Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

Congo. Of the singularly bold and picturesque scenery of the mountainous coast of Tanganyika the reader will find effective illustrative cuts from drawings and photographs in both Stanley and Cameron. The healthful upland regions of inner Africa seem destined at no distant day to become centers of missionary operations, like those already inaugurated in Uganda.

From Tanganyika, Cameron, and two years later Stanley, followed Livingstone's route north-east to Nyangwé, on the Lualaba, “a mighty river,” says Livingstone, “three thousand yards broad and always deep, current about two miles an hour to the north,” “ color very dark brown.” (March 31, 1871.)

August 1, 1874, Cameron, “after two marches, came in sight of the mighty Lualaba . a strong, sweeping current of turbid yellow water fully a mile wide, and flowing at the rate of three or four knots an hour.”

October, 1876, Stanley came suddenly upon the “majestic Lualaba, about fourteen hundred yards wide, a broad river of a pale gray color, winding slowly from south and by east.”

“ At last,” says Cameron, “I was at Nyangwé, and now the question before me was, what success would attend the attempt at tracing the river to the sea ?”

Stanley, two years later, with characteristic confidence, writes : “ A secret rapture filled my soul as I gazed upon the majestic stream. The great mystery that for all these centuries Nature had kept hidden away from the world of science was waiting to be solved. For two hundred miles I had followed one of the sources of the river, and now before me lay the superb river itself! My task was to follow it to the ocean ! ”

Cameron, like Livingstone, in the wish and endeavor to explore the Lualaba, was destined to disheartening defeat. "I tried every means to persuade the people to sell me canoes, but without avail.” Unable to go north, Commander Cameron, by the aid of natives, Arabs, and Portuguese, ultimately found his way to Benguela, crossing, at Lake Dilolo, Livingstone's track en route (1854) for St. Paul de Loanda, being the first white man that had ever crossed Africa from east to west. Pluck, common sense, disposition and ability to make the best of circumstances, a plain, full style, scientific and cultivated tastes, and thorough gentlemanliness, characterize Cameron and his narrative. His recorded experiences and observations form a valuable chapter in African exploration, and his name will go down to posterity as a bold and energetic explorer.

“The greatest problem of African geography,” says Stanley, was left by Cameron exactly where Livingstone had left it. Neither could obtain canoes." “Want of canoes, and the hostility of the savages, and the reluctance and indifference of the Arabs, were the causes that prevented the exploration of the river.” How was Stanley to overcome these difficulties ? His first operation was to secure the escort of an Arab caravan down the river north, sixty marches for $5,000. The natives of Nyangwé will not sell canoes; he hopes to come across a tribe lower down the stream who will. If not, we will buy up axes and make our own canoes."

He consults his only remaining white companion, Frank Po cocke. Frank proposes to “ toss up," and the coin six times forbids. Straws drawn as lots were all against the trip into the dark unknown. At the end of the protracted game of lots, so frequently resorted to by John Wesley, all the Stanley came out in the explosive words, “ It is of no use, Frank ! in spite of rupees and of straws we will face our destiny. I will follow the river !” The contract with the Arabs was completed. About one hundred and fifty people, constituting the expedition, mustered, and on the 5th of November, 1876, the momentous start was made. “The object of the desperate journey is to flash a torch of light across the western half of the dark continent. Eastward, " along the fourth parallel of south latitude, are some eight hundred and thirty geographical miles discovered, explored, and surveyed; but westward, to the Atlantic Ocean, are nine hundred and fifty-six miles which are absolutely unknown.”—Vol. ii, p. 127.

On the 6th of November they“ drew near to the dread, chill, black forest, and, bidding farewell to sunshine and brightness, entered it.” In ten days' time the fearful struggle with innumerable obstacles so disheartened the Arab escort that they wished to annul the contract. It was modified from sixty marches to twenty. The terrors and difficulties of the forest were braved for a few days longer, when, all of a sudden, as if it had been a new revelation, the idea strikes Stanley in one of his sentimental meditative moods, “Why not build canoes and take to the water ?"

“ It is our work! It is the voice of fate. The One God has written that this year the river shall be known throughout its length; we will have no more forests and hideous darkness. We will take to the river and keep to the river. To-day I shall launch my boat on that stream, and it shall never leave it until I finish my work. I swear it!”-Vol. ii, pp. 149, 150.

With Stanley to resolve was to perform, and the “ Lady Alice” was taken from the shoulders of discouraged and worn-out bearers and launched in her own element, to run the gauntlet of poisoned arrows, spears, cataracts, and cannibals, and be laid

up on the rocks when the expedition again took to land-journeying within hail of Atlantic civilization. The very outset of their perilous voyage was greeted with the savage war-cry, and they were at once plunged into stern conflicts with cannibals, which in most cases could be settled or terminated only by the successful issue of battle. A desperate fight with the natives, in which they had four killed and thirteen wounded, put them in possession of over twenty canoes. They parted with their Arab escort and embarked Dec. 28, 1876, and paddled toward the unknown “ wide open to us. Away down, for miles and miles, the river lay stretched in all the fascination of its mystery.” From the hour when the Anglo-American expedition was fairly afloat on the face of the Congo, few romances possess such thrilling interest as attaches to the narrative of their • adventures. The barometer told a startling tale. They were, according to its record, sixteen hundred and fifty feet above the sea! Will the river take a mighty sweep to the northward and westward and descend into the Congo, or is it the Niger, or is it the Nile? “If the Congo, there must be many cataracts,” and cataracts they found; but, before the cataracts, hordes of murderous cannibal savages! There was no end to Stanley's ingenuity, expedients, and devices. By saving the shields of the savages they converted their canoes into floating forts. The natives beat their war drums, sounded their war horns, and shouted their cannibal cry, “Meat ! meat!” but the peaceful expedition answered, “ Peace! peace !” sometimes with pacific effect, but oftener with no effect at all other than to embolden the barbarians by show of non-resistance and forbearance. Some of the tribes were peaceful, but most of them were hostile. Sometimes they obtained food in exchange

[ocr errors]

for cloth, beads, or wire, and sometimes they were hungry to the borders of starvation. By the 29th of January, a little more than a month after leaving the Arabs, they had “fought twenty-four times! and had captured sixty-five door-like shields, which, in fights upon the river, the women raised, so that fortythree guns were of more avail than one hundred and fifty riflemen unprotected. “In these wild regions our mere presence excited the most furious passions of hate and murder.”

February 3, 1877, Stanley writes in his Journal: “Livingstone called floating down the Lualaba a fool-hardy feat. So it has proved, and I pen these lines with half a feeling that they will never be read by any man ; still, as we persist in floating down according to our destiny, I persist in writing, leaving events to an all-gracious Providence. Day and night we are stunned with the dreadful drumming which announces our arrival and presence in their nation. Either bank is equally powerful. To go from the right bank to the left is like jumping from the frying-pan into the fire. As we row down among the islands, between the savage countries on either side of us, it may well be said that we are running the gauntlet.'”—Vol. ii, pp. 280, 281.

February 6, “ the river,” which had for hundreds of miles held a northerly course," for the first time deflected west.”

February 8, they heard for the first time the welcome name “ Congo.”

February 14, they beat off the “Bangala,” the “ Ashantees of the Livingstone River.” A few days before they had “discovered four ancient Portuguese muskets, at the sight of which the people of the expedition raised a glad shout.” It was an intimation of the sea. Musket shots now took the place of the whizzing of arrows and spears, but the weapons were old and the gunners awkward ; they were no match for Sneider rifles, elephant guns, and explosive balls.

February 18, 1877. “For three days we have been permitted, through the mercy of God, to descend this great river uninterrupted by savage clamor or ferocity.”

February 19. “Regarded each other as the fated victims of protracted famine or the rage of savages.”

March 15. “ The people no longer resist our advance. Trade has tamed their natural ferocity, and they no longer resent our approach like beasts of prey.” Henceforth, falls and cataracts ; canoes over falls and down plunging cataracts; canoes hauled over land around falls and cataracts; through forests and over mountains; Kalulu, the boy taken by Stanley to England, precipitated over a dangerous fall in a canoe and lost ; and, worst of all, Frank Pococke, the young Englishman, fellow traveler over three fourths of a continent, drowned June 8, 1877, in the fool-hardy attempt to shoot a fall! All these fatalities Stanley chronicles with a dramatic pen. Abating something for exuberance of fancy and expression, his versatility as a describer is equal to his versatility as a leader or commander. The last pages of “ Through the Dark Continent” read like the concluding act of a tragedy. It is impossible to read them without tears. “Fatal June, 1877," writes Stanley :

“ The full story of the sufferings I have undergone cannot be written, but is locked up in a bosom that feels the misery into which I am plunged neck-deep. O, Frank ! Frank ! you are happy, my friend. Nothing can now harrow your mind or fatigue your body. You are at rest for ever and ever. Would that I were also !”

July 28. “The freshness and ardor of feeling with which I had set out from the Indian Ocean had by this time worn quite away. Fevers had sapped the frame, overmuch trouble had sapped the spirit, hunger had debilitated the body, anxiety preyed upon the mind. My people were groaning aloud ; their sunken eyes and unfleshed bodies were a living reproach to me; their vigor was gone, though their fidelity was unquestionable; their knees were bent with weakness, and their backs were no longer rigid with the vigor of youth, life, strength, and devotion. Hollow-eyed, gaunt, sallow, unspeakably miserable in aspect, we yielded to imperious nature, and had but one thought only—to trudge on for one look more at the blue ocean.”—Vol. ii, p. 435.

July 31. “We received the good news that Embomma was only five days' journey from us." “ As the object of the journey had now been attained, and the great river of Livingstone had been connected with the Congo of Tuckey, (1816,) I saw no reason to follow it further, or to expend the little remaining vitality we possessed in toiling through the last four cataracts.”

At sunset we lifted our brave boat, the · Lady Alice,' and FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XXXII.-17

« PoprzedniaDalej »