a Roving Commission
so the fair Greek disappears; and Stanley, free and heart-whole, is whirled away again by the “Herald's” swift and changing summons: to Athens, to witness a Royal Baptism, and describe the temples and ruins, with which he was enraptured; to Smyrna, Rhodes, Beyrout, and Alexandria; thence to Spain, where great events seemed impending.
But he has barely inter-viewed General Prim, when he is ordered to London; there the “Herald's” agent, Colonel Finlay Anderson, gives him a surprising commission.
It is vaguely reported that Dr. Livingstone is on his way home-ward from Africa.
On the chance of meeting him, and getting the first intelligence, Stanley is to go to Aden, and use his discretion as to going to Zanzibar.
It looks like a wild-goose chase, but his, “not to make reply; his, not to reason why” ; and he is off to Aden, which he reaches November 21, 1868.
Not a word can he learn of Livingstone.
He writes enquiries to Consul Webb at Zanzibar, and, in the wretched and sun-scorched little town, sets himself to wait; but not in idleness.
He works the Magdala campaign into book-form, designing in some indefinite future to publish it. (It came out five years later.) Then he falls upon “a pile of good books which my interesting visit to Greece and Asia Minor induced me to purchase — Josephus, Herodotus, Plutarch, Derby's “Iliad,” Dryden's “Virgil,” some few select classics of Bohn's Library, Wilkinson's and Lane's books on “Egypt,” hand-books to Greece, the Levant, and India, Kilpert's maps of Asia Minor, etc. Worse heat, worse dust, and still no word of Livingstone!”
New Year's Day, 1869.
Many people have greeted me, and expressed their wish that it should be a happy one, and that I should see many more such days.
They were no doubt sincere, but what avail their wishes, and what is happiness?
What a curious custom it is, to take this day, above all others, to speak of happiness, when inwardly each must think in his soul that it admonishes him of the lapse of time, and what enormous arrears there still remain to make up the sum of his happiness!
As for me, I know not what I lack to make me happy.
have health, youth, and a free spirit; but, what to-morrow may bring forth, I cannot tell.
Therefore, take care to keep that health.
The knowledge that every moment makes me older, the fluctuations to which the spirit is subject, hour by hour, for ever remind me that happiness is not to be secured in this world, except for brief periods; and, for a houseless, friendless fellow like myself, those periods when we cast off all thought which tends to vex the mind cannot, by any possibility, be frequent.
But, if to be happy is to be without sorrow, fear, anxiety, doubt, I have been happy; and, if I could find an island in mid-ocean, remote from the presence or reach of man, with a few necessaries sufficient to sustain life, I might be happy yet; for then I could forget what reminds me of unhappiness, and, when death came, I should accept it as a long sleep and rest.
But, as this wish of mine cannot be gratified, I turn to what many will do to-day; meditate; think with regret of all the things left undone that ought to have been done; of words said that ought not to have been uttered; of vile thoughts that stained the mind; and resolve, with God's help, to be better, nobler, purer.
May Heaven assist all who wish the same, and fill their hearts with goodness!
January 7th, 1869. Six days of this New Year are already gone, and one of the resolutions which I made on the first day I have been compelled to break.
I had mentally resolved to smoke no more, from a belief that it was a vice, and that it was my duty to suppress it. For six days I strove against the hankering, though the desire surged up strongly.
To-day I have yielded to it, as the effort to suppress it absorbed too much of my time, and now I promise myself that I shall be moderate, in order to soothe the resentment of my monitor.
Still no news of Livingstone, and scant hope of any!
Stanley critically examines Aden; notes its unfortified condition, its importance when once the Suez Canal is finished; and sketches its future possibilities as a great distributing centre, and the case of a cheap railway into the heart of Arabia.
After ten weeks at Aden, February 1st, “I am relieved, at last!”
And so he turns his back on Livingstone, who is still deep in the wilds of Africa.
As he mixes with civilised men in his travels, he is sometimes struck by their triviality, sometimes by their malicious gossip.
February 9th, 1869.
Dined with G. D. and his wife.
Among the guests was one named J-----. This young man is a frequent diner here, and the gossips of Alexandria
tell strange things.
Truly the English
, with all their Christianity, and morals, and good taste, and all that sort of thing, are to be dreaded for their propensity to gossip, for it is always malicious and vile.
Oh, how I should like to discover my island, and be free of them!
Apropos of this, it reminds me of my journey to Suez
last November. Two handsome young fellows, perhaps a year or so younger than myself, were fellow-passengers in the same coupe.
They were inexperienced and shy. I was neither the one, nor, with the pride of age, was I the other.
I had provided myself with a basket of oranges and a capacious cooler.
They had not; and when we came abreast of the dazzling sands, and to the warm, smothering mirage, and the fine sand came flying stinging hot against the face, they were obliged to unbutton and mop their faces, and they looked exceedingly uncomfortable.
Then it was that I conquered my reserve, and spoke, and offered oranges, water, sandwiches, etc.
Their shyness vanished, they ate and laughed and enjoyed themselves, and I with them.
The pipes and cigars came next, and, being entertainer, as it were, I did my best for the sake of good fellowship, and I talked of Goshen
and Rameses, Moses
, and what not. We came at last to Suez
, and, being known at the hotel, I was at once served with a room.
While I was washing, I heard voices.
I looked up; my room was separated from the next by an eight-foot partition.
In the next room were my young friends of the journey, and they were speaking of me!
Old is the saying that “listeners hear no good of themselves;” but, had I been a leper or a pariah, I could not have been more foully and slanderously abused.
This is the third time within fourteen months that I have known Englishmen, who, after being polite to my face, had slandered me behind my back.
Yes, this soulless gossip is to be dreaded!
I have learned that if they entertain me with gossip about someone else, they are likely enough to convey to somebody else similar tales about me.
In the enforced leisure of a Mediterranean trip comes a piece of self-observation.
February 20th, 1869.
At sea, under a divine heaven!
There is a period which marks the transition from boy to man, when the boy discards his errors and his awkwardness, and puts on the man's mask, and adopts his ways.
The duration of the period depends upon circumstances, and not upon any defined time.
With me, it lasted some months; and, though I feel in ideas more manly than when I left the States, I am often reminded that I am still a boy in many things.
In impulse I am boy-like, but in reflection a man; and then I condemn the boy-like action, and make a new resolve.
How many of these resolutions will be required before they are capable of restraining, not only the impulse, but the desire, when every action will be the outcome of deliberation?
I am still a boy when I obey my first thought; the man takes that thought and views it from many sides before action.
I have not come to that yet; but after many a struggle I hope to succeed.
“Days should speak, and a multitude of years should teach wisdom.”
It is well for me that I am not so rich as the young man I met at Cairo
who has money enough to indulge every caprice.
I thank Heaven for it, for if he be half as hot-blooded and impulsive as I am, surely his life will be short; but necessity has ordained that my strength and youth should be directed by others, and in a different sphere; and the more tasks I receive, the happier is my life.
I want work, close, absorbing, and congenial work, only so that there will be no time for regrets, and vain desires, and morbid thoughts.
In the interval, books come handy.
I have picked up Helvetius
, in Alexandria
, and, though there is much wisdom in them, they are ill-suited to young men with a craze for action.
And now he is back at headquarters in London, and gets his orders for Spain; and there he spends six months, March to September, 1869, describing various scenes of the revolution, and the general aspect of the country, in a graphic record.
These letters are among the best of his descriptive writings.
The Spanish scenery and people; the stirring events; the barricades and street-fighting; the leaders and the typical characters; the large issues at stake — all make a great and varied theme.
On arriving in Spain, Stanley commenced studying Spanish, with such success, that, by June, he was able to make a speech in Spanish, and became occasional correspondent to a Spanish newspaper.
The insurrection of September, 1868, which drove Isabella from the Throne, led to a provisional Government under a Regency, General Prim acting as Minister of War.
On June 15, 1869, Stanley was present in the Plaza de Los Cortes when the Constitution was read to twenty thousand people, who roared their “vivas.”
Stanley was in the prime of his powers, and these powers were not, as afterwards in Africa, taxed by heavy responsibilities, and ceaseless executive work, but given solely to a faithful and vivid chronicle of what he saw. “I went to Spain,” he wrote, “the young man going to take possession of the boy's heritage, those dear dreams of wild romance, stolen from school-hours.”
When a Carlist rising threatened, hundreds of miles away, Stanley immediately hastened off to the scene.
On one occasion, he hurried from Madrid in search of the rebellious Carlists, who were said to have risen at Santa Cruz de Campescu. “As soon as I reached the old town of Vittoria, I took my seat in the diligence for Santa Cruz de Campescu; our road lay westward towards the Atlantic through the valley of Zadora.
If you have read Napier's “Battles of the Peninsula,” you can well imagine how interesting each spot, each foot of ground, was to me. This valley was a battle-field, where the armed legions of Portugal, Spain, and England, matched themselves against Joseph Buonaparte's French Army.”
At Santa Cruz, Stanley found the insurrectionists had fled to the mountains, leaving forty prisoners; he returned to Madrid, to join General Sickles and his suite, on a visit to the Palace of La Granja, called the “Cloud Palace of the King of Spain.”
He hears in Madrid, one evening, that several battalions and regiments had been despatched towards Saragossa.
“Naturally I wanted to know what was going on there.
What did the departure of all these troops to Saragossa mean?
So one hour later, at 8.30 P. M., I took the train, and arrived at Saragossa the next morning at 6 A. M.”
And here Stanley witnessed a rising of the people, “proud and passionate, the Berber and Moorish blood coursing through their veins.”
They resisted the order to give up Arms.
Then, with their bayonets, they prise up the granite blocks, and, with the swiftness of magic, erect a barricade, formidable, wide, a granite and cobblestone fortification, breast-high.
One, two, three, four, and five, aye, ten barricades are thrown up, almost as fast as tongue can count them.
“My eye,” says Stanley, “finds enough to note; impossible to note the whole, for there are a hundred things and a thousand things taking place.
Carts are thrown on the summit of the barricades; cabs caught unawares are launched on high, sofas and bureaux and the strangest kind of obstructions are piled above all.”
Stanley himself was on a balcony, not within the barricade, but half a block outside.
He saw a battery of mounted trained Artillery halt five hundred yards from where he stood.
He watched them dismount the guns and prepare for action; and was present at the bursting and rending of shells and the ceaseless firing of musketry from the barricades.
“As the bullets flattened themselves with a dull thud against the balcony where I stood, I sought the shelter of the roof, and behind a friendly cornice, I observed the desperate fighting.”
Though the firing had been incessant for an hour, little damage had been done to the barricade.
The soldiers, advancing at short range, were shot down; again the Artillery thundered, and, when the smoke dispersed, Stanley saw the soldiers had approached nearer.
“The scene was one of desperation against courage allied with a certain cold enthusiasm; as fast as one soldier fell, another took his place.
I witnessed personal instances of ferocity and courage which made me hold my breath.
To me — who was, I really believe, the sole disinterested witness of that terrible battle — they appeared like characters suddenly called out to perform in some awful tragedy; and, so fascinated was I by the strange and dreadful spectacle, I could not look away.”
Night fell, and the bugles sounded retreat; the soldiers had lost heart after three hours persistent fighting, with nothing gained.
The dead lay piled at the barricades.
Stanley remained on the roof until he was chilled and exhausted; he had been awake thirty-nine hours. “ I retired for a couple of hours' rest, completely fatigued, yet with the determination to be up before daylight; and, by five in the morning, I was at my post of observation on the roof.”
Stanley graphically described the scene behind the barricade, before the battle recommenced.
Fresh troops now arrived, former failure was to be avenged.
Again they hurl themselves on the barricades; “but they are thrust back by protruding bayonets, they are beaten down by clubbed muskets, they are laid low by hundreds of deadly bullets, which are poured on them; but, with fearless audacity, the Regulars climb over their own dead and wounded, and throw themselves over the barricades into the smoke of battle, to be hewed to death for their temerity.”
This completed the fourth defeat the Government troops experienced, and in the greatest disorder they ran towards the Corso; while the ‘Vivas’ to the Republic were deafening.
“The Artillery re-open fire with grape, shell, and solid shot, and once more the old city of Saragossa quivers to its foundations.
Another battalion has been added, and nearly six hundred men are found before the breast-works.”
The rear ranks were impelled electrically forward, and bodily heaved over the front ranks, quite into the barricades; others crowded on, a multitude bounded over, as if swept on by a hurricane, and the first barricade was taken, the insurgents threw down
their arms, fell down on their knees, and cried for “quarter.”
Thus was Saragossa quelled and a thousand prisoners taken.
“The valour and heroism of the insurgents, will, I fancy, have been chronicled solely by me, because the Government won the day, as they were bound to do.”
Stanley now hastened to Valencia, “from whence came reports of fierce cannonading; it was not in my nature to sit with folded arms, and let an important event, like that, pass without personal investigation.”
He was told he could not go, the trains did not run, miles of rail-way had been destroyed.
“Can I telegraph?--No — Why?--No telegrams are allowed to pass by order of the Minister of War.--Heigh-ho!
to Alicante, then!--Thence by sea to Valencia.
I'll circumnavigate Spain!
but I shall get to Valencia!
I exclude all words like “fail,” “can't,” from my vocabulary.”
Stanley had great difficulty, and many adventures, before he got, by sea, into Valencia, and found himself amid the roar of guns and the whiz of bullets.
He wandered from street to street, always confronted by soldiers with fixed bayonets, until, at last, he saw a chance of getting into an hotel; but he had to run the gauntlet of twenty feet of murderous firing.
Officers remonstrated against the folly.
“But twenty feet! Count three and jump!
I jumped, took one peep at the barricade in my mid-air flight, and was in the hotel portico, safe, with a chorus of “bravos” in my rear, and a welcome in front.”
But how can I give samples of Stanley's vivid word-painting; it is like snipping off a corner of a great historical picture.
The fore-going passages, however, will suffice to show how Stanley's whole being throbbed with energy, and with the desire to excel.
Sometimes he rides all night, in order to reach betimes a remote place, where fighting is reported; he watches the stirring scenes all day, and reports his observations before taking rest.
Extracts from one or two private letters are given here.
One was written to a friend who pressed him to take a holiday.