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It is difficult to summarise Livingstone’s achievements during the eleven years he had spent in Africa. He had penetrated furthest north from the Cape of any white man. He had discovered Lake Ngami, and the upper reaches of the Zambesi. He had given Christianity a foothold among the Bakwains and the Makololo. He had converted one of the most remarkable chiefs in Central Africa. He had built three houses with his own hands, and had taught many hundreds to read. He had exercised the healing art to the relief and benefit of thousands. He had made some progress in reducing Sechuana to a grammatical language; and had even composed hymns in it. He had made invaluable scientific researches, and had enriched our knowledge of the animalia,{55} flora, and fauna of Central Africa. Above all, he had seen at first hand the horrors of the slave traffic, and had vowed himself to the ultimate prevention of this form of “man’s inhumanity to man.” Eleven busy, arduous, and perilous years had brought him to midlife. He was now about to dedicate all his ripe experience and unique powers of head and heart to the religious and social redemption of the dark interior of the continent to which he had consecrated his life. Even during his brief sojourn at the Cape he had been perfecting himself for the work that lay before him. He had studied astronomy, and had learned to take observations under Sir T. Maclear, the Astronomer Royal, who wrote of him afterwards: “What that man has done is unprecedented. You could go to any point across the entire continent along Livingstone’s track, and feel certain of your position.” In David Livingstone’s judgment it was impossible for a man to be too thoroughly equipped for the great business of a missionary.

In one respect his equipment was neces{56}sarily poor. His financial resources were so meagre that he had to fall back on very lean kine to draw his waggon, which is why the journey to Kuruman took a full three months. There a broken wheel detained him, and possibly saved his life; for this was the time selected by the band of Dutch marauders to wreak their vengeance on him, and on the hapless tribe of Sechele. It is a shocking story, and in his sympathy with Sechele, sixty of whose people had been massacred, Livingstone could almost forget his own personal loss, though he grieved sorely over the wanton destruction of his books. Amid all his sorrow and heartbreak, he can yet smile at the humorous side. “We shall move more easily now that we are lightened of our furniture. They have taken away our sofa. I never had a good rest on it. We had only got it ready when we left. Well, they can’t have taken away all the stones. We shall have a seat in spite of them, and that, too, with a merry heart which doeth good like a medicine.” Never in this world was anyone who had so{57} stout a philosophy for times of misfortune. He could jest that “the Boers had saved him the trouble of making a will.”

Poor Sechele in his despair resolved on a personal appeal for justice to the great White Queen, and actually travelled to the Cape to take ship to England. He was shown much kindness there, and eventually returned, gathered the people around him, and became a stronger chief than before, while he continued to instruct his tribe in the Bible, without any assistance from a missionary. There are few more striking proofs of the enduring power of Livingstone’s personal influence and Christian faith.

The journey through our old friend the desert to the Chobe river, and across it to where Sekeletu, the son of Sebituane, was now reigning, was more arduous and perilous than it had been previously. The floods from the annual inundation of the Chobe were an almost invincible obstacle; yet where the waters did not lie the heat was torrid. “At the surface of the ground in the sun the thermometer registered 125°. The hand{58} cannot be held on the earth, and even the horny feet of the natives must be protected by sandals of hide.” The battle with the waters of the Chobe and its tributaries would have ended in the defeat of anyone less lion-hearted than this traveller. Many of the natives retired from the encounter on the easy pretext of throwing dice and declaring that the gods willed their return. Some of them feigned sickness, to ride in the waggons; and it required infinite patience and humouring to get them forward. Part of the journey lay through dense forest, and laborious days were spent swinging the axe to make a waggon track. The rivers effectually stopped the waggons; and Livingstone took to a pontoon, and afterwards to canoes. But there was much wading to do under a blistering sun, and through reeds that “made our hands all raw and bloody,” and thorns that tore even leather trousers. They were glad to sleep in a filthy deserted hut; and at night the cold dews descended, and the mosquitoes gathered in clouds. They were disturbed by the hippopotami,{59} and the eerie waters were alive with water-snakes. But no combination of perils had any terror for one the alphabet of whose creed was that “man is immortal till his work is done.” At twilight of one day, a village was descried on the river bank. It was Morémi, and Livingstone had reached his beloved Makololo at last. “The inhabitants looked like people who had seen a ghost,” he says; but what he himself really looked like he forbears to add. “He has dropped among us from the clouds, yet came riding on the back of a hippopotamus,”—this was their appropriate description of the pontoon. “We Makololo thought no one could cross the Chobe without our knowledge, but here he drops among us like a bird.” They returned with him, “took the waggons to pieces and carried them across on a number of canoes lashed together.” On the 23rd of May, 1853, they reached Linyanti, the capital town of the Makololo, where the new chief, Sekeletu, received them “in royal style.”

Livingstone’s problem had now definitely{60} to be solved. Sekeletu was not a whit behind Sebituane in friendliness, and not much inferior in intelligence. He had no desire for the Bible, fearing that it might compel him to content himself with one wife. But he set an example to the tribe in reverent attention to Livingstone’s simple preaching, and he had absolute faith in the protection afforded to his people by Livingstone’s presence and skill. But exactly a week after the arrival at Linyanti, Livingstone had his first taste of malaria, nor did the well-meant efforts of the native doctors do much to cure him. He experienced its weakening effect. If he looked up suddenly he was affected with a strange giddiness. “Everything appeared to rush to the left, and if I did not catch hold of some support I fell heavily on the ground.” The same horrible sensations occurred at night, “whenever I turned suddenly round.” One thing was clear—Linyanti was no place for a healthy settlement. Some might add that with fever in the system it was idle to think of a journey of a thousand miles or more. But this was{61} not Livingstone’s way of looking at things. “There is a good deal in not giving in to this disease,” he writes; “he who is low-spirited will die sooner than the man who is not of a melancholic nature.” Ill as he was, he was resolute to continue his explorations, and with Sekeletu and a large band of Makololo for companions, he travelled some hundreds of miles of waterway, ascending the great river to the north-west from Seshéke. Here the Zambesi is called the Leeambye, and Livingstone expresses his delight at skimming along in great canoes, gazing on a wonderful inland river which no white man had hitherto explored. He finds, as ever, in the wonders and beauties of nature, the splendour of the wild birds, and the curious fascination of the river-beasts some relief from the awful spectacle, constantly present, of human cruelty and degradation. “The sciences,” he writes, “exhibit such wonderful intelligence and design in all their various ramifications, some time ought to be devoted to them before engaging in missionary work.... We may feel that we are{62} leaning on His bosom while living in a world clothed in beauty, and robed with the glorious perfection of its Maker and Preserver.... He who stays his mind on his ever-present, ever-energetic God, will not fret himself because of evil-doers. He that believeth shall not make haste.” It was indeed well for him that he had this power to absorb himself in “whatsoever things are lovely,” for the nightmare of heathenism was always with him. He has to witness Sekeletu’s revenge on those who had plotted against him. Some of the scenes are incredibly horrible; and his protests are unavailing. The miseries of slavery wrung his heart, and as he advances into the dark interior, the chorus of human agonies is ever in his ears. “I was in closer contact with heathens than I had ever been before, and though all were as kind to me as possible, yet to endure the dancing, roaring and singing, the jesting, the grumbling, quarrellings and murderings of these children of nature was the severest penance I had yet undergone in the course of my missionary duties.{63}” Again he exclaims in his Diary, “the more intimately I become acquainted with barbarians, the more disgusting does heathenism become. It is inconceivably vile ... they never visit anywhere but for the purpose of plunder and oppression. They never go anywhere but with a club or spear in hand.... They need a healer. May God enable me to be such to them.” Slowly but surely the whole tragedy of Africa is unveiled before him. The fair landscape of its rivers and forests, the gay plumage of its birds, and beauty of its living creatures, is like a gorgeous curtain covering unspeakable depths of pain and sin. The people gather in hundreds to hear him, and especially to see the wonders of his magic lantern, but he cannot in a brief stay undo the superstitions and inhumanities of centuries. His eye is on the future. “A minister who has not seen so much pioneer service as I have done would have been shocked to see so little effect produced.... We can afford to work in faith.... Future missionaries will be rewarded by conversions for every sermon.{64} We are their pioneers. They will doubtless have more light than we, but we served our Master earnestly and proclaimed the Gospel they will do.”

Baffled in the hope of finding a healthy situation for a permanent mission station near Linyanti, the final determination to make a way to the coast crystallised in his mind. “I shall open up a path to the interior or perish,” he writes, in his terse, decisive way to Dr. Moffat; “I never have had the shadow of a shade of doubt as to the propriety of my course.” On November 8th he writes home to his father what he evidently feels may be his last will and testament: ‘May God in mercy permit me to do something for the cause of Christ in these dark places of the earth. May He accept my children for His service and sanctify them for it. My blessing on my wife. May God comfort her! If my watch comes back after I am cut off, it belongs to Agnes. If my sextant, it is Robert’s. The Paris medal to Thomas. Double-barrelled gun to Zouga. Be a father to the fatherless and a husband{65} to the widow for Jesus’ sake,” That was all. The Boers had relieved him of the necessity of willing any other belongings. He had none. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have made much out of the death duties on this property.


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