Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Northern Lights
David Livingston


Many years before Walter Scott wove the name of Ulya into his song as one of a “group of islets gay tbat guard famed Staff a round,” an old man, who had long been renowned among the islanders for his wisdom and integrity, was dying in one of its cottages. He called his children to his bedside, and with patriarchal authority said, “I have searched carefully through all the traditions of our family, and I never could discover that there was a dishonest man among our forefathers. If therefore any of you should take to dishonest ways, it will not be because it runs in our blood. I leave this precept with you: Be honest.” The old man was one of the ancestors of David Livingstone, who regarded that dying charge as a nobler inheritance for the family than a coat-of-arms quartered in gold and crimson, or a castle enriched with baronial splendours. David’s grandfather, being unable to obtain support for his numerous children from his small farm in Ulva, removed to Blantyre, a village on a beautiful reach of the Clyde above Glasgow, where he found employment in a large cotton manufactory. In the noisier life of Blantyre he fondly cherished the romantic memories of Ulva; and David, when a boy, listened with delight to his Hebridean legends, and also to the Gaelic songs sung by his grandmother, which she believed to have been composed by islanders who had been captured by the Turks. The great traveller whose name will be famous as long as Lake Ngami reddens with the glow of African sunsets, or the Zambesi rushes down the awful chasm which breaks its channel, was born at Blantyre in 1813. When ten years old he was sent to the cotton-works; but was determined to make up for the defects of his education by his own exertions, and with part of his first week’s wages bought Ruddiman’s “Rudiments of Latin,” which he carefully studied. He had to be in the factory, with short intervals for meals, from six in the morning until eight at night, but as soon as his work was over he hastened to a night-school, where he remained until ten, and then, unless his mother snatched the book from his hand, sat reading and thinking until twelve. His difficulties in the acquisition of learning were great; but he was a thorough adept in the Scotch way of putting a stout heart to a steep hill, and when sixteen was able to read Virgil and Horace, and other classic authors. In English literature he preferred books of Travel and Science to Boston’s “Fourfold State,” and others of a like kind, to which his father wished him to give his attention. The last time his father applied the rod to his shoulders, was on his positively refusing to read Wilberforce’s “Practical Christianity.” After a number of years his dislike of religious reading was happily overcome by Dick’s “Philosophy of Religion,” and “Philosophy of a Future State.” His parents had carefully instructed him in the principles of Christianity, and about the time that Dr. Dick convinced him that there was no real hostility between science and religion, he began to feel the necessity of personal relationship to God through Christ. The sense of sins forgiven awoke in him a desire to glorify his Divine Benefactor, and his Missionary work in Africa was the outcome of his happy experience of Christ’s saving power in Blantyre. When he reached his nineteenth year he earned such wages as enabled him to attend Greek and Medical classes in the Glasgow University through the winter months, and also to take advantage of Dr. Wardlaw’s Divinity Lectures in tlie summer. In his college course he did not receive, and did not wish for, pecuniary help from any one; and, as day after day he trod the nine miles of road between his home and Glasgow, he thought not of the honours or emoluments of the scholar, but of greater capabilities of doing good to his fellow men. Having finished his medical , curriculum, and passed an examination more than usually I severe, he was admitted a Licentiate of Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, and rejoiced in becoming a member of a profession which has for its end the mitigation of human suffering and the lengthening of human life.

It had been his intention to go as a medical Missionary to China, but that field of Christian enterprise was closed against him by the outbreak of the opium war, and he was induced by the London Missionary Society to look towards Africa as the scene of his labours. He left England in 1840, and landing at the Cape, went to Algoa Bay, and thence to Kuruman, where the heroic Moffat had opened a paradise in the wilderness. There was before him a fine exemplification of what could be done by godly perseverance in the stone-built church and mission-house, the printing press and the garden with the shadow of vine-leaves on its herbs, and the fruit-trees blooming by its irrigating rivulet. Having received instructions from the Directors of the London Missionary Society to establish a mission further inland, he did not stay long at Kuruman, but that station was always a bright spot to him, for when he had been in Africa four years he was married to Mr. Moffat’s eldest daughter, Mary. She had much of the spirit of her illustrious father, and Livingstone had in her a helper with a brave affectionate soul, and a hand never weary in good works. After some preliminary explorations, he made choice of a part of the country occupied by the Bakatla tribe of the Bechuanas, as the site of a mission station, and removed there in 1843. While at the village Mabotsa, his left arm was in part disabled by a lion. He had shot it, but before the bullets took effect, it sprang upon him, and would have killed him if a man whose life he had saved by surgical skill when he was suffering from a wound inflicted by a buffalo, had not come forward with his spear. The infuriated beast turned its attention to its new assailant, and Livingstone was saved, but had eleven teeth-marks in his arm, while the bone was so crunched into splinters that it never properly united.

In 1845 Livingstone attached himself to the section of the Bechuanas called the Bakwains. He thought highly of Sechele, the chief, a man of bright intellect and impressible heart. When he opened his commission to the people as a minister of Christ, Sechele asked him if his forefathers knew of a future judgment. He replied in the affirmative, and began to speak of the great white throne and the dead of all ages assembled before the Judge. “You startle me,” replied the chief; “these words make all my bones to shake; I have no more strength in me. But my fathers were living at the same time yours were, and how is it that they did not send them word about these things sooner? They all passed away into darkness without knowing whither they were going.” Sechele was eager for instruction, and soon learned to read the Bible. Isaiah was one of his favourites, and he used to say, “He was a fine man, that Isaiah; he knew how to speak.” He wished to aid the Missionary in his efforts to convert his subjects to Christianity, but while as yet only in the twilight of the faith, had little confidence in the efficacy of argument and persuasion. “Do you imagine,” he asked, “these people will ever believe by your merely talking to them;” and added, “I can make them do nothing but by thrashing them; and if you like I shall call my head men, and with our whips of rhinoceros-hide we will soon make them all believe together.” When Sechele was baptized, and made a public profession of Christianity, his people thought he was under the influence of some strange glamour, and some of them addressed him in taunts, which, he remarked, in the days of his heathenism would have cost them their lives. A protracted drought rendered his position peculiarly trying, as he had been a noted rain-maker, and the general opinion was that his refusal to charm the clouds had caused the absence of rain. On account of the drought the tribe migrated from Chonuane to the bank of a stream called the Kolobeng. Livingstone built a house there, and when not employed in teaching or preaching, had to act as gardener, carpenter and blacksmith, while his noble wife, in addition to the mission work in which she took part, made candles, soap, and the clothes required by the family. A few words from Sechele suggested to Livingstone the expedition to Lake Ngami. He was accompanied by Colonel Steele and Mr. Oswell, the famous elephant hunter. The great difficulty was in crossing the Kalahari Desert, which stretches between the lake and the Orange river. The beds of ancient rivers show that it was once abundantly watered, but now it has no running water, and very little in wells. Still it is not a dreary waste of barren sand, but is almost covered with grass, and plants with tuberous roots, and after a season of heavy rain produces vast numbers of water-melons, with which both men and wild animals rejoice to slake their thirst. Livingstone and his companions suffered from want of water while they were in the desert; and at one time, when terribly parched, thought they were about to dash into a lake, which, to their chagrin, proved to be only a deceptive mirage caused by a blue haze above the white incrustations of a huge salt-pan. Waves seemed to dance before them, and trees to shadow their foliage in cool waters; and so complete was the illusion that cattle, horses, dogs and Hottentots rushed forward with the expectation of drinking to satiety. Two months from the time of starting on their journey, Livingstone and his friends were rewarded for the pains and perils they had undergone by seeing Lake Ngami, the basin of which, though shallow, is about seventy-five miles in circumference. But the Missionary, not content with the geographical discovery, wished to reach Sebituane, the chief of the Makololo, who lived two hundred miles beyond the lake. He was not at that time able to extend his wanderings in that direction, and had to return to Kolo-beng. Being still intent on the introduction of Christianity to Sebituane and his people, he took his wife and children to the lake, and would have passed over the intervening country, but the children were stricken by fever, and he was compelled to abandon his purpose for that year. The third attempt was successful, and he and his family received a generous welcome from the chief. They had passed through a district infested by the tsetse, a fly, the bite of which is fatal to most domestic animals, and Sebituane, after expressing his joy at their arrival, said, “ Your cattle are all bitten by the tsetse, and will certainly die; but never mind: I have oxen, and will give you as many as you need.” In providing for the present wants of his visitors, he gave them an ox and a jar of honey, and prepared skins soft as cloth with which to cover themselves at night. His life had been romantic as that of any hero honoured in Scottish ballad or legend. He was at one time settled in the Bechuana country, but being annoyed by hostile tribes, led his people over the Kalahari Desert, and after adventures beyond the dreams of fiction, crossed the Zambesi, overcame an immense army assembled to take the skulls of his warriors as trophies, and established himself as ruler over a wide tract of territory. His government was such as to conciliate those who had been opposed to him, for he was as benevolent in peace as heroic in war. When poor men went to his town with skins or oxen for sale, he always spoke affably to them and fed them at his own cost. Strangers, however large the party, never went away without each one carrying a present from his hand, and the common verdict on him was, “He has a heart! he is wise!”

Soon after Livingstone entered his country, he was prostrated by inflammation of the lungs, occasioned by an old wound. On the afternoon of the Sunday on which he died, Livingstone, taking his little son with him, went to his house. “Come near,” he said, “and see if I am any longer a man; I am done.” The Missionary sat with him some time, and having commended his soul to the mercy of Grod, was leaving, when he raised himself as much as he could, and said to a servant, “Take Robert to Maunku (one of his wives) and tell her to give him some milk.” These were the last words of the man of whom Livingstone wrote: “He was decidedly the best specimen of a native chief I ever met. I was never so much grieved by the loss of a black man before; and it was impossible not to follow him in thought into the other world, and to realise somewhat of the feelings of those who pray for the dead. The dark question of what is to become of such as he must, however, be left where we find it. *The Judge of all the earth will do right!” The Makololo lived among swamps formed by the overflow of the Chobe and the Zambesi. This rendered their country unhealthy for Europeans, and Livingstone had to abandon his intention of settling there with his family. There was no likelihood of his being able to resume his labours at Kolobeng; for the Dutch Boers, who had become like untaught Bechuanas in their barbarism, had broken up the mission station in that place, and were evidently disposed to perpetuate their hostility to missionary operations among the Bakwains. In those circumstances he thought it best to embark his family for Europe, and to devote himself to the task of exploring the country in search of a healthy district which might be made the centre of evangelistic influences, and of opening a path from the interior of the continent to its east or west coast. After the death of Sebituane, the chieftainship devolved on his daughter Mamochisane. She soon wearied of the office, and wished her brother Sekelutu to take it. He hesitated, but at length yielded to her earnest entreaties. Though he had not the abilities of his father he was equally friendly to Livingstone, and readily aided him in his projects for improving the condition of the Makololo.

In November, 1853, he set out on his daring expedition to Loanda, the Portuguese settlement on the west coast. He took with him twenty-seven men, two of whom were Makololo, and the rest belonging to different tribes located on the Zambesi. His baggage consisted of a quantity of beads, a little tea and sugar, about twenty pounds of coffee, books, scientific instruments, a magic-lantern, and a tin canister containing a change of clothes. Sekelutu accompanied the adventurers to the river Chobe, on which they embarked in canoes, which were paddled in waters swarming with hippopotami, and between banks on which magnificent trees formed embowered retreats for elephants, buffalos, zebras, and antelopes. From the Chobe they struck into the Leeambye, or upper part of the Zambesi, and received generous treatment from the people in the villages they passed, who presented them with oxen, butter, milk, and meal. They rested on the Sabbath; and Livingstone recorded the following of a Sabbath spent when they were on their way to the confluence of the Leeba and Zambesi: “Rain had lately fallen, and the woods had put on their gayest hue. Flowers of great beauty and curious forms, unlike those in the south, grow everywhere. Many of the forest-trees have large palmated leaves and trunks covered with lichens; and the abundance of ferns which, appear in the woods, indicates a more humid climate than any to the south of the Barotse valley. The ground swarms with insect life; and in the cool mornings the welkin rings with the singing of birds, whose notes, though less agreeable than those of the birds at home, because less familiar, nevertheless strike the mind by their loudness and variety as the wellings forth of praise to Him who fills them with overflowing gladness. We all rose early to enjoy the balmy air of the morning, and assembled for Divine worship; but amidst all the beauty with which we were surrounded, a feeling of want was awakened in my soul, at the sight of my poor companions, and at the sound of their bitter, impure words, and I longed that their hearts might be brought into harmony with the Great Father of Spirits. I pointed out to them in the simplest words the remedy which God has presented to us in the precious gift of His own Son, on Whom the Lord ‘ laid the iniquity of us all.’

The great difficulty in dealing with these people is to make the subject plain. The minds of the auditors cannot be understood by one who has not mingled much with them. They readily pray for the forgiveness of sins, and then sin again; confess the evil of it, and there the matter ends.” A tall stalwart young woman named Manenko, who was chief of one of the villages on the Leeba, while favouring the objects of the expedition, insisted on Livingstone and his companions leaving the canoes and proceeding by land. She seized the luggage, and the black men, frightened by her sharp tongue, readily succumbed, but Livingstone manifested a determination to go on in his own way. Seeing this, she laid her hand on his shoulder, and with a motherly look, said, “Now, my little man, just do as the rest have done.” He had to yield, and rode on ox-back, while she, with her husband and a noisy drummer, walked towards the residence of her uncle Shinte, who received the white man with all the ceremony of an African court, but soon slided from his dignity to encouraging friendliness. After leaving Shinte, Livingstone had to contend with difficulties that would have overcome a man of less indomitable mind. He was often enfeebled by fever, his men at times became dispirited, greedy or suspicions tribes threatened the party with deadly attacks, flooded plains and wide rivers had to be crossed, and scarcity of provisions was painfully felt. But through all he held to his purpose, and, on the 31st of May, 1864, was welcomed to Loanda by Mr. Gabriel, an English gentleman, who was residing there as a commissioner for the suppression of the slave-trade. The sea was viewed with astonishment by his simple followers, who, in afterwards relating their adventures, remarked: “We were marching along with our father, believing that what the ancients had always told us was true, that the world has no end; but all at once the world said to us, ‘I am finished, there is no more of me.’ ”Livingstone’s health was so affected by repeated attacks of fever that he had to stay a considerable time at Loanda. He might have gone to St. Helena, or have come to England on one of the ships of the British navy, but he felt it his duty to restore his people to their homes, and when convalescent started for Linyanti, the Makololo capital. The route homeward was in part varied from that of the journey to the coast, but the incidents of travel were similar. The travellers were enthusiastically welcomed by their friends who had scarcely expected seeing them again, and a grand meeting was convened in Linyanti to inspect the articles which had been brought from Loanda, and to hear the report of the wonders which had been seen. During his stay in the town, Livingstone was fully employed, for all of its inhabitants, to the number of seven thousand, thought themselves free to call on him, and he prescribed for their ailments, or endeavoured to engage them in conversation on the facts and doctrines of Christianity. He also held frequent meetings for public worship, and noticed greater decorum of behaviour on the part of the people than when he first went among them.

Though remote from civilisation and uncheered by the presence of his wife and children, yet standing before the swarthy sons of the Zambesi, and telling them of the love of their Heavenly Father in sending His Son to redeem them from their guilt and misery, he knew a sublimer joy, and held a higher position than any of those Pharaohs who were borne in golden galleys among the lotus-flowers of the Nile, or sat enthroned amid the pictorial pride of Egyptian palaces. Having found that the path to the west would not be serviceable to the Makololo, Livingstone resolved to work his way to the east coast by the Zambesi. Seke-letu aided him largely in preparing for the journey, and was anxious that he should bring back Ma-Robert, as Mrs. Livingstone was called; it being the custom of the Makololo to designate the mother by the name of the eldest child. On his departure Mamire, who had married the mother of Sekeletu, said to him: “You are now going among people who cannot be trusted because we have used them badly; but you go with a different message from any they ever heard before, and Jesus will be with you, and help you, though among enemies; and if He carries you safely and brings you and Ma-Robert back again, I shall say He has bestowed a great favour upon me. May we obtain a path whereby we may visit, and be visited by other tribes, and by white men!” Livingstone had not proceeded very far before he saw the five gigantic columns of vapour which betokened his approach to the great falls of the Zambesi.

The scenery of the river above the falls has a calm beauty, in wide contrast to their terrible grandeur. Lovely islands, like costly vases filled with choicest vegetation, dot the waters, and on either side the banks rising in green acclivities, are shadowed by the vast trunks of baobabs and groups of graceful palms, while the silvery mohonono glimmers amid the darker green, and trees resembling the elm and the chestnut remind the traveller of the boughs that knit themselves into sylvan arches above English lawns. The river, between five and six hundred yards wide when Livingstone saw it, but a thousand yards when in full flood, is precipitated into a black fissure that runs across its bed, and held for thirty miles in a narrow chasm in the basaltic rock. Some of the natives, taking advantage of the eddies and still pools, cautiously paddled him in a canoe to an island in the middle of the river, and on the very edge of the fearful crevice. Looking down on the right of the island he could see nothing but a dense cloud of spray, on which two rainbows shed their prismatic light; but on the left of the island he saw the water a hundred feet below him rolling away in a white impetuous mass. The Makololo called the falls, Mosi-oa-tunya, or Smoke-sounds-there, but Livingstone named them the “Victoria Falls.”

Many honours have been worthily bestowed on the Queen of England, but in no part of the world is her name associated with a more magnificent display of the Creator’s power than that on the distant Zambesi. With a hundred and fourteen men carrying tusks for barter, Livingstone went on his way towards Kilimane on the East Coast. When they got beyond the dominions of Sekeletu, they felt some anxiety as to the manner in which they would be received by a tribe whom the Makololo regarded as being in rebellion against their chief. The people of one village seemed disposed to be friendly, but those of another made hostile demonstrations. They began by attempting to spear a young man who had gone for water. Failing in that, they approached the travellers, and one of them, howling like a maniac and with eyes protruding and foaming lips, stood close to Livingstone, brandishing a small battle-axe with a fierceness which was anything but soothing to the nerves. Livingstone felt some alarm, but disguised it from the spectators, and would not allow his own men to knock the savage on the head as they wished to do. When his courage had been sufficiently tested, he beckoned to one of the friendly villagers to lead the madman away, and was glad to see the battle-axe at a safe distance.

The Makololo and their leader were threatened with destruction. “They are lost,” it was said. “They have wandered in order to be destroyed.” But one of their friends did them good service by explaining their character and intentions, and they escaped without molestation. From a range of hills near the confluence of the Kafue and the Zambesi, Livingstone beheld a scene which repaid him for many of the hardships and dangers of his journey. “At a short distance below us,” he wrote, “ we saw the Kafue, wending its way over a forest-clad plain to the confluence, while in the background, on the other side of the Zambesi, lay a long range of dark hills, with a line of fleecy clouds overhanging the course of the river at their base. The plain below us, at the left of the Kafue, had more large game on it than anywhere else I have seen in Africa. Hundreds of buffaloes and zebras grazed on the open spaces, and beneath the trees stood lordly elephants feeding majestically. The number of animals was quite astonishing, and made me think that I could here realise an image of that time when Megatheria fed undisturbed in the primeval forests.” Livingstone wished to cross the Zambesi near the village of a chief named Mpende, but the people of the' village instead of manifesting willingness to help the party, prepared to attack it.

Armed men were seen gathering from all quarters, and spies frequently approached the Makololo encampment. To two of these, Livingstone handed the leg of an ox, desiring them to take it to Mpende, who on receiving it sent two old men to enquire who the donor was. “I am a Lekoa,” (an Englishman) was the reply. When they found he was not a Mozunga, as they called the Portuguese with whom they had been fighting, they said, “Ah! you must be one of the tribe that loves the black men.” They returned to Mpende, who decided to grant a passage to the white man and his followers, and had them ferried across the river in canoes. After various experiences they reached Kilimane on the 20th of May, 1856. Livingstone had been engaged in explorations for the greater part of four years. His work was sublime in its magnitude and purpose; he had passed from side to side of the African continent, had sailed on rivers in which no white man’s face had been before reflected, and travelled through forests in which there had never before been the track of a white man’s footsteps; he had for ever dispelled the old fancy that the interior of Africa was a desert in which it would be vain to look for water or foliage, by ascertaining the abundance of its streams and the fertility of its soil; and he had done this, not that his name might be great before the world, that he might be renowned in the poet’s lay and the orator’s period, or that he might lift the brow darkened by the African sun before applauding multitudes in the halls of science and literature ; but to demonstrate the grandeur of the field open to the Christian Missionary, to facilitate the intercourse of tribe with tribe, to give to lands wasted and depopulated by war the aspect of a continuous garden, and to supersede the abominations of slavery by a legitimate commerce.

Promising to return and take back his men to Sekeletu, he embarked on H. M. brig Frolic, and landed in England on the 12th of December, 1856. Great enthusiasm was excited by his appearance in England and Scotland. The gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society was awarded to him; Universities vied with each other in conferring npon him their proudest diplomas; and the press eulogised him in its most laudatory strains. But whatever pleasure the applause of the nation might afford him, it was nothing to the pleasure he would have had in sitting by the fireside in the old cottage of Blantyre, and relating his African adventures to his venerable father. It was with deep sorrow he learned that his aged parent had passed away while he was in the interior of Africa, hut, on his way to his native land. Having published thejbpok in which he described his adventures and discoveries1 he was ready for another expedition in Africa, and Eord Palmerston, then at the head of Her Majesty’s Government, consented to assist him in further researches on the Zambesi, and in other parts of Africa. He went out in 1858, with a party including his brother Charles, and Dr. Kirk. They had a steam launch named the Ma-Robert in which to navigate the rivers, and one of their earlier exploits was to pass up the Shir6, one of the tributaries of the Zambesi, until they reached the magnificent cataracts to which they gave the name of the illustrious geographer Murchison.

Going overland from the Shire, they discovered the lakes Shirwa and Nyassa, and near the latter, a fine sheet of water about two hundred miles in length, were hospitably entertained by an old man in the “ pillared shade” of a fine banyan-tree, and were thankful to have a night of undisturbed rest in that natural palace. But Livingstone did not forget his promise to the men who had marched with him from Linyanti to the coast. They had stayed during his absence at a Portuguese village, where they had maintained themselves by cutting firewood, and by other employments, but were impatient for his return and welcomed him back as their true and loving father. Some of them were about to embrace him as he stepped from the boat to the bank of the river, but others noticing that he was very different in appearance from what he was when plunging with them through morasses and struggling through tangled woods, cried out, “Don’t touch him, you will spoil his new clothes.” The party started for Linyanti on the 15th of May, 1860. It was a toilsome journey, but there was an unceasing interest for the European travellers in the scenery of the hills, the rich diversity of vegetable and animal life, and the strange customs of the tribes with which they came in contact. When they halted for the night fires were kindled, long grass was cut for beds, and though they had no tent, they found it pleasant to look between the branches above them to the large glories of the African sky.

he Makololo country was safely reached, but it was not in such a prosperous condition as when Livingstone left it in 1855. Drought had caused scarcity of food, and Sekeletu had been attacked by leprosy. He had secluded himself in a covered waggon which was enclosed in a fence of reeds, and allowed no one to see him but his uncle and a noted female doctor. An exception, however, was made in favour of Livingstone, who prescribed for him, and relieved him so much that he began to have hopes of recovery. But the disease, though checked, renewed its ravages, and on his death the nation, founded by the genius of Sebi-tuane, was broken up by civil war. Having looked for the last time down the awful rift of the Victoria Falls, Livingstone and his party descended the navigable reaches of the Zambesi in canoes, and re-embarked on. the Ma-Robert, which they had left in charge of two English sailors, at a small island named Kanyimbe. They steamed to the Kongone mouth of the Zambesi, where they abandoned the Ma-Robert, which had become all but useless, for the Pioneer, another vessel provided by the British government in which they were ordered to explore the Rovuma, a river beyond the Portuguese dominion. The dismal mangroves on the coast, and along, the lower parts of the river were left behind, and they passed between beautiful ranges of wooded hills, but when they had advanced about thirty miles the water fell so rapidly, that it was necessary for them to return to avoid waiting for the rains of another year.

Bishop Mackenzie, with the agents of the Oxford and Cambridge Mission, having arrived the same time as the Pioneer, Livingstone agreed to assist them in the search for a suitable settlement on the highlands above the valley of the Shire. At one point of the journey a long line of manacled men, women, and children, came in sight, and with them a number of black drivers, arrayed in grotesque finery, carrying muskets and assuming consequential airs. There was a sudden collapse of their dignity when they saw the faces of the English, and they rushed with all possible speed into the forest. The captives were in a state of joyful amazement when their bonds were severed, and they were told to cook and eat the provisions they had been carrying for their drivers. One little boy said, “The others tied and starved us, you cut the ropes and tell us to eat; what sort of people are you ? Where did you come from ? ” Cruelty had not been restrained even by self-interest, and two of the women in the slave-gang had been shot for attempting to unfasten the thongs with which they were bound; another woman’s child had its brains knocked out because she was unable to carry her load with it at her back, and a man falling down from fatigue had his head cloven by an axe. When Livingstone had given what help he could to the bishop, he had a boat carried to Lake Nyassa, and with his brother and Dr. Kirk made researches on its waters and among the villages on its beach.

Getting back to the Pioneer in a weak condition from want of food, they dropped down the Shire, and anchored at the Great Luabo mouth of the Zambesi. They were soon employed in the pleasant task of towing in the brig which had brought Mrs. Livingstone, and the sections of the steamer which Livingstone had ordered at his own cost for river navigation. The new vessel, named the Lady Nyassa, was put together at Shapunga, and while there Mrs. Livingstone was prostrated by fever. Medical aid proved unavailing, and she died while the sunset of a Sabbath evening was irradiating the waters and filling the woods with golden glory. A coffin was made in the night, and the following day Livingstone saw the bright flower of Kuruman, his beloved Ma-Robert, buried under the branches of a great baobab tree. Though his heart was crushed by grief, he held bravely to his work, and organised a boating expedition up the Rovuma. He was away a month, and when he came back to the Zambesi found that the waters had risen sufficiently in the Shir6 to allow the passage of the Lady Nyassa.

The population had been swept from the valley of the river by slave-agents, and in the record of the voyage it is said: “ It made the heart ache to see the widespread desolation: the river-banks once so populous, all silent; the villages burned down, and an oppressive stillness reigning where formerly crowds of eager sellers appeared with the various products of their industry.,, The river swarmed with crocodiles, and in one place sixty-seven were counted on the bank. Livingstone and his friends thought that if they could get their vessel on Lake Nyassa they would be able to limit the depredations of the men-stealers from the coast, and began to make a road from the cataracts, on which to carry the Lady Nyaxsa in sections. The difficulties were great as both labourers and provisions were scarce, and before they could accomplish their object they were recalled by Lord John Russell. H. M. ship Ariel took the Lady Nyassa in tow to Mozambique, and Livingstone, with a small crew, navigated her thence to Bombay, a distance of two thousand five hundred miles. He then embarked for England, and reached London on July 20th, 1864. Mr. Webb, who had been a daring and successful hunter, entertained him with generous hospitality at Newstead Abbey; and where Byron had flashed in the splendours of a great but perverted genius, he transcribed for the press his own and his brother’s journals of their African experiences.

He was anxious to solve a number of problems relating to the water-system of Africa, and to repeat his efforts for the suppression of the slave-trade. The Royal Geographical Society seconded his purpose, and the Government appointed him to act as Her Majesiy’s consul to the tribes of the interior. His expedition was attended by many trying circumstances: most of his men deserted him, and some of them affirmed that he had been murdered. The statement was happily proved to be false; but mystery again enshrouded him, until he was found by the young American, Stanley, at Ujiji, on Lake Tanganyika. He was then all but destitute, wearied in body and depressed in mind, but hope revived in him as he saw the American colours gleaming amid the foliage; and the cheery voice of Stanley made him feel young again. Stanley urged him to return home, but he said, “No; I should bike to see my family very much indeed. My children’s letters affect me intensely, but I must not go home; I must finish my task.” He wished to complete his survey of the sources of the Nile, but his strength failed, and at length he became so weak that he had to be carried on a native bedstead.

His faithful negro men built a hut for him at a place called Hala, and beneath its grassy roof, while kneeling as if in prayer, his soul went up from the Africa he loved so well to be for evermore in the presence of the Saviour Whom he had striven to honour in all the movements of his busy and adventurous life. The dead body, after being dried in the sun, was put in a cylinder formed of bark, and over the whole a piece of sail-cloth was sewn. Then the men started with their precious burden for the coast, carrying with them also the “ Last Journals ” of the great traveller, who, when writing-paper and ink failed, made use of sheets of old newspaper and the juice of a tree in recording his observations. Zanzibar was reached after many adventures, and the body was put on board a ship bound for England. The general feeling was that Livingstone’s dust should mingle with that of the illustrious dead in Westminster Abbey.

A grave was opened in that august and venerable sanctuary, and in the presence of a large and distinguished company, the coffin was lowered into it. Members of both Houses of Parliament, and of the great scientific institutions of the country, men of renown in literature, in philanthropy and religion, assembled to do honour to the memory of the man who had once been an operative in the Blantyre factory; but the scene owed much of what was sublime in it to the venerable head of Robert Moffat and the black face of Jacob Wainwright, who had watched tenderly over his dying master at Ilala. The brazen plate on the coffin bore the following simple inscription:

DAVID LIVINGSTONE.
BORN AT BLANTYRE, LANARKSHIRE, SCOTLAND,
DIED AT ILALA, CENTRAL AFRICA.
4th May, 1873.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast