David Livingstone.

Livingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : 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 online

. (page 3 of 36)
Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : 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 → online text (page 3 of 36)
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distant from the lower part of the Souga, which passed by
the same name as Lake JSTgami , and 1 might then (ir^
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.

Beturning 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 foi
a suitable locality for a mission-station.

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 necessaiy, and, for the first time, I per-
formed a distance of some hundred miles on ox-back.

Eeturning toward Kuruman, I selected the beautiful
Thiley of Mabotsa (lat. 25° W south, long. 26° 30' ?) as the
Bite of a missionary station, and thither I removed in 1843
Here ah occurrence took place concerning which I have
frequently been questioned in England, and which, but for


the importut: of friends, I meant to have kept in store
lo tell my children when in my dotage. The Bakatla of
ohe 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 reformed, 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!
be is shot!'^ Others cried, "He has been shot by another
man too ; let us go to him !" I did not see any one else
ghoot at him, but I saw the lion's tail erected in anger bo-
liind 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 teri'or, though quite
conscious of all that was happening. It was like what
patients partially under the influence of chloroform de-
scribe, 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 car-
nivora, 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 Mebalwo, bit
his thigh. Another man, whose life I had saved beforej
after he had been tossed by a bufi*alo, attempted to spear
ihe lion while he was biting Mebalwe. He left Mebalwe
and caught this man by the shoulder, but at that moment
the bullets Uq had received took effect, and he fell down
dead. T/ ' vhole was the work of a few moments, and


iniibt 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 de-
clared 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 slough
mg 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 wHped 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.

I attached myself to the tribe called Bakuena or Bak-
wains, the chief of which, named Sechele, was then living
with his people at a place called Shokuano. I was from
the first struck by his intelligence, and by the marked
manner in which we both felt drawn to each other. This
remarkable man has not only embraced Christianity^ but
expounds its doctrines to his people.

Sechele continued to make a consistent profession for
about three years; and, perceiving at last some of the
difiiculties 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, tlio 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 good8^
which they had been accustomed to keep in their huta
for him, and sent them to their parents with an inti-
mation 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 Chris-
tianity in the south, that the converts would be made to
drink an infusion of ''dead men's brains," and were asto-
nished 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 re-
ligion. 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 Ba-
kena, or Bakwains. A small piece of land, sufiicient for a
garden, was purchased when we first went to live with


ihem, though that was scarcely necessary in a country
where the idea of buying land was quite new. It was ex-
pected 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
worth of goods were given for a piece of land, and an ar-
rangement 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 pre-
vented ; and where, in individual cases, we failed, the peo-
ple 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 inte-
rests. They might be called stupid in matters which had
not come within the sphere of their observation, but in


THE nopo.

otlier things they showed more intelligence than is to be
met with in our own uneducated peasantry. They are
*-emarkably 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 ii.
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.

The conduct of the people during this long-continued
drought was remarkably good. The women parted with
most of their ornaments to purchase corn from more for-
tunate tribes. The children scoured the country in search
of the numerous bulbs and roots which can sustain life,
and the men engaged in hunting. Yery great numbers of
the large game, buffaloes, zebras, giraffes, tsessebes, karaas
or hartebeests, kokongs or gnus, pallahs, rhinoceroses, &c.,
congregated at some fountains near Kolobeng, and the trap
called ^'hopo" was constructed, in the lands adjacent, for
their destruction. The hopo consists of two hedges in the
form of the letter Y, which are very high and thick near
the angle. Instead of the hedges being joined there, they
are made to form a lane of about fifty yards in length, at
the extremity of which a pit is formed, six or eight feet
deep, and about twelve or fifteen in breadth and length.
Trunks of trees are laid across the margin of the pit, and
more especially over that nearest the lane where the ani-
mals are expected to leap in, and over that farthest from
the lane where it is supposed they will attempt to escape
after they are in. The trees form an overlapping border
and render escape almost impossible. The whole is care-
fiilly decked with short greej) rushes, making the pit liko



a ooncealed pitiall. As the hedges are frequently about a
mile long, and about as much apart at their extremities, a
tribe making a circle three or four miles round the country
adjacent to the opening, and gradually closing up, are
almost sure to enclose a large body of game. Driving it up
with shouts to the narrow part of the hopo, men secreted
there throw their javelins into the affrighted herds, and on
the animals rush to the opening presented at the con-
verging hedges, and into the pit, till that is full of a living
mass. Some escape by running over the others, as a
Smithfield market-dog does over the sheep's backs. It is a
frightful scene. The men, wild with excitement, spear the
lovely animals with mad delight; others of the poor crea-
tures, borne down by the weight of their dead and dying
companions, every now and then make the whole mass
heave in their smothering agonies.

The Bakwains often killed between sixty and seventy
head of large game at the different hopos in a single week;
and as every one, both rich and poor, partook of the prey,
the meat counteracted the bad effects of an exclusively
vegetable diet.



Another adverse influence with which the mission
had to contend was the vicinity of the Boers of the
Cashan Mountains, otherwise named " Magaliesberg.^'
These are not to be confounded with the Cape colonists,
who sometimes pass by the name. The word Boer simply
means "farmer," and is not synonymous with our word
boor. Indeed, to the Boers generally the latter term
would bo quite inappropriate, for they are a sober, indus-
trious, and most hospitable body of peasantry. Those, how-



ever, who have fled from English law on various prctcxth,
and have been joined by English deserters and every other
variety of bad character in their distant localities, are
unfortunately of a very different stamp. The great ob-
jection many of the Boers had, and still have, to English
law, is that it makes no distinction between black men
and white. They felt aggrieved by their supposed losses
in the emancipation of their Hottentot slaves, and deter
mined to erect themselves into a republic, in which they
might pursue, without molestation, the ^'proper treatment
of the blacks.'' It is almost needless to add that the
^' proper treatment" has always contained in it the essen-
tial element of slavery, namely, compulsory unpaid labor.

One section of this body, under the late Mr. Hendrick
Potgeiter, penetrated the interior as far as the Cashan
Mountains, whence a Zulu or Caffre chief, named Mosili-
katze, had been expelled by the well-known Caffre Din-
gaan ;* and a glad welcome was given them by the Be-
chuana tribes, who had just escaped the hard sway of that
cruel chieftain. They came with the prestige of white
men and deliverers; but the Bechuanas soon found, as
they expressed it, " that Mosilikatze was cruel to his
enemies, and kind to those he conquered; but that the
Boers destroyed their enemies, and made slaves of their
friends." The tribes who still retain the semblance of
independence are forced to perform all the labor of the
fields, such as manuring the land, weeding, reaping, building,

* Dingaan was the brother and successor of Chaka, the most cruel and
bloodthirsty tyrant that ever disgraced the soil of Africa. He had formed
his tribe into a military organization and ravaged all the neighboring
tribes ; but his horrible cruelties to his own subjects led to a revolt,
headed by Dingaan and Umslungani, his two elder brothers, who first
attacked him with spears, wounding him in the back. Chaka was en-
veloped in a blanket, which he cast off and fled. He was overtaken and
again wounded. Falling at the feet of his pursuers, he besought them in
tLe most abject terms to let him live, that he might be their slave ; but he
Was instantly speared to death. — Am. Ed


making dams and canals, and at the same time to support
themselves. I have myself been an eye-witness of Boera
coming to a village, and, according to their usual custom,
demanding twenty or thirty women to weed their gardens,
and have seen these women proceed to the scene of unre-
quited toil, carrying their own food on their heads, their
children on their backs, and instruments of labor on their
shoulders. IS'or have the Boers any wish to conceal the
meanness of thus employing unpaid labor : on the contrary,
every one of them, from Mr. Potgeiter and Mr. Gert
Krieger, the commandants, downward, lauded his own
humanity and justice in making such an equitable regula-
tion. ^' We make the people work for us, in consideration
of allowing them to live in our country."

The Boers determined to put a stop to English traders
going past Kolobeng, by dispersing the tribe of Bakwains
and expelling all the missionaries. Sir George Cathcart
proclaimed the independence of the Boers, the best thing
that could have been done had they been between us and
the CafPres. A treaty was entered into with these Boers ;
an article for the free passage of Englishmen to the coun-
try beyond, and also another, that no slavery should be
allowed in the independent territory, were duly inserted,
as expressive of the views of her majesty's government at
home. ^' But what about the missionaries ?" inquired the
Boers. ^' You may do as you please with them," is said to
have been the answer of the " Commissioner." This re-
mark, if uttered at all, was probably made in joke : design-
ing men, however, circulated it, and caused the general
belief in its accuracy which now prevails all over the coun-
try, and doubtless led to the destruction of three mission-
Btations immediately after. The Boers, four hundred in
number, were sent by the late Mr. Pretorius to attack tlie
Bakwains in 1852. Boasting that the English had given
up all the blacks into their power, and had agreed to aia
them in their subjugation by preventing all supplies of
ammunition from coming into the Bechuara country, they


•fisaulted the Bakwains, and, besides killing a considerabl©
number of adults, carried off two hundred of our school-
children into slavery. The natives under Scchele defended
themselves till the approach of night enabled theiQ to fleo
to the mountains; and having in that defence killed &
number of the enemy, the very first ever slain in this coun-
try by Bechuanas, I received the credit of having taught
the tribe to kill Boers ! My house, which had stood per-
fectly secure for years under the protection of the natives,
was plundered in revenge. English gentlemen, who had
come in the footsteps of Mr. Gumming to hunt in the coun-
try beyond, and had deposited large quantities of stores in
the same keeping, and upward of eighty head of cattle as
relays for the return journeys, were robbed of all, and,
when they came back to Kolobeng, found the skeletons of
the guardians strewed all over the place. The books of a
good library — my solace in our solitude — were not taken
away, but handfuls of the leaves were torn out and scat-
tered over the place. My stock of medicines was smashed,
and all our furniture and clothing carried off and sold at
public auction to pay the expenses of the foray.

In trying to benefit the tribes living under the Boers of
the Cashan Mountains, I twice performed a journey of about
three hundred miles to the eastward of Kolobeng. Sechele
had become so obnoxious to the Boers that, though anxious
to accomj)any me in my journey, he dared not trust him-
self among them. This did not arise from the crime of
cattle-stealing; for that crime, so common among the
Caffres, was never charged against his tribe, nor, indeed,
against any Bechuana tribe. It is, in fact, unknown in the
country, except during actual warfare. His independence
and love of the English were his only faults. In my last
journey there, of about two hundred miles, on parting at
the river Marikwe he gave me two servants, " to be,'' as
he said, ^' his arms to serve me,'' and expressed regret that
he could not come himself. '^ Suppose we went north," I
said, "would you como?" He then told me the story of


Bebituane having saved his life, and expatiated on the far
famed generosity of that really great man. This was the
first time I had thought of crossing the Desert to Lake

The conduct of the Boers, who had sent a letter designed
to procure my removal out of the country, and their well-
known settled policy which I have already described, be-
came more fully developed on this than on any former
ocoasion. When I spoke to Mr. Hendrick Potgeiter of the
danger of hindering the gospel of Christ among these poor
savages, he became greatly excited, and called one of his
followers to answer me. He threatened to attack any tribe
that might receive a native teacher ; yet he promised to use
his influence to prevent those under him from throwing
obstacles in our way. I could perceive plainly that nothing
more could be done in that direction, so I commenced col-
iecting all the infonnation I could about the desert, with
the intention of crossing it, if possible. Sekomi, the chief
of the Bamangwato, was acquainted with a route which
he kept carefully to himself, because the Lake country
abounded in ivory, and he drew large quantities thence
periodically at but small cost to himself

Sechele, who valued highly every thing European, and
was always fully alive to his own interest, was naturally
anxious to get a share of that inviting field. He was most
anxious to visit Sebituane too, partly, perhaps, from a wish
to show off his new acquirements, but chiefly, I believe,
from having very exalted ideas of the benefits he would
derive from the liberality of that renowned chieftain.

Sechele, by my advice, sent men to Sekomi, asking leave
for me to pass along his path, accompanying the request

Online LibraryDavid LivingstoneLivingstone's travels and researches in South Africa : 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 → online text (page 3 of 36)