FROM CAPE TOWN TO THE ZAMBESI
November 15, 1861, to February 1, 1862.
At Durban — Evil Reports —
His Stock of Beads — Vexing
Delays—Visions of Home—At Quilimane—With Livingstone—Satisfied.
The end of the geographical feat is
only the beginning of the missionary enterprise.
‘O Lord, send me to the darkest spot
on earth. ‘—John
Mackenzie, Missionary and Statesman.
reply of Mackay of Uganda when it was
proposed to abandon the Mission.
ON November 15th Mrs. Livingstone
and Mr. Stewart sailed from Cape Town in the Waldensian. Along with
them were the Universities’ mission party, which consisted of one ordained
missionary, four ladies, and the printer to the mission. These were under
the direction of Mr. George Rae, the chief engineer of Livingstone’s
Zambesi Expedition. They arrived in Durban on November
21st, and had to wait there for the Hetty
Ellen, a brig which was bringing from Glasgow Dr. Livingstone’s
Lady Nyasa (an iron steamer in sections),
which he intended to launch on Lake Nyasa.
The Hetty Ellen arrived in
Durban after a passage of ninety-nine days from Glasgow. The party had to
spend nearly five weeks in Durban, which had then between a thousand and
fifteen hundred whites, and its
streets were only straggling paths over unenclosed
Stewart was very active during this
period; preaching often; visiting on horseback nearly all the Protestant
missions within fifty miles of Durban; gathering and arranging, as his
Journal shows, ample information about the natives, missionary methods,
and the conditions of the country.
From Durban he writes: ‘It will be a
great shame if I do not write a good book full of facts and graphic
descriptions. If it be true that every man has his opportunity, I have
mine. If I miss it, I shall not have another.’
This book was never written. The
making of history during the coming years left him no time for writing it.
There are not many Caesars who can do both.
All the trials that harassed him in
Cape Town now came back upon him
in an aggravated form. His
clothes were threadbare, his funds were low, and he began to fear that ere
long he should be without daily bread.
‘I am worried, wearied with anxiety,
concerned about, not great pay, but mere bread. I have my character
slandered, my motives misconstrued. How terrible will be the blow if I
have to turn back and go home without having accomplished anything. 0 God,
save me from this humiliation.’
Expected letters from home did not
arrive: it Seemed as if his friends had forgotten him. He was Confounded
by learning that the Portuguese Consul in Cape Town had persuaded many
that he was a rogue and a vagabond. Shameful things had been imputed to
him, as was well known among influential people in Durban. His situation
was now more alarming than it had been in Cape Town, for he could sail in
the Hetty Ellen only by favour of those who were determined to keep
him back if they could.
‘Went on board the Hetty Ellen.
Captain told me he would have some difficulty in taking me on, that he
could not do so unless with the sanction of the "other party." . .
. Both yesterday and to-day they (the other party) had been on board and
did their utmost to get him to leave me behind. I asked him what charge
they could bring against me. He gave no answer to this. He regretted that
matters should be so, but did not wish to offend those who had chartered
the vessel. Mr. —insisted I was not of their party, and that I had no
right to go there. I told the Captain by whom I was commissioned, that I
was a minister of the Free Church, what my object was, and to Dr.
Livingstone I should go though I should walk all the way.... I came ashore
and talked to Mr. —. The conversation was of the most extraordinary kind.
He showed himself perfectly incompetent to understand my object or myself.
. . . The conversation was thus brought to a close. He looked me full in
the face and said: "Well, Mr. Stewart, you are not going into the country
as a trader, tell me that." I gave him no answer but kept staring at him
in astonishment and anger. He said: "I was warned against you at the Cape
on the ground that you were going into the country in the pretended
character of a missionary, but really as a trader, and that you had large
quantities of beads."
"If you wish to see how large a
quantity of beads I have, come over to this warehouse." We went in
silence. From the bottom of a packing-case I fished up a small paper or
pasteboard box about four inches square. I tore it open and displayed
eleven small red and blue beads. I threw down the box and said: "There is
the enormous quantity of beads about which the Portuguese Consul and
yourself have held such grave and anxious deliberations. These are the
goods with which I intend to monopolise the trade of the Portuguese on the
‘With that I came away and walked
home by the beach—weak, weary, dispirited. I wondered at the position I
had got myself into. I longed for the quiet and rest of home, for those
peaceful days in a snug manse in some quiet glen in the north, or softer
vale in the south or west. But here I am battling with obstinate and
unprincipled men, hewing my way to a man who will perhaps receive me well
or perhaps ill. In person and in purse I am suffering. I looked at my worn
coat and saw how threadbare it was getting. I felt truly that the
difficulties and temptations of independent acting for the Gospel’s sake,
in the effort to strike out a new path, were not all realised at once, and
that it is in detail we come to know what these difficulties and
This evening, weary and dispirited,
I feel the vastness and magnitude of the undertaking more than I have for
some time past.’
All the missionaries he met wished
to persuade him to abandon his plans in the meantime. They believed that
he must fail, and would, in all probability, soon die. Several
remonstrated with him. Regarding a zealous missionary he says: ‘He spoke
of... the supreme folly of my journey—did not wince in the least when I
told him that all his arguments against my position might have been
equally used against himself twenty-five years ago.
Let me record my conviction to be
examined some future day and found correct or false—that there is some
work in store for me to do in that part of the world. All unworthy, all
unfit as I am in many respects, yet I think I have the call to go and work
there. O then, my faint heart, be courageous. Be strong in Another’s
And as to final results, why should
I be too anxious? My object was and is pure. It was not desire of
wandering. It was not because I could not succeed at home. It was not for
the love of notoriety or desire of fame. It was and is simply because
there is fit occasion now for the opening up of the country, because it
seems as if we may "take occasion by the hand, and make the bounds of
freedom wider yet."
But somehow I have the impression
that I have a work to do in this quarter of the world. If I am spared I
will do it, though, alas, it is even now by many a privation, by much
hardship, and by a weary wandering uncertain sort of life.’ He records his
determination, should a passage be denied him, to reach Livingstone by
walking all the way on foot, a distance of about nine hundred miles. Like
a true Scot, he had determined ‘to do or dee.’ ‘The strong man and the
waterfall channel their own path,’ as the proverb puts it.
Had those who were determined to
turn Mr. Stewart back succeeded in winning Mrs. Living-stone to their
side, all his hopes would have been crushed. But she did not forget that
at her request, and for her convenience, he had changed all his plans. She
remained thoroughly loyal to him, and as they could not leave her, they
had to take both.
‘In the afternoon I went to Mrs.
Livingstone. She said it had all been arranged. She repeated her
determination not to leave without me. I thanked her with all sincerity,
and I hope with due gratitude.’
The difficulties even then were not
over. After a peculiarly harassing day he writes ‘Let me make an entry to
solace my weary hours with thoughts of that better country, when I am
weary and sick of the strife and struggle that my present life is leading
And ! John saw the holy city New
‘For thee, O dear dear country, mine eyes
their vigils keep,
Thy happy name beholding, for very love they weep.
The mention of thy glory is unction to the breast,
And medicine in sickness and love and life and rest.
And now we fight the battle and then we wear the crown
Of full and everlasting and passionless renown.
O land that seest no sorrow! O state that know’st no strife!
O princely bowers! O land of flowers! O realm and home of life.’
He was haunted and tortured by
doubts that his hero, as he had been told again and again, would not
welcome or help him, and he had decided what he would do in that case. His
Journals during these days reveal his inmost heart, the agonies he
endured, a courage mounting with the occasion, and a resoluteness that
could hardly be surpassed.
‘If it should turn out that Dr.
Livingstone refuses to do anything for me, I must not on that account give
up. It may be possible to enter Central Africa without him or in spite of
him. His assistance would be most valuable, but it is not to be reckoned
On December 24th the Hetty Ellen
[A small sailing-vessel of
one hundred and eighty tons.]
sailed. ‘I got up on the stern, behind the wheel, took off my hat and gave
the three heartiest cheers I ever gave in my life. So we sailed out of
Port Natal.’ He was in the best mood for cheering; he had won a long,
doubtful and hard-fought battle; and after all he was to reach Livingstone
and the Zambesi; and they had on board the Lady Nyasa, whose name
inspired the hope that Central Africa was soon to be opened up.
‘This is Christmas Day, and O
strangest of all contrasts is this day to this day twelvemonth. About the
same time in the evening that we were sitting together in my snug room in
Grove Street... turning round to the
fire to enjoy some pleasant chat, I was creeping, weak and weary, up from
the hold of the Hetty Ellen (where I had lain in an uneasy slumber
all day) to the deck for some fresh air. Last year, after a day’s hard
work at the Card-ross office, I made my way home through the snowy
streets, . . .
the warm room, the curtains drawn close, the
linen more snowy than the snow without.
O how my thoughts wander
homewards. It seems to me as if it would be happiness to be at home.
. . . I went forward to the bows of the ship and
held a short meeting with the men. If some seeds of eternal truth are
lodged in some hearts and if reflections be wakened on eternal realities,
then I shall be satisfied and be content to do my work along the way,
though it be to small and fugitive congregations.’
On the last day of the year he makes
the following entry in his Journal:—‘ Make me patient under calumny
whether it be at home or abroad. Give me patience to labour at details as
much as if they were the highest work. Let me not get disappointed with
the opposition that may be thrown in the way. If it shall prove not to be
Thy call for me to labour here, help me to take the lesson Thou givest for
my good. Help me to be content with Thy work in me if not me, and
out of all the vexation and trial it has brought, only let my heart be
brought nearer Thee.’
During the long days on the ship Mr.
Stewart often reflected on his position :—‘ It would almost appear as if I
were on as real a wild goose chase as ever mortal started on. Here I am
careering over a whole continent in search of work I have marked out for
myself. What I want or desire is more thorough conviction. And yet I must
say I cannot well have more. All the circumstances attending my choice are
such as to make it appear as my work to go and open directly the way for
Christianity into Central Africa. Let me realise this idea more
distinctly, and work at it. The work has yet to be done in part at least.
It is not by the Zambesi that the way in will ever be found—at least I
think so. What stronger call can I wish or expect than what I have had:
concurrent circumstances, Continuous Conviction, the ways and means
provided, and especially these two events in that most memorable year. All
things concurred: why should I have refused?...
‘It seems to me I shall be getting
old before I can effect anything up there. My life with a great aim is
aimless Yet . . I have much to be thankful, yea, very grateful to God my
Father for all His kindness and goodness to me. I possess excellent
health, better than most men in the ship. I have been turning over in my
own mind my singular position. Out of it comes my idea, large and distinct
enough at times: the introduction of the Gospel into that part of Africa,
if it shall be found practicable and advisable now. That is, if
communication can be opened, if Dr. Livingstone’s co-operation can be
secured, if men and money can be got at home. . . . It is perhaps beyond
my strength. Still, let me work on, keeping before me the idea in its
greatest breadth and simplicity—the introduction of the Gospel into a new
field. This will hallow all labour and dignify every employment, even to
the putting up of a small steamer.’
Again: ‘To-day, in thinking over the
future, I confess I feel doubtful enough. It seems to me as if I must go
home and work, taught, chastened, almost branded with the mark of
ambition, with running where I was not sent, with seeking to do God’s
work, while He refuses to have it done by such hands as mine. On the other
hand, if I can make a beginning, and gain the confidence of the Church,
why should I not try to take up Dr. Livingstone’s work, as far at least as
its moral objects are concerned. . . . In the introduction of the Gospel
into Central Africa, why may not the idea come from me as well as from any
one else? I not only give the idea, but I give my life and hard work to
the task. If it be said that I am young, let me simply answer, many men
have lived three times the age, but have never conceived the idea, and
many have conceived it who have not attempted it. Perhaps I may find Dr.
Livingstone unwilling to have anything to do with me. Am I then to stop?’
Calumny still pursued him. On
January 29th, at anchor off Quilimane, he writes:—‘For ten months has —
been going about giving the impression that I am a rogue and impostor,
thwarting me in every way and causing great additional expense. . . . I
sat long on the poop, looking up at the stars, wondering if Zambesi
expeditions harassed and worried any of these bright abodes. My view of
life partook of sadness surely, though I confess that never before was
heaven so precious, so much like home to me as since I set out on this
journey. My heart has gone thither. Only there does there seem anything
like rest for me. Whatever the future of my life may be, let my heart
remain true to that final home of the redeemed; may it ever vibrate
thither as the needle to the pole. . . . If Livingstone himself had got
discouraged, we should have had nothing today of what we now know from the
Missionary Travels. Patience and courage will yet solve the riddle,
for this Zambesi is as yet a riddle. . . . O my Father, use me, all
unworthy as I am, for Thy great purposes of love and mercy to our race on
It was scarcely possible that the
future could bring him greater trials of uncertainty and opposition than
those he had already conquered.
If in after years some were disposed
to regard the founder of Livingstonia as too tenacious of his own opinions
when they were not shared by his yoke-fellows, they should remember that
without that marvellous tenacity of purpose he could never have reached
the Zambesi, or become one of the greatest of modern missionary pioneers.
He acted as chaplain to the seamen
and had a service for them every Sabbath, and a short service for them
every evening, and was encouraged by their attention and appreciation.
On January 8, 1862, there was a cry
from the mast-head, ‘Land Ho,’ but it was a mistaken signal. As they could
get no news of Livingstone, they sailed to Mozambique.
He there met Captain Wilson,
Commander of H.M.S. Gorgon, one of the squadron cruising on the
coast for the suppression of slavery. They became attached friends, and
Captain Wilson afterwards took a conspicuous part in the establishment of
On the first day of February
1862, the Pioneer, with Livingstone on board, steamed alongside
the Hetty Ellen. ‘All the troubles and worries of many years,’ says
J. S., ‘seemed compensated in the romance of this morning. . . . Though I
have never seen him before, I have no difficulty in identifying the man.
In his white trousers, frock-coat, and naval cap, he looked uncommonly
smart and had a commanding air. . . . I could not help remarking to Mrs.
Livingstone that the Doctor seemed to be a great swell. She gives me a
gratified slap for so speaking of the great pioneer, on whom I have just
set my admiring eyes. . . . I am introduced to the Doctor, and shake
hands. "I am glad to see you here, Mr. Stewart," he said. "Thank you,
Doctor," was all my reply, except the hearty goodwill and admiration with
which I look at the man.’
All the fears with which others had
inspired him about Dr. Livingstone’s action were at an end. Concerning
this matter he had had endless fears during the past seven months, none of
which had been realised. Nine sweet words of welcome had broken the horrid
spell, and he now walks at liberty, a new man in a new world.. 'I am
satisfied,' he writes; 'I remain on board in a state of contented