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Chapter XVII
the rescue of Emin

Part I. The Relief

my fifth expedition was due to the overwhelming catastrophe which occurred at Khartoum, on January 26th, 1885. On that date the heroic defender of the city, General Charles George Gordon, of Chinese and African fame, and his Egyptian garrison were massacred, the population reduced to slavery, and all the vast Soudan submerged by barbarism. The only Egyptian force in the Soudan which escaped from the disaster was that which, led by Emin Pasha, had sought refuge among the savage tribes in the neighbourhood of Wadelai on the left bank of the Nile, about 25° north of the Albert Nyanza. Fearing that he would be unable to offer continued resistance, Emin began writing letters to the Egyptian Government, Mr. Mackay, the Missionary, the Antislavery Society, and Sir John Kirk, imploring assistance before he should be overwhelmed. Through the influence of Sir William Mackinnon, a relief-fund was collected in this country, Egypt promised an equal sum, and the Emin Relief Expedition was the consequence. When men hear a person crying out for help, few stay to ascertain whether he merits it; but they forthwith proceed to render what assistance is needed. It was rather harrowing to read, day by day, in the British Press that one of Gordon's officers, at the head of a little army, was in danger of perishing and sharing the remorseless fate which had overtaken the self-sacrificing chief and his garrison at Khartoum. It is to Dr. R. W. Felkin, of Edinburgh, who, as a casual traveller, had enjoyed Emin's hospitality between July and September, 1879, that I am indebted for that beautiful and inspiring picture of a Governor at bay in the far Soudan, defying the victorious Mahdists, and fighting bravely, inch by inch, for the land which he had been appointed to rule by General Gordon. [354]

This Governor was described by him as a tall, military figure, of severe aspect, of rigid morals, inflexible will, scientific attainments — and his name was Emin. The picture became impressed on our imaginations.

The “MacKINNONinnon clan,” as we fondly termed Sir William Mackinnon and his personal friends, were among the foremost to come forward. They offered to give ten thousand pounds if the Egyptian Government would advance a similar amount. The proposal received Egypt's prompt assent, and as the British Press and people strongly sympathised with the movement, the Government, also, cordially favoured it.

My old friend Sir William had asked me, before he had appealed to his friends, if, in the event of a fund being raised, I would lead the expedition. I replied that I would do so gratuitously; or, if the Relief Committee preferred another leader, as was very probable, I would put my name down for Five hundred pounds. Without waiting the issue of his appeal to his friends, I sailed for America to commence a lecturing-tour. Thirteen days after my arrival in America, I was recalled by cable; and on Christmas Eve, 1886, I was back in England.

Forthwith came appeals to me from the brave and adventurous and young, that I would be pleased to associate them with me in the enterprise of relief. They vowed strictest fidelity, obedience to any terms, and utmost devotion; and from among the host of applicants, Major Barttelot, of the 7th Fusiliers, Mr. Jameson, a rich young civilian, Lieutenant Stairs, of the Royal Engineers, Captain Nelson, of Methuen's Horse, Surgeon Parke, of the Army Medical Department, Mr. Jephson, and two or three others, were enrolled as members of the expedition to relieve Emin Pasha, Governor of Equatoria. Had our means only been equal to our opportunities, we might have emptied the barracks, the colleges, the public schools,--I might almost say the nurseries,--so great was the number of applications to join in the adventurous quest!

The route resolved upon was that from Zanzibar westward, via the south end of Lake Victoria, through Karagwe and Ankori and South-west Unyoro, to Lake Albert; but, about thirteen days before we sailed, the King of the Belgians, [355] through his generous offers of assistance, induced us to change our plans. The advantages of the Congo route were about five hundred miles shorter land-journey, and less opportunities for desertion of the porters, who are quite unable to withstand the temptation of deserting. It also quieted the fears of the French and Germans that, behind this professedly humanitarian quest, we might have annexation projects.

A native force was recruited in Zanzibar, and the expedition travelled by sea to the mouth of the Congo, and went up the river, arriving March 21, 1887, at Stanley Pool. As far as that everything prospered. We had started from England with the good wishes of all concerned; and even the French Press, with one accord, were, for once, cordial and wished us bon voyage. But, on reaching the Pool, the steam flotilla was found to be only capable of carrying four-fifths of the expedition.

Fourteen hundred miles from the Atlantic, we reached the limit of Congo navigation, and found camp at Yambuya, a large village, situated on the edge of an unknown territory which extended as far as the Albert Nyanza. A steamer was at once sent down-river to bring the remainder of the force and stores left behind.

It should be remembered, that the last news from Emin was an urgent appeal for help. The last solemn injunction to us was to hurry forward, lest we be too late. Hitherto, we had been dependent on the fortunes of the sea, the skill of ship captains, and safe navigation by ocean and river. German and French jealousies had been dissipated; between our professional deserters and their island, Zanzibar, was half a continent, and much of it unknown. Now was the time, if ever, to prove that our zeal had not cooled. Six weeks, probably two months, would pass before the entire force could be collected at Yambuya. If Emin was in such desperate straits as he had described, his total ruin might be effected in that time, and the disaster would be attributed to that delay — just as Gordon's death had been attributed to Sir Charles Wilson's delay at Metemmeh. To avoid that charge, I had no option but to form an Column, whose duty would be to represent the steady progress of the expedition towards its goal, while a second Column, under five experienced officers, would convey after us, a few weeks later, the reserve stores [356] and baggage. If Tippu-Tib was faithful to his promise to supply the second Column with six hundred carriers, the work of the Column would be comparatively easy. If the Arab chief was faithless, then the officers were to do the best they could with their own men; to follow after me, in that case, was obviously their best course.

On the thirteenth day after arrival at Yambuya, the advance, consisting of five Europeans and three hundred and eighty-four natives, entered the great Equatorial Forest. The unknown country which lay between Yambuya and the Albert Nyanza, on whose shores we hoped to meet the “beleaguered” Governor, was five hundred and forty geographical miles in length, by about three hundred and thirty in width. We were absolutely ignorant of the character of any portion embraced within this area. The advance force was divided into four Companies, commanded by Stairs, Nelson, Jephson, and Parke. The pioneers consisted of select men who were to use the bill-hook, cutlass, and axe, for clearing a passage through the entangling underwood, without which it would have been impossible to advance at all. They had also to resist attack from the front, to scout, to search for fords, or to bridge the deeper creeks.

The daily routine began about six o'clock. After roll-calls, the pioneers filed out, followed, after a little headway had been gained, by each Company in succession. At this hour the Forest would be buried in a cheerless twilight, the morning mist making every tree shadowy and indistinct. After hacking, hewing, and tunnelling, and creeping slowly for five hours, we would halt for refreshment. At one o'clock, the journey would be resumed; and about four, we would prepare our camp for the night.

Soon after sunset the thick darkness would cover the limitless world of trees around; but, within our circle of green huts and sheds, a cheery light would shine from a hundred campfires. By nine o'clock the men, overcome by fatigue, would be asleep; silence ensued, broken only by sputtering fire-logs, flights of night-jars, hoarse notes from great bats, croakings of frogs, cricket-cheeps, falling of trees or branches, a shriek from some prowling chimpanzee, a howl from a peevish monkey, and the continual gasping cry of the lemur. But during [357] many nights, we would sit shivering under ceaseless torrents of rain, watching the forky flames of the lightning, and listening to the stunning and repeated roars of the thunder-cannonade, as it rolled through the woody vaults.

During the first month not a man fell away from his duty; the behaviour of both officers and men was noble and faultless. Regularly as clock-work, each morning they took to the road, and paced as fast as the entanglements and obstacles of underwood, swamp, and oozy creeks allowed. Each day the Forest presented the same unbroken continuity of patriarchal woods, the same ghostly twilight at morning, the same dismal shade at noon. Foliage, from forty to a hundred feet thick, above us, a chaos of undergrowth around us, soft black humus, and dark soil, rich as compost, under our feet.

At intervals of ten, fifteen, or twenty miles, we came across small clearings, but their wild owners had fled, or stood skulking on our flanks unseen. As no possible chance of intercourse was offered to us, we helped ourselves to their manioc, plucked the bananas, and passed on.

At the end of the first month, there came a change. Our men had gradually lost their splendid courage. The hard work and scanty fare were exhausting. The absence of sunshine, and other gloomy environments, were morally depressing. Physically and morally, they had deteriorated; and a long rest was imperatively needed. But we could find no settlement that could assure the necessary provisions. Now that the blood was impoverished, too, the smallest abrasion from a thorn, a puncture from a mosquito, or a skewer in the path, developed rapidly into a devouring ulcer. The sick-list grew alarmingly large, and our boats and canoes were crowded with sufferers.

We, finally, entered upon a region that had been dispeopled and cruelly wasted by the Manyuema raiders, and it became a matter of life and death to get quickly through and beyond it. But, already famished and outworn, in body and spirit, by past struggles, our men were unable, and too dejected, to travel rapidly; and the tedious lagging involved still more penalties. Had they known how comparatively short was the distance that lay between them and supplies, they no doubt would have made heroic efforts to push on. [358]

Then starvation commenced to claim its victims, and to strew the track with the dying and dead; and this quailed the stoutest hearts.

Ever before us rose the same solemn and foodless Forest the same jungle to impede and thwart our progress with ooze, frequently a cubit deep, the soil often as treacherous as ice to the barefooted carrier, creek-beds strewn with sharp-edged oyster-shells, streams choked with snags, chilling mist and icy rain, thunder-clatter and sleepless nights, and a score of other horrors. To add to our desperate state, several of our followers who had not sickened, lost heart, became mad with hunger and wild forebodings, tossed the baggage into the bush, and fled from us, as from a pest.

Although, when on the verge of hopelessness, our scouts would sometimes discover a plantation, whereat we could obtain a supply of plantains, past affliction taught them no prudence. They devoured their food without a thought of the want of the next day; and, in a few hours, the slow agony of hunger would be renewed.

Even the white man does not endure hunger patiently. It is a thing he never forgives. The loss of one meal obliterates the memories of a hundred feasts. When hunger begins to gnaw at his stomach, the nature of the animal comes out, as a tortoise-head, projected from the shell, discloses the animal within. Despite education and breeding, the white man is seldom more than twenty-four hours ahead of his black brother, and barely one hundred hours in advance of the cannibal; and ten thousand years hence he will be just the same. He will never be so civilised as to be independent of his stomach; so it must be understood that we also exhibited our weakness during that trying period; but, supported by little trifles of food, more prudent in economizing it, subjected to less physical strain, we forced ourselves to preserve the austerity and dignity of superiors.

On the hundred and thirty-seventh day from Yambuya we reached the first native settlement that had been untouched by the accursed raiders to whom we owed our miseries. It abounded with Indian corn, beans, vegetables, bananas, and plantains, upon which the famished survivors flung themselves, regardless of consequences. Our prolonged fast was at [359] an end, but during the last seventy days of it I had lost one hundred and eighty men, through death and desertion. The place was called Ibwiri, since known as Fort Bodo; as our sufferings had been so intense, we halted here, and feasted for thirteen days.

The recuperation was rapid, strength had returned during the feasting, and there rose a general demand that we should continue the journey, in order that we might delight our eyes by the grass-land of which we now began to hear the first rumours. On the twelfth day after quitting Ibwiri, we emerged from the sombre twilight of the Forest into the unclouded light of a tropic sky. A feeling of exultation immediately possessed me, as if I had been released from Purgatory, to disport myself in the meads of Heaven. The very air was greedily sniffed.

The first smell of it that came to my open nostrils seemed as if, in the direction of the wind, there somewhere lay a great dairy and cattle-pen; and, almost at once, I sighted startled game, in close consult on the knolls and mounds, stamping and snorting in the first energy of alarm. The first view of the green rolling plain was as of a grassy Eden, which had been newly fashioned with a beautiful shapeliness, with a new sun, and a brand-new sky of intense blue. It transfigured every face in an instant, and the homeliest features were lit up by sincere emotions of gratitude, as though some dream of bliss had been realised. By one impulse we started to run; our exhilarated blood seemed foaming champagne, and sent us leaping over the soft sward; and the limbs, which had previously strained heavily through the forest thickets, danced as freely as those of bounding kids!

On the 13th December, one hundred and sixty-nine days from Yambuya, the expedition stood on the edge of the grassy plateau and looked down upon the Albert Nyanza, whose waters, as reported by Emin, were constantly navigated by his steamers, the “Khedive” and “Nyanza.”

After sufficiently enjoying the prospect, we commenced the steep descent of two thousand seven hundred feet, to the lake, and, early next morning, reached the shore which had been our goal. On inquiring from the natives as to the whereabouts of the “white man with the smoke-boat,” they declared most [360] positively that they had not seen any white man or steamer since Colonel Mason's visit, ten years before.

Our position was a cruel one. The Foreign Office had furnished me with copies of all Emin's letters, and from their tone, character, and numbers of statements, I had formed, what probably every one else had, an opinion of a Military Governor, who, with two steamers and steel boats, had been in the habit of visiting the various lake ports.

I asked again and again if a white man had been seen, and I received an answer always in the negative. I had left my steel boat at Ipoto, because of our depleted numbers. No food was obtainable on the alkalised plains bordering the lake. The native canoes were only suitable for inshore fishing and calm weather; and there was not a tree visible out of which a sizeable canoe could be made!

After consulting with the officers, I found that they also were surprised at the inexplicable absence of news of Emin, and a great many guesses wide of the truth, as it appeared later, were made. But no amount of guessing would feed two hundred hungry men, stranded on a naked lake shore. I therefore resolved, after three days halt, to retrace our steps to Ibwiri, and there erect a small fort for the protection of the ammunition, and as a resting-place for my sick; after which we could return once more to the lake, and, launching my boat on its waters, sail in search of the missing Pasha.

Agreeably to this resolution, I turned my back on the lake on the 16th December, 1887, and, twenty-one days later, arrived at Ibwiri, the site of Fort Bodo. Without loss of time, I commenced building our fort. Meanwhile Lieutenant Stairs was sent, with a detachment, to collect the sick at Ipoto, under Surgeon Parke and Captain Nelson. On his return, he was sent with an escort of twenty carriers, who were to hunt for Major Barttelot's Column, which I expected was following us, and to collect all convalescents at Ugarrowas, below Ipoto.1

After the construction of the fort, its command was entrusted to Captain Nelson, and, accompanied by Jephson and Parke, I departed, a second time, to the Nyanza; but on this occasion I carried my steel boat, in sections. [361]

One day's distance from the lake I heard that there was a packet awaiting me at Kavalli, from a white man called by the natives “Malleju,” or the “bearded man,” who, of course, was Emin Pasha. The packet contained a letter addressed to me by name, which showed, like the letter of November to Dr. Felkin, that he knew all about the objects of the expedition. It was dated March 25th, 1888,--it was now April 18th. Native rumour, according to Emin's letter, had stated that white men were at the south end of the lake, and he had embarked on one of his steamers to ascertain if the report were true. It was an extraordinary thing, that, after expecting us on the 15th December, he had required one hundred days to make up his mind to visit the south end of the lake!

Unless we chose to wait inactively for Emin to pay Kavalli a second visit, it was necessary to send the boat in search of him. Accordingly, Mr. Jephson, with a picked crew, was charged with this mission.

Towards sunset of the fifth day after his departure, those looking northward up the lake discovered a column of smoke. It rose from the funnel of the steamer “Khedive.” At dusk she dropped anchor nearly abreast of our camp, and in a few moments our whale-boat, steered by Jephson, brought Emin Pasha, Captain Casati, and several Egyptian officers ashore. As may be imagined, our people were almost beside themselves with delight, because the object of our strenuous quest was at last amongst them.

We agreed to pitch our camps side by side. Emin and his guard of Soudanese to the right, and we to the left, on the edge of the lake.

For several days we luxuriated in our well-earned rest and good cheer. I was in a state of joyous ebullience; I acquiesced with all suggestions. Few men could have acted the part of hospitable and pleasant host so well as Emin. I quite understood now how Dr. Felkin had appreciated this side of Emin's character. He was cordial in manner, well-read, had seen much, and appeared to be most likeable.

Then also my anxieties respecting provisions for the people were at an end, for Emin had provided abundance of grain, and, as the main object of the expedition was now within view of being achieved, my feelings all round were those of unalloyed [362] pleasure. Many a time afterwards, I looked back upon this period as upon a delightful holiday.

Until the 25th of May, our respective camps were close together; and we daily met and chatted about various things, during which, naturally, the topic as to whether he would stay in Equatoria, or accompany me to the coast, came up for discussion frequently. But, from the beginning to the end of our meetings, I was only conscious that I was profoundly ignorant of his intentions. On some days, after a friendly dinner the night previous, he held out hopes that he might accompany me; but the day following he would say, “No, if my people go, I go; if they stay, I stay.” For ten days I assented to this; but it became impressed on my mind, that he had a personal objection to going to Egypt, from a fear that he might be shelved, and his life would become wasted in a Cairene or Stamboul coffee-house. The ideal Governor whom I had imagined, had been altogether replaced by a man who had other views than those of his Government. What those views were, I could never gather definitely, for, as has been observed, the impression of one day was displaced by that of the next; and his real opinions, upon any topic save an abstract question, were too transient to base a conclusion upon.

Altogether, I spent twenty-five days with Emin. I then retraced my steps to Fort Bodo. After carefully provisioning one hundred and seven men, and serving out twenty-five days rations to each man, I commenced the search for the Rear-Column on the 16th June.

I have often been asked how I dared to face that terrible and hungry Forest alone, after such awful experiences. If I suggested admonitions of duty and conscience as being sufficient motives, I seldom failed to notice a furtive shrug. But, really, I fail to see what else could have been done. The Rear-Column was as much a part of the expedition as the Advance, and had there been only twenty blacks, it would have been as much my duty to seek them as to find what had become of two hundred and sixty Zanzibaris, with five white officers. As for sending any of my own officers to perform such an important mission, well, there is a saying which I believe in thoroughly, “If you want a thing done, you must do it yourself.” Besides these motives, I was too nervously anxious about the [363] long-absent Column, which had been instructed to follow us, and the suspense was intolerable.

It was also, principally, this nervous anxiety about these missing people that drove me through the Great Forest at such a rate, that what had taken us one hundred and twenty-nine days was now performed in sixty-two days. On August 17, 1888, the eighty-third day since quitting the Pasha, on Lake Albert, I came in view of the village of Banalya, ninety miles east of Yambuya.

Presently,2 white dresses were seen, and quickly taking up my field-glass, I discovered a red flag hoisted. A suspicion of the truth crept into my mind. A light puff of wind unrolled the flag for an instant, and the white crescent and star was revealed. I sprang to my feet and cried out, “The Major, boys! Pull away bravely!” A vociferous shouting and hurrahing followed, and every canoe shot forward at racing speed.

About two hundred yards from the village we stopped paddling, and as I saw a great number of strangers on the shore, I asked, “ Whose men are you?” --“ We are Stanley's men,” was the answer, delivered in mainland Swahili. But assured by this, and still more so as I recognised a European near the gate, we paddled ashore. The European on a nearer view turned out to be William Bonny, who had been engaged as doctor's assistant to the expedition.

Pressing his hand, I said,--

“Well, Bonny, how are you? Where is the Major? Sick, I suppose?”

“The Major is dead, sir.”

“Dead? Good God! How dead? Fever?”

“No, sir, he was shot.”

“By whom?”

“By the Manyuema — Tippu-Tib's people.”

“Good heavens! Well, where is Jameson?”

“At Stanley Falls.”

“What is he doing there, in the name of goodness?”

“He went to obtain more carriers.”

“Well, where are the others?” [364]

“Gone home invalided, some months ago.”

These queries, rapidly put and answered as we stood by the gate at the water-side, prepared me to hear as deplorable a story as could be rendered of one of the most remarkable series of derangements that an organized body of men could possibly be plunged into.

If I were to record all that I saw at Banalya, in its deep intensity of unqualified misery, it would be like stripping the bandages off a vast sloughing ulcer, striated with bleeding arteries, to the public gaze, with no earthly purpose than to shock and disgust.

I put question after question to Bonny, to each of which I received only such answers as swelled the long list of misfortunes he gave me. The Column had met nothing but disaster.

The bald outline of Mr. Bonny's story was that Tippu-Tib had broken faith with me, and that the officers had kept on delaying to start after me, as agreed between Barttelot and myself. The Arab had fed them continually with false hopes of his coming; finally, after seven visits which Barttelot had paid him at Stanley Falls, and in the tenth month, he had brought to Yambuya four hundred men and boy carriers, and a more undisciplined and cantankerous rabble could not have been found in Africa. The Column had then departed, and been able to march ninety miles and reach Banalya, when, on July 19th,--or twenty-eight days before my arrival,--Barttelot left his house at dawn to stop some disorderly noises, and, a few minutes later, he was shot through the heart by a Manyuema head-man. Thus, on my arrival, Mr. Bonny was the only white man remaining. Out of two hundred and sixty coloured men who had originally formed the Column, only one hundred and two were alive, and forty-two of them were even then dying from the effects of eating poisonous manioc.

In a few days, I had re-organised a force of over five hundred men; and, hastily removing from Banalya, as from a pest-house, finished my preparations on an island in the Aruwimi, a few miles above. When all was ready, I started on my way to Fort Bodo, conveying all these people as best I could. The sick folk and the goods, I had carried in canoes, [365] while the main body marched along my old track, parallel to the river, and kept time to the progress of the water-party. The people were now familiar with the route, and were no longer the funeral procession which had slowly dragged itself through the shades of the Forest, the year before. They knew that they were homeward-bound, and, fascinated by memories of the pastoral plains, and unencumbered with loads, they marched in high spirits.

About a month's march from Fort Bodo, I cast off the canoes and struck overland by a shorter way. Presently, I entered the land inhabited by pigmies. This race of dwarfs has dwelt in this section of the country since the remotest times, before history. The tallest male discovered by me did not exceed four feet, six inches; the average specimen was about four feet, two inches, in height, while many a child-bearing pigmy-woman did not exceed three feet high.

In the more easterly parts of the Forest there are several tribes of this primeval race of man. They range from the Ihuru River to the Awamba forest at the base of Ruwenzori. I found two distinct types; one a very degraded specimen, with ferrety eyes, close-set, and an excessive prognathy of jaw, more nearly approaching what one might call a cousin of the simian than was supposed to be possible, yet thoroughly human; the other was a very handsome type, with frank, open, innocent countenances, very prepossessing. I had considerable experience of both.3 They were wonderfully quick with their weapons, and wounded to death several of my followers. The custom in the forest is to shoot at sight, and their craft, quick sight, correct aim, and general expertness, added to the fatal character of the poison of their arrows, made them no despicable antagonists. The larger natives of the Forest, who form the clearings and plant immense groves of plantains, purchase their favour by submitting to their depredations.

I have seen some beautiful figures among the little people, [366] as perfect from the knees upward as a sculptor would desire, but the lower limbs are almost invariably weak and badly-shaped.

They are quick and intelligent, capable of deep affection and gratitude; and those whom we trained showed remarkable industry and patience. One old woman, four feet, two inches in height,--possibly the ugliest little mortal that was ever in my camp,--exhibited a most wonderful endurance. She seemed to be always loaded like a camel, as she followed the caravan from camp to camp, and I often had to reduce a load that threatened to bury her under her hamper. Cooking-pots, stools, porridge-paddles, kettles, bananas, yams, flour, native rope, a treasure of ironware, cloth, what-not, everything was placed in her hamper, as if her strength was without limit. Towards the latter part of her acquaintance, I was able to make her smile, but it had been terribly hard work, as she was such an inveterate scold. By her action she seemed to say; “You may beat me to pulp, you may load me until you smother me with your rubbish, you may work my fingers to the bone, you may starve me, but, thank Goodness, I can still scold, and scold I will, until I drop!”

I had a pigmy boy of eighteen, who worked with a zeal that I did not think possible to find out of civilisation. Time was too precious to him to waste in talk. On the march, he stoutly held his place near the van; and, on reaching camp, he literally rushed to collect fuel and make his master's fire. His mind seemed ever concentrated on his work. When I once stopped him to ask his name, his face seemed to say, “Please don't stop me. I must finish my task” ; and I never heard his voice while he was with me, though he was not dumb.

Another of my pigmy followers was a young woman, of whom I could honestly say that she was virtuous and modest, though nude. It was of no use for any stalwart young Zanzibari to be casting lover's eyes at her. She resolved that she had duties to perform, and she did them without deigning to notice the love-sick swains of our camp. Her master's tea or coffee was far too important to be neglected. His tent required her vigilant watchfulness, her master's comforts were unspeakably precious in her eyes, and the picture of the half-naked pigmy-girl, abjuring frivolities, and rendering due [367] fidelity, and simple devotedness, because it was her nature to, will remain long in my mind as one of many pleasantnesses to be remembered.

I have often been asked whether I did not think the pigmies to be a degenerate stock of ordinary humanity. In my opinion, tribes and nations are subject to the same influences as families. If confined strictly to itself, even a nation must, in time, deteriorate.

Asia and Africa contain several isolated fragments of what were once powerful nations, and yet more numerous relics of once populous tribes. It is not difficult to judge of the effect on a race of three thousand years isolation, intermarriage, and a precarious diet of fungi, wild fruit, lean fibrous meat of animals, and dried insects. The utter absence of sunshine, the want of gluten and saccharine bodies in their food, scarcely tend to promote increase of stature, or strength of limb; and, as it is said, “where there is no progress, there must be decay,” I suppose that some deterioration must have occurred since the existence of the pigmies became known, as the result of their ancestors having captured the five Nassamonian explorers twenty-six centuries ago, as described by the Father of History. On every map since Hekateus's time, 500 years B. C., they have been located in the region of the Mountains of the Moon.

On the 10th of December, 1888, we burst out of the Great Forest, on the edge of the plantations of Fort Bodo; and, by 9 o'clock, the volleys of the rifles woke up the garrison at the fort to the fact that, after one hundred and eighty-eight days absence, we had returned. What a difference there was between the admirable station, with its model farm-like appearance, and Banalya! But there was one mystery yet remaining. The Pasha and Jephson had promised to visit Fort Bodo within two months after my departure, say about the middle of August; it was now past the middle of December, and nothing had been heard of them. But the cure of all doubt, grief, misery, and mystery is action; and therefore I could not remain passive at Fort Bodo. I allowed myself three days rest only, and then set out for Lake Albert for the third time.

On the 17th of January, 1889, when only one day's march [368] from the Albert Lake, a packet of letters was placed in my hands. They were from Emin Pasha and Mr. Jephson. There was a long account from Jephson, stating that he and the Pasha were prisoners to the revolted troops of the province since the 18th August, the very day after we had discovered the foundered Rear-Column at Banalya! There were some expressions in poor Mr. Jephson's letters which put a very relief-less aspect on his case. “If I don't see you again, commend me to my friends!” The Pasha, also, seemed to think that nothing could be worse than the outlook, for he specially recommended his child to my care. Now, reading such words, a month after they were written, was not very assuring. However, I picked up a crumb of comfort in the fact that Mr. Jephson said he could come to me if he were informed of my arrival, which I decided was the best thing for him to do. Accordingly, an imperative message was sent to him, not to debate, but to act; and, like a faithful and obedient officer, he stepped into a canoe, and came.

After shaking hands, and congratulating him upon his narrow escape from being a footman to the Emperor of the Soudan, I said, “Well, Jephson, speak. Is the Pasha decided by this what to do now?”

“To tell you the truth, I know no more what the Pasha intends doing now than I did nine months ago.”

“What, after nine months intercourse with him?”

“Quite so,--not a bit.”

It was not long before the mystery that had struck me the year before was cleared up. The Pasha had been deceived by the fair-spoken, obsequious Egyptian and Soudanese officers; and, through his good-natured optimism, we, also, had been deceived. They had revolted three times, and had refused to obey any order he had given them. This was the fourth and final revolt. As early as 1879, Gessi Pasha had drawn General Gordon's attention to the state of affairs in Equatoria, and had reported that, immediately the communication with Khartoum had been suspended by the closing of the Upper Nile by the Sudd, the indiscipline had been such as to cause anxiety. In 1886, Emin Pasha had fled from the 1st Battalion, and, until his imprudent resolve to take Mr. Jephson among the rebels, had held no communication with them. The 2nd [369] Battalion, also, only performed just such service as pleased them when he condescended to use coaxing, while the Irregulars, of course, would follow the majority of the Regulars. This much was clear from the narrative, written and oral, of Mr. Jephson.

I resolved to try once more, and ascertain what measures agreeable to him I should take. Did he wish an armed rescue, or was it possible for him to do anything, such as seizing a steamer and following Jephson, or marching out of Tunguru, where he was a prisoner, to meet me outside of the fort? or had he quite made up his mind to remain a prisoner at Tunguru, until the rebels would dispose of him? Anyway, and every way, if he could only express a definite wish, we vowed we should help him to the uttermost. I wrote to him a ceremoniously-polite letter to that effect, for I was warned that the Pasha was extremely sensitive.

While my letter was on the lake being conveyed to Tunguru, matters were settled in quite an inconceivable fashion at Tunguru station. The rebel officers had sent a deputation to the Pasha to ask his pardon, and to offer to re-instate him in his Governorship. The pardon was readily given, but he declined yet awhile to accept the Governorship. They asked him if he would be good enough to accompany them to pay me a visit, and introduce them to me. The Pasha consented, embarked on board the steamer, the refugees likewise crowded on board the “Khedive” and “Nyanza,” and, on the 13th February, the two steamers approached our camp; two days later, the Pasha and rebel officers entered our camp.

According to the Pasha, the Mahdist invasion, the capture of four stations, and the massacre of many of their numbers, had cowed the rebels, and they were now truly penitent for their insane conduct to him; and every soul was willing to depart, out of the Equatorial Province, at least, if not to Egypt. The officers now only came to beg for time to assemble their families. Agreeably to the Pasha's request, a reasonable time was granted, and they departed. The Governor thought that twenty days would be sufficient; we granted a month. At the end of thirty days the Pasha requested another extension; we allowed fourteen days more. Finally, at the end of forty-four days, not one officer of the rebel party having made his [370] appearance, we broke camp, and commenced our journey homeward with five hundred and seventy refugees, consisting of a few Egyptian officers, clerks, and their families; but, on the second day, an illness prostrated me, which permitted them twenty-eight days more, and yet, after seventy-two days halt, only one person had availed himself of my offer.

On the seventy-third day since my meeting with the rebel officers, four soldiers brought a message stating that the rebels had formed themselves into two parties, under Fadle Mulla Bey, and Selim Bey, and the party of the first-named had seized all the ammunition from the other party, and had fled to Makraka. Selim Bey, unable to muster resolution to follow us, preferred to remain to curse Fadle Mulla Bey and his folly; and what the end of these misguided and unprincipled men may be, no person knows, outside of that unhappy region!

On the 8th May I resumed the march4 for the Indian Ocean. The fifth day's march brought us to the edge of highlands, whence we looked down into a deep valley, two thousand six hundred feet below us. In width, it varied from six to twenty miles. To the north, we could see a bit of the south end of Lake Albert. Southward, seventy miles off, was another lake, to which I have given the name of Albert Edward; and the surplus waters of the southernmost lake meandered through this valley down into the northernmost, or Albert Lake.

Opposite to the place whence I looked upon the Semliki Valley, rose an enormous range of mountains, whose summits and slopes, for about three thousand feet, were covered with perpetual snow. As the snow-line near the Equator is found at a little over fifteen thousand feet, I may then safely estimate the height of these mountains to be between eighteen thousand and nineteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. The singular thing about these mountains is that so many white travellers--Sir Samuel and Lady Baker, Gessi Pasha, Mason Bey, Emin Pasha, and Captain Casati--should have been within observing distance and never had an opportunity to view them. [371]

There were also a thousand of our expedition who were for seventy-two days, or thereabouts, within easy visual distance of the phenomenon, but not one man saw it until suddenly it issued out from the obscurity, its great peaks islanded in an atmosphere of beautiful translucence. And, for three days in succession, the wonderful mountains stood aloft in glorious majesty, with an indefinable depth of opaline sky above, beyond, and around them, the marvel of the curious and delighted multitude! For three days I saw them, spell-bound and wondering.

The natives generally called them the Ruwenzori Mountains. Scheabeddin, an Arab geographer, writing about Anno Domini 1400, says, “In the midst of the Isle of Mogreb, which is Africa, are the deserts of the Negroes, which separate the country of the Negroes from that of Berbers. In this isle is also the source of that great river which has not its equal upon the earth. It comes from the Mountains of the Moon, which lie beyond the Equator. Many sources come from these mountains, and unite in a great lake. From this lake comes the Nile, the greatest, and most beautiful of the rivers of all the earth.” This is only one of the many early authorities which I have quoted in my book, “Darkest Africa,” to prove that the Ruwenzori range forms the long-lost Mountains of the Moon.5

Still another discovery was that of the Albert Edward Nyanza — called in ancient times the Sea of Darkness, whose waters were said to be sweeter than honey, and more fragrant than musk. I cannot endorse this Oriental estimation of their excellence; to many, the waters of the muddy Missouri would be preferable!

Quitting the head-waters of the Nile, I ascended some three thousand feet into a higher altitude, and began a journey over a rich pastoral land, which extends to the south end of the [372] Victoria Nyanza. In consideration of having driven Kabba Rega's raiders from the shores of the Albert Edward, and freed the salt lakes from their presence, I received hearty ovations and free rations from the various kings along a march of five hundred miles.

At the south end of Lake Victoria, I found reserve stores, which had been deposited there eighteen months before, awaiting us. Then, greatly strengthened by a good rest and food, on the 16th September I left that lake, having discovered an extension to it of six thousand square miles.

Four days from the sea, two American newspaper-correspondents arrived at my camp. One of them, a representative of the “New York Herald,” delivered to me a supply of clothes, and other very necessary articles, besides a judicious supply of good wine, which cheered us greatly. A little later, we met a large caravan sent by Sir William Mackinnon, freighted with provisions and clothes for our people.

On the morning of the 4th December, 1889, Emin Pasha, Captain Casati, and myself were escorted by Major Wissmann to Bagamoyo, the port opposite Zanzibar; and, in the afternoon, the porters of the expedition filed in, to lay their weary burdens of sick and moaning fellow-creatures down for the last time. Our journey of six thousand and thirty-two miles from the Western Ocean to the Indian Sea was now at an end.

That night the German Imperial Commissary gave a banquet to thirty-four persons, consisting of our travellers, German, British, and Italian civil and military officers, and after a style that even New York could scarcely excel. The utmost cordiality prevailed, and laudatory and grateful speeches were delivered, and not the least graceful and finished was that of the Pasha. But within ten minutes afterwards, while the guests were most animated, the Pasha wandered away from the banqueting-hall out into the balcony; and, presently, in some unaccountable manner, fell over the low wall into the street, some eighteen feet below. Had not a zinc shed, five feet below the balcony which shaded the sidewalk, broken the fall, the accident would no doubt have been fatal. As it was, he received severe contusions, and a sharp concussion of the base of the brain. A German officer had him conveyed to the hospital, while three doctors hastened to his assistance. In [373] less than a month he was sufficiently recovered to begin arranging his entomological collections.

Up to the time of his fall, it had been a pleasant enough intercourse since leaving Mtsora, in the middle of June. There had been no grievance or dispute between him and any of our party. The most kindly messages were interchanged daily; presents and choice gifts were exchanged; in fact, our intercourse was thoroughly fraternal. But his fall suddenly put a barrier in some strange way between us. If the British Consul-general expressed a desire to pay a visit to him, some excuse of a relapse was given. If I wished to go over to Bagamoyo, his condition immediately became critical. Surgeon Parke, who attended to him for the first three weeks, found that things were not so pleasant for him as formerly. If I sent my black boy, Sali, to him with a note of condolence, and some suggestion, the boy was told he would be hanged if he went to the hospital again! To our officers, Dr. Parke and Mr. Jephson, he freely complained of the German officers. My friendly note, asking him to have some regard to his reputation, was at once shown by him to Major Wissmann. It was curious, too, how the Pasha, who thought at Equatoria that his people were so dear to him that he professed himself ready to sacrifice his future for them, dropped his dear people from his mind, and told them with a brutal frankness that he had nothing further to do with them. The muster and pay-roll of the rescued Egyptians was, therefore, not sent to Egypt; and the poor fellows waited months for the many years' pay due to them, inasmuch as no one knew anything of the accounts.

Finally, in March, the secret was out: the Pasha had engaged himself to the Germans on the 5th of February; and then it transpired that all these strange and wholly unnecessary acts were with a view to cut himself adrift from all connection with his old friends and employers, before committing himself to a new employment!

However benevolent and considerate Emin's English friends may have been disposed to be towards him, they were not above being affronted at their kind offices being rejected so churlishly, and from the offended tone which the Press now assumed, may be gathered the nature of my own feelings when I first became acquainted with his uncertain disposition, and [374] his capricious and eccentric nature. But, in its furious disappointment, a large portion of the Press was unable to discriminate between Emin and me. Day after day it lavished the foulest accusations and the most violent abuse against me. It was stated by the newspapers that I had captured Emin by force; that I had been tyrannical and overbearing; that the “Rescue,” always printed with quotation-marks, had been a farce; that I had destroyed the “civilised edifice” which Emin had so laboriously built, etc., etc.; and some even hinted that it was I who had pushed Emin over the balcony-wall. But why proceed?

As has been seen, Emin came to my camp of his own will; I had treated him with almost superhuman patience; my appearance at Kavalli was the means of saving his life; as for the “civilised edifice,” Heaven save the mark! Emin's departure from that region broke up organised slave-bands, which, since Gordon's death, had, under the mask of government, committed as much devastation, robbery, and slave-raiding, as even the Manyuema had been guilty of.

Before many months had passed, the Germans in their turn began to be enlightened as to the true character of their eccentric countryman; and the German Commissioner, who had toiled so hard to secure Emin from the British, affected to be seriously pained and aggrieved by his pranks. After a few weeks' work, establishing three military stations, he appears to have become involved in a most unfortunate incident. The story goes that he came across a large caravan belonging to four Arabs, whose goods he wished to purchase at his own price. The traders were reluctant to forfeit their hopes of gain, which had induced the venture, and declined Emin's terms; whereupon, it is alleged, a charge of slave-trading was trumped up against them, their goods were seized, and they themselves were drowned in Lake Victoria.

News of this had no sooner reached the coast, than the Commissioner, after communicating with Berlin, received orders to recall him. Before this order could reach him, Emin had thrown up his appointment, taken German soldiers, in Government employ, and entered British territory with the idea of accomplishing some project hostile to English interests. With this view he continued his journey to Kavalli, where he [375] met his old rebellious officers from the Equatorial Province. They were implored to enlist under his banner; but, with the exception of a few slaves, who soon after deserted him, the rebels turned a deaf ear to his appeals.

Baffled by what he called their “ingratitude and perverseness,” he headed West, dismissed his only white companion, and soon after plunged into the Great Forest, where he came across an old acquaintance, Ismaili, who, in 1887, had almost made an end of Nelson and Parke. This man he succeeded in securing as guide towards the Congo. Four days march from Kibongi, above Stanley Falls, Emin had the ill-luck to meet Said-bin-Abed, a kinsman of one of the Arabs alleged to have been drowned in the Lake. The Arab turned upon his slave Ismaili, and upbraided him savagely for guiding such an enemy into the Arab country, and ordered Ismaili immediately to kill him; whereupon Emin was seized, thrown upon the ground, and, while his assistants held him fast by the arms and legs, Ismaili drew his sword, and smote his head off. What a strange, eventful history, for this commonplace epoch of ours!

The unselfish joy which caused each man, black and white, to raise that shout of exultation when we first beheld Lake Albert, and knew that the goal was won, and that the long train of sad memories had been left behind, deserved that I should have been able to pay Emin Pasha the uttermost honour; but it was simply-impossible.

I console myself, however, that through this mission, I have been supplied with a store of remarkable reminiscences; that I have explored the heart of the great, primeval forest; that I have had unique experiences with its pigmies and cannibals; that I have discovered the long-lost, snowy Mountains of the Moon, the sources of the Albertine Nile, also Lake Albert Edward, besides an important extension of the Victoria Nyanza; and that finally, through my instrumentality, four European Governments (British, French, German, and Portuguese) have been induced to agree what their several spheres of influence shall be in the future, in the Dark Continent, with a view to exercising their beneficent powers for its redemption from the state of darkness and woe in which it has too long remained. [376]

In England there arose bitter controversies over stories of misdoings by some of the Rear-Column. There is no occasion to reopen these controversies; but Stanley in a letter, cabled from America to the “Times,” dealt with the imputations that cruelty to the natives was an ordinary incident of English advance in Africa, and this expression of his sentiments deserves permanent record.

to the Editor of the Times.
Sir:--Now that the storm of controversy as to the rear-guard of the Emin Relief Expedition has somewhat cleared away, and, as an appendix, if I may so call it, to my letter of December 3, I will ask you to allow me a few more words, final words, on my part, as I hope, and dealing mainly with the most serious aspect of the affair — the impression produced upon other nations by the disclosure of certain acts done by Englishmen in Africa.

It is hardly yet time for me to express the sorrow I truly feel at the pain these inevitable disclosures have brought upon men and women innocent of any fault; but no one is likely to question the earnestness of my regret at a result so directly counter to the wishes close to my heart. As it is, this is an opportunity given to competing nations to cast a slur upon British enterprise in Africa. Beyond and above any personal question whatever stands the honour of the English name. I wish, therefore, to say, with whatever weight my long experience may give my words, that I believe that conduct such as that above alluded to is entirely unusual and exceptional among Englishmen engaged in pioneering work in Africa.

I believe no nation has surpassed the English in tone, temper, and principle, in dealing with the Negro races; on the other hand, there have been many English explorers, from my revered master, David Livingstone, down to my own comrades in the Advance Guard of this last expedition, who have united, in quite a singular degree, gentleness with valour.

For myself, I lay no claim to any exceptional fineness of nature; but I say, beginning life as a rough, ill-educated, impatient man, I have found my schooling in these very African experiences which are now said by some to be in themselves detrimental to European character. I have learnt by actual stress of imminent danger, in the first place, that self-control is more indispensable than gunpowder, and, in the second [377] place, that persistent self-control under the provocation of African travel is impossible without real, heartfelt sympathy for the natives with whom one has to deal. If one regards these natives as mere brutes, then the annoyances that their follies and vices inflict are indeed intolerable.

In order to rule them, and to keep one's life amongst them, it is needful resolutely to regard them as children, who require, indeed, different methods of rule from English or American citizens, but who must be ruled in precisely the same spirit, with the same absence of caprice and anger, the same essential respect to our fellow-men.

In proof of the fact that British explorers, as a whole, have learnt these lessons, I would point simply to the actual state of British influence in Africa. That influence, believe me, could neither have been acquired, nor maintained, by physical force alone.

So long as Englishmen in Africa continue in the future the conduct which has, on the whole, distinguished them in the past, I fear for them no rivalry in the great work of tropical civilisation, a work which cannot be successfully carried out in the commercial, and, still less in the military, spirit alone.

It is only by shewing ourselves superior to the savages, not only in the power of inflicting death, but in the whole manner of regarding life, that we can attain that control over them which, in their present stage, is necessary to their own welfare, even more than to ours.

Africa is inhabited not by timid Hindoos, or puny Australian aborigines, but by millions of robust, courageous men. It is no cant or sentimentalism, it is an obvious dictate of ordinary prudence, to say that, if we are to hold these men in such control as shall make Africa equal to any continent in serviceableness to mankind at large, it is by moral superiority, first of all, that control must be won, and must be maintained, as far as any white man can hope to maintain it.

Yours truly,

In judging of human achievement, we may take Browning's view,

Life's just the stuff
To test the soul on.


Never was there an experience which more displayed and developed the grandest qualities of manhood, than did this march through Darkest Africa, in chief, lieutenants, and followers.

The outward results should not be under-estimated, and the net outcome is well given in a letter of Sir George Grey, written three years afterwards, when he was fresh from reading, not Stanley's story, but Parke's.

Auckland, February 24th, 1892.
my dear Stanley,
I have been reading the Journal of your surgeon, Mr. Parke. From it I understood for the first time what you had accomplished. I had looked at the whole expedition more as a matter of exploration than anything else, and thought that scant justice had been done you. Now, I regard what you accomplished as an heroic feat.

Let me put it to you from my point of view. Great Britain, in pursuit of a great object, had, through the proper authorities, sent an officer to rule a great province. He was accompanied by an Egyptian force, acting under his orders, that is, under those of British authorities; and the forces and civil officers were accompanied by wives, children, servants, and followers of every kind. They formed an offshoot from Khartoum, but very remote from it.

Disturbances arose in the country, Khartoum and its dependencies were cut off from intercourse with the external world. Great Britain determined to rescue her officers, and undertook to do so by the only route used by civilised man, that is, by the line of communication which led from the northward. She failed; Gordon fell; the attempt was abandoned. Emin Pasha, his provinces, his forces, his civil servants, and adherents, with all their women and children, were abandoned to their fate; but held out. Emin Pasha naturally strove to communicate with Europe, imploring to be extricated from his difficulties. His strong appeals roused sympathy, and shame at his abandonment.

It was determined to rescue him. How was this to be done? The only route by which this could be done was by reaching him from the southward. But what a task was this — an almost hopeless one!

What a journey from the East Coast, or West Coast, before one could turn northward and reach him! What difficult regions, in many parts unknown, to traverse! What wilds and forests to traverse! What barbarous tribes to confront! By what means were the requisite arms, ammunition, and supplies, to be carried, which would enable Emin to continue to hold his own, if he chose to remain; or enable you all to force, if necessary, your way to some port where you could embark?

Undaunted by these evident difficulties, you undertook this task. After truly severe exertions, you reach him. He joins you, emerges from his difficulties with all his followers. You have saved, at great sacrifices, portions of the arms and ammunition on which the safety of all depends. You now find that nearly a thousand human beings, [379] men, women, and children, are committed to your care. These you are to conduct by a long perilous route to a port, where they embark for Egypt. The whole native population along a great part of the route is hostile, or alarmed at this great body of armed men and their families invading their territories. They can little understand that they are returning to their homes. If so, why do they not return by the same way by which they left them? Naturally they view with suspicion and alarm this worn, diseased multitude, which they are often ill able to supply with sufficient food to save them from starvation.

Yet this body of human beings you have to supply with rations, with arms, with medicines; without horses or carriages of any kind, the sick and wounded had to be moved; little children and famishing mothers had to be got along somehow; through long and exhausting marches, water had to be found, wild beasts kept off, who, notwithstanding all precautions, carried off several little ones in the night. You had quarrels and animosities to compose, discipline to preserve amongst men of various races and languages, and a multitude of other cases to meet; yet you were in ill health yourself, worn by great toils in previous years, and in an unhealthy climate, which rendered men fretful, sullen, and careless of life. Nevertheless, you accomplished your task, and led your people — but a residue of them, indeed — to a port of safety, without reward and without promotion, or recognition from your country.

I have thought over all history, but I cannot call to mind a greater task than you have performed. It is not an exploration, alone, you have accomplished; it is also a great military movement, by which those who were in the British service were rescued from a position of great peril.

Most truly yours,


Part II. private reflections

The foregoing pages are compiled partly from unpublished papers of Stanley's, and partly from his private Journals. Some further passages may here be given from private note-books, written in his leisure. The writing was evidently prompted by an impulse of self-defense; partly, with regard to Emin, whose real name was Edouard Schnitzer, and, partly, as the result of strictures on his own character as a commander, in the published Journals of some of his lieutenants. The perspective of events changes rapidly with time, and Emin has so fallen into the background of history, that it seems unnecessary to cite the many instances of his baffling behaviour and egregious weaknesses through his devious career.

Stanley on the Personnel and trials of the expedition

As to his lieutenants, the limitations of space forbid a full quotation of Stanley's frank and dramatic account of the difficulties in the early part of the march. There was a sharp difference before leaving the Congo. The Zanzibaris preferred formal complaint against two officers, for beating them, and taking away their food; the officers, each in turn, being summoned to the scene, made a hot defence, in such language and manner that Stanley dismissed them from the expedition on the spot. One of their brother officers interceded, and was told that the lieutenants' disrespect was evidently the culmination of secret disaffection and grumbling. Stanley said to them:--

Never a sailing-ship sailed from a port but some of the crew have taken the first opportunity to “try it on” with the captain. In every group, or band, of men, it appears to be a rule that there must be a struggle for mastery, and an attempt to take the eader's measure, before they can settle down to their proper position. I hope you who remain will understand that there can be only one chief in command in this expedition, and I am that chief, and in all matters of duty I expect implicit obedience and respect.

Thus Stanley addressed his officers; the two who had offended made manly apologies, which were accepted, and they were restored to their places. With the handshake of reconciliation the incident terminated, so far as Stanley was concerned. But what he calls “stupid personalities,” in certain published Diaries, moved him to write out his own full and private statement of this, and some later fictions, which there seems no occasion now to reproduce. [381] But we are indebted to it for some portraitures, as well as for an exposition of the social and individual experiences, generated in the African wilds, which may well be given here.

For one so young, Stairs's abilities and sterling sense were remarkable; and, in military pliancy at the word of command, he was a born soldier. This is a merit which is inestimable in a tropical country, where duty has to be done. A leader in a climate like that of Africa, cannot sugar-coat his orders, and a certain directness of speech must be expected; under such fretting conditions as we were in, it was a source of joy to feel that in Stairs I had a man, who, when a thing had to be done, could face about, and proceed to do it, as effectively as I could do it in person. In the way of duty he was without reproach.

Surgeon Parke's temper was the best-fitted for Africa. With his unsophisticated simplicity, and amusing naivete, it was impossible to bear a grudge against him. Outside of his profession, he was not so experienced as Stairs. When placed in charge of a company, his muster-book soon fell into confusion; but by the erasures, and re-arrangements, it was evident that he did his best. Such men may blunder over and over again, and receive absolution. He possessed a fund of genuine wit and humour; and the innocent pleasure he showed when he brought smiles to our faces, endeared him to me. This childlike naivete, which distinguished him in Africa, as in London society, had a great deal to do with the affectionateness with which everyone regarded him. But he was super-excellent among the sick and suffering; then his every action became precise, firm, and masterful. There was no shade of doubt on his face, not a quiver of his nerves; his eyes grew luminous with his concentrated mind. Few people at home know what an African ulcer is like. It grows as large as the biggest mushroom; it destroys the flesh, discloses the arteries and sinews, and having penetrated to the bone, consumes it, and then eats its way round the limb. The sight is awful, the stench is horrible; yet Parke washed and dressed from twenty to fifty of such hideous sores daily, and never winced. The young man's heart was of pure gold. At such times, I could take off my cap, out of pure reverence to his heroism, skill, and enduring patience. When Stairs was [382] wounded with a poisoned arrow, he deliberately sucked it, though, had the poison been fresh, it might have been a highly dangerous proceeding. All the whites passed through his hands; and, if they do not owe their lives to him, they owed him a great debt of gratitude for relief, ease, and encouragement, as well as incomparable nursing.

Personally, I was twice attacked by gastritis, and how he managed to create out of nothing, as it were, palatable food for an inflamed stomach, for such prolonged periods, and to maintain his tenderness of interest in his fractious patient, was a constant marvel to me. When consciousness returned to me, out of many delirious fits, his presence seemed to lighten that sense of approaching calamity that often pressed on me. Could the wounded and sick Zanzibaris have spoken their opinion of him, they would have said, “He was not a man, but an angel ” ; for the attributes he showed to the suffering were so unusually noble and exquisitely tender, that poor, wayward human nature wore, for once, a divine aspect to them.

And Jephson, so honourable, and high-minded: though of a vehement character at first, one of his intelligence and heart is not long in adapting himself to circumstances. He developed quickly, taking the rough work of a pioneer with the indifference of a veteran. He was endowed with a greater stock of physical energy than any of the others, and exhibited most remarkable endurance. At first, I feared that he was inclined to be too rough on his company; but this was before he mastered the colloquial expressions, which, with old travellers, serve the same purpose as the stick.

When a young Englishman, replete with animal vigour, and braced for serious work, has to lead a hundred or so raw natives, who cannot understand a word he says, a good deal of ungentle hustling must be expected; but, as soon as he is able to express himself in the vernacular, both commander and natives soon lose that morbid fault-finding to which they were formerly disposed, and the stick becomes a mere badge of authority. Chaff, or a little mild malice, spiced with humour, is often more powerful than the rod with Africans. By the time we issued from the forest, Jephson had become a most valuable officer, with his strong, brave, and resolute nature, capable for any work. If I were to sum up the character of [383] Jephson in one word, I should say it was one of fine manliness, and courage.

Nelson, also, was a fine fellow, with whom I do not remember to have had a single misunderstanding. Considering that we were a thousand and thirty days together in Africa, and in the gloomiest part of it, for most of that time, it appears to me wonderful that we “pulled together” so well.

India is a very old land, and provides countless aids to comfort, which are a great balm for trouble. Yet, as the Congo climate is more trying than that of India, and is quite barren of the ‘comforts’ which are supposed to sweeten an Englishman's temper, it ought not to be expected that five Englishmen should have been able to pierce through darkest Africa without a tiff or two.

As the preceding chapter7 records all the misunderstandings that occurred between us, I felt justified on reaching the sea in saying, “Well done” to each of them. Not even a saint is proof against a congested liver, and a miserable diet of horse-food and animal provender; and, yet, during their severe experiences of the Forest, the officers were in better temper than when, ascending the Congo, they enjoyed regular meals. The toughest human patience may be stretched to breaking when fever is rioting in the veins, when the head is filled with hot blood, and the poor victim of malaria is ready to sink with his burden of responsibilities, when black servants take advantage of their master's helplessness, and a thoughtless companion chooses that inopportune moment to air his grievances, or provoke a discussion. When one is recovering from a fever, his senses racked, his ears in a tumult with quinine, his loins aching with inflamed vitals, it is too much to expect a sufferer, at this stage, to smile like a full-fed dreamer at home.

One of my precautions against these intermittent periods of gloom and bitterness, when the temper is tindery, was to mess separately. Years ago, the unwisdom of being too much together had been forcibly impressed on me; I discovered that my remarks formed too much “copy ” for note-books, and that my friends were in the habit of indiscriminately setting down every word, too often in a perverted sense, and continually taking snap-shots at me, without the usual formula of the [384] photographer, “ Look pleasant, please!” On the Congo, it is too hot to stand on an open-air pedestal for long! One must be in “undress,” occasionally; and during such times he is not supposed to be posing for the benefit of Fleet Street! Then, upon the strength of table acquaintance, I found that the young men were apt to become overweening, familiar, and oblivious of etiquette and discipline. From that date, I took to living alone, by which my judgement of my subordinates was in no danger of being biassed by their convivial discourse; and I was preserved from the contempt which too often proceeds from familiarity.

No doubt, I was debarred by this isolation from much that was entertaining and innocent, as well as deprived of that instruction, which simple youngsters of the jolly, and silly, age are prone to impart to their seniors; but that was my loss, not theirs. On the other hand, my opinions of them were not likely to be tinctured by malicious gossip, which is generally outspoken at a dining-table, or in a camp; and I certainly discountenanced grumblers and cavillers. On an African expedition, there often arises a necessity for sudden orders, which must be followed by prompt obedience, and the stern voice and peremptory manner at such times are apt to jar on the nerves of a subaltern, whose jokes were lately received with laughter, unless he be one whose temper is controlled by his judgement.

When a young white officer quits England for the first time, to lead blacks, he has got to learn and unlearn a great deal. All that he knows is his mother-tongue, and the art of reading, writing, and criticising. In Africa, he finds himself face to face with a new people, of different manners and customs, with whom he cannot exchange a word. He can do nothing for himself; there is no service that he can do with his arms; he cannot even cook his food, or set up his tent, or carry his bed. He has to depend on the black men for everything; but if he has a patient temper and self-control, he can take instruction from those who know the natives, and in many little ways he can make himself useful. If he is faultfinding, proud, and touchy, it will be months before he is worth his salt. In these early days he must undeceive himself as to his merits, and learn that, if he is humoured and petted more [385] than the blacks, it is not because of his white skin, but because of his childish helplessness, and in the hope that when his eighteen months apprenticehip is over, he will begin to show that his keep was to some purpose.

We must have white men in Africa; but the raw white is as great a nuisance there during the first year, as a military recruit who never saw a gun till he enlisted. In the second year, he begins to mend; during the third year, if his nature permits it, he has developed into a superior man, whose intelligence may be of transcendent utility for directing masses of inferior men.

I speak from a wide experience of white men whom I have had under me in Africa. One cannot be always expostulating with them, or courting their affection, and soothing their amour-propre; but their excessive susceptibility, while their bodies are being harrowed by the stern process of acclimatization, requires great forbearance. It took the officers some months to learn that, when they stood at the head of their companies, and I repeated for the benefit of the natives in their own language the orders already given to them in English, I was not speaking about themselves! By and by, as they picked up a word or two of the native language, they became less suspicious, and were able to distinguish between directness of speech and an affront. I, of course, knew that their followers, whom they had regarded as merely “naked niggers,” were faithful, willing, hard-working creatures, who only wanted fair treatment and good food to make them loveable.

At this early period my officers were possessed with the notion that my manner was “ hard,” because I had not many compliments for them. That is a kind of pap which we may offer women and boys, but it is not necessary for soldiers and men, unless it is deserved. It is true that, in the Forest, their demeanour was heroic; but I preferred to wait until we were out of it, before telling them my opinion, just as wages are paid after the work is finished, and an epitaph is best written at the close of life. Besides, I thought they were superior natures, and required none of that encouragement, which the more childish blacks almost daily received.

In thinking of my own conduct I am at a disadvantage, [386] as there is no likelihood that I should appear to others as I appeared to myself. I may have been in the habit of giving unmeasured offence each day by my exclusiveness; but I was simply carrying out what African experience had taught me was best. My companions had more to learn from me than I had to learn from them.

For the first eighteen months they messed together; but during the latter half of the journey, they also lived apart, experience having taught them the same lesson as I had learned.

To some, my solitary life might present a cheerless aspect. But it was not so in reality. The physical exercise of the day induced a pleasant sense of fatigue, and my endless occupations were too absorbing and interesting to allow room for baser thoughts. There was a strange poverty about our existence, which could not well be matched anywhere. The climate gave warmth, and so we needed no fuel save for cooking. Our clothing could only be called presentable among naked people! There was water in abundance and to spare, but soap was priceless. Our food consisted of maize meal and bananas, but an English beggar would have disdained to touch it. Our salt was nothing better than pulverised mud.

I was not likely to suffer from colds, catarrh, and pneumonia; but the ague with its differing intensities was always with me. My bedding consisted of a rubber sheet and rug over a pile of leaves or grass. I possessed certain rights of manhood, but only so long as I had the nerve to cause them to be respected. My literature was limited to the Bible, Shakespeare, and a few choice authors, but my mind was not wrung by envy, scandal, disparagement, and unfairness; and my own thoughts and hopes were a perpetual solace.

It is difficult for anyone who has not undergone experiences similar to ours to understand the amount of self-control each had to exercise, for fifteen hours every day, amid such surroundings as ours. The contest between human dispositions, tempers, prejudices, habits, natures, and the necessity for self-command, were very disturbing. The extremest forms of repulsiveness were around us, and dogged us day by day; the everlasting shade was a continued sermon upon decay and mortality; it reeked with the effluvia as of a grave; insects pursued our every movement, with their worries of stings and [387] bites, which frequently ended, because of our anemic condition, in pimples, sores, and ulcers. Nelson was crippled with twenty-two obstinate ulcers, Jephson's legs will always bear the blue scars of many a terrible ulcer; and I was seldom free from nausea.

It would be impossible within a limited space to enumerate the annoyances caused by the presence of hundreds of diseased individuals with whom we travelled. Something or other ailed them by scores, daily. Animate and inanimate nature seemed arrayed against us, to test our qualities to the utmost. For my protection against despair and madness, I had to resort to self-forgetfulness; to the interest which my task brought; to the content which I felt that every ounce of energy, and every atom of self had been already given to my duty, and that, no matter what followed, nothing more could be extracted from me. I had my reward in knowing that my comrades were all the time conscious that I did my best, and that I was bound to them by a common sympathy and aims. This encouraged me to give myself up to all neighbourly offices, and was morally fortifying.

The anxieties of providing for the morrow lay heavy on me; for, in the savagest part of Africa, which, unknown to us, had been devasted by Manyuema hordes, we were not sure of being able to obtain anything that was eatable. Then again, the follies and imprudences of my black men were a constant source of anxiety to me, for raw levies of black men are not wiser than raw levies of white men; it requires a calamity to teach both how to live. Not a day passed but the people received instruction, but in an hour it was forgotten. If all had been prudent with their food, we should not have suffered so heavily; but the mutinous hunger of the moment obliterated every thought of the morrow's wants. How extremely foolish men can be, was exemplified by the series of losses attending ten months of camp-life at Yambuya.8

The Column consisted of picked men, sound in health. In a month, however, many had been crippled by skewers in the path, placed there by the aborigines; these perforated their naked feet, some suffering from abrasions, or accidental cuts; others had their feet gashed by the sharp edges [388] of oyster-shells as they waded through the creeks; the effect of rain, dew, damp, fatigue, and scant food, all combined to impoverish the blood and render them more liable to disease. The negligence and heedlessness of some of the men was astonishing: they lost their equipment, rifles, tools, and clothing, as though they were so many somnambulists, and not accountable beings. The officers were unceasing in their exertions, but it would have required an officer for every ten men, and each officer well-fed and in perfect health, to have overseered them properly. The history of the journey proves what stratagems and arts we resorted to each day to check the frightful demoralisation. It was in the aid and assistance given to me at this trying period that my officers so greatly distinguished themselves.

I have frequently been asked as to whether I never despaired during the time when the men were dropping away so fast, and death by starvation seemed so imminent. No, I did not despair; but, as I was not wholly free from morbid thoughts, I may be said to have been on the edge of it, for quite two months. “How will all this end?” was a question that I was compelled to ask myself over and over again; and then my mind would speculate upon our slim chances, and proceed to trace elaborately the process of ruin and death. “So many have died to-day, it will be the turn of a few more to-morrow, and a few others the next day, and so on. We shall continue moving on, searching for berries, fungi, wild beans, and edible roots, while the scouts strike far inland to right and left; but, by and by, if we fail to find substantial food, even the scouts must cease their search and will presently pass away.” Then the white men, no longer supplied by the share of their pickings, which the brave fellows laid at their tent-doors, must begin the quest of food for themselves; and each will ask, as he picks a berry here and a mushroom there, how it will all end, and when. And while he repeats this dumb self-questioning, little side-shows of familiar scenes will be glanced at. One moment, a friend's face, pink and contented, will loom before him; or a well-known house, or a street astir with busy life, or a church with its congregation, or a theatre and its bright-faced audience; a tea-table will be remembered, or a drawing-room animate with beauty and happiness,--at least [389] something, out of the full life beyond the distant sea. After a while, exhausted nature will compel him to seek a leafy alcove where he may rest, and where many a vision will come to him of things that have been, until a profound darkness will settle on his senses. Before he is cold, a “scout” will come, then two, then a score, and, finally, myriads of fierce yellow-bodied scavengers, their heads clad in shining horn-mail; and, in a few days, there will only remain a flat layer of rags, at one end of which will be a glistening, white skull. Upon this will fall leaves and twigs, and a rain of powder from the bores in the red wood above, and the tornado will wrench a branch down and shower more leaves, and the gusty blasts will sweep fine humus over it, and there that curious compost begun of the earthly in me will lie to all eternity!

As I thought of this end, the chief feeling, I think, was one of pity that so much unselfish effort should finish in a heap of nothingness. I should not venture to say that my comrades shared in such thoughts. I could see that they were anxious, and that they would prefer a good loaf of bread to the best sermon; but their faces betrayed no melancholy gravity such as follows morbid speculations. Probably, the four brave young hearts together managed to be more cheerful than I, who was solitary; and thus they were able to cheat their minds out of any disposition to brood.

While, however, one part of my nature dwelt upon stern possibilities, and analysed with painful minuteness the sensations of those who daily perished from hunger, another part of me was excessively defiant, active in invention, fertile in expedients, to extricate the expedition from its impending fate, and was often, for no known reason, exhilarant with prescience of ultimate triumph. One half of me felt quite ready to seek a recess in the woods, when the time would come; the other half was aggressive, and obstinately bent upon not yielding, and unceasingly alert, day and night, in seeking methods to rescue us all. There was no doubt that the time had come to pray and submit, but I still felt rebellious, and determined to try every stratagem to gain food for my people.

The darkest night, however, is followed by dawn; and, by dint of pressing on, we emerged once more, after two months of awful trials, into a land of plenty; but before we could say a [390] final farewell to those Equatorial woods much more had to be endured. Jephson had to retrace his steps, to convey succour to Nelson, who had been left to guard a camp of dying men; and I know not which to admire most, the splendid energy with which Jephson hastened to the help of his poor comrade, along a track strewn with the ghastly relics of humanity, or the strong and patient endurance of Nelson, who, for weeks, was condemned to sit alone amid the dying (at “Starvation camp” ).

Then came the turn of Parke and Nelson together, to struggle for months against the worrying band of Manyuema, whose fitful tempers and greed would have made a saint rebel; and Stairs had to return two hundred miles, and escort, all unaided, a long line of convalescents through a country where one hundred and eighty of their fellows had left their bones. This was a feat second to none for the exhibition of the highest qualities that a man can possess.

The true story of those four would make a noble odyssey. While learning the alphabet of African travel, they were open to criticism, as all men must be when they begin a strange work. They winced at a word, and were offended by a glance, and, like restive colts, untried in harness, they lashed and kicked furiously at me and everyone else, at first; but when these men who had been lessoned repeatedly by affliction, and plied so often with distresses, finished their epical experiences of the Great Forest, and issued into the spacious daylight, I certainly was proud of them; for their worth and mettle had been well tried, their sinews were perfectly strong, their hearts beat as one, and their discipline was complete. Each had been compelled to leave behind something that had gathered, in the artificial life of England, over his true self, and he now walked free, and unencumbered, high-hearted, with the stamp of true manhood on him.

Nor was the change less conspicuous in our dark followers. The long marching line was now alive with cheerfulness. Even if one stood aside on a hummock to observe the falling and rising heads, one could see what a lively vigour animated the pace, and how they rose to the toes in their strides. The smallest signal was obeyed by hundreds with a pleasant and beautiful willingness. At the word “Halt!” they came to a [391] dead stop on the instant. At “Stack loads!” each dropped his burden in order; at the morning call of “Safari!” there was no skulking; at the midnight alarm, they leapt, as one man, to arms.

We began now to re-date our time. What happened in the Forest was an old, old story, not to be remembered; it was like the story of toddling childhood; it is what happened after the Forest days that they loved to be reminded of! “Ah! Master,” they would say, “why recall the time when we were “wayingo” (fools, or raw youths)?”

What singular merits we saw in one another now! We could even venture upon a joke, and no one thought of being sullen. We could laugh at a man, and he would not be displeased! Each had set his life upon a cast, stood bravely the hazard of the die, and triumphed! All were at peace, one with another, and a feeling of brotherhood possessed us, which endured throughout the happy aftertime between the Forest and the sea.

1 Mr. Stairs, not finding the Rear-Column, returned with the sick.--D. S.

2 Contrary to the rule hitherto observed, the following dramatic story of the discovery of the derelict Rear-Column is quoted from the account already published in Darkest Africa.--D. S.

3 The two different kinds of pigmies thus distinguished were the Batua, inhabiting the northern, and the Wambutti, the southern district of the territory traversed by Stanley,--the great Equatorial Forest,--which extends south of the Niam-Niam and Monbuttu countries. The correctness of Stanley's views regarding the pigmies has since been substantiated by Wolf, Wissman, and others. See Dr. Schlichter's paper, “The pigmy tribes of Africa,” Scottish Geographical Magazine, 1892.--D. S.

4 Emin's people, alone, succoured and convoyed to the Coast by Stanley, numbered about a thousand.--D. S.

5 These mountains make a chapter in the romance of historical geography. It was Stanley's discovery that brought them out of the realm of legend. Not long before his death, he expressed to the Royal Geographical Society his “dear wish” that the range might be thoroughly explored. Their ascent was attempted by many, beginning with Captain Stairs in 1889, and the work was at last thoroughly and scientifically done by H. R. H., the Duke of the Abruzzi, in June, 1906, and he named the highest range, Mount Stanley, and the two highest points, Margherita Peak (16,815 feet) and Queen Alexandra Peak (16,749).--D. S.

6 The Rt. Hon. Sir George Grey, K. C. B., “Soldier, Explorer, Administrator, Statesman, Thinker, and Dreamer,” to quote James Milne, was born in 1812, and died in 1898. He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral, being accorded a public funeral.

Governor of South Australia, when twenty-nine, he was subsequently twice Governor, and, later, Premier, of New Zealand; appointed as the first Governor of Cape Colony, 1854-59, Sir George Grey, by a daring assumption of personal responsibility, “probably saved India,” as Lord Malmesbury said, by diverting to India British troops meant for China, and also despatching re-enforcements from the Cape — the first to reach India — on the outbreak of the Mutiny.

He was active in English public life in 1868-70, and in Australian affairs in 1870-94 (Milne's Romance of a Proconsul).

Referring to Sir George Grey's masterly despatches, with their singularly clear and definite analysis of the conditions of South Africa, Basil Worsfold (History of South Africa, in Dent's Temple Series) says, “In so far as any one cause can be assigned for the subsequent disasters, both military and administrative, of the British Government in South Africa, it is to be found in the unwillingness of the “man in Downing Street” to listen to the man at Cape Town.”

7 This refers to an unpublished private Journal, from which this is an extract.--D. S.

8 This refers to the Rear-Column.--D. S.

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