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Titel: Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa
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Appendix.—Latitudes and Longitudes of Positions.
Appendix.—Book Review in Harper's, February, 1858.
Appendix.—Notes to Etext.
Including a Sketch of Sixteen Years' Residence in the Interior of Africa, and a Journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Loanda on the West Coast; Thence Across the Continent, Down the River Zambesi, to the Eastern Ocean.
By David Livingstone, LL.D., D.C.L., Fellow of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons, Glasgow; Corresponding Member of the Geographical and Statistical Society of New York; Gold Medalist and Corresponding Member of the Royal Geographical Societies of London and Paris F.S.A., Etc., Etc.
President Royal Geographical Society, F.R.S., V.P.G.S.,
Corr. Inst. of France, and Member of the Academies of St. Petersburg,
Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Brussels, Etc.,
is affectionately offered as a Token of Gratitude for the kind interest he has always taken in the Author's pursuits and welfare; and to express admiration of his eminent scientific attainments, nowhere more strongly evidenced than by the striking hypothesis respecting the physical conformation of the African continent, promulgated in his Presidential Address to the Royal Geographic Society in 1852, and verified three years afterward by the Author of these Travels.
DAVID LIVINGSTONE. London, Oct., 1857.
When honored with a special meeting of welcome by the Royal Geographical Society a few days after my arrival in London in December last, Sir Roderick Murchison, the President, invited me to give the world a narrative of my travels; and at a similar meeting of the Directors of the London Missionary Society I publicly stated my intention of sending a book to the press, instead of making many of those public appearances which were urged upon me. The preparation of this narrative* has taken much longer time than, from my inexperience in authorship, I had anticipated.
Greater smoothness of diction and a saving of time might have been secured by the employment of a person accustomed to compilation; but my journals having been kept for my own private purposes, no one else could have made use of them, or have entered with intelligence into the circumstances in which I was placed in Africa, far from any European companion. Those who have never carried a book through the press can form no idea of the amount of toil it involves. The process has increased my respect for authors and authoresses a thousand-fold.
I can not refrain from referring, with sentiments of admiration and gratitude, to my friend Thomas Maclear, Esq., the accomplished Astronomer Royal at the Cape. I shall never cease to remember his instructions and help with real gratitude. The intercourse I had the privilege to enjoy at the Observatory enabled me to form an idea of the almost infinite variety of acquirements necessary to form a true and great astronomer, and I was led to the conviction that it will be long before the world becomes overstocked with accomplished members of that profession. Let them be always honored according to their deserts; and long may Maclear, Herschel, Airy, and others live to make known the wonders and glory of creation, and to aid in rendering the pathway of the world safe to mariners, and the dark places of the earth open to Christians!
I beg to offer my hearty thanks to my friend Sir Roderick Murchison, and also to Dr. Norton Shaw, the secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, for aiding my researches by every means in their power.
His faithful majesty Don Pedro V., having kindly sent out orders to support my late companions until my return, relieved my mind of anxiety on their account. But for this act of liberality, I should certainly have been compelled to leave England in May last; and it has afforded me the pleasure of traveling over, in imagination, every scene again, and recalling the feelings which actuated me at the time. I have much pleasure in acknowledging my deep obligations to the hospitality and kindness of the Portuguese on many occasions.
I have not entered into the early labors, trials, and successes of the missionaries who preceded me in the Bechuana country, because that has been done by the much abler pen of my father-in-law, Rev. Robert Moffat, of Kuruman, who has been an energetic and devoted actor in the scene for upward of forty years. A slight sketch only is given of my own attempts, and the chief part of the book is taken up with a detail of the efforts made to open up a new field north of the Bechuana country to the sympathies of Christendom. The prospects there disclosed are fairer than I anticipated, and the capabilities of the new region lead me to hope that by the production of the raw materials of our manufactures, African and English interests will become more closely linked than heretofore, that both countries will be eventually benefited, and that the cause of freedom throughout the world will in some measure be promoted.
Dr. Hooker, of Kew, has had the kindness to name and classify for me, as far as possible, some of the new botanical specimens which I brought over; Dr. Andrew Smith (himself an African traveler) has aided me in the zoology; and Captain Need has laid open for my use his portfolio of African sketches, for all which acts of liberality my thanks are deservedly due, as well as to my brother, who has rendered me willing aid as an amanuensis.
Although I can not profess to be a draughtsman, I brought home with me a few rough diagram-sketches, from one of which the view of the Falls of the Zambesi has been prepared by a more experienced artist.
Personal Sketch—Highland Ancestors—Family Traditions—Grandfather removes to the Lowlands—Parents—Early Labors and Efforts —Evening School—Love of Reading—Religious Impressions—Medical Education—Youthful Travels—Geology—Mental Discipline—Study in Glasgow—London Missionary Society—Native Village—Medical Diploma—Theological Studies—Departure for Africa—No Claim to Literary Accomplishments.
My own inclination would lead me to say as little as possible about myself; but several friends, in whose judgment I have confidence, have suggested that, as the reader likes to know something about the author, a short account of his origin and early life would lend additional interest to this book. Such is my excuse for the following egotism; and, if an apology be necessary for giving a genealogy, I find it in the fact that it is not very long, and contains only one incident of which I have reason to be proud.
Our great-grandfather fell at the battle of Culloden, fighting for the old line of kings; and our grandfather was a small farmer in Ulva, where my father was born. It is one of that cluster of the Hebrides thus alluded to by Walter Scott:
Our grandfather was intimately acquainted with all the traditionary legends which that great writer has since made use of in the "Tales of a Grandfather" and other works. As a boy I remember listening to him with delight, for his memory was stored with a never-ending stock of stories, many of which were wonderfully like those I have since heard while sitting by the African evening fires. Our grandmother, too, used to sing Gaelic songs, some of which, as she believed, had been composed by captive islanders languishing hopelessly among the Turks.
Grandfather could give particulars of the lives of his ancestors for six generations of the family before him; and the only point of the tradition I feel proud of is this: One of these poor hardy islanders was renowned in the district for great wisdom and prudence; and it is related that, when he was on his death-bed, he called all his children around him and said, "Now, in my lifetime, I have searched most carefully through all the traditions I could find of our family, and I never could discover that there was a dishonest man among our forefathers. If, therefore, any of you or any of your children should take to dishonest ways, it will not be because it runs in our blood: it does not belong to you. I leave this precept with you: Be honest." If, therefore, in the following pages I fall into any errors, I hope they will be dealt with as honest mistakes, and not as indicating that I have forgotten our ancient motto. This event took place at a time when the Highlanders, according to Macaulay, were much like the Cape Caffres, and any one, it was said, could escape punishment for cattle-stealing by presenting a share of the plunder to his chieftain. Our ancestors were Roman Catholics; they were made Protestants by the laird coming round with a man having a yellow staff, which would seem to have attracted more attention than his teaching, for the new religion went long afterward, perhaps it does so still, by the name of "the religion of the yellow stick".
Finding his farm in Ulva insufficient to support a numerous family, my grandfather removed to Blantyre Works, a large cotton manufactory on the beautiful Clyde, above Glasgow; and his sons, having had the best education the Hebrides afforded, were gladly received as clerks by the proprietors, Monteith and Co. He himself, highly esteemed for his unflinching honesty, was employed in the conveyance of large sums of money from Glasgow to the works, and in old age was, according to the custom of that company, pensioned off, so as to spend his declining years in ease and comfort.
Our uncles all entered his majesty's service during the last French war, either as soldiers or sailors; but my father remained at home, and, though too conscientious ever to become rich as a small tea-dealer, by his kindliness of manner and winning ways he made the heart-strings of his children twine around him as firmly as if he had possessed, and could have bestowed upon them, every worldly advantage. He reared his children in connection with the Kirk of Scotland—a religious establishment which has been an incalculable blessing to that country—but he afterward left it, and during the last twenty years of his life held the office of deacon of an independent church in Hamilton, and deserved my lasting gratitude and homage for presenting me, from my infancy, with a continuously consistent pious example, such as that ideal of which is so beautifully and truthfully portrayed in Burns's "Cottar's Saturday Night". He died in February, 1856, in peaceful hope of that mercy which we all expect through the death of our Lord and Savior. I was at the time on my way below Zumbo, expecting no greater pleasure in this country than sitting by our cottage fire and telling him my travels. I revere his memory.
The earliest recollection of my mother recalls a picture so often seen among the Scottish poor—that of the anxious housewife striving to make both ends meet. At the age of ten I was put into the factory as a "piecer", to aid by my earnings in lessening her anxiety. With a part of my first week's wages I purchased Ruddiman's "Rudiments of Latin", and pursued the study of that language for many years afterward, with unabated ardor, at an evening school, which met between the hours of eight and ten. The dictionary part of my labors was followed up till twelve o'clock, or later, if my mother did not interfere by jumping up and snatching the books out of my hands. I had to be back in the factory by six in the morning, and continue my work, with intervals for breakfast and dinner, till eight o'clock at night. I read in this way many of the classical authors, and knew Virgil and Horace better at sixteen than I do now. Our schoolmaster—happily still alive—was supported in part by the company; he was attentive and kind, and so moderate in his charges that all who wished for education might have obtained it. Many availed themselves of the privilege; and some of my schoolfellows now rank in positions far above what they appeared ever likely to come to when in the village school. If such a system were established in England, it would prove a never-ending blessing to the poor.
In reading, every thing that I could lay my hands on was devoured except novels. Scientific works and books of travels were my especial delight; though my father, believing, with many of his time who ought to have known better, that the former were inimical to religion, would have preferred to have seen me poring over the "Cloud of Witnesses", or Boston's "Fourfold State". Our difference of opinion reached the point of open rebellion on my part, and his last application of the rod was on my refusal to peruse Wilberforce's "Practical Christianity". This dislike to dry doctrinal reading, and to religious reading of every sort, continued for years afterward; but having lighted on those admirable works of Dr. Thomas Dick, "The Philosophy of Religion" and "The Philosophy of a Future State", it was gratifying to find my own ideas, that religion and science are not hostile, but friendly to each other, fully proved and enforced.
Great pains had been taken by my parents to instill the doctrines of Christianity into my mind, and I had no difficulty in understanding the theory of our free salvation by the atonement of our Savior, but it was only about this time that I really began to feel the necessity and value of a personal application of the provisions of that atonement to my own case. The change was like what may be supposed would take place were it possible to cure a case of "color blindness". The perfect freeness with which the pardon of all our guilt is offered in God's book drew forth feelings of affectionate love to Him who bought us with his blood, and a sense of deep obligation to Him for his mercy has influenced, in some small measure, my conduct ever since. But I shall not again refer to the inner spiritual life which I believe then began, nor do I intend to specify with any prominence the evangelistic labors to which the love of Christ has since impelled me. This book will speak, not so much of what has been done, as of what still remains to be performed, before the Gospel can be said to be preached to all nations.
In the glow of love which Christianity inspires, I soon resolved to devote my life to the alleviation of human misery. Turning this idea over in my mind, I felt that to be a pioneer of Christianity in China might lead to the material benefit of some portions of that immense empire; and therefore set myself to obtain a medical education, in order to be qualified for that enterprise.
In recognizing the plants pointed out in my first medical book, that extraordinary old work on astrological medicine, Culpeper's "Herbal", I had the guidance of a book on the plants of Lanarkshire, by Patrick. Limited as my time was, I found opportunities to scour the whole country-side, "collecting simples". Deep and anxious were my studies on the still deeper and more perplexing profundities of astrology, and I believe I got as far into that abyss of phantasies as my author said he dared to lead me. It seemed perilous ground to tread on farther, for the dark hint seemed to my youthful mind to loom toward "selling soul and body to the devil", as the price of the unfathomable knowledge of the stars. These excursions, often in company with brothers, one now in Canada, and the other a clergyman in the United States, gratified my intense love of nature; and though we generally returned so unmercifully hungry and fatigued that the embryo parson shed tears, yet we discovered, to us, so many new and interesting things, that he was always as eager to join us next time as he was the last.
On one of these exploring tours we entered a limestone quarry—long before geology was so popular as it is now. It is impossible to describe the delight and wonder with which I began to collect the shells found in the carboniferous limestone which crops out in High Blantyre and Cambuslang. A quarry-man, seeing a little boy so engaged, looked with that pitying eye which the benevolent assume when viewing the insane. Addressing him with, "How ever did these shells come into these rocks?" "When God made the rocks, he made the shells in them," was the damping reply. What a deal of trouble geologists might have saved themselves by adopting the Turk-like philosophy of this Scotchman!
My reading while at work was carried on by placing the book on a portion of the spinning-jenny, so that I could catch sentence after sentence as I passed at my work; I thus kept up a pretty constant study undisturbed by the roar of the machinery. To this part of my education I owe my present power of completely abstracting the mind from surrounding noises, so as to read and write with perfect comfort amid the play of children or near the dancing and songs of savages. The toil of cotton-spinning, to which I was promoted in my nineteenth year, was excessively severe on a slim, loose-jointed lad, but it was well paid for; and it enabled me to support myself while attending medical and Greek classes in Glasgow in winter, as also the divinity lectures of Dr. Wardlaw, by working with my hands in summer. I never received a farthing of aid from any one, and should have accomplished my project of going to China as a medical missionary, in the course of time, by my own efforts, had not some friends advised my joining the London Missionary Society on account of its perfectly unsectarian character. It "sends neither Episcopacy, nor Presbyterianism, nor Independency, but the Gospel of Christ to the heathen." This exactly agreed with my ideas of what a missionary society ought to do; but it was not without a pang that I offered myself, for it was not quite agreeable to one accustomed to work his own way to become in a measure dependent on others; and I would not have been much put about though my offer had been rejected.
Looking back now on that life of toil, I can not but feel thankful that it formed such a material part of my early education; and, were it possible, I should like to begin life over again in the same lowly style, and to pass through the same hardy training.
Time and travel have not effaced the feelings of respect I imbibed for the humble inhabitants of my native village. For morality, honesty, and intelligence, they were, in general, good specimens of the Scottish poor. In a population of more than two thousand souls, we had, of course, a variety of character. In addition to the common run of men, there were some characters of sterling worth and ability, who exerted a most beneficial influence on the children and youth of the place by imparting gratuitous religious instruction.* Much intelligent interest was felt by the villagers in all public questions, and they furnished a proof that the possession of the means of education did not render them an unsafe portion of the population. They felt kindly toward each other, and much respected those of the neighboring gentry who, like the late Lord Douglas, placed some confidence in their sense of honor. Through the kindness of that nobleman, the poorest among us could stroll at pleasure over the ancient domains of Bothwell, and other spots hallowed by the venerable associations of which our school-books and local traditions made us well aware; and few of us could view the dear memorials of the past without feeling that these carefully kept monuments were our own. The masses of the working-people of Scotland have read history, and are no revolutionary levelers. They rejoice in the memories of "Wallace and Bruce and a' the lave," who are still much revered as the former champions of freedom. And while foreigners imagine that we want the spirit only to overturn capitalists and aristocracy, we are content to respect our laws till we can change them, and hate those stupid revolutions which might sweep away time-honored institutions, dear alike to rich and poor.
Having finished the medical curriculum and presented a thesis on a subject which required the use of the stethoscope for its diagnosis, I unwittingly procured for myself an examination rather more severe and prolonged than usual among examining bodies. The reason was, that between me and the examiners a slight difference of opinion existed as to whether this instrument could do what was asserted. The wiser plan would have been to have had no opinion of my own. However, I was admitted a Licentiate of Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. It was with unfeigned delight I became a member of a profession which is pre-eminently devoted to practical benevolence, and which with unwearied energy pursues from age to age its endeavors to lessen human woe.
But though now qualified for my original plan, the opium war was then raging, and it was deemed inexpedient for me to proceed to China. I had fondly hoped to have gained access to that then closed empire by means of the healing art; but there being no prospect of an early peace with the Chinese, and as another inviting field was opening out through the labors of Mr. Moffat, I was induced to turn my thoughts to Africa; and after a more extended course of theological training in England than I had enjoyed in Glasgow, I embarked for Africa in 1840, and, after a voyage of three months, reached Cape Town. Spending but a short time there, I started for the interior by going round to Algoa Bay, and soon proceeded inland, and have spent the following sixteen years of my life, namely, from 1840 to 1856, in medical and missionary labors there without cost to the inhabitants.
As to those literary qualifications which are acquired by habits of writing, and which are so important to an author, my African life has not only not been favorable to the growth of such accomplishments, but quite the reverse; it has made composition irksome and laborious. I think I would rather cross the African continent again than undertake to write another book. It is far easier to travel than to write about it. I intended on going to Africa to continue my studies; but as I could not brook the idea of simply entering into other men's labors made ready to my hands, I entailed on myself, in addition to teaching, manual labor in building and other handicraft work, which made me generally as much exhausted and unfit for study in the evenings as ever I had been when a cotton-spinner. The want of time for self-improvement was the only source of regret that I experienced during my African career. The reader, remembering this, will make allowances for the mere gropings for light of a student who has the vanity to think himself "not yet too old to learn". More precise information on several subjects has necessarily been omitted in a popular work like the present; but I hope to give such details to the scientific reader through some other channel.
The Bakwain Country—Study of the Language—Native Ideas regarding Comets—Mabotsa Station—A Lion Encounter—Virus of the Teeth of Lions—Names of the Bechuana Tribes—Sechele—His Ancestors—Obtains the Chieftainship—His Marriage and Government—The Kotla—First public Religious Services—Sechele's Questions—He Learns to Read—Novel mode for Converting his Tribe—Surprise at their Indifference— Polygamy—Baptism of Sechele—Opposition of the Natives—Purchase Land at Chonuane—Relations with the People—Their Intelligence—Prolonged Drought—Consequent Trials—Rain-medicine—God's Word blamed—Native Reasoning—Rain-maker—Dispute between Rain Doctor and Medical Doctor—The Hunting Hopo—Salt or animal Food a necessary of Life—Duties of a Missionary.
The general instructions I received from the Directors of the London Missionary Society led me, as soon as I reached Kuruman or Lattakoo, then, as it is now, their farthest inland station from the Cape, to turn my attention to the north. Without waiting longer at Kuruman than was necessary to recruit the oxen, which were pretty well tired by the long journey from Algoa Bay, I proceeded, in company with another missionary, to the Bakuena or Bakwain country, and found Sechele, with his tribe, located at Shokuane. We shortly after retraced our steps to Kuruman; but as the objects in view were by no means to be attained by a temporary excursion of this sort, I determined to make a fresh start into the interior as soon as possible. Accordingly, after resting three months at Kuruman, which is a kind of head station in the country, I returned to a spot about fifteen miles south of Shokuane, called Lepelole (now Litubaruba). Here, in order to obtain an accurate knowledge of the language, I cut myself off from all European society for about six months, and gained by this ordeal an insight into the habits, ways of thinking, laws, and language of that section of the Bechuanas called Bakwains, which has proved of incalculable advantage in my intercourse with them ever since.
In this second journey to Lepelole—so called from a cavern of that name—I began preparations for a settlement, by making a canal to irrigate gardens, from a stream then flowing copiously, but now quite dry. When these preparations were well advanced, I went northward to visit the Bakaa and Bamangwato, and the Makalaka, living between 22 Degrees and 23 Degrees south latitude. The Bakaa Mountains had been visited before by a trader, who, with his people, all perished from fever. In going round the northern part of these basaltic hills near Letloche I was only ten days distant from the lower part of the Zouga, which passed by the same name as Lake Ngami;* and I might then (in 1842) have discovered that lake, had discovery alone been my object. Most part of this journey beyond Shokuane was performed on foot, in consequence of the draught oxen having become sick. Some of my companions who had recently joined us, and did not know that I understood a little of their speech, were overheard by me discussing my appearance and powers: "He is not strong; he is quite slim, and only appears stout because he puts himself into those bags (trowsers); he will soon knock up." This caused my Highland blood to rise, and made me despise the fatigue of keeping them all at the top of their speed for days together, and until I heard them expressing proper opinions of my pedestrian powers.
Returning to Kuruman, in order to bring my luggage to our proposed settlement, I was followed by the news that the tribe of Bakwains, who had shown themselves so friendly toward me, had been driven from Lepelole by the Barolongs, so that my prospects for the time of forming a settlement there were at an end. One of those periodical outbreaks of war, which seem to have occurred from time immemorial, for the possession of cattle, had burst forth in the land, and had so changed the relations of the tribes to each other, that I was obliged to set out anew to look for a suitable locality for a mission station.
In going north again, a comet blazed on our sight, exciting the wonder of every tribe we visited. That of 1816 had been followed by an irruption of the Matebele, the most cruel enemies the Bechuanas ever knew, and this they thought might portend something as bad, or it might only foreshadow the death of some great chief. On this subject of comets I knew little more than they did themselves, but I had that confidence in a kind, overruling Providence, which makes such a difference between Christians and both the ancient and modern heathen.
As some of the Bamangwato people had accompanied me to Kuruman, I was obliged to restore them and their goods to their chief Sekomi. This made a journey to the residence of that chief again necessary, and, for the first time, I performed a distance of some hundred miles on ox-back.
Returning toward Kuruman, I selected the beautiful valley of Mabotsa (lat. 25d 14' south, long. 26d 30'?) as the site of a missionary station, and thither I removed in 1843. Here an occurrence took place concerning which I have frequently been questioned in England, and which, but for the importunities of friends, I meant to have kept in store to tell my children when in my dotage. The Bakatla of the village Mabotsa were much troubled by lions, which leaped into the cattle-pens by night, and destroyed their cows. They even attacked the herds in open day. This was so unusual an occurrence that the people believed that they were bewitched—"given," as they said, "into the power of the lions by a neighboring tribe." They went once to attack the animals, but, being rather a cowardly people compared to Bechuanas in general on such occasions, they returned without killing any.
It is well known that if one of a troop of lions is killed, the others take the hint and leave that part of the country. So, the next time the herds were attacked, I went with the people, in order to encourage them to rid themselves of the annoyance by destroying one of the marauders. We found the lions on a small hill about a quarter of a mile in length, and covered with trees. A circle of men was formed round it, and they gradually closed up, ascending pretty near to each other. Being down below on the plain with a native schoolmaster, named Mebalwe, a most excellent man, I saw one of the lions sitting on a piece of rock within the now closed circle of men. Mebalwe fired at him before I could, and the ball struck the rock on which the animal was sitting. He bit at the spot struck, as a dog does at a stick or stone thrown at him; then leaping away, broke through the opening circle and escaped unhurt. The men were afraid to attack him, perhaps on account of their belief in witchcraft. When the circle was re-formed, we saw two other lions in it; but we were afraid to fire lest we should strike the men, and they allowed the beasts to burst through also. If the Bakatla had acted according to the custom of the country, they would have speared the lions in their attempt to get out. Seeing we could not get them to kill one of the lions, we bent our footsteps toward the village; in going round the end of the hill, however, I saw one of the beasts sitting on a piece of rock as before, but this time he had a little bush in front. Being about thirty yards off, I took a good aim at his body through the bush, and fired both barrels into it. The men then called out, "He is shot, he is shot!" Others cried, "He has been shot by another man too; let us go to him!" I did not see any one else shoot at him, but I saw the lion's tail erected in anger behind the bush, and, turning to the people, said, "Stop a little, till I load again." When in the act of ramming down the bullets, I heard a shout. Starting, and looking half round, I saw the lion just in the act of springing upon me. I was upon a little height; he caught my shoulder as he sprang, and we both came to the ground below together. Growling horribly close to my ear, he shook me as a terrier dog does a rat. The shock produced a stupor similar to that which seems to be felt by a mouse after the first shake of the cat. It caused a sort of dreaminess, in which there was no sense of pain nor feeling of terror, though quite conscious of all that was happening. It was like what patients partially under the influence of chloroform describe, who see all the operation, but feel not the knife. This singular condition was not the result of any mental process. The shake annihilated fear, and allowed no sense of horror in looking round at the beast. This peculiar state is probably produced in all animals killed by the carnivora; and if so, is a merciful provision by our benevolent Creator for lessening the pain of death. Turning round to relieve myself of the weight, as he had one paw on the back of my head, I saw his eyes directed to Mebalwe, who was trying to shoot him at a distance of ten or fifteen yards. His gun, a flint one, missed fire in both barrels; the lion immediately left me, and, attacking Mebalwe, bit his thigh. Another man, whose life I had saved before, after he had been tossed by a buffalo, attempted to spear the lion while he was biting Mebalwe. He left Mebalwe and caught this man by the shoulder, but at that moment the bullets he had received took effect, and he fell down dead. The whole was the work of a few moments, and must have been his paroxysms of dying rage. In order to take out the charm from him, the Bakatla on the following day made a huge bonfire over the carcass, which was declared to be that of the largest lion they had ever seen. Besides crunching the bone into splinters, he left eleven teeth wounds on the upper part of my arm.
A wound from this animal's tooth resembles a gun-shot wound; it is generally followed by a great deal of sloughing and discharge, and pains are felt in the part periodically ever afterward. I had on a tartan jacket on the occasion, and I believe that it wiped off all the virus from the teeth that pierced the flesh, for my two companions in this affray have both suffered from the peculiar pains, while I have escaped with only the inconvenience of a false joint in my limb. The man whose shoulder was wounded showed me his wound actually burst forth afresh on the same month of the following year. This curious point deserves the attention of inquirers.
The different Bechuana tribes are named after certain animals, showing probably that in former times they were addicted to animal-worship like the ancient Egyptians. The term Bakatla means "they of the monkey"; Bakuena, "they of the alligator"; Batlapi, "they of the fish": each tribe having a superstitious dread of the animal after which it is called. They also use the word "bina", to dance, in reference to the custom of thus naming themselves, so that, when you wish to ascertain what tribe they belong to, you say, "What do you dance?" It would seem as if that had been a part of the worship of old. A tribe never eats the animal which is its namesake, using the term "ila", hate or dread, in reference to killing it. We find traces of many ancient tribes in the country in individual members of those now extinct, as the Batau, "they of the lion"; the Banoga, "they of the serpent"; though no such tribes now exist. The use of the personal pronoun they, Ba-Ma, Wa, Va or Ova, Am-Ki, &c., prevails very extensively in the names of tribes in Africa. A single individual is indicated by the terms Mo or Le. Thus Mokwain is a single person of the Bakwain tribe, and Lekoa is a single white man or Englishman—Makoa being Englishmen.
I attached myself to the tribe called Bakuena or Bakwains, the chief of which, named Sechele, was then living with his people at a place called Shokuane. I was from the first struck by his intelligence, and by the marked manner in which we both felt drawn to each other. As this remarkable man has not only embraced Christianity, but expounds its doctrines to his people, I will here give a brief sketch of his career.
His great-grandfather Mochoasele was a great traveler, and the first that ever told the Bakwains of the existence of white men. In his father's lifetime two white travelers, whom I suppose to have been Dr. Cowan and Captain Donovan, passed through the country (in 1808), and, descending the River Limpopo, were, with their party, all cut off by fever. The rain-makers there, fearing lest their wagons might drive away the rain, ordered them to be thrown into the river. This is the true account of the end of that expedition, as related to me by the son of the chief at whose village they perished. He remembered, when a boy, eating part of one of the horses, and said it tasted like zebra's flesh. Thus they were not killed by the Bangwaketse, as reported, for they passed the Bakwains all well. The Bakwains were then rich in cattle; and as one of the many evidences of the desiccation of the country, streams are pointed out where thousands and thousands of cattle formerly drank, but in which water now never flows, and where a single herd could not find fluid for its support.
When Sechele was still a boy, his father, also called Mochoasele, was murdered by his own people for taking to himself the wives of his rich under-chiefs. The children being spared, their friends invited Sebituane, the chief of the Makololo, who was then in those parts, to reinstate them in the chieftainship. Sebituane surrounded the town of the Bakwains by night; and just as it began to dawn, his herald proclaimed in a loud voice that he had come to revenge the death of Mochoasele. This was followed by Sebituane's people beating loudly on their shields all round the town. The panic was tremendous, and the rush like that from a theatre on fire, while the Makololo used their javelins on the terrified Bakwains with a dexterity which they alone can employ. Sebituane had given orders to his men to spare the sons of the chief; and one of them, meeting Sechele, put him in ward by giving him such a blow on the head with a club as to render him insensible. The usurper was put to death; and Sechele, reinstated in his chieftainship, felt much attached to Sebituane. The circumstances here noticed ultimately led me, as will be seen by-and-by, into the new, well-watered country to which this same Sebituane had preceded me by many years.
Sechele married the daughters of three of his under-chiefs, who had, on account of their blood relationship, stood by him in his adversity. This is one of the modes adopted for cementing the allegiance of a tribe. The government is patriarchal, each man being, by virtue of paternity, chief of his own children. They build their huts around his, and the greater the number of children, the more his importance increases. Hence children are esteemed one of the greatest blessings, and are always treated kindly. Near the centre of each circle of huts there is a spot called a "kotla", with a fireplace; here they work, eat, or sit and gossip over the news of the day. A poor man attaches himself to the kotla of a rich one, and is considered a child of the latter. An under-chief has a number of these circles around his; and the collection of kotlas around the great one in the middle of the whole, that of the principal chief, constitutes the town. The circle of huts immediately around the kotla of the chief is composed of the huts of his wives and those of his blood relations. He attaches the under-chiefs to himself and his government by marrying, as Sechele did, their daughters, or inducing his brothers to do so. They are fond of the relationship to great families. If you meet a party of strangers, and the head man's relationship to some uncle of a certain chief is not at once proclaimed by his attendants, you may hear him whispering, "Tell him who I am." This usually involves a counting on the fingers of a part of his genealogical tree, and ends in the important announcement that the head of the party is half-cousin to some well-known ruler.
Sechele was thus seated in his chieftainship when I made his acquaintance. On the first occasion in which I ever attempted to hold a public religious service, he remarked that it was the custom of his nation, when any new subject was brought before them, to put questions on it; and he begged me to allow him to do the same in this case. On expressing my entire willingness to answer his questions, he inquired if my forefathers knew of a future judgment. I replied in the affirmative, and began to describe the scene of the "great white throne, and Him who shall sit on it, from whose face the heaven and earth shall flee away," &c. He said, "You startle me: these words make all my bones to shake; I have no more strength in me; but my forefathers were living at the same time yours were, and how is it that they did not send them word about these terrible things sooner? They all passed away into darkness without knowing whither they were going." I got out of the difficulty by explaining the geographical barriers in the North, and the gradual spread of knowledge from the South, to which we first had access by means of ships; and I expressed my belief that, as Christ had said, the whole world would yet be enlightened by the Gospel. Pointing to the great Kalahari desert, he said, "You never can cross that country to the tribes beyond; it is utterly impossible even for us black men, except in certain seasons, when more than the usual supply of rain falls, and an extraordinary growth of watermelons follows. Even we who know the country would certainly perish without them." Reasserting my belief in the words of Christ, we parted; and it will be seen farther on that Sechele himself assisted me in crossing that desert which had previously proved an insurmountable barrier to so many adventurers.
As soon as he had an opportunity of learning, he set himself to read with such close application that, from being comparatively thin, the effect of having been fond of the chase, he became quite corpulent from want of exercise. Mr. Oswell gave him his first lesson in figures, and he acquired the alphabet on the first day of my residence at Chonuane. He was by no means an ordinary specimen of the people, for I never went into the town but I was pressed to hear him read some chapters of the Bible. Isaiah was a great favorite with him; and he was wont to use the same phrase nearly which the professor of Greek at Glasgow, Sir D. K. Sandford, once used respecting the Apostle Paul, when reading his speeches in the Acts: "He was a fine fellow, that Paul!" "He was a fine man, that Isaiah; he knew how to speak." Sechele invariably offered me something to eat on every occasion of my visiting him.
Seeing me anxious that his people should believe the words of Christ, he once said, "Do you imagine these people will ever believe by your merely talking to them? I can make them do nothing except by thrashing them; and if you like, I shall call my head men, and with our litupa (whips of rhinoceros hide) we will soon make them all believe together." The idea of using entreaty and persuasion to subjects to become Christians—whose opinion on no other matter would he condescend to ask—was especially surprising to him. He considered that they ought only to be too happy to embrace Christianity at his command. During the space of two years and a half he continued to profess to his people his full conviction of the truth of Christianity; and in all discussions on the subject he took that side, acting at the same time in an upright manner in all the relations of life. He felt the difficulties of his situation long before I did, and often said, "Oh, I wish you had come to this country before I became entangled in the meshes of our customs!" In fact, he could not get rid of his superfluous wives, without appearing to be ungrateful to their parents, who had done so much for him in his adversity.
In the hope that others would be induced to join him in his attachment to Christianity, he asked me to begin family worship with him in his house. I did so; and by-and-by was surprised to hear how well he conducted the prayer in his own simple and beautiful style, for he was quite a master of his own language. At this time we were suffering from the effects of a drought, which will be described further on, and none except his family, whom he ordered to attend, came near his meeting. "In former times," said he, "when a chief was fond of hunting, all his people got dogs, and became fond of hunting too. If he was fond of dancing or music, all showed a liking to these amusements too. If the chief loved beer, they all rejoiced in strong drink. But in this case it is different. I love the Word of God, and not one of my brethren will join me." One reason why we had no volunteer hypocrites was the hunger from drought, which was associated in their minds with the presence of Christian instruction; and hypocrisy is not prone to profess a creed which seems to insure an empty stomach.
Sechele continued to make a consistent profession for about three years; and perceiving at last some of the difficulties of his case, and also feeling compassion for the poor women, who were by far the best of our scholars, I had no desire that he should be in any hurry to make a full profession by baptism, and putting away all his wives but one. His principal wife, too, was about the most unlikely subject in the tribe ever to become any thing else than an out-and-out greasy disciple of the old school. She has since become greatly altered, I hear, for the better; but again and again have I seen Sechele send her out of church to put her gown on, and away she would go with her lips shot out, the very picture of unutterable disgust at his new-fangled notions.
When he at last applied for baptism, I simply asked him how he, having the Bible in his hand, and able to read it, thought he ought to act. He went home, gave each of his superfluous wives new clothing, and all his own goods, which they had been accustomed to keep in their huts for him, and sent them to their parents with an intimation that he had no fault to find with them, but that in parting with them he wished to follow the will of God. On the day on which he and his children were baptized, great numbers came to see the ceremony. Some thought, from a stupid calumny circulated by enemies to Christianity in the south, that the converts would be made to drink an infusion of "dead men's brains", and were astonished to find that water only was used at baptism. Seeing several of the old men actually in tears during the service, I asked them afterward the cause of their weeping; they were crying to see their father, as the Scotch remark over a case of suicide, "SO FAR LEFT TO HIMSELF". They seemed to think that I had thrown the glamour over him, and that he had become mine. Here commenced an opposition which we had not previously experienced. All the friends of the divorced wives became the opponents of our religion. The attendance at school and church diminished to very few besides the chief's own family. They all treated us still with respectful kindness, but to Sechele himself they said things which, as he often remarked, had they ventured on in former times, would have cost them their lives. It was trying, after all we had done, to see our labors so little appreciated; but we had sown the good seed, and have no doubt but it will yet spring up, though we may not live to see the fruits.
Leaving this sketch of the chief, I proceed to give an equally rapid one of our dealing with his people, the Bakena, or Bakwains. A small piece of land, sufficient for a garden, was purchased when we first went to live with them, though that was scarcely necessary in a country where the idea of buying land was quite new. It was expected that a request for a suitable spot would have been made, and that we should have proceeded to occupy it as any other member of the tribe would. But we explained to them that we wished to avoid any cause of future dispute when land had become more valuable; or when a foolish chief began to reign, and we had erected large or expensive buildings, he might wish to claim the whole. These reasons were considered satisfactory. About 5 Pounds worth of goods were given for a piece of land, and an arrangement was come to that a similar piece should be allotted to any other missionary, at any other place to which the tribe might remove. The particulars of the sale sounded strangely in the ears of the tribe, but were nevertheless readily agreed to.
In our relations with this people we were simply strangers exercising no authority or control whatever. Our influence depended entirely on persuasion; and having taught them by kind conversation as well as by public instruction, I expected them to do what their own sense of right and wrong dictated. We never wished them to do right merely because it would be pleasing to us, nor thought ourselves to blame when they did wrong, although we were quite aware of the absurd idea to that effect. We saw that our teaching did good to the general mind of the people by bringing new and better motives into play. Five instances are positively known to me in which, by our influence on public opinion, war was prevented; and where, in individual cases, we failed, the people did no worse than they did before we came into the country. In general they were slow, like all the African people hereafter to be described, in coming to a decision on religious subjects; but in questions affecting their worldly affairs they were keenly alive to their own interests. They might be called stupid in matters which had not come within the sphere of their observation, but in other things they showed more intelligence than is to be met with in our own uneducated peasantry. They are remarkably accurate in their knowledge of cattle, sheep, and goats, knowing exactly the kind of pasturage suited to each; and they select with great judgment the varieties of soil best suited to different kinds of grain. They are also familiar with the habits of wild animals, and in general are well up in the maxims which embody their ideas of political wisdom.
The place where we first settled with the Bakwains is called Chonuane, and it happened to be visited, during the first year of our residence there, by one of those droughts which occur from time to time in even the most favored districts of Africa.
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