Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/308

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


the river, one of them called out Geo affilli (see the water). Looking foiv wards, I saw, with infinite pleasure, the great object of my mission the long sought for majestic Niger, flittering to the morning sun, as broad as the Thames at Westminster, and flowing slowly to the eastward. I hastened to the brink, and having drunk of the water, lifted up my fervent thanks in prayer to the Great Ruler of all things, for having thus far crowned my en- deavours with success." Sego consisted of four distinct towns, two on the nor- them, and two on the southern bank of the Niger ; " and the view of this extensive capital," says our traveller, " the numerous canoes on the river, the crowded population, and the cultivated state of the surrounding country, formed altogether a prospect of civilization and magnificence which I little expected to find in the bosom of Africa." The king, Mansong, however, refused to see Mr Park, for fear of exciting the envy and jealousy of the Moorish inhabitants, and ordered him to remove to a village in the vicinity. He had no alterna- tive but to comply ; and it was here that one of those fine traits of female compassion, and of the kind interposition of Providence in his favour when at the last extremity, which he has frequently borne testimony to with thankful- ness and gratitude, occurred ; and this truly affecting incident we cannot avoid giving in his own simple language. On arriving at the village, he was inhospitably driven from every door, with marks of fear and astonishment. He passed the day without victuals, and was preparing to spend the night under a tree, exposed to the rain and the fury of the wild beasts, which there great- ly abounded, " when a woman, returning from the labours of the field, stopped to observe me, and perceiving me weary and dejected, inquired into my situation, which I briefly explained to her; whereupon, with looks of great compassion, she took up my saddle and bridle, and told me to follow her. Having conducted me into her hut, she lighted up a lamp, spread a mat upon the floor, and told me I might remain there for the night. Finding that I was very hungry, she said she would procure me something to eat; she ac- cordingly went out, and returned in a short time with a very fine fish, which having caused to be broiled upon some embers, she gave me for supper. The rites of hospitality being thus performed towards a stranger in distress, my worthy benefactress (pointing to the mat, and telling me I might sleep there without apprehension), called to the female part of her family, who had stood gazing on me all the while in fixed astonishment, to resume their task of spinning cotton, in which they continued to employ themselves great part of the night. They lightened their labour with songs, one of which was composed extempore, for I was myself the subject of it ; it was sung by one of the young women ; the rest joining in a chorus. The air was sweet and plaintive, and the words, literally translated, were these : * The winds roared, and the rains

fell. The poor white man, faint and weary, came and sat under our tree

he has no mother to bring him milk, no wife to grind his corn.' Chorus

' Let us pity the white man ; no mother has he!' &a, &c. Trifling as this re- cital may appear to the reader, to a person in my situation the circumstance was affecting in the highest degree. I was so oppressed by such unexpected kindness, that sleep fled before my eyes. In the morning I presented my compassionate landlady with two of the four brass buttons that remained on my waistcoat, the only recompense I could make her." Mansong, the king, having ordered Park to leave the neighbourhood, (sending him, however, a guide, and a present of 5000 cowries, as some recompense for his involun- tary inhospitality,) our traveller proceeded down the Niger, along the northern bank. On one occasion, while passing through the woods, he narrowly es- caped being devoured by a large red lion, which he suddenly came upon,