Story of H. M. Stanley - Vautier Golding

The Search for Livingstone

About the end of the year 1870 all the world was wondering what had become of the famous explorer Dr. Livingstone. The people of America, who had just done away with slavery in their own land, took a particular interest in this great man's work against the slave trade in Africa, whence their own supply of slaves had come. As no one had heard of him for two years, many began to think he must either be dead or in great distress from sickness and want of supplies. Stanley had often talked over the chances of finding him, and thought it quite possible. White men were so scarce in Africa that it was easy to trace them by hearsay from the natives. The main difficulty lay in the dangers and hardships of the journey, and in the trouble of finding honest and faithful bearers.

At this time James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald, telegraphed for Stanley to meet him in Paris; and in a very short while it was arranged that an attempt should be made to find Livingstone. Stanley was first sent on a wonderful tour through Persia to Bombay, and thence to Zanzibar on the east coast of Africa, with orders to spare no expense in the search. He arrived at Zanzibar early in January 1871, and immediately began to get together the men and materials for the expedition. He soon engaged two white sailors, Farquhar and Shaw, and he was also lucky enough to find six of the faithful blacks who had been with Captain Speke at the head-waters of the Nile. These men said they would "go anywhere with one of Speke's brothers"; and their leader, called Bombay, quickly found eighteen more to make up an armed escort for the caravan.

The natives of Central Africa did not understand the use of money; and therefore, in order to buy food for his men, Stanley had to take with him many coils of brass wire, many pounds of beads, and hundreds of yards of calico and cloth. These, with the camp stores and baggage, and also with two boats, twenty donkeys, two horses and some goats, were all collected together by the end of the month and landed at Bagamoyo on the mainland. Here Stanley expected to get bearers to carry his supplies, but now his troubles began. One Arab promised faithfully to send him all the men he wanted, but after waiting fifteen days Stanley found out that the rascal had not the least intention of keeping his word. Stanley was helpless to find them himself and was almost in despair, when he heard of a young Arab who was to be trusted. His new friend soon collected about 160 bearers; and, acting on his advice, Stanley sent off his company in five small caravans with spaces of a few days between them.

At last on March 21, after spending six weeks at Bagamoyo, Stanley and Shaw with all the animals started in the last and largest caravan. On reaching the river Kingani the men and stores were ferried across in native canoes, while the animals swam over with a rope round their necks to guide them towards the landing on the opposite bank. The river was full of hippopotami, and often one of them would thrust his massive head above water, and blow a cloud of spray from his nostrils; then, after a puzzled look at the kicking and plunging donkeys, he would take a deep breath and dive again out of sight.

After leaving Kingani the heat grew intense, and the flies of many kinds became a plague. The men suffered much from these torments, but the poor animals, who could not protect themselves, were bitten till the blood dropped from their coats. The deadly tsetse-fly was among them, and soon one of Stanley's horses died, and was buried outside the camp. Next day the native chief of the district demanded a fine, because the dead horse had been put in his soil without his leave. Stanley refused to pay the fine, but offered to dig the horse up again and to make the ground as it had been before. The chief now asked to be friends, for he saw that his trick would not get him any cloth or beads, and so the matter ended. A few hours later Stanley's other horse died too, and there was no trouble about its burial.

Near Msuwa the caravan had to pass through ten miles of jungle, so thick that the track was in places like a small tunnel, with roof and sides lined with sharp and crooked thorns of all sizes. The men could only pass in single file, and they went crouching along to save both themselves and their packs from being cut and torn by the cruel spikes overhead. About this time a bearer, named Khamisi, deserted and slipped off into the jungle with his pack. As soon as he was missed two of the escort were sent to track him down. They followed his trail into a village, and found him tied to a tree in terror of his life from the natives, who were just making ready to kill him. On seeing the rifles of the two men, the natives released Khamisi and gave up his goods, and he was taken back to the caravan. Most people would have thought his narrow escape from death to be punishment enough; but Stanley, who was harsh and often cruel to his men, had him flogged with a donkey-whip.

On nearing Simbamwenni Stanley met an Arab trader, who told him that Livingstone had been at Ujiji nearly two years ago on his way to Manyema; this showed how slowly news travelled in the country. Still it was something to know that Livingstone was at that time alive and well enough to travel.

A few days later Stanley lost his cook, a black man called Bunder Salaam, who, for the fifth time, was caught helping himself to his master's private store of food. He had been forgiven four times, but now his hands were tied, and Stanley ordered Shaw to flog him with a whip. In addition to this, but intending only to frighten him, Stanley gave orders that the cook, with his donkey and baggage, should be turned out of camp, and be left to take his chance of reaching home alive. But as soon as the poor man's hands were loosed, he dashed away at full speed, and nothing could call him back. Stanley was now very sorry for what he had done, and he had the donkey tied to a tree, hoping that the cook would return and overtake the caravan.

They then went forward, but mile after mile was passed without a sign of the missing man. Stanley began to grow anxious, and sent men back to look for him. These men found that the donkey had been stolen by some natives, whom they also suspected of murdering the man. But though the donkey was afterwards re- covered, they could find no trace of Bunder Salaam.

The rainy season had now broken upon them, but, luckily for them, it lasted only three weeks instead of the usual six. The valley of the Makata River lay before them, and the torrents of African rain had turned it into swamp and flood for a stretch of thirty miles. For two days they struggled through mire and marsh, or splashed through water till they were nearly worn out. Next day from the top of a mound they saw before them five miles of unbroken flood, reaching to the mountain range which flanked the valley. It was like a large lake, with trees, bushes and clumps of grass growing here and there in the water.

The bearers now began to throw down their burdens, and said the water was too deep; but Stanley lashed some of them into the flood with his whip, and the rest soon followed. It was terrible work plunging onward, often up to the shoulders, with burdens on their heads; cutting and tearing their feet on stones and thorns, as they groped for a footing beneath the muddy water, expecting every moment to sink out of their depth. At last the struggle was over, and they reached high ground exhausted but happy. It was the worst bit of their journey, and it left its mark upon all; for after their soaking and fatigue, fever broke out among the men, and the animals began to die off one by one.

They now crossed the beautiful slopes of the Usagara Mountains to the valley of the river Mokondokwa; and at a village, called Kiora, they came up with the third caravan. Farquhar, its leader, had been wasting the cloth and beads in feasting himself and his men, and was now lying dangerously ill in a hut. Stanley made the two caravans into one, and, on May 11, pushed forward across a stretch of wilderness to Lake Ugombo. For five days they went over bare hills and dry plains, covered only with cactus, aloes, coarse grass, thorn scrub, and dwarf trees. The lake itself seemed the haunt of hundreds of wild creatures. The marsh along its shore was everywhere marked with the spoor of hippopotamus, buffalo, zebra, giraffe, kudu, and antelope. All kinds of waterfowl fluttered in the reeds and flew over its surface, while doves cooed in the trees, and guinea-fowl screeched in the cover.

Not long after leaving the lake another man, Jako, deserted, and two days were lost in finding him. He was, tracked to a hut, where the natives had made him a prisoner, and asked a reward for his capture. Stanley gave them a gift, and chained Jako with the other runaways like a gang of slaves; and then the caravan moved on to Mpwapwa.

The hillside here was beautiful and bracing and food was in plenty, and Stanley therefore decided to have a three days' rest. In spite of its many delights there were two great drawbacks to comfort in the place, for the earwigs and white ants were a plague. The earwigs invaded Stanley's tent by hundreds; they covered his baggage and camped in his hammock by the dozen; they crawled over his food, into his pockets and boots, under his clothes, and about his face. In short, they seemed to think it their duty to examine anxiously not only all he possessed, but every square inch of each thing. The white ants came in battalions, and the amount of matting, cloth, and leather that they could eat, even in an hour, was almost beyond belief.

Farquhar was now too ill to travel, and was left to the care of a friendly chief, with Jako for a nurse. The donkeys were reduced to ten, and four of these were unfit for loads; but Stanley was lucky enough to find twelve new bearers. He now joined two Arab caravans, and together they crossed the Marenga wilderness, where they were without water for thirty-six hours, and came into the Ugogo country.

Here they had to pay tax to every chief whose borders they passed. The Sultan of Mvumi was a most grasping man. Stanley sent him a present of six pieces of cloth, and a messenger at once came back to demand forty more. Stanley chafed at this greed, but was forced to pay. Six more were then demanded and paid. Still another message came, and, after paying three more pieces, Stanley was allowed to go onward.

Leaving Mvumi on May 27, after losing five donkeys in one night, they made their way to Matambaru; and then passed through another stretch of dense jungle in single file by a dark and narrow path. Here a bearer sank down with sickness and fatigue, and his caravan passed on and left him. He died before the last caravan had gone by, and some of them stopped to bury him.

At Nyambwa the natives had never seen a white man, and they crowded round Stanley in such numbers that they blocked the way. Stanley at last caught one of them by the neck and thrashed him; and though the others mobbed him for a long way with hoots and curses, they kept out of the way of his whip.

Soon after this they reached the Kiti defile, and crossed the range of hills to Tura by a steep and rugged path. On the way another bearer dropped out of the ranks, and was left to die. At Shiza Stanley had a bullock killed for a farewell feast; and then, on June 23, they marched into Unyanyembe, 185 days after leaving Bagamoyo. Stanley now took up his quarters at Kwihara, one mile from the chief Arab town Tabora, and he began to prepare for the march to Ujiji.