Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/309

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


crouching in a bush, but which did not attack him. He proceeded first to Sansanding, thence to Moodiboo, Moorzan, and finally to Silla. Here, worn out by fatigue and suffering of mind and body, destitute of all means, either or subsistence or of prosecuting his journey for even his horse had dropped down by the way his resolution and energy, of which no man ever possessed a greater share, began to fail him. The rainy season had set in, and he could only travel in a canoe, which he had no money to hire ; and he was advancing farther and farther into the territories of the fanatical Moors, who looked upon him with loathing and detestation, and whose compassion he had no gifts to propitiate. It was with great anguish of mind that he was at last brought to the conviction of the necessity of returning ; but no one who has read his own simple and manly statement of his actual situation, and of the prospect before him, together with his poignant sensations at his disappointment, can for a moment blame him for turning back. Preparatory to doing so, he collected all the information in his power respecting the future course of the Niger, and the various kingdoms through which it flowed; but subsequent discoveries have since proved how little credit could be attached to the accounts of the natives, either from their positive ignorance or their suspicious jealousy of strangers. Later and more fortunate travellers, have solved the great problem, the honour of explaining which was denied to Park ; and we now know that this great river, after flowing to a considerable distance eastward of Timbuctoo, makes a bend or elbow, like the Burampooter, and, after pursuing a south-westerly course, falls into the Atlantic Ocean on the coast of Benin. The narrative of Mr Park's return from the interior of Africa would be little else than a repetition of the various sufferings, adventures, and dangers he experienced on his way there, but only in a more aggravated form, in consequence both of his utterly destitute condition, and from the inundation of the level country, which compelled him to seek his way over chasms and precipices, without a guide, or any .other means of shaping his course. He frequently waded for miles breast- deep in water. Once he was beset by banditti, who stripped him of everything but two shirts, his hat, and a pair of trousers ; and on arriving at Sibidooloo, he was attacked by fever, which stretched him on his back for many weeks. Here, however, he was fortunate enough to meet with a slave merchant, named Karfa Taura, who treated him with great kindness and humanity took him into his own house nursed him until he was well kept him as his guest for seven months, without asking the smallest recompense and finally conducted him in safety to Pisania, with a cargo of his living merchandise. Our traveller immediately took his passage in an American vessel, bound for the West Indies, whence he had no difficulty in getting to Britain, and landed at Falmouth on the 22d of December, 1797, after an absence of two years and seven months.

Mr Park was received with distinguished honour by the African Association, and almost all the other scientific bodies and eminent literary characters of the metropolis, and was for some time, what is familiarly termed, the lion of the town. Having made arrangements in London for the publication of his travels, he proceeded to Scotland in June 1798, and spent the succeeding summer and autumn at his native place, Fowlshiels, among his relations and friends, his mother being the only parent then alive. His time, however, was far from being passed in idleness, or merely in social meetings with old friends and ac- quaintance, much as his company, as may readily be imagined, was sought after. He applied himself indefatigably to the compilation and composition or his travels, which he finished and carried back with him to London in the end of the year. In the following spring they were published, and it is needless to