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Chapter XIX
Europe again

there was a charm attached to the Great Forest that was only revealed to me after it had dropped beyond the horizon. I had found that a certain amount of determination was necessary to enter it.

The longer I hesitated, the blacker grew its towering walls, and its aspect more sinister. My imagination began to eat into my will and consume my resolution. But when all the virtue in me rose in hot indignation against such pusillanimity. I left the pleasant day, and we entered as into a tomb, I found it difficult to accustom myself to its gloom and its pallid solitude. I could find no comfort for the inner man, or solace for the spirit. It became impressed on me that it was wholly unfit for gregarious man, who loves to see something that appertains to humanity in his surroundings. A man can look into the face of the Sun and call him Father, the Moon can be compared to a mistress, the Stars to souls of the dear departed, and the Sky to our Heavenly Home; but when man is sunk in the depths of a cold tomb, how can he sing, or feel glad?

After I had got well out of it, however, and had been warmed through and through by the glowing sun, and was near being roasted by it, so that the skyey dome reminded me of a burning hot oven, and the more robustious savages of the open country pestered us with their darts, and hemmed us round about, day and night, then it dawned upon my mind that, in my haste, I had been too severe in my condemnation of the Forest. I began to regret its cool shade, its abundant streams, its solitude, and the large acquaintance I made with our own ever-friendly selves, with whom there was never any quarrelling, and not a trace of insincere affection.

I was reminded of this very forcibly when I descended from the Suez train, and entered Cairo. My pampered habits of solitary musing were outraged, my dreaming temper was shocked, my air-castles were ruthlessly demolished, and my [410] illusions were rudely dispelled. The fashionables of Cairo, in staring at me every time I came out to take the air, made me uncommonly shy; they made me feel as if something was radically wrong about me, and I was too disconcerted to pair with any of them, all at once. They had been sunning without interruption in the full blaze of social life, and I was too fresh from my three years meditations in the wilds.

If any of the hundreds I met chanced to think kindly of me at this period, it was certainly not because of any merit of my own, but because of their innate benevolence and ample considerateness. I am inclined to think, however, that I made more enemies than friends, for it could scarcely be otherwise with an irreflective world. To have escaped their censure, I ought to have worn a parchment band on my forehead, bearing the inscription: “Ladies and gentlemen, I have been in Darkest Africa for three continuous years, living among savages, and I fear something of their spirit clings to me; so I pray you have mercy.”

Indeed, no African traveller ought to be judged during the first year of his return. He is too full of his own reflections; he is too utterly natural; he must speak the truth, if he dies for it; his opinions are too much his own. Then, again, his vitals are wholly disorganised. He may appear plump enough, but the plumpness is simply the effect of unhealthy digestion; his stomach, after three years famishing, is contracted, and the successive feasts to which he is invited speedily become his bane. His nerves are not uniformly strung, and his mind harks back to the strange scenes he has just left, and cannot be on the instant focussed upon that which interests Society. To expect such a man to act like the unconscious man of the world, is as foolish as to expect a fashionable Londoner to win the confidence of naked Africans. We must give both time to recover themselves, or we shall be unjust.

To avoid the lounging critics that sat in judgement upon me at Shepheard's Hotel, I sought a retired spot, the Villa Victoria, surrounded by a garden, where, being out of sight, I might be out of mind. There was also an infectious sickness prevailing that season in London, and my friends thought it better that I should wait warmer weather. I reached Cairo in the middle of January, 1890, and, until the beginning of February, [411] I toyed with my pen. I could not, immediately, dash off two consecutive sentences that were readable. A thousand scenes floated promiscuously through my head, but, when one came to my pen-point, it was a farrago of nonsense, incoherent, yet confusedly intense. Then the slightest message from the outside world led me astray, like a rambling butterfly. What to say first, and how to say it, was as disturbing as a pathless forest would be to a man who had never stirred from Whitechapel. My thoughts massed themselves into a huge organ like that at the Crystal Palace, from which a master-hand could evoke Handel's “Messiah,” or Wagner's “Walkure,” but which to me would only give deep discords.

The days went by, and I feared I should have to relegate my book to the uncertain future. At last I started on the “Forest” chapter, the writing of which relieved me of the acuter feeling. Then I began the “March from Yambuya” ; and, presently, I warmed to the work, flung off page after page, and never halted until I had reached “The Albert.” The stronger emotions being thus relieved, I essayed the beginning, and found by the after-reading that I was not over-fantastic, and had got into the swing of narrative. I continued writing from ten to fifty pages of manuscript during a day, from six in the morning until midnight; and, having re-written the former chapters with more method, was able on the eighty-fifth day to write ‘Finis’ to the record of the journey.

I think the title of it was a happy one--“In Darkest Africa, or the Quest, Rescue, and Return of Emin Pasha.” It was the choice out of more than fifty taking titles on the same subject, but none of them was so aptly descriptive of the theme. Since then, some dozen or so book-titles have been founded on it, such as “Darkest England,” “Darkest London,” “Darkest New York,” “Darkest Russia,” etc., etc. It was the custom for Germans, Anglo-Germans, Philo-Germans, etc., etc., for some three or four years later, to print the word “Rescue” with quotation marks, which signified, of course, “so-called” ; but if the word is not absolutely truthful, I know not what is true.

Emin was rescued from being either sold to the Mahdists, or killed by Fadle Mullah, or perishing through some stupid act of his own; and, so long as he was in the British camp, he [412] was safe. The very day he was kissed by his countrymen, he was doomed to fall, and he nearly cracked his poor head. When they placed power in his hands, they sent him to his death.

Though not secure from interruptions at the Villa Victoria, I could, at least, make my selection of the visitors who called. Might I have been as safe from the telegraph and mails, I should have been fairly comfortable; but my telegrams were numerous, and letters arrived sometimes by the hundred. The mere reading of the correspondence entailed a vast loss of time, the replies to them still more, and occupied the best efforts of three persons. What with a tedious sitting for my portrait, visits, interviews, dining-out, telegraphic and postal correspondence, calls of friends, instructions to the artist for the book, and revisions of my Ms., it appears to me wonderful that I was able to endure the strain of writing half a million of words, and all else; but, thank Goodness! by the middle of April, the book was out of my hands, and I was alive and free.

From Cairo, I proceeded to Cannes, to consult with Sir William Mackinnon about East Africa, and explain about German aggressiveness in that region. Thence I moved to Paris; and, not many days later, I was in Brussels, where I was received with a tremendous demonstration of military and civilian honours. All the way to the royal palace, where I was to be lodged, the streets were lined with troops, and behind these was the populace shouting their “vivas!” It appeared to me that a great change had come over Belgian public opinion about the value of the Congo. Before I departed for Africa, the Belgian journals were not in favour of Africa. But now, all was changed, and the King was recognised as “the great benefactor of the nation.” While I was the guest of His Majesty, state, municipal, and geographical receptions followed fast upon one another; and at each of the assemblages I was impressed with the enthusiasm of the nation for the grand African domain secured to it by the munificence of their royal statesman and sovereign. Besides gold and silver medals from Brussels and Antwerp, the King graciously conferred on me the Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold, and the Grand Cross of the Congo.

Every morning, however, between 10.30 and 12, the King [413] led me into his private room, to discuss questions of absorbing interest to both of us. Since 1878, I had repeatedly endeavoured to impress on His Majesty the necessity of the railway, for the connection of the Lower with the Upper Congo, without which it was impossible to hope that the splendid sacrifices he proposed to make, or had made, would ever bear fruit. In 1885-86, I had been one of the principal agents in the promotion of an English Company for the construction of the Royal Congo Railway; but my efforts were in vain. Now, however, the King expressed his assurance that the time was ripe for the Belgian nation to construct the line, and he was pleased to say that it was my success which had produced this feeling, and that the welcome extended to me was a proof of it. I would have been better pleased if His Majesty had expressed his determination to economise in other directions, and devote his energies to the railway.

The next subject was the suppression of the slave-trade in the Congo. I proposed that troops should be pushed up the Congo, and that posts should be established at the mouths of the Aruwimi and Lumami, and that the garrisons should be increased month by month, until about two thousand troops had been collected, when an onward movement should be made against Stanley Falls, and the Arab power be summarily broken.

As this would be a signal of resolute action against all the Arabs above the Falls, about thirty steel boats should be provided, to enable the war to be carried up the Lualaba; for there would be no peace for the State, until every slaver in the Congo State had been extirpated or disarmed. I explained the project in great detail, and urged it vehemently, as after the treachery of Tippu-Tib in the Forest region, it was useless to hope that any other method would prevail. His Majesty promised cordial assent to the plan, and promised that the orders should be issued at once for the building of the boats.

The next subject debated was the better delimitation of the Congo State to the east. I proposed that instead of the vague and uncertain line of East longitude 30, the boundary between British territory and the Congo State should be the centre of the Albert Edward Nyanza and the course of the Semliki River, by which the parting of tribes would be avoided. The [414] benefits to both England and the State would be that, while the whole of the snowy range of Ruwenzori, intact, would belong to England, the Congo State would be extended to the Albert Nyanza. In size, the exchanged territories would be about equal in area. His Majesty appeared pleased with the idea, and expressed his willingness to negotiate the exchange of territories with the East African Company.

The King introduced the third subject himself, by expressing his desire to know what point was the best to occupy as a central post along the Northern frontier between France and the Congo State. I unhesitatingly pointed out the confluence of the Mbornu with the Welle-Mubangi, but that to supply such a distant station would require a large number of steel whale-boats, such as Forrest & Son, of London, had made for me.

Then he wished to know how the North-eastern frontier could be defended. I replied that a clever officer would find no difficulty in establishing himself within easy reach of Makraka, and holding out inducements to the former Makraka soldiers of Emin, many of whom would be glad of a refuge against the Mahdists. At these private receptions His Majesty is accustomed to sit with his back to the window, on one side of a large marble-topped table, while his visitor sits on the other side. The table is well furnished with writing-paper, ink, pens, and pencils. Three years and a quarter had passed since I was in the room, where I had been fifty times before, probably; nothing had changed except ourselves. The King's beautiful brown beard had, in the interval, become grey from ear to ear; while my hair, which had been iron-grey, was now as white as Snowdon in winter.

I made a smiling reference to the changes Time had wrought in us since we had first met in June, 1878, and discussed the possibilities of introducing civilisation on the Congo.

The King began by saying that my visit to Brussels was sure to be followed by great results. He was very certain of being able to get the Congo Railway started now; for the Belgian people were thoroughly roused up, and were even enthusiastic. He said my letters from Africa and my present visit had caused this change. My description of the Forest had fired their imagination; and the people seemed to be about [415] as eager to begin the railway as they were previously backward, indifferent, even hostile. The railway shares had been nearly all taken up, etc., etc.

“Now, Mr. Stanley,” said he, “you have put me under still further obligations, by pointing out how slave-raiding can be stopped; you have also suggested how we could transform slave-raiders into policemen, which is a splendid idea; and, finally, you have indicated how we are to protect our frontiers and make use of Emin's troops, as soldiers in the service of the State.”

We now discussed the value of the country between the Congo and Lake Albert. He listened to what I said with the close attention of one who was receiving an account of a great estate that had just fallen to him, of which, previously, he had but a vague knowledge.

I said that from the mouth of the Aruwimi to within fifty miles of Lake Albert, the whole country, from 4° S., to about 3° N., was one dense tropical forest, and that its area was about equal to France and Spain put together.

“Does the Forest produce anything that is marketable in Europe?”

Well, Sire, I suppose that when elephants have been exterminated in all other parts of Africa, there will still be some found in that Forest, so that the State will always be able to count upon some quantity of ivory, especially if the State has kindly set aside a reservation for them to retreat to, and forbidden the indiscriminate slaughter of these animals. Such a reservation will also be useful for the pigmies and other wild creatures of the forest. But the principal value of the Forest consists in the practically inexhaustible supply of valuable and useful timber which it will yield. You have a great source of revenue in this immense store of giant trees, when the Congo Railway enables timber merchants to build their saw-mills on the banks of the many tributaries and creeks which pierce it. The cotton-wood, though comparatively soft, will be adapted for cargo barges, because it is as unsinkable as cork, and will be useful for transporting down the Congo the mahogany, teak, greenheart, and the hard red and yellow woods.

I think the timber-yards at Stanley Pool will be a sight to see, some few years hence. Then, for local purposes, the Forest [416] will be valuable for furnishing materials for building all the houses in the Congo Valley, and for making wooden tram-lines across the portages of the many rivers. The Concessionaires will also find the rubber produce of the forest highly profitable. Almost every branchy tree has a rubber parasite clinging to it; as we carved our way through the Forest our clothes were spoiled by the rain of juice which fell on us. As there are so many rivers and creeks in the Forest, accessible by boats, and as along the Congo itself, for some hundreds of miles, the woods come down and overhang the water, a well-organised company will be able to collect several tons, annually, of rubber. When rubber is, even now, two shillings per pound,1 you can estimate what the value of this product alone will be, when the industry has been properly developed.

With every advance into the Forest, the gummy exudations will also be no mean gain. Every land-slip along the rivers discloses a quantity of precious fossil-gum, which floats down the streams in large cakes. Experience will teach the Concessionaires when and how to hunt for this valuable article of commerce. I am inclined to think, in fact, that the Great Forest will prove as lucrative to the State as any other section, however fertile the soil and rich its produce.

No one can travel up the Congo without being struck by the need of the saw-mill, and how numerous and urgent are the uses of sawn timber for the various stations which are being erected everywhere.

If you had saw-mills established now on the Aruwimi, they could not produce planking fast enough to satisfy all demands, and what a help for the railway hard-wood sleepers would be!

I was then questioned as to the tribes of the Forest, and had to explain that as the experiences of these unsophisticated aborigines with strangers had been most cruel, it would not do to be too sanguine about their ability to supply labour at first demand. “But,” I said, “I came across no tribe, excepting the pigmies, which, after two years acquaintance with the white man, could not be brought to a right sense of the value of their muscle. If a station were built in any part of the Forest, the [417] tribe in its neighbourhood might be induced by patient and fair treatment to become serviceable in a short time; but the other tribes would remain as aloof as ever, until they had the same opportunities of intimately knowing the white strangers. As the Forest is so dense, and so many miles of untrodden woods separate the tribes, it will be a long time before all the people will be tamed fit for employment. Good roads through the Forest, gentle treatment of the natives employed, and fair wages to them, will tend to hasten the white man's good influence; for rumour spreads rapidly; in a mysterious way good, as well as evil, news travels; and every month will show a perceptible increase in the numbers of those natives desirous of associating themselves with the white strangers.”

When the King asked me about the people of the grasslands near the lakes, he was much interested at hearing, how, from enemies, formidable by their numbers and courage, they had become my allies, carriers, servants, and most faithful messengers. His Majesty was much impressed by this, and I told him how I had been affected by their amiability and good service; to any one listening to the warm praise I gave the Mazamboni and Kavallis, I might have appeared to exaggerate their good qualities; but His Majesty is so generous-minded that he could appreciate the frank way in which they had confessed their error in treating us as enemies, and the ready way in which they had atoned for it.

I showed the King that the grass-lands were not so distant from the Congo as my painful and long journey through the Forest had made them appear. “Without any great cost it will be possible for the State to send expeditions to Lake Albert from the Congo within ten days. For, when saw-mills have been established at Yambuya, a wooden tram-line, topped by light steel bars, may be laid very easily along the Aruwimi, over which a small engine, drawing five trucks, could travel five miles an hour, or sixty miles a day. But before this tram-line will be possible, the railway to Stanley Pool must be finished, by which the resources of civilisation, saw-mills, tools, engines, boats, provisions, will be brought thirteen hundred miles nearer the lakes than they are now.”

After this, we adjourned to lunch, etc., etc.

A few weeks later, the King came over to London; and, after [418] a talk with Lord Salisbury and the principal Directors of the East African Company, whereby the boundaries between their respective territories were agreed to be the Albert, and Albert Edward, and the course of the river Semliki, from the centre of the southern shore of the Albert Edward to the northern head of the Tanganyika Lake, a strip of ten miles in width was secured to Great Britain for free transit,2 with all powers of jurisdiction. Sir William Mackinnon and myself were the signatories duly empowered.3 In my opinion, the advantages of this Treaty were on the side of the British, as there was now a free broad line of communications between Cape Town and British Equatoria, while my own secret hopes of the future of the Ruwenzori range were more likely to be gratified by its acquisition by the English, because, once the railway reached within a reasonable distance of the Snowy Mountains, a certain beautiful plateau — commanding a view of the snow-peaks, the plain of Usongora, the Lake Albert Edward, and the Semliki Valley — must become the site of the future Simla of Africa. On the other hand, the King was pleased with the extension of his territory to the Albert Nyanza, though the advantages are more sentimental than real. The narrow pasture-land between the Great Forest and the lake may become inhabited by whites, in which case the ninety-mile length of the Nyanza may be utilized for steamboat communication between the two ends of it.

As Monsieur Vankherchoven, King Leopold's agent, was by this time well on his way to the confluence of the headwaters of the Welle — Mubangi, the conclusion of this Treaty necessitated a slight change in his instructions.

On arriving in England, April 26, 1890, I was met by a large number of friends at Dover, who escorted me on a special train to London. At Victoria Station a large crowd was assembled, who greeted me most warmly. The Baroness Burdett-Coutts and Mr. Burdett-Coutts had done me the honour of meeting me with their carriage, and in brief time I found [419] myself in comfortable rooms at De Vere Gardens, which had been engaged and prepared for me by Sir Francis and Lady De Winton.

For the next three or four weeks, proof-reading and revising, banquets, preparing lectures, etc., absorbed far more time than was good for my health. Two of the most notable Receptions were by the Royal Geographical Society and the Emin Relief Committee; the first, at the Albert Hall, was by far the grandest Assembly I ever saw. About ten thousand people were present; Royalty, the Peerage, and all classes of Society were well represented. While Sir Mountstuart Grant-Duff, the President, was speaking, my eyes lighted on many a noble senator, chief of science, and prince in literature, whose presence made me realise the supreme honour accorded to me.

At the house of my dear wife-to-be, I met the ex-Premier, the Right Honourable Mr. W. E. Gladstone, who had come for a chat and a cup of tea, and to be instructed — as I had been duly warned — about one or two matters connected with the slave-trade. I had looked forward to the meeting with great interest, believing — deluded fool that I was!--that a great politician cares to be instructed about anything but the art of catching votes. I had brought with me the latest political map of East Africa, and, when the time had come, I spread it out conveniently on the table before the great man, at whose speaking face I gazed with the eyes of an African. “Mr. Gladstone,” said I, intending to be brief and to the point, as he was an old man, “this is Mombasa, the chief port of British East Africa. It is an old city. It is mentioned in the Lusiads, and, no doubt, has been visited by the Phoenicians. It is most remarkable for its twin harbours, in which the whole British Navy might lie safely, and--”

“Pardon me,” said Mr. Gladstone, “did you say it was a harbour?”

“Yes, sir,” said I, “so large that a thousand vessels could be easily berthed in it.”

“Oh, who made the harbour?” he asked, bending his imposing glance at me.

“It is a natural harbour,” I answered.

“You mean a port, or roadstead?” [420]

“It is a port, certainly, but it is also a harbour, that, by straightening the bluffs, you--”

“But pardon me, a harbour is an artificial construction.”

“Excuse me, sir, a dock is an artificial construction, but a harbour may be both artificial and natural, and--”

“Well, I never heard the word applied in that sense.” And he continued, citing Malta and Alexandria, and so on.

This discussion occupied so much time that, fearing I should lose my opportunity of speaking about the slave-trade, I seized the first pause, and skipping about the region between Mombasa and Uganda, I landed him on the shores of the Nyanza, and begged him to look at the spacious inland sea, surrounded by populous countries, and I traced the circling lands. When I came to Ruwenzori, his eye caught a glimpse of two isolated peaks.

“Excuse me one minute,” said he; “what are those two mountains called?”

“Those, sir,” I answered, “are the Gordon Bennett and the Mackinnon peaks.”

“Who called them by those absurd names?” he asked, with the corrugation of a frown on his brow.

“I called them, sir.”

“By what right?” he asked.

“By the right of first discovery, and those two gentlemen were the patrons of the expedition.”

“How can you say that, when Herodotus spoke of them twenty-six hundred years ago, and called them Crophi and Mophi? It is intolerable that classic names like those should be displaced by modern names, and--”

“I humbly beg your pardon, Mr. Gladstone, but Crophi and Mophi, if they ever existed at all, were situated over a thousand miles to the northward. Herodotus simply wrote from hearsay, and--”

“Oh, I can't stand that.”

“Well, Mr. Gladstone,” said I, “will you assist me in this project of a railway to Uganda, for the suppression of the slave-trade, if I can arrange that Crophi and Mophi shall be substituted in place of Gordon Bennett and Mackinnon?”

“Oh, that will not do; that is flat bribery and corruption” ; [421] and, smiling, he rose to his feet, buttoning his coat lest his virtue might yield to the temptation.

“Alas!” said I to myself, “when England is ruled by old men and children! My slave-trade discourse must be deferred, I see.”

Turning now to the extraordinary charges made against me, on my return to Europe, that I deliberately employed slaves on my expedition, I would point out that every traveller, before setting out on his journey, took all precautions to avoid doing this. Each of my followers was obliged to prove that he was free — by personal declaration and two witnesses — before he could be enrolled. Four months advance wages were paid to the men before they left Zanzibar, and, on their return, their full wages were delivered into their own hands. No doubt many who had been slaves had managed to get into the expedition, as I found to my cost, when well away in the interior; but, since they had been able to earn their own living, their slavery had been merely nominal, and all their earnings were their own to do what they liked with, and their owners never saw them except when, at the end of Ramadan, they called to pay their respects. To all intents and purposes, they were as much freemen as the free-born, inasmuch as they were relieved from all obligation to their masters.

To proceed on the lines that, because they were not free-born they must be slaves, one would have to clear out the Seedy-boy stokers from the British fleet in the Indian Ocean, and all the mail, passenger, and freight steamers which ship them at Aden and Bombay, Calcutta, Singapore, and Yoko-hama. All the British consulates on the East CoastZanzibar, Madagascar, etc.--would have to be charged with conniving at the slave-trade, as also all the British merchants in those places, because they employed house-servants, door and horse-boys, who were nominally slaves.

White men are not in the habit of proceeding to an Arab slave-owner, and agreeing with him as to the employment of his slaves. I employed English agents at Zanzibar to engage my people, and every precaution was taken that no one was enlisted who could not swear he was an Ingwaria, or freeman. I was only four days in Zanzibar, but, before these [422] men were accepted, they had to re-swear their declarations before the British Consul-general that they were free.

The accusations made against me that I employed slaves were, therefore, most disgraceful. History will be compelled to acknowledge that I have some right to claim credit in the acts which have followed, one upon another, so rapidly of late, and which have tended to make slave-raiding impossible, and to reduce slave-trading to sly and secret exchanges of human chattels in isolated districts in the interior.

The book “In Darkest Africa” was published in June by my usual publishers, Messrs. Sampson, Son & Co., and the Messrs. Scribners of New York brought it out in America. It was translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch, and in English it has had a sale of about one hundred and fifty thousand.

The month of May was mainly passed by me in stirring up the Chambers of Commerce and the Geographical Societies to unite in pressing upon the British Government the necessity of more vigorous action to prevent East Africa being wholly absorbed by Germany; and, on coming southward from Scotland, where I had been speaking, the news reached me that Lord Salisbury had secured for Great Britain, Zanzibar and the northern half of East Africa, but singularly curtailed of the extensive piece of pasture-land west of Kilimanjaro. This odd cutting off is due to a Permanent Official in the Foreign Office, whose hand can be traced in that oblique line running from the northern base of the Devil's Mountain to S. Lat. 10, on Lake Victoria. Had that gentleman been a member of an African expedition, he would never have had recourse to an oblique line when a straight line would have done better. However, while it remains a signal instance of his weakness, it is no less a remarkable proof of German magnanimity! For, though the Germans were fully aware that the official was one of the most squeezable creatures in office, they declined to extend the line to the Equator! Kilimanjaro, therefore, was handed over to Germany, “because the German Emperor was so interested in the flora and fauna of that district!” That, at any rate, was the reason given for the request!

1 The market-price of rubber is now (July, 1909) quoted at four shillings and six-pence per pound.--D. S.

2 The Cape-to-Cairo Route, on all-British territory, thus anticipated by Stanley, and rendered feasible by this Treaty, was lost to England owing to the weakness of the Liberal Government of the day, who were actually “bluffed” into cancelling the Treaty by German pressure.

3 See In Darkest Africa, vol. II.

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