Today’s installment concludes Livingstone’s African Discoveries,
the name of our combined selection from David Livingstone and Thomas Hughes. The concluding installment, by Thomas Hughes from David Livingstone, was published in 1889. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed six thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in Livingstone’s African Discoveries.
Place: Central Africa
He now struck north to avoid the Chiboque, and made for the Portuguese settlement of Cassange through dense forest and constant wet. Here another fever fit came on, so violent that “I could scarcely, after some hours’ trial, get a lunar observation in which I could repose confidence. Those who know the difficulties of making observations and committing them all to paper will sympathize with me in this and many similar instances.”
At this crisis, when the goal was all but at hand, obstacles multiplied till it seemed that after all it would never be reached. First his riding ox, Sindbad — a beast “blessed with a most intractable temper,” and a habit of bolting into the bush to get his rider combed off by a climber, and then kicking at him — achieved a triumph in his weak state, “when the bridle broke, and down I came backward on the crown of my head, receiving as I fell a kick on the thigh. This last attack of fever reduced me almost to a skeleton. The blanket which I used as a saddle, being pretty constantly wet, caused extensive abrasion of the skin, which was continually healing and getting sore again.”
Then the guides missed their way and led them back into Chiboque territory, where the demands of the chief of every village for “a man, an ox, or a tusk,” for permission to pass, began again. Worst of all, signs of mutiny began to show themselves among the Batoka men of his party, who threatened to turn back. He appeased them by giving them a tired ox to be killed at the Sunday’s halt. “Having thus, as I thought, silenced their murmurs, I sank into a state of torpor, and was oblivious of all their noise. On Sunday the mutineers were making a terrible din in preparing the skin. I requested them twice to be more quiet as the noise pained me, but, as they paid no attention to this civil request, I put out my head and, repeating it, was answered by an impudent laugh. Knowing that discipline would be at an end if this mutiny was not quelled, and that our lives depended on vigorously upholding authority, I seized a double-barrelled pistol and darted out with such a savage aspect as to put them to precipitate flight. They gave no further trouble.” Every night now they had to build a stockade, and by day to march in a compact body, knowing the forest to be full of enemies dogging their path, for now they had nothing to give as presents, the men having even divested themselves of all their copper ornaments to appease the Chiboque harpies. “Nothing, however, disturbed us, and for my part I was too ill to care much whether we were attacked or not.” They struggled on, the Chiboque natives, now joined by bodies of traders, opposing at every ford, Livingstone no longer wondering why expeditions from the interior failed to reach the coast. “Some of my men proposed to return home, and the prospect of being obliged to turn back from the threshold of the Portuguese settlements distressed me exceedingly. After using all my powers of persuasion, I declared that if they now returned, I should go on alone, and returning into my little tent, I lifted up my heart to Him who hears the sighing of the soul. Presently the head man came in. ‘Do not be disheartened,’ he said, ‘we will never leave you. Wherever you lead, we will follow. Our remarks were only made on account of the injustice of these people.’ Others followed, and with the most artless simplicity of manner told me to be comforted. ‘They were all my children; they knew no one but Sekeletu and me, and would die for me: they had spoken in bitterness of spirit, feeling they could do nothing.'”
On April 1st they gained the ridge which overlooks the valley of the Quango and the Portuguese settlements on the farther bank. “The descent is so steep that I was obliged to dismount, though so weak that I had to be supported. Below us, at a depth of one thousand feet, lay the magnificent valley of the Quango. The view of the Vale of Clyde, from the spot where Mary witnessed the Battle of Langside, resembles in miniature the glorious sight which was here presented to our view.”
On the 4th they were close to the Quango, here one hundred fifty yards broad, when they were stopped for the last time by a village chief and surrounded by his men. The usual altercation ensued; Livingstone refusing to give up his blanket — the last article he possessed except his watch and instruments and Sekeletu’s tusks, which had been faithfully guarded — until on board the canoes in which they were to cross. “I was trying to persuade my people to move on to the bank in spite of them, when a young half-caste Portuguese sergeant of militia, Cypriano di Abren, who had come across in search of beeswax, made his appearance and gave the same advice.” They marched to the bank — the chief’s men opening fire on them, but without doing any damage — made terms with the ferrymen, with Cypriano’s help, crossed the Quango, and were at the end of their troubles.
Four days they stopped with Cypriano, who treated them royally, killing an ox and stripping his garden to feast them, and sending them on to Cassange with provisions of meal ground by his mother and her maids. “I carried letters from the Chevalier du Prat of Cape Town, but I am inclined to believe that my friend Cypriano was influenced by feelings of genuine kindness excited by my wretched appearance.”
At Cassange they were again most hospitably treated, and here, before starting for Loanda, three hundred miles, they disposed of Sekeletu’s tusks, which sold for much higher prices than those given by Cape traders. “Two muskets, three small barrels of powder, and English calico and baize enough to clothe my whole party, with large bunches of beads, were given for one tusk, to the great delight of my Makololos, who had been used to get only one gun for two tusks. With another tusk we purchased calico — the chief currency here — to pay our way to the coast. The remaining two were sold for money to purchase a horse for Sekeletu at Loanda.” Livingstone was much struck both by the country he passed through and the terms on which the Portuguese lived with the natives. Most of them had families by native women, who were treated as European children and provided for by their fathers. Half-caste clerks sat at table with the whites, and he came to the conclusion that “nowhere in Africa is there so much good-will between Europeans and natives as here.”
The dizziness produced by his twenty-seven attacks of fever on the road made it all he could do to stick on Sindbad, who managed to give him a last ducking in the Lombe. “The weakening effects of the fever were most extraordinary. For instance, in attempting to take lunar observations I could not avoid confusion of time and distance, neither could I hold the instrument steady, nor perform a simple calculation.” He rallied a little in crossing a mountain range. As they drew near Loanda the hearts of his men began to fail, and they hinted their doubts to him. “If you suspect me you can return,” he told them, “for I am as ignorant of Loanda as you; but nothing will happen to you but what happens to me. We have stood by one another hitherto, and will do so till the last.”
The first view of the sea staggered the Makololo. “We were marching along with our father,” they said, “believing what the ancients had told us, that the world had no end; but all at once the world said to us: ‘I am finished; there is no more for me.'”
The fever had produced chronic dysentery, which was so depressing that Livingstone entered Loanda in deep melancholy, doubting the reception he might get from the one English gentleman, Mr. Gabriel, the commissioner for the suppression of the slave-trade. He was soon undeceived. Mr. Gabriel received him most kindly, and, seeing the condition he was in, gave up to him his own bed. “Never shall I forget the luxurious pleasure I enjoyed in feeling myself again on a good English bed after six months’ sleeping on the ground. I was soon asleep; and Mr. Gabriel coming in almost immediately after, rejoiced in the soundness of my repose.”
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