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The Martyres of Blantyre
Chapter VI. Robert Cleland, the Missionary of Milanje


It is no small thing to say of Robert Cleland that he is not unworthy to be named along with two such men as Henry Henderson and John Bowie. He was one with them in spirit, and he was not behind them in courage and devotion. All three had been students of Edinburgh University, Cleland being the last to go forth and the first to be called home. His career was the shortest of the three, but it was long enough to show how deeply “Africa” was written on his heart, and it is not unfitting that with the pioneer missionary who opened the way, and the medical missionary who soothed the sufferings and healed the sickness of the African people, we should link the ordained minister of Jesus Christ who went forth there to teach and to preach the glorious Gospel of the blessed God.

It was neither from the beauties of a rural parish nor from the culture of city life that God called this servant. He came forth to the work of God from a humble home amidst the smoke and dust and noise of Scotland’s “Black Country.” Born in Coatbridge in 1857, he received his early education first at Dundyvan, and then at Gartsherrie Academy there. After leaving school, he served his apprenticeship as an engineer in one of the large engineering works of which there are so many in that neighbourhood. As a boy he was quiet, painstaking, and in everything very conscientious. I can remember the foreman under whom he served part of “his time” speaking to me years ago of the quiet, industrious lad who never seemed to care for sporting with the other apprentices, but whose mind seemed to be always on his work, always anxious to understand everything about it. Good man! little did he know where the lad’s mind really was. That wish to understand everything, too, doubtless made him the “handy” man he was afterwards, able to put his hand to anything—to clean a watch or repair an engine or construct a bridge,—an invaluable gift for such work as lay before him. In the winter evenings he attended the Gartsherrie science classes, where he gained certificates of the Science and Art Department for mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, and other branches of science, and this training and the possession of these certificates also proved helpful to him in his future career.

It was in his twenty-first year that he finally decided to give himself to the mission-field. Like Isaiah, he was worshipping in the House of God when the call came to him. It was in the parish church of Garturk, on a Sunday in the late autumn of 1878, and the writer, then a young minister, was making his first missionary appeal to the congregation over which he had been set only a few months before. Looking round the congregation, which included a large number of young men, the preacher asked, “Why should not a congregation like this give not only of its means but of its men to the mission-field?” Very earnest was the look that then shone in Cleland’s face. It was as if his very soul was gazing out of those deep, dark eyes of his. He seemed to hear the voice of God saying, “Whom shall I send? and who will go for us ?55 and reverently he answered, in his heart, “Here am I! Send me.” From that hour he was consecrated to God and to Africa. Much and often did he pray over it, but from that decision he never swerved or turned back. With characteristic reticence he buried his secret in his bosom for months. No one heard from him one single word telling of the new purpose that filled his soul, but all the time he was busy preparing for the work to which he had devoted himself. He determined to qualify himself for the position of an Ordained Minister, and his first step was to begin toiling away quietly by himself at his Latin and Greek. His fellow-workmen used afterwards to tell how he brought his Greek Grammar with him to his work, and how, when the dinner-hour came and the others went home to dinner, he would sit in a corner of the shed eating his “piece” and getting up his Greek verbs. At length the time came when his secret must come out, or so much of it, at least. One day he called for me and, to my surprise, asked if I would examine him in Latin and Greek to see whether I thought him fit for entering college. As was to be expected, his knowledge of these subjects was comparatively meagre, but the offer of a little “coaching” during the week or two that remained ere the opening of the college session was gratefully accepted, and the progress of these few weeks showed what a power of work he possessed.

In due time he entered the University of Edinburgh, and there, in face of difficulties that would have daunted a less determined spirit, he worked his way through the full seven years of a university course, helping at the same time to maintain himself by teaching. He worked very hard, studying late and early. No one knew how much it cost him to make up all the leeway of those years, and to keep up with class-fellows who had been taught and drilled in classics at school and then gone straight to college. In all his classes he acquitted himself creditably, gaining the approval of his professors and the respect and regard of his fellow-students. For a short period after his first college session was ended he went to Lancaster. Here it was that his Science and Art Department certificates stood him in stead, for it was by the help of these that he obtained an appointment as a teacher of science in Lancaster Commercial School. He greatly enjoyed his time there, and in after-years he looked back gratefully to the experience he had gained while thus engaged, and to the friendships which he had formed there. In due time he returned to college and resumed his hard and steady work. During several winters he taught for some hours every evening the boys residing in the Home of the Edinburgh Industrial Brigade. It was congenial work, but it was very hard. The big lads, sometimes rough, though not unkindly, felt the influence of his strong personality and devotion to them, and they liked him. But it was no light thing to keep them occupied and busy with their work through a whole winter evening, and when at ten o’clock he left them and walked wearily home to his lodgings, he was often much more fit for going to bed than for sitting down, as he regularly did, to pore over his own studies till the small hours of the morning. Yet he never flinched, and the thought of giving it up or turning back never once crossed his mind. In the summer of 1886 he went for some months to be missionary at Achnacarfly, in Lochaber, under the late Dr. Archibald Clark of Kilmallie, and kindly recollections of him still linger among the people there. When visiting in that locality recently, I was struck with the affectionate way in which some of the people I met still spoke of him. The tremble in the voice and the eyes that filled as they spoke told of the strong tie with which there, as everywhere, he seemed to attach people to him. He was very happy in his work in Lochaber. There was something about the great hills and the quiet glens that appealed to him, and he loved tramping about among them—those great long walks he had to take preaching and visiting his people. It was like a foretaste of his future work, and left its impression upon him. Twelve months later, when, in his first letter home, he was describing his approach to Blantyre, he wrote:—“For miles we were passing through a steep, hilly country, prettily wooded, so like Clunes Hill in Lochaber that sometimes T could almost believe that time was a year rolled back.”

All this time he was dreaming of Africa with an enthusiasm that was almost a passion. Eagerly he read every book that could give him information about it. But Livingstone was his great ideal. More than one pilgrimage did he make from his home at Old Monkland over to Blantyre to visit the birthplace of his hero and see the mills where he had worked as a boy and the scenes amidst which he had been reared. That a double portion of that master’s spirit might rest upon him was the constant prayer of his eager youthful heart. Every step of the great traveller’s journeys through the Dark Continent he had traced again and again, and every station in the African mission-field he knew. At that time it seemed as if there was no prospect of his being sent to Africa by his own Church. The funds at the disposal of the Foreign Mission Committee, and responsibilities already resting upon them, greater than they could meet, forbade their increasing the staff of missionaries in the African field; but he laboured on in his preparation, assured that God would open a way for him when the time came that he was ready to go. And so He did. Cleland’s last session at college was within a few weeks of being ended when an unexpected call came for a missionary to go to Africa. The Bev. David Clement Scott, head of the Blantyre Mission, had been home on furlough after five years of work in Africa, and by his fervid enthusiasm and stirring words had kindled a flame of sympathy for African Missions in many hearts. One point which he had repeatedly and strongly urged was the importance of strengthening the Mission by opening a new station at Mount Milanje, an important centre and the residence of a powerful chief, about four days’ journey from Blanytre. The old difficulty, however— want of money—stood in the way, and Air. Scott, at the close of his furlough, had to sail again for Africa without having obtained the additional missionary he desired. His words of appeal, however, remained behind him like seeds taking root in Christian hearts, and long before he reached Blantyre their fruit began to appear. A few friends in the congregation of St. George’s Church, Edinburgh, impressed by the necessity and the opportunity, offered to bear the expense of sending out a missionary if one could be sent at once.

Shortly after this, there was a gathering of students in the rooms of the Church, 22 Queen Street, and Dr Scott, minister of St. George’s, who was present chanced in the most casual way to meet Cleland among others, and made his acquaintance. It was not long before he discovered where the lad’s heart was and what was the desire of his life. Subsequent inquiries abundantly satisfied him that here was just the kind of man that was needed for Milanje, and for which he and his friends were looking. The result was, that, after careful consideration by the Foreign Mission Committee, the appointment was offered to Cleland. Surely no one called to leave his native land ever received the summons with more eager joy. He wrote to his mother a characteristic letter, and on getting back her willing consent,—written with characteristic solemnity and reverence,—he accepted the appointment. One hardly knows whether to admire more the mother lovingly yielding her son to God for such work, or the son going forth in such a spirit. “Of course, I am grateful for the appointment,” he wrote to the Secretary of the Foreign Mission Committee, “and I trust that a devoted life may reveal my sincerity of heart better than any mere words can do.” He was licensed to preach the Gospel by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in April 1887, and on the 29th May following he was ordained a Missionary to Africa in St. George’s Church, Edinburgh. It was during the sittings of the General Assembly, and there was a crowded congregation, among whom were many ministers and others from all parts of the country. To him, with his shrinking, sensitive nature, it was a terribly trying occasion. “ I would rather cross Africa,” he wrote to a friend, “ than face the awful ordeal. It seems a shame to put a poor broken-down mortal through such a public trial, but I suppose the feelings of the one must be sacrificed that those of the many may be touched. This seems to be the law of all true life.” Certainly, as he stood there the centre of the great gathering, so pale and earnest-looking, and yet so calm and self-possessed, with the gentle light shining in his dark eye, there was something that drew the sympathies of all hearts to him, and a link of personal sympathy was forged which made many a one watch with prayerful interest the steps of his subsequent career. At the close of the service hundreds thronged round him eager to shake hands with the young missionary and bid him “ God-speed,” among them being a number of boys and girls, for each of whom he had a personal word, which no doubt they would long remember. His mother was prevented by illness from going to Edinburgh to be present at his ordination, and he had only a few days in which to go home to Old Monkland and see her before he left. Busy days they were, full of preparations and hurried farewells to old friends and companions. Then he paid a flying visit to Leeds on his way south,— to say “good-bye” to a brother who was there,—and then on to London, all within the week. Here, too, he had a busy time—so many places to go and so many things to be got, so many instructions to be attended to, and withal so little time to think, so little opportunity for the pent-up fountain of feeling to find outlet. When he went on board thelioslin Casllc he met another young missionary also on his way to his first work in the African field, Mr. W. Bell, an engineer, who was going out to Mandala in the service of the African Lakes Company. At once the two took to each other, and during the long voyage the companionship and communion of a kindred spirit was very helpful to both. The vessel sailed from London on the 9th June. I was one of those who stood and Baw him wave his last farewell as the Roslin Castle steamed out of the dock, and a bright farewell it was, without one trace of sorrow or regret. Even in that hour of parting from home and kindred, a bright joy lit his face at the thought that Africa and his work there for God were now so near. After watching till the little group of friends on the pier-head had faded in the distance behind, the two young missionaries sat down and had a long, earnest talk about the work to which they were going, and it drew them very close together, that talk. Then Cleland went below to write, and as the vessel was steaming out of the Thames he wrote to his most intimate college friend, and this was how his letter began :—

“Bound for Africa at last!—the land of my hopes, and, I trust, sooner or later (it may sound strange), the land of my grave! Oh, to live for it and die for it! and to lie there with all the seeds of your work growing up around you until we rise to meet Him!

I always like to think of sleeping my long sleep in one of those vast solitudes—solitudes in which the wail of the slave now rises to heaven, but which one day will be a garden of God.”

To another friend he wrote at the same time:—

“It is not simply that I am leaving for Africa. That never gives me a thought—except the thought. Am I worthy for work in Africa? Will I be able, with the help of a Higher Hand, to do something for Africa? . . . May He who sustains all and is over all prepare me, soul and body, for the Master’s use! The great ideal of my life has been to do something for Africa, even if it should be His will that I only take possession of the land by a grave. Oh that, in the truest sense, I may be consecrated for such a work! Africa has been the dream of my past, and God’s leading encourages me to believe that it will be the joy of my future. It is among my dearest wishes to be at last laid in its solitudes as a finger-post to point the way for others. I may fall, but I will as certainly rise again.”

Sadly prophetic words! How we read them now! And how soon have they been fulfilled! They were not like the ordinary words of a student writing to his chums. They were a revelation of the man himself, and showed what manner of man he was and in what spirit he went forth. “Africa” was written on his heart. To do something for poor suffering Africa was the dream of his life, and no sacrifice did he think too great, not even life itself, if he could thereby help in healing “this open sore of the world.” Surely it was God who implanted that burning desire in his soul! And to think that already his work for Africa is over, after only three short years and a half! To-day there is sorrow in the old home, sorrow among the missionary band at Blantyre, sorrow in the Church ; but Cleland has got his wish. God gave him his desire. He worked for Africa; he died for Africa; and now he is sleeping his long sleep in one of those vast solitudes, and the seeds of his work are growing, and will grow up around him until the day when he shall rise to meet Rim.

Of his voyage out little need be said. It, too, was like other voyages. He greatly enjoyed it, and was much benefited in health by the rest and the sea-breezes. He had a great regard for the captain of the ship, and spoke most gratefully of much personal kindness which he had received from him. Changing his steamer at the Cape, he found sailing up the east coast rather tiresome, and was not sorry when they anchored off Quilimane. Here the first shadow fell on his path. Tidings met him there of the death of poor Mrs. M'Illwain, who had died at Vicentis as the Mission party preceding him went up the river. After two days at Quilimane, he, with a fellow-traveller as a companion, started at midnight in a small boat for Vicentis, on the Zambezi, under conditions which reduced the comforts of travelling to a minimum. “We slept,” he says, “ in a little grass house in the boat, about three feet high and four feet wide. At our heads were the bare legs of the native steersman; at our feet (mine reached far out of the house) were the rowers, singing their musical chant as they pulled together at the oars.” Three days of this, followed by two and a half days’ march through the long grass under a burning sun, brought them to Vicentis, the heat during the latter part of the march being very trying. Writing of it long after, he said he had never felt it so hot as he had done that day. At Vicentis he expected to get the African Lakes Company’s steamer up the River Shire, but on his arrival he learned that the steamer would not arrive for a week yet. Vicentis is a cheerless and unhealthy spot on the river-bank, and very reluctantly he waited there. The end of the long week came, but not yet the steamer. A day or two later came Lieutenant Wissmann, who had just crossed the continent, taking four years to the task. He had passed through Blantyre, and gave a glowing account of the place; but he also brought word that it would probably be a fortnight yet ere the steamer could arrive. Two or three days longer Cleland waited, and then, as there seemed no prospect of the steamer, he started in a small boat with a crew of ten men, not one of whom knew a word of English,—which, he says, not unreasonably, he found “a great disadvantage!” The slow, weary progress of a passage up the river in one of these boats has often been described—the high banks, and the mud, and the rank smell of the decaying vegetation, and the heat, and the discomforts of the boat, and the irregularity of meals, and the chance character of the food that one could prepare for himself when the men stopped to cook their own food. One does not wonder that, in the midst of these, the fever-tyrant had his hand on him before he reached Blantyre. “On my fourth day out,” he says, “I had an attack of what I call ‘bilious fever.’ It lasted a little more than four days, after which, however, I was able to take to shooting hippos.” Some time later, however, he writes:—“My health here (at Blantyre) has been quite as good as at home, but they say that my ‘ bilious attack ’ on the river was fever, and in the circumstances I dare say I could hardly fail to have been saturated with malaria.”

Eleven days after leaving Vicentis he reached Ivatungas, the landing-place for Blantyre, from which it is twenty-nine miles distant, and here he inserts a characteristic parenthesis:—“By the way, Ivatunga is the Makololo chief, and was one (if Livingstone’s ‘boys.’ Strange that so many of the river chiefs were Livingstone’s men, who seem to have risen by force of character to what they are! ”

The march up the road from Ivatungas was speedily accomplished, and about 9 p.m. in the evening he reached Blantyre, Mr. Scott and Mr. Duncan having walked out some miles to meet him. Like all who go to Blantyre, he fell in love with it at first sight.

His expectations of it were high. “Every white man I met between this and Quilimane,” he wrote, “had said to me, ‘But wait till you see Blantyre! ’ ”But, high as they were, these expectations were more than fulfilled, and he wrote home a glowing description of the place, the work, the people, and, above all, of his own kindly reception among them. “Even the little black boys and girls,” be said, “came peeping into the room to see the new minister.”

“I wish you could see Blantyre,” he wrote again; “you cannot conceive how much good it is doing to Africa. Boys are here trained to all kinds of work, and many of them are deeply pious. In a few years these will spread through the land. Even the natives who pass through here daily with their spears, bows and arrows, and guns are being silently influenced for good. You cannot expect with a race like these such results as some good people at home are tired looking for, but one realises here that day by day a change is being wrought on the whole country round about.”

At once he fell into line and took his place in the work of the Mission. That gift he had of winning the affection of all who knew him well soon endeared him to his colleagues, and his stay at Blantyre was a busy and happy time. But the post for which he was destined was Mount Milanje, a mountain district about fifty miles from Blantyre, on the very edge of the Shir6 Highlands. Here Mr. Scott, the head of the Mission, had long desired to plant a station. It was not only an important native centre, but it was also a place where the Arabs were in great numbers, and from which caravans of slaves were continually being sent to the coast. It was, further, as Cleland said, the hey to Quilimane, as, in the event of the river being at any time blocked by war, Milanje commanded the direct line of the overland route to the coast. But Milanje was ruled by a powerful chief, Chikumbu, who was unfriendly to the Mission. He had an old-standing grievance as to some runaway slaves of his, Chipetas, having been harboured at Blantyre years before. The first step, therefore, was to visit Chikumbu and secure, if possible, friendly relations with him. Accordingly Mr. Scott, accompanied by Mr. Duncan, set off on a journey to Milanje for this purpose. Arrived at Chikumbu’s after their fifty miles’ walk, they found that the chief refused to see them personally. For two days they were kept waiting to learn his decision as to the reception which should be given them, and one can understand the anxiety of two such days, waiting on the whim of a powerful and treacherous chief whose cross mood or fretful temper might at any time utter the word which would mean their death. But their hope was in God. After two days, Chikumbu, who still refused to see them, sent his headmen to demand the immediate return of his slaves. Mr. Scott met this demand with a counter-proposal that he would redeem the men, purchasing their freedom at thirty-two yards of calico per head. This proposal was at once rejected by the headmen with sundry threatenings and war-like demonstrations, and with a disappointed heart, but grateful to the Providence that had spared their lives, Mr. Scott and Mr. Duncan returned to Blantyre.

Baffled thus for a time at Milanje, Cleland went to Chirazulo,—a place fifteen miles from Blantyre, on the way to Domasi,—and founded a Mission station there. Here settling among a people who welcomed his coming among them, he erected with his own hands, aided only by native help, a building for a church and school and a house for himself, making roads, building bridges, laying out a garden and fields, as well as establishing a school and teaching the natives, preaching all the while both by life and lips the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Here he laboured for nearly three years,—a true pioneer, with heart and head and hand all disciplined and ready for whatever God might give him to do. For a great part of that time he was there alone, with never a white man for a companion. It was a lonely post, but he loved the African people with a wonderful devotion. “You would love them too,” he wrote, “if you only knew them.” He saw much of the horrors of the slave-trade, and often his heart bled for the wrongs and sufferings which he saw inflicted. More than once with his own money he redeemed the slave, and with his own hand sawed the slave-stick from the neck and set the captive free. Again and again, in his loneliness, he was down with the terrible fever, but ever as he recovered he was at work again. One of his letters.written from Cliirazulo on the 27th October 1S88, gives some idea of the heart-pressure under which that work was carried on by the lonely missionary:—

“Work here,” he says, “continues as usual. We cannot boast, but I do pray that some seed may fall on good ground; and I know it will. Yesterday we went to the hill in the morning as usual. Just fancy yourself in Africa on a mountain side. The sun is shining brightly on the native village, with its beehivelike grass huts. Here and there under huge trees are gathered groups of people. On a rock near, women are pounding maize, men are weaving mats, and the children are happy at play. A little way apart from one of these groups, and alone, we see a slave sitting painfully under the weight of a heavy slave-stick. His eyes are dreamily following us. We speak to a group of women, and they ask us when rain will come.  Father,’ they say, ‘pray for rain, or there will be hunger.’ After conversing with groups here and there, and asking them to come to the 1 talk about God,’ we get all gathered under one village tree. Just as the service is beginning we hear far away up on the hillside a woman calling with that peculiar strained voice—strained to suit the distance. All is silence. Then we hear again, and this time we distinguish plainly the word ngondo, and soon several of the men rush up. It is news of war. Some boys from the other side of the hill have been captured at Lake Shirwa when fishing with their fathers. All is excitement, and we hear them say, ‘They will be taken to the Matapwiri,’—a great Arab centre on Milanje, whence they will be driven to the coast, sold, and perhaps shipped off who knows where? In a little some one suggests, ‘Let us be quiet until the white man speaks about God, and then we will hear about the war.’”.Writing at another time he says :—“At the service in church here we had about a hundred people present, but no children. The mothers, I heard, were afraid, and kept them at home. One of those present was a slave whose future was very uncertain. A more touching scene could not be depicted than when he stood alone outside our little church, with no one to take up the burden of his heavy yoke, and so help him on; or as he sat on the ground behind the rest, so wretched-looking, painfully twisting his neck in the slave-stick to look up or around him. But what is this case, heartrending though it be, to that of the thousands who are herded down that dreadful way to the coast at Shirwa? I found I was on a great slave-route, and saw a caravan said to be with ivory. ‘ Yes,’ said one of my boys, ‘but black ivory!’ . . . That poor slave I spoke of has begged me to buy him. ‘I may be sold to the coast soon,’ he said. ‘Buy me, and I will do your work.’ His poor heart is breaking, but his is only one in a multitude of breaking hearts in this dark land. I shall never forget how one day a poor woman rushed into the station and cried for me—for the white man—to save her.

‘They are taking me to the coast to sell me,’ she said.

'Oh, save me! They have stolen me from my home with the Chikumbu tribe over the river.’ I often wonder where she is now. Perhaps her heart broke altogether on that dark way to the coast, or is breaking now, somewhere far away, for her old home over the river. People at home cannot, I think, feel as we feel when we stand face to face—ay, and often helpless—before such scenes. But with life before us hope runs high, and we thank God in our loneliness for the great blessedness of being able to do our weak little best to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the great brotherhood of men. Oh, come over and help us! ”

With that strange, deep love of Africa filling his soul, everything about its poor degraded suffering life seemed to go to his very heart. In another letter he wrote:—“How touching it was to hear, through the grass walls of the hut where I slept, a woman wailing for hours for her husband, who had long been dead! She had dreamed of him in the night, and (as is the custom) she came out and paced before her hut through the silent hours of the morning, calling him to come back to her in strangely pathetic and yet weirdly musical words, pausing at times to speak to the dead in her natural voice.” But, indeed, never a letter came from him in which he did not sigh over the cruel wrongs of his adopted people; and how his indignation flashed when he thought of self-satisfied Christians in the Church at home supinely indifferent to these things, callous to such sufferings, and deaf to every appeal on their behalf! He could not understand such people.

In the autumn of 1888 the Rev. Alexander Hetherwick, missionary at Domasi, a station fifty-five miles north-east of Blantyre, came home on a much-needed and well - earned furlough, and during the sixteen months he was absent Cleland took charge of the work at Domasi, along with his own work at Ckirazulo, walking regularly the long distance between the two places. There he had the companionship of Mr. R. S. Hynde, teacher of the Mission school. The companionship of such a one was a great joy to him, and a fast friendship was formed between the two. It was no mere formal supervision of the work that he took while at Domasi. It was like everything he did, thorough and laborious. Nor was it confined to preaching and teaching. He was as ready with the spade and the hammer and the axe as he was with the Yao lesson-book or the New Testament. At the time of Mr. Hetherwick’s return we read in the Blantyre Supplement—the little magazine printed at the Mission printing-press:—

“Mr. Cleland has done Roman work here during the sixteen months of Mr. Hetherwick’s absence. A footpath eight miles in length has been hoed along the base of Mount Zomba from Mr. Buchanan’s plantations to the station at Domasi, and has facilitated immensely communication between the two places.

Mr. Buchanan cleared part of it at his end as far as the boundary of his property on the Naisi. A good road has been made from the station to the chiefs village, crossing the Domasi River by a bridge which is a triumph of engineering skill. A water-channel fully a mile long brings the water of the Chifunde stream close to the station—a great boon. Thus we have good roads and good water,—two potent civilizers of a new country.”

Then he returned to Chirazulo and continued the work there, not without encouraging tokens of blessing. To help him in it he had with him Kapito and his wife, Rondau,—natives who had been in the Mission at Blantyre ever since its commencement. They had been baptized a few years before, and on Easter Sunday 1887 they had sat down together at the Table of Holy Communion, the first communicants of the native Christian Church. Now they are helping to train their countrymen in the knowledge and love of Christ, and faithfully and happily Cleland and they lived and worked together. From time to time he paid short visits to Blantyre, where he was always a welcome visitor, and occasionally he preached in the church there. This was always a trial to him, for he was terribly diffident of his own powers; but some of those who were accustomed to hear him, speak of his remarkable power in the pulpit, of his singularly clear perception of the truth, and of the spiritual power with which he preached.

But Milanje was his destination, and he never lost sight of that goal. All this time he was looking across to the mountain as the place where he was yet to be, and repeated journeys thither had been undertaken in hope of finding the door open for starting the Mission there. After the visit of Mr. Scott aud Mr. Duncan, already referred to, and while th.ey were returning to Blantyre disappointed at Chikumbu’s refusal to make terms of friendship, the chief changed his mind, or perhaps he took a different view of the situation from his headmen. Perhaps it occurred to him to ask himself whether all those yards of calico should be lost, or whether it might not be dangerous to offend “ the white man.” However it might be, he sent his son to Blantyre with a diplomatically polite message. He was sorry that, having been away on a hunting expedition, he had not seen Mr. Scott (!), but he hoped he would soon return to visit him, when he was sure some amicable terms could be arranged. Some time after, Mr. Scott paid a second visit, accompanied by Dr. Bowie, and saw the formidable chief in his native village, when they were able to settle the matter of the slaves and their redemption, and to establish friendly relations between him and the missionaries. A formal document was prepared, and duly signed by the various parties to the agreement. It is something of a curiosity in its way. It is as follows:—    '

“Blantyre, Quilimane, East Africa,

26th May 1858.

“By these presents be it known that I, the headman of Chikumbu, have received on Chikumbu’s behoof, to carry to Chikumbu from Mr. Scott, head of the Blantyre Mission, on behoof of said Mission, two trusses of cloth, and that this is the earnest to Chikumbu himself of three more trusses yet to follow* to be divided amongst Chikumbu’s headmen as Chikumbu himself shall see fit, and that these five trusses shall be for settlement of all past mlandu concerning slaves and all else, and the establishment of friendly relations between the English and the said chief, Chikumbu.

“In witness of which first part of transmission to said Chikumbu, we, the undersigned, append our signatures.

(Signed) John Bowie.

David Clement Scott.

Masonga (his mark).

D. C. S., Witness.

Chendombo (his mark).

D. 0. S.”

“Blantyre, 4th June 1888.

“Be it further known that three trusses of calico are this day handed over to Chikumbu’s headman, Masonga, and headman Kanjole with him, on behoof of Chief Chikumbu; and that Chikumbu through them now declares that these five trusses (viz., the two formerly sent and these present three) finish the mlandu; that there is no further ground of quarrel between the Chief Chikumbu and the English on account of slaves which formerly ran away, or on account of any one of the slaves; and that friendship is herewith established and secured.

“In witness whereof, we, the undersigned, set to and append our names.

(Signed) David Clement Scott.

Masonga (his mark).

Kanjole (his mark).

John Bowie.

Douglas R. Pelly. Henry Henderson.

"Signed this fourth day of June, eighteen hundred and eighty-eight years, at Blantyre Mission Station, Shire Hills, East Africa.”

Such were the title-deeds to Milanje. They opened its closed door, and the chief now expressed his desire that the missionaries would come and live in his territory. How gladly would Cleland have gone! But by that time it was impossible, for Hetherwick was away home, and he had Domasi on his hands as well as Chirazulo. There were other difficulties in the way, too. Chikumbu himself was fickle and uncertain, although when, at Christmas-time (1888), Cleland paid a visit to the mountain, he still desired him to come and live there. Portuguese troubles, too, were now hanging over the Mission, hindering everything and increasing the difficulties and uncertainty and it was not till May 1890 that Cleland was able to go to Milanje definitely to settle. Chikumbu received him with every token of friendship, aud both the Wayao and their neighbours, the Wanyasa, under Chipoka, welcomed him; but it was not long before it became evident that Chikumbu’s friendship was not to be depended on. Cleland’s tent was pitched under the great trees on the side of the mountain, and he desired to purchase land on which to erect a house. So many difficulties and troubles however, were raised regarding the land, that Cleland’s carriers, who had brought his things, began to suspect the chief of seeking a quarrel which might furnish an excuse for seizing the goods, and it was with difficulty that they were prevented from running away in the night. Several days full of anxiety and trouble were thus spent, when, to make matters worse, Cleland was laid down with fever. After a few miserable days he was sufficiently recovered to go off, leaving tent and everything, and make a hurried journey to Blantyre. Here he got quit of his fever, and after a few days more, was able to return to Milanje, Mr. M‘Ilwain, the joiner, accompanyiug him. Soon things seemed satisfactorily settled, and Mr. M‘Ilwain was able to return to Blantyre, leaving Cleland to the work of clearing the ground and preparing the sun-dried bricks for the erection of a schoolhouse and of establishing the Mission by opening a school for the Wayao children.

And so he was on Mount Milanje at last! Oh, the joy it was to him to be there ! I wish I could let you see the eager, happy missionary at his work,—his little tent under the great trees, and himself and his co-workers busy as could be, making bricks, digging foundations, teaching the children. In the September number of the Blantyre Supplement he wrote:—“After more than ten years of effort the Mission has at last secured a footing on Mount Milanje!” The goal of his hopes was reached. The standard of the Cross was planted on those heights which he had been sent out to claim, and his heart rejoiced.

For a time things went smoothly, but his difficulties were not yet over. They were in reality only beginning. The two tribes which were to unite in peace around the missionaries of the Prince of Peace were still savages, and they could not easily throw aside their wild nature. Chikumbu, who had been for years the scourge and terror of his district, was still eager to have the Wanyasa people under his rule, and treachery and cruelty, war and bloodshed, soon broke out around the young Mission. One day Chikumbu made a sudden and fierce attack on the weaker tribe, the chief himself at the head of his warriors wildly waving an Arab flag inscribed with verses from the Koran, and urging on the slaughter and destruction. Cleland, who was at the time suffering from fever, hurried to the scene, and heedless of risk or danger, made his way through the fight to the chief, and quietly but firmly taking the llag from his hand, ordered him to desist. Strangely impressed, the chief submitted, and yielded up his llag, saying, “Lalal (Cleland) has a brave heart, like Chikumbu himself.” For a time the fighting was over, but the feud was deep-seated and chronic, and Chikumbu was grasping and treacherous, and again and again trouble and difficulty arose. At one time Cleland thought of removing to some more peaceful part of the mountain, but to do that was to leave the Wauyasa to the tender mercies of Chikumbu, so he held on at his trying post. His faith failed not, and his work went on. “Our small school, since started,” he wrote, “will, we trust, not be hindered by future hostilities, and we hope that the difficulties of these last three months may be but the birth-throes of a future day of peace, when the healing beams of the Sun of Righteousness will kindle the love of man to man in the dear love of God.”

Early in September he went to Blantyre to attend a meeting of the Missionary Council, when his friends wrote that, in spite of the troubles he had gone through, he was looking much better than when he was there before. He was so bright and happy, and seemed altogether in such good spirits, though his troubles were by no means over, and it was settled that Dr. W. A. Scott should accompany him on his return, to support him iu any further difficulties with Chikumbu. Sunday the 14th September was Communion Sunday at Blantyre. In the morning they all sat together at the Table of the Lord, and in the evening Cleland preached and closed the Communion service. Very beautiful,—almost like a vision,—is the glimpse we get of the little church that day, and the little company of disciples, for so many of whom it was the last Communion on earth. I love to think of Cleland closing that memorable service, so far away from the Coatbridge smoke,—so far from the green hills of Lochaber,—in the heart of suffering Africa, which he loved so passionately, yet in the bosom of the Christian church planted there through Christian sacrifice,—in that fellowship of the saints which was so sweet to him, and in the very holy of holies of the Christian temple, standing himself with uplifted hands speaking words of benediction on the Church of God. It was from such a time of Holy Communion that he went out again into the night, as his Master went to the garden and the Cross.

There is not much more to tell—only the end. Dr. W. Scott and he returned to Milanje, but the difficulties with Chikumbu increased to such an extent that they were relunctantly obliged to leave him, for a season at least. They made a journey down the Ruo, and then returned to a place at the Linge, between Chikumbu’s and Nkanda’s. After spending a few days with a headman, Chakamonde, they went into a little round native hut near the place they had chosen for their new quarters. There they remained for a week, during which time Cleland went across to Chikumbu’s and had “the stuff” brought over. Then they set to work to prepare a new station, Dr. Scott digging pits for the poles of the schoolhouse, and Cleland working at a bit of a road to the stream. That afternoon (Tuesday) Cleland took ill—very ill. Both of them had been having touches of fever, off and on, for some time; but this was much more serious. What a blessing it was and how thankful we are now that his companion at the time was the doctor! Everything was done that could be, but there was no improvement. He grew worse. On Thursday messengers were despatched to Blantyre for more medicines and port wine, and the doctor had him moved a great way up the hill, near the rocks. By this time he was completely prostrate. It was a terrible place for wind up there near the hilltop, so Dr. Scott had a little house built, nine feet by twelve, high in the centre, and strong, with a grass roof, and “tolerably cosy.” All Friday and Saturday he lay there, every symptom growing alarmingly worse, till the doctor had almost lost hope. He was dull and apathetic and not like himself, “which,” says Dr. Scott, “made one feel it was a patient he was attending, and not poor Cleland, which was somewhat easier to do.” On Saturday the messengers returned from Blantyre, bringing a machilah to convey him thither. He was himself anxious to go, so next morning men were got for carriers,—fortunately without much difficulty—and the party set out for Blantyre as fast as it was possible to go. That night they stopped to rest at a place called Medima, a weird, dreary place. Dr. Scott, writing of it, says:— “I would rather have gone on to Chintzorbedzi, for Medima is a doleful place. It is the place where that Japanese died; and there is another grave, too; and lions infest the place. Cleland, however, wished to stop there, and we did so. It was a strange, strange night. At midnight he was so ill I scarce thought he could live through it, and I said to myself, 'If not tonight, it will be to-morrow night.’ The hiccough was constant now, rhythmical, every third inspiration; and what a sound it made there—without another in all the lonely forest except now and again a leopard grunting round the camp.” After resting till 2.40 a.m. the caravan started again. It was pitch-dark, and they had to pick their way through the bush by the light of the candle-lantern which Dr. Scott carried, who, poor man ! worn with fatigue and watching, was sleeping on his feet as he walked, and from time to time stumbled into the bush as the path took a sharp or sudden turn. A dreary sunrise saw them eagerly pushing on, and at 10.30 the sad procession filed into Blantyre, twenty-four hours and a half from the time they had left the mountain.

Arrived there, remedies were applied and everything that love and skill and care could do for him was done. The sight of friends around him, and especially of bis beloved Dr. Bowie, acted like a tonic. He brightened up on seeing them. “ It does me good to see you,” he said to Dr. Bowie; and he really seemed to improve. Alas ! it was the flickering before the darkness. Dr. Bowie and Mr. Scott arranged to divide the night between them to watch by him by turns, but in the first watch of the night, about ten o’clock, while Mr. Scott was with him, without a word, without a struggle, he passed away. His warfare accomplished, his toils over, another “ Livingstone Man” had died for the redemption of Africa. As they looked on him there, so peacefully at rest after all his labours, a feeling almost of envy was in every heart,—cc Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest ' from their labours ; .and their works do follow them."

This was the ioth of November. Next day they laid him in the little cemetery at Blantyre, natives and Europeans sorrowing together around his grave. Thus Cleland of Milanje sleeps his long sleep, as he prayed that he might, in one of the vast solitudes, and already the fruits of his work are growing up around him. Already those vast solitudes are becoming the garden of God.

“Now the labourer’s task is o’er,
Now the battle-day is past,
Now upon the farther shore
Lands the voyager at last.
Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now
Thy servant sleeping.”

Very deep was the impression made at home by the news of the young missionary’s death,—and especially among those who, like himself, were still young men. He had been one of the earliest members of the Church of Scotland Young Men’s Guild—a Union embracing a large proportion of the young men of the Church. He had been the first to go from its ranks to the mission-field; and he was the first of tbeir number to be laid in a missionary’s grave. We do not wonder, therefore, that when the Guild first met in its Annual Conference after his death, the Delegates present, representing their brethren in all parts of the land, resolved to erect in the new church at Blantyre a Memorial Tablet recording their affectionate remembrance of him and his work. And so, beside the tablet that there commemorates Henry Henderson, and the windows that speak of Dr. Bowie, there is to be seen a simple brass tablet bearing the following inscription:—

The Rev. ROBERT CLELAND,
Born at Coatbridge, Scotland, September 4, 1857.
Ordained a Missionary to Africa, May 29, 1887.
Died at Blantyre, November 10, 1890.
This Tablet is erected
by
The Members of the Church of Scotland Young Men’s Guild, in Memory of
the First of their Number laid in a Missionary’s Grave.
“Till He Come.”


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