Gateway to the Classics: The Story of David Livingstone by Vautier Golding
The Story of David Livingstone by  Vautier Golding

A Deathblow to Slavery

L IVINGSTONE at once wrote to Kirk at Zanzibar for more stores to be sent to Ujiji. At the same time he sent a letter to the Sultan of Zanzibar, asking him for fifteen trustworthy bearers to carry the new supplies. Then, as soon as could be, he collected the remnant of his plundered things, and wrote his letters and accounts of his doings. One or two letters reached him here, but these were nearly three years old; and very many of his own to his friends never got even as far as the sea-coast. At a single time he sent off a budget of forty-two letters and scientific records, but none were heard of again.

The reason of this was only too plain. Ujiji was like a den of villains and thieves. All the worst of the slave-trading Arabs gathered there on their way to and from the coast. They knew that Livingstone was against their trade, and they hated him accordingly. Some, like Mohammed Bogharib, had sense enough to see his greatness, and to help him; but others, though they dared nothing to his face, did all they could behind his back to ruin his work and thwart his plans. Wherever they met him on his journeys, they would frighten, bully, or bribe his bearers to make them rebel. By telling the natives that Livingstone was really a slaver and a spy, they tried to make them refuse him food, guides, and canoes. There can be little doubt that they got hold of his messengers and destroyed his letters.

After a three months' rest at Ujiji, Livingstone felt well enough to set out again. Leaving orders for the new bearers from Zanzibar to come after him, he started with his old followers, and with the few stores he had been able to get together. In July 1869 he crossed Lake Tanganyika by canoe; then, striking to the north-west, he made his way on foot to Kabambaré, in the Manyema country. Here the River Luapula, flowing from Lakes Bangweolo and Moero, was known by the name of the Lualaba, and Livingstone hoped to explore it. Would the Lualaba prove to be the Nile or the Congo? That was the question he wanted to settle.

At Kabambaré the chief was called Moenékoos, a name meaning "Lord of the light-grey, red-tailed parrot": and he proved so friendly, that Livingstone rested in his village for ten days. Then, starting again in November, the explorer went westward, through Manyema, till he reached the River Luama, at a point ten miles from its junction with the great Lualaba.

The country through which they passed was wonderful in its beauty. Tall palms and forest timber crowded the valleys and clothed the hillsides to the skyline. Giant creepers, as thick as cables, were twisted round the massive trunks, or hung from limb to limb, and tree to tree, like the rigging of a ship. Lilies, orchids, clematis, and marigolds opened their rich colours to the light and poured their scent into the air; while all kinds of fruit clustered among the leaves. Gaudy parrots and other gay-feathered birds flashed about in the brilliant heat, while tribes of monkeys ran up the trunks, scampered along the branches, or swung themselves on the rope-like creepers. Sometimes a group of these would get together in a tree-top, and there they would chatter and grin about the news of the day, and the latest fashions of the monkey world. Sometimes they would jabber and grimace more earnestly, as though about monkey politics; and at times they lost their tempers and pelted each other with nuts and husks. Now and then one of them, either from annoyance or for sheer mischief, would take a shot at the travellers.

Villages were very frequent; and many of the natives kept goats, sheep, and fowls, and also had gardens of maize, bananas, and sugar-cane. Others were helpless and ignorant, even not knowing how to light a fire by twirling a pointed stick round and round inside a hole in a slab of wood.

The natives were not very friendly, for they believed that Livingstone was a slaver. Some of them said they were cannibals, and in order to frighten his bearers, showed them the skull of a "soko" or gorilla, which they had eaten. Livingstone found, however, that they never ate men; but often enticed a soko with a clump of bananas, and then speared him for food.

At the Luama, nothing could induce the natives to let Livingstone have a canoe with which to explore the Lualaba. He found out afterwards that even his own bearers tried to set the natives against him; for this, they thought, would force him to give up his journey and take them home. Indeed, the ceaseless worry of these worthless rascals did more to wear him out than all the toils of the journey.

Disappointed, but not beaten, Livingstone returned to Kabambaré, and stayed there for many months till the rainy season was over. Then, in June 1870, he started with only his three faithful followers, Susi, Chuma, and Gardner, and again made the attempt to explore the great river. But the natives, made unfriendly by the Arabs, refused to sell them food, and they soon grew ill and exhausted. Tramping through thorns on land, wading among sharp reeds and biting leeches in the swamps, their feet were cut and torn, and their wounds refused to heal. There was nothing to be done but to return to Kabambaré: and this they did, reaching it so worn out and lamed, that they took three months to recover.

Livingstone was on the point of setting out a third time for the Lualaba, when he heard that his new bearers from Zanzibar were on their way towards him. He waited for them a long while, in the hope of letters, medicines, and stores, but his time and his hope were wasted. On 4th February 1871, ten worthless slaves came up with only one letter. Dozens of Livingstone's letters had been lost or destroyed, and their headman, Shereef, had stayed behind at Ujiji, spending all Livingstone's stores.

In less than a week the new bearers rebelled, and it took all Livingstone's powers to make them go forward. But in the end patience and extra wages persuaded them to go on, and at last Livingstone reached Nyangwé, on the Lualaba, on 29th March 1871. Here again the Arab slavers prevented him from getting canoes, so he could go no farther down the stream. But he heard that the Lualaba bore round so much to the westward, that he now thought it might prove to be the Congo.

While Livingstone was thinking what next he should do, there happened before his eyes a thing so utterly cruel, that it swept all else from his mind. He was walking in the native market, on the river bank at Nyangwé, watching the people exchanging their wares. The natives from the other shore came over in canoes every day to join in the marketing, and that morning about 1500 of them, mostly women, were present.

As Livingstone was moving away to his hut, he noticed that many of the Arabs were about with their rifles; and presently he heard shots in the market behind him. Turning sharply round, he saw that the Arabs were firing into the middle of the helpless crowd, who fled shrieking to their canoes. These were all jammed together in a small creek, and the natives struggled. and fell over each other in the effort to get them out.

Then a large party of Arabs, concealed near the creek, shot into the huddled mass, and the slaughter became terrible. Hundreds plunged into the river, and struck out for the other bank, while the murderers fired at them in the water. Some of the canoes were launched, and their crews escaped; others were over-loaded and upset. Many of the swimmers were picked up by their friends, but a large number were overcome by the strong current and sank. In all, about three or four hundred perished. One Arab took a canoe, and picked up some of the survivors, but the sight of Livingstone made him ashamed, and he gave them up to his care. Livingstone managed to save more than thirty, and he kept them safe till he was able to return them to their people. While the massacre was going on, the slaves from the Arab camp carried off all that had been left by the natives in the terror and tumult of their flight.

Livingstone at once made up his mind to return to Ujiji, and to send a report of this wicked outrage to England. He felt sure that his countrymen would now come to the rescue of this unhappy land, and he was right. His report of the massacre on the Lualaba was the deathblow to slavery in Central Africa, for it roused the whole English people. The British Government at once set to work, and, with the help of other nations, the slave trade was slowly but surely ended.

The tramp to Ujiji was full of hardship and danger. Livingstone was very ill, and in pain every step of the way, but the love of his duty carried him on. The cowardly Arab slavers knew his intention; and, though they dared not touch him themselves, they tried to persuade the tribes on his path to murder him. But most of the natives had now seen for themselves that Livingstone was not a slaver, and they answered that he was "the good one," and they would not kill him. Some of them, however, laid in ambush, and threw spears at him as he passed. He had several narrow escapes, and in one day a spear grazed his neck and another missed him by only a few inches.

At last, after trudging more than 500 miles in three months of daily suffering and risk, he crossed Tanganyika, and reached Ujiji at the end of October. He was worn out and at death's door, and now he found he was beggared. Shereef had made away with all his stores, and not an atom was left.

In this terrible need a friend came to him as suddenly as though dropped from the clouds. One day his followers heard that a white man was coming into Ujiji, and they rushed at once to tell their master. Livingstone went out to meet the stranger, and found, to his surprise, that a young journalist, H. M. Stanley, was coming to his relief, with a large caravan of stores.

Livingstone's work against the slave trade had made him so much liked in America, that an American, J. Gordon Bennet, had sent Stanley to find the great explorer, whom everybody thought to be lost.

This kind and generous act from another nation than his own, touched Livingstone very much, and he and Stanley became fast friends. Livingstone in return told all he knew about Africa, and Stanley was always grateful for this help when it became his turn to be a great explorer.

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