David Livingstone

Once upon a Time in Glasgow

David Livingstone,
page 11 of 13

when public interest in the explorer’s fate seemed to warrant the expenditure, the Government added the sum of £1,000.

The enterprise which Livingstone had undertaken was great, and few men would have entered upon it without shrinking. Forward, however, he went, with brave heart, and not without strong hope as to the final success of his efforts, though it should be long after he himself had been laid to rest. He had a sincere trust that “the great open sore of the world,” as he called slavery, would under God’s providence, be greatly healed by his own labour. He had firm hope that others would follow him with Christianising agencies and means of developing commerce on honourable principles after he had effectually opened up the way and laid down practicable routes to the interior of the great dark continent. These were the marching orders which the great Christian missionary had voluntarily imposed upon himself when he left his native land, never, as it turned out, to return till he should be borne back again with triumphal honours, and laid to rest in England’s proud Pantheon, amid poets, statesmen, and kings.

For two long years after Livingstone penetrated again into the darkness there was an unbroken, some thought an ominous, silence. Neither voice nor message came to speak of where he was, or whether he lived. At last tidings came from him giving a specific description of the water system of the Lualaba, in the mountain region of Tanganyika. To ascertain whether this water system flowed to the Congo or the Nile occupied the rest of his life, much of his time being occupied in futile efforts to discover those “fountains” of the Nile of which Herodotus speaks with such picturesque power. During this period the great traveller experienced trials and personal hardships and sufferings, the like of which in all his past struggles, even at their worst, he had never felt before. He was shamefully abandoned by his men, and thereafter attacked by savages, barely escaping with his life. The entries in his “Last Journals” are at this time full of touching sadness:—

7th January, 1869.—Cannot walk; pneumonia of the right lung; distressing weakness. Ideas flow through the mind with great rapidity and vividness, in groups of twos and threes; if I look at any piece of wood the bark seems covered over with figures and faces of men, and they remain, though I look away and turn to the same spot again. I saw myself lying dead on the way to Ujiji, and all the letters I expected there useless. When I think of my children and friends, the lines ring through my head perpetually:—

                    ”I shall look into your faces,
                              And listen to what you say,
                    And be often, often with you
                              When you think I’m far away.’”

Though frequently so weak that he could neither speak nor walk, having to be carried by his men, still his indomitable will carried him through. On he went bravely with his discoveries, gathering knowledge that would in after days be of priceless value. With characteristic mindfulness he named each new river or lake after some great or good man who had been the slave’s friend. An extract from one of his despatches to the Foreign Office finely shows the man: “I have tried to honour the name of the good Lord Palmerston, in fond remembrance of his long and unwearied labours for the abolition of the slave trade, and I have named one of the sources Palmerston Fountain. I also venture to place the name of the good and noble Lincoln on the Lake, in gratitude to him who gave freedom to four million slaves. These two great men are no longer


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