It is not the busy life she leads that makes a poor woman unhappy: it is the ill-treatment she endures. A kind word is seldom spoken to her: but a hard blow is often given. Her own boys are encouraged to insult her because she is only a woman. She is taught to worship her husband as a god, however bad he may be. There is a proverb which shows how much women are despised in India. “How can you place the black rice-pot beside the golden spice-box!” By the rice-box a woman is meant: by the spice-box a man: and the meaning of the proverb is that a wife is unworthy to sit at the same table with her husband.
In this manner a wife is treated: a widow is still more despised. However young she may be, she is not allowed to marry again; but is obliged to live in her father’s house, or (if she has no father) in her brother’s house, to do the hardest work, and never to eat more than one meal a day, and that meal of the coarsest food. Widows used to burn themselves in a great fire with their husbands’ dead bodies; but the English government has forbidden them to do so any more; but their hard-hearted relations make them as miserable as possible.
MISSIONARIES.—There are hundreds of missionaries in India; but not nearly enough for so many millions of people. The Hindoos call them Padri-Sahibs, which means “Father-Gentlemen,” and they give them this name to show their love, as well as respect.
Once a missionary who had been long in India was going back to England for a little while. It was from Calcutta that he set sail. The Christian Hindoos stood in crowds by the river-side to bid him farewell. Among the rest was a little girl with her parents. She was a gracious child, who had turned from idols to serve the living God. The missionary said to her, “Well, my child, you know I am going to England. What shall I bring you from that country?”
“I do not want anything,” she modestly replied. “I have my parents, and my brother, and the Padri-Sahibs, and my books, what can I want more?”
“But,” said the missionary, “you are only a little girl, and surely you would like something from England. Shall I bring you some playthings?”
“No, thank you,” said the child; “I do not want playthings—I am learning to read.”
“Come, come,” said the missionary, “shall I bring you a playfellow, a white child from England!”
“No, no,” answered the little girl, “it would be taking her from her parents.”
“Well then,” said her friend, “is there nothing I can bring you?”
“Well, if you are so kind as to insist on bringing me something, ask the Christians in England to send me a Bible-book and more PADRI-SAHIBS.”
[Illustration: MISSIONARY’S HOUSE.]
This was a good request indeed, but to get Padri-Sahibs is a hard thing to do. Who can tell how much good they have done already! There are many Christian villages in India, and they are as different from heathen villages as a dove’s nest is different from a tiger’s den.