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CHAPTER V
Livingstone found Loanda a very decayed town, but he did not fail to win many friendships. Mr. Gabriel, the one Englishman in the place, was overwhelmingly kind, and the Roman Catholic bishop scarcely less so. English men-of-war were in the harbour also, keeping both eyes open for slave ships, and Livingstone was able to take his men on board and show them the cannon with which England “was going to destroy the slave trade.” He himself recovered only very slowly from his condition of absolute emaciation, and in August had a severe relapse, which left him a mere skeleton. Everybody was kind to him, physicking him, and nourishing him, and, what was most of all valuable in his depression, providing him with lively{86} and interesting company. He fell in with their plans for him very gratefully, but on one point he was adamant. They had wished to persuade him to go home and rest. The British captains offered him a passage to St. Helena. When this failed they urged him to take the mail-packet, the “Forerunner,” by which all his own precious diaries, and letters, and scientific papers, with maps and so forth, were to be sent. Despite his weakness it was not in him to be idle, and he had laboriously accomplished the writing of this big budget of despatches in time for the mail-boat. On April 23rd, 1852, he had told his wife that he would rejoin her in two years. It was now August, 1854, and his heart cried out for wife and children. But one thing stood in the way. He had promised his twenty-seven “boys” to take them back to their own country; and they were there in Loanda on the faith of Livingstone’s word. It did not consist with his sense of honour to leave them at Loanda, while he went home for a holiday, and he refused{87} all the tempting offers. The reward of honourable men does not always come as it came to him. The “Forerunner” went down with all hands but one, and he escaped an almost certain fate because he kept his promise. But, alas! all his precious papers, the fruit of so much labour, were destroyed; and he had to take up the drudgery of doing everything over again. It was the form of toil most irksome to him; but he just turned to and did it. It was his way.

Fortunately he had not gone far on the homeward track when this news reached him, and there was no lack of hospitality. He was making a circuit round about Loanda to visit some of the more noted Portuguese settlements and estates, always with an eye to the better cultivation of the country and the interest of inland trade. The re-writing of his papers involved long and tedious delay, and there was more trouble through fever among his men. The year of 1855 dawned before he left a hospitable Portuguese home, and struck out{88} along the old trail. It is worth while to remember here that whereas the expedition travelled from Linyanti to Loanda in six and a half months, it took twice that time to return. It was September, 1855, before they saw Linyanti again.

The homeward journey was not devoid of incident and excitement. The passage through the Chiboque territory was once again troublesome. Just when Livingstone was most anxious to be himself, he fell a victim to rheumatic fever. For eight days he lay in his tent, tossing and groaning with pain; and it was twenty days before he began to recover, and the old ambition to be on the march came back to him. His men objected, for he was too weak to move; and at the physical crisis a quarrel broke out between his men and some of the Chiboques. A blow was struck, for which ample compensation was paid; but with the leader on his back the importunities of the tribesmen increased, and matters became threatening. When a forward move was made, an organised attack on the baggage took place,{89} and shots were even fired, though nobody was hurt. It was then that Livingstone snatched up his six-barrelled revolver and “staggered along the path” till most opportunely he encountered the hostile chief. “The sight of the six barrels gaping into his stomach and my own ghastly visage looking daggers at his face seemed to produce an instant revolution in his martial feelings.” He suddenly became the most peaceable man in all Africa, and protested his goodwill. Livingstone advised a practical illustration of this, and bade him go home. The Chief explained that he would do so, only he was afraid of being shot in the back! “If I wanted to kill you,” rejoined Livingstone, “I could shoot you in the face as well.” One of his men, afraid for Livingstone’s own safety, advised him not to give the Chief a chance of shooting him in the back, whereupon Livingstone retorted, “Tell him to observe that I am not afraid of him,” and mounting his ox rode away triumphantly.

Plodding steadily onward, they arrived on the 8th June at a spot famous for one of{90} Livingstone’s most notable geographical discoveries, which he afterwards learned was actual confirmation of Sir Roderick Murchison’s theory, which the latter had worked out in his own arm-chair as the only one that would satisfy what was known of the African river systems, and the geological formation. Livingstone had just forded a wide river called the Lotembwa, only three feet deep, and had failed to remark in which direction it was flowing. He believed it to be the same river that flowed south from Lake Dilolo, but a Chief pointed out to him that this was not so, for the former river flowed north into the Kasai, one of the main tributaries of the Congo. The latter flowed south into the Zambesi. Livingstone now realised that he was “standing on the central ridge that divided these two systems”; and what amazed him most was that these vast river systems had their rise, not in a chain of lofty mountains, but on flat plains not more than 4,000 feet above the sea.

The expedition now made slow and peaceful progress along their former route, being{91} welcomed everywhere by their old friends with demonstrations of joy and astonishment. They distributed presents to all who had prospered them on their way, and left none but friendly memories behind them. When at the end of July they reached Libonta their progress became a triumphal procession. His men arrayed themselves in white European clothing, swaggered like soldiers, and called themselves his “braves.” During the time of service they sat with their guns over their shoulders. “You have opened a path for us,” said the people, “and we shall have sleep.” The ovations continued all down the Barotse valley. There were no drawbacks, except that many of the men found that during their absence some of their wives had sought and found other husbands. Livingstone advised them to console themselves with those that remained. “Even so, you have as many as I have,” he reminded them. At Linyanti Livingstone found his waggon and belongings perfectly safe; and some stores, and a letter a year old, from Dr. and Mrs. Moffat. Sekeletu’s gratifica{92}tion knew no bounds. A grand new uniform had been sent him as a present from the coast, and when he wore it to church on Sunday it produced a greater impression than the sermon. It is worth remarking that Sekeletu at once began to set on foot a trade in ivory with the Portuguese at the coast, in fulfilment of Livingstone’s policy.

For eight weeks Livingstone remained at Linyanti. He found plenty to occupy him. He was once again the guide, philosopher, and friend to all the tribe. He had doctoring to do, and operations to perform. He found personal interviews on religious subjects more satisfactory than the public services, and he was now, as ever, supremely anxious that these people should owe their souls to his ministry. He had letters to write, and journals to transcribe, and new observations to make. He had all the odd jobs to do that had accumulated during his absence. He found Sekeletu a willing pupil in his ideas on commerce, and on the removal of the tribe to the healthier and wealthier Barotse valley. Especially he had to think out the problem{93} of his next great adventure to the East Coast. His inclination decidedly was to trace the course of the Zambesi to Quilimane and the sea. But against this was to be set the fact that it had an evil reputation for the savagery of some of the tribes along the banks. Certain Arabs whom he had met had strongly counselled him to strike up country to the North-East and make for Zanzibar by the south of Lake Tanganyika. The tribes were reported to be peaceable, and the villages and food supplies plentiful. If he decided to explore the Zambesi, the problem of the north or south shore was an important one. The north shore was reported to be very rocky and broken, and consequently specially difficult for transport.

Either shore was likely to be dangerous to the oxen on account of tsetse fly. All these considerations had to be weighed, and the final decision was to risk the dangers of the tribes along the Zambesi, and to take the north shore, because on Livingstone’s map Tette, the farthest inland station of the Portuguese, was marked as being on the north{94} of the river. This turned out to be untrue. Having settled his course he made his preparations. Sekeletu proved himself a most magnificent ally. Livingstone’s new escort was composed of a hundred and twenty men, with ten slaughter oxen and three of the best riding oxen. He was provided with stores of food, and given tribute rights over all tribes subject to Sekeletu. When we consider that Livingstone had no one to finance him, and that the success of his travels depended on the goodwill of native chiefs like Sekeletu, we begin to understand the unique influence which he exercised over the native mind. Those who knew him never failed him at a pinch; they never deserted him in his need; they lent their best aid to carry through his enterprises; and gave him every tangible proof that can be given from one man to another of confidence, honour and love.

Perhaps before we set out on this new journey, we may quote from Livingstone himself two passages illustrative of the secret of his influence. In the first he says,{95} “No one ever gains much influence in this country without purity and uprightness. The acts of a stranger are keenly scrutinised by both old and young, and seldom is the judgment pronounced even by a heathen unfair or uncharitable. I have heard women speaking in admiration of a white man because he was pure, and never was guilty of any secret immorality. Had he been, they would have known it, and, untutored heathen though they be, would have despised him in consequence.” This illustrates Livingstone’s favourite doctrine that it is the missionary’s life that is the most powerful sermon. That his teaching was partially understood may be gathered from the story of Mamire, Sekeletu’s stepfather, who on coming to say good-bye, used words like these: “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.” It was a gracious and discerning God-speed.

The route selected led Livingstone across{96} what we know to-day as Rhodesia, and which would have been much more appropriately named Livingstonia. It passed to the north of the land inhabited by the formidable and dreaded Matabele. The tribes bordering on the Makololo country had no reason to love their oppressive neighbours; and this fact had inspired the fears expressed in Mamire’s words. It was on the 3rd of November, 1855, that the final departure from Linyanti was made; and Sekeletu accompanied the expedition along the first stage. He took the opportunity of showing Livingstone an extraordinary kindness, for the journey began in a terrific tropical thunderstorm. Livingstone’s clothing had gone on, and there was nothing for it but to sleep on the cold ground. Sekeletu, however, took his own blanket and wrapped it about the missionary, lying himself uncovered through the chill night. “I was much affected,” writes Livingstone, “by this little act of genuine kindness. If such men must perish by the advance of civilisation, as certain races of animals do before others, it is a pity.{97}”

It was no great distance to the famous falls, the rumour of which had often reached Livingstone, and which he was the first white man to visit. The falls were originally called Shongwe. Sebituane used to ask Livingstone whether in his own country he had “smoke that sounds,” referring to the pillars of vapour, and the far-carrying roar of the river as it plunged into the chasm beneath. Sliding down the river in their canoes, they came to within half a mile of the falls, when some of the natives who were expert in the management of the rapids transferred Livingstone to a lighter canoe, and with practised dexterity guided it to the central island—the “Goat Island” of the Zambesi Falls—“on the edge of the lip over which the water rolls.” This adventure can only be made when the river is low, but it was successfully accomplished, and Livingstone was able to gaze down into the fissure into which the great river plunges and apparently disappears. Then he saw that “a stream of a thousand yards broad leaped down a hundred feet, and{98} then became suddenly compressed into a space of fifteen or twenty yards.” He spent many hours contemplating its beauties, noting all its fascinations, and pondering the scientific problem of its origin. He then permitted himself the only act of nationalism—“personal vanity” he used to call it—that he ever indulged in. He changed the native name to that of the Victoria Falls in honour of the great White Queen; and returning to the island next day with Sekeletu he carved his initials and the date on a tree, and planted “about a hundred peach and apricot stones and a quantity of coffee-seeds,” with the remark that “were there no hippopotami, he had no doubt this would be the parent of all the gardens which may yet be in this new country.”

Sekeletu now returned home, having provided a company of 114 men to carry the tusks to the coast, and the expedition set forth in a northward direction. Many wars had decimated the country, but there were ample evidences of the savagery of{99} the people. He found one old chief living in a house surrounded with human skulls, much like Giant Pope’s cave in the “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Many of the skulls were of mere children, slain by the chief’s father “to show his fierceness.” The Batoka tribe could be recognised because of their custom of knocking out the upper front teeth at the age of puberty, which gave them an uncouth appearance and a hideous laugh. He found them “very degraded” and much addicted to smoking “the mutokwana,” a pernicious weed which causes a species of frenzy, and which is often resorted to before battle as the native form of “Dutch courage.”

On the 4th of December they had a foretaste of coming peril, in the person of a howling dervish, who came at Livingstone with his lips covered with foam, and with a small battle-axe in his hand. “I felt it would be a sorry way to leave the world, to get my head chopped by a mad savage”—but he would show no fear, and by and by the paroxysm of frenzy passed away. Later{100} on, they heard the tribesmen exulting over them. “God has apportioned them to us,” they cried. Still there was no outbreak, and the expedition moved on unmolested. The country was now seen to be swarming with inhabitants. They had no notion of any invasion of their territory that did not mean conquest and plunder; but when the villagers listened to Christ’s promise of “Peace on earth, goodwill to men,” they expressed satisfaction. “Give us rest and sleep,” they pleaded. The chief Monze, further on, was urgent that a white man should come and live among his people, and his sister seconded him, exclaiming that it would be joy “to sleep without dreaming of anyone pursuing one with a spear.” Livingstone must have felt like Dante with the vision of the Inferno before his eyes.

They travelled on through a healthy and beautiful region, where Livingstone could indulge to the full his love of natural beauties, and study the habits of the wonderful beasts and birds. They kept well to the north of the Zambesi; and the first organised{101} hostility awaited them at the confluence of the Zambesi and the Loangwa. There is no more striking or characteristic story than this in the whole of Livingstones biography. The chief Mburuma had shown many signs of treachery, and had roused the countryside against the expedition. It seemed almost certain that the passage of the Loangwa would be contested. The people were collecting in large numbers, and remained in obstinate suspicion at a distance from the camp. Livingstone’s own reflections are to be gathered from the entries in his Journal. On January 14th—for 1856 has come—he writes, “Thank God for His great mercies this far. How soon I may be called before Him, my righteous Judge, I know not.... On Thy word I lean. The cause is Thine. See, O Lord, how the heathens rise up against me as they did against Thy Son.” Then comes a very characteristic sentence: “It seems a pity that the facts about the two healthy longitudinal regions should not be known in Christendom. Thy will be done.”

Later on in the evening the signs are even{102} more ominous. “Felt much turmoil of spirit in view of having all my plans for the welfare of this great region and teeming population knocked on the head by savages to-morrow. But Jesus came and said, ‘All power is given to Me in Heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations ... and lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ It is the word of a Gentleman of the most sacred and strictest honour and there is an end on’t. I will not cross furtively by night as I intended. It would appear as flight, and should such a man as I flee? Nay, verily, I shall take observations for longitude and latitude to-night, though they may be the last. I feel quite calm now, thank God.” The next day he superintended the crossing of the river, under the ?gis of natives armed to the teeth, reserving for himself the post of honour, the last man in the last canoe. He stepped in, pushed off, thanked the astonished savages, and wished them peace. Then “passing through the midst of them, he went his way.” They had never seen an enemy like this.{103} New perils arose in the country of the powerful chief Mpende; and again Livingstone had little hope of avoiding a skirmish. But he succeeds in explaining that he is an Englishman, and shows them his white skin. “No,” said they, “we never saw skin so white as that. You must be one of the tribe that loves the black men.” He accepted the compliment, and when later he needed a canoe to take a sick man across the river, Mpende, exclaimed, “this white man is truly one of our friends. See how he lets me know his afflictions.”

He was now on the south side of the river, and the natives were peaceful. The 2nd of March saw the expedition within eight miles of Tette, and Portuguese officers came forward to help and welcome him. He succeeded in making arrangements for his Makololo to be cared for until his return, for he could now descend the river by boat to Quilimane. Nothing but death, he told them, would prevent his return. The leader of his escort, however, Sekwebu, he had resolved to take to England with him. The result{104} was tragic. The extraordinary experience of a sea voyage unhinged his reason; and when Mauritius was reached, he sprang overboard and was lost. On December 12th, 1856, David Livingstone reached Dover, having narrowly escaped shipwreck off the Bay of Tunis, and having crossed the Continent from Marseilles to Calais. He had girdled Africa from West to East. He was universally recognised as the greatest of explorers. Well might Dr. Moffat write to him, “the honours awaiting you at home would be enough to make a score of light heads dizzy.... You have succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectation in laying open a world of immortal beings, all needing the Gospel, and at a time, now that war is over, when people may exert their energies on an object compared with which that which has occupied the master minds of Europe, and expended so much money, and shed so much blood, is but a phantom.” Livingstone’s own simple words are the best conclusion of this chapter: “None has cause for more abundant gratitude to his{105} fellow-men and to his Maker than I have; and may God grant that the effect on my mind be such that I may be more humbly devoted to the service of the Author of all our mercies.”


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