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Elsie Inglis
Chapter II - The Rock from which She was Hewin


"It is not the weariness of mortality, but the Strength of Divinity which we have to recognize in all mighty things."

In the centre stands Elsie Inglis, the "woman of gentle breeding, short of stature, alert, and with the eyes of a seer," and "a smile like sunshine"; and on either side and behind this central figure the stage is crowded with men and women of long ago, the people of her race. One by one they catch our eye, and we note their connection with the central figure.

Far back in the group (for it is near two hundred years ago) stands Hugh Inglis, hailing from Inverness-shire. He was a loyal supporter of Prince Charlie, and the owner of a yacht, which he used in gun-running in the service of the Prince.

A little nearer are two of Elsie's great-grandfathers, John Fendall and Alexander Inglis. John Fendall was Governor of Java at the time when the island was restored to the Dutch. The Dutch fleet arrived to take it over before Fendall had received his instructions from the Government, and he refused to give it up till they reached him—a gesture not without a parallel in the later years of the life of his descendant. Alexander Inglis, leaving Inverness-shire, emigrated to South Carolina, and was there killed in a duel fought on some point of honour. Through his wife, Mary Deas, Elsie's descent runs up to Robert the Bruce on the one hand, and, on the other, to a family who left France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and settled in Scotland.

As we thread our way through the various figures on the stage we are attracted by a group of three women. They are the daughters of the Governor of Java, "the three Miss Fendalls." One of them, Harriet, is Elsie's grandmother. All three married, and their descendants in the second generation numbered well over a hundred! Harriet Fendall married George Powney Thompson, whose father was at one time secretary to Warren Hastings. George Thompson himself was a member of the East India Company, and ruled over large provinces in India. One of their nine daughters, Harriet Thompson, was Elsie's mother.

On the other side of the stage, in the same generation as the Miss Fendalls, is another group of women. These are the three sisters of Elsie's grandfather, David Inglis, son of Alexander, who fared forth to South Carolina, and counted honour more dear than life.

David was evidently a restless, keen, adventurous man; many years of his life were spent in India in the service of the East India Company. Of his three sisters—Katherine, painted by Raeburn; Mary, gentle and quiet; and Elizabeth—we linger longest near Elizabeth. She never married, and was an outstanding personality in the little family. She was evidently conversant with all the questions of the day, and commented on them in the long, closely written letters which have been preserved.

After David's return from India he must have intended at one time to stand for Parliament. Elizabeth writes to him from her "far corner" in Inverness-shire, giving him stirring advice, and demanding from him an uncompromising, high standard. She tells him to "unfurl his banner"; she knows "he will carry his religion into his politics." "Separate religion from politics!" cries Elizabeth; "as well talk of separating our every duty from religion!"

Needless anxiety, one would think, on the part of the good Highland lady, for the temptation to leave religion out of any of his activities can scarcely have assailed David. We read that when Elsie's grandfather had returned from the East to England he used to give missionary addresses, not, one would think, a common form of activity in a retired servant of the East India Company. One hears this note of genuine religion in the lives of those forebears of Elsie's.


Lady D'Oyly        Mrs. Lowis        Mrs. Thompson (Elsie's Grandmother)

THE MISSES FENDALL

FROM A DRAWING IN THE POSSESSION OF BRIGADIER-GENERAL C. FENDALL, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., ETC.

"The extraordinary thing in all the letters, whether[ey were written by an Inglis, a Deas, or a Money, is the pervading note of strong religious faith. They not only refer to religion, but often, in truly Scottish fashion, they enter on long theological dissertations."

David married Martha Money. Close to Martha on the stage stands her brother, William Taylor Money, Elsie's great-uncle. We greet him gladly, for he was a man of character. He was a friend of Wilberforce, and a Member of Parliament when the Anti-Slavery Bill was passed. Afterwards "he owned a merchant vessel, and gained great honour by his capture of several of the Dutch fleet, who mistook him for a British man-of-war, the smart appearance of his vessel with its manned guns deceiving them." There is a picture in Trinity House of his vessel bringing in the Dutch ships. Later, he was Consul-General at Venice and the north of Italy, where he died, in 1834, in his gondola! He had strong religious convictions, and would never infringe the sacredness of the Sabbath-day by any "secular work." In a short biography of him, written in 1835, the weight of his religious beliefs, which made themselves felt both in Parliament and when Consul, is dwelt on at length. A son of David and Martha Inglis, John Forbes David Inglis, was Elsie's father. John went to India in 1840, following his father's footsteps in the service of the East India Company. Thirty-six years of his life were spent there, with only one short furlough home. He rose to distinction in the service, and gained the love and trust of the Indian peoples. After he retired in 1876 one of his Indian friends addressed a letter to him, "John Inglis, England, Tasmania, or wherever else he may be, this shall be delivered to him," and through the ingenuity of the British Post Office it was delivered in Tasmania.

Elsie's mother, Harriet Thompson, went out to India when she was seventeen to her father, George Powney Thompson. She married when she was eighteen.

She met her future husband, John Inglis, at a dance in her father's house. Her children were often told by their father of the white muslin dress, with large purple flowers all over it, worn by her that evening, and how he and several of his friends, young men in the district, drove fifty miles to have the chance of dancing with her!

"She must have had a steady nerve, for her letters are full of various adventures in camp and tiger-haunted jungles, and most of them narrate the presence of one of her infants, who was accompanying the parents on their routine of Indian official life." In 1858, when John Inglis was coming home on his one short furlough, she trekked down from Lahore to Calcutta with the six children in country conveyances. The journey took four months; then came the voyage round the Cape, another four months. Of course she had the help of ayahs and bearers on the journeys, but even with such help it was no easy task.

John Inglis saw his family settled in Southampton, and almost immediately had to return to India, on the outbreak of the Mutiny. His wife stayed at home with the children, until India was again a safe place for English women, when she rejoined her husband in 1863.

They crowd round Elsie Inglis, these men and women in their quaint and attractive costumes of long ago; we feel their influence on her; we see their spirit mingling with hers. As we run our eye over the crowded stage, we see the dim outline of the rock from which she was hewn, we feel the spirit which was hers, and we hail it again as it drives her forth to play her part in the great drama of the last three years of her life.

The members of every family, every group of blood relations, are held together by the unseen spirit of their generations. It matters little whether they can trace their descent or not; the peculiar spirit of that race which is theirs fashions them for particular purposes and work. And what are they all but the varied expressions of the One Divine Mind, of the Endless Life of God?


ELSIE INGLIS
AT THE AGE OF 2 YEARS


 


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