Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/352

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

but sternly meeting and dealing with it when its existence is perceived. With a fund of quiet humor—and sarcasm, too, if he pleased—Livingstone possessed a keen sense of the ridiculous, and entered thoroughly into a joke. He might often be seen talking to the Makololo he had brought down from the country of Sekeletu, and their attention and respect, as they listened or replied to him, plainly showed the influence he had with them. Indeed, one of Livingstone's strongest points, and one that has conduced, no doubt, as much to his safety as his success, is his power of understanding and dealing with the natives, and of winning their confidence, while he overawes their truculence.

As regards the practical objects with which it started, this expedition fell short of success. Little was done beyond laying down the position of the comparatively unimportant lakes of Shirwah and Nyassa, and a complete survey of the Shiré and lower parts of the Zambési. Several circumstances combined to bring about this result. Though the natives of the Shiré country were found to grow very little cotton, and that, moreover, of an inferior quality, there can be no doubt that the soil is cotton-producing, and that, with proper attention, and the introduction of the better sorts of the plant, its cultivation would be remunerative. The land will grow sugar-cane, cereals on the upland plateaux—the wheat near Tette is exceptionally fine—the tropical fruits that are known, and some that are not. Indigo grows wild. The forests contain valuable woods, such as ebony and lignum-vitæ, and large-sized timber of different kinds. The rocks are metalliferous; plumbago and hematite abound; gold is not far off; and the quartz shows traces of amethyst and garnet. And something might be said about ivory. All these advantages, however, were supposed, as accounts one by one reached England, to be counterbalanced by the difficulties presented by the nature of the country, the roughness of the upland tracts, the shallowness of the rivers, and the formidable bars of the Zambési mouths.

But other things were adverse. A tribal war, which was raging on the Shiré, and a drought of unusual length and severity, threw insuperable obstacles in the way of the expedition, causing a famine in the higher country, and a disastrous loss of time in the journeys to the coast, which were rendered necessary to procure provisions. The same causes compelled the mission—after the death of Bishop Mackenzie and one of his followers—to abandon the position they had taken on the hills, and find a temporary abode on the banks of the Shiré. The hope that it would either develop into, or, at least, promote the establishment of a central trading station or factory, was in this way disappointed for the present. The subsequent death of three more of the missionaries, besides two of the expedition and Mrs. Livingstone—added to the illness from which most in the country suffered—gave to it a character for malignancy of climate which might apply to the valley regions, but not to the highlands. All these things, as they were