Clydeside Capital, 1870-1920

The Physician and the Slave Trade

David Livingstone,
page 6 of 13

two years, he started forth with a resolute spirit to found his first station far away in the north, in advance of any point yet visited by a messenger of the Cross. This was in the beautiful valley of Mabosta. Arriving there, he built his house with his own hands, and commenced his mission work amongst the natives. Here he remained three years. It was while in this place that he had his memorable encounter with the lion. Eleven of the animal’s teeth penetrated the upper part of the arm, and the bone was crunched into splinters. This wound had a pathetic interest in after days, as it was by the false joint in the crushed arm that his body was identified, when brought by his faithful followers, in 1874, over thousands of miles on land and sea from the dark heart of Africa to England’s shores.

There occurred, in the autumn of 1844, an important event in Livingstone’s life, one which he describes in quaint language, not without humour: “After nearly four years of African life as a bachelor, I screwed up courage to put a question beneath one of the fruit trees, the result of which was that I became united in marriage to Dr. Moffat’s eldest daughter, Mary. Having been born in the country, and being an expert in household matters, she was always the best spoke in the wheel at home; and when I took her, on two occasions, to Lake Nyassa, and beyond, she endured more than some who have written large books of travels.” In their home the young couple went vigorously to work, Mrs. Livingstone in her infant school, and her husband with all the varied agencies, medical, educational, and pastoral, which his active and enthusiastic spirit could bring to bear upon the people. Unfortunately, their peace of mind was soon to be disturbed by a painful collision between them and the missionary who had taken part in rearing the station. The latter was wholly to be blamed, and he lived to see his error. Rather, however, than have the unseemly display of those who professed the gospel of peace in open rupture before the natives, Livingstone resolved to sacrifice home, garden, school, dear associations—all, and go forth with his young bride to seek for, and build up, a new station; and he bravely stuck to his colours. Parting, however, with his trim garden seemed to cost him a pang. “I like my garden,” he wrote, “but Paradise will make amends for all our sorrows and privations here.” He removed, and settled amongst the Bakwains, forty miles further north. Here he remained two years, and then removed to Kolobeng, the whole of the tribe following their missionary in loyal affection.

With the help of, and in the company of, two Englishmen of independent means (Mr. Oswell and Mr. Murray), who were in Africa for travel and wild sport, Livingstone now undertook a journey of great importance to Lake Ngami, whose waters had never yet been seen by a white man.

Kolobeng may be said to have been the only permanent home Dr. Livingstone and his devoted wife ever had. During these years several of their children were born, and it was the only considerable period of their lives when both were together and had their children about them. Looking back long years afterwards on this period, on which his memory and his affection ever lingered, he wrote the suggestive words: “I often ponder over my missionary career among the Bakwains, and, though conscious of many imperfections, not a single pang of regret arises in the view of my conduct, except that I did not feel it my duty, while spending all my energy in teaching the heathen, to devote a special portion of my time to play with and interest my children. Generally I was so much exhausted with the mental and manual labour of the day that in the evening


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