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Autobiography of Alice A. Bailey - Chapter II
When I had at last discovered just who they were and who were the ring-leaders, I sent an orderly up to the barracks one morning to ask those of them who were not on duty to come down to the Soldiers Home at a certain hour. For some reason, none of them was on duty and sheer curiosity brought them all out. When they arrived, I loaded them into native carriages (gharris), put in all the makings for a picnic and drove to a place that in those days was called Woodcock Spinney. It was a lovely, hot, clear day and the fact that the place was then infested with snakes (kraits, deadly and small) did not seem to bother us. There we made tea and told silly stories; we asked riddles and never once did we talk religion and never once did I refer to their iniquities and then, as evening came on, we went home. I had said not a word of censure, of criticism, of request or pleading. They were certainly a bunch of mystified men. All through the evening I said nothing and, still bewildered, they went back to barracks. The next afternoon one of our coffee-shop managers sought me out and asked me if I would mind coming to the coffee-shop for a minute. There I found all these men cleaning the walls and painting them, scrubbing the floors and making the place much nicer than it had ever been before. The question in my mind is: was I too terrified to bring the matter up or was I just clever? The episode happened: I did not intentionally plan it.

I learnt a great lesson at that time. I proved to myself, with much surprise, that understanding and love will work with individuals when condemnation and accusations will fail. I never had any more trouble with that gang. One of them is still my friend although I have lost sight of all the rest during the forty years which have elapsed since then. [75] This man came to see me when I was in London in 1934 and we talked of those far away times. He is doing well. I made, however, a disturbing discovery. These men had been won over to better things, not by my eloquent preaching or by any emphasis upon the theological precept that the blood of Jesus could save them, but simply by loving understanding. I had not believed that that was possible. I had yet to learn that love is the keynote of the Christ's teaching and that it is His love and life that saves and not any violent theological pronouncements over the fear of hell.

There are many little incidents connected with this time in India that I could relate but they are probably of more interest to me than anyone else. I went from one Home to another, attending to the accounts, interviewing the managers, holding endless Gospel meetings, talking to the soldiers about their souls or their families, visiting in the military hospitals and dealing with the many problems which naturally arise when hundreds of men are stationed away from home and are faced with the problems of life in a hot climate and an alien civilization. I became very well known to many regiments. I once totaled up the number of regiments I had worked with in Ireland and India and found I had worked with forty. Many of them had their own name for me. One famous cavalry regiment called me "Granny." Another regiment of the guards, for some unknown reason, always addressed me as "China." A well known infantry regiment always spoke of me or wrote of me as the B.O.L., which means the  "Benevolent Old Lady." The majority of the boys called me just "Mother," probably because I was so young. My correspondence got very heavy and I came to know the mind of the soldier very well and never found them talking as portrayed by Rudyard Kipling. In fact, the average Tommy Atkins resents his portrayal of them. [76]

I played thousands of games of checkers (draughts, as we call it in England) and became very good at the game, not because I play it Scientifically, but because I had an uncanny way of guessing what my opponent was going to do. The smell of cocoa and fried eggs was forever in my nostrils. I used to "vamp," as it was called, the popular songs on the piano in the reading-room until I got sick to death of hearing the men roar out, "Just like the ivy, I will cling to you," etc., or, "All the little pansy faces looking up at me to smile," which were the popular songs of the day. The men had their own versions of the words of them, however, which I tried my hardest not to hear so as not to have to interfere. I played hymns on the harmonium for hours and these I could almost play by heart. I had a very good mezzo soprano voice in those days with a wide range and exceedingly well trained. I lost it in singing in smoke filled rooms. I suppose I sold more packages of cigarettes than a tobacco store. I had a grand time leading the hymns at every meeting. Soldiers are flippant and it was not long before I learnt that when they shouted for the "chicken hymn" they meant, "Foul I to the fountain fly," etc., and that the hymn dealing with the "child she-bear" referred to the line, "Can a woman's tender care cease towards the child she bear." We used Moody and Sankey's hymn book which, from its really lovely, lilting tunes, has its points but as literature and poetry it is just too awful.

I remember one night at Chakrata I had announced the hymn, "Shall we Gather at the River," which goes on to assure us that if we do we shall be happy forever. I said in a loud, clear voice, "Now, men, whilst we sing this hymn we shall either sing it 'when we gather at the river we shall be happy foriver' or 'when we gather at the rever we shall be happy forever'." I looked up and there at the back of the room was a General, his adjutant and his staff who had [77] come down to inspect the home and see what we were doing. They discovered, with astonishment, a somewhat religiously flippant young woman in a white dress and blue sash who resembled no evangelist they had ever pictured. I would like to say here that I have always met with endless kindness from the officers of the various regiments and I suppose that the moments in my life (now far behind) when I really was preposterously conceited were coming out of church, after church parade, and getting saluted by the officers and men. The thrill I got is still with me.

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