inspection how far the actual state of the converts corresponded with the published reports concerning them.
The subjoined extracts are taken from a lively and intelligent letter, now in print, addressed by Mrs. Forde to her friends in England, detailing the incidents of her visit to Borsud:
JOURNEY FROM BARODA TO BORSUd.
"Borsud is 26 or 30 miles from Baroda, and the bridgeless river Myhe flows between. I wish you had any idea of the dangers and adventures of travelling in Gugerat, where, you must remember, tigers and robbers are not myths, but genuine and uncomfortable realities that you might give me due credit for my intrepidity in resolving to go alone, when I found Arthur would not have time to accompany me, rather than not see the Mission. However, my courage was not to be put to so severe a test after all, as, at the last, my friend Mrs. Alban arranged to be my companion. She is the wife of the Assistant Resident here, and at her husband's request the Guicowar's prime minister sent forward a ghari and relays of bullocks to take us the last stage; and as incidents of travel' so very different from those of a trip on the London and North-Western' might amuse you, I might as well give you an outline of our journey from the beginning. The village of Omeeta, on the opposite bank of the Myhe, was to be our half-way, and thither accordingly our large tent was despatched the day before. The second was sent on to Borsud, as we were not even sure if Mr. and Mrs. Corbold were there, or if they could take us in. In the evening our servants departed to have breakfast and tiffin prepared next day, and the little dressing-rooms of our tent ready for us to wash and dress in, that
we might be refreshed enough to eat. All these preliminaries arranged, Mrs. A. and I started on horseback before sunrise last Thursday, the 12th of February, and cantered merrily on, through winding sandy lanes, bordered by the prickly pear, or the bright green leafless milk plant, the branches of which often nearly met across, keeping us watchful to protect our eyes, as one sparkle of its blistering sap is said to destroy the sight. At other times our road lay through tiled fields, or changed into a rough track by ripe crops of cotton and sugar cane; while we continually met the natives driving their ugly and meekly stupid looking buffaloes to their morning watering at the village tanks. Do not, however, imagine the landscape to be what such a description would suggest to English thoughts. It is true the fresh coolness of the morning, and the clear sky, not yet glaring us to blindness, were delightful; but you must not forget the component parts of flatness, dust, and gaping burnt-up soil. As to the glowing magnificence of an Eastern sunrise,' and all that, we are always too sorry at the unwished-for return of our great fiery enemy, to admire it after the first novelty wears off; yet, when compared to Surat, the neighbourhood of the Myhe is pretty: the foliage is massive, though sombre coloured, and the deep rent nullahs, into which the river banks are torn by the floods, are a relief after the featureless tracts
of sandy level. For the last two miles before reaching the Myhe, our road wound deep down through these nullahs, among which, in the monsoon, furious torrents will rage. In England each little ravine would have been a treasure of beauty, with its ferns, mosses, and singing stream; and oh! only to think of the waterfall and the redcrowned mountain ash. How lovely! Here were but crumbling brown banks, thinly sprinkled with withered stubbly grass, and sharp-thorned shrubs, and unpleasantly suggestive of tigers and snakes.
"It was nearly eight o'clock when we approached the river, and the sun had been unamiable for some time; we were therefore very glad to see that Pestonjee (Arthur's Parsee writer) had the boat ready, with a chair in which we were to be conveyed on board, and thereby relieved from the necessity of embracing our dusky bearers. We dismounted, and were soon at the opposite side, where the ghari stood waiting; and half a mile of terrible jolting brought us to the tent at Omeeta, where we arrived tired, but, wonderful to say, without an upset.
"And here I cannot refrain from giving you a specimen of what native education is in native hands, if it were only as a contrast to what you will presently hear of Christian efforts.
[Then follows a notice of a heathen school, omitted for want of space.]
"In the afternoon we prepared to start again, and it was still very hot as we left Omeeta at half-past four o'clock. Our ghari was the Ranee's* own-so highly had Mrs. A. been honoured. It was extremely easy and light, and so well cushioned, that we felt the cruel jolting marvellously little. There was just room for two of us to recline, and a very pretty little affair it is; the rich silk lining of crimson and gold, and the handsome tasselled blinds, and delicately made chicks which shaded the windows, were quite worthy of the royal owner. But such roads! Do you remember the old farm lane at home which led from the castle field? Because it was an asphalte pavement compared to these! Many times we were in imminent danger of an upset, which is often a serious occurrence; so that the con
*The Queen or wife of the Guicowar.
stant effort to hold on, together with the heat and dust, was very fatiguing. The district we traversed was as dreary as any I have had the discomfort of seeing in India. The villages, though frequent, looked dirtier, the tanks more ruinous, and the people more starved than usual. And the dust! By it I beg you not to understand that passive substance which lies on European highways, innocently waiting to be stirred up by the rude wheel, or agitated by inconvenient winds-but something much more like the Egyptian plague; an active nuisance which gives you no rest. As you approach, the village locality is marked by a white cloud formed of this impalpable powder, remaining as it were dissolved in the air, and never falling. There it is-you must breathe it, eat it, go mourning with it on your head, face, and garments, and peer through it to see the dim hovels, as you would through a London fog. Many times as we passed these villages with all their distasteful sights and smells, we thought what strong consolation Mrs. Corbold must have to enable her to spend her life in such a wilderness, so far from the nearest European station, or even from any travelled road. At last I think I half expected to see her dressed in a sari, and living in a native hut. The latest trace of the short twilight had faded while we were still some three miles from Borsud, so we found ourselves obliged to stop at the nearest village to call a Boomiah and Mussalchi (a guide and torch-bearer) to conduct us on. Our driver accordingly drew up, and sent into the gaum to request their attendance; and in the meantime-taking all our anxious injunctions to make haste quite leisurely-he sat himself down on the roadside, and proceeded to enjoy his hookah, somewhat discouraging to our hopes of speedy rest and quiet! It was a wild place, and as I looked out into the dark night it struck me for the first time that I should have felt rather deserted had I been alone. Ten minutes passed away, and we grew so impatient that Mrs. A., who was the Mercurias, at last threatened to inform the Burra Sahib (Great Sahib, the Resident) if they did not hasten, upon which our driver awoke to the recollection that even Madam Sahibs might be of consequence, and pre
sently we got off once again. Half an hour more of watching the stars sparkle through the thick mango branches as we jolted along, and we stopped before the Mission-house. Mr. and Mrs. Corbold welcomed us most kindly, and we felt as if we had suddenly returned to civilization as we entered the nicely furnished room, with its books, and air of bright cheerfulness, where dinner was waiting for us. Though very tired, as you can guess, we had a most interesting conversation in the evening-we heard something of their labours and encouragements; and when we at last retired, it was with a feeling of satisfaction that we had come to see, and hear, and judge for ourselves. ARRANGEMENTS OF THE MISSION HOUSEHOLD.
"Next morning, while I was still dressing, the sound of hymns below informed me that the converts were attending morning prayer. I hastened down stairs-all were assembled in the wide verandah; old and young kneeling, or rather prostrated on the ground round Mr. Corbold as he led their devotions. He prayed by sentences at a time, which they all repeated after him with a sweet natural intonation as touching as the low responses of a choir coming softened through cathedral aisles. I knelt down inside, feeling affected almost to tears, and listened while they spoke the common wants and sorrows of all human hearts in that unaccustomed tongue. Soon it was overthey rose and prepared to go about their daily avocations; but many were the looks directed to the Madam Sahib, who had, they knew, come so far to see them, and great was the regret, on both sides, that she could not converse with them in their own language. One young pair were invited up to shake hands with me. He is the schoolmaster, and not long married to a young convert girl-a bright-faced creature of nineteen or twenty-just settling down to the cares of life, from having been the wildest and merriest girl in the village. He was very high caste, and his face, as he carried up his little baby daughter Elizabeth to me, was in strange contrast to his wife's. You could tell immediately that she was of lower caste. I cannot give you a stronger proof of the utter renunciation of their most che
rished prejudices than such an intermarriage of Brahmin blue blood' with the plebeian Kooli, which, if I remember right, she was.
"Then followed breakfast and family prayer, at which, tell the children, little Mary Corbold sat beside her papa, looking so quiet and good-a little, fair, flaxenhaired thing, who has hardly in all her life seen a European child, or heard English spoken except by her parents. Soon after, the young people assembled in the verandah for school. At one end the boys sat in native fashion on the floor; at the other Mr. Corbold was surrounded by his class of girls for instruction in geography, history, and every branch of useful knowledge, which they learn in their own language. They read and write well, and the fluency with which they repeat by rote is really remarkable; but his most difficult task, and one in which he perseveres, is to induce them to think upon what they learn, and answer questions on any subject that requires the exercise of reason.
"Now recall the scene I described to you yesterday, and imagine how refreshing it was to us to see these young creatures being taught all that is useful and right; to notice their quiet restrained manners and civilized voices, and the look of intelligence and selfrespect which beautified their faces; as if at last clothed and in their right mind' they were thus learning to sit at the feet of their and our blessed Saviour. After these lessons are finished, they attend Mrs. Corbold with their needlework and other occupations. They do crochet work extremely well; my drawing-room is quite adorned by their pretty anti-macassars; so Louisa may tell Miss Dickson the Irish schools are quite rivalled. We dined at two o'clock, and directly afterwards Mrs. C. took an adult class of the women who come to read and pray with her certain days in the week.
VISIT TO THE CHRISTIAN VILLAGE.
"We had been looking forward with pleasure to visiting the converts' villagewhich is only a few hundred yards from the Mission-house-in the evening; and no sooner had the sun set than we started out. Mr. Corbold had gone to preach in the native gaum, but joined us now; and thus, here we were at last at the goal of our
pilgrimage. If I were to describe it minutely, you would perhaps be disappointed; for in England you never could realise the hopeless necessity for every place being dusty and dust coloured. You can have no fresh green trees, no pretty plots of grass and flowers, which might otherwise be the lovely setting of my picture. But when I tell you of the inside cleanliness you will give them the more credit. The houses are built on two sides of a large square, and are in the usual style of Hindoo houses, with an undivided verandah the whole length of the row. The remaining sides are fenced with the prickly pear, and one fine tree stands in the centre of what, were I to try and adapt English terms, I should call the village 'brown.' If it be true that Ruskin denies the existence of such a colour as that in nature, I can only say he ought to come to India. You can imagine our visit caused a sensation. All the inhabitants stood at their doors to bid us welcome, and most of the housewives had placed their charpay (the square frame they use as a bed) covered with a clean counterpane, at the door or inside, hoping we might sit down; but we only honoured two houses so far, of which I will tell you presently. You would have been so interested to see the groups of smiling faces, as they eagerly, and yet gently, gathered round Mrs. Corbold while she told us their names and spoke to them now and then for us. More than once three generations-the grandmother carrying the little baby, while its father and mother stood beside her-greeted us with kind bright looks. Every household there had a history of its own, deeply interesting, if I only had the time to tell. Many were the heroic struggles and noble resolves among these poor people, which the great day, revealing all secrets, will alone make known; and surely some of those obscure names will then be enrolled among them who have done great things by faith.'
"But to understand more fully about all this, you most get the little book+ I referred to at the commencement. Pray do get it,
The Frontispiece represents the appearance of the village some time before the period of Mrs. Forde's visit.
t Mr. Clarkson's Missionary Encouragements in Gugerat, &c.
and notice particularly the accounts of 'Desai' and 'Gungaram.' Their families we now visited, though, to our great regret, we did not see themselves; they had gone into Baroda to buy materials for the school-house, so much wanted, which Mr. Corbold is now getting built, and when you have read about them in that book, you will imagine how sorry we were to miss seeing them. Desai had only just returned from a tour of preaching among his countrymen. But to return to our progress. We entered each house for a minute as we passed along, and saw the girls at their homes whose acquaintance we had already made at school, and with whose names, as ticketed on the anti-macassars of their working, we had already been so familiar. In my next letter you shall have the names of the most deserving, as I am going to petition you all to send them some little encouragements in the shape of small presents. The little children, too, were pleasant to see. They were all clothed, instead of running about naked according to the usual custom; and there were two or three pretty, tiny, brown babies, with scriptural names, as 'Hope,' 'Grace,' &c., translated into Gugerattee. One was fast asleep in its clean cozy cradle, a little swinging hammock, suspended from a wooden frame very prettily turned, and varnished a shining scarlet, from the middle of which depends a bunch of bright-coloured rattling things for the little occupant's amusement.
"Inside, the houses are wonderfully nice; but it is only by contrasting them with those of other natives, that their cleanliness can be properly appreciated. At first the everlasting brown-the mud floors (which even the better class of Indian houses often have) and mud walls-disappointed me; but I soon saw that the simple furniture and utensils were quite polished. I will describe you Desai's house, which is one of the best, though very inferior to what he was accustomed to before he left all' and followed the new and better way. It consists of one large room (some of the others are divided, but I do not like them so well for this climate); in the right hand corner as you enter is a nice raised platform for washing on, with an outlet to carry off the water: a shelf runs along both angles at a convenient