A CRY FOR HELP IN THE JUNGLE
Wm. Butler, founder of the Methodist missions in India, was fleeing from Bareli, north India, with his wife and little ones. The terrifying news of the Sepoy mutiny at Meerut and then at Delhi had come; and no time was to be lost in getting to Naini Tal, a European hill station in the Himalaya Mountains. Native bearers were engaged to carry the doolies (palanquins). In these rode Mrs. Butler, whose health was precarious, and the two children with the baggage.
They had entered the Terai, a jungle region at the foot of the mountains, “reeking with malaria, and the haunt of tigers and elephants.” Dr. Butler, in his “Land of the Vedas,” says:
“The rank vegetation stood in places like high walls on either side. At midnight we reached that part of it where the bearers are changed. The other palanquins had their full complement of men; but of the twenty-nine bearers for whom I paid, I could find only nine men and one torchbearer; and this, too, in such a place!
“Darkness and tigers were around us; the other palanquins were starting one after another, each with its torch to frighten away the beasts, the bearers taking advantage of the rush to extort heavy bakshish.”
Rendered desperate, Dr. Butler put the two children in one palanquin with Mrs. Butler. He ran after a man with a cart, who was disappearing up the road, and compelled him to turn his bullocks and take onboard their servant Ann and the little baggage they were taking in their flight. Then the doctor turned to watch the bearers start on with Mrs. Butler and the children. But not one stirred.
“They were exhausted by extra work, and might have even fairly refused to carry two children with a lady; and to have taken either of them on the bullock cart was impossible. Delay seemed ruinous to the only plan by which I could get them on at all. If the men refused the burden and left, they would take with them, for their own protection, the only torch there was, which belonged to them; and we should have been left in darkness, exposed to the tigers and the deadly malaria . .
“It was an awful moment. For a few minutes my agony was unutterable. I thought I had done all I could; and now everything was on the brink of failure. I saw how ‘vain’ was ‘the help of man.’ And I turned aside into the dark jungle, took off my hat, and lifted my heart to God. If ever I prayed, I prayed then. I besought God, in mercy, to influence the hearts of these men and decide for me in that solemn hour. I reminded Him of the mercies that had hitherto followed us, and implored His interference in this emergency. My prayer did not last two minutes; but how much I prayed in that time!
“I put on my hat, returned to the light, and looked. I spoke not; I saw my men at once bend to the dooly [a simple litter used to transport the sick or wounded].
It rose. And off they went instantly; and they never stopped a moment, except kindly to push little Eddie in, when in his sleep he rolled so that his feet hung out.”
On they went through the dark night, on through the jungle, and out at last into the safety of the mountain passes. Dr. Butler knew that it was the Lord’s own interference that had turned the hearts of those heathen coolies when he had exhausted every human resource in vain.
“God is the refuge of His saints
When storms of sharp distress invade.”