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Chapter XV
through the Dark Continent

in a camp in the heart of Africa, not far from Lake Bangweolo, David Livingstone, the traveller-evangelist, lay dead. His followers, numbering about three-score negroes of Zanzibar, deliberated upon their future movements. To return to the coast ruled by their Sultan, without their great white master, would provoke grave suspicion. They resolved to prepare the remains so as to be fit for transportation across a breadth of tropical region which extended to the Indian Ocean, fifteen hundred miles. After many weary months of travel, they arrived at the sea-coast with the body. In charge of two of the faithful band, it was placed on board a homeward-bound steamer, to be finally deposited1 in a vault in Westminster Abbey.

At the same period when the steamer coasted along the shores of Eastern Africa, I was returning to England along the coast of Western Africa, from the Ashantee campaign.

At St. Vincent, on February 25th, 1874, cable news of the death of Livingstone, substantiated beyond doubt, was put into my hands.

“At Lake Bangweolo the death occurred,” said the cablegram. Just one thousand miles south of Nyangwe! The great river remains, then, a mystery still, for poor Livingstone's work is unfinished!

Fatal Africa! One after another, travellers drop away. It is such a huge continent, and each of its secrets is environed by so many difficulties,--the torrid heat, the miasma exhaled from the soil, the noisome vapours enveloping every path, the giant cane-grass suffocating the wayfarer, the rabid fury of the native guarding every entry and exit, the unspeakable misery of the life within the wild continent, the utter absence of every comfort, the bitterness which each day heaps upon the poor white man's head, in that land of blackness, the sombrous [297] solemnity pervading every feature of it, and the little — too little — promise of success which one feels on entering it.

But, never mind, I will try it! Indeed, I have a spur to goad me on. My tale of the discovery of Livingstone has been doubted. What I have already endured in that accursed Africa amounts to nothing, in men's estimation. Here, then, is an opportunity for me to prove my veracity, and the genuineness of my narrative!

Let me see: Livingstone died in endeavouring to solve the problem of the Lualaba River. John Hanning Speke died by a gun-shot wound during a discussion as to whether Lake Victoria was one lake, as he maintained it to be; or whether, as asserted by Captain Burton, James McQueen, and other theorists, it consisted of a cluster of lakes.

Lake Tanganyika, being a sweet-water lake, must naturally possess an outlet somewhere. It has not been circumnavigated and is therefore unexplored. I will settle that problem also.

Then I may be able to throw some light on Lake Albert. Sir Samuel Baker voyaged along some sixty miles of its northeastern shore, but he said it was illimitable to the south-west. To know the extent of that lake would be worth some trouble. Surely, if I can resolve any of these, which such travellers as Dr. Livingstone, Captains Burton, Speke, and Grant, and Sir Samuel Baker left unsettled, people must needs believe that I discovered Livingstone!

A little while after the burial2 of Livingstone at Westminster, I strolled over to the office of the “Daily telegraph,” and pointed out to the proprietors how much remained shrouded in mystery in Dark Africa.

The proprietor asked, “But do you think you can settle all these interesting geographical problems?”

“Nay, Mr. Lawson, that is not a fair question. I mean to say I can do my level best, that nothing on my part shall be lacking to make a systematic exploration which shall embrace all the regions containing these secrets; but Africa includes so many dangers from man, beast, and climate, that it would be the height of immeasurable conceit to say I shall be successful. [298] My promise that I will endeavour to be even with my word, must be accepted by you as sufficient.”

“Well, well! I will cable over to Bennett of the New York Herald, and ask if he is willing to join in this expedition of yours.”

Deep under the Atlantic, the question was flashed. Gordon Bennett tore open the telegram in New York City, and, after a moment's thought, snatched a blank form and wrote, “Yes! Bennett.”

This was the answer put into my hand the same day at 135, Fleet Street. You may imagine my feelings, as I read the simple monosyllable which was my commission: bales, packages, boxes, trunks, bills, letters, flowing in a continuous stream; the writing, telegraphing, and nervous hurry and flurry of each day's work, until we sailed! Follow me in thought to the deck of the steam-ferry across the English Channel; fancy that you hear my plucky fisher-boys from the Medway,3 saying to the white cliffs of Dover, “Good-bye, dear England! and if for ever, then for ever good-bye, O England!” Think of us a few weeks later, arrived at Zanzibar, where we make our final preparations for the long journey we are about to make.

Zanzibar is an island, as I suppose you know, situate three hundred and sixty-nine miles south of the Equator, and about twenty miles from the eastern mainland.

Its ruler is Prince Barghash, son of Sayed. His subjects are very mixed, and represent the rasping and guttural Arab, the soft-tongued and languid Balooch, the fiery-eyed and black-bearded Omanee, the flowing-locked and tall-hatted Persian, the lithe, slim-waisted Somali, and at least a hundred specimens of the African tribes.

It was in the bazaars and shops of the principal city that we bought the cottons, the various beads, the coils of brass wire, the tools, cordage, ammunition, and guns. It was in a house at Zanzibar that we rolled these cloths into seventy-pound bales, sacked the beads in similar weights, packed the wire, and boxed the ammunition and tools. Meantime we enlisted three hundred and fifty-six chosen fellows. They left [299] their porter-work, gossiping in the bazaar, the care of their fields and gardens without the town, to become sworn followers of the Anglo-American expedition, to carry its loads at so much per month, in any direction on the mainland I should wish; to stand by the master in times of trouble, to die with him, if necessary. I also, on my part, swore to treat them kindly; to medicate them, if sick or bilious; to judge honestly and impartially between man and man in their little camp squabbles; to prevent ill-treatment of the weak by the strong; to be a father and a mother, brother and sister, to each; and to resist, to the utmost of my ability, any murderous natives who, encouraged by the general forbearance of the white man, would feel disposed to do them harm.

We call upon the One, and Compassionate, and Just God, to witness our mutual pledges.

On the 11th of November, 1874, we sail away from our friends, who are gathered on the beach at sunset, to witness our departure. The evening breeze sweeps us across the Zangian Channel. The shadows of the night fall over the mainland and the silent sea, as we glide on to the destiny that may be awaiting us in the Dark Continent.

The next morning we debarked, and, a few days later, took the native path which led to the west. I will not trouble you with a description of the journeys made each day. That native path, only a foot wide, leading westward, presently entered a jungle, then traversed a plain, on which the sun shone dazzling, and pitilessly hot. We came to a river: it swarmed with hippopotami and crocodiles. On the western bank the road began again; it pierced a scrubby forest, ascended the face of a rising land, dipped down again into a plain; it then curved over a wooded hill, tracks of game becoming numerous; and so on it went, over plain, hill, valley, through forest and jungle, cultivated fields of manioc, maize, and millet, traversing several countries, such as Udoe, Uruguru, Useguhha, Usagara. By the time we had gone through Ugogo, we were rich in experience of African troubles, native arrogance, and unbridled temper.

But, as yet, we had suffered no signal misfortune. A few of our men had deserted, one or two bales had been lost. On leaving Ugogo, we turned north-westward, and entered an [300] enormous bush-field. No charts could aid me to lay out the route, no man with me had ever been in this region, guides proved faithless as soon as they were engaged. I always endeavoured to secure three days provisions, at least, before venturing anywhere unknown to the guides. But three days passed away, and the bush-field spread out on either side, silent and immense. We had followed the compass course north-west, staggering on blindly under our heavy loads, hoping, hourly, that we should see something in the shape of game, or signs of cultivation. The fourth day passed; our provisions were exhausted, and we began to be anxious. We had already travelled eighty miles through the straggling jungle. The fifth day we took the road at sunrise and travelled briskly on, myself leading the way, compass in hand, my white assistants, the brothers Pocock and Barker, with a dozen select men, as rear-guard. You may rest assured that my eyes travelled around and in front, unceasingly, in search of game. At noon, we halted at a small pond, and drank its filthy nitrous water.

About two, we started again through the wilderness of thorny bush and rank-smelling acacia; the fifth day ended with nothing but our hopes to feed upon. The sixth, seventh, and eighth days passed in like manner, hoping, ever hoping! Five people perished from absolute starvation during the eighth day. On the ninth, we came to a small village; but there was not a grain to be bought for money, or obtained through fear, or love, of us. We obtained news, however, that there was a large village a long day's journey off, northwesterly. I despatched forty of the stoutest men with cloth and beads to purchase provisions. Though pinched with hunger they reached the place at night, and the next day the gallant fellows returned with eight hundred pounds of grain. Meantime, those that remained had wandered about in search of game, and had found the putrid carcase of an elephant, and two lion whelps, which they brought to me. Finding that the pain of hunger was becoming intolerable, we emptied a sheet-iron trunk, filled it three-quarters with water, into which we put ten pounds of oatmeal, four pounds of lentil flour, four pounds of tapioca, half a pound of salt, out of which we made a gruel. Each man and woman within an hour was served [301] with a cupful of gruel. This was a great drain on our medical stores, when we might say only a twentieth part of the journey had been performed; but the expedition was saved.

The effect of that terrible jungle experience was felt for many a day afterwards. Four more died within two days, over a score were on the sick list, consequently, the riding asses were loaded with bales, and all of us whites were obliged to walk.

Twenty-eight miles under a hot sun prostrated one of the brothers Pocock. To carry him in a hammock, we had to throw some loads into the bush, to relieve the heavily-burdened caravan. In this condition we entered Ituru — a land of naked people, whose hills drain into a marsh, whence issue the southernmost waters of the Nile.4

A presentiment of evil depressed all of us, as the long column of wearied and sick people entered Ituru. My people hurried their women away out of sight, the boys drove the herds away from our foreground in order that, if the looming trouble ruptured, the cattle might not be hurt. By dint of diplomatic suavity, we postponed the conflict for many days. We gave presents freely, the slightest service was royally rewarded. Though our hearts were heavy at the gloomy prescience of our minds, we smiled engagingly; but I could see that it was of no use. However, it deferred the evil. Finally, Edward Pocock died; we buried him in the midst of our fenced camp, and the poor fisher-boy lay at rest for ever.

Four days later, we arrived at the village of Vinyata. We had been ten days in the land of Ituru, and, as yet, the black cloud had not lifted, nor had it burst. But, as we entered Vinyata, a sick man suffering from asthma lingered behind, unknown to the rear-guard. The fell savages pounced on him, hacked him to little pieces, and scattered them along the road. It was the evening of the 21st of January, 1875. The muster-roll as usual was read. We discovered his absence, sent a body of men back along the road; they found his remains, and came back bearing bloody evidences of the murder.

“Well, what can I do, my friends?”

“But, master, if we don't avenge his death, we shall have to [302] mourn for a few more, shortly. These savages need a lesson. For ten days we have borne it, expecting every minute just what has happened.”

“It is I who suffer most. Don't you see the sick are so numerous that we can scarcely move? Now, you talk of my giving a lesson to these people. I did not come to Africa to give such lessons. No, my friends, we must bear it; not only this, but perhaps a few more, if we are not careful.”

We fenced the camp around with bush, set a guard, and rested. Up to this day twenty men had died, eighty-nine had deserted; there were two hundred and forty-seven left, out of whom thirty were on the sick-list. Ituru was populous, and the people warlike; two hundred and seventeen indifferent fighters against a nation could do nothing. We could only forbear.

We halted the next day, and took advantage of it to purchase the favour of the natives. At night we thought we had succeeded. But the next day two brothers went out into the bush to collect fuel: one was speared to death, the other rushed into camp, a lance quivering in his arm, his body gashed with the flying weapons, his face streaming with blood from the blow of a whirling knobstick. We were horrified. He cried out, “It is war, the savages are coming through the bush all round the camp!”

“There, master!” said the chief men, as they rushed up to assist the wounded man, “ What said we? We are in for it, sure enough, this time! ”

“ Keep silence,” I said. “Even for this, I will not fight. You know not what you say. Two lives are lost; but that is small loss compared with the loss of a hundred, or even fifty. You cannot fight a tribe like this without paying a heavy forfeit of life. I cannot afford to lose you. We have a thousand tribes to go through yet, and you talk of war now. Be patient, men, this will blow over.”

“Never!” cried the men.

While I was arguing for peace, the camp was being gradually surrounded. As the savages came into view, I sent men to talk with them. It staggered the natives. They seemed to ask one another, “Have they not yet received cause enough to fight?” But as it took two sides to fight, and one was [303] unwilling, it was influencing them; and the matter might have ended, had not a fresh force, remarkable for its bellicose activity, appeared upon the scene.

“Master, you had better prepare; there is no. peace with these people.”

I gave the order to distribute twenty rounds of cartridges per man, and enjoined on all to retire quietly to their several places in the camp.

My interpreters still held on talking soothingly, while I watched, meanwhile, to note the slightest event.

Presently, the murderous band from the bush south of our camp appeared, and again the clamour for war rose loudly on our ears.

I disposed two companies of fifty each on either side of the gate, to resist the rush. There was a hostile movement, the interpreters came flying back, the savages shot a cloud of arrows. On all sides rose bodies of savages. A determined rush was made for the gate of the camp. A minute later, firing began, and the companies moved forward briskly, firing as they went. Then every axe-man was marched out, to cut the bush, and fortify the camp. The savages were driven back for an hour, and a recall was sounded. No enemy being in sight, we occupied ourselves in making the camp impregnable, constructed four towers, twenty feet high, to command all sides, and, filling them with marksmen, waited events.

The day, and the night, passed quietly. Our camp was unassailable. I had only lost two men so far. At nine o'clock, the enemy reappeared in good order, re-enforced in numbers, for the adjoining districts had responded to the war-cries we had heard pealing the day before. They advanced confidently, probably two thousand strong. The marksmen in the towers opened deliberately on them, and two companies were marched out of camp, and deployed. A deadly fire was kept up for a few minutes, before which the enemy fell back. A rush was made upon them, the natives fled.

I called back my people, and then formed out of these companies five detachments of twenties, each under a chosen man. Instructions were given to drive the natives back rapidly, as far as possible, a company of fifty to follow, and secure cattle, [304] grain, fowls, and food. Those remaining behind cleared the bush further, so that we might have an open view two hundred yards all around. Until late in the afternoon the fighting was kept up, messengers keeping me in contact with my people. At 4 P. M., the enemy having collected on the summit of a hill several miles away, my men retired upon our camp. Our losses amounted to twenty-two killed, and three wounded. My effective force now numbered two hundred and eight. The camp was full of cattle, goats, fowls, milk, and grain. I could stand a siege for months, if necessary.

The third morning came. We waited within the camp; but, at 9 A. M., the natives advanced as before, more numerous than ever. Despite the losses they had experienced, they must have been heartened by what we had suffered. This explains their pertinacity. If we lost twenty each day, ten days would end us all. It was thus they argued. I, on the other hand, to prevent this constant drain, was resolved to finish the war on this day. Accordingly, when they appeared, we advanced upon them with one hundred and fifty rifles; and, leaving only fifty in the camp, delivered several volleys, and pursued them from village to village, setting fire to each as soon as captured. In close order, we made the circuit of the entire district of Vinyata, until we arrived at the stronghold of the tribe, on the summit of the hill. We halted a short time to breathe, and then assailed it by a rush. The enemy fled precipitately, and we returned to camp, having lost but two killed throughout the arduous day.

There only remained for me to re-arrange the caravan. January, 1875, had been a disastrous month to us! Altogether, nine had perished from hunger in the wilderness of Uveriveri; in Ituru, twenty-six had been speared in battle; five had died by disease, the consequence of the misery of the period; on my hands I had four wounded, and twenty-five feeble wretches scarcely able to walk. I had thus lost a fourth of my effective force, with nearly seven thousand miles of a journey still before me!

Suppressing my grief as much as possible, I set about reducing the baggage, and burnt every possible superfluous article. I clung to my boat and every stick of it, though sorely tempted. The boat required thirty of the strongest men for [305] its carriage. Personal baggage, luxuries, books, cloth, beads, wire, extra tents, were freely sacrificed.

At day-break, on the 26th of January, we departed, every riding ass, and all chiefs and supernumeraries, being employed as porters. We entered a forest, and emerged from it three days later, in the friendly and hospitable land of Usukuma. Our booty in bullocks and goats sufficed to enlist over a hundred fresh carriers. After a halt, to recover from our wounds and fatigues, I turned northward through a gracious land, whence issued the smell of cattle and sweet grass, a land abounding with milk and plenty, where we enjoyed perfect immunity from trouble of any kind. Each day saw us winding up and down its grassy vales and gentle hills, escorted by hundreds of amiable natives. Everywhere we were received with a smiling welcome by the villagers, who saw us departing with regret. “Come yet again,” said they; “come, always assured of welcome.”

With scarcely one drawback to our pleasure, we arrived on the shores of the Victoria Nyanza, on the one hundred and fourth day from the sea, after a journey of seven hundred and twenty miles.

Sixteen years and seven months previous to our arrival at the lake, Captain Speke had viewed it from a point just twelve miles west of my camp. Reflecting on the vast expanse of water before him, Speke said, “I no longer felt any doubt that the lake at my feet gave birth to that interesting river, the source of which has been the subject of so much speculation, and the object of so many explorers.” This bold hypothesis was warmly disputed by many, principally by his fellow-explorer, Captain Burton. This led to Speke making a second expedition, with Captain Grant for a companion, during which he saw a great deal of its western, and half of its northern shores, from prominent points as he travelled overland. Captain Burton and his brother theorists declined to be satisfied; consequently, it was interesting to know, by actual survey, what was the character of this Victoria Nyanza. Was it really one lake, or a cluster of shallow lakes or marshes?

I had thought there could be no better way of settling, once and for ever, the vexed question, than by the circumnavigation of the lake, or lakes. For that purpose I had brought with [306] me from England, in sections, a cedar boat, forty feet long, and six feet beam.

Of course, all my people knew the object of the boat, but when I asked for volunteers to man it for the voyage, they all assumed a look of wonder, as though the matter had dawned on their minds for the first time!

“Where are the brave fellows who are to be my companions?” I asked.

There was a dead silence; the men gazed at one another and stupidly scratched their hips.

“You know, I cannot go alone!”

Their eyes travelled over one another's faces; they had suddenly become blank-faced mutes.

“ You see the beautiful boat, made in England, safe as a ship, swift as a sea-bird. We shall stow plenty of chop; we will lie lazily down on the thwarts; the winds will bear us gaily along. Let my braves step out; those men who will dare accompany their master round this sea.”

Up, and down, their eyes traversed each other's forms, and, finally, became fixed on their feet.

“Come, come; this will not do. Will you join me?”

“Ah, master, I cannot row. I am a land-lubber. My back is as strong as a camel's. There is no one like me for the road; but the sea!--Uh! uh! the water is only fit for fishes, and I am a son of the firm earth!”

“Will you join me, my boy?”

“Dear master, you know I am your slave, and you are my prince; but, master, look at the great waves!--Boo! boo! all the time!--Please, master, excuse me this time. I will never do it again.”

“Will you go with me, to live a pleasant month on the sea?”

“ Ha! ha! good master, you are joking! Who? I? I, who am the son of Abdallah, who was the son of Nasib! Surely, my master, my hamal's back was made to carry loads! I am a donkey for that, but you cannot make a sailor of a donkey!”

“Will you come with me? I have had my eye on you for a long time?”

“Where to, master?” he asked innocently.

“Why, round this sea, of course, in my boat!”

“ Ah, sir, put your hand on my breast. You feel the thumping [307] of the heart. A mere look at the sea always sends it bounding that way. Pray don't kill me, master, that sea would be my grave!”

“So! you are donkeys, eh? camels? land-lubbers? hamals only, eh? Well, we will try another plan! Here, you sir, I like you, a fine, handsome, light weight! Step into that boat; and you, you look like a born sailor, follow him; and you — heavens! what a back and muscles! You shall try them on the oars! And you, a very lion in the fight at Ituru! I love lions, and you shall roar with me to the wild waves of the Nyanza! And you, the springing antelope, ha! ha! you shall spring with me over the foaming surge! ” I selected eleven. “Oh, you young fellows, I will make sailors of you, never fear! Get ready, we must be off within an hour.”

We set sail on the 8th of March. The sky was gloomy. The lake reflected its gloom, and was of the colour of ashy-grey. The shores were stern and rugged. My crew sighed dolorously, and rowed like men bound to certain death, often casting wistful looks at me, as though I shared their doubts, and would order a return, and confess that the preparations were only an elaborate joke. Five miles beyond our port we halted for the night at a fishing-village. A native — shock-headed, ugly, loutish, and ungainly in movement — agreed, for a consideration, to accompany us as pilot and interpreter of lake dialects. The next day, steering eastward, we sailed at early dawn. At 11 A. M., a gale blew, and the lake became wild beyond description. We scudded before the tempest, while it sang in our ears and deafened us with its tumult. The waves hissed as we tore along; leaping seas churned white, racing with us and clashing their tops with loud, engulfing sounds. The crew collapsed, and crouched with staring eyes into the bottom of the boat, and expected each upward heave, and sudden fall into the troughs, to be the end of the wild venture; but the boat, though almost drowned by the spray and foam, dashed gaily along, until, about three o'clock, we swept round to the lee of an island, and floated into a baylet, still as a pond. We coasted around the indented shores of Speke Gulf, and touched at Ukerewe, where our guide had many friends, who told us, for the exceeding comfort of my crew, that it would take years to sail around their sea; and [308] who, at that time, would be left alive to tell the tale? On its shores dwelt a people with long tails; there was a tribe which trained big dogs for purposes of war; there were people, also, who preferred to feed on human beings, rather than on cattle or goats. My young sailors were exceedingly credulous. Our mop-headed guide and pilot grunted his terror, and sought every opportunity to escape the doom which we were hurrying to meet.

From Ukerewe we sailed by the picturesque shores of Wye; thence along the coast of populous Ururi, whence the fishermen, hailed by us as we glided by, bawled out to us that we should be eight years on the voyage. We were frequently chased by hippopotami; crocodiles suddenly rose alongside, and floated for a moment side by side, as though to take the measure of our boat's length. As we sailed by the coast of Irirui, large herds of cattle were seen browsing on green herbage; the natives of Utiri fell into convulsions of laughter as they looked on the novel method of rowing adopted by us. When we hoisted the sail, they ceased mocking us and ran away in terror. Then we laughed at them!

Beyond Utiri loomed the dark mountainous mass of Ugeyeya; to the west of it, grim and lofty, frowned the island of Uguigo. Grey rocky islets studded the coast. By swelling and uneven lines of hills, gentle slopes all agreen with young grass, on which many herds and flocks industriously fed, past many a dark headland, and cliffy walls of rock, and lovely bays, edged by verdure and forest, and cosy lake-ports, the boat sailed day after day, some curious adventure marking each day's voyage, until the boat's head was turned westward.

While close to the shore of Ugamba, a war-canoe manned by forty paddlers drew near to us. When within fifty yards, most of them dropped their paddles and flourished tufted lances and shields. We sat still; they wheeled round us, defyingly shaking their spears; they edged nearer, and ranged their canoe alongside. Lamb-like, we gazed on them; they bullied us, and laid their hands on everything within reach. We smiled placidly, for resentment we had none. We even permitted them to handle our persons freely. Tired with that, they seized their slings and tried to terrify us with the whiz of the stones, which flew by our heads dangerously near. [309] They then chanted a war-song, and one, cheered by the sound, became bolder, and whirled a rock at my head. I fired a revolver into the water, and the warriors at once sprang into the lake and dived, as though in search of the bullet. Not finding it, I suppose, they swam away, and left the fine canoe in our hands!

We were delighted, of course, at the fun; we begged them to come back. After much coaxing, they returned and got into their canoe. We spoke — oh, so blandly!--to them. They were respectful, but laughed as they thought of the boom, boom, boom, of the pistol. They gave me a bunch of bananas, and we mutually admired one another. At last we parted.

Another gale visited us at Usuguru, blowing as though from above. Its force seemed to compress the water; repelled by the weightier element, it brushed its face into millions of tiny ripples. Suddenly, the temperature fell 20°; hailstones as large as filberts pelted us; and, for fully ten minutes, we cowered under the icy shower. Then such tropical torrents of rain poured, that every utensil was employed to bale the boat to prevent foundering. The deluge lasted for hours, but near night we uncovered, baled the boat dry, and crept for refuge, through the twilight, into a wild arbour on an island, there to sleep.

A few days later, we coasted by the island of Wavuma. Five piratical craft came up, and we behaving, as we always did, in that lackadaisical, so fatally-encouraging manner, they became rude, insolent, and, finally, belligerent. Of course, it resulted in a violent rupture; there was an explosion, one of their canoes sank, and then we had peace, and sailed away. We were on the Equator now. We cut across the Napoleon Channel, through which the superfluous waters of the lake flow. At the northern end they abruptly fall about eight feet, and then rush northward as the Victoria Nile.

On the western side of the channel is Uganda, dominated by a prince, entitled Kabaka, or Emperor. He is supreme over about three millions of people, not quite so degraded or barbarous as those we had hitherto viewed. He soon heard of the presence of my boat on the lake, and despatched a flotilla to meet me. Strangely enough, the Emperor's mother had [310] dreamed the night before that she had seen a boat sailing, sailing, like a fish-eagle, over the Nyanza. In the stern of the boat was a white man gazing wistfully towards Uganda.

The dream of the Imperial lady is no sooner told, than a breathless messenger appears at the palace gate and informs the astonished Court that he had seen a boat, with white wings like those of the fish-eagle, skimming along the shores, and at the after-end of the boat there was a white man, scrutinizing the land!

Such a man as this, who sends visions to warn an Empress of his approach, must needs be great! Let worthy preparations be made at once, and send a flotilla to greet him!

Hence, the commodore of the flotilla, on meeting with me, uses words which astonish me by their courtly sound; and, following in the wake of the canoes, we sail towards Usavara, where, I am told, the Emperor of Uganda awaits me.

We see thousands of people arranging themselves in order, as we come in view of the immense camp. The crews in the canoes fire volleys of musketry, which are answered by volleys from shore. Kettle and bass-drums thunder out a welcome, flags and banners are waved, and the people vent a great shout.

The boat's keel grided on the beach; I leapt out, to meet several deeply-bowing officials; they escorted me to a young man standing under an enormous crimson flag, and clad like an Arab gentleman, the Katekiro, or Prime Minister, Ah. I bowed profoundly; he imitated the bow, but added to it a courteous wave of the hand. Then the courtiers came forward and greeted me in the Zanzibar language. “A welcome, a thousand welcomes to the Kabaka's guest!” was cried on all sides.

I was escorted to my quarters. Hosts of questions were fired off at me, about my health, journey, Zanzibar, Europe and its nations, the oceans, and the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars, angels, demons, doctors and priests, and craftsmen in general. I answered to the best of my power, and, in one hour and ten minutes, it was declared unanimously that I had passed!

In the afternoon, after receiving a present of fourteen oxen, sixteen goats and sheep, a hundred bunches of bananas, three [311] dozen fowls, four jars of milk, four baskets of sweet potatoes, a basket of rice, twenty fresh eggs, and ten pots full of banana wine,--which you must admit was an imperial gift for a boat's crew and one white man,--and after I had bathed and brushed, I was introduced to the foremost man of Equatorial Africa. Preceded by pages in white cotton robes, I was ushered into the Imperial Presence through a multitude of chiefs, ranked in kneeling or seated lines, drummers, guards, executioners, and pages.

The tall, clean-faced, and large-lustrous-eyed Mtesa rose, advanced, and shook hands. I was invited to be seated; and then there followed a mutual inspection. We talked about many things, principally about Europe and Heaven. The inhabitants of the latter place he was very anxious about, and was specially interested in the nature of angels. Ideas of those celestial spirits, picked up from the Bible, Paradise Lost, Michael Angelo, and Gustave Dore, enabled me to describe them in bright and warm colours. Led away by my enthusiasm, I may have exaggerated somewhat! However, I was rewarded with earnest attention, and, I do believe, implicit belief!

Every day while I stayed, the “barzah” was kept up with ceremony. One afternoon Mtesa said, “Stamlee, I want you to show my women how white men can shoot.” (There were about nine hundred of them.)

We adjourned the barzah, and proceeded to the lake shore. The ladies formed a crescent line, Mtesa in the midst, and amused themselves by criticising my personal appearance — not unfavourably, I hope! It was, “Stamlee is this,” and “Stamlee is that,” from nine hundred pairs of lips. There was at first a buzz, then it grew into a rippling murmur; hundreds of lips covered and uncovered, alternately, dazzling white teeth; the Equatorial stars were not half so brilliant as the beautiful and lustrous jet-black eyes that reflected the merriness of the hearts. An admiral with a fleet of canoes searched for a crocodile, at which I might take aim. They discovered a small specimen, sleeping on a rock at the distance of a hundred yards.

To represent all the sons of Japhet was a great responsibility; but I am happy to say that my good luck did not desert [312] me. The head of the young reptile was nearly severed from the body by a three-ounce ball, and this feat was accepted as a conclusive and undeniable proof that all white men were dead shots!

In person, Mtesa is slender and tall, probably six feet one inch in height. He has very intelligent and agreeable features, which remind me of some of the faces of the great stone images at Thebes, and of the statues in the Museum at Cairo. He has the same fulness of lips, but their grossness is relieved by the general expression of amiability, blended with dignity, that pervades his face, and the large, lustrous, lambent eyes that lend it a strange beauty, and are typical of the race from which I believe him to have sprung. His face is of a wonderfully smooth surface.

When not engaged in council, he throws off, unreservedly, the bearing that distinguishes him when on the throne, and gives rein to his humour, indulging in hearty peals of laughter. He seems to be interested in the discussion of the manners and customs of European courts, and to be enamoured of hearing of the wonders of civilisation. He is ambitious to imitate, as much as lies in his power, the ways of the European. When any piece of information is given him, he takes upon himself the task of translating it to his wives and chiefs, though many of the latter understand the language of the East Coast as well as he does himself.

Though at this period I only stayed with him about twelve days, as I was anxious about my camp at Kagehyi, yet the interest I conceived for the Emperor and his people at this early stage was very great. He himself was probably the main cause of this. The facility with which he comprehended what was alluded to in conversation, the eagerness of his manner, the enthusiasm he displayed when the wonders of civilisation were broached to him, tempted me to introduce the subject of Christianity, and I delayed my departure from Uganda much longer than prudence counselled, to impress the first rudimentary lessons on his mind.

I did not attempt to confuse him with any particular doctrine, nor did I broach abtruse theological subjects, which I knew would only perplex him. The simple story of the Creation as related by Moses, the revelation of God's power to the [313] Israelites, their delivery from the Egyptians, the wonderful miracles He wrought in behalf of the children of Abraham, the appearance of prophets at various times foretelling the coming of Christ; the humble birth of the Messiah, His wonderful life, woeful death, and the triumphant resurrection,--were themes so captivating to the intelligent pagan, that little public business was transacted, and the seat of justice was converted into an alcove where only the religious and moral law was discussed.

But I must leave my friend Mtesa, and his wonderful court, and the imperial capital, Rubaga, for other scenes.

Ten days after we left the genial court, I came upon the scene of a tragedy, which was commented upon in Parliament. We were coasting the eastern side of a large island, looking for a port where we could put in to purchase provisions. We had already been thirty-six hours without food, and though the people on the neighbouring main were churlish, I hoped the islanders would be more amenable to reason and kindly largesse of cloth. Herds of cattle grazed on the summit and slopes of the island hills; plantations of bananas, here and there, indicated abundance. As we rowed along the shore, a few figures emerged from the shades of the frondent groves. They saw us rowing, and raised the war-cry in long-drawn, melodious notes. It drew numbers out of the villages; they were seen gathering from summit, hollow, and slope. Besides the fierce shouting, their manner was not reassuring. But hungry as we were, and not knowing whither to turn to obtain supplies, this manifest hostility we thought would moderate after a closer acquaintance.

We pulled gently round a point to a baylet. The natives followed our movements, poising their spears, stringing their bows, picking out the best rocks for their slings. Observing them persistent in hostile preparations, we ceased rowing about fifty yards from the shore. The interpreter with the mop head was requested to speak to the natives. You can imagine how he pleaded, hunger inspiring his eloquence! The poised spears were lowered, the ready rocks were dropped, and they invited us by signs with open palms to advance without fear. We were thirteen souls, including myself; they between three and four hundred. Prudence advised retreat, hunger impelled [314] us on; the islanders also invited us. Wisdom is a thing of exceedingly slow growth; had we been wise, we should have listened to the counsels of prudence.

“It is almost always the case, master,” said Safeni, the coxswain. “These savages cry out and threaten, and talk big; but, you will see, these people will become fast friends with us. Besides, if we leave here without food, where shall we get any? ” At the same time, without waiting for orders, four men nearest the bow dipped their oars into the water, and gently moved the boat nearer.

Seeing the boat advance, the natives urged us to be without fear. They smiled, entered the water up to their hips, held out inviting hands. They called us “brothers,” “friends,” “good fellows.” This conquered our reluctance; the crew shot the boat towards the natives; their hands closed on her firmly; they ran with her to the shore; as many as could lay hold assisted, and dragged her high and dry about twenty yards from the lake.

Then ensued a scene of rampant wildness and hideous ferocity of action beyond description. The boat was surrounded by a forest of spears, over fifty bows were bent nearly double, with levelled arrows, over two hundred swart demons contended as to who should deliver the first blow. When this outbreak first took place, I had sprung up to kill and be killed, a revolver in each hand; but, as I rose to my feet, the utter hopelessness of our situation was revealed to me — a couple of mitrailleuses only could have quenched their ferocious fury. We resigned ourselves to the tempest of shrieking rage with apparent indifference. This demeanour was not without its effect; the delirious fury subsided. Our interpreter spoke, our coxswain pleaded with excellent pantomime, and, with Kiganda words, explained; but the arrival of fifty new-comers kindled anew the tumult; it increased to the perilous verge of murder. The coxswain was pushed headlong into the boat; Kirango's head received a sounding thwack from a lance-staff; a club came down heartily on the back of my mop-headed guide. I grinned fiendishly, I fear, because they deserved it for urging me to such a hell.

I had presently to grin another way, for a gang paid their attentions to me. They mistook my hair for a wig, and attempted [315] to pull it off. They gave it a wrench until the scalp tingled. Unresisting, I submitted to their abuse. But, though I was silent, I thought a great deal, and blessed them in my heart.

After a little while they seized our oars — our legs, as they called them. The boat would lie helpless in their power, they thought. The natives took position on a small eminence about two hundred yards away, to hold a palaver. It was a slow affair. They lunched and drank wine. At 3 P. M., drums were beaten for muster. A long line of natives appeared in war costume. All had smeared their faces with black and white pigments. The most dull-witted amongst us knew what it portended!

A tall young fellow came bounding down the hill and pounced upon our Kiganda drum. It was only a curio we had picked up; we let them have it. Before going away he said, “If you are men, prepare to fight.”

“Good,” I said; “the sentence is given, suspense is over. Boys,” I said, “if I try to save you, will you give me absolute submission, unwavering obedience?--no arguing or reasoning, but prompt, unhesitating compliance?”

“Yes, we will; we swear!”

“Do you think you can push this boat into the water?”


“ Just as she is, with all her goods in her, before those men can reach us?”

“Yes, certainly.”

“Stand by, then. Range yourselves on both sides of the boat, carelessly. Each of you find out exactly where you shall lay hold. I will load my guns. Safeni, take these cloths on your arm, walk up towards the men on the hill; open out the cloths one by one, you know, as though you were admiring the pattern. But keep your ears open. When I call out to you, throw the cloths away and fly to us, or your death will lie on your own head! Do you understand?”

“Perfectly, master.”

“Then go.”

Meantime, I loaded my guns, my elephant-rifle, double-barrelled shot-gun, Winchester repeater, and two or three Sniders belonging to the men. [316]

“Lay hold firmly, boys; break the boat rather than stop. It is life or death.”

Safeni was about fifty yards off; the natives' eyes were fastened on him, wondering why he came.

“Now, boys, ready?”

“Ready! Please God, master!”

“Push! push, Saramba, Kirango! Push, you villain, Baraka.”

“Aye, aye, sir! Push it is.”

The boat moved, the crew drove her sternward, her keel ploughing through the gravel, and crunching through the stony beach. We were nearing the lake.

“Hurrah, boys! Push, you scoundrels! Ha! the natives see you! They are coming! Safeni! Safeni! Safeni! Push, boys, the natives are on you! ”

Safeni heard, and came racing towards us. The boat glided into the water, and carried the crew with her far out with the impetus with which she was launched. “Swim away with her, boys, don't stop!”

Alas for Safeni!

A tall native who bounds over the ground like a springbok, poises his spear for a cast. The balanced spear was about to fly — I could not lose my man — I fired. The bullet perforated him, and flew through a second man.

“ Jump, Safeni, head first into the lake!” The bowmen came to the lake, and drew their bows; the Winchester repeater dropped them steadily. The arrows pierced the boat and mast, and quivered in the stern behind me. One only drew blood from me. When we had got one hundred yards from the shore, the arrows were harmless. I lifted a man into the boat, he assisted the rest. We stopped for Safeni, and drew him safely in.

The natives manned four canoes. My crew were told to tear the bottom-boards of the boat up for paddles. The canoes advancing fiercely on us, we desisted from paddling. I loaded my elephant-rifle with explosive bullets, and when the foremost canoe was about eighty yards off, took deliberate aim at a spot in it between wind and water. The shell struck, and tore a large fragment from the brittle wood. The canoe sank. Another canoe soon after met the same fate; the others returned. We were saved! [317]

After being seventy-six hours without food, we reached Refuge Island. We shot some ducks, and discovered some wild fruit. Delicious evening,--how we enjoyed it! The next day we made new oars; and, finally, after fifty-seven days absence from our camp, relieved our anxious people.

“But where is Barker?” I asked Frank Pocock.

“He died twelve days ago, sir, and lies there,” pointing to a new mound of earth near the landing-place.

I must pass briefly over many months, replete with adventures, sorrow, suffering, perils by flood and field. Within a few weeks, the King of Ukerewe having furnished me with canoes, I transported the expedition across the lake from its south-eastern to its north-western extremity, with a view to explore Lake Albert. In passing by the pirate island of Bumbireh, the natives again challenged us to pass by them without their permission; and as that permission would not be given, I attacked the island, capturing the King and two of the principal chiefs, and passed on to Uganda.

Before I could obtain any assistance from Mtesa, I had to visit him once again. Being at war with the Wavuma, he detained me several months.

The good work I had commenced was resumed. I translated for him sufficient out of the Bible to form an abridged sacred history, wherein the Gospel of St. Luke was given entire.

When my work of translation was complete, Mtesa mustered all his principal chiefs and officers, and after a long discourse, in which he explained his state of mind prior to my arrival, he said:--

“Now I want you, my chiefs and soldiers, to tell me what we shall do. Shall we believe in Jesus, or in Mohammed?”

One chief said, “Let us take that which is the best.” The Prime Minister, with a doubtful manner, replied, “We know not which is the best. The Arabs say their book is the best, while the white man claims that his book is the best. How can we know which speaks the truth?” The courtly steward of the palace said, “When Mtesa became a son of Islam, he taught me, and I became one. If my master says he taught me wrong, now, having more knowledge, he can teach me right.” [318]

Mtesa then proceeded to unfold his reasons for his belief that the white man's book must be the true book, basing them principally upon the difference of conduct he had observed between the Arabs and the whites. The comparisons he so eloquently drew for them were in all points so favourable to the whites, that the chiefs unanimously gave their promise to accept the Christians' Bible, and to conform, as they were taught, to the Christian religion.

To establish them in the new faith which they had embraced, it only rested with me to release Darlington, my young assistant-translator, from my service, that he might keep the words of the Holy Book green in their hearts, until the arrival of a Christian mission from England. Seldom was an appeal of this nature so promptly acceded to, as Mtesa's appeal that pastors and teachers should be sent to his country; for £ 14,000 was subscribed in a short time for the equipment of a Missionary expedition, under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society. Three months before we reached the Atlantic Ocean, the missionaries for Uganda arrived at Zanzibar, the island we had left nineteen months previously.5

On the conclusion of peace, Mtesa gave me two thousand three hundred men for an escort. With these we travelled west from the north-west comer of Lake Victoria and discovered the giant mountain Gordon Bennett, in the country of Gambaragara, and halted near Lake Muta-Nzige. But as the Wanyoro gathered in such numbers as to make it impossible to resist them, we retreated back to Lake Victoria. We then bade adieu to the Waganda, and travelled south until we came to Lake Tanganyika. We launched our boat on that lake, and, circumnavigating it, discovered that there was only a periodical outlet to it. It is, at this present time, steadily flowing out by the Lukuga River, westward to the Lualaba, until, at some other period of drought, the Tanganyika shall again be reduced, and the Lukuga bed be filled with vegetation.

Thus, by the circumnavigation of the two lakes, two of the [319] geographical problems I had undertaken to solve were settled. The Victoria Nyanza I found to be one lake, covering a superficial area of 21,500 square miles. The Tanganyika had no connection with the Albert Nyanza; and, at present, it had no outlet. Should it continue to rise, as there was sufficient evidence to prove that for at least thirty years it had been steadily doing, its surplus waters would be discharged by the Lukuga River into the Lualaba.

There now remained the grandest task of all, in attempting to settle which Livingstone had sacrificed himself. Is the Lualaba, which he had traced along a course of nearly thirteen hundred miles, the Nile, the Niger, or the Congo? He himself believed it to be the Nile, though a suspicion would sometimes intrude itself that it was the Congo. But he resisted the idea. “Anything for the Nile,” he said, “but I will not be made black man's meat for the Congo!”

I crossed Lake Tanganyika with my expedition, lifted once more my gallant boat on our shoulders, and after a march of nearly two hundred and twenty miles arrived at the superb river on the banks of which Livingstone had died.

Where I first sighted it, the Lualaba was fourteen hundred yards wide — a noble breadth, pale grey in colour, winding slowly from south and by east. In the centre rose two or three small islets, green with the foliage of trees and the verdure of sedge. It was my duty to follow it to the ocean, whatever might hap during the venture.

We pressed on along the river to the Arab colony of Mwana-Mamba, the chief of which was Tippu-Tib, a rich Arab, who possessed hundreds of armed slaves. He had given considerable assistance to Cameron. A heavy fee, I thought, would bribe him to escort me some distance, until the seductions of Nyangwe would be left far behind.

“I suppose, Tippu-Tib, you would have no objections to help me, for a good sum?”

“I don't know about that,” he said, with a smile; “I have not many men with me now. Many are at Imbarri, others are trading in Manyuema.”

“How many men have you?”

“Perhaps three hundred,--say two hundred and fifty.”

“They are enough.” [320]

“Yes, added to your people, but not enough to return alone after you would leave me, through such a country as lies beyond Nyangwe.”

“But, my friend, think how it would be with me, with half a continent before me.”

“Ah, well, if you white people are fools enough to throw away your lives, that is no reason why Arabs should! We travel little by little, to get ivory and slaves, and are years about it. It is now nine years since I left Zanzibar.”

After a while, he called a man named Abed, son of Friday, who had penetrated further than any man, westward and northward.

“Speak, Abed; tell us what you know of this river.”

“Yes, I know all about the river. Praise be to God!”

“In which direction does it flow, my friend?”

“It flows north.”

“And then?”

“It flows north.”

“And then?”

“Still north. I tell you, sir, it flows north, and north, and north, and there is no end to it. I think it reaches the Salt Sea; at least, my friends say that it must.”

“ Well, point out in which direction this Salt Sea is.”

“God only knows.”

“ What kind of a country is it to the north, along the river? ”

“ Monstrous bad! There are fearfully large boa-constrictors, in the forest of Uregga, suspended by their tails, waiting to gobble up travellers and stray animals. The ants in that forest are not to be despised. You cannot travel without being covered by them, and they sting like wasps. There are leopards in countless numbers. Every native wears a leopard-skin cap. Gorillas haunt the woods in legions, and woe befall the man or woman they meet; they run and fasten their fangs in the hands, and bite the fingers one by one, and spit them out one after another. The people are man-eaters. It is nothing but constant fighting. A party of three hundred guns started for Uregga; only sixty returned. If we go by river, there are falls after falls. Ah, sir, the country is bad, and we have given up trying to trade in that direction.”

But, despite the terrible news of Abed, the son of Friday, [321] Tippu-Tib was not averse to earning a decent fee. Pending his definite acceptance of a proffered sum of a thousand pounds, I consulted my remaining companion, Frank Pocock.

While my little ebon page Mabruki poured out the evening's coffee, I described the difficulty we were in. I said, “These Arabs have told such frightful tales about the lands north of here, that unless Tippu-Tib accepts my offer, the expedition will be broken up, for our men are demoralized through fear of cannibals and pythons, leopards and gorillas, and all sorts of horrible things. Canoes we cannot get; both Livingstone and Cameron failed. Now, what do you say, Frank, shall we go south to Lake Lincoln, Lake Kamalondo, Lake Bemba, and down to the Zambezi?”

“Ah, that's a fine trip, sir.”

“Or shall we explore north-east of here until we strike the Muta Nzige, then strike across to Uganda, and back to Zanzibar?”

“Ah, that would be a fine job, sir, if we could do it.”

“Or shall we follow this great river, which for all these thousands of years has been flowing northward through hundreds, possibly thousands of miles, of which no one has ever heard a word? Fancy, by and by, after building or buying canoes, floating down the river, day by day, to the Nile, or to some vast lake in the far north, or to the Congo and the Atlantic Ocean! Think of steamers from the mouth of the Congo to Lake Bemba!”

“ I say, sir, let us toss up, best two out of three to decide it!”

“ Toss away, Frank; here is a rupee. Heads for the north and the Lualaba; tails for the south and Katanga.”

Frank, with beaming face, tossed the coin high up. It showed tails!

He tossed again, and tails won six times running! But despite the omen of the coin, and the long and short straws, I resolved to cling to the north and to the Lualaba.

Frank replied, “Sir, have no fear of me! I shall stand by you. The last words of my dear old father were, “Stick by your master,” and there is my hand, sir; you shall never have cause to doubt me.” And poor Frank kept his word like a true man. [322]

Tippu-Tib eventually agreed, and signed a contract, and I gave him a promissory note for one thousand pounds.

On the 5th of November, 1876, a force of about seven hundred people, consisting of Tippu-Tib's slaves and my expedition, departed from the town of Nyangwe and entered the dismal forest-land north. A straight line from this point to the Atlantic Ocean would measure one thousand and seventy miles; another to the Indian Ocean would measure only nine hundred and twenty miles; we had not reached the centre of the continent by seventy-five miles.

Outside the woods blazed a blinding sunshine; underneath that immense and everlasting roof-foliage were a solemn twilight and the humid warmth of a Turkish bath. The trees shed continual showers of tropic dew. Down the boles and branches, massive creepers and slender vegetable cords, the warm moisture trickled and fell in great globes. The wet earth exhaled the moisture back in vapour, which, touching the cold, damp foliage overhung high above our heads, became distilled into showers. As we struggled on through the mud, the perspiration exuded from every pore. Our clothes were soon wet and heavy, with sweat and the fine vapoury rain. Every few minutes we crossed ditches filled with water, over-hung by depths of leafage. Our usual orderly line was therefore soon broken; the column was miles in length. Every man required room to sprawl, and crawl, and scramble as he best could, and every fibre and muscle was required for that purpose.

Sometimes prostrate forest-giants barred the road with a mountain of twigs and branches. The pioneers had to carve a passage through for the caravan and the boat sections. If I was so fortunate as to gain the summit of a hill, I inhaled long draughts of the pure air, and looked out over a sea of foliage stretching to all points of the compass. I had certainly seen forests before, but all others, compared to this, were mere faggots. It appalled the stoutest heart; it disgusted me with its slush and reek, its gloom and monotony.

For ten days we endured it; then the Arabs declared they could go no further. As they were obstinate in this determination, I had recourse to another arrangement. I promised them five hundred pounds if they would escort us twenty marches [323] only. It was accepted. I proposed to strike for the river. On our way to it, we came to a village, whose sole street was adorned with one hundred and eighty-six skulls, laid in two parallel lines. The natives declared them to be the skulls of gorillas, but Professor Huxley, to whom I showed specimens, pronounced them to be human.

Seventeen days from Nyangwe, we saw again the great river. Remembering the toil of the forest-march, and viewing the stately breadth and calm flow of the mighty stream, I here resolved to launch my boat for the last time.

While we screwed the sections together, a small canoe, with two Bagenya fishermen, appeared in front of our camp by the river.

“Brothers!” we hailed them, “we wish to cross the river. Bring your canoes and ferry us across. We will pay you well with cowries and bright beads.”

“Who are you?”

“We are from Nyangwe.”

“Ah! You are Wasambye!”

“No, we have a white man as chief.”

“If he fills my canoe with shells, I will go and tell my people you wish to go over.”

“We will give you ten shells for the passage of every man.”

“We want a thousand for each man.”

“That is too much; come, we will give you twenty shells for every man.”

“Not for ten thousand, my brother. We do not want you to cross the river. Go back, Wasambye; you are bad. Wasambye are bad, bad, bad!”

They departed, singing the wildest, weirdest note I ever heard. I subsequently discovered it to be a kind of savage-telegraphy, which I came to dread, as it always preceded trouble.

About noon, the boat was launched for her final work. When we rowed across the river, the mere sight of her long oars, striking the water with uniform movement, alarmed the unsophisticated aborigines. They yielded at last, and the double caravan was transported to the left bank. We passed our first night in the Wenya land in quietness; but, in the [324] morning, the natives had disappeared. Placing thirty-six of the people in the boat, we floated down the river with the current, close to the left bank, along which the land-party marched. But the river bore us down much faster than the land-party was able to proceed. The two divisions lost touch of one another for three days.

Nothing could be more pacific than the solitary boat gliding down on the face of the stream, without a movement of oar or paddle; but its appearance, nevertheless, was hailed by the weird war-cries of the Wenya. The villages below heard the notes, shivered with terror, and echoed the warning cry “to beware of strangers afloat.”

We came to the confluence of the Ruiki with the Lualaba. I formed a camp at the point to await our friends. I rowed up the Ruiki to search for them. Returning two hours later, I found the camp was being attacked by hosts of savages.

On the third day the land-column appeared, weary, haggard, sick, and low-spirited. Nevertheless, nothing was to be gained by a halt. We were in search of friendly savages, if such could be found, where we might rest. But, as day after day passed on, we found the natives increasing rather than abating in wild rancour, and unreasonable hate of strangers. At every curve and bend they “telephoned” along the river the warning signals; the forests on either bank flung hither and thither the strange echoes; their huge wooden drums sounded the muster for fierce resistance; reed arrows, tipped with poison, were shot at us from the jungle as we glided by. To add to our distress, the small-pox attacked the caravan, and old and young victims of the pest were flung daily into the river. What a terrible land! Both banks, shrouded in tall, primeval forests, were filled with invisible, savage enemies; out of every bush glared eyes flaming with hate; in the stream lurked the crocodiles to feed upon the unfortunates; the air seemed impregnated with the seeds of death!

On the 18th of December, our miseries culminated in a grand effort of the savages to annihilate us. The cannibals had manned the topmost branches of the trees above the village of Vinya Njara; they lay like pards crouching amidst the garden-plants, or coiled like pythons in clumps of sugar-cane. Maddened by wounds, we became deadly in our aim; the rifle [325] seldom failed. But, while we skirmished in the woods, the opposite bank of the river belched flotillas, which recalled us to the front, and the river-bank. For three days, with scarcely any rest, the desperate fighting lasted. Finally, Tippu-Tib appeared. His men cleared the woods; and by night I led a party across the river, and captured thirty-six canoes belonging to those who had annoyed us on the right bank. Then peace was made. I purchased twenty-three canoes, and surrendered the others.

Beyond Vinya Njara, the Arabs would not proceed, and I did not need them. We were far enough from Nyangwe. Its seductive life could no longer tempt my people. Accordingly, we prepared to part.

I embarked my followers in the canoes and boat. Tippu-Tib ranged his people along the bank. His Wanyamuezi chanted the mournful farewell. We surrendered ourselves to the strong flood, which bore us along to whatever Fate reserved in store for us.

Dense woods covered both banks and islands. Though populous settlements met our eyes frequently, our intercourse with the aborigines was of a fitfully fierce character. With an audacity sprung from ignorance, and cannibal greed, they attacked us with ever fresh relays. A few weak villages allowed our flotilla to glide by unmolested, but the majority despatched their bravest warriors, who assailed us with blind fury. Important tributaries, such as the Uruidi, the Loweva, the Leopold, and the Lufu, opened wide gaps in the dark banks, and lazy creeks oozed from amid low flats and swamps.

Armies of parrots screamed overhead as they flew across the river; aquatic birds whirred by us to less disturbed districts; legions of monkeys sported in the branchy depths; howling baboons alarmed the solitudes; crocodiles haunted the sandy points and islets; herds of hippopotami grunted thunderously at our approach; elephants bathed their sides by the margin of the river; there was unceasing vibration from millions of insects throughout the livelong day. The sky was an azure dome, out of which the sun shone large and warm; the river was calm, and broad, and brown. While we floated past the wilderness, we were cheered by its calm and restful aspect, but the haunts of the wild men became positively hateful. [326]

Such were my experiences until I arrived at what is now known as the Stanley Falls. The savages gathered about us on the river, and lined the shore to witness the catastrophe, but I faced the left bank, drove the natives away, and landed. For twenty-two days I toiled to get past the seven cataracts — my left flank attacked by the ruthless and untiring natives, my right protected by the boiling and raging flood. On the 28th of January, my boats were safe below the Falls.

I was just twenty miles north of the Equator. Since I first sighted the mysterious Lualaba, I had only made about sixty miles of westing in a journey of nearly four hundred miles. Therefore its course had been mainly northward and Nile-ward, almost parallel with the trend of the Tanganyika.

I myself was still in doubt as to what river-system it belonged to. But below the Falls, the Lualaba, nearly a mile wide, curved northwest. “Ha! It is the Niger, or the Congo,” I said. I had not much time to speculate, however. Every hour was replete with incidents. The varied animal life on the shores, the effervescing face of the turbid flood, the subtle rising and sinking of the greedy crocodile, the rampant plunge and trumpet snort of the hippos, the unearthly, flesh-curdling cry of the relentless cannibal — had it not been for these, which gave tone to our life, there was every disposition to brood, and dream, and glide on insensibly to eternal forget-fulness. Looked I ahead, I viewed the stem river streaming away — far away into a tremulous, vaporous ocean. If you followed that broad band of living waters, quick and alert as the senses might be at first, you soon became conscious that you were subsiding into drowsiness as the eyes rested on the trembling vapours exhaled by river and forest, which covered the distance as with silver gauze; then the unknown lands loomed up in the imagination, with most fantastic features, the fancy roamed through pleasing medleys,--

And balmy dreams calmed all our pains,
And softly hushed our woes.

But see! we have arrived at the confluence of the Lualaba with a river which rivals it in breadth. Down the latter, a frantic host of feathered warriors urge a fleet of monstrous canoes. They lift their voices in a vengeful chorus, the dense [327] forest repeats it, until it flies pealing from bank to bank. The war-horns are blown with deafening blasts, the great drums boom out a sound which fills our ears and deafens our sense of hearing. For a moment, we are aghast at the terrific view! The instinct of most of our party is to fly. Fly from that infuriate rush! Impossible! The rifles of our boat are directed against the fugitives. They are bidden to return, to form a line, to drop anchor. The shields which have been our booty from many a fight are lifted to bulwark the non-combatants, the women and the children; and every rifleman takes aim, waiting for the word. It is “neck or nothing” ! I have no time to pray, or take sentimental looks around, or to breathe a savage farewell to the savage world!

There are fifty-four canoes. The foremost is a Leviathan among native craft. It has eighty paddlers, standing in two rows, with spears poised for stabbing, their paddles knobbed with ivory, and the blades carved. There are eight steersmen at the stern, a group of prime young warriors at the bow, capering gleefully, with shield and spear; every arm is ringed with broad ivory bracelets, their heads gay with parrot-feathers.

The Leviathan bears down on us with racing speed, its consorts on either flank spurting up the water into foam, and shooting up jets with their sharp prows; a thrilling chant from two thousand throats rises louder and louder on our hearing.

Presently, the poised spears are launched, and a second later my rifles respond with a ripping, crackling explosion, and the dark bodies of the canoes and paddlers rush past us. For a short time, the savages are paralyzed; but they soon recover. They find there is death in those flaming tubes in the hands of the strangers, and, with possibly greater energy than they advanced, they retreat, the pursued becoming the pursuers in hot chase.

My blood is up. It is a murderous world, and I have begun to hate the filthy, vulturous shoals who inhabit it. I pursue them up-stream, up to their villages; I skirmish in their streets, drive them pell-mell into the woods beyond, and level their ivory temples; with frantic haste I fire the huts, and end the scene by towing the canoes into mid-stream and setting them adrift! [328]

Now, suspecting everything with the semblance of man, like hard-pressed stags, wearied with fighting, our nerves had become unstrung. We were still only in the middle of the continent, and yet we were being weeded out of existence, day by day, by twos and threes. The hour of utter exhaustion was near, when we should lie down like lambs, and offer our throats to the cannibal butchers.

But relief and rest were near. The last great affluent had expanded the breadth of the Lualaba to four miles. A series of islands were formed in mid-river, lengthy and narrow, lapping one another; and between each series there were broad channels. I sheered off the mainland, entered these channels, and was shut out from view.

“Allah,” as I cried out to my despairing people, “has provided these liquid solitudes for us. Bismillah, men, and forward.”

But, every two or three days, the channels, flowing diagonally, floated us in view of the wild men of the mainland. With drumming and horn-blowing, these ruthless people came on, ignoring the fact that their intended victims might hold their lives dear, might fight strenuously for their existence. The silly charms and absurd fetishes inspired the credulous natives with a belief in their invulnerability. They advanced with a bearing which, by implication, I understood to mean, “It is useless to struggle, you know. You cannot evade the fate in store for you! Ha, ha; meat, meat, we shall have meat to-day!” and they dashed forward with the blind fury of crocodiles in sight of their prey, and the ferocious valour of savages who believe themselves invincible.

What then? Why, I answered them with the energy of despair, and tore through them with blazing rifles, leaving them wondering and lamenting.

I sought the mid-channel again, and wandered on with the current, flanked by untenanted islets, which were buried in tropical shade by clustered palms and the vivid leafage of paradise. Ostracised by savage humanity, the wilds embraced us, and gave us peace and rest. In the voiceless depths of the watery wilderness we encountered neither treachery nor guile. Therefore we clung to them as long as we could, and floated down, down, hundreds of miles. [329]

The river curved westward, then south-westward. Ah, straight for the mouth of the Congo! It widened daily; the channels became numerous. Sometimes in crossing from one to another there was an open view of water from side to side. It might have been a sea for all we knew, excepting that there was a current, and the islands glided by us.

After forty days, I saw hills; the river contracted, gathered its channels one by one, until at last we floated down a united and powerful river, banked by mountains. Four days later we emerged out of this on a circular expanse. The white cliffs of Albion were duplicated by white sand-cliffs on our right, at the entrance, capped by grassy downs. Cheered at the sight, Frank Pocock cried out, “Why, here are the cliffs of Dover, and this singular expanse we shall call Stanley Pool!”

The stretch of uninterrupted navigation I had just descended measured one thousand and seventy statute miles. At the lower end of Stanley Pool, the river contracted again, and presently launched itself down a terraced steep, in a series of furious rapids.

Resolved to cling to the river, we dragged our canoes by land past the rapids, lowered them again into the river, paddled down a few miles with great rock-precipices on either hand. We encountered another rapid, and again we drew our canoes overland. It grew to be a protracted and fatal task. At Kalulu Falls six of my men were drowned. Accidents occurred almost every day. Casualties became frequent. Twice myself and crew were precipitated down the rapids. Frank Pocock, unwarned by the almost every-day calamity, insisted that his crew should shoot the Massassa Falls. The whirlpool below sucked all down to the soundless depths, out of which Frank and two young Zanzibaris never emerged alive.

But still resolute to persevere, I continued the desperate task, and toiled on and on, now in danger of cataracts, then besieged by famine, until, on the 31st of July, I arrived at a point on the Lower Congo, last seen by Captain Tuckey, an English Naval officer, in 1816. I knew then, beyond dispute of the most captious critic, that the Lualaba, whose mystery had wooed Livingstone to his death, was no other than the “lucid, long-winding Zaire,” as sung by Camoens, or the mighty Congo. [330]

Now, farewell, brave boat! seven thousand miles, up and down broad Africa, thou hast accompanied me! For over five thousand miles thou hast been my home! Now lift her up tenderly, boys, so tenderly, and let her rest!

Wayworn and feeble, we began our overland march, through a miserable country inhabited by a sordid people. They would not sell me food, unless for gin, they said. Gin! and from me! “Why, men, two and a half years ago I left the Indian Sea, and can I have gin? Give us food that we may live, or beware of hungry men!” They gave us refuse of their huts, some pea-nuts, and stunted bananas. We tottered on our way to the Atlantic, a scattered column of long and lean bodies, dysentery, ulcers, and scurvy, fast absorbing the remnant of life left by famine.

I despatched couriers ahead. Two days from Boma, they returned with abundance. We revived, and, staggering, arrived at Boma on the 9th of August, 1877, and an international gathering of European merchants met me, and, smiling a warm welcome, told me kindly that I “had done right well.”

Three days later, I gazed upon the Atlantic Ocean, and I saw the puissant river flowing into the bosom of that boundless, endless sea. But, grateful as I felt to Him who had enabled me to pierce the Dark Continent from east to west, my heart was charged with grief, and my eyes with tears, at the thought of the many comrades and friends I had lost.

The unparalleled fidelity of my people to me demanded that I should return them to their homes. Accordingly, I accompanied them round the Cape of Good Hope to Zanzibar, where, in good time, we arrived, to the great joy of their friends and relatives, when father embraced son, and brother brother, and mothers their daughters, and kinsmen hailed as heroes the men who had crossed the continent.

Only the inevitable limitations of space prevent a citation from the fuller account of this expedition in Stanley's book, “Through the Dark Continent,” of some passages illustrating the loyal and tender relations between him and his black followers. Nothing in the story exceeds in human interest the final scene, his conveying of his surviving force, from the mouth of the Congo, around the Cape, to their homes in Zanzibar, so removing their depression arising from the fear that, having found again his own people, he may leave them; their gladness at the re-assurance he gives; the arrival at [331] Zanzibar, after three weeks voyage; the astonishment and delight of the reunion with relatives and friends; the sorrowful parting with their master. When he went on board the steamer to sail for Europe, a deputation of the best followed him on board, to offer their help in reaching his home, if he needed it, and to declare that they would start for no new adventure on the continent until they heard that he had safely reached his own land.

The second pay-day was devoted to hearing the claims for wages due to the faithful dead. Poor, faithful souls! With an ardour and a fidelity unexpected, and an immeasurable confidence, they had followed me to the very death! True, negro nature had often asserted itself; but it was, after all, but human nature. They had never boasted that they were heroes, but they exhibited truly heroic stuff while coping with the varied terrors of the hitherto untrodden, and apparently endless, wilds of broad Africa.

They were sweet and sad moments, those of parting. What a long, long and true friendship was here sundered! Through what strange vicissitudes of life had they not followed me! What wild and varied scenes had we not seen together! What a noble fidelity these untutored souls had exhibited! The chiefs were those who had followed me to Ujiji in 1871: they had been witnesses of the joy of Livingstone at the sight of me; they were the men to whom I entrusted the safe-guard of Livingstone on his last and fatal journey; who had mourned by his corpse at Muilla, and borne the illustrious dead to the Indian Ocean.

In a flood of sudden recollection, all the stormy period, here ended, rushed in upon my mind; the whole panorama of danger and tempest through which these gallant fellows had so staunchly stood by me — these gallant fellows now parting from me! Rapidly, as in some apocalyptic trance, every vision, every scene of strife with Man and Nature, through which these poor men and women had borne me company, and solaced me by the simple sympathy of common suffering, came hurrying across my memory; for each face before me was associated with some adventure, or some peril; reminded me of some triumph, or of some loss.

What a wild, weird retrospect it was, that mind's flash over the troubled past! So like a troublous dream!

And for years and years to come, in many homes in Zanzibar, [332] there will be told the great story of our journey, and the actors in it will be heroes among their kith and kin. For me, too, they are heroes, these poor ignorant children of Africa; for, from the first deadly struggle in savage Ituru, to the last struggling rush into Embomma, they had rallied to my voice like veterans; and in the hour of need they had never failed me. And thus, aided by their willing hands and by their loyal hearts, the expedition had been successful, and the three great problems of the Dark Continent's geography had been fairly solved. Laus Deo.

1 On Saturday, April 18, 1874.

2 For a full account of the funeral obsequies, see the Memoir prefacing Stanley's book, How I Found Livingstone.

3 Francis and Edward Pocock, who, with Frederick Barker, were his only white companions in the expedition. All three did gallant work, and not one returned.--D. S.

4 It was here, on this watershed, that Stanley discovered the southernmost source of the Nile.--D. S.

5 This Uganda Mission encountered tragic as well as heroic experiences, including an aggressive rivalry by the Roman Catholics, fierce persecution by the Mohammedans, and many martyrdoms. Ultimately, it prospered and grew, and the Guardian, November 25, 1908, speaks of it as “the most successful of modem missions.” --D. S.

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