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Title: Mungo Park and the Niger
Author: Thomson, J. J. (Joseph John)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mungo Park and the Niger" ***

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    Transcriber's Note:

    Every effort has been made to replicate this text as faithfully as
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The World’s Great Explorers and Explorations.

    Edited by J. SCOTT KELTIE, Librarian, Royal Geographical Society;
    H. J. MACKINDER, M.A., Reader in Geography at the University of
    Oxford; and E. G. RAVENSTEIN, F.R.G.S.


[Illustration: MUNGO PARK.]

                       MUNGO PARK AND THE NIGER.

                            JOSEPH THOMSON,

                               NEW YORK
                         DODD, MEAD & COMPANY


The story of the world’s exploration is always attractive. We
naturally take a keen interest in the personality of the men who have
dared to force their way into the unknown, and so unveiled to us the
face of mother earth. The interest in the work of exploration has
been particularly strong and widespread in recent years, and it is
believed that a series of volumes dealing with the great explorers and
explorations of the past is likely to prove welcome to a wide circle
of readers. Without a knowledge of what has been accomplished, the
results of the unprecedented exploring activity of the present cannot
be understood. It is hoped, therefore, that the present series will
supply a real want. With one or two exceptions, each volume will deal
mainly with one leading explorer, bringing out prominently the man’s
personality, telling the story of his life, and showing in full detail
what he did for the exploration of the world. When it may be necessary
to depart somewhat from the general plan, it will always be kept in
view that the series is essentially a popular one. When complete the
series will form a Biographical History of Geographical Discovery.

The Editors congratulate themselves on having been able to secure the
co-operation of men well known as the highest authorities in their own
departments; their names are too familiar to the public to require
introduction. Each writer is of course entirely responsible for his own

                                                           THE EDITORS.


   CHAP.                                                  PAGE

      I. THE FIRST GLIMMERING OF LIGHT                       1

     II. MORE LIGHT: THE ARAB PERIOD                         6

    III. OPENING UP THE WAY TO THE NIGER                    19


      V. MUNGO PARK                                         36

     VI. AT THE THRESHOLD                                   46

    VII. FROM THE GAMBIA TO THE SENEGAL                     53

   VIII. ACROSS THE SENEGAL BASIN                           65

     IX. TO LUDAMAR                                         76

      X. CAPTIVITY IN LUDAMAR                               85

     XI. TO THE NIGER                                       97

    XII. DOWN THE RIVER TO SILLA                           107

   XIII. THE RETURN THROUGH BAMBARRA                       120

    XIV. REST AT KAMALIA                                   134

     XV. THE SLAVE ROUTE                                   143

    XVI. BACK TO THE GAMBIA AND HOME                       154

   XVII. MUNGO PARK AT HOME                                164

  XVIII. MUNGO PARK AT HOME--(_continued_)                 175

    XIX. PREPARING FOR A NEW EXPEDITION                    186

     XX. PARK’S SECOND RETURN TO THE GAMBIA                196


   XXII. TO THE NIGER                                      221

  XXIII. THE LAST OF PARK                                  233

   XXIV. THE FULAH REVOLUTION                              246

    XXV. NEW ENTERPRISES AND NEW THEORIES                  254

   XXVI. THE TERMINATION OF THE NIGER                      264

  XXVII. THE TERMINATION OF THE NIGER--(_continued_)       277

 XXVIII. FILLING UP THE DETAILS                            288

   XXIX. THE FRENCH ADVANCE TO THE NIGER                   301

    XXX. THE ROYAL NIGER COMPANY                           307

   XXXI. THE ROYAL NIGER COMPANY--(_continued_)            319

  INDEX                                                    333



  1. Portrait of Mungo Park                               _Frontispiece_

  2. Facsimile Extract of Letter from Mungo Park to
       Dr. Anderson                                     _facing page_ 42

  3. Bambarra Women Pounding Corn                             „      112

  4. Bammaku                                                  „      128

  5. Baobab Tree                                              „      144

  6. Facsimile Extract of Mungo Park’s Letter to his
       Wife                                                   „      180

  7. Rock Scenery of the Upper Senegal                        „      212

  8. Portrait of Captain Clapperton                           „      265

  9. View in Sokoto                                           „      275

 10. Akassa                                                   „      286

 11. Timbuktu                                                 „      292

 12. Traders’ House, Abutshi                                  „      322

 13. Haussa Village                                           „      330


 Birthplace of Mungo Park                           _page_ 37

 Mungo Park’s Encampment                              „   207

 Group of Fulahs                                      „   247

 Portrait of Richard Lander                           „   282

 View on the Niger above Lokoja                       „   294

 Haussa Hut                                           „   326

 Portrait of the Sultan of Sokoto’s Brother           „   328

_MAPS (Printed in Colours)._

   I. Guinea                                           _facing page_ 1

  II. Mungo Park’s Travels                                   „      47

 III. Libya Secundum Ptolomæum, A.C. 130                      _at end_

  IV. Edrisi’s Africa, 1154                                      „

   V. Catalan, Map of the World, Western Half, 1375              „

  VI. Guinea and the Sudan, according to D’Anville, 1749         „

 VII. Guinea and the Sudan, according to J. Rennell, 1798        „


 O. Dapper, Nigritarum Regio, 1671                     _page_ 24

 O. Dapper, 1671                                         „    25

 Reduced Fac-simile of Mungo Park’s Autograph Map        „   185

 The Bussa Rapids                                        „   241

[Map: GUINEA.]




To find the first allusion to the River Niger we have to go back to the
very dawn of history.

Many centuries before the Christian era the spirit of geographical
inquiry was abroad. There were then, as in later times, ardent minds
whose eager curiosity would not let them rest content with a knowledge
of their own countries. Then, as in the Middle Ages, kings and emperors
thirsted for political aggrandisement, merchants for new sources of
wealth, and enterprising spirits for opportunities to do deeds of high
emprise which would send their names down to posterity.

Phœnicia, Greece, Carthage, Rome, had each its bold navigators and
travellers, whose explorations can be more or less credibly gleaned
from the mass of fable and misrepresentation which time and ignorance
have gathered round them.

Even in those early days--twenty or more centuries ago--Africa was
the chief centre of attraction to such as longed to extend their
possessions or their knowledge of the earth’s surface. Already the
mystery of the Nile and Inner Africa beyond the Great Desert had
asserted its fascination over men’s minds. The Mediterranean nations
vied with each other in sending expedition after expedition to explore
the coast-line, and if possible circumnavigate the continent. Of these
some ventured by way of the Straits of Gibraltar--the Pillars of
Hercules, as they were then called--while others tried the Red Sea and
the eastern coast. What these ancient mariners actually accomplished
has been for centuries a matter of keen dispute, with but small
clearing up of the obscure horizon. It is not therefore for us to
enter into the debatable land, and happily the questions involved lie
outside our province. Sufficient for our purpose is it to know that
very extensive voyages were undertaken along both the east and west
coasts of Africa. Among the most noteworthy and credible of these is
the expedition sent by Necho, King of Egypt, with Phœnician navigators,
which is said to have accomplished the circumnavigation of the
continent; and the Carthaginian expedition of Hanno, which undoubtedly
explored the western coast for a very considerable distance towards the

But the enterprise of the Mediterranean nations was not confined only
to the coast-line. The commercial spirit of Carthage and the warlike
genius of Rome alike led them to seek the interior.

In this direction, however, each was fated to be as effectually checked
as their sailors had been by sea. The burning heat, the wide stretches
of barren sand, the waterless wastes, and the savage nomads which
they had to encounter, were as terrible to face as the huge waves
and frightful storms of the Atlantic. To the natural terrors of this
desert region, forsaken of the gods, their imagination added every
conceivable monstrosity, so that he indeed was a bold man who ventured
from the gay and pleasant confines of the northern lands into the awful
horrors of the Sahara.

Yet men there must have been, whether warriors, merchants, or simple
explorers, we know not, who crossed the dreaded desert zone, and
reached the more fertile countries of the negroes which lay beyond.
In the pages of Herodotus and Strabo, of Pliny and of Ptolemy, amid
all the mythological absurdities and ridiculous stories with which
they abound, we find not only ample evidence of such successful
adventure, but a wonderfully just estimate of the physical conditions
which characterised the region lying between the Mediterranean and the
Sudan. They describe first a zone of sharply contrasted fertility and
barrenness, of green oasis and repellent desert, scantily inhabited by
wild, roving tribes. Next comes a more terrible region lying further
to the south--a land of desolation and death, swept by the wild
sirocco and sandstorm, burnt by fierce relentless suns, unrefreshed by
sparkling earth-born springs, unmoistened by the heaven-sent rain or by
the gentle dew of night. Beyond lies a third region--the land of the
negroes--made fertile by spring and stream, by marsh and lake.

More remarkable still is the fact that in each of the writers mentioned
we find clear indications of a knowledge of a great river running
through Negroland.

With minds on the search for a solution of the Nile problems--its
origin, its course, and the mystery of its annual overflow--and from
the likelihood that some of their informants had actually seen this
river when it ran in an easterly direction, the opinion generally
adopted by the ancients was that the river of the negroes was the Nile

Of the various sources of information upon which the classical
writers depended for their descriptions of these savage lands we know
but little. One there is, however, which stands out with wonderful
clearness and prominence and a general air of credibility--the
expedition of the Nasamones as related by Herodotus.

The Nasamones--five young men of distinction, doubtless without
suitable outlets for their ambitions and energies at home--set out
from their native country to the south-west of Egypt, bent on the
exploration of the heart of Africa.

Travelling partly south and partly west, they crossed the
semi-inhabited, semi-sterile zone. Arrived at the confines of the great
desert, they collected provisions and supplied themselves with water,
and bold in heart “to seek, to conquer, or to die,” plunged into the
terrible unknown. For many weary days they pursued their quest with
unabated courage and perseverance. At length they emerged from the
region of desolation and death, and found themselves in a fertile
country inhabited by pigmies, having abundance of fruit trees, and
watered by vast lakes and marshes. Furthermore, they found a large
river flowing from west to east.

Whether these enterprising young African explorers had reached the
neighbourhood of Lake Chad, as we might be disposed to believe, or the
Niger in the vicinity of the great bend of the main stream, it would
be waste of time to ask. Let us be satisfied with knowing that at this
very early period of the world’s history, many centuries before the
Christian era, the Central or Western Sudan of our days was reached,
and the fact established that through it ran a great river.

In this way the exploration of Central Africa was inaugurated--the
first uncertain glimmer of light thrown upon its dark surface; and
the River Niger revealed to the world to be a theme of discussion
to arm-chair geographers, and a goal to be aimed at by the more
adventurous spirits who would realise their thoughts in deeds rather
than on paper.



For many centuries but little was added to the knowledge of Africa
acquired by the early classical writers. Carthage fell from its high
estate, and on its ruins Rome, with boundless ambition and seemingly
boundless powers of attainment, built for itself a new and equally
magnificent African Empire. But where man could not stay the advancing
tide, Nature set bounds to the force of Roman arms, and at the borders
of the desert mutely said, “Thus far shalt thou go, and no further.”

The Roman power rose to the zenith of its glory, and still the desert
remained uncrossed; it dwindled towards its fall, and then its days
of geographical conquest were over. In Northern Africa, as elsewhere,
the mythological gave place to the Christian era, and the influence
of the new religion spread apparently to the remotest desert tribes.
It was not, however, fated to be permanent. In the seventh century a
new prophet had risen in the Sacred East, and the seeds of a mighty
revolution were germinating in the deserts of Arabia. The boundaries
of its parent country soon proved too small for the astonishing
vitalities and ardent missionary enterprise of the new faith--the
faith of Islam. Bursting out, it pushed with incredible rapidity along
the north of Africa, overwhelming Paganism and Christianity alike
in its irresistible course, till reaching the Atlantic it turned
to north and south in search of new fields to conquer for God. The
natural difficulties which had stopped the southern progress of the
Carthaginians and the Romans formed no barrier to a people born in a
desert. In the plateau lands of the Berber tribes the Arabs were at
home. Winged with a fiery enthusiasm which nothing could withstand,
and inspired by a hope of heaven which nothing could shake, they swept
from district to district, from tribe to tribe, everywhere carrying the
blazing torch of Islam, everywhere striking fire from the roving people
with whom they came in contact, till from every Saharan oasis there was
heard the common cry, “There is no God but the one God.” In the new
conflagration Christian symbols and Pagan idols alike disappeared in
one fell holocaust.

To a race so educated and nurtured, so steeped in fiery ardour and
unquenchable faith, and so imbued with the paramount importance of
their mission--provided, moreover, as regards the practical part
of their work, with the drought-enduring camel, hitherto unknown
in Africa--the so-called impassable desert was no barrier to the
performance of the task divinely set them. Only for him who turned back
did hell yawn. For him who went forward it might be death, but it was
death with Paradise gained.

In this spirit the terrors of the Sahara were faced, and faced only to
be conquered; and ere the ninth century gave place to the tenth, the
land of the negroes was reached, and the forces of Islam set themselves
in array against those of heathendom. For the first time the Niger
basin was now brought into direct relation with Northern Africa. The
actual time when this was accomplished is still a matter of some doubt,
though the statement is quoted by Barth that within less than a hundred
years of the commencement of the Mohammedan era, schools and mosques
were established in the negro kingdom of Ghana or Ghanata, to the west
of Timbuktu. More incontestable is the statement of the Arab writer,
Ebn Khaldun (A.D. 1380), that trading relations existed about 280 A.H.
or 893 A.D. between the Upper Niger and Northern Africa. When these
were first established we are not informed.

The vital forces which had found no barrier in the fierce nomads and
physical difficulties of the Sahara, and had carried the disciples of
Mohammed to the borders of the Sudan, met a check to their sweeping
progress where one would have least expected it. Half the secret of
the success of Islam had been that principle in the creed which was
calculated to attract and inflame the ardent imaginations and easily
excited temperaments of the Berber tribes of the north. With these
Mohammedanism required but little aid from fire and sword for the
spread of its tenets. It had but to be preached to be believed, making
every hearer not only a convert but a missionary aflame with enthusiasm
for the cause of God and Mohammed. Such, however, was not the case when
Islam came face to face with the undeveloped lethargic minds of the
barbarous blacks of the Sudan. The intellect of the negro had to be
prepared for the reception of the new spiritual doctrines.

For a time a hard and fast line existed between Islam and Heathendom
more or less closely coinciding with that drawn between Berber and
Negro, Sahara and Sudan.

Only for a time, however. Though the new religious force could sweep
on no longer in an irresistible, all-embracing tide, it was not to
be prevented from gradually working its way into the sodden mass of
Paganism. Along the whole line of opposing forces from Senegambia
to Lake Chad, Mohammedan missionaries penetrated, not with fire and
sword and all the horrors of brute force, but armed with the spiritual
weapons of faith, hope, and ardent enthusiasm. Under their fostering
care schools and mosques arose, around which converts gathered in
ever-increasing numbers, until at length every region had its leavening
germs, and awaited but the proper moment and the inspired leader to
raise the watchword of Islam, and once more sweep onward with all the
accumulated force of the dammed back torrent.

Within a short time of each other two such leaders appeared at opposite
points of the Niger basin. In the west, near the great bend of the
Niger, a king of Songhay embraced Islam about the year 1000, while near
the close of the same century a king of Bornu followed his example.[1]

From those dates a new and more promising era commenced for the Central
and Western Sudan. Under the fostering care and impulse of the new
religion these backward regions commenced an upward progress. A new
and powerful bond drew the scattered congeries of tribes together
and welded them into powerful communities. Their moral and spiritual
well-being increased by leaps and bounds, and their political and
social life took an altogether higher level. The arts and industries of
the North speedily became established among them, and with them came
the love of decent dress, of cleanliness, of more orderly conduct.
Whatever might be said of Mohammedanism in its final influence, there
could be no question but that it had the amount of good in it necessary
to raise a barbarous people to a higher level of civilisation. There
was an adaptability and a simplicity about it well suited to the
comprehension of untutored minds, and in that lay the secret of a
success such as has never since been even distantly approached by any
other propagandist religion in Africa.

To the rulers of Songhay and Bornu the watchword of Islam, “There
is no God but the one God,” soon became a war-cry destined to be
irresistible in its magic influence. Armed with the new spiritual
force these hitherto barbarous kingdoms rose to extraordinary heights
of power. Songhay gradually spread its influence over all the upper
reaches of the Niger till it had absorbed the old kingdoms of Ghanata,
to the north of the Niger, and Melli, to the south. With the political
influences of Songhay went the religious forces at its back. At times
there were checks to its military power, but only when the religious
enthusiasm and missionary ardour of its rulers temporarily sank and
were outstripped by the greater zeal of neighbouring princes. With
these exceptions, the history of Songhay was that of general progress,
political, social, and commercial. The kingdom reached the zenith of
its power at the beginning of the sixteenth century under a powerful
negro king named Hadj Mohammed Askia, whose rule extended from the
centre of the present empire of Sokoto to the borders of the Atlantic,
a distance from east to west of 1500 miles, and from Mosi in the south
as far as the oasis of Tawat in the north, _i.e._, something over 1000

Askia was no mere warrior anxious for his own aggrandisement. As was
the case with all the great Sudanese rulers of those early days, he
was noted for his ardent faith as well as for his love of justice and
clemency, so that, as his historian, Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu, wrote of
him, “God made use of his services in order to save the true believers
(in Negroland) from their sufferings and calamities.” He built mosques
and schools, and did everything in his power to encourage learning;
and not unmindful of the material prosperity of his people, encouraged
merchants from all parts of the Sudan, the Sahara, and North Africa.
Thus not only was he loved and revered by his subjects, but his fame
extended to the most distant countries.

Unhappily the magnificent empire thus founded had not the elements
of stability. There was too much of the one man power, with no firm
governmental foundations apart from the ruler. In consequence, the
history of Songhay was one of varying fortunes. Old kingdoms such as
Melli temporarily regained their independence, distant provinces were
continually breaking loose, and there were constant wars of succession
and military revolts. But though often scotched it was never killed,
till an altogether new enemy appeared in the person of Mulai Hamed,
Sultan of Morocco, before whose musketeers it was doomed to become
extinct as an independent kingdom. This happened in 1591, in the reign
of Askia Ishak. Ahmed Baba, the native historian, who lived at the
time, and was himself not only a material sufferer, but a prisoner
carried off to Morocco, said of this terrible disaster: “Thus this
Mahalla (or expedition) at that period found in Sudan (Songhay) one of
those countries of the earth which are most favoured with comfort,
plenty, peace, and prosperity everywhere; such was the working of the
government of the Emir el Mumenin, Askia el Hadj Mohammed ben Abu Bakr,
in consequence of his justice and the power of his royal command, which
took full and peremptory effect, not only in his capital (Gogo), but in
all the districts of his whole empire, from the province of Dendi to
the frontier of Morocco, and from the territory of Bennendugu (to the
south of Jinni) as far as Zeghaza and Tawat. But in a moment all was
changed, and peaceful repose was succeeded by a constant state of fear,
comfort and security by troubles and suffering; ruin and misfortune
took the place of prosperity, and people began everywhere to fight
against each other, and property and life became exposed to constant
danger; and this ruin began, spread, increased, and at length prevailed
throughout the whole region.”[3] If it be remembered that this was
written in Arabic by a Niger native at the end of the sixteenth or
beginning of the seventeenth centuries about a negro sultan ruling over
a kingdom partly negro and partly Berber, the wonder of it cannot but
strike the thoughtful mind.

But in the Niger basin Songhay was not the only centre of marvellous
political and social development under the influence of Mohammedanism.
Bornu was in every sense its rival. We have already seen that towards
the close of the eleventh century the king of Bornu (Dunama ben Humé)
had embraced Islam. The result of the union of material power with
spiritual inspiration was soon made manifest, for before Ben Humé died
he had founded a vigorous empire whose influence was felt as far as
Egypt. It was not, however, till the middle of the thirteenth century
that Bornu rose to its greatest power and the zenith of its glory under
the able rule of one Dibalami Dunama Selmami. At that time Bornu,
or, as it was sometimes called, Kameni (?), which was then the seat
of government, extended from the Nile to the Niger, and from Mabina
(Adamawa?) in the south to Wadan in the north, according to Imam Ahmed
(1571-1603), the native historian of Bornu, as Ahmed Baba had been
that of Songhay. But Dunama did not only increase the material power
of Bornu. Like Askia of Songhay, he encouraged religion, so that “the
true faith in his time was largely disseminated,” according to Ebn Said
(1282), an Arab writer.

After Dunama’s death troublesome times fell upon the empire, and a long
period of civil wars and disastrous expeditions followed. Brighter
times came back with the ascent of Ali (1472) to the throne, and
once more Bornu regained its former grandeur. It is clear that Ali’s
kingdom extended far to the west of the Niger, and became known to the
Portuguese, who as far back as 1489 show Bernu or Bornu on their maps.

Under the two succeeding reigns of Edris and Mohammed, Bornu still
further added to its importance, and had relations with the northern
sultans of Tripoli.

The most remarkable, however, of all the Bornu rulers seems to have
been Edris Alawoma (1571-1603), who had the advantage of having a
contemporary biographer in the person of Imam Ahmed. This prince
seems not only to have been an enterprising and able warrior, but
was distinguished alike for mildness and justice, and for far-seeing
statesmanship. Under him the empire grew to enormous proportions, and
included almost the whole of the Central and much of the Western
Sudan. At the same time the country became more prosperous, the wealth
of the towns increased, and the Mohammedan religion and education
spread widely and rapidly.

Happily Bornu was established on a more stable basis than Songhay. It
had more cohesion in its various elements, and was less dependent on
the warlike character of its rulers to keep it from falling to pieces.
Its princes also seem to have been of a better and more liberal-minded
stock. We even gather from the native chronicles that they were
“learned, liberal towards the Ilama, prodigal dispensers of alms,
friends of science and religion, gracious and compassionate towards
the poor.” Hence it was that while Songhay and other states rose and
fell, Bornu retained its position and independence. In the beginning of
this century it experienced a temporary eclipse before the conquering
arms of the Fillani in their mission of religious regeneration, but
only to emerge again as vigorous as ever, though now restricted in its
political influence to Bornu proper and the immediate neighbourhood of
Lake Chad.

But while Songhay and Bornu were for centuries working out their
remarkable political, religious, social, and commercial development,
they were, as we have already pointed out, by no means shut off from
intercourse with the outside world. The thirst for the slaves of Bornu
and for the gold of Melli and the Upper Niger was almost as potent a
force with the later generations of Arabs as was religious zeal among
their ancestors. For the one as for the other all the terrors of the
desert route were braved, and constant communication kept up with the
Sudan. At first Egypt seems to have been the first point of departure
of the Sudanese caravan, one route passing westward to Songhay and the
region of the Upper Niger, while another diverged from it, and passed
south to the Chad basin. In later times Egypt gave place to Tripoli as
the starting-point, though practically the same routes were utilised to
reach the same goals. At an early period also the most dangerous part
of the whole Sahara, that region, namely, lying between the Upper Niger
and Morocco, was traversed by indefatigable Moorish traders for the
sake of its slaves and gold. The terminus of their route was at first
considerably to the west of Timbuktu, at a place called Biru or Walata,
where, indeed, nearly all the western trans-Saharan traffic converged
in the earlier days of commercial intercourse.

Towards the end of the eleventh century Timbuktu was founded as a
trading station by the Tuaregs of the Sahara, but it was not until it
fell into the hands of a powerful king of Melli some two centuries
later that it became a place of some importance. At once it developed
into an international market of the first rank, where merchants from
Egypt, Tripoli, Morocco, the Saharan oases, and the Sudan met to
exchange their various articles of barter.

At no time was Timbuktu the capital of a great kingdom. Its greatness
solely depended upon its trade, and its convenience as a collecting
and dispersing centre. That it should have become so well known above
all the places of the Sudan is easily understood if it be remembered
that it was the goal for which all the merchants of Northern Africa
aimed. Politically, Timbuktu was thus raised to a position of undue
importance, though commercially, as the merchant capital, it could not
be overrated.

With the rise of the Songhay power Timbuktu became subject to that
kingdom. With the fall of the former it assumed a measure of political
importance as the centre of Moorish power, till on the division from
Morocco it resumed its old status as nothing more nor less than a
trading centre, a position it has retained to this day.

Among a people of such commercial activity and enterprise as the Arabs
of Morocco, Tripoli, and Egypt, naturally there were not awanting
numbers of students eager to collect and collate information regarding
the inland countries to which their merchants travelled. Among the host
of historians and geographers who supply us with interesting facts, we
may mention El Bekri, El Edrisi (1153), Ebn Said (1282), Ebn Khaldun
(1382), and Makrizi (1400).

But the Arabs had their explorers as well as their writers. Among these
two stand out with marked prominence, viz., Ebn Batuta (1353), and Leo
Africanus (1528). Ebn Batuta, who seems to have been devoured with a
thirst for travel, and had visited almost all the countries of the then
known world, commenced his Central African explorations from Morocco,
and crossed the desert to Walata, the frontier province of Melli,
situated not far from the Niger. From Walata he crossed the Niger to
the capital of the kingdom, and thence by land proceeded to Timbuktu.
From Kabara, the “port” of Timbuktu, he sailed down the Niger to Gogo,
the capital of Songhay, and thence turned northward again across the
desert by way of the oasis of Tawat to Morocco.

The travels of Leo Africanus were even more extensive, for he travelled
over the whole of the Central and Western Sudan. Considering that he
wrote an account of his travels from memory many years after, the
events recorded, and the accuracy and amount of varied information
he gives regarding the countries he visited, are astonishing. He
describes not only the kingdoms of Melli, Songhay, and Bornu, but also
the countries that lie between, Gober, Katsena, Kano, and Agades, of
all of which he has something important to say. Even when he seems to
draw most upon our credulity he is generally quite correct, as for
instance when he describes the people of one district kindling fires
at night under their bedsteads to keep themselves warm. To the truth
of this statement the writer of these lines can testify from personal
observation, the precaution being adopted, however, not to ward off
external cold, but that of ague, a disease to which many places on the
Niger are subject at certain times of the year.

It is not our intention to enter into the vexed question of what
the Arab writers and travellers knew regarding the course and final
destination of the Niger. Those of them who travelled did not do so as
geographers, and though they noted accurately enough what they did see,
they troubled themselves very little with what they did not see, and
held aloof from inquiries of a purely speculative character. M‘Queen[4]
has made it clear, however, that many of them were aware that the Nile
and the Niger were distinct, and that the general tendency of Arab
opinion was to make the latter river fall into the Atlantic.

Much of the confusion as to what the Arabs did know or believe arose
largely from the ignorance of European geographers in confounding the
western kingdom of Ghana with the central one of Kano, and of the town
of Kugha, near the Upper Niger, with that of Kuka in Bornu. With the
new light thrown upon the history and geography of the Niger basin, we
can now see that the Arab writers had a wonderfully accurate conception
of the political and physical characteristics of the region in
question. To them is due not only the honour of having raised the veil
which shrouded the Sudan, and spread the seeds of civilisation, which
have flourished so remarkably, but also of disseminating a knowledge of
that region among western nations--a knowledge destined, as we shall
see, to be caught up and carried to great ends with European vigour and
scientific accuracy.



With Leo Africanus the Arab period in the history of African
exploration practically closed. Even in that traveller’s day the
incurable diseases so characteristic of the Mohammedan states of our
time were rapidly developing. Learning and the arts were no longer
encouraged. Liberality of thought and missionary enterprise were
replaced by Fanaticism, hatred of the stranger, and isolation from all
outside genial influences. A blight was falling over everything that
had made the Arab name great and glorious in the world’s history.

Happily for the cause of progress, while the Crescent thus waned
and lost its lustre in the rising mephitic fogs, the Cross was
ever gathering to itself new glories, and proving the herald and
morning-star of a brighter and greater era. Under its inspiring
influences the western nations were emerging from the gloom and
ignorance in which they had been enshrouded, and were feeling the
throbs of new heroic impulses.

Among the Christian nations thus awakening Portugal was taking the
lead. Facing the Atlantic, it was ever looking over the wild waste
of waters, picturing the possible beyond on the blank expanse, and
rearing a hardy race of navigators all unconscious of the great mission
that was yet to be theirs. Southward, too, their thoughts were ever
turning, following their soldiers as they fought against the Moors
and planted their most Christian flag along the entire coast-line
of Morocco. Echoes there were which came to them of the vast wealth
of Inner Africa, of the power of Prester John and the riches of far
Cathay, till the imaginations of kings, soldiers, merchants, and
priests were alike inflamed with a desire to share them. With it
all the vaguest ideas were current as to the extent of the African
continent. The northern coast-line was well enough known, but at the
beginning of the fifteenth century no one had ventured southward beyond
the western termination of the Atlas Mountains, and how much further
south the land extended no one pretended to know. This ignorance,
however, did not last through the century.

Under its energetic and far-seeing kings, John and Immanuel, Portugal
set itself to penetrate behind the veil and attain the honour and the
more substantial rewards secured, as was believed, to those who should
first reach the sources of the gold supply of Inner Africa, the capital
of Prester John, or the countries of the Far East.

Extensive voyages were then unthought of. Sailing was very much a
matter of feeling one’s way along the shore. Hence it was not by any
one extensive voyage, but by many successive expeditions, that the
shore-line of Africa was gradually mapped out. In this way greater
courage, confidence, experience, and skill were gained with each
successful addition to the limits of the known, and a spirit of
emulation was aroused which irresistibly carried the new knight errants
of commerce and science further and further south in search of the
promised land.

In 1433 Cape Bojador was reached by Gilianez, and the Island of Arguin
by Nuno Tristan ten years later. So far deserts and burning suns, a
repellent coast-line and a meagre population of wild nomads, were what
they found--no news of Prester John, no evidence of the vast riches
they had taught themselves to expect. But nothing was allowed to damp
their eager spirit or quash their sanguine expectations.

In 1446 Fernandez passed Cape Verd, and in the following year the
fertile region of Senegambia was reached by Lancelot.

It now seemed as if the bold adventurers were to have their reward.
They had at last arrived at a fertile region abounding in gold and
ivory, and, better still, they began to hear of a great kingdom named
Melli, not then absorbed in the rapidly rising empire of Songhay. This,
they thought, must be the country of Prester John.

These important discoveries, and all the glowing hopes they developed,
gave a new impetus to the course of Portuguese discovery. With renewed
enterprise and persistence adventurous navigators pursued the path
of exploration. By 1471 they had reached the Gold Coast, and before
the close of the century the Cape had been rounded, and, under the
leadership of Almeida and Albuquerque, some of their magnificent dreams
of wealth and power realised in the foundation of their Indian Empire.

But though the Portuguese had thus revealed to the world the Senegal
and the Gambia, and apparently thrown open a door to the kingdom of
the Niger basin, nothing came of it. From the writings of De Barros we
gather that embassies from the King of Portugal were despatched to the
rulers of Melli and Mosi, and even, it is said, to that of Songhay.
Of these missions, however, nothing more has come down to us. They
added seemingly nothing to our knowledge of the interior. Factories
were established along the coast, and even some distance up the rivers
Senegal and Gambia, but the thirst for gold and slaves evidently
swamped all other considerations with the agents in charge, for not an
iota of information do we gather from them--or at least none is now on
record--of the geography of the far interior.

The magnificent enterprise of Portugal in the fields of maritime
discovery was destined to be of the most transient character. Evil days
speedily came upon it, and between Philip II. of Spain on land and the
Dutch at sea, it seemed for a time as if it would lose its place among
the independent nations of Europe.

From the time of its conquest by Spain its course was backward, and its
history became a record of shrinking empire and gradual loss of all
spirit that tends to national greatness and progress. As far as we are
concerned the work of the Portuguese ended with the exploration of the
Senegambian Coast, the discovery of the rivers Senegal and Gambia--then
thought to be branches of the Niger--and the revelation to Europe of
the future route to the Niger and Timbuktu.

The work of exploration so well begun, so magnificently carried on,
though so disastrously closed, began now to fall into other hands.
Contemporaneously with the dwindling of the Portuguese into the
background the English came to the front. It was then the Elizabethan
period, that era of glorious memory, the dawn of Greater Britain. Bold
mariners, like the world has never seen, sprang up on all sides,
and made England the mistress of the seas. A spirit of commercial
enterprise and adventurous daring was developed which nothing could
dismay, nothing withstand. Before the close of that eventful period
Drake had led his countrymen to the rich spoil of the Spanish Main,
Raleigh had laid the foundation of English rule in North America,
Baffin and Hudson had cleared the way for Arctic exploration, and Davis
had not only started the series of heroic expeditions connected with
the North-west Passage, but had led English ships to the Indian Seas.

With these, however, we have nothing to do. Of more importance is it to
us to note that Hawkins had made his first voyage to the West African
Coast, and inaugurated that horrid traffic in human flesh and blood
which has left such an indelible stain on British commerce.

But it was not only the slave trade which drew the attention of English
merchants to Africa. To them as to the Portuguese the Niger and
Timbuktu were words to conjure with. Both were believed to be veritable
mines of wealth. To the imagination of the time the one was pictured as
flowing over golden sands, the other as almost paved with the precious
metal. It was believed that the Senegal and the Gambia constituted the
Niger mouths, and accordingly that to ascend either river would bring
the traveller direct to the source of so much wealth. To accomplish
this now became the dream of nations, so that it may well be said that
the Niger and its fancied treasures were the magnet which drew men on
to the exploration of the interior of the Dark Continent.

It had been the mission of Portugal to draw a girdle round Africa; it
was now to be the _rôle_ of Britain to take up the work and penetrate
inland with more lasting results than had followed Portuguese embassies
and missionary and commercial enterprises.

The year 1618 saw the commencement of this noble work. A company was
formed to explore the Gambia, with the object of reaching the rich
region of the Niger.


The honour of being Britain’s pioneer in African exploration fell to
the lot of one Richard Thompson, described as being a man of spirit and
enterprise. He left England in the _Catherine_, of 120 tons, with a
cargo worth nearly £2000, and reached the Gambia towards the end of the
year. Here he found the Portuguese still in power, ruling the nations
with grinding tyranny, though rapidly sinking into the commercial and
national apathy which has made them a byword in the nineteenth century.

[Map: O. DAPPER, 1671.]

Thompson’s enterprise, like so many which succeeded it, was doomed to
suffer sad disaster. First the Portuguese fell upon and massacred a
large part of the crew while its captain was exploring up the river.
Undismayed he stuck to his post, and demanded reinforcements and
supplies. His employers were of like metal to himself, and promptly
sent another vessel to his assistance. The climate proved as formidable
an enemy as the Portuguese, and most of the crew of the new ship
succumbed to the deadly miasma.

Still another vessel was fitted out, its owners undaunted by loss
of men and goods, and sanguine as ever of the glorious prize to be

This time one Richard Jobson took command. He arrived in the Gambia in
1620, only to hear of a new calamity and a new and even more paralysing
source of danger--Thompson’s men had mutinied and murdered him.
Portuguese hostility, a deadly climate, and mutiny in the camp were all
arrayed against the hoped for advance into the country. But those old
mariners were made of stern unyielding stuff, which only death itself
could break, and undismayed Jobson defied all dangers and started
on his quest. With each succeeding mile new difficulties beset the
gallant band. No pilots could be got to show the way. For a time this
proved no serious obstacle. Soon, however, the current grew stronger,
and threatened to drive them back. They were in hourly peril from
hidden rocks, and falls and rapids raised a foaming barrier to further
progress. Sand-banks there were, too, on which they grounded, and
crocodiles had to be braved in getting clear of them, while sea-horses
snorted angrily and threatened to swamp the boats. Unprovided with the
mosquito-nets of modern times, their days of overpowering fatigue under
a melting sun were followed by nights of maddening torture under the
stings of myriad mosquitoes and sandflies. But everything was new and
wonderful to them. They were like children bursting into a new world
full of undreamed of marvels, a veritable land of enchantment. The
voracious crocodiles and the monstrous hippos in the river, elephants
in troops crashing irresistibly through the dense forest, leopards
watching cat-like for their prey, and lions disturbing the silence of
night with their awe-inspiring roars, were some of the elements of this
new wonderland. There, too, were monkeys among the trees--their gambols
a never failing source of delight; and baboons trooping through the
underbush in enormous herds, filling the air with strange outcries,
except when “one great voice would exalt itself, and the rest were

Not less astonishing was the insect life of the tropic forest--the
fireflies in myriad numbers flashing with iridescent colours in the
gloom of night, the crickets raising their deafening chorus, the
strange beetles, and the many-coloured butterflies.

How marvellous, too, must the tropic foliage have appeared to the
explorers, fresh as they were from England. The immense grasses, the
almost impenetrable undergrowth, the beauties of the palm tribe, the
majesty of the silk-cotton tree. Last, not least, how passing strange
the appearance of the natives, their comparative absence of dress,
their simple habits and rudimentary ideas about all things under
heaven. The modern traveller, _blasé_ with the rich heritage of a
hundred predecessors, cannot but envy the sensations of such an one
as Jobson on seeing for the first time all the marvels, beauties, and
novelties of Africa.

But while we vainly try to realise the feelings inspired in the mind
of this pioneer, we are not oblivious of the terrible earnestness and
determination, the indomitable courage and dogged perseverance of the
man. The very devil himself has no terrors for Jobson. Hearing certain
remarkable sounds, and being told by the natives that it is the voice
of the devil, the intrepid sailor seizes his gun and rushes forth to do
battle with his Satanic Majesty, who, on our hero’s appearance, changes
his terrible roars into notes of terror, and shows himself as a huge
negro grovelling in the dust in an agony of fear.

On the 26th January 1621, Jobson had reached a place called Tenda,
where he heard of a city four months’ journey into the interior, the
roofs of which were covered with gold. Unhappily, however much his
appetite might be whetted by such wonderful stories, it had to remain
unsatisfied. The dry season soon began to tell upon the volume of water
in the river, making advance daily more difficult, till within a few
days of a town called Tombaconda, some 300 miles from the sea, he was
compelled to desist from further attempts, although he believed that
Tombaconda was Timbuktu itself, in reality distant about 1000 miles.
On the 10th February he commenced his return, hoping to go back and
complete his work with the rising of the waters, a project he however
never executed.

Quarrels broke out between the merchants on the river and the Company,
and the enterprise for the time being collapsed.

It was not till nearly a century later that a new attempt was made
to prosecute the task of reaching the Niger and the wealth of Inner
Africa. In 1720, the Duke of Chandos, acting as chairman of the African
Company, instigated a new expedition by way of the Gambia to the land
of promise.

This time the enterprise was placed under the leadership of one
Captain Bartholomew Stibbs, who left England in 1723, and arrived in
the Gambia in October of that year. His experiences were identical with
those of Jobson, though he did not reach the latter’s highest point.
Between them, however, it was made quite clear that the Gambia had no
connection with the Niger, and as little with the Senegal.

With Stibbs ended the English commercial attempts to open up the way to
the interior of Africa.

The addition to our knowledge of its geography amounted to the
exploration of the navigable part of the Gambia, and the determination
of the fact that it had no connection with the Niger.

The French meanwhile were doing for the Senegal what the British were
accomplishing in the sister river. Six years after Thompson had entered
the latter, the French had established themselves at the mouth of
the Senegal and founded the town of St. Louis. Their first exploring
trip was made in 1637, when they penetrated some distance along the
navigable part of the river.

More important, however, was the expedition in 1697 of one Sieur
Brue, director-general of the French African Company, which achieved
considerable success. This expedition was backed up by a second voyage
up the river two years later, when the fort of St. Joseph was founded,
and trade opened with merchants from Timbuktu.

Sieur Brue’s experiences were in every respect similar to those of
Jobson and Stibbs on the Gambia, though commercially more fortunate,
inasmuch as he had to do with more advanced races, and contrived to
reach the frontiers of a rich gold-bearing district (Bambuk) on the one
hand, and of an equally profitable gum region on the other.

He also heard much of the Niger and Timbuktu, and seemingly satisfied
himself that the Senegal had no connection with the famous river of
the interior, and that the latter flowed east, not west, as it was the
tendency of his day to believe, since we find the French maps of the
eighteenth century showing the Niger flowing towards the interior and
an uncertain bourne.



The latter part of the eighteenth century marks the commencement of the
modern period of African exploration. So far all African enterprises
had been instigated by governments for national aggrandisement, or by
merchants with commercial objects in view. Early Portuguese discovery
was a type of the one; the British expedition to the Gambia an example
of the other. But now the time had come when, dissociated from both,
African exploration was to start forth on a new line of unselfish
research, and accomplish what governments and commercial communities
had failed in doing.

To the African Association belongs the honour of inaugurating this new
and more glorious era. Lord Rawdon, afterwards Marquis of Hastings,
Sir Joseph Banks, the Bishop of Landaff, Mr. Beaufoy, and Mr. Stuart,
were the first managers of this Association, whose objects were the
promotion of discovery in Africa, and the spread of information,
commercial, political, and scientific, regarding the still sadly
unknown continent.

At first the Association devoted their attention to Northern Africa,
and in a short time were instrumental in gathering together much
reliable and valuable information as to the Mohammedan states of that

Their inquiries, however, were not to be bounded by the Sahara any more
than the first onrush of the Mohammedan torrent.

The routes of the large caravans to the Sudan were made a subject of
investigation, and the Arab writers laid under contribution to satisfy
the demand for more light.

To the Niger especially their inquiries were turned, in the hope of
solving the mystery of its true position and its course. Where did it
commence and where did it end? was the double problem which puzzled
the eighteenth century geographers more even than the question of the
source of the Nile.

Not content with inquiries which only landed them in perplexities and
endless discussion, they resolved to send out explorers. To such they
offered no monetary inducements, no hope of tangible reward. The honour
and glory of discovery were to be their prize: the Association at
the same time undertaking, for their part, to defray the traveller’s

The inducements offered were quite sufficient. Admirably qualified men
presented themselves in greater numbers than were needed, so that the
chief difficulty of the Association was to choose rather than to seek.

The first of the heroic band of African pioneers was Ledyard, already a
traveller of the most varied experience. His mission was to cross the
African Continent from the Nile to the Atlantic. At the threshold of
his enterprise he perished of fever in 1788.

Mr. Lucas was the next to take up the work. His qualifications were an
intimate knowledge of Moorish life and language, gathered first as a
slave in Morocco, then as British Vice-Consul to that empire. The work
marked out for him was to start from Tripoli and cross the Sahara to
the Sudan. In this he failed. A revolt of Arab tribes barred the way,
and Mr. Lucas abandoned the enterprise, bringing back with him only
additional particulars regarding the interior, which he had gathered
from native merchants.

More successful in the earlier part of a succeeding expedition was
Horneman (1789), who undoubtedly crossed the desert, but crossed it
only to disappear for ever.

Clearly Africa was a hard nut to crack, and dangerous to whomsoever
should essay it.

Foiled in their attempts to reach the goal of their desires from
the north, the African Association next turned to West Africa for a
possible opening to the interior. Once more the Gambia was chosen as
the most direct and feasible route.

In Major Houghton they seemed to have got the right man for the work.
As Consul at Morocco he had gained an acquaintance with the Moors and
their language, and at Goree, then in British hands, he had come in
contact with the West African negro, and learned the conditions of life
and travel obtaining in the Gambia region.

The new attempt was made in 1791. Unlike Jobson and Stibbs, the
adventurous explorer did not proceed by boat and with a large European
party, but by land, single-handed, and attended by the most modest of
retinues. At first all went well; no difficulties or troubles retarded
his progress. Generally following the course of the river he safely
reached Medina, the capital of Wuli, and was hospitably received by
the king of the place. Less kind were the elements. A fire which
reduced the town to ashes deprived him of much of his goods. From
Medina Houghton’s route diverged from the Gambia, passing west to
the Falemé, a southern tributary of the Senegal, and frontier line
of the gold-bearing region of Bambuk. Here also he was received with
hospitality, and was sent on his way through Bambuk rejoicing. Not
to rejoice long, however. The last communication received from him
contained these graphic lines: “Major Houghton’s compliments to Dr.
Laidley; is in good health, on his way to Timbuktu; robbed of all
his goods by Fenda Bukar’s son.” No despair in these words, whatever
calamities might have befallen the writer; no halting in the resolution
to achieve his object--only the one unhesitating determination to go
forward. But it was to go forward to die. In spite of Fenda Bukar’s
son he seems still to have possessed sufficient means to rouse the
unscrupulous cupidity of some Moors. Lured on by these wretches he was
led into the desert, where he was stripped of everything and left to a
horrible death.

It would seem that the disastrous ending of these various expeditions
had thrown a damper upon the eagerness of volunteers to continue the
work, for we now find the African Association offering the inducement
of a liberal recompense to whomsoever would take up the task broken off
by Houghton’s death.

Little wonder if qualified men hesitated to offer themselves. African
fevers had a terror then which they no longer possess. The continent
was practically unknown, and to the imagination, with no facts to act
as correctives, everything wore a terrible aspect. Cannibalism, general
bloodthirstiness and ferocity, a love of plunder, and all manner of
horrible practices, were associated with the name of negro. Death by
thirst or starvation was thought likely to be the lot of those who
escaped the miasma of the land or the murderous spear of the native.
Brave indeed would be the man who should face such an accumulation of
vaguely discerned and mightily exaggerated horrors.

Nevertheless the African Association had not long to wait. At this
crisis in their affairs the man for the work was forthcoming, one
destined to crown their hopes with a triumphant success, to inaugurate
a more brilliant future for African travel, and give it such an impetus
as would carry it on to a glorious issue. This was Mungo Park.



To continue our narrative of exploration we must now leave the
sweltering suns and miasmatic atmosphere of Western Africa for
the temperate climate and bracing breezy hillsides of southern
Scotland--turning from the river dear to the geographer to the stream
loved of the poet--from the Niger to the Yarrow.

The man whose mission it was to break through the isolating barriers
reared by savagery and a deadly climate between the land of the
negro and all outside humanising influences, must needs have an
heroic cradle, and come of an heroic race. His must be the nurture
of the Spartan, physically equipping him to battle with hardship and
privation--his the education and upbringing which tend to all forms of
noble discontent and deeds of high emprise.

Such a cradle and such a race were Ettrickdale and its peasantry.
Theirs was the life of honest toil and constant self-restraint, and
theirs the direct and indirect education which in the right man
develops romantic instincts, and weds to a perfervid imagination stern
religious convictions, intense practicality, and prosaic tenacity of
purpose. Theirs were the surroundings fitted alike to mould the poet or
the hero--him who should sing of the chivalry of the past, or him who
should be of the chivalry of the present, in whatever field is scope
for praiseworthy ambition and highest aspiration--clear-sighted vision
and undaunted courage, dogged persistence and untiring perseverance,
fortitude under reverses, and physical powers to endure privation.

This, then, was the heritage which Ettrickdale had to offer to her
sons; and this, as one of them, the heritage of Mungo Park, the first
of the knight errantry of Africa.


Of the early life of him who was destined to partially unveil the
face of Africa we know but little, though that little is sufficiently
significant and satisfactory.

Mungo Park was born on the 10th September 1771 in the cottage of
Foulshiels, some four and a half miles from Selkirk. Foulshiels stands
in the very centre of the loveliest scenery of the glen of Yarrow,
facing on the opposite side of the valley the stately tower of Newark.
Eastward it commands a view over the woods and groves and “birchen
bowers” of the widening dale to where it merges in the valley of the
Ettrick near Selkirk. Westward it fronts a magnificent panorama of hill
and dale, through which curves the Yarrow in broken gleaming reaches,
from the wild romantic scenery of its loch and mountain sources. To
front and rear rise stately hills, their bases separated and washed by
the rushing streams, their lower slopes clad with oak and fir, their
upper with grass and heather, over which the winds sweep unopposed.

But if the surroundings of Park’s birthplace were grand, the cottage,
of which the ruins still exist, was humble in the extreme. It was
neither better nor worse than might be tenanted by shepherds of the
present day in out-of-the-way places, being built substantially of
whinstone and lime, and containing at the most three apartments. The
building presents not a trace of ornament, not a relieving cornice,
thus fitly expressing the character of its occupants, their extreme
practicality, their plain honest soundness and indifference to all
external graces. From such a cottage sprang a Burns, and later on a

Mungo was the seventh child of a family of thirteen, of whom, however,
only eight reached the age of maturity. By unremitting care and
hard work his father had raised himself to the position of a small
farmer--how small his cottage sufficiently shows. In him, however, we
have undoubtedly one of that type of Scottish fathers who will pinch
his own body and double the slavery of his life in order that his
children may receive a better education than he himself had, and that
their minds at least may not be starved and stunted. As Park’s first
biographer puts it, writing in 1816, “The attention of the Scottish
farmers and peasantry to the early instruction of their children is
strongly exemplified in the history of Park’s family. The diffusion
of knowledge among the natives of that part of the kingdom and their
general intelligence must be admitted by every unprejudiced observer;
nor is there any country in which the effects of education are so
conspicuous in promoting industry and good conduct, and in producing
useful and respectable men of the inferior and middle classes admirably
fitted for all the important offices of common life.”

It would seem that there was no school near enough to Foulshiels
for the Park children in the earlier years of their life to be able
to attend, since we find a resident teacher engaged to impart the
necessary rudiments of education.

With maturer years Mungo was transferred to the Selkirk Grammar School,
to which he probably walked each morning.

From this time we begin to get glimpses of his peculiar personality
and character. It does not appear that he showed any special talent
while at school, though constant in his attendance, and studious in
application. We gather that he was dreamy and reserved, a great reader,
a lover of poetry, and passionately fond of the quaint lore and simple
minstrelsy so markedly associated with the border counties of Scotland.

His, clearly, was not the temperament which would receive its
guiding impulses from the routine work of school or the precepts and
instruction of schoolmasters. Such conventional influences would never
have led him to Africa. His inspirations were derived from the ballads
that were sung and the tales that were told by every country fireside.
For him the rushing Yarrow, Newark’s ruined towers, the spreading
field, the swelling hillside, and the mountain top were teachers, each
with a tale to tell of bold adventure or of deadly strife.

The whole country was redolent with the romance of the half-forgotten
past, with a hundred memories dear to a patriotic heart. In all around
him there was something to throw a glamour over his young eager mind,
something to fire his imagination and arouse eager longings to be up
and doing deeds undefined, yet ever great and noble. From the stately
castle, which now looked down on him in melancholy ruined majesty,
brave knights of bygone days had ridden forth to fight for king and
country or for love. Their day was past, but might not he in other
guise emerge from his lowly cottage, and with other weapons win his
golden spurs.

In what way all these vague ambitions and this spiritual fermentation
was to end there was but small indication. It is given only to the few
to realise in after life the romantic dreams of their youth.

At first it seems Mungo was destined by his father for the ministry,
but he himself preferred medicine, to which choice no objection appears
to have been made.

To acquire the rudiments of his medical education, when fifteen years
of age he was placed, as was the custom of the time, as apprentice
to Dr. Thomas Anderson, a surgeon in Selkirk, a gentleman whose
descendants still practise the healing art in the same town. For three
years he remained with the Doctor, not only acquiring a knowledge of
medicine, but still further grounding himself in the classics and
other branches of education at the Grammar School.

Further than this we know nothing of his life in the Anderson family,
though that his time was agreeably spent we may deduce from the fact
that, as we shall see later on, he some years after married Dr.
Anderson’s eldest daughter.

In the year 1789 Park left Selkirk for the University of Edinburgh to
complete his medical studies. Three successive sessions seems to have
been all that was necessary to qualify in these days.

We are told that he was an ardent student, and distinguished among his
fellows. Botany was his favourite subject, this fact being doubtless
largely due to the inspiring influence of his brother-in-law, Mr.
James Dickson, who from being a gardener had raised himself by his own
exertions to be no common botanist and the author of some valuable and
important works.

It was while still a medical student that Park came more directly in
contact with Dickson, and with him he went a botanical tour in the

Dickson did more for his young brother-in-law than inspire him with a
love of botany. He was on a footing of considerable intimacy with Sir
Joseph Banks, one of the chief managers of the African Association,
and when Park left the University he introduced him to his influential
friend, and so brought him in contact with the influences which were to
make Mungo Park the first of famous African travellers.

But the time was not yet. Park had still to prepare himself practically
for his great mission by widening his experience of life and
travel--had still to get further bitten with the fever of unrest. Hence
in 1792 we find him sailing not to Africa, but to the East, as surgeon
in the East India Company’s service.

At this point he supplies us with an admirable and characteristic
glimpse of himself in a letter addressed to his teacher in surgery
and future father-in-law, Dr. Anderson of Selkirk. The letter is
dated London, 23rd January 1793, and the following is an interesting

    “I have now got upon the first step of the stair of ambition.
    Here’s a figure of it. (A pen and ink sketch is here given of a
    flight of steps with a man on the lowest.) It very nearly resembles
    one of Gordon’s traps which he uses in the library. Now, if I
    should run up the stair, you see the consequence. I must either
    be mortified by seeing I can get no further, or, by taking an
    airy step, knock my brains out against the large folio of some
    succeeding author. May I use my little advantage in height to
    enable me to perform the office of a watchman to the rest of
    mankind, and call to them, ‘Take care, sirs! Don’t look too high,
    or you’ll break your legs on that stool. Open your eyes; you are
    going straight for the fire.’

    “Passed at Surgeons’ Hall! Associate of the Linnean Society! I
    walked three or four times backwards and forwards through the hall,
    and had actually begun to count the panes of glass in the large
    window, when the bell rang, and the beadle roared out, ‘Mr. Park!’
    Macbeth’s start when he beheld the dagger was a mere jest compared
    to mine....

    “I have purchased Stewart’s Philosophy to amuse me at sea. As
    you are in Edinburgh, you will write to me what people say of
    its religious character. You told me in Sandy’s (his brother
    Alexander presumably, who was at the time following the medical
    course he himself had just completed) letter that you would write
    me next week. I have too much to say, and therefore must speak by

    “The melancholy, who complain of the shortness of human life, and
    the voluptuous, who think the present only their own, strive to
    fill up every moment with sensual enjoyment; but the man whose soul
    has been enlightened by his Creator, and enabled, though dimly,
    to discern the wonders of salvation, will look upon the joys and
    afflictions of this life as equally the tokens of Divine love. He
    will walk through the world as one travelling to a better country,
    looking forward with wonder to the author and finisher of his

    “_P.S._--I sail in about a month.”


It was in this buoyant mood of the young conqueror-to-be that Park
looked forth upon the field of enterprise opened up to him, and with
Stewart’s Philosophy to amuse him, and his deeply rooted religious
convictions to sustain him, left England for the Indies.

As showing the force of these convictions, we may quote another letter,
written to Dr. Anderson when on the point of departure:--

    “I have now reached that height that I can behold the tumults of
    nations with indifference, confident that the reins of events
    are in our Father’s hands. May you and I (not like the stubborn
    mule, but like the weaning child) obey His hand, that after all
    the troubles of this dark world in which we are truly strangers,
    we may, through the wonders of atonement, reach a far greater and
    exceeding weight of glory. I wish you may be able to look upon the
    day of your departure with the same resignation that I do on mine.
    My hope is now approaching to a certainty. If I be deceived, may
    God alone put me right, for I would rather die in the delusion than
    wake to all the joys of earth. May the Holy Spirit dwell for ever
    in your heart, my dear friend, and if I never see my native land
    again, may I rather see the green sod on your grave than see you
    anything but a Christian.”

Nothing noteworthy marked this voyage to Sumatra, but his stay there
was by no means wasted time, since it afforded him an excellent
opportunity of indulging his scientific tastes, not as the collector
merely, but also and chiefly as the accurate observer.

A paper in the Linnean Transactions on eight new fishes from Sumatra
is sufficient evidence both of his industry and of his scientific

Park returned to England after a year’s absence, and was now ripe
for the work in store for him. It nowhere appears that so far he had
even once thought of Africa as a possible field for his ambition and
energies. His natural temperament, however, had been a fertile soil
for the romantic ideas which his early environment had planted. His
medical education had further fitted him for the work of exploration,
besides bringing him more sympathetically in contact with his
botanical brother-in-law, who again was to bring him within the sphere
of influence of Sir Joseph Banks, and through him of the African
Association. Following these various determining influences came the
first taste of travel, the wider experience, and the knowledge of the
good and evil of the wanderer’s life. All that remained wanting was
the golden opportunity to prove in action his potential capacity for
heroic service in the fields of geographical research.

The return of Park from his first voyage was the turning point in his
career. At the moment there was a crisis in the affairs of the African
Association. Everything they had attempted had ended disastrously,
and news had just reached them of the sad death of Major Houghton.
Should the task now be given up, or was it to be resumed with renewed
zeal and ardour? There could be but one answer. The work begun must be
continued. Surely in the end it must be crowned with success. Meantime,
who was to take it up?

While the Association was thus inquiring for the man fitted to entrust
with their perilous venture, Park was still undecided as to what
course in life he was to pursue. With Sir Joseph Banks as a link
between, there could not fail to be a speedy understanding and a
mutual settlement of the questions at issue for both. The projects of
the Association speedily came to Park’s ears. Here was the very work
he wanted, promising opportunities to indulge in his love of travel
and natural history far transcending his wildest dreams. A splendid
prospect of a great work accomplished and glory won, of difficulties
surmounted and fame achieved, opened up before him. Before such a
chance there could be no irresolution, no doubting, no fears. His
course was clear, and at once he volunteered his services, which were,
on the part of the Company, as promptly and eagerly accepted as they
had been offered.

Mungo Park was then twenty-four years of age.



On the 22nd of May 1795, Mungo Park left England on board the
_Endeavour_, an African trader. On the 21st of the following month he
landed at the mouth of the river Gambia.

Bathurst, the present seat of government for the Gambia basin, was
not then in existence, with its present busy European community and
thriving native population, its imposing public buildings and well
laid out streets. The native town of Jillifri on the north bank, and
a little way up the river, was the first place of call in the early
trading days of the Gambia merchants.

From Jillifri the _Endeavour_ ascended the river to Jonkakonda.

The view which opened up before Park as he proceeded was neither
attractive nor promising. The river flowed seaward deep and muddy, its
banks covered with impenetrable forests of mangrove, forming when the
tide was out a horrible expanse of swamp. The air was thick with a
sickening haze, charged with the poisonous exhalations from the fœtid
mud engendered by heat and moisture. Here and there only, a group of
cocoa-nuts, or an isolated bombyx (silk-cotton tree) relieved the
dreary monotony, and gave a momentary pleasure to the eye.

[Map: MUNGO PARK’S TRAVELS. 1794-1805.]

Behind the mangrove swamps the country spread out in a level plain,
“very generally covered with woods, and presenting a tiresome and
gloomy uniformity to the eye; but although nature has denied to the
inhabitants the beauties of romantic landscapes, she has bestowed on
them with a liberal hand the more important blessings of fertility and

At Jonkakonda, which seems to have been one of the chief trading
stations on the river, Park left the _Endeavour_, and proceeded to the
factory of Pisania, a few miles further on.

In Dr. Laidley, the agent in charge, for whom he brought letters,
Park found not only a generous host, but also a thoroughly competent
adviser, and for several succeeding months the merchant’s house and
wide experience were alike at his disposal.

The objects to be attained by his expedition were--To reach the river
Niger by such route as might be found most convenient; to ascertain its
origin, course, and if possible its termination; to visit the chief
towns in its neighbourhood, but more particularly Timbuktu and those of
the Haussa country.

Park’s ardent enthusiasm was ever tempered with the caution and
prudent practical character of his race. Like an old campaigner he set
about learning what was ahead of him, and otherwise preparing for his
difficult and dangerous task. The Mandingo language had to be acquired,
that he might come into more sympathetic touch with the natives, and be
more independent of interpreters, ever a source of profound danger, and
often the greatest obstacle to the advance of the explorer into unknown
countries. In addition inquiries had to be made regarding routes, the
dangers to be avoided, and the general condition of travel in these
parts. Without such information it was clear to him that he would be as
a blind man walking in a country beset with a thousand pitfalls.

But while thus preparing for his task, Park was not oblivious to what
was more immediately around. We get glimpses of him making natural
history collections by day, and taking astronomical observations by
night. In particular he occupied himself in getting up the details of
the trade of the Gambia. Since the time when Stibbs had ascended the
river in the vain hope of reaching the Niger, a considerable change had
come over the commerce of the region. The fancied wealth of Timbuktu
had not been tapped, but the commodities of the countries within
reach of the river had proved no inconsiderable source of profit. In
the year 1730 we find one factory alone consisting of a governor,
deputy-governor, and two other principal officers; eight factors (hence
the word factory) or trading agents, thirteen writers, twenty inferior
attendants and tradesmen, a company of soldiers, and thirty-two negro
servants, not to speak of the crews of various sloops, shallops, and
boats. From that date, however, competition set in, till at the end of
the century the gross value of British exports had fallen to £20,000.

It is worthy of note that even in Park’s time the chief article of
export is slaves. Accustomed as we are in these days to denounce in the
strongest terms this vile traffic, and to brand as the most degraded
and brutal of their race those who engage in it, it is difficult to
realise that less than a century ago we ourselves were the chief
traffickers in human flesh and blood. How little this horrible trade
touched the conscience of the individual or of the country at large is
sufficiently shown by Park’s own narrative. We seek there in vain for a
word of condemnation, or the indication of a consciousness that there
was any iniquity in it. Not, be it noted, for lack of knowledge of the
attendant cruelties or even through lack of pity for the victims. On
the contrary, he describes “the poor wretches while waiting shipment
kept constantly fettered two and two together, and employed in the
labours of the field; and, I am sorry to add, very scantily fed, as
well as harshly treated.”

Later on he accompanied a slave caravan on its way to the coast. With
simple naturalness he tells the whole story of the horrors of the
route, describing the fetters and chains, the frightful marches, with
heavy loads, under a sweltering sun, and with starvation rations; the
whip mercilessly applied to the weary to stimulate them to further
exertions, and the knife placed to the throat of the hopelessly
exhausted, at once to rid them of pain and their drivers of a
burden--“an operation I did not wish to see, and therefore marched on.”

He is quite aware that all these horrors are perpetrated that a
European market may be supplied. He knows also what has preceded the
slave path, and yet, incredible as it may seem, not one indignant
protest is drawn from him, not one appeal to Christian Europe, not
even a word of commendation of the work already inaugurated for its
suppression. Quite the opposite, in fact, on which point let Park
speak for himself. “How far it (slavery) is maintained and supported
by the slave traffic, which for two hundred years the nations of
Europe have carried on with the natives of the coast, it is neither
within my province nor in my power to explain. If my sentiments should
be required concerning the effect which a discontinuance of that
commerce would produce on the manners of the natives, I should have
no hesitation in observing that in the present unenlightened state of
their minds my opinion is, the effect would neither be so extensive or
beneficial as many wise and worthy persons fondly expect.”

The wonder of the thing is intensified, to our mind, when we reflect on
the deep religious nature of Park, his genuine kind-heartedness, his
noble ambitions, and his appreciation of all that is sweet in human
nature. The story is pregnant with meaning as to the influence of our
environment in opening or shutting our eyes to what is going on around

But while Britain was then awakening to a sense of its guilt, and
preparing to purge itself of the unholy traffic, we find from
Park’s notes that a new trade, destined to have almost as terrible
consequences, was already established. Europe, he tells us, took from
the Gambia chiefly slaves, and gave in return spirits and ammunition.
For over two hundred years the unfortunate natives of Africa had been
treated as wild creatures, the lawful prey and spoil of the higher
races. The mother was tempted to sell her child, and the chief his
subjects. Village fought against village, and tribe against tribe,
that American plantations might be tilled. As wild beasts and things
accursed the negroes were shot down in myriads, in myriads they
perished on the road, in myriads were transported to a life of shame
and misery. And now, when a new order of things was about to be
instituted, there had commenced another hundred years of disgraceful
commerce to complete the work of brutalising the West Coast negro,
of blighting all elevating impulses, and suppressing all habits of
industry, transforming him into what he is to-day--the most villainous,
treacherous, and vicious being to be found in all Africa.

Thanks to the slave trade in past centuries, and the gin traffic in
the present, our West Coast Settlements, instead of being bright
jewels in the imperial crown of Britain, are at this day little better
than standing monuments to her disgrace. Happily the closing years
of this century are showing signs of an awakened public conscience.
Governments, companies, and private merchants alike are taking a higher
view of their responsibilities to barbarous races, and before another
half century has come and gone we may hope to see the vile monster
badly scotched if not killed.

But while we gather from Park that in his day the slave trade was
carried on by British merchants without a qualm of conscience, and
that already gunpowder and gin formed the staple articles of barter
for human flesh and blood, it is hardly less noteworthy that Islam was
steadily making its beneficent influence felt throughout the whole
land. He tells us that the inhabitants were divided into two great
classes--the _Sonakies_ or spirit drinkers, and the _Bushreens_ or
Mohammedans: the former, pagans sinking deeper and deeper in the scale
of humanity under the degrading influence of European intercourse
and commerce; the latter ever rising upward, adopting decent dress
and decent behaviour, building mosques and establishing schools, and
specially attempting to stem the flood of vile spirits poured into the
country by Christian merchants.

We have in a previous chapter alluded to the mighty revolution produced
by Islam in the Central Sudan. Here we are only at the missionary
outposts. Further inland, as we follow the footsteps of Park, we shall
see more and more of the good work Mohammedanism had accomplished in
Central Africa.

Meanwhile it was not all study and observation with the young explorer.
He had to go through a seasoning process of an unpleasant nature.
Having on one occasion imprudently exposed himself to the night dew, he
caught a fever, and while recovering had a second attack, which kept
him a prisoner for some additional weeks.

Thanks to the care of Dr. Laidley no evil consequences followed, while
“his company and conversation beguiled the tedious hours during that
gloomy season (the rains): when suffocating heats oppress by day, and
when the night is spent by the terrified traveller in listening to the
croaking of frogs, of which the numbers are beyond imagination, the
shrill cry of the jackal, and the deep howling of the hyena--a dismal
concert interrupted only by the roar of such tremendous thunder as no
person can form a conception of but those who have heard it.”



The time had at last arrived for Park to start on his great undertaking.

In the beginning of October the Gambia had attained its greatest
height, or fifteen feet above the high-water mark of the tide, and then
had begun to subside rapidly, so that by the beginning of November
the river had sunk to its normal level. This was the time to travel.
The natives had reaped their crops, and food was cheap and plentiful.
The rains were over, the land well drained and dried, the atmosphere
less moist and oppressive--all of which circumstances combined to make
travelling more agreeable and infinitely more healthy.

At first Park had hoped to accompany a native caravan going into the
interior, but abandoned the idea on finding that he would have to wait
an indefinite period for such an escort. He therefore determined to
depend on his own resources rather than lose another good travelling

On the 2nd December 1795 he was ready for the road. Accustomed as we
are to read of the huge caravans, the quantities of goods, stores,
ammunition, and instruments required by exploring expeditions to the
heart of Africa in these degenerate days, we cannot but be surprised
at the modest retinue and scanty _impedimenta_ which Park thought
necessary for his great task. His sole attendants were a negro servant
named Johnson, who had been to Jamaica as a slave, but being freed had
returned to his native country; and Demba, a slave boy belonging to Dr.
Laidley, who, besides Mandingo, spoke the language of one of the inland

As beasts of burden Park had a small but hardy and spirited horse for
himself, and two donkeys for his servants. As baggage he had provisions
for two days; a small assortment of beads, amber, and tobacco for
the purchase of fresh supplies as needed; a few changes of linen and
other necessary articles of dress; an umbrella, a pocket sextant, a
magnetic compass, and a thermometer. For defensive purposes he was
provided with two fowling-pieces, two pairs of pistols, and some other
small weapons. Thus attended, thus provided, and thus armed, Mungo
Park started for the Heart of Africa--an uncertain bourne only to be
reached through deadly perils and frightful miseries and hardships. How
splendidly equipped he must have been with the real necessaries of the
hero--unflinching determination, ardent enthusiasm, Homeric resolve,
and absolute self-reliance. Thus provided with moral weapons and
stimulants he could rise superior to every difficulty and danger, and
emerge from the unequal struggle uncrushed, undefeated, bearing with
him not all, but much of the prize for which he had staked life itself.

Besides Johnson and Demba, Park had the advantage of the company of a
Mohammedan on his way to Bambarra, two slatees or slave-merchants going
to Bondou, and a blacksmith returning home to Kasson.

For the first two marches Dr. Laidley and two other Europeans
accompanied him on his way, feeling as if they were performing the
last offices for the dead, for they never expected to see him again.

On the 3rd of December he took leave of these kind friends, and turned
his face inland towards the east and the Unknown. As he rode slowly
into the woods, after breaking the last link which connected him with
Europe and civilisation, and took the road so lately traversed by Major
Houghton, he could not but recall that to the latter it had been a road
to death. Before him rose up pictures of repellent waterless deserts,
of trackless jungles, gloomy primeval forests, and miasmatic marshes
which had to be penetrated before his eyes would rest upon the river
Niger. Only too clearly he saw the dangers from man and beast which had
to be faced before he could ever hope to get once more in touch with
European civilisation. “Thoughts like these necessarily cast a gloom
over the mind, and I rode musingly along for about three miles, when
I was awakened from my reverie by a body of people who came running
up and stopped my asses.” And with his reflections thus broken by one
of the innumerable annoyances of African travel, they were not again

For the first few marches there was little to note either in incidents
of travel or in aspects of man and nature. The scenery was pleasant,
though but slightly varied--gentle wooded acclivities everywhere,
alternating with cultivated interspaces surrounding towns and villages.
The inhabitants were Mandingoes, untroubled by the trammels of clothes,
Pagans for the most part, and confirmed spirit drinkers; the rest
Mohammedans, respectable in character, decent in dress and behaviour,
lovers of education and religion, haters of strong drink.

By both divisions of the community Park was hospitably received, and
treated to such simple fare and lodging as they themselves possessed.
With daily practice the fatigues of the way became less harassing,
while a keen appetite, and the knowledge that absolutely nothing else
was to be had, made otherwise coarse food seem palatable. Gradually a
new standard of comfort was formed on a scale proportionate to present
possibilities, so that at length positive enjoyment could be got out of
both food and lodging which previously would have been deemed repulsive
and miserable.

From the district of Walli Park entered that of Wuli. At Medina, the
capital of the latter, he was received kindly by the king, who strongly
dissuaded him from proceeding further east into countries where the
white man was unknown, and where the fate of Houghton might be his. But
Park was not to be discouraged, seeing which the king provided him with
a guide to take him on his way.

From Medina the route diverged from the Gambia, and passed E.N.E.
towards the Senegal. For some days nothing special characterised the
march. Everywhere, however, the explorer gets interesting glimpses of
the life and ways of the natives, of their genius for story-telling and
their forensic skill, or of their love of wrestling, an art in which
they are such adepts that he “thinks that few Europeans would have been
able to cope with the conqueror.”

At one place he finds that the men have a curious way of administering
disciplinary punishment to troublesome wives.

Evidently in the huge feminine establishments of the Mandingo husband
the ordinary human hand is unable to keep the women in due subjection
and order. The unfortunate husband with trouble in the house, and
afraid to tackle the offender or offenders in the ordinary manner, has
recourse to underhand ways. In every village a masquerading dress is
kept for the use of Mumbo Jumbo, a mysterious person whose business it
is to seek out and punish wayward wives. When a husband finds matters
becoming too hot for him in his household, he secretly possesses
himself of this dress and disappears into the woods. At nightfall
frightful noises are heard near the town--the signal that Mumbo Jumbo
is abroad. Terror falls upon every mutinous and erring member of the
frail yet troublesome sex, for no one knows on whom the rod shall
descend. None, however, dare to disobey the summons, for now they
have to deal with the devil himself, backed up by all the male powers
of the village. For the men the occasion is a joyous one--though not
so for the women. All hurry to the meeting-place to take part in the
proceedings, and unite in the active assertion of marital authority.
But the victim is not immediately pounced upon. The terrors and
uncertainties of conscious backsliders must be endured for hours,
cloaked beneath a well-simulated air of innocence and careless gaiety.
The time is spent in songs and dances, as if to celebrate the coming
detection of the rebel and the triumph of order and the principle of
masculine rule. About midnight the witch-like revelry ceases, and a
frost of uneasy silence falls upon the female throng. Who is to be the
victim? The next moment the question is practically answered, as one
of the number is seized, stripped naked, tied to a post, and severely
scourged amid the applause of the crowd, loudest among whom are the
ninety and nine other women, each of whom a moment before had thought
herself a possible sufferer.

A similar spirit is not unknown in our own country and times.

On the 11th December Mungo Park, without mishap or discouragement, had
reached Kujar, the frontier town of Wuli, to the east.

Between Wuli and Bondou, the next country, there lay a waterless
wilderness, two days’ march in extent. The guide from the King of Wuli
had here to return, and his place was taken by three elephant hunters.

At Kujar, Park found himself examined with an increased curiosity and
reverence, indicating a much less degree of familiarity with the white

On the 12th the party started for the passage of the wilderness, minus
one of the guides, who had absconded with the money he had received
in advance. Before proceeding far the two remaining guides insisted
on stopping till they had ensured a safe journey by preparing a charm
which would divert all danger from them. The charm was simple enough,
and consisted in muttering a few sentences over a stone, which was
afterwards spat upon and thrown in the direction of travel--a process
repeated three times.

At midday the little party of travellers reached a tree, called by the
natives _Neema Faba_, which was hung all over with offerings of rags
and scraps of cloth to propitiate the evil spirit of the place. This
practice prevails throughout the length and breadth of savage Africa,
though Park appears to have mistaken its meaning, and thinking it due
to the desire of travellers to indicate that water was near, followed
their example by hanging on one of the boughs a handsome piece of
cloth. At the neighbouring pool, where they had proposed to camp,
signs of a recently extinguished fire made them suspicious of the
vicinity of robbers, and they therefore pushed ahead to the next well,
which they did not reach till eight in the evening.

For the first time the dangers and difficulties of his journey were
brought vividly home to Park when after a hard day’s work he and his
party had to lie out in the open, on the bare ground, surrounded by
their animals, and had to keep strict watch and ward for possible
attack. With daylight they filled their water-skins and calabashes and
set out for Falika, the western frontier town of Bondou, which they
reached before midday.

In Bondou, Park found new aspects of nature and other races of men.

For fertility the land was unsurpassed. Lying on the parting ridge
between the Gambia and the Senegal, it was better drained than the
country left behind, a fact evidenced by the appearance of the mimosa.
Towards the east it rose into ranges of hills.

Far different, too, were the Fulah inhabitants. A tawny complexion,
small, well-shaped features, and soft, silky hair, distinguished them
at a glance from the negro races around them. Among them Mohammedanism
was the prevailing religion, though not by any means exercised
intolerantly, “for the system of Mahomet is made to extend itself by
means abundantly more efficacious. By establishing schools in the
different towns, where many of the Pagan as well as Mohammedan children
are taught to read the Koran, and instructed in the tenets of the
Prophet, the Mohammedan priests fix a bias on the mind and form the
character of their young disciples which no accidents of life can ever
afterwards remove or alter.” Of which latter fact let our Christian
missionaries take note, and if possible learn a lesson therefrom.

This remarkable race did not originally belong to Bondou. Further
south they were in even greater force, though scattered in more or
less independent communities from Lake Chad to the Atlantic, a fact
destined, after Park’s time, to have the most important bearing upon
the history of the whole of the Western and Central Sudan.

Everywhere Park found the Fulahs remarkable for their industry, and no
less successful in agriculture than in pastoral pursuits, which seem to
have been their original speciality. In their hands Bondou developed
a degree of wealth unknown in neighbouring states. Its prosperity,
however, was also in great measure due to its being on the chief
highway of the commerce from the interior to the coast, considerable
duties being levied on all merchandise passing through it.

At Falika, Park secured the services of an officer of the King of
Bondou as guide as far as Fatticonda, the capital.

On resuming their journey a violent quarrel broke out between two of
Park’s companions, which would probably have ended in bloodshed, but
for the interference of the white man, and his determined threat that
he would shoot down the first who again drew sword--an ultimatum which
had the desired effect. The rest of the march was accomplished in
sullen silence, till a good supper terminated all heart-burnings, and
animosities were forgotten under the influence of the diverting stories
and sweet harmonies of an itinerant musician.

On the 15th the party crossed the Nereko, a considerable branch of the
Gambia, and stayed for the night at Kurkarany, a walled town provided
with a mosque. Four days later they crossed a dry stony height covered
with mimosas, and entered the basin of the Senegal.

They were now more within the sphere of influence of French traders,
who, as Park soon saw, had succeeded with characteristic genius in
suiting the taste of the ladies of the country. These he found dressed
in a thin French gauze, admirably adapted for the hot climate, and
rendered dear to its wearers by the manner in which it displayed and
heightened their charms. Their manners proved to be as irresistible
as their dress, so that Park found it impossible to withstand their
appeals for amber, beads, and other bits of showy finery. Having
despoiled him of all he had, these “sturdy beggars” tore his cloak,
cut the buttons from his servant’s clothes, and were proceeding to
other outrages, when finding this more than his gallantry could stand,
he mounted his horse and fled, leaving them disconsolate, but with
abundant souvenirs.

Next day the Falemé, a turbulent tributary of the Senegal, was reached.
The natives were actively engaged fishing, and the country around was
covered with large and beautiful fields of millet.

It was not without apprehension that Park on the 21st December entered
Fatticonda, the capital of Bondou. His predecessor Houghton had here
been plundered and badly used, and he had every reason to fear a
similar fate. But the situation was not to be evaded, so he braced
himself up as best he might to face whatever was in store for him.

On entering the town, he and his party took up their station at the
Palaver House or Bentang, as is the fashion of strangers, who thus make
known their necessities, and mutely appeal for a night’s lodging. They
had not long to wait before a respectable slatee invited them to his

An hour afterwards a messenger came to conduct the traveller to the
king. Finding himself led out of the town, Park began to fear a trap,
but was reassured on being shown the king sitting under a tree, and
hearing that such was his way of giving a private audience. The
stranger’s statement that he was no trader, and that he only travelled
from motives of curiosity, was received with incredulity.

In the evening Park proceeded to make a more formal call. First,
however, he concealed some of his goods in the roof of the hut, and
donned his best coat, hoping thus to save them from the possible
plundering he might be subjected to.

The king’s quarters were found to be converted into a species of
citadel by a high mud wall, having a number of inner courts, each court
containing several huts. After threading a series of intricate passages
guarded by armed sentinels, the king, Almami, was at last reached.
Again he showed himself but half satisfied with the white man’s
explanations of the object of his visit. The idea of travelling merely
to gratify curiosity was too new to his experience. It seemed the fancy
of a madman. The presents offered put him in good humour, however, in
particular the gift of a large umbrella.

As Park was about to take his leave, Almami stopped him, and commenced
a eulogium of the generosity and immense wealth of the white men.
From the general he came down to the particular, and had much that
was flattering to say of his guest for the time being--a praise
soon directed pointedly to the traveller’s handsome coat and shining
buttons, until at length it became clear to its owner that it was not
only admired but coveted. There was nothing for it but to take the coat
off and lay it at the feet of the wily monarch, who did his best to
console the giver by declaring that henceforth the garment should be
his state dress for all great occasions.

For once Park’s caution had overreached its object.

Next morning the traveller visited by request the wives of Almami. He
found himself surrounded by a dozen young and handsome women, decorated
with gold and amber, who clamoured for physic and beads, and to have
some blood taken from them. They rallied him upon the whiteness of
his skin, which they said was due to his having been dipped in milk
when an infant; and on the prominence of his nose, which they declared
had been pinched into that shape by his mother. Park was equal to the
occasion. He had compliments for all of them. The glossy jet of their
skin and the contours of their _retroussé_ noses, the bright glitter of
their eyes and brilliant whiteness of their teeth were alike praised.
This delicate flattery, with the addition of some bloodletting and a
quantity of drastic medicine, was irresistible; and, though Park does
not say so, undoubtedly the good impression he left behind among the
ladies contributed materially to his immunity from the fate of his
predecessor. Not only was he not plundered, but his baggage was not
even searched. Still better, Almami on parting gave him five drachms of

On the 23rd the traveller resumed his journey in the best of spirits
after his unexpectedly good reception. At mid-day a halt was called for
rest and refreshment, by way of preparation for the passage of the
dangerous district lying between Bondou and the next country, Kajaaga,
which it would be necessary to traverse under cover of night.

As soon as the people of the village were asleep, the donkeys were
reloaded, and as silently as possible, so as not to disturb the
villagers, the party passed out into the wilderness. The moon was
shining brightly, illumining their way. The air was perfectly still,
raising neither sigh nor rustle from leaf or bough. The deep solitudes
of the forest were undisturbed save by the solemn impressive howling
of wild beasts, and shrieks and hoots of night-birds which mingled
discordantly with the deafening musical uproar of myriad insects, and
the clutter of innumerable frogs. Except in whispers, not a word was
uttered. Every one was on the alert, at times guiding the animals, more
often peering ahead, or to right and left, on the lookout for possible
robbers. Happily no human enemies appeared, though many were the
alarms, as from time to time an unusual sound, or the vaguely descried
figure of a prowling hyena, made each man seize his gun with a firmer
grasp. Towards morning a village was reached where the little party
were enabled to rest themselves and their animals before entering in
the afternoon the country of Kajaaga.



The further Park proceeded east the drier and purer became the climate,
and the more interesting the landscape. In Kajaaga, lying between the
Falemé and the Senegal, he found a country everywhere interspersed
with a pleasing variety of hills and valleys, to which the serpentine
windings of the Senegal descending from the rocky heights gave both
picturesqueness and beauty. The inhabitants, unlike the Fulahs, were
jet black in complexion, resembling in this respect the Joloffs nearer
the coast.

The people of Kajaaga are known as Serawulies, and are noted for their
keen trading propensities--at this time chiefly directed towards
supplying slaves to the British factories on the Gambia.

On the 24th December Park entered Joag, the western frontier town, and
was there hospitably received by the chief man of the place, officially
known as Dooty or Duté. The town was surrounded by a high mud wall, as
was also every individual private establishment. Though the headman and
the principal inhabitants were Mohammedans, it appeared that the great
mass of the people were still Pagans, as was sufficiently shown by
the nature of their wild night revelries--“the ladies in their dances
vying with each other in displaying the most voluptuous movements

Park’s trials were now about to commence. During the night a number
of horsemen arrived, and after talking with the host, took up their
quarters in the Palaver House beside the traveller himself. Thinking
the latter was asleep, one of them attempted to steal his gun, but
finding he could not effect his purpose undiscovered, he desisted from
the attempt. This, however, was but a foretaste of coming trouble. It
was easy to see that Johnson was growing very uneasy at the aspect of
affairs; not without cause either, as very soon became evident. Two of
Park’s companions, who had been at a dance in a neighbouring village,
came in with the news that a party of the king’s horsemen had been
heard inquiring if the white man had passed, and on being told that he
was at Joag, had immediately galloped off in that direction.

Even while they were speaking the horsemen arrived, and next moment
Park found himself surrounded by some twenty soldiers, each carrying a
musket. Resistance was useless; he could only wait in much anxiety to
hear his fate.

At length, after a brief interval, a member of the party, who was
loaded with an enormous number of charms to ward off all forms of evil,
opened their business in a long harangue. The white man, they said,
had violated the laws of the country by entering it without paying
the customary duties, and had accordingly forfeited everything he
possessed. The soldiers had orders to take him to the king by force if

Conceive the position Park was now in. Utter ruin stared him in the
face, and the collapse of all his cherished schemes. To fight was out
of the question. All he could do was to try to gain a little time to
think matters out, and seek the advice of his companions and host.
They were unanimous in declaring that it would be disastrous to him to
accompany the horsemen. A long argument with the spokesman ensued, by
dint of which, and the present of Almami’s five drachms of gold, the
messenger became somewhat mollified.

They demanded, however, to be shown the baggage, from which they
helped themselves to whatever they happened to fancy; and having thus
despoiled their victim of half his goods, they left him to his gloomy
reflections and an indifferent supper after a day of fast.

Thus reduced in his already scanty resources, and his power to travel
correspondingly limited, Park found but Job’s comforters in his
companions. One and all they urged him to turn back from his hopeless
task. Johnson, especially, laughed at the very idea of proceeding
further, miserably provided as they were. But the spirit of the
leader rose superior to his misfortunes, and he never for a moment
admitted the idea of retreat. While strength remained there could be no
flinching from his task. Yet his thoughts were gloomy enough that night
as he sat reviewing his situation through the hours of darkness by
the side of a smouldering fire. Morning brought no improvement to his
position. The scanty supper was followed by no breakfast.

What few articles still remained dared not be produced, lest they
too should be plundered. It was resolved, therefore, to pass the day
without food, trusting to Providence for a stray meal sooner or later.

As the day wore on the pangs of hunger began to make themselves felt.
To allay this in some measure the unfortunate travellers chewed straws,
a make-believe yielding as scant comfort as it did sustenance. But
Park’s faith in God was not belied. Towards evening an old female slave
passed by with a basket on her head, and struck by his woe-begone,
famished look, she asked him if he had had his dinner. Thinking she
spoke in jest, he did not reply. Not so his boy Demba, who volubly, and
with the eloquence of suffering, told the story of their misfortunes
and their needs. In a moment the old woman had her basket on the
ground, and a plentiful supply of ground-nuts was placed in their
hands, the donor thereafter marching away without waiting for a word of

Further good fortune was now in store for them. It happened that Demba
Sego Jalla, the Mandingo king of Kasson further east, had sent his
nephew to the King of Kajaaga to try to arrange some disputes which
were threatening to lead to war. The embassy, however, had met with no
success. Returning homeward, the king’s nephew had heard of there being
a white man at Joag who was desirous of visiting Kasson, and curiosity
brought him to see the stranger. On hearing Park’s story, the young
noble offered him his protection all the way--an offer that was eagerly
and gratefully accepted.

Thus guided and protected, Park set out for Kasson on the 27th. Some
distance on the way Johnson, in spite of his life in Jamaica and his
seven years’ residence in England, showed that he still was saturated
with the superstitious ideas of his youth by producing a white chicken
and tying it by the leg to a particular tree as an offering to the
spirits of the woods. The same belief in nature spirits has already
been alluded to in a previous chapter. Anthropologists tell us that it
must at one time have been universal, and evidences of it are found
not only in the charming legends of the Greeks, with their nymphs of
meadow, grove, and spring, and dryads growing with the oaks and pines,
but also in our own Anglo-Saxon words.

In the evening the party safely arrived at Sami, on the banks of the
Senegal. Park describes the sister river to the Gambia as being at this
point a beautiful but shallow stream, flowing slowly over a bed of
sand and gravel. The banks are high and covered with verdure, and are
backed by an open cultivated country, the distant hills of Felow and
Bambuk adding an additional beauty to the landscape. A few miles below
Sami was the former French trading station of St. Joseph, founded by
Sieur Brue, but abandoned in the time of Park. Next morning the party
proceeded a little further up the river to Kayi, where they crossed
with no small difficulty and danger, the animals being swum over, and
the baggage conveyed in a miserable canoe.

While Park was crossing by the same means the canoe was capsized by an
injudicious movement on the part of his protector, but being near the
bank, no harm came of it, and a second attempt landed him safely in the
country of Kasson.

The young noble, having once brought the white traveller into his
own country, soon showed that no generous motives had prompted his
assistance. Unhesitatingly he demanded a handsome present. Park, seeing
that it was useless either to upbraid or to complain, with a heavy
heart made the necessary selection from his scanty stock of goods, and
presented the offering forthwith.

On the evening of the 29th the party reached Tisi, where Park was
lodged with his protector’s father, Tiggity Sego, the head man of the
place. Next morning a slave having run away, the use of Park’s horse
was asked for the chase, to which he “readily consented, and in about
an hour they all returned with the slave, who was severely flogged, and
afterwards put in irons.”

Park was detained for several days at Tisi, while his horse was further
used by his host on a more extended mission. During his enforced
detention our traveller had an opportunity of seeing a somewhat more
drastic method of propagating Islam than any he had yet witnessed. An
embassy of ten persons arrived from the King of Futa Larra, a country
to the west of Bondou, and announced to the assembled inhabitants that
unless all the people of Kasson embraced the Mohammedan religion, and
evinced their conversion by saying solemn public prayers, he, the King
of Futa Larra, would certainly join his arms to those of Kajaaga.

Such a coalition would have been disastrous to Kasson, and without a
moment’s hesitation the conversion was agreed to. Accordingly, one and
all did as was desired, offering up solemn prayers in token that they
were no longer Pagans, but followers of Mohammed.

It was not till the 8th of January 1796 that Demba Sego, the young
noble, returned with the traveller’s horse, whereupon Park, impatient
at the delay, declared that he could spend no more time at Tisi, and
must proceed to the capital. He was informed he could not do so until
he had paid the customary trading duties. Some amber and tobacco were
offered, but they were laid aside as totally inadequate for a present
to a man of Tiggity Sego’s importance. Once more Park had to submit to
seeing his baggage ransacked. One-half he had already lost at Joag, and
now half of what remained had to be similarly sacrificed to satisfy
the rapacity of his tormentors.

Thus despoiled, Park was permitted to depart next morning. His course,
which so far had been E.N.E., was now E.S.E. In the afternoon the party
arrived at the village of Jumbo, the birthplace of the blacksmith who
had faithfully accompanied Park from Pisania. The entire population
turned out to welcome back their townsman with dance and songs.
The poor fellow’s meeting with his blind mother was most touching.
Unable to see him, she stretched out her arms to welcome him, and
after eagerly satisfying herself by touch of face and hands that it
was indeed her son who had returned, she gave wild expression to her
delight. From which Park concludes, “that whatever differences there
are between the Negro and the European in the conformation of the nose
and the colour of the skin, there is none in the genuine sympathies and
characteristic feelings of our common nature.”

This affectionate welcome over, the villagers had time to turn their
attention to the white man. At first they looked or affected to look
upon him as a being dropped from the clouds, the women and children
shrinking from him half in fear, half in awe. On being assured by their
countryman that he was a good-tempered and inoffensive creature, they
gradually laid aside their misgivings, and began to feel the texture of
his clothes, and assure themselves that he was indeed cast in much the
same mould as themselves. Still his slightest movement was sufficient
to arouse their tremors and make them scamper off like a flock of sheep
which had valorously marched up to view a sleeping dog.

Next day Park continued his journey to a place called Sulu, where he
had an order from Dr. Laidley on a slatee for the value of five slaves.
Hardly had he been hospitably received by Dr. Laidley’s client, when
messengers arrived from Kuniakary with orders that he should proceed at
once to the king. Thither accordingly he journeyed, arriving late in
the evening.

The rule of “like master, like man” did not hold good in relation to
the King of Kasson and such of his subordinates as Park so far had come
in contact with. His reception by one whose “success in war and the
mildness of his behaviour in times of peace had much endeared him to
his subjects,” was an agreeable variation to the hard fate which had
lately dogged his footsteps. The king was not only satisfied with his
visitor’s story and his poor present, but promised him every assistance
in his power. He warned him, however, that the road to Bambarra was
for the time being rendered extremely dangerous, if not altogether
impassable, by the outbreak of war between that state and the adjoining
one of Kaarta. In the hope of the arrival of more reassuring news Park
waited four days, staying the while with the Sulu slatee, from whom
he received gold dust to the value of three slaves. This transaction
coming to the ears of the king, Park was compelled to add considerably
to the value of his former present.

The country around Sulu presented an enchanting prospect of simple
rural plenty, while the scenery surpassed in richness and variety any
Park had yet seen. The density of the population was illustrated by
the fact that the King of Kasson could raise within sound of his great
war drum an army of four thousand fighting men. The one drawback to
the amenities of the place was the numerous bands of wolves and hyenas
which nightly attacked the cattle, and were only to be driven off by
organised parties of men with fires and torches.

From Sulu, Park proceeded S.E. up the rocky valley of the Kriko,
meeting everywhere swarms of people leaving the expected seat of war in

On the 8th he left the charming valley of the Kriko, and travelled
over a rough stony country to the ridge of hills which forms the
boundary-line between Kasson and Kaarta. Thence his way lay down
a stony precipitous path into the dried-up bed of a stream, whose
overarching trees afforded to the wayfarer a grateful shade. Emerging
from this romantic glen, the party found itself on the level sandy
plains of Kaarta, having the hilly ranges of Fuludu on their right.

On the third day from Sulu, Park witnessed a new method of consulting
the Oracle as to the fate in store for them on the road. To his great
alarm, their guide, who was a Mohammedan in name and a Pagan at heart,
came to an abrupt standstill in a dark lonely part of a wood. Taking a
hollow piece of bamboo he whistled very loud three times. Thereafter
he dismounted, laid his spear across the pathway, and again whistled
thrice. For a short time he listened as if for an answer, and receiving
none, told Park that now they might proceed, for the way was clear of

Next day the superstitious ideas cherished by the natives were further
illustrated. Park had wandered some distance from his party, when, just
as he reached the brow of a slight eminence, a couple of negro horsemen
galloped from the bushes. Immediately on seeing each other Park and
the negroes alike came to an abrupt stop, each equally filled with
alarm. The white man was the first to regain his presence of mind, and
concluding that advance was his safer course, he moved towards them.
This was too much for the terrified natives, who thought they saw in
the strange figure before them some terrible spirit. One of them, with
a wild look of horror, turned and fled; the other, paralysed beyond
action, could only cover his eyes and mutter his prayers. In this
position he would have remained stationary, but for the instinct of his
horse, which led him to follow his companion.

On the afternoon of the 12th, Park and his party entered the capital of
Kaarta. On announcing their arrival to the king, a messenger was sent
to convey them to a hut and protect them from the inquisitive crowd. In
carrying out the latter part of his commission the messenger signally
failed, and for the rest of the afternoon our explorer remained on
exhibition, the hut being filled and emptied thirteen times by an
admiring and curious mob.

In the evening his majesty gave Park an audience, seated on a clay
divan raised a couple of feet above the floor, and covered with a
leopard’s skin, the sign of authority. The way to the throne lay
through a long lane formed by a huge crowd of fighting men on the one
side, and of women and children on the other.

The reception of the stranger was highly encouraging. He was told,
however, that he had chosen a most inopportune time to attempt to pass
into Bambarra, and he was advised to return to Kasson, and there await
the end of the war just commencing. That, however, meant the loss of
the dry season, and Park dreaded the thought of spending the rainy
season in the interior. “These considerations, and the aversion I felt
at the idea of returning without having made a greater progress in
discovery, made me determined to go forward.”

Hearing this determination, the king showed his kindly intentions
by pointing out that there was another--though a more dangerous and
circuitous route--to Bambarra, namely, that by way of Ludamar, an Arab
district to the north-west of Kaarta. At the same time he promised to
give the white man guides for this route as far as Jarra, his frontier
town. With this offer Park only too gladly closed.

Before the audience ended a horseman arrived in foaming haste to
announce that the Bambarra army had left Fuludu for Kaarta.

Next morning, after Park had sent his horse-pistols and holsters as a
present to his royal host, a large escort was provided to protect and
lead him on his way to Ludamar.



It must have been with no pleasant sensations that Park turned aside
from his direct route E.S.E. to the Niger, and proceeded north instead
to Ludamar. In addition to the increased distance, there were the
hundredfold greater dangers to be encountered. Houghton had preceded
him over the same road, with what results his successor only too well
knew. And yet, as matters turned out, it was perhaps as well that he
elected to try his fate by the more circuitous route. Before many
days were over Kaarta was desolated by the Bambarra army, which only
retired laden with spoil on finding that the last refuge of the king
could neither be stormed nor reduced by starvation. The trouble of the
Kaartans did not end with the war with Bambarra, for they fell out
with the people of Kasson, and before the year was ended had to face a
coalition of various enemies.

On the 13th February Park started for Ludamar. His escort of over two
hundred horsemen seems to have been of little use, for in the evening
the hut in which his luggage was deposited was entered, and some of his
rapidly diminishing stores stolen. Next day he came upon some negroes
gathering the fruit of the _Rhamnus lotus_, which being converted into
a species of bread, forms no inconsiderable addition to the food of
the natives of Kaarta and Ludamar. This shrub, Park does not doubt, is
the lotus mentioned by Pliny as the food of the Libyan Lotophagi.

The increased dangers of the new route were amply illustrated as
Ludamar was approached. Bands of marauding Moors were taking advantage
of the unsettled state of the country to carry off cattle with
impunity. At one town Park saw five Moors calmly select sixteen of the
finest oxen of a herd, and in the presence of five hundred negroes
drive them away without even a show of resistance. One young man who
had been out in the fields, and had shown more courage, had been shot,
and was brought in dying. His mother, frantic with grief, filled the
air with her shrill shrieks and lamentations, clapping her hands the
while. “He never told a lie” was the astonishing encomium passed upon
him, a phenomenal occurrence in a continent where lying is a virtue,
and the art is raised to its utmost perfection. On being assured that
all hope of saving the boy’s life was gone, some good Mohammedans did
their best to ensure him--though hitherto a Pagan--a place in Paradise,
by getting him to repeat the sacred formula of Islam, in which pious
effort they happily were successful.

On the 17th, Park, in company with numbers of people flying from
the terrors of war, travelled during the night, to escape the more
immediate danger of Moorish robbers. After resting during the early
morning, they resumed their journey at daybreak. Two hours later they
passed Simbing, from which Houghton had despatched the graphic letter,
already quoted, telling of his destitute condition, but unalterable
intention of proceeding to Timbuktu. At noon, Jarra, the southern
frontier town of Ludamar, was reached. It was from this place that
Park’s predecessor was decoyed into the desert by Moors, and after
being stripped, was left either to die of starvation or be murdered by
passing ruffians, a point never satisfactorily cleared up, though Park
was shown the spot where he breathed his last.

At Jarra, Park was hospitably received by a Gambia slatee, who had
borrowed goods from Dr. Laidley to the value of six slaves, for which
debt Park was provided with an order. The debt was acknowledged, but
the merchant pleaded inability to pay more than two slaves.

Our traveller had now entered a more inhospitable region. Ludamar was
found to be inhabited by negroes, an Arab race largely intermixed with
negro blood forming the rulers and possessing the worst characteristics
of both sides of descent.

Park and his attendants were not long in experiencing the brutal and
inhospitable character of this degraded hybrid people.

Difficulties had met them at every step of their journey, and now
nothing but new terrors loomed up before them. So great did these seem,
and so overbearing and threatening was the attitude of the Moors,
that Park’s servants declared they would rather lose everything they
possessed than proceed further. Not only were they liable to robbery
and ill-usage, but not improbable to slavery also. These facts were
so patent that, though unwavering in his own determination to push
on, Park could not bring himself to force his men to follow him.
Accordingly he made arrangements for parting with them. Among other
things, he prepared duplicates of his papers to put into the hands
of Johnson. Meanwhile a messenger had been sent to Ali, chief of the
country, to ask permission to pass through his country to Bambarra.
The request was accompanied by a present of fine garments of cotton
cloth which Park purchased from the slatee in exchange for his
fowling-piece. Fourteen days elapsed before an answer was returned, and
then he was told to follow Ali’s messenger to Gumba.

On preparing to depart, hopeful as ever that yet he should live to see
the Niger, he was further cheered by the fidelity of his boy Demba,
who seeing his master was not to be dissuaded from his determination
to proceed, resolved not to desert him, whatever might be the result.
It then came out that Johnson, whose residence among Europeans had
only served to corrupt him, had treacherously tried to seduce Demba to
return with him and leave the white man to his fate.

To diminish the inducements to plunder, Park, before starting, left
as many of his personal effects behind him as he could spare. For two
days the little party toiled over a sandy country. On the third day
they reached Dina, a large town built of stone and clay. The reception
Park here met with at the hands of the natives was atrocious. Every
opprobrious epithet which their vocabulary could supply was hurled at
him. Not content with words, they proceeded to spit upon and otherwise
heap ignominy upon the stranger, ending by tearing open his bundles
and helping themselves to whatever they had a mind. For the victim of
these outrages there was nothing but patience and resignation, with
which virtues, indeed, he seems to have been amply endowed. He might
be robbed of his material resources, but his spiritual stores remained
untouched. With him, while there was life there was hope.

Not so with his servants. They had no magnet to draw them on, no
higher impulse than monetary reward. Further forward they would not
go. So be it! Their retreat was excusable, but _Onward_ must be their
master’s watchword so long as any pencil of light glimmered through a
loophole--_Onward_ as long as limbs and strength and hope held out.

Not daring to face another day of insult and plunder, nor yet a night
of gloomy reflection, Park gathered together such valuables as he could
carry, left the village under cover of darkness, and with magnificent
resolution started alone on his forlorn hope of reaching the Niger.

As the huts disappeared behind him, the moon shone out bright and
clear in the heavens, filling the night with its mellow beauty, both
literally and figuratively lighting up the dark path before him.

From all sides came the roar of wild beasts, adding to the terrors of
the situation. Undismayed, however, and still unwavering, he plodded
onward through the night. He had not proceeded far when a clear halloo
stopped his resolute footsteps. The accents sounded familiar, and in a
few moments more he was joined by his faithful servant Demba. Park then
found that the boy had made up his mind to stand by him, though Ali’s
messenger returned to his master.

The little party of two now continued their journey, travelling
steadily on over a sandy country covered with asclepias. At midday they
reached a few huts, but were prevented from drawing water from the
village well by the appearance of a lion. They therefore had to endure
the pangs of thirst with patience till the evening, when they entered
a town occupied by Fulahs. Park now seemed to have touched the bottom
of his misfortunes. For several days he proceeded unmolested through
Ludamar, each new day, each mile nearer his goal, filling his sanguine
mind with brighter and fresher hopes.

On the 5th March he reached Dalli. The villagers, hearing that a
white man had arrived, deserted the revelries attendant on a feast,
and hastened to see the phenomenal stranger. Not pell-mell, however,
like the rude mob of Dina, but in a decorous procession, and headed by
flute-players, as if they felt themselves honoured by the visit. Round
Park’s hut they continued to dance and sing till midnight, during which
time he had to keep himself continuously on exhibition to satisfy their
simple and kindly if somewhat overwhelming curiosity.

Next day Park moved on to a village to the east of Dalli to escape
the crowd which usually assembled there in the evening. Again his
reception was most hospitable. The head man considered himself highly
distinguished by having such a guest in his house, and showed it
practically by killing two fine sheep to feast him and his own friends.

Park was now only two days from Gumba, the first town of Bambarra. He
had but to reach that place to be safe from the thieving and brutal
half-caste Moors, whose rule of the unhappy negroes was but another
name for rapine and plunder. His hopes were high that now the success
of his mission was almost assured. In fancy he saw himself already on
the bank of the Niger, which he had come so far and suffered so much to
see. His imagination revelled in a thousand delightful scenes in his
future progress.

Thus buoyed up with glowing thoughts, he abandoned himself with
unrestrained gaiety to the harmless festivities organised by his negro
host, whose manners were in striking contrast to his experience of
those of the Ludamar Moors.

But just when his golden dream was at its brightest, it was shattered
by a rude awakening. Messengers arrived from Ali with orders to convey
the white man either peaceably or by force to his camp at Benaun. Park
was struck dumb with painful emotions, though slightly relieved on
hearing that the sole cause of his being taken back was the curiosity
of Fatima, Ali’s favourite wife. That lady’s desire to see a white man
being satisfied, the chief promised that he should be conveyed safely
on his way to Bambarra.

There was no gainsaying Ali’s orders, and argument was of no avail.
Once more Park must fall back on his patience and his hope. Now
practically prisoners, he and his faithful boy Demba were carried back
to Dina, where his reception had already been so brutal. Here he was
brought before one of Ali’s sons, who soon gave him a taste of the
dangers and indignities in store for him. Barely was he seated when a
gun was handed to him, and he was told to repair the lock and dye the
stock blue. Knowing nothing of such matters, Park could only declare
his ignorance. He was then ordered to produce his knives and scissors,
and hand them over to the young tyrant. On Demba attempting to explain
that they had no such articles, their tormentor sprang up in a fury,
seized a musket, and was about to blow out the poor boy’s brains, when
the bystanders interfered and saved his life.

After this unpleasant incident master and man beat a hasty retreat from
the hut, and it is little to be wondered at that the latter tried to
escape altogether.

Next day the prisoners were conveyed to Benaun, the headquarters of
the paramount chief of Ludamar, under a terrible sun, and over burning
sands. They travelled all day with almost no water, the pangs of thirst
being slightly alleviated by the use of gum, which keeps the mouth
moist and allays the pain in the throat. In the evening they arrived
at their destination, a temporary camp, consisting of a great number
of dirty-looking tents scattered without order, among which were large
herds of camels, cattle, and goats. At the outskirts of the camp, Park,
by much entreaty, procured a little water.

The arrival of the white traveller was the signal for a great
commotion. Women hastened from their domestic avocations and forsook
their waterpots at the well. The men mounted their horses--every one
came running or galloping helter-skelter, amid wild screaming and
shouting. In a ferocious mob they surrounded the unhappy cause of
their excitement, pouncing upon him like a pack of hyenas, tugging
and pulling his clothes, threatening him with all sorts of penalties
if he would not acknowledge the One God and His Prophet. In this sad
plight, half dead with the pangs of thirst and the fatigues of a
desert march, he was hustled and pulled towards the chief’s tent. When
at last he found himself in the presence of the great man, a single
glance at his face was sufficient to dispel the last hope of better
treatment. Ali was an old man, with an Arab cast of countenance, on
whose every lineament were marked sullenness and cruelty. While he
passively examined the unfortunate man before him, the women of his
household were more actively engaged inspecting the dress of the victim
and searching his pockets. They affected to doubt that he was a man
at all, and counted his fingers and toes to assure themselves that he
was indeed like themselves. Not content even with that, they must needs
have a peep at his white skin, and pushed aside his garments in order
to effect their purpose.

When the excitement was at its height, the sacred call to prayers
resounded through the camp, but before the people fell upon their knees
before the One God All Compassionate and Merciful, with bent body and
face pressed in the dust to acknowledge His Omnipotence, they had a new
indignity to put upon the helpless stranger. Showing him a wild hog,
they bade him kill and eat it. This he wisely refused. The hog was then
let loose in the belief that it would at once attack the white man, but
instead it rushed at his tormentors. The sport thus missing its mark,
the Moors proceeded to their devotions, and Park was conveyed to the
door of the tent of Ali’s chief slave, where after much entreaty he was
supplied with a little boiled corn with salt and water, and then left
to pass the night on a mat, exposed to cold and the dews, and still
worse, to the insults and ribald mirth of the mob which swarmed about



The treatment which Park now experienced in the camp of Ali was brutal
and barbarous beyond description.

In the eyes of the degenerate Arabs of Ludamar he was an object
detestable both to God and man--a Christian and a spy. Everything,
therefore, that savage ingenuity could invent to insult and torture him
was heaped upon him with fiendish glee and eagerness.

On the morning after his arrival he was confined in a small square
flat-roofed hut built of corn stalks, which happily admitted the
breeze and excluded the sun. The hog was tied to the hut as a suitable
companion to the hated Christian.

From morning till night the unhappy prisoner had to place himself on
exhibition, and incessantly demonstrate the whiteness of his skin, the
number of his toes, and the method of adjusting his dress--for all
which torment he was repaid with curses. In common with the hog, he was
made the sport of men, women, and children alike. Not even at night
was he left to himself, being continually disturbed by his guards bent
on satisfying themselves that he was safe in the hut, or by thieves
seeking what they could carry away. To these tortures of mind and body
was added the uncertainty of what might be before him. A council of
elders had considered his case, and he was variously told that death,
the loss of the right hand, or the putting out of his eyes, was the
fate reserved for him.

To add to the miseries of his condition, he had to suffer the hardships
attendant on the observance of Rhamadan, the month of fasting, during
which the faithful are not permitted to eat or drink between sunrise
and sunset. This fast from meat and drink, bad enough at any time
in a scorching climate, was rendered doubly painful to the unhappy
traveller by the extreme scantiness of the supply doled out to him once
in the twenty-four hours at midnight. Then, too, it was the hottest
time of the year, and so scorching at times were the winds from the
desert, that it was impossible to hold the hand in a draught without
pain. Sandstorms, too, now and again filled the air to the point of
suffocation, while the heavens overhead were as brass, and the sands
under foot as the floor of an oven.

Under these distressing conditions Park’s only _rôle_ was to comply
with every command, and patiently endure every insult, compatible with
appearing as useless as possible to the tyrants, so that they might not
be tempted to detain him for the value of his services.

Day after day thus passed, each one more miserable than the preceding,
but Park’s iron frame and indomitable spirit stood it all. Where his
savage gaolers failed, however, the fears and doubts for his future
progress and the ultimate success of his mission threatened to succeed.
The excessive heat and scarcity of water in the wilderness made
escape in the hot season out of the question, while the hardships and
dangers of travel to be faced in the wet season appeared scarcely less

The blackness of the outlook began to cloud even his sanguine
temperament, and the heart sickness of hope deferred frequently
manifested itself in fits of melancholy and despondency. With the
lowering of his mental tone came also the bodily reaction, and a smart
fever was the result.

Even then he obtained no alleviation of his sufferings. His distress
was a matter of sport to the Arabs, till life became a burden to him.
He trembled at times lest the peevishness, irritability, and enfeebled
power of self-command accompanying the disease should cause him to
overleap the bounds of prudence, and in the height of an outburst
of passion commit some act of resentment which would lead to his
death--death, and with his work unfinished.

On one of these occasions he left his hut and walked to some shady
trees at a short distance from the camp, where he lay down in the hope
of obtaining a little solitude. He was discovered by Ali’s son and a
band of horsemen, who ordered him to get up and follow them back to
camp. Park begged to be allowed to stay a few hours. For answer one of
the horsemen drew his pistol, and presenting it at Park’s head, pulled
the trigger. Happily it did not go off. Once more the brute essayed
his weapon with the same result. None of his companions made the
least attempt to stop him. Helpless, Park could but sit awaiting his
doom, what indeed would have been a happy release from his miseries,
only that as yet the task he had set himself was unaccomplished. With
renewed precautions the pistol was presented a third time, when the
hapless victim, who so far had not spoken, begged his would-be murderer
to desist, promising at the same time to return with him to the camp.

Before Ali his position was no better. With fiendish malignity the
latter played with his prisoner as a cat does with a mouse, opening and
shutting the pan of his pistol and watching the while the effect on the
demeanour of the white man before him. Getting but small amusement out
of his resolute and indifferent mien, he sent him off at last with the
threat that the next time he was found wandering outside the camp he
would be shot forthwith.

“One whole month had now elapsed since I was led into captivity, during
which time each returning day brought me fresh distresses. I watched
the lingering course of the sun with anxiety, and blessed his waning
beams as they shed a yellow lustre along the sandy floor of my hut,
for it was then that my oppressors left me, and allowed me to pass the
sultry night in solitude and reflection.”

With habit and time Park began to be inured to his situation. Hunger
and thirst were more easy to bear than at first, and the people getting
accustomed to his presence, were not quite so troublesome. To beguile
the time he made inquiries regarding the route to Timbuktu and the
Haussa countries, and even got some of his tormentors to teach him the
letters of the Arabic alphabet.

About the middle of April Ali proceeded north to bring back his chief
wife Fatima. During the chief’s absence, though Park was less molested
than usual, he was also less regularly supplied with his scanty
rations. For two successive days he received none at all, and had to
endure the pangs of hunger as best he might. This he found painful
enough at first, but soon discovered that temporary relief might be had
by swallowing copious and repeated draughts of water.

Johnson--who meanwhile had been brought from Dina before he could leave
for the coast--and Demba, not having the spirit of their master to bear
them up in the midst of misfortune, sank into the deepest dejection,
remaining for the most part prostrate on the sands in a sort of torpid
slumber, from which they could scarcely be roused even when food

To the languor and debility brought on by semi-starvation was added
on Park’s part the affliction of sleeplessness; deep convulsive
respirations shook him from head to foot; semi-blindness seized him,
and with difficulty he fought a frequent tendency to faint.

But the cup of his misery was not yet full. The King of Bambarra,
incensed at Ali’s refusal to join him against Daisy, King of Kaarta,
proclaimed war against him. This threw the country into confusion.
The camp at Benaun was at once broken up, and a retreat further north
commenced. On the first day a halt was made at a negro town called

Again Park’s rations were forgotten. Next day, foreseeing similar
treatment, he proceeded himself to the head man of the town and begged
some food. This was not only granted, but promised to be continued as
long as he remained in the neighbourhood.

On the 3rd of May Ali’s camp was reached, and found to be pitched in
the midst of a thick wood. Here Park was presented to Fatima. This lady
was singularly beautiful, according to the Ludamar Arab idea--that
is to say, she was remarkably corpulent. “A woman of even moderate
pretensions to appearance must be one who cannot walk without a slave
under each arm to support her, and a perfect beauty is a load for a
camel.” To attain this pinnacle of perfection, the girls are gorged by
their mothers with great quantities of kuskus and camel’s milk, which
must be taken no matter what the appetite may be. “I have seen a poor
girl sit crying with the bowl at her lips for more than an hour, and
her mother watching her all the while with a stick in her hand, and
using it without mercy whenever she observed that her daughter was not

At first Fatima affected to be shocked at Park’s appearance, but showed
that she had a woman’s heart by presenting him with a bowl of milk.
Later on she proved to be his best friend.

The heat had now become insufferable. Everything vegetable was scorched
up, and the whole country presented a dreary expanse of sand dotted
over with a few stunted trees and thorny acacia bushes. Water was
almost unattainable, and night and day the wells were crowded with
cattle lowing and fighting with each other to get at the troughs. The
pangs of thirst rendered many of them furious and ungovernable, while
the weak, unable to contend for a place, endeavoured to quench their
thirst by licking up the liquid mud from the gutters--frequently with
fatal consequences.

The suffering due to the scarcity of water extended to the people, and
to no one more than the white captive among them. If his boy Demba
attempted to get a supply of water, he was usually soundly thrashed
for his presumption. This treatment became so intolerable in the end
that Demba would rather have died than go near the wells. Park and his
attendants were in this way reduced to begging from the negro slaves,
but with indifferent success. Fatima, however, more than once relieved
their necessities. Nevertheless, time after time, Park “passed the
night in the situation of Tantalus. No sooner had I shut my eyes than
fancy would convey me to the streams and rivers of my native land;
then, as I wandered along the verdant brink, I surveyed the clear
stream with transport, and hastened to swallow the delightful draught;
but, alas! disappointment awakened me, and I found myself a lonely
captive perishing of thirst amidst the wilds of Africa!”

One night, driven half wild by his tortures, he started off in search
of relief. At every well he found struggling herdsmen, and from one
and all he was driven away with outrageous abuse. At length at one he
found only an old man and two boys, from whom he was on the point of
receiving what he sought, when, discovering whom they were about to
supply, they dashed the water into the trough, and told him to drink
with the cattle. Too glad to get water in any way, “I thrust my head
between two of the cows, and drank with great pleasure, until the water
was nearly exhausted, and the cows began to contend with each other for
the last mouthful.”

Signs that the wet season was approaching began to show themselves
towards the end of May in frequent changes of the wind, gathering
clouds, and distant lightning. At the same time Park’s fate was
approaching a crisis, and he began to revolve schemes of escape. His
hopes rose high when discovering that Ali was about to join some
rebellious Kaartans in attacking Daisy, through the intervention of
Fatima, he was permitted to accompany the expedition as far as Jarra.
Once in Kaarta, he hoped that means would be found to escape from his
barbarous captors.

Fatima next conferred a further favour on him by returning part of
his clothes, of which he had been deprived since he fell into Ali’s
hands. Following these came his horse, now reduced, by hard work and
starvation feeding, to skin and bone, but still fit for work.

On the 26th of May, Park set out with the Moors towards Jarra,
accompanied by Johnson and Demba. At night they camped at a
watering-place in the woods, but the accommodation being limited, Park
was compelled to sleep in the open in the centre of the huts, where he
could more easily be watched.

In the morning they had to face unprotected all the violence of a
sandstorm, which raged with great fury the whole day. At times it was
impossible to look up. The cattle, maddened by the driving sand, ran
recklessly hither and thither, threatening to trample the prisoners to

Next day our traveller’s rising hopes received a serious check. While
preparing to depart a messenger arrived, who, seizing Demba, told him
that henceforth Ali was to be his master, and that he must return at
once to the camp they had left. With him were to go all his present
master’s effects, though “the old fool” Johnson might go on to Jarra.

Park was completely overwhelmed at the idea of his faithful boy being
sent back to such a life of misery as would be his lot in the household
of Ali. Unable to say a word to the messenger, he ran straight to the
chief himself, and his indignation for once getting the better of him,
he upbraided him in passionate language for the new injustice he was
about to commit, compared to which all else was in his eyes as nothing.

To this generous but unwise outburst Ali made no reply, beyond ordering
him, with haughty air and malignant smile, to mount his horse
immediately or be sent back likewise. Terrible was the struggle in
Park’s inmost soul to refrain from ridding the world of such a monster,
and giving vent to all the suppressed feelings of the last two months
in one passionate outburst.

Happily he had not lost complete control over himself nor the ability
to comprehend his situation, and he retired from the tent a prey to a
hundred harassing emotions.

“Poor Demba was not less affected than myself. He had formed a strong
attachment towards me, and had a cheerfulness of disposition which
often beguiled the tedious hours of captivity.” But part they must. “So
having shaken hands with the unfortunate boy, and blended my tears with
his, I saw him led off by three of Ali’s slaves towards the camp at

On the 1st of June, Jarra was once more re-entered, and Park became
again the guest of the slatee. Everything else now became subordinate
for the time being to the one object of procuring the liberty of Demba.
Before this duty even his own escape became of secondary importance.
All his attempts were ineffectual, however. Ali could not be prevailed
upon to sell or return his new-made slave, though he never ceased to
hold out hopes that Demba might yet be let off for a consideration.

On the 8th, Ali with his horsemen returned to camp to celebrate a
festival, Park, to his great joy, being left behind in the house of the
slatee. Once more he began to think of his own safety, seeing that now
it was proved beyond a doubt he could be of no use to Demba.

Meanwhile troubles began to gather rapidly round Jarra. Ali, after
securing the price of his co-operation, treacherously left his allies
to their fate. Daisy with his army was rapidly approaching the town,
whose inhabitants could expect no mercy from their enraged king.
Finding themselves left to their own resources, the latter made such
preparation as was in their power to defend themselves, at the same
time sending away their women and children, with such corn and cattle
as they could take with them. Park prepared to depart along with these.
He saw clearly that if he continued where he was he would run the risk
of being involved in the general slaughter if Daisy were successful,
or if the reverse, that he would sooner or later fall a victim to the
Moors. And yet to go forward alone seemed terrible enough--for Johnson
flatly refused to proceed--without means of protection or goods to
purchase the necessaries of life, or an interpreter to make himself
understood in the Bambarra language.

The one comparatively easy road was that to the coast, but “to return
to England without accomplishing the object of my mission was worse
than all.”

The old spirit, never quite killed, was beginning to reassert itself,
with the enjoyment of a certain measure of free will and liberty.
Whatever was to be his fate, he should meet it, he determined, with his
face towards the Niger.

On the night of the 26th, the women worked incessantly, preparing food
and packing articles that were not absolutely necessary for the flight.
Early in the morning they took the road for Bambarra.

The exodus was affecting in the extreme--the women and children
weeping, the men sullen and dejected--all of them looking back with
regret to the spot where they had passed their lives, and shuddering
at the possible fate before them. Amid many heartrending scenes Park
mounted his horse, and taking a large bag of corn before him, set forth
with the flying multitude.

In this fashion he travelled onward for two days, accompanied so far by
Johnson and the slatee. At Koiro a halt of two days had to be made to
recruit his half-starved animal--an unfortunate delay, since it gave
time for Ali’s chief slave and four Moors to arrive in quest of their
white prisoner. This new calamity had to be met with prompt action
if Park was not to face an indefinite period of miserable captivity.
At once he resolved to escape by flight--a “measure which I thought
offered the only chance of saving my life and gaining the object of my

Johnson was ready to applaud his master’s resolution, but flatly
refused to join him.

The Moors, thinking the white man safe, did not trouble themselves
about him, and he was thus able to prepare a few articles to take with
him. Two suits of clothes and a pair of boots were all he possessed.
He had not now a single bead or other article of commercial value to
purchase food for himself.

About daybreak the Moors were all asleep. Now was the time to make
good his opportunity. Liberty and possible success were in the balance
with renewed captivity and possible death. A cold sweat moistened his
forehead as the importance of the step he was about to take was brought
with twofold force to his consciousness. But to deliberate was to lose
the only chance of escape. He must make one more bold attempt to regain
liberty and reach the Niger. The thought was inspiration. He picked up
his bundle, stepped stealthily over the sleeping negroes, and reached
his horse. Johnson was bidden farewell, and once more begged to take
particular care of the papers entrusted to him, and to inform his
friends on the Gambia “that he had left me in good health, on my way to

A few years before, Major Houghton had sent an almost identical message
to the same Gambian friends.



Once outside the village, it behoved Park to be on the alert, and get
as quickly from the vicinity of the Moors as possible. With his horse
reduced to skin and bone speed was out of the question, while the
darkness and the nature of the country otherwise made progress slow.
And yet how much was staked on every dragging mile--every moment might
mean freedom or bondage, life or death to him. Half frantic at the
thought of recapture, he imagined an enemy behind each bush, in every
sound the tramp of pursuing horsemen.

It looked as if his worst apprehensions were about to be realised when
unawares he stumbled upon a Moorish watering-place. Before he could
retreat he was discovered by the shepherds. Immediately there was a
howl of execration, and he was set upon with stones and curses, and
driven forth as if he had been a prowling beast of prey.

Thankful to have escaped unhurt, Park, once rid of the fanatics, began
to be more hopeful. He was not to get away so easily, however. Suddenly
a shout rang behind bidding him halt. He hardly needed to look to know
the nature of the danger that threatened. Three Moors on horseback were
in full pursuit, ferociously brandishing their weapons, and screaming
out threats as they bore down on him. Escape was impossible--his jaded
steed was beyond all urging. With the dogged indifference of despair he
turned and rode back prepared for the worst. Unmoved he looked at the
upraised muskets of his pursuers--almost unheeding, so benumbed were
his faculties, he heard that they were sent to bring him back to Ali.
In reality, however, the Moors were robbers, and their object merely

On reaching a wood the wretches ordered their prisoner to untie his
bundle. Great was their disgust to find nothing worth taking but a
cloak. But to Park his cloak was the sole protection from the rains
by day and the mosquitoes by night, and in vain he followed the
robbers, trying to move their compassion, and earnestly begging them
to return the garment. For sole reply, one of the band, annoyed at
his persistence, presented a musket at him, while another struck his
horse a brutal blow over the head. There was no resisting these hints,
and once more possessed by the keen desire for life and liberty, Park
parleyed no longer, but turned and rode off.

The moment he was out of sight he struck into the woods to avoid
similar encounters. As he passed on, the sense of security growing ever
stronger with the passing night, his sanguine temperament gradually
resumed its sway. He felt as one recovered from a dangerous illness--he
breathed freer, his limbs were as if released from cramping fetters,
while the Niger magnet drew him on irresistibly as ever. Life became
more desirable, earth and heaven more beautiful, and even the desert
lost half its terrors. Beggary and the miseries of the rainy season
grew less terrible to face with the growth of the hope that the
guerdon of success was yet to be won.

But man cannot live on hope alone. However fair it might paint the
vision of the future, it could not stifle the present demands of
nature. Only too painfully Park awoke to the fact that starvation
stared him in the face. He was destitute, and could not buy; unarmed,
and therefore could not take; hunted, and therefore dared not beg. His
every step was beset with innumerable dangers. His one chance lay in
reaching a Bambarra village, where he would be among the negroes, and
safe at least from the Moors.

To the pangs of hunger was speedily added the yet more painful agony
of thirst. The sun overhead beat down upon him from heavens of lurid
brilliancy. The scorching white sands, blinding to look upon, reflected
back the heat as from the mouth of a furnace.

From the tree tops not a trace of human habitation was to be seen.
Alone patches of thick scrub and hillocks of barren sand met the
eye. In pushing on lay the only hope of escaping death. With his old
undaunted spirit Park elected to push on--to struggle while his legs
would carry him.

Towards four in the afternoon he came suddenly upon the dreaded yet
welcome sight of a herd of goats. They were at once an indication of a
great danger, and of possible food and water. His joy was great when
after a cautious examination he discovered that the herd was tended
only by two boys. With difficulty he approached them.

“Water! water!” he gasped. For answer the goatherds showed their empty
water-skins, telling him at the same time that no water was to be found
in the woods. Sick at heart and well-nigh exhausted, Park turned away
to resume his weary tramp and almost hopeless quest.

Night was approaching, and already his limbs were failing him. His
thirst had become intolerable, and his mouth was parched and inflamed.
Sudden attacks of dimness at times came over his eyes, and more than
once he almost fainted. Each moment it became increasingly clear that
if he did not reach water before the dawn of another day he must
inevitably perish. To relieve the pains in his throat and mouth he
chewed the leaves of different shrubs, but only added to his agony.

In the evening he reached a ridge, and climbing a tree, gazed eagerly
over the land--only a barren wilderness deserted by God and man
spread out before him. “The same dismal uniformity of shrub and
sand everywhere presented itself, and the horizon was as level and
uninterrupted as that of the sea.”

The sun sank, and with it went the fugitive’s last hope. He was too
weak to walk, and his horse, as much exhausted as himself, could not
carry him. Even in his own extremity he had yet a kind thought for
his faithful dumb companion, and that it might the better shift for
itself he took off its bridle. Even as he did so a horrid sensation of
sickness and giddiness seized him, and he fell on the sand, believing
that his last hour had come.

In one swift flash of thought he saw the end of his weary struggle, and
with it all his hopes of doing something worthy of remembrance. Then
the shadow of death gathered over him, and he sank back unconscious.

But all was not yet over--for Park life had still somewhat in store
of work and gladness. With the lowering of the temperature and the
rising of the cool night breeze he awoke from his death-like swoon,
and, gathering himself together, he resolved to make one more attempt
to keep death at bay. With his old strength of will, though weak in
limb, he staggered forward into the darkness of night, which seemed
only too like the prospect before him. A few minutes more and a flash
of lightning illumined the surrounding landscape. To him that flash
was a promise of rain, and gave birth to a new hope that his agonies
from thirst would soon be at an end. Soon flash followed flash, more
and more dazzling, nearer and nearer. With a painful eagerness the
exhausted wanderer watched the coming storm. He had no further occasion
to struggle forward. He had but to sit still and wait. But what hopes
and fears the while! Would it rain or not? Would the storm break on
him, or career past on either side? Another hour and the answer came.
On his ear fell the welcome sound of trees bending before the blast.
His fevered face felt the first cool puffs of wind. A black column,
dimly discerned in the darkness, and laden with moisture, as he
thought, reared itself before him. It blotted out earth and sky, and
tore onward borne on the wings of the wind. He rose to meet and welcome
it. His parched mouth was opened to taste the heaven-sent rain. When,
oh, misery! he found himself enveloped in a suffocating sandstorm.
Stricken with unutterable disappointment, he sank to the ground behind
a sheltering bush.

For above an hour the storm swept over him in choking whirlwinds.
When it ceased, Park with undaunted spirit resumed his way in the
darkness, though with ever intensifying thirst, ever lessening
strength--perilously near his last struggle.

Again the lightning flashed across the sky. He hardly dared to hope,
yet, nevertheless, he turned his burning face and stretched his shaking
hands towards the advancing storm-clouds, that he might feel the first
refreshing drops. This time there was no mistake, and tearing off his
clothes, he spread them out to collect the heaven-sent rain, while all
naked to the storm, amid the blinding glare of tropic lightning and the
frightful crash of thunder, he sucked in the moisture by every pore of
his body.

But he was only relieved of one series of pangs to be reminded that
others lay behind--the miseries of starvation had still to be faced.
There could be no rest, no sleep for him, till food as well as water
was obtained. Accordingly he resumed his way, directing his footsteps
by the compass, which the frequent flashes of lightning enabled him to
consult. Soon these welcome gleams ceased, and then he had to stumble
along as best he might. About two in the morning a light appeared.
Thinking it might proceed from a negro town, he groped about in the
darkness unsuccessfully trying to ascertain whether it was so or not,
from corn-stacks or other signs of cultivation. Other lights now became
visible, and he began to fear he had fallen upon a Moorish encampment.

Soon his worst doubts became certainties, and rather than fall into
the hands of his late persecutors he elected to face death in the
wilderness. As stealthily as possible, however, he tried to discover
the water. In doing so a woman got a glimpse of him, and her scream
brought up two men, who passed quite close to where he had crouched
to hide himself. Clearly this was no place for him, and once more he
plunged into the sheltering woods. He had not proceeded far when the
loud croaking of frogs told him where to slake his thirst.

This narrow escape inspired Park to renewed exertions. At daylight he
detected a pillar of smoke at a distance of twelve miles, and towards
it he painfully plodded. After five hours of extreme toil the village
from which the smoke arose was reached, and from a husbandman he heard
that it was a Fulah village belonging to Ali. This was unpleasant news.

To enter might possibly mean return to captivity, yet possibly, too, he
might be allowed to go unmolested. Meanwhile the immediate certainty
was that he was dying of hunger, and that his position could hardly be
made worse. Determined, therefore, to take his chance of the result,
he rode into the village. On his applying at the head man’s house, the
door was slammed in his face, and his appeals for food were unheeded.
Dejectedly he turned his horse’s head, seeing nothing before him but
death in the woods. As he was leaving the village he remarked some mean
dwellings. Might he not make another trial. Hospitality he remembered
did not always prefer the dwellings of the rich.

Prompted by the thought he advanced towards an old woman spinning
cotton in front of her hut. By signs he indicated that he wanted food,
leaving his haggard face and sunken eyes to tell the rest. Nor did he
appeal in vain. The hut was opened to him, and such food as its owner
could give was placed in his hands. The first pangs of hunger allayed,
Park’s next thought was for the four-footed sharer of his toils and
agonies, and for it too a speedy supply of corn was forthcoming.

Meanwhile a dubious crowd gathered outside, and solemnly debated
what they should do with the stranger who had thus appeared among
them. Opinion was divided, however; and Park, seeing the danger of
his position, thought it better to leave, however footsore and weary
he might be. On seeing their unbidden guest prepare to depart, the
villagers came to the conclusion that their wisest course was to do

Once clear of the town, and the boys and girls who followed him for
some time, Park, who had not slept for more than two days and nights,
sought the shade of a sheltering tree, and laid himself down to rest.
Early in the afternoon he was awakened by two Fulahs, but without
entering into conversation with them he continued his journey towards
Bambarra and the Niger. It was not till midnight that finding a pool
of rain water he again halted. Sleep, however, of which he stood
terribly in need, was out of the question. The mosquitoes assailed him
in maddening myriads, while the howling of wild beasts added to the
terrors of his surroundings.

After a miserable night, the day was hailed with relief and delight.
At midday another Fulah watering-place was reached, and here Park was
hospitably received by a shepherd, who gave him boiled corn and dates
for himself, and corn for his horse. Resuming his journey with fast
returning hope and vigour, the resolute traveller pushed on, determined
to journey all night.

At eight in the evening he heard wayfarers approaching, and had to hide
himself in a thicket, and there hold his horse’s nose to prevent him
neighing. At midnight the joyful sound of frogs apprised him of the
neighbourhood of water. Having quenched his thirst, he sought out an
open space in the wood and lay down to sleep, happily unmolested till
near morning, when some wild beasts compelled him to look after the
safety of himself and his animal. Resuming his tramp, Park crossed the
frontiers of Bambarra, and felt for the first time for many weary weeks
in comparative safety and free from the horrid Moorish nightmare which
had so long haunted him. At Wawra he was hospitably received by the
chief of the village, and at last worn out with excessive fatigue and
starvation, but rejoicing in the sweet new sense of security, was able
to lay himself down and enjoy the luxury of a deep sound sleep.

To Park everything now seemed hopeful and encouraging. He was destitute
and alone--a beggar in the heart of Africa; but now that he had safely
escaped from the deserts of the north, and from the clutches of their
fanatical and degraded Moorish inhabitants, his sanguine temperament
made small account of his personal troubles. It was sufficient to know
himself in a land of plenty, with villages at every mile, and among a
people of kindly nature.

His hopes were not belied. Everywhere his reception was hospitable.
The villagers gave of their food and shelter; the wayfarers their
company, assistance, guidance, and protection. At most places he was
not recognised as being a white man, but from his strange and destitute
appearance was assumed to be a pilgrim from Mecca, and treated by the
Faithful with the consideration such an one deserved. And thus the days
passed on, ever bringing him nearer the goal of his hopes, ever adding
to his assurance that the great prize for which men and nations had
struggled for three centuries was to be his.

On the night of the 20th July, Park took up his quarters at a small
village. Here he was told that he would see the Niger--or, as the
natives called it, the Joliba or Great Waters--on the morrow.

The thought was intoxication, and between it and the myriad mosquitoes
that preyed upon his unprotected body, sleep was out of the question.
Before daylight he was up and doing, and had saddled his horse long ere
the gates of the village were opened.

At length he got away. With eager eyes he looked towards the
south--towards what for many terrible months had been his Kiblah--his
Mecca. At last he was about to be rewarded for all the tortures of body
and mind he had so heroically endured, so resolutely faced.

The road was crowded with natives hurrying towards the capital. Four
large villages were passed, and then in the distance loomed up the
smoke of Sego--Sego on the banks of the Niger! A little further and
the joyful cry, “See the water!” announced to Park that the Niger was
in sight. Ay, truly, there it was, sweeping along in a majestic stream
towards the east, and glittering in the bright rays of the morning sun.

One long and ardent look, one sigh of supreme relief, and the pilgrim
of geography hastened to the brink, and after drinking of the water,
lifted up a fervent prayer to the Great Ruler of all things for having
thus crowned his endeavours with success.



Thus was the River Niger for the first time reached by an European,
and its eastward course determined. Park had left England inclined if
anything to believe that it flowed west; but during his journey that
opinion had gradually been undermined, and now with his own eyes he saw
that its course was indeed towards the rising sun. There was no further
question as to where it took its rise: its termination was now the
great mystery which remained to be cleared up.

Sego, the capital of Bambarra, at which the white traveller had
arrived, consisted of four distinct towns, two on the north bank of the
Niger, and two on the south. Each was independently surrounded by high
mud walls. Unlike the ordinary negro village, the houses were square
with flat roofs, and built of mud. Some of them were two stories in
height, and a few were whitewashed.

Besides these evidences of Arab influence, there were mosques in
every quarter; and the whole town, with its thirty or forty thousand
inhabitants, presented an air of civilisation and magnificence which
Park was far from expecting. The river swarmed with large canoes,
constantly crossing and recrossing; the streets were crowded with a
busy population; and the whole surrounding country was in the highest
state of cultivation.

Park speedily discovered that Mansong, king of Bambarra, lived on
the south side of the river, and he prepared at once to cross and
present himself at court. The crowded state of the ferry prevented him
carrying out his intention immediately, as he had to wait his turn. In
the interval the people gathered round him in silent wonder, full of
speculation as to what could have brought the white man so far from
the sea. With no small apprehension the weary traveller noticed among
the crowd a numerous sprinkling of Moors. In each of the race he saw
a malignant enemy who would stop at nothing to do him an ill turn, so
indelible was the impression produced on him during his residence with
Ali at Benaun.

An opportunity for crossing at last offered itself. Just as he was
about to take advantage of it, a messenger arrived from the king to
intimate that he could not possibly see his intending visitor until
he knew what had brought him into the country. Meanwhile he was on no
account to presume to cross the river without Mansong’s permission,
and must lodge for the night at a distant village which the messenger
pointed out.

This reception was eminently discouraging. But Park was inured to
disappointments, and happy in so far as he had at least seen and drunk
of the waters of the Niger, he could bear with more equanimity such
further reverses as might be in store for him. It required all his
philosophy to sustain him, however, when on reaching the village he
was refused admittance at every door. Every one looked upon him with
astonishment and fear as a being of unknown species, whose power of
physical or spiritual mischief was incalculable, and had better not be
tried by closer contact than could be helped.

Thus shunned and boycotted as a human pariah, and not knowing where
to go to seek shelter, Park sat down under a tree, which at least
protected him from the overpowering glare of the sun. Hour after hour
passed, and still no one offered him food or lodging. The day drew to
a close. The wind rose, and clouds gathered threateningly in the sky.
Everything portended a night of storm.

The sun fell, and still he sat unheeded. Darkness began to gather
round him with tropical swiftness, and he lost all hope of moving the
compassion of the natives by his forlorn and helpless condition. To
escape death from lions and hyenas, he prepared to ensconce himself
among the branches of the tree. Before doing so he proceeded to take
off the bridle and saddle from his horse, that it might have greater
freedom and ease in grazing. While thus engaged a woman returning from
her work in the fields passed him. It required no words to tell her the
stranger’s plight. His dress and face spoke eloquently of weariness,
destitution, hunger, and dejection. The negress stopped to ask his
story. A few words told all that was necessary to move her woman’s
heart, and without further questioning she picked up his saddle and
bridle and bade him follow her to her hut. There she lighted a lamp and
spread out a mat for her guest.

In a short time a fine fish was broiling on the embers of the fire,
while the various members of the family sat looking at the stranger in
gaping wonder. A few minutes more and Park had satisfied his hunger and
disposed himself to sleep. The women resumed their work of spinning
wool, and while they worked they sang. To sweet and plaintive melody
they wedded kindliest words, and their guest was the burden of their

    “The winds roared and the rains fell,
    The poor white man sat under our tree;
    He has no mother to bring him milk,
    No wife to grind his corn.”

And oft recurring came the chorus--

    “Let us pity the white man,
    No mother has he.”[5]

Such, literally translated, were the words of the improvised song, and
listening to them, sleep was driven from Park’s eyes, as he turned
and tossed a prey to the liveliest emotions of gratitude. Far into the
night the women worked, and spinning ever sang--

    “Let us pity the white man;
    No mother has he;”

while outside the tornado spent its violence in blinding flashes and
deafening peals of thunder, in raging blasts of wind and drenching
showers of rain.

In the morning, as a token of gratitude, Park presented his kindly
hostess with two of the four brass buttons remaining on his waistcoat,
the sole articles he possessed having any value in native eyes.

During the day numerous rumours of the inimical machinations of the
Moors came to Park’s ears, but nothing definite concerning Mansong’s
decision as to his fate.

On the following morning, the 22nd, a messenger arrived to inquire what
present the white man had brought to the king.

On the 23rd another messenger arrived, bearing the king’s refusal to
give Park an audience. It was accompanied by a present of five thousand
cowries--the currency of the Sudan Basin--to enable him to purchase
provisions, while indicating that his presence at Sego was undesirable,
though he was at liberty to proceed farther down the Niger, or to
return to the Gambia, as he pleased.

In Mansong’s refusal to see him, Park could only see the “blind and
inveterate malice of the Moorish inhabitants,” though he could not
but admit that the manner of his appearance among the people of Sego,
and the to them incredible explanation of the object of his journey,
warranted suspicion. To see the Joliba! Absurd! Were there then
no rivers in the white man’s own country that he should face such
hardships and dangers to see ours? There must be something else behind.
Send him away, but being destitute, let us supply his wants, so that
the stigma of his death lie not at our doors. Such, it may be presumed,
was Mansong’s mode of reasoning, and such naturally the conclusion he
arrived at.

Park was now called upon to make up his mind as to his future course.
Would he go on or turn back? Surely he might return with all honour now
that he had reached the Niger itself. Destitute as he was, what could
he do? And yet it was hard to have to retrace his steps with such a
glorious work before him. No, onward at least some distance he must go,
to see and learn something more of the river’s course and termination,
perchance even to reach Timbuktu.

Park did not reach this conclusion without some misgiving, for he heard
vague reports that the farther east he proceeded the more numerous
became the Arab tribes, and that Timbuktu itself was in the hands of
“that savage and merciless people.” Whatever his horror of the Moors
might be, however, he could not let his plans be stopped by “such vague
and uncertain information, and determined to proceed.”


Thus dauntlessly did our hero gather his rags about him, and with his
bag of cowries proceed on the 24th on the exploration of the Niger
River. On the first day he passed through a highly cultivated country,
resembling the park scenery of England. The people were everywhere
collecting the fruit of the Shea tree, from which the vegetable butter
so named is produced. Park found the Shea butter whiter and firmer,
and to his palate of a richer flavour, than the best butter he ever
tasted made from cow’s milk--a strange statement certainly, since to
the palates of degenerate travellers and traders of the present day its
taste is abominable. Even among the natives it is only used by the very
poorest for cooking purposes, being considered infinitely inferior to
palm oil.

In the evening Park reached Sansanding, a town of some two thousand
inhabitants, largely resorted to by Moors from Biru engaged in
exchanging salt and the commodities of the north for cotton cloth and
gold dust. To slip as quietly into the town as possible, Park passed
along the riverside, and by the natives was everywhere taken to be
a Moor. At length a real Moor discovered the mistake, and by his
exclamations brought a crowd of his countrymen about the stranger.

Amid the shouting and gesticulating mob Park contrived to reach the
house of Counti Mamadi, the Duté of the place. The Moors, with their
customary arrogance and assumption of superiority, pushed aside the
negroes, and began to ask questions concerning Park’s religion. Finding
that he understood Arabic, they brought two men whom they called Jews,
and who in dress and appearance resembled the Arabs, and were said
to conform so far to Islam as to recite in public prayers from the
Koran. The Moors insisted that the stranger should do the same as the
Jews. He tried to put off the subject by declaring that he could not
speak Arabic, when a sherif from Tawat started up and swore by the
Prophet that if the Christian refused to go to the mosque, and there
acknowledge the One God and His Prophet, he would have him carried

Willing hands were ready to carry out this determination, but happily
the Duté interfered, and declared the white stranger should not be ill
treated while under his protection. This stopped immediate violence,
but did not end the persecution. The crowd continued to swell, and grew
ever more ungovernable. The clamour and excitement intensified every
minute. Every coign of vantage was covered with multitudes eager to see
the newcomer. That every one might be gratified he was compelled to
ascend a high seat near the door of the mosque, where he had to remain
till sunset, when he was permitted to descend and seek refuge in a
neat little hut having a court in front of it. Even here, however, he
found neither peace nor quiet. The Moors, though in the country only
as traders, seemed to be allowed to do very much as they liked. They
climbed over the court walls and invaded Park’s privacy, desirous, as
they said, of seeing him at his evening devotions, and also eating
eggs. The latter operation Park was by no means loth to accomplish,
though the intruders were disappointed on discovering that he only ate
them cooked.

It was not until after midnight that the Arabs left the traveller
alone. His host then asked him for a charm in writing, which was at
once supplied in the form of the Lord’s Prayer.

From Sansanding, Park proceeded to Sibila, and thence to Nyara, where
he stayed on the 27th to wash his clothes and rest his horse.

At Nyami, a town inhabited chiefly by Fulahs, the head man refused to
see Park, and sent his son to guide him to Madibu.

Between the two villages the travellers had to proceed with very
great caution, as the district was notorious for its dangers from
wild beasts. A giraffe was seen, and shortly afterwards, in crossing
a broad open plain with scattered bushes, the guide who was ahead
suddenly espied traces of a lion in the path, and called loudly to
Park to ride off. His horse, however, was too exhausted for flight,
and he continued to ride slowly on. He was just beginning to think
that it had been a false alarm, when a cry from the guide made him
look up in renewed trepidation. There was the lion lying near a bush,
with his head couched between his fore-paws. To fly was impossible.
Instinctively Park drew his feet from his stirrups, to be ready to
slip off and leave the horse to bear the first onslaught if the lion
should spring. With eyes riveted on the enemy he slowly advanced,
expecting each moment that the lion would be upon him. The brute did
not move, however, having probably just dined, and being in a peaceful
mood in consequence. All the same Park was so held by a sort of wild
fascination that he found it impossible to remove his gaze until he was
a considerable distance out of danger.

To avoid any more such perils, Park took a circuitous route through
some swampy ground, and at sunset safely entered Madibu. This village
was perched on the banks of the Niger, of whose majestic stream it
commanded a splendid view for many miles--a view further varied by
several small green islands occupied by Fulah herds.

Here life was rendered almost unendurable by mosquitoes, which rose
in such myriads from the swamps and creeks as to harass even the
most thick-skinned and torpid of the natives. The nights were one
continuous maddening torture, Park’s rags affording him no protection
from their attacks. Unable to sleep, he had to keep ceaselessly
walking backwards and forwards, fanning himself with his hat to drive
off his pertinacious tormentors. Nevertheless, by morning, his legs,
arms, neck, and face were covered with blisters. No wonder, under such
circumstances, that he grew feverish and uneasy, and threatened to
become seriously ill. Perceiving this, the Duté of Madibu hurried him
off, lest he should die on his hands.

Park’s horse was as little able to carry him as he to walk. They had
not struggled on many miles before the poor animal slipped and fell,
and do what Park might, was not to be got up again. In vain he waited
in the hope that after a rest the horse might come round. In the end
there was nothing for it but to take off saddle and bridle, place a
quantity of grass before him, and then leave him to his fate. At the
sight of the poor brute lying panting on the ground his owner could not
suppress a foreboding that he likewise before long would lie down and
perish of hunger and fatigue. Oppressed with melancholy, many fears,
and only too numerous physical ills, he staggered on till noon, when he
reached the small fishing village of Kea.

The head man was sitting at the gate as he entered, and to him he told
his story of destitution and sickness. But he spoke to one of surly
countenance and crabbed heart, and his sole reply to the half dead
stranger was to bid him begone from his door.

The guide remonstrated, and Park entreated, but all to no purpose. The
Duté was inflexible.

At this juncture a fishing canoe arrived on its way to Silla,
whereupon, to put an end to further parley, the Duté desired the owner
to convey the stranger to that place. This, after some hesitation, the
fisherman consented to do. Before setting forth Park asked his guide
to see to his horse on the way back, and take care of him if he was
still alive.

In the evening he reached Silla. Hoping that some one would take
compassion on him, he seated himself beneath a tree, but though
surrounded by wondering hundreds, no one offered him hospitality. Rain
beginning to come on, the Duté was at length prevailed upon by Park’s
entreaties to let him sleep in one of his huts. The hut was damp, and
a sharp attack of fever was the result. Let the traveller describe his
situation at this juncture in his own words.

“Worn down by sickness, exhausted with hunger and fatigue, half naked,
and without any article of value by which I might get provisions,
clothes, or lodging, I began to reflect seriously on my situation.

“I was now convinced by painful experience that the obstacles to my
further progress were insurmountable. The tropical rains were already
set in with all their violence, the rice grounds and swamps were
everywhere overflowed, and in a few days more travelling of every kind,
unless by water, would be completely obstructed. The cowries which
remained of the King of Bambarra’s present were not sufficient to
enable me to hire a canoe for any great distance, and I had but little
hopes of subsisting by charity in a country where the Moors have such

“But above all, I perceived that I was advancing more and more within
the power of those merciless fanatics, and from my reception both at
Sego and Sansanding I was apprehensive that in attempting to reach even
Jenné (unless under the protection of some man of consequence amongst
them, which I had no means of obtaining), I should sacrifice my life
to no purpose, for my discoveries would perish with me.

“With this conviction on my mind, I hope my readers will acknowledge
that I did right in going no farther. I had made every effort to
execute my mission in its fullest extent which prudence could justify.
Had there been the most distant prospect of a successful termination,
neither the unavoidable hardships of the journey, nor the danger of
a second captivity, should have forced me to desist. This, however,
necessity compelled me to do; and whatever may be the opinion of my
general readers on this point, it affords me inexpressible satisfaction
that my honourable employers have been pleased since my return to
express their full approbation of my conduct.”

And who will not cordially coincide in their verdict? Never had a
mission been more determinedly carried out, nor such inexhaustible
patience and endurance shown in the face of every conceivable hardship,
indignity, and danger--all of which were counted by the sufferer as
naught compared with the inexpressible pleasure of achieving something
of the task he had been despatched to accomplish.

When he thus made up his mind to return to the coast, Park had followed
the Niger a distance of over eighty miles from Sego, finding that it
still maintained its easterly course. In addition, he gathered from
various traders the fact that it continued in the same direction for
four days’ journey more, when it expanded into a lake of considerable
size, named Dibbie, or “The Dark Lake.”

From Dibbie (Debo) the Niger was said to divide into two branches,
enclosing a large tract of land called Jinbala, and uniting again
after a north-easterly course near Kabra, the “port” of Timbuktu. From
Jenné to the latter place the distance by land was twelve days’ journey.

From Kabra, Park does not seem certain--at least he does not make it
clear--what course the Niger took, though he correctly enough states
that at the distance of eleven days’ journey it passes to the south
of Haussa (probably what is now known as Birni-n-Kebbi, a large town
in Gandu, one of the Haussa States). Beyond this nothing further was
known. It seems evident, however, that Park confounded the course of
the Niger with that of its great eastern tributary the Benué, as had
most of the geographers before him; and so was led astray from seeking
for its natural termination in the Atlantic.



Park’s resolution to return to the coast was taken on the 29th July
1796. His hope of accomplishing this purpose in safety seemed almost
as desperate as the task of going forward. Before him lay a journey
on foot of eleven hundred miles in a straight line, to which must be
added an additional five hundred for deviations and the windings of the
road. He had thus before him nineteen hundred miles on foot through a
barbarous country, where the stranger was considered fair prey, and
the laws afforded him no protection from violence. He was without the
wherewithal to buy food, and had only rags to shield him from the
violence of the weather and the maddening onslaughts of mosquitoes. In
addition he had to face all the horrors of the tropic winter, tornadoes
of wind, rain, and thunder overhead, swamps and mire under foot, and
flooded streams barring the way at every turn. The hardships were
sufficient to have killed any man of less indomitable spirit and weaker
frame. Even Park would probably have succumbed, but that he could not
die while his discoveries remained uncommunicated to his employers and
the public. Till then his work was only half done. With his death it
would be wholly undone--all his toil and suffering in vain. To reach
the coast was therefore now a point of as much importance as formerly
it had been to see the Niger.

His mind once made up, Park acted with promptitude and resolution.

He arrived at Silla on the 29th July. The night sufficed to determine
his course, and morning saw the commencement of his return journey.
It behoved him indeed to waste no time. A few days more and the
country would be impassable by land on account of the flooded rivers.
Already it was so on the southern side of the Niger--a fact Park much
regretted, as he had hoped to return by that way.

Crossing to Murzan by one canoe, he was there enabled to hire another
to Kea. Here he was permitted to sleep in the hut of one of the
head man’s slaves, who, seeing him sick and destitute of clothes,
compassionately covered him with a large cloth.

Next day, in proceeding to Madibu with the head man’s brother, he had
an opportunity of seeing a peculiar instance of the native respect for
private property under some circumstances. A large pile of earthenware
jars were lying on the bank of the river. They had been found there two
years before, and as no one had ever claimed them, they were believed
to belong to some supernatural power. People passing invariably threw
a handful of grass upon them, which Park thinks was to protect them
from the rain, but more likely was meant as a propitiatory gift to the
spirit--the practice being common over all Central Africa.

Some time after passing the jars the fresh footprints of a lion were
discovered. The travellers had accordingly to proceed with very great
caution. Nearing a thick wood where the dangerous brute was supposed
to have its lair, the guide insisted that Park should lead the way.
Unarmed as he was, the latter naturally objected, and urged further
that he did not know the road. High words followed, which ended in the
desertion of the negro.

There was nothing for it now but to proceed alone, lion or no lion.
With no small trepidation Park passed between the wood and the river,
expecting every moment to be attacked. Happily he was left to pursue
his way unmolested, and reached Madibu late in the afternoon. Here he
was joined by the deserter. While in the act of remonstrating with him
for his recent conduct, a horse commenced to neigh in a neighbouring
hut. With a smile the head man asked Park if he knew who was speaking
to him, and showed him the horse, which turned out to be no other than
the traveller’s own, very much improved by its rest.

Next day Park re-entered Nyami, and there was practically imprisoned
by three days’ continuous rain, the after results of which he had the
most serious reasons to fear. Nor were his apprehensions belied. When
he left Nyami the country was deluged, the fields knee deep in water
for miles together, and the pathways undiscoverable. Where not actually
submerged the land was one great quagmire, in which Park’s horse stuck
more than once, and had almost to be abandoned.

Next day the rain fell in torrents, detaining him again, and making
travelling almost impossible. With difficulty he plunged and floundered
a few miles through a swamp breast deep in water, and managed at length
to reach a small Fulah village.

With tracks obliterated and the country thus flooded, it now became
imperative that he should not travel alone. No guide, however, was to
be found to show him the way and assist him at difficult places.

For some distance he accompanied a Moor and his wife who were
proceeding to Sego with salt. They rode on bullocks, and proved to be
as helpless as himself. At one place one of the bullocks suddenly fell
into a hole in a morass, and sent both salt and wife into the water.

At sunset he reached Sibity, where an inhospitable reception awaited
him. A damp old hut was all he could get in which to pass the night.
Each moment he expected to see the rotten clay roof fall in--a common
occurrence at the commencement of the rainy season. On all sides he
heard the sound of similar catastrophes, and in the morning counted the
wreck of fourteen dwellings.

Throughout the following day it continued to rain violently, making
travelling out of the question.

On the 11th August, the head man compelled Park to move on. A new
danger, it appeared, had fallen on his trouble-strewn way. It had got
abroad that he was a spy, and not in favour with the king--a report
sufficient to close each head man’s door against him, and extinguish
every hospitable feeling in the naturally kindly heart of the negro. He
was now an object not merely to be treated with passive indifference,
but actively shunned as a possible danger to whomsoever should have
dealings with him.

With no small foreboding he re-entered Sansanding. Counti Mamadi, who
formerly had protected him from the Moors, would now have nothing to
do with him, and desired him to depart early in the morning. That the
head man in thus acting did violence to his own natural kindliness was
sufficiently shown by his coming privately to Park during the night and
warning him of the dangerous situation he was in. Especially he advised
him to avoid going near Sego.

This unpleasantly altered state of matters was further illustrated
when arriving next day at Kabba, he was met outside the town by a
party of negroes, who seized his horse’s bridle, and in spite of his
remonstrances, conducted him round the walls, and ordered him to
continue his way lest worse should befall him. A few miles further
on he reached a small village, but found no better reception. On his
attempting to enter, the head man seized a stick and threatened to
knock him down if he moved another step. There was nothing for it but
to proceed to another village, where happily some women were moved to
compassion by his destitute appearance, and contrived to get him a
night’s lodging.

On the 13th, he reached a small village close to Sego, where he
endeavoured in vain to procure some provisions. He heard, moreover,
that there were orders out to apprehend him, and it was clear that it
would be highly dangerous for him to remain an hour where he was. He
accordingly pushed on through high grassy and swampy ground till noon,
when he stopped to consider what route he should now pursue. All seemed
alike bad, but everything considered, he elected to proceed westward
along the Niger, and ascertain if possible how far it was navigable in
that direction.

For the next three days his journey was unattended with any worse
hardship than having to live upon raw corn, lodging for the night
having been obtained without much difficulty. It was different,
however, on the evening of the 15th, when, on his arrival at the
small village of Song, he was refused admittance within the gates.
The numerous footprints which he had seen while on the march had made
it abundantly clear that the country was infested with lions. The
prospect of spending the night in the open without means of defence
was therefore anything but pleasant; but it had to be faced. Hungry
and weary himself, he could still think of his horse, and he set about
gathering grass for him. With nightfall, no one having offered him food
or shelter, he lay down under a tree close to the gate, but dared not
allow himself to sleep. With leaden shoon the minutes passed. Every
sound was a note of danger, and in a state of painful alertness the
outcast wanderer peered into the blackness of night, ever expecting to
see a creeping form, or the glitter of two fierce eyes.

At length, some time before midnight, a hollow roar suddenly resounded
through the wood, apparently coming from no great distance. In the
darkness he could see nothing, strain as he might. To sit thus
defenceless awaiting his doom, yet not knowing when or whence it would
come, was intolerable, and driven frantic at last by the horror of his
situation, he rushed to the gate, and madly tugged at it with all the
energy of one who struggles for dear life. In vain, his utmost efforts
were as little able to move it as were his urgent appeals to touch the
hearts of the natives.

Meanwhile the lion was all unseen prowling round the village, ever
lessening its circle and drawing nearer its prey. At last a rustle
among the grass warned Park of its whereabouts and dangerous proximity.
A moment more and he would be in its fatal clutches. His sole chance
now lay in reaching a neighbouring tree. With a rush he gained and
climbed it, and then feeling comparatively safe among the sheltering
branches, he prepared to pass the night there. A little later, however,
the head man opened the gate and invited the stranger to come within
the walls, as he was now satisfied that he was not a Moor, none of whom
ever waited any time outside a village without cursing it and all it

From Song the country began to rise into hills, and the summits of high
mountains could be seen ahead. Even here, however, travelling continued
to be a matter of toil and danger, all the hollows through which the
road ran being transformed into nasty swamps. At one point Park and his
horse fell headlong into an unseen pit, and were almost drowned before,
covered with mud, they succeeded in emerging. One of the worst features
of such occurrences was the danger he incurred of losing his notes, or
finding them rendered useless--a misfortune which would have gone far
to bring the results of his toil to naught.

After the above mishap, Park rode through Yamina, a half-ruined town
covering as much space as Sansanding. Many Moors were sitting about,
and everybody watched him passing with astonishment.

Next day the road quitted the Niger plain and skirted the side of a
hill. From this higher elevation the whole country had the aspect of an
extensive lake.

His next journey brought him to the Frina, a deep and rapid tributary
of the Niger. He was preparing to swim across when he was stopped by
a native, who warned him that both he and his horse would be devoured
by crocodiles. On his hastily withdrawing from the water, the man, who
had never seen a European before, and now saw one minus his clothes,
put his hand to his mouth, as is the fashion among most negroes
of expressing astonishment, and uttered a smothered, awe-stricken
exclamation. He did not run away, however, and by his assistance the
proper ferry was found, and Park safely landed on the opposite bank.

In the evening the traveller arrived at Taffara, where he met with a
most inhospitable reception. This was partly due to the fact that a
new head man was being elected. No one would take him in, and he was
compelled to sit under the palaver tree supperless, and exposed to all
the rude violence of a tornado. At midnight the negro who had shown
Park the way--himself a stranger to the village--shared his supper with

On the following march Park was glad to appease his hunger with the
husks of corn. At a village further on he found the head man of the
place in a bad temper over the death of a slave boy, whose burial he
was superintending. The process was sufficiently summary. A hole having
been dug in the field, the corpse of the boy was dragged out by a leg
and an arm and thrown with savage indifference into the grave. As there
seemed to be no chance of procuring food, Park rode on to a place
called Kulikorro, where his reception was more kindly. Here he found
he could relieve his wants by writing saphias or charms for the simple
natives. The charm being written on a board, the ink was then washed
off and swallowed, so as to secure the full virtue of the writing. The
practice is taken from the more ignorant of the Arabs, who think that
by drinking the ink used in writing the name of Allah or prayers from
the Koran they will derive a spiritual or material good.

Thanks to the demand for charms of this nature, Park was enabled to
enjoy the first good meal and night’s rest he had known for many days.

On the second day from Kulikorro he was directed on the wrong road,
whereby he was brought late in the afternoon to a deep creek, which
there was nothing for it but to swim, spite of the danger of being
seized by crocodiles. This he did, holding the bridle of his horse in
his teeth, and carrying his precious notes in the crown of his hat.
An obstacle of this kind, however, was but a small matter to Park,
who between rain and dew was now rarely dry, while the mud with which
he was only too frequently bespattered made a swim both pleasant and

On this day’s march the Niger was remarked to be flowing between rocky
banks with great rapidity and noise, so that a European boat would have
had some difficulty in crossing the stream.

Bammaku was reached in the evening of the 23rd August, and proved to
be a disappointment in the matter of size, though its inhabitants
were remarkably well off on account of its being a resting-place for
the Arab salt merchants. The Moors here were unusually civil to the
traveller, and sent him some rice and milk.

The information Park obtained at Bammaku as to his further route was
anything but encouraging. The road was declared to be impassable.
Moreover, the path crossed the Joliba at a point half a day’s journey
west of Bammaku, where no canoes were to be had large enough to carry
his horse. With no money to support him, it was useless to think of
remaining at Bammaku for some months. He therefore made up his mind to
go on, and if his horse could not be got across the river, to abandon
it and swim across alone.

[Illustration: BAMMAKU.]

In the morning, however, he heard from his landlord of another and more
northerly road, by way of a place called Sibidulu, where he might be
enabled to continue his journey through Manding. An itinerant musician,
going in the same direction, agreed to act as guide.

At first Park was conducted up a rocky glen, but had not gone many
miles when his companion discovered that he had taken the wrong road,
the right one being on the other side of the hill. Not seeing it to be
his duty to repair his blunder as far as possible, the guide threw his
drum over his shoulder and continued his way over the rocks, whither
Park could not follow him on horseback, but had to return to the plain
and find his way himself.

Happily he succeeded in striking a horse track, which proved to be the
right road; and soon he had reached the summit of the hill, where an
extensive landscape spread out before him. The plain at his feet was
half submerged under the Niger waters, which at one place spread out
like a lake, at another were gathered into a curving river, while far
to the south-east, in the hazy sheen of distance, the summits of the
Kong Mountains could be dimly descried.

Towards sunset the road descended into a delightful valley, leading to
a romantically situated village named Kuma. Here Park for once met with
a pleasant welcome. Corn and milk in abundance were placed ready for
himself, and abundance of grass for his horse. A fire even was kindled
in the hut set apart for him, while outside the natives crowded round
him in naïve wonderment, asking him a thousand questions.

Fain would Park have lingered in this village to rest and recruit,
but an eager longing possessed him to push on, lest the loss of a day
should prove fatal to his further progress. Two shepherds proceeding
in the same direction as himself agreed to accompany him. In some
respects the road proved to be more difficult and dangerous than
anything he had previously passed. At places the ascent was so sharp,
and the declivities so great, that a single false step would have
caused his horse to be dashed to pieces at the bottom of the precipices.

Finding that they were able to travel faster than their white
companion, the shepherds after a time pushed on by themselves. Shortly
afterwards, shouts and screams of distress apprised Park that something
had gone wrong ahead. Riding slowly towards the place whence the alarm
had seemed to proceed, and seeing no one, he began to call aloud, but
without receiving any answer. By-and-by, however, he discovered one
of the shepherds lying among the long grass near the road. At first
his conclusion was that the man was dead, but on getting nearer him he
found that he was still alive, and was told in a whisper that the other
had been seized by a party of armed men.

On looking round, Park was alarmed to discover that he was himself in
imminent danger. A party of six or seven men armed with muskets were
watching him. Escape being impossible, he considered it his best course
to ride towards them. As he approached he assumed an air of unconcern,
and pretending to take them for elephant hunters, he asked if they had
shot anything. For answer one of the party ordered him to dismount;
then, as if thinking better of it, signed to him to go on. Nothing
loth, Park rode forward, glad to be relieved from the fear of further

His relief, however, was of short duration. A loud hullo brought him
suddenly to a standstill. Looking round, he saw the robbers--for such
they were--running towards him. Park stopped to await their coming.
He was then told that they had been sent by the King of Fulahdu to
bring him and all that belonged to him to his capital. Park, to avoid
ill-treatment, unhesitatingly agreed to follow them, and in silence
the party travelled across country for some time. A dark wood was at
last reached. “This place will do,” said one of the party, and almost
simultaneously the unfortunate traveller was set upon, and his hat
torn from his head. To lose his hat was like losing his life, for
it contained all that made life dear to him for the time being. He
betrayed no sign of trouble, however, but simply declared that he would
go no further unless his hat was returned.

For answer one of the band drew a knife, and cut the last metal button
from Park’s waistcoat. The others then proceeded to search his pockets,
which he permitted them to do without resistance. Finding little to
satisfy their rapacity, they stripped him naked. His very boots, though
so sadly dilapidated as to need a part of his bridle-rein to keep the
soles on, were minutely examined. Yet even at this lowest depth of
ignominy his paramount thought was his work. He could endure the loss
of the last shred of clothing, but to be deprived of his notes and
his compass was insupportable. Seeing the latter lying on the ground,
he begged to have it returned to him. In a passion one of the robbers
picked up his musket and cocked it, declaring that he would shoot him
dead on the spot.

Humanity, however, was not quite suppressed in the hearts of these
scoundrels, for after a moment’s deliberation they returned him a
shirt and a pair of trousers. As they were about to depart the one
who had taken his hat jeeringly tossed it back to him. Never with
more eagerness and delight did despairing mother gather to her bosom
a long lost child, than did Park to his the battered remnant of a hat
which contained his precious store of notes. With them there was still
something worth struggling for, hopeless as his case might seem.

Never surely was man more tried. At every step he had met with new
calamities, new obstacles, miseries, and dangers. Man and nature were
alike in conspiracy against him. And now he had to add to his previous
destitution semi-nakedness, and the loss of his horse. With hundreds
of miles still before him, how could he hope to run the gauntlet of
the fresh difficulties and dangers he would undoubtedly have to face?
Yet even as he conjured up before his mind the perils ahead from wild
beasts and evilly disposed men, from swamp and flood, from wind and
rain, he began to take comfort as he recalled to mind his numerous
past escapes, which were to him as proofs positive of a protecting
Providence which never yet had failed him in his hour of need.

As his thoughts took a more hopeful turn, and his sanguine temperament
and rooted faith in a God who overruled all things reasserted their
influence, Park’s gaze fell upon a tuft of moss. Irresistibly his mind
was diverted from the horrors of his position to the beauty of the
lowly plant before him. As he examined with admiration its delicate
conformation, the thought occurred to him, “Can that Being who planted,
watered, and brought to perfection in this obscure part of the world a
thing which appears of so small importance, look with unconcern upon
the situation and sufferings of creatures formed after His own image?
Surely not!”

The next moment the old spirit came back to him. Not yet would he
succumb. While there was life in him he would struggle, and while
he could struggle there was hope. Starting up, he pushed forward
once more, assured in his mind that relief was at hand. Nor was he
disappointed. Near a small village he found the two shepherds, in whose
company he once more proceeded, till at sunset they entered Sibidulu,
his destination for the time being.



Park had now entered the country of Manding. Sibidulu, from its
position in a small valley surrounded by high rocky hills impassable to
horsemen, had had the singular good fortune to escape being plundered
during the numerous wars from time to time waging around it. To this
happy immunity may possibly be ascribed the reception accorded to Park
in his hour of need. As he entered the town the people gathered round
and accompanied him in a pitying crowd to the head man of the village
in order to hear his story.

While he related the circumstances of his ill treatment the native
official listened with becoming gravity, and smoked his pipe the while.
The narrative finished, the latter drew up the sleeve of his cloak with
an indignant air, and laying aside his pipe, told the white man to sit
down. “You shall have everything returned to you. I have sworn it!”

Turning to an attendant, he ordered him to bring the stranger a drink
of water, and then proceed over the hills at dawn of day to inform the
chief of Bammaku that the King of Bambarra’s stranger had been robbed
by the people of the King of Fulahdu.

The head man did not confine himself to words or to water. A hut was
given to Park, and food to eat, though the crowd which gathered round
to commiserate the white man’s misfortunes could with comfort have been
dispensed with.

The generosity of his reception was all the more admirable that at
the time the people were suffering from semi-famine. Under these
circumstances, after having waited two days in vain for the return of
his horse and clothes, Park, afraid of becoming a burden to his kind
host, asked permission to proceed to the next village. The head man
showed no anxiety to hasten his guest’s departure, but in the end told
him to go to Wonda, and remain there till news was received of his
missing possessions.

Accordingly on the 30th, he proceeded to the place indicated, a small
town with a mosque, where his reception by the Mansa or chief was as
hospitable as at Sibidulu.

The attacks of fever which had finally compelled Park to turn back at
Silla now began to return with greater violence and frequency, and
little wonder either that it should be so. His solitary shirt, worn to
the thinness of muslin, afforded him neither protection from the sun by
day nor from the dews and mosquitoes by night. As, also, it had become
unpleasantly dirty, at Wonda he set about washing it, and had to sit
naked in the shade till it dried. The result was a violent attack of
fever which prostrated him for nine days.

All the while he had to do his best to conceal his illness, lest his
host should find him too great a nuisance, and order him to move on. To
this end he tried, like sick or wounded animals, to hide himself away
out of sight, usually spending the whole day lying in the corn-field,
thus undoubtedly aggravating his malady.

At this time the scarcity of food was so great that women brought
their children to the head man to sell for forty days’ provisions for
themselves and the rest of their families.

At last messengers arrived from Sibidulu, bringing Park’s horse and
clothes. To his profound dismay and disappointment the compass--which
next to his notes was his most valuable possession--was broken and
useless. The loss was irreparable.

The horse proving to be a mere skeleton, he was handed over as a
present to his kind landlord.

Though still ill with fever, and hardly able to totter along, the
traveller now resumed his weary way.

On the two succeeding days starvation added to his weakness. On the
third a negro trader gave him some food, and afterwards conducted him
to his house at Kinyeto. Here, as if he had not yet sufficiently run
the gamut of human suffering, he must needs endure the agonies of a
sprained ankle, which swelled and inflamed so that he could not set
his foot to the ground. The kindly trader, however, made him welcome
to stay until quite recovered, but Park did not trespass on his
hospitality longer than was absolutely necessary.

In three days he was sufficiently well to be able to limp along
with the assistance of a staff, and in this fashion he contrived to
hobble to Jerijang, whose chief--there being no king in Manding--was
considered the most powerful in the country.

Dosita was the next village reached, and here rain without and delirium
within compelled him to remain one day. Recovering slightly, he set
out for Mansia. The road led over a high rocky hill, and almost proved
too much for the exhausted wayfarer, who had to lie down at intervals
to recover. Though only a very few miles distant, it was late in the
afternoon before he reached the town. Here he was given a little corn
to eat, and a hut to sleep in. Evidently, however, the head man thought
Park richer than he looked, and during the night made two attempts to
enter the hut, being each time frustrated by the traveller’s vigilance.
In the morning the latter thought it better to take French leave of
such a host, and accordingly at daybreak set forth for Kamalia, a small
town situated at the bottom of some rocky hills. This place he reached
in the course of the afternoon.

At Kamalia, one Karfa Taura, brother of the hospitable negro trader
of Kinyeto, extended a like welcome to the wayworn white man. By this
time, so yellow was the latter’s skin from his repeated fevers, and so
poverty-stricken his appearance, that the trader was only convinced
of his nationality when on showing him a white man’s book in his
possession, he found the traveller could read it. This was a Book of
Common Prayer, of which Park obtained possession with no small surprise
and delight.

Not too soon had some means of spiritual consolation come to him, for
here he learned that the country before him--the Jallonka Wilderness,
with its eight rapid rivers--was absolutely impassable for many months
to come. Even then, when caravans found it difficult and dangerous,
what would it be to a defenceless and destitute single man? With the
knowledge that further advance at the present was hopeless, came the
realisation of the fact that to utter exhaustion of outward resources
was now to be added the complete loss of all inward force and strength.
Exposure, hunger, toil, and fever had at last triumphed over Park’s
iron constitution, and laid him low. He might still will not to
die, still hope that he would yet reach the coast, still keep up his
determined and sanguine spirit; but meanwhile, what could he do when
his physical powers had thus failed him?

But even in that moment, when he found himself overshadowed by despair
and death, and at the extreme limit of all his earthly resources, he
was once again to prove that a “Protecting Providence” watched over
him. In his supreme need a kind host had been provided in the person
of Karfa Taura to save him from death by fever and starvation, and not
only to lodge and feed him, but at the proper time to conduct him to
the Gambia, whither he was going with a slave caravan.

“Thus was I delivered by the friendly care of this benevolent negro
from a situation truly deplorable. Distress and famine pressed hard
upon me. I had before me the gloomy wilds of Jallonkadu, where the
traveller sees no habitation for five successive days. I had almost
marked out the place where I was doomed, as I thought, to perish, when
this friendly negro stretched out his hospitable hand to my relief.”

But neither food nor suitable shelter could stay the course of the
fever. Each succeeding day saw Park weaker, each night more delirious,
till at length he could not even crawl out of the hut. Six weary
weeks he passed hovering between life and death--alone sustained by
his intense religious beliefs and his eager hope of reaching the
coast before he died. Little wonder surely that at times he spent
“the lingering hours in a very gloomy and solitary manner,” while the
rains dashed down remorselessly on the hut wherein he lay in the damp
stifling atmosphere and semi-darkness.

At length with the passing season the rains became less frequent,
and the ground in consequence more dry. With improved conditions came
improved health and stronger hope of life. At times the convalescent
managed to crawl to his door to sniff the fresher and more wholesome
air, to bathe in the bright light, and look upon the blue heavens. It
was as if he had emerged from an open grave.

Soon from the door of his hut he could totter with his mat to the
grateful shade of a tamarind tree, and there enjoy the refreshing smell
of the growing corn, and the varied prospect of hill and valley, field
and grove around him. At other times naïve converse with the simple
natives, and half hours with his book of prayers, made glad the passing

Through it all Karfa Taura was ever the generous host and faithful
friend, though many there were who vainly tried to turn him against his
unknown guest.

Occasionally parties of slaves were conveyed through Kamalia. Once one
of the unfortunate captives asked Park for food. The latter represented
that he was himself a stranger and destitute. “I gave you food when
you were hungry,” was the reply; “have you forgot the man who brought
you milk at Karankalla? But,” added he with a sigh, “the irons were
not then on my legs.” Much touched, Park recalled the incident, and
instantly begged some ground-nuts for him from Karfa.

With returning health of both body and mind, Park employed himself
while wearily awaiting the completion of the slave caravan in a variety
of inquiries regarding articles of commerce, trade routes, &c. Among
other subjects he was much interested in the slave trade. He learned
the various ways in which slaves were obtained--how the natives
kidnapped from neighbouring villages and petty states, or warred
with each other to keep up the traffic--how parents found a source of
temporary relief in times of famine by selling their children, and
kings a source of revenue by disposing of their subjects or those
convicted of crimes, while people unable to meet their engagements
in the ordinary way paid their debts by becoming the slaves of the
creditors. Of the bloodshed and ruin resulting from the unholy traffic
he had himself seen much, and now heard more, while remaining blind
to Europe’s share in encouraging this “great open sore” of Africa,
that its merchants and planters might be enriched thereby. As for the
unhappy victims of European commerce, they had a deeply rooted belief
that they were to be devoured by white cannibals, and that the country
across the sea was an enchanted land quite different from their own.
Their usual question to Park was, “Have you really got such ground as
this to set your feet upon?”

These ideas naturally caused the slaves to regard their fate at the
coast with terror and horror, and to seek every opportunity of escaping.

Each day Park could see his future companions to the Gambia marched
out, secured from flight by having the right leg of one attached by
fetters to the left leg of another, with the additional precaution that
every four men were fastened together by the necks with a strong rope.
Some who were not amenable to this form of discipline had a cylinder of
wood notched at each end fastened between the legs with iron bolts. At
night additional fetters were put on the hands, and occasionally the
prisoners were made further secure by having a light iron chain passed
round their necks. Thus loaded with irons on neck, hand, and foot they
were placed in batches and left to find sleep as best they could,
guarded by Karfa Taura’s domestic slaves.

One pleasant sight there was of which Park never wearied--the
Mohammedan schoolmaster of Kamalia, and his school of seventeen boys
and girls. To him “it was not so much a matter of wonder as a matter
of regret to observe that while the superstition of Mohammed has in
this manner scattered a few faint dreams of learning among these poor
people, the precious light of Christianity is excluded. I could not but
lament,” he continues, “that although the coast of Africa had now been
known and frequented for more than two hundred years, yet the negroes
still remain entire strangers to the doctrines of our holy religion....
Perhaps a short and easy introduction to Christianity, such as is
found in some of the catechisms for children, elegantly printed in
Arabic, and distributed on different parts of the coast, might have
a wonderful effect.... These reflections I have thus ventured to
submit to my readers on this important subject, on perceiving the
encouragement which was thus given to learning (such as it is) in many
parts of Africa. I have observed that the pupils of Kamalia were most
of them children of Pagans; their parents therefore could have had
no predilection for the doctrines of Mohammed. Their aim was their
children’s improvement.” So much indeed was education prized that the
usual course was valued at the price of a prime slave.

By the beginning of the year 1797, everything was ready for departure,
but on various trivial pretexts the leave-taking was put off from day
to day till the approach of Rhamadan, when it was determined to wait
till it was over before commencing their journey.

During the whole of the month of fast “the negroes behaved themselves
with the greatest meekness and humility, forming a striking contrast
to the savage intolerance and brutal bigotry which at this period
characterise the Moors.”



In the second week of April the Mohammedans of Kamalia were on the
alert for the expected appearance of the new moon, which would
terminate their month of fasting. On the evening of this joyful event
it seemed for a time as if they were to be disappointed, and that yet
another day would have to be added to their Rhamadan. Clouds veiled
the sky. Only temporarily, however. The obscuring mists broke, and the
delicate curved beauty of the new moon gleamed upon the upturned faces,
and carried joy to every Mussulman heart. Shrill screams from the women
and shouts from the men, hand clapping, drum beating, and musket firing
gave voice to the general delight.

Orders were at once given by Karfa to prepare for the march, and on
consultation the 19th of April was chosen for the day of departure.
This was good news for Park, who, sick with hope long deferred, and
“wearied with a constant state of alarm and anxiety, had developed a
painful longing for the manifold blessings of civilisation.” All the
slatees had done their best to set Karfa against the white stranger,
and the latter constantly feared that their evil machinations might
prevail, and that he would be cast forth helpless and destitute among
the dangerous wilds of Africa.

At last the wished-for day of departure arrived. The slatees assembled
with their slaves before their leader Karfa’s door. The bundles were
finally roped, and the loads assigned to the men and women who were to
carry them. When mustered, the caravan numbered thirty-five slaves, and
thirty-eight free people and domestic slaves, a schoolmaster with eight
pupils, and six singing men to lighten with song and antic the toils of
the route, while at the same time making the presence of the caravan
more welcome to the natives, and its reception more hospitable at their

Amid much hand-shaking and various manifestations of fear, regret,
and grief, the signal to start was given, and the caravan set out
on its journey. At a rising some distance out of town a halt was
called. All were ordered to seat themselves, the departing band of
travellers with their faces towards the west, the townspeople who had
so far accompanied them with theirs towards Kamalia and the east. The
schoolmaster and two of the principal slatees, placing themselves
between, raised a long and solemn prayer that their journey might
be successful and safe under the protection of Allah. Afterwards
the caravan was encircled three times, that a charm might be woven
round the party, and their safety thus further ensured. The ceremony
concluded, all sprang to their feet, and without further leave-taking
the start was made towards the ocean.

At first the movements of many of the slaves were eloquent of the
fetters they had worn for years. Their attempts at walking were marked
by spasmodic contractions of the legs, and very soon two of them had to
be released from the rope to allow them to go slower, so painful were
their efforts to step out freely and briskly.

[Illustration: BAOBAB TREE.]

In two marches Worumbang, the western frontier village of Manding, was
reached without mishap. The party was now on the verge of the dreaded
Jallonka Wilderness. Provisions had to be gathered for the passage of
this trying region, and every one rested to prepare for the forced
marches and hardships ahead.

On the morning of the 21st the outskirts of the wilderness were
entered. On reaching the woods a halt was called, and a prayer offered
up that Allah and his prophet might preserve them from robbers, keep
them from hunger, and sustain them under fatigue. This ceremony over,
it behoved every man to push forward with all his strength and will if
Kinytakuro, the proposed destination of that day’s march, was to be
reached before dark. Every one, bond and free alike, knew the dangers
before him, and ran rather than walked.

Soon the Niger basin was left, and the Kokoro, a tributary of the
Senegal, was reached. At this time it was a mere rivulet, but there was
ample evidence to show that during the rainy season it had risen twenty

No halt was made throughout the day--nothing was heard but the order
to push on. Well indeed was it for those who had the strength to do
so. Some there were who could not. A woman and a girl began to lag
behind. Threats and curses from time to time incited them to spasmodic
efforts at exertion, but soon these failed in their effect, and fell
on unheeding ears. The lash was next brought into play, and for a time
gave the needed stimulus. Then it too failed. Savage hands grasped the
unhappy victims of European commerce and dragged them forward, while
others behind plied the whip with unabating ferocity. The limits of
nature were reached at last, and both sank to the ground, not to be
moved by any form of fiendish cruelty. Furious and disappointed, their
master had at length to give in, and make up his mind to return home
for the time being.

About sunset the town of Kinytakuro was reached, and the anxieties of
the first day’s march were over. The entry to the town was made with
much ceremony and circumstance. The musicians led the way singing the
praises of the villagers, their hospitality, and their friendship to
the Mandingoes. After them followed some of the free men; then came the
slaves, fastened in fours by a rope round the neck, with an armed man
between each set. Behind the raw slaves came the domestic slaves, while
the rear was brought up by the free women, the wives of the slatees,
the scholars, &c. In this way the caravan marched to the palaver house,
where the people gathered round to hear their story; after which
lodgings and food were provided for the entire party.

At daybreak on the 23rd, the wilderness proper was entered. At ten
o’clock the river Wonda, flowing to the Senegal, was crossed, and then
strict commands were given that close order should be maintained, and
every man travel in his proper station.

The guides and the young men led the way, the women and slaves occupied
the centre, while the free men brought up the rear. The country through
which they passed unmolested, though with hurried footsteps, was
charming in the extreme, with its variety of hill and dale, of glade
and wood, and meandering streams, to which partridges, guinea fowl, and
deer gave an air of animation. On this day Park got his arms and neck
painfully blistered by the burning sun, from which his scanty dress
afforded him no protection.

At sunset a romantic stream called Comcissang was reached, and here
the party halted for the night, thoroughly fatigued with their day’s
exertions, though no one was heard to complain. Large fires were
kindled for cooking purposes, as well as to light up the camp and drive
away wild beasts. Supper over, the slaves were put in irons to prevent
their escaping, and then all disposed themselves to sleep; but between
ants within the camp and wild beasts howling without the night’s rest
was sadly broken.

At daybreak morning prayers were said, after which a little gruel was
drunk by the free men, the irons being thereafter once more taken off
the slaves, and the march resumed.

The route now led over a wild and rocky country, where Park, with
nothing better than sandals to protect his feet, got sadly bruised
and cut. Fears began to oppress him that he would not be able to keep
up with the caravan, and that he would be left behind to perish. The
sight of others more exhausted than himself was, however, in some
sort a relief from his apprehension. Neali, one of Karfa’s female
slaves, especially showed signs of giving in. She began to lag behind,
complaining of pains in her legs, and her load had to be taken from
her and given to another. About midday, while halting at a rivulet, an
enormous swarm of bees, which had been disturbed by one of the men,
set upon the caravan, and sent it flying in all directions. When the
panic had subsided, it was discovered that Neali had been left behind.
Before going back in search of her it was necessary to set fire to the
grass to the east of the hive in order to clear away the bees with the
smoke. The plan was effectual, and on returning to the rivulet, Neali
was found half dead in the water, whither she had crept in the hope of
escaping the onslaught of the bees. The stratagem had been of no avail,
however, and the poor creature was almost stung to death.

It was the last drop in her cup of misery. Nothing else could touch
her. Entreaties and threats were alike useless. Further forward she
doggedly refused to go. Once more the efficacy of the whip was tried.
Down came the brutal lash. The girl writhed in every muscle, but she
neither screamed nor attempted to rise. Again the lash swung round her
shrinking body, but with no more effect. Not until it had descended
a third and a fourth time did her resolution give way. Then stung to
superhuman effort by the fearful torture, she started up and staggered
forward for some hours, till wild with agony she made a mad attempt to
run away, but fell fainting among the grass. Her master’s only remedy
was the lash, and that he applied with renewed savagery. In vain--Neali
was beyond its cruel compulsion. As a last resource the donkey which
carried the dry provisions was brought, and the half dead slave placed
on his back. But the girl’s only wish was to die, nay, even now she
seemed as one already dead.

Unable even if she had been willing to retain her seat, and the donkey
at the same time emphatically objecting to his new load, that means of
carriage had to be given up. The day’s journey, however, was nearly
over, and Neali being a valuable slave, the slatees could not bring
themselves to abandon her. Accordingly, they made a rude litter of
bamboo canes, on which she was carried until the camping ground for the
night was reached.

It now became evident that Neali was not the only slave for whom the
journey was proving too much. The hard march with heavy loads under a
broiling sun, without food, and with no better stimulant than blows and
curses--with nothing to look forward to at night but additional chains,
and in the future a horrible fate at the hands of white men across the
seas--all this was beginning to have its natural effect. Sullen despair
was in every feature--every gesture. Death, suicide, seemed preferable
to such a chain of horrors.

The slatees were not slow to mark these ominous signs. At once fetters
were applied--the more desperate of the slaves having even their hands
chained; and thus bound they were left to rest as best they might.

Throughout the night Neali lay torpid and almost motionless, and
morning found her with limbs so stiff and swollen that she could not
stand, much less walk. The donkey was again brought into requisition,
and to keep her on his back the girl’s hands were tied round his neck,
and her feet under his belly. Spite of these precautions, however,
before long the donkey threw her, and bound as she was, she was nearly
trampled to death before she could be released.

Meanwhile precious time was being wasted in a wilderness where every
minute was of the utmost importance. To carry the girl in the fashion
of the previous evening was out of the question, and the patience of
every one was exhausted. “Cut her throat! cut her throat!” was the
cry now raised by the slave dealers. Strange to say, Park did not
seem to have anything to urge against this brutal suggestion--for
Neali indeed the most merciful ending of her troubles--though being
unwilling to see it put in force, he walked on ahead. A few minutes
later one of Karfa’s men came up to him carrying Neali’s scanty cotton
garment, which to Park was eloquent of the poor girl’s fate. He could
not bring himself to make inquiries then, but later on he learned that
Neali had not had the good fortune to have her tortures ended at once
by the knife. She was deserted, and a day of exposure, naked to the
remorseless sun, without food or drink, had to drag slowly on before
darkness drew a veil over the last horrible scene, in which she met
death under the fangs of the wild beasts of the Jallonka Wilderness.

The fate of the slave girl had a wonderfully stimulating effect on the
rest of the caravan; but the schoolmaster, in doubts as to how Allah
would regard the incident, fasted the whole day. In deep silence the
slaves travelled onward at a steady pace, each apprehensive that his
too might be the fate of Neali. No one was more apprehensive than Park
himself. Only by the most determined effort of will did he keep himself
from succumbing on the march. Everything that could obstruct him in the
least--even his spear--was thrown away, but still he could just barely
struggle on. “The poor slaves, amidst their own infinitely greater
sufferings, would commiserate mine, and frequently of their own accord
bring water to quench my thirst, and at night collect branches and
leaves to prepare me a bed in the wilderness.”

On the morning of the 26th, two of the schoolmaster’s pupils complained
of pains in their legs, and one of the slaves walked lame, the soles
of his feet being much blistered and inflamed. But there could be no
halting for such trivial causes, and the caravan pushed onward with hot
haste, eager to escape as soon as possible the hardships and dangers
of the desert. In the middle of the day a rocky hill was reached, the
crossing of which greatly aggravated the sores on the travellers’ feet.
In the afternoon evidences of a raiding party of horsemen were seen,
and to hide their track the caravan had to disperse and travel wide
apart for some distance.

Another day of toil ended the desert march. On the 27th, the village of
Susita, in the district of Kullo, was entered. The rest of the road was
comparatively safe. Next day the Bafing or Black River, the principal
branch of the Senegal, was crossed by a bamboo bridge of singular
construction. Trees tied end to end were made to support a roadway
of bamboos--the centre of the bridge floating on the water, the ends
resting on the banks. On the rising of the water during the rains this
primitive bridge is carried away each year.

Though the caravan had now got into a well-populated district, their
troubles were hardly over. They were refused admittance at village
after village, and to complete their discomfiture, news came that two
hundred Jallonkas had gathered to plunder them. This necessitated an
alteration in their route, and a forced night march. After midnight a
town was reached, but as a free man and three slaves were found to be
missing, a halt was called, and while the caravan remained concealed
in a cotton field, a search party returned to look for the runaways.
In the morning the town was entered, and the day was passed in resting
from their fatigues. Here, to the joy of all, the absentees turned up
safely. One of the slaves had hurt his foot, and they had thus lagged
behind and lost the caravan. The free man, foreseeing the danger of
an outbreak, insisted on putting the slaves in irons. This they were
inclined to resist, but a threat to stab them all had its due effect.

On the 3rd of May the caravan reached the schoolmaster’s native
village, Malacotta, where in consequence a hearty welcome awaited them.
Three days were spent here recruiting the party. During that time Park
learned the particulars of a remarkable story of Moslem zeal and Pagan
chivalry and generosity, well worthy of being retold.

“The King of Futa Torra, inflamed with a zeal for propagating his
religion, had sent an embassy to Damel, King of the Jaloffs.

“The ambassador was accompanied by two of the principal Mohammedans of
the country, who each carried a knife fixed on the top of a long pole.
‘With this knife,’ said the ambassador, ‘Abdul Kader will condescend to
shave the head of Damel, if Damel will embrace the Mohammedan religion;
and with this other knife Abdul Kader will cut the throat of Damel if
Damel refuse to embrace it. Take your choice.’

“Damel replied that he had no choice to make. He neither chose to have
his head shaved nor his throat cut; and with this answer the ambassador
was civilly dismissed. War was accordingly declared, and the country of
Damel invaded. The fortune of war, however, went against the earthly
instrument of Allah, and his army was not only dispersed with great
loss, but he himself taken prisoner. In this humiliating position
Abdul Kader was brought in irons and thrown on the ground before
Damel. Instead of setting his foot on the neck of his royal prisoner
and stabbing him with his spear, as is the custom in such cases, Damel
addressed him as follows--‘Abdul Kader, answer me this question. If
the chance of war had placed me in your situation, and you in mine, how
would you have treated me?’

“‘I would have thrust my spear into your heart,’ answered the brave
though fanatical prince; ‘and I know that a similar fate awaits me.’

“‘Not so,’ said Damel. ‘My spear is indeed red with the blood of your
subjects killed in battle, and I could now give it a deeper stain by
dipping it in your own; but this would not build up my towns, nor bring
to life the thousands who fell in the woods. I will not therefore kill
you in cold blood, but I will retain you as my slave until I perceive
that your presence in your own kingdom will be no longer dangerous
to your neighbours, and then I will consider of the proper way of
disposing of you.’ A decision which has been made the subject of the
songs of the musicians, and a matter of applausive comment by all the

“Abdul Kader was accordingly retained, and worked as a slave for three
months; at the end of which period Damel listened to the solicitations
of the inhabitants of Futa Torra, and restored to them their king.”

Of the truth of this story there seems to be no doubt.



At Malacotta, Park could look forward with a considerable degree of
confidence to his safe return to the coast. He was once more within
the sphere of influence of coast trade, where the European was better
known, and the hostile agency of the Moor was of small account. There
were no more jungles to cross, and he was unaware of obstructing wars
on the route. Through good and evil report Karfa had remained his
staunch friend, and it was certain that now that his promised reward
was coming nearer and nearer attainment, he would not alter in his
honourable fidelity to his engagements. It was now only a question of
so many more days’ journey till the Gambia would be reached, and all
Park’s cares and troubles be at an end.

On the 7th of May the slave caravan left Malacotta, and resumed its
journey to the coast. The Bali, a branch of the Senegal, was crossed,
and Bintingala entered in the evening.

In the afternoon of the 12th the Falemé River was forded about 100
miles south of Park’s fording point on his inland journey. At this
place and time of year the river was only two feet deep, flowing over a
bed of sand and gravel.

On the same day the caravan halted at the residence of a Mandingo
merchant, who had his food served up in pewter dishes in the European
fashion. Next morning they were joined by a Serawuli slave caravan.
These traders had the reputation of being infinitely more cruel in
their treatment of slaves than the Mandingoes. Park was soon to see
a sample of their ways. The caravan was travelling with great speed
through the dense woods, when one of the slaves began to show signs
of exhaustion, and let his load fall from his head. A smart flogging
proved a temporary stimulant to the unhappy victim, but hardly a mile
was passed before nature once more asserted itself, and again the load
fell. A double dose of the lash proved a second time effectual, and
once more the slave struggled painfully forward. At last the limits of
his powers were reached, and it became clear that flog as they might he
would remain immovable.

The caravan could not wait till he recovered, and accordingly one of
the Serawulis undertook to wait and bring him to camp in the cool of
the evening. When the slave dealer did arrive in camp he came alone. No
questions were asked, but every one knew that either the unfortunate
man had been killed, or was left to be devoured by wild beasts.

Other examples of the slave dealers’ methods were almost daily
exhibited before Park’s eyes. At one place a Mandingo, having a slave
torn from a neighbouring district, agreed with Karfa to exchange him
for another from a more distant country, to which he could not run
away. The slave to be taken by Karfa was called on a trivial pretext to
come into the house. The moment he entered the gate was shut, and he
was told to sit down. At once he saw the danger of his situation--not
only the more horrible fate of transportation across the seas, but
the loss of all chance of escape to his native country. He would at
least make one effort for liberty. With the wild leap of a hunted deer
he cleared the fence of the court and bolted for the woods. But it
was useless. His enemies were too many. A few minutes of wild flight,
spurred on by wolfish cries, and then he was hunted down and brought
back in irons to be handed over to Karfa.

At another place one of the male slaves in the caravan was found to
be too exhausted to proceed further in spite of the usual physical
stimulants. A townsman was found willing to exchange him for a young
girl. No hint was given her of her approaching doom till the last
moment. Along with her companions she had come to see the caravan
depart, when all at once her master seized her by the hand and
delivered her to the slave dealer. “Never was a face of serenity more
suddenly changed into one of the deepest distress. The terror she
manifested on having the load put upon her head and the rope round her
neck, and the sorrow with which she bade adieu to her companions, were
truly affecting.”

Incidents like these were what chiefly characterised Park’s journey
to the Gambia. At times the curious as well as the horrible side of
African life peeped out to entertain him, as, for instance, when one of
the slatees, on returning for the first time to his native place after
an absence of three years, was met at the threshold of his door by his
bride-elect, who presented him with a calabash of water in which to
wash his hands. This done, “the girl, with a tear of joy sparkling in
her eye, drank the water,” in token of her fidelity and attachment.

Another of the slatees turned out to be an African Enoch Arden. For
eight long years he had stayed away from his wife, during which time
she heard nothing from him. Concluding after three years that he was
either dead or not likely to return, she seemingly without reluctance
gave her heart and hand to another, by whom she had two children. The
first husband now claimed her as his. The other objected on the ground
that a three years’ absence annulled a marriage. For four days a public
palaver was held to settle this knotty point, ending in the decision
that the husbands had equal rights, and that the wife had best settle
the matter by making her own choice. The lady asked time to consider,
but Park could perceive that not love but wealth would gain the day.

On the 20th of May the caravan entered the Tenda Wilderness, where
for two days they traversed dense woods. With what pleasure must Park
have noticed that the country shelved towards the south-west--that in
fact he had entered the basin of the Gambia. At sunset of the first
day a pool was reached after a very hot and trying march. To avoid the
burning heats of the day a night march was determined on. At eleven
o’clock the slaves were released from their irons and driven forward
in close order, as much to prevent them escaping as to save them from
wild beasts. In this fashion they travelled till daybreak, after a rest
continuing the march to Tambakunda, the place almost reached by Jobson
nearly 170 years before, and which he believed to be Timbuktu itself.

From Tambakunda the road led over a wild and rocky country, everywhere
rising into hills, and abounding with monkeys and wild beasts. During
the next two marches the reception everywhere met with by the caravan
was far from being hospitable, and they were even in some danger of
being plundered.

On the 30th of May the Nerico, a branch of the Gambia, was reached. As
soon as it was crossed the singing men began to chant a song expressive
of their delight at having got safe into the “land of the setting sun.”
Next day, to his infinite joy, Park found himself on the banks of the
Gambia, at a point where it was navigable, though lower down there were

Three days later, Medina, the capital of Wulli, was reached, where Park
had been so hospitably received seventeen months before. The caravan
did not halt here; but Park, mindful of the old king’s prayer on his
behalf, sent word to him that his prayers had not been unavailing.

Next day Jindeh was reached, where the parting with Dr. Laidley had
taken place. Here Karfa left his slaves till a better opportunity of
selling them had arrived; but determined not to leave his white friend
till the last, he accompanied him on his way to Pisania.

Park at this point remarks: “Although I was now approaching the end
of my tedious and toilsome journey, and expected in another day to
meet with countrymen and friends, I could not part for the last time
with my unfortunate fellow-travellers, doomed as I knew most of them
to be to a life of captivity and slavery in a foreign land, without
great emotion.... We parted with reciprocal expressions of regret and
benediction. My good wishes and prayers were all that I could bestow
upon them, and it afforded me some consolation to be told that they
were sensible I had no more to give.”

On the 10th, Park once more shook hands with one of his countrymen. He
found that it was universally believed that he had met the same fate
as Major Houghton in Ludamar. He also learned with sincere sorrow that
neither Johnson, who had deserted him, nor Demba, who had been enslaved
by the Moors, had returned.

On the 12th, Dr. Laidley joined the long-lost traveller, and greeted
him as one risen from the dead. Park was soon, under his hospitable
hands, divested of his ragged Moorish garments. With them went the
luxuriant beard which had been the delight and admiration of natives
and Moors alike, among whom nothing is more envied, and he stood forth
once more the handsome young Scotchman his portrait shows him to be.

Karfa was now paid off, the stipulated reward being doubled, and Dr.
Laidley’s interest also promised in getting his slaves disposed of to

Karfa was never tired expressing his wonderment at all he saw, though
nothing surprised him more than the incomprehensible madness of a
person in Park’s condition in life leaving all and suffering so
many hardships and dangers merely to see the river Niger. “I have
preserved,” says Park, “these little traits of character in this worthy
negro, not only from regard to the man, but also because they appear
to me to demonstrate that he possessed a mind above his condition,
and to such of my readers as love to contemplate human nature in all
its varieties, and to trace its progress from rudeness to refinement,
I hope the account I have given of this poor African will not be

Looking back on his long and terrible journey, Park could afford to
take a lenient view of all the people who had plundered, ill-used,
or inhospitably treated him, except the Moors, of whom he carried a
deep-rooted horror and hatred to his dying day. For the Mandingoes
and kindred tribes he could ever find an excuse for all he suffered
at their hands, and as a people he found them gentle, cheerful in
their dispositions, kind-hearted, and simple, with a natural sense of
justice which only very great temptation could overcome. He could not
find words strong enough to describe the disinterested charity and
tender solicitude shown by many of them, especially the women, whom he
found to be universally kind and compassionate, sympathising with his
sufferings, relieving his distresses, and contributing to his safety.

Reviewing what he had seen commercially, he found that slaves, gold,
and ivory, beeswax and honey, hides, gums, and dye woods, constituted
the whole catalogue of exportable commodities. Of other products, such
as tobacco, indigo, and cotton, sufficient only was raised for native
consumption. He concluded, nevertheless, that “it cannot, however,
admit of a doubt that all the rich and valuable productions both of
the East and West Indies might easily be naturalised and brought to
the utmost perfection in the tropical parts of this immense continent.
Nothing is wanting to this end but example to enlighten the minds of
the natives, and instruction to enable them to direct their industry
to proper objects. It was not possible for me to behold the wonderful
fertility of the soil, the vast herds of cattle, proper both for
food and labour, and a variety of other circumstances favourable to
colonisation and agriculture, and reflect withal on the means which
presented themselves of a vast inland navigation, without lamenting
that a country so abundantly gifted and favoured by nature should
remain in its present savage and neglected state. Much more did
I lament that a people of manners and dispositions so gentle and
benevolent should either be left as they now are, immersed in the gross
and uncomfortable blindness of Pagan superstition, or permitted to
become converts to a system of bigotry and fanaticism which, without
enlightening the mind, often debases the heart.” And yet which of
the representatives of the two religions, Islam and Christianity,
were doing the most good among the heathen according to Park’s own
showing--the Mohammedans, battling against the inrushing tide of rum
and gin, encouraging education, and spreading a knowledge of Allah the
One God; or the Christian merchants, fomenting and deepening all the
horrors of native barbarism that their trade in slaves might be kept
up, and adding to the degradation of the land by the drink and firearms
they gave in exchange for its people?

As there was no ship in the river when Park arrived, he expected
to have to wait for some months. In this, however, he was happily
disappointed, for an American slave ship, the _Charlestown_, arrived on
the 15th. Slaves were plentiful, and in a couple of days the cargo of
human flesh and blood for the plantations of South Carolina was made up
in exchange for rum and tobacco.

Though the route by America was excessively circuitous, it was such a
chance as Park could not afford to neglect. Accordingly, on the 17th of
June he bade farewell to all his English friends, and took passage in
the American vessel.

He had now reason to suppose that all his cares, anxieties, and dangers
were over, and nothing but rest and good treatment before him. Once
more, however, he was dogged by his usual ill-luck. The passage down
the river was tedious and fatiguing, the weather being exceedingly hot,
moist, and unhealthy. The result was that before Goree was reached,
four of the seamen, the surgeon, and three of the slaves had died of
fever. At Goree, owing to the difficulty of obtaining provisions,
the vessel was detained four weary months, so that it was the end of
October before she eventually set sail for America.

The _Charlestown’s_ cargo consisted of 130 slaves, of whom twenty-five
had been free Mohammedans, able to read and write a little Arabic. Some
of the others had seen Park _en route_, and many had heard of him in
their distant villages. But though he had not a word to say against the
slave trade, Park had a feeling heart for the miseries of those whom,
with his Calvinistic ideas, he believed predestined to a life of shame
and suffering. Being able to speak to them in their native language,
he did his best as a man and a doctor to comfort them. And in truth
they had need of all the consolation he could bestow. The manner in
which they were crowded, confined, and chained in the hold of the ship
produced terrible sufferings, while the foul air, the wretched sanitary
conditions, and the want of exercise brought on general sickness.
“Besides the three who died on the Gambia, and six or eight at Goree,
eleven perished at sea, and many of the survivors were reduced to a
very weak and emaciated condition.”

To make matters worse for all concerned, the _Charlestown_ sprang a
leak three weeks from Goree, and threatened to founder in mid-ocean. To
avoid this, the ablest of the negroes were taken from their chains and
kept at the pumps till they could be hounded on no longer, and sank
down exhausted and half dead. In spite of everything, however, the leak
continued to gain, and the misery of all on board was indescribable. As
affording the only chance of safety, the _Charlestown_ was turned from
its course and steered for Antigua, which was reached thirty-five days
out from Goree. But even in sight of harbour the ship narrowly escaped
destruction by striking on a sunken rock.

Park remained at Antigua for two days, when on the 24th November he was
taken up by a passing mail ship. After a short but tempestuous voyage
he arrived at Falmouth on the 22nd December, having been absent from
England two years and nine months.



Once landed at Falmouth, Park lost no time in proceeding to London. In
those days there was no telegraph to apprise the world of his arrival,
nor newspaper reporters to interview him, and give their readers a
description of his appearance and a foretaste of his adventures.

He reached London before daybreak on the 25th December, and directed
his steps to the house of his brother-in-law, Mr. Dickson. Not caring
to disturb his relative at that early hour, he wandered about the
streets for some time, till finding one of the gates to the British
Museum Gardens open, he entered.

As it happened, Dickson had charge of these gardens, and on this
particular morning had business which took him there unusually early.
Conceive his amazement on coming face to face with what for a moment he
almost took to be a vision or ghost of his young relative, long since
believed to be dead. It did not take long to convince him, however,
that here was no ghost, but the actual traveller himself, safe and
well, his great mission carried through to a successful conclusion.

The interest, delight, and surprise of the Association, as well as of
the public generally, were no less keen. For some time it had been
looked on as a certainty that he had been murdered, and now the utmost
curiosity prevailed to hear his adventures, and at last learn something
authentic about the mysterious river of the negroes.

It looked indeed as if Park’s own prediction to his brother before
leaving for Africa, that he would “acquire a greater name than any ever
did,” was to be verified. In the absence of more definite news, the
hand to hand reports which circulated only tended to exaggerate his
feats and discoveries.

So eager became the demand for information that it was determined to
issue a preliminary report of the principal geographical results of the
expedition. This was written by Bryan Edwards, the Secretary of the
Association, a gentleman of no inconsiderable literary attainments, and
author of a “History of the British Colonies in the West Indies.”

To the collaboration of Edwards was added that of Major Rennell,
who worked out with very great care the traveller’s routes, and the
geography of the region generally. In addition, Rennell added a
memoir on the upper course of the Niger beyond Park’s furthest point,
collating with his information that of the Arabian geographers.

But the public demanded something more than the dry bones of geography
to satisfy their hungry appetite. They wanted also the flesh and blood
of his narrative--how he lived and moved, what he felt and suffered,
what dangers he faced, what hardships endured, the wonders he saw.
Books of travel had not then deluged the market and saturated men’s
minds with details about the remotest corners of Inner Africa. It was
practically virgin soil to the reader, who could in nowise guess
beforehand what startling revelations were in store for him. Compared
with the modern devourer of books of travel, his sensations would be as
those of the first explorer of the Gambia to the subdued expectancy of
our latest traveller.

To gratify this very natural curiosity Park now devoted himself. His
materials, apart from his memory, were but scanty. They consisted, in
fact, of short notes or memoranda, written on odds and ends of paper,
which must often have been far from legible, considering how they were
carried for months in the crown of a battered hat, exposed to damp and
all manner of accidents.

In the task of authorship Park was no doubt materially aided by Mr.
Edwards, with whom he lived on terms of great friendship. In one or
two places the pen of Edwards is clearly traceable, but these are few
and far between. Where he lent the most valuable assistance was in the
pruning, rearrangement, and revision which the work of a novice in
composition would almost necessarily require. In this respect, however,
Park is not alone among travellers. Few indeed among them have had such
a complete mastery of the pen and of the English language as to trust
absolutely in their own literary powers and judgment, although, as in
Park’s case, the assistance required has seldom gone beyond guidance
and revision.

Apart from his literary influence, it can hardly be doubted that
Edwards very materially moulded Park’s views on at least one important
subject--the slave trade. At that time the question of abolition had
become a burning one in the country, and Edwards was one of the warmest
advocates of the old order of things. He would give Africa Light,
but no Liberty. While actively employed in trying to open up the Dark
Continent to European influence, he strenuously strove to ensure that
that influence should remain of the most criminal and degrading nature.

Let the reader imagine what would have been the consequence to Africa
if the advocates of slavery had had their way, and the exploration
of the Continent had only been the forerunner of more widespread
ramifications of the slave trade. However incredible it may appear,
such might easily have been the case. People once accustomed to an evil
soon forget that it is such, and begin to look upon it as one of the
necessary and unavoidable ills of life. Take, for example, the survival
of the African gin trade to this very day, increasing and flourishing
long after its dissociation from its well-matched sister traffic in
slaves, and everywhere dogging the explorer’s footsteps. It is doubtful
if even the slave trade has done more to brutalise and degrade the
negro; and yet even in our time there is only a partial awakening to
the frightful evils of the iniquitous traffic.

This culpable blindness or carelessness on our part is doubtless
largely fostered by the comforting and comfortable belief that our
missionaries are doing a great and noble work in Africa, and that mere
contact with the European and European commerce must of necessity
have an elevating effect upon the lower races. The truth is that for
every negro nominally or genuinely brought under the influence of
Christianity, ten thousand have been driven by drink to depths of moral
and physical depravity unheard of among uncontaminated native tribes,
and that so far contact with the European and his commerce has resulted
not in elevation to the African, but in degradation of the most
loathsome kind.

To what extent Park was really influenced in his opinions on the
slave question by Edwards it would be difficult to say. It matters
little, however, for whether he really believed in the righteousness
of slavery or was merely reasoned into neutrality, his position was
equally indefensible. Nay, more, if, as his friends say, he really
believed that the trade was an unjust one, the position he assumed
was nothing more nor less than criminal. These urge, as if it were
an extenuating circumstance, that in private conversation he even
expressed the greatest abhorrence of the traffic. This, it must be
confessed, seems improbable. Such an attitude is utterly unlike what
we should expect from a man of Park’s marked individuality and strong
earnest truthfulness. Moreover, it seems sufficiently clear that the
public opinion of his day ascribed to him a belief in the righteousness
of the principle of slavery, and if it was wrong, it seems strange that
he took no means to correct it. But that it was not wrong seems evident
from a speech delivered on the Abolition of the Slave Trade by George
Hibbert in Parliament in 1803.

The following is an extract--valuable, too, as throwing light upon the
share of Edwards in the writing of Park’s book:--

“I have read and heard that we are to look to Park’s facts and not to
his opinions; and it has been insinuated that his editor, Mr. Edwards,
had foisted those opinions (relating to the slave trade) into his book.
It happened to me once to converse with Mr. Park at a meeting of the
Linnean Society, when this very topic was started, and he assured me
that, not being in the habit of literary composition, he was obliged
to employ some one to put his manuscript into a form fit for the public
eye, but that every sheet of the publication had undergone his strict
revision, and that not only every fact but every sentiment was his own.”

We must, therefore, till more convincing proof than hearsay evidence
is forthcoming, believe that Mungo Park was a believer in the slave
trade. Such a position we can understand and make all due allowance
for as the result of the ideas of the time, and of those by whom he
was immediately surrounded--to believe else were to place Park on a
distinctly lower pedestal than that to which he is entitled by his many
meritorious characteristics.

Shortly after the publication of the abstract of Park’s narrative,
he left London on a visit to his family at Foulshiels, where his
mother still lived, though his father had been dead for some years.
Here he remained the whole of the summer and autumn of 1798, working
assiduously at the narrative of his travels. This was probably anything
but an agreeable task to him after the eventful life he had led for
three years, and unaccustomed as he was to literary work. But Park
was not the man to shirk any work, however irksome, if it in any way
appeared to him in the light of a duty. His mornings he devoted to
writing, his evenings to strolls along the bank of his much-loved
Yarrow, where, rarely troubled by native or by passing stranger, he
could undisturbed recall the various events which marked his African
wanderings, and on the dreamy rush of the mountain stream let his
thoughts glide back to the majestic sweep of the Joliba moving eastward
towards its unknown bourne. What hours he must have spent thus,
seeking in his mind’s eye to pierce the dark veil which so mysteriously
shrouded the great African river beyond Timbuktu, and follow it to
its union with the ocean, or its gradual disappearance in the Central

At times restlessness and a feeling of revolt took possession of him,
and then the only charm that could exorcise the demon of unrest within
him or soothe his wild vague longings, was a long swift walk among the
wild romantic scenery around. Up Yarrow’s winding dale, on the bold
front of Newark Hill, or the heathery summit of the Broomy Law, his
was the keen pleasure of a soul that knows “a rapture on the lonely
shore.” The distant bleat of sheep, the plaintive call of the curlew,
and the whirr of grouse, harmonised well with the mood possessing him,
and touched his heart with the wild pathos of Nature. Happiest when
alone, he found companions in all the sounds around him. The breeze,
the rushing stream, the wild calls of bird and beast, all alike spoke
to him, and adapted themselves to his every mood.

All this may be vaguely discerned by virtue of the gleams of light
which have momentarily shot across the darkness of the past, and
preserved a blurred though speaking print of the great traveller at
home among his native hills.

But although thus isolated from the world at large, Park was not
entirely cut off from communication with his fellow-men. His chief
resort when in a mood for society was the house of his friend and
master in medicine, Dr. Anderson, who still practised in Selkirk,
within easy reach of Foulshiels. As one result of these frequent
visits, the friendship of former days for Miss Anderson speedily
developed into a warmer feeling, and summer saw them engaged.

Towards the latter part of 1798, Park returned to London to make the
final arrangements for the publication of his narrative. Even then,
however, much had to be done with the assistance of Edwards before the
manuscript was finally ready for the press, and spring had come before
the book saw the light.

It would be difficult to overestimate the enthusiasm with which it
was received, or the interest in Park and Africa which it aroused.
Two editions were sold off in rapid succession, and were followed by
several others in the course of the following ten years.

Apart from its being almost the first of African books of travel, and
from the absolute novelty of all it contained, the narrative was told
with a charm and _naïveté_ in themselves sufficient to captivate the
most fastidious reader. Modesty and truthfulness peeped from every
sentence. Its author claimed no praise, no admiration, beyond that due
to him for having done his duty. He took to himself no credit for all
the virtues he had shown. So afraid was he indeed that he might be
charged with being the author of what are called “travellers’ tales,”
that he deliberately suppressed several remarkable adventures. On
this point he said to Sir Walter Scott, “that in all cases where he
had information to communicate which he thought of importance to the
public, he had stated the facts boldly, leaving it to his readers to
give such credit to his statements as they might appear justly to
deserve, but that he would not shock their credulity or render his
travels more marvellous by introducing circumstances which, however
true, were of little or no moment.”

Happily his narrative required no aid from such suppressed adventures,
however strange they might be, or however much we should have liked to
know them. He had incident enough to make half-a-dozen of the spun out
books of modern travel. Neither then nor since has any African explorer
had such a romantic tale to tell, nor has any out of all the long list
of adventurers who have followed told his tale so well. Some there
have been who have flourished more theatrically across the African
stage, and by virtue of striking dramatic effects, and a certain spice
of bloodshed, have struck the imagination of those who are content
with the superficial show of things, and are not too critical as to
their significance. But for actual hardships undergone, for dangers
faced, and difficulties overcome, together with an exhibition of the
virtues which make a man great in the rude battle of life, Mungo Park
stands without a rival. In one respect only--that of motive--does
another surpass him. Here Livingstone stands head and shoulders above
his predecessor, whose aspirations after personal name and fame, and
apathetic attitude towards the anti-slavery movement, will ill bear
comparison with the noble longings which inspired the great missionary
to travel, that the negro heathen might be brought within the pale of
Christian brotherhood, and stirred him to the consecration of his life
in healing “the great open sore of the Universe.”

Not that Park was altogether awanting in all that tends towards the
spirit of self-sacrifice. On the contrary, throughout his whole
narrative we fail to find the faintest trace of vulgar ambition or
ignoble self-seeking. He deliberately suppressed incidents which
would have added greatly to his fame, especially among those whose
imagination is only appealed to by the marvellous. His whole nature
shrank from notoriety. He was retired and reserved in manner, and
instead of seeking to play the _rôle_ of the “lion” in society,
we find that he always looked forward to a time when, his labours
ended, he should be able to seek the seclusion and retirement of the
country--scarcely the goal this of a merely selfish ambition.

As little was he actuated by the desire of gain, as Ruskin would have
us believe. Except perhaps in one conspicuous instance, African travel
has never been known to lead to the attainment of riches, and certainly
to Park money was never held out as an inducement. The spark that
quickened his manhood to heroism, and fired him “to scorn delights and
live laborious days,” was the worthy ambition of a noble mind to work
for the good of his country and the advancement of knowledge, rewarded
solely by the approbation of his own conscience and the esteem of good

It is to be remembered that a hundred years ago Christian philanthropy
had not become so cosmopolitan--so world-embracing--as to take within
its sphere all who bear the name of man, without respect of race,
religion, or degree of civilisation. From what we know of his intense
religious convictions and kindly nature, Park, had he lived at the
present day, would probably have been a missionary aflame for the
cause of Christ and ready to lay down his life for it, or a traveller
preaching a crusade, not only against the slave trade, which is so
often ignorantly ascribed to the influence of Islam, but against the
gin trade likewise, which with quite as much plausibility might be
associated with Christianity.

At the period of the publication of Park’s narrative the question
of Abolition was in every man’s mind. The horrors of the middle
passage--the iniquities perpetrated in the plantations by men calling
themselves Englishmen--were being painted in colours by no means too
dark. Park’s book came opportunely to add to the literature of the
subject, and undoubtedly, in spite of the anti-abolition opinions he
was believed to hold, the facts he disclosed regarding the horrors of
the slave route added materially to the arguments of the Abolitionists.
Coming, indeed, as was believed, from one of the opposite party, they
were of all the more value, the natural assumption being that the
worst aspects had been softened down and as good a case made out for
slavery as was possible without direct violation of the truth. It was
abundantly clear to all unprejudiced minds that the conditions under
which the trade was carried on, and the evil results flowing from it as
described by Park, were iniquitous and shameful in the extreme. To such
Park’s opinions were of small account compared with his facts, and we
may safely conclude that these latter very materially contributed to
the sweeping away of the vile traffic.


_MUNGO PARK AT HOME--(Continued)._

After the publication of his narrative there was nothing to detain Park
longer in London, while there was much to attract him to Scotland.
Accordingly he returned to Foulshiels in the summer of 1799.

On the 2nd of August of that year he was married to Miss Anderson.
Of the personality of this lady we know little beyond the simple
facts that she was tall and handsome, amiable in disposition, with
no special mental endowments, and if anything somewhat frivolous and
pleasure-loving--characteristics very unlike what we should have
expected in the wife of such a man as Park.

In personal appearance the young explorer must have been quite a
match for his wife. The portrait of him which has come down to us
shows a head of noble proportions. The fine brow speaks of his mental
powers; the prominent, finely chiselled nose, firm, well-shaped mouth,
and powerful jaws, indicate the iron will and marked individuality
which he showed himself to possess. No less striking and attractive
are the eyes, which look forth so calmly, aglow with truthfulness,
self-possession, and confidence. In person he was tall, reaching quite
six feet, and exceedingly well proportioned. His whole appearance was

It is impossible to say what were Park’s plans for his future life
when he took to himself a wife. Probably they were but ill-defined
even to himself. It may be safely concluded, however, that he had
then no intention of returning to Africa. All the horrors of his
recent experiences were still too strongly upon him to make the idea
of a new journey welcome. Moreover, the after penalty of those months
of starvation and atrocious fare had still to be paid by inveterate
dyspepsia and its concomitant evils of gloom and despondency. While
under its influence his sleep was much broken, and too often night
was made one hideous nightmare by dreams of being back once more in
captivity among the Moors of Ludamar, and subjected to the old tortures
and indignities.

Probably, therefore, when he married, he did so in the belief that
there would be no occasion for separation--no likelihood of his ever
entering upon any engagements which should make him unable to fulfil
his duty to his wife as a loving, ever-present protector and support.

At no time does Park ever seem to have been enamoured of his
profession, and after the life he had recently led he felt a repugnance
to settling down to its uncongenial routine.

For the moment, however, he did not feel called upon to come to
an immediate decision as to his future work in life. The liberal
remuneration which he had received from the African Association,
together with the profits of his book, had placed him for the time
being in easy circumstances. He could therefore afford to wait to see
what might turn up. He had become well known. He had powerful friends.
There was accordingly every likelihood that something congenial would
be found for him. Meanwhile he resolved to settle down quietly at

At this period his mother was still alive, and the farm was worked by
one of his brothers. Most of the family had done well. One sister, as
we have already seen, had married Mr. Dickson, who had risen both to
moderate affluence and to considerable fame as a botanist. Another
had found a husband in a well-to-do farmer in the neighbourhood.
His brother Adam had gone through the same course as himself, and
had become established as a doctor in Gravesend; while a second
brother, Alexander, had been made under-sheriff for the county, the
sheriff-principal being Sir Walter Scott.

Of this brother Scott himself gives us a sketch in his introduction
to the “Lady of the Lake,” when recalling his doubts of the poem’s

“I remember that about the same time a friend (Arch. Park) started in
to ‘heeze up my hope,’ like the sportsman with his cutty gun in the
old song. He was bred a farmer, but a man of powerful understanding,
natural good taste, and warm poetical feeling, perfectly competent
to supply the wants of an imperfect or irregular education. He was a
passionate admirer of field sports, which we often pursued together.”
And then Scott goes on to tell how he was in the habit of reading the
poem to him to experiment as to the effect produced on one who was “but
too favourable a representative of readers at large.” Archibald Park
remained in Scott’s employment for many years, and was frequently his
companion in his mountain rides.

In 1799, the Government made certain proposals to Park relative
to his going out in some official capacity to New South Wales. Of
this, however, nothing came, though whether the fault lay with the
Government or with the explorer is not known.

The natural consequences of idleness to a man of Park’s personality
and past life soon became apparent. With a wife of no particular depth
of character and no special mental attainments, however attractive and
amiable she might otherwise be, there could be but small absorption of
his thoughts. With no other society, and no work to keep him occupied,
there could be but one result--restlessness and revolt against the
position in which he found himself, and the gradual upgrowth of the old
longings and ideas--the irrepressible fever of travel. Coincidently
he began to forget the hardships and dangers he had experienced, and
as they grew less and less vivid, and gradually dropped into the
background of his memory, the fascination of discovery, of travel
in strange lands and among strange peoples--the wish to settle the
unsolved mystery of the Niger--began anew to assert their power and
possess him with ever-growing force.

For the time the African Association was resting on their oars as far
as prosecuting their work from West Africa was concerned, though in
1798 Horneman had been despatched to penetrate to the Sudan from Egypt.

No doubt this was partly due to the enormous difficulties and ever
present dangers which Park had described, partly also perhaps on
account of the war then being waged with France.

In 1800 Goree had been captured, an event which inspired Park to write
(July 31, 1800) to Sir Joseph Banks, pointing out its importance
in relation to renewed attempts to penetrate the interior of the
Continent. After describing his views on the subject, he adds--“If
such are the views of Government, I hope that my exertions in some
station or other may be of use to my country.”

In 1801 the negotiations with the Government relative to the New South
Wales mission were resumed. A visit to London was found necessary for a
satisfactory discussion of the matter, and accordingly we find Park in
the metropolis in the early spring.

How deep and tender was his affection for his winsome wife is shown
in a letter written to her during the visit--one of the few glimpses
that have come down to us of the more private side of the explorer’s

The letter is dated March 12th, 1801, and is as follows:--

    “MY LOVELY AILIE,--Nothing gives me more pleasure than to write
    to you, and the reason why I delayed it a day last time was to
    get some money to send to you. You say you are wishing to spend
    a note upon yourself. My sweet Ailie, you may be sure I approve
    of it. What is mine is yours, and I receive much pleasure from
    your goodness in consulting me about such a trifle. I wish I had
    thousands to give you, but I know that my Ailie will be contented
    with what we have, and we shall live in the hope of seeing better
    days. I long very much to be with you, my love, and I was in great
    hopes of having things settled before now, but Sir Joseph (Banks)
    is ill, and I can do nothing till he recovers.

    “I am happy to know you will go to New South Wales with me, my
    sweet wife. You are everything that I could desire; and wherever
    we go, you may be sure of one thing, that I shall always love you.
    Whenever I have fixed on this or any other situation I shall write
    to you. In the meantime, let nobody know till things are settled,
    as there is much between the cup and the lip.

    “My lovely Ailie, you are constantly in my thoughts. I am tired
    of this place, but cannot lose the present opportunity of doing
    something for our advantage. When that is accomplished I shall not
    lose one moment. My darling, when we meet I shall be the happiest
    man on earth. Write soon, for I count the days till I hear from
    you, my lovely Ailie.”

Again the negotiations with the Government fell through, and there
was nothing for it but for Park to return once more to Foulshiels
disappointed and discouraged, but possessed more than ever by the
fever of unrest--more and more under the influence of the Niger
magnet--against which the sole counteracting forces were love for his
wife, the dread of being separated from her, and his duty as a husband.

It was in this not very suitable mood that he was forced to face the
fact that he must no longer depend on the vague hope of finding a
congenial opening, but must put his hand to something, however alien to
his tastes and aspirations. For a time he thought of taking a farm, but
at last reluctantly came to the conclusion that his best course would
be to resume his profession as a doctor. An opening presented itself
in the neighbouring town of Peebles, where he went to reside in the
month of October, occupying a house at the head of the Brygate, while
his surgery was a small projecting building--since demolished--east
from the first Chambers’ Institute. In a lane behind was his humble


    I had a letter from Adam on Monday-last but I suppose by this time
    he has sailed for India.

    My compl. to all friends and I remain my lovely Ailie yours ever

                                                            Mungo Park.

    London  }
    March 12}
    1801    }

    P.S. write soon for I count the days until your answer comes


Park threw himself into his work with characteristic energy and
thoroughness, and speedily won for himself a fair share of the practice
of the town and country. The profits, however, were of the poorest, and
the work of the hardest--so much so, indeed, that he once said to Scott
he “would rather brave Africa and all its horrors than wear out his
life in long and toilsome rides over cold and lonely heaths and gloomy
hills, assailed by the wintry tempest, for which the remuneration was
hardly enough to keep soul and body together.”

On the strength of this reported offhand remark, Ruskin, without
troubling to inquire further into the history of the man, has
formulated the following indictment. This “terrific” sentence, he says,
“signifies, if you look into it, almost total absence of the instinct
of personal duty--total absence of belief in the God who chose for him
his cottage birthplace and set him his life task beside it; absolute
want of interest in his profession, of sense for natural beauty,
and of compassion for the noblest poor of his native land. And with
these absences there is the clearest evidence of the fatalist of the
vices, Avarice--in the exact form in which it was the ruin of Scott
himself--the love of money for the sake of worldly position.”

Never was more sweeping accusation founded on more slender data.
Practically, Park is charged with absence of a belief in God, and of a
sense of duty to his fellows, because he finds his profession toilsome
and uncongenial.

The argument seems to be that the man is an atheist and a sinner
against society who is not content to remain in the sphere in which he
was born, and in which accordingly his life task is divinely set.

Were such a position tenable, it is difficult to see how any progress,
either personal or social, would be possible. From it, in the present
instance, would naturally follow that Park was as little to be
justified in choosing to be a doctor rather than a peasant farmer, as
in preferring to be an explorer rather than either.

What Ruskin takes exception to, however, is not Park’s choosing a
profession, but that the choice once made, he should seek to abandon
it. But if it were permissible to him as a youth, ignorant alike of
himself, the world, and the profession he was about to enter, to
choose, surely it was equally permissible that as a man, with some
knowledge of all three, he should withdraw in favour of the work to
which he knew himself adapted. The instinct and capacities which fitted
him for an explorer were as divinely implanted as his birthplace had
been divinely appointed. Moreover, those “noblest poor of his native
land,” to whom Ruskin so pathetically refers, were not alone dependent
on Park for medical aid--a circumstance which would have lent another
colour to his final resolve to forsake them. Doctors there were in
plenty, alike able and willing to serve them; but there was but one
Mungo Park--but one man, as far as was known, who by his special
gifts and wide experience was suited for the peculiar and arduous
work of African exploration. Upon him then it devolved, with all the
sacrednesss of a divinely appointed mission, as indeed he deemed
it, and accepted it accordingly, to the exclusion of all narrower

There still remains the charge of Avarice, based on Park’s simple
statement that his “unceasing toil was hardly sufficient to keep soul
and body together.” Is then the physician less entitled than say the
author to a just remuneration for his services, or does Ruskin share
the not uncommon popular delusion that though butchers’ and bakers’
bills demand immediate attention, the payment of the doctor’s is to be
regarded as optional, or subject to the convenience of the patient.
Neither supposition is to be entertained for a moment. Indeed the
charge rests upon too flimsy a foundation ever to be taken seriously by
any unprejudiced mind, and we can only regretfully wonder what could
have induced Mr. Ruskin so far to forget the Justice and Charity he is
so fond of preaching as to bring it forward.

Beyond the record of “unceasing toil” little is known of how Park spent
the time he was resident in Peebles. The town itself is described
as being in those days “quiet as the grave”--a reputation it still
maintains, judging from the innuendo in the ironical phrase, “Peebles
for pleasure!”

To Park, however, the absence of the brighter aspect of life was a
small matter. Society had but little attraction for him, and his was
the severe Scottish nature which avoided as almost sinful anything
bordering upon frivolous pleasure. From all lionising and the silly
questioning of the ignorant and the impertinently curious he had a
natural shrinking, though at any time delighted to talk of his travels
and of matters African with the intelligent and the well-informed.
Quiet and seclusion were, however, more to his mind, and were to be
enjoyed to the full in the peaceful little town. Such society as he
wanted he had in his own domestic circle, beyond which he was happy
in the intimacy which sprang up between him and two distinguished
residents--Colonel John Murray of Kringaltie and Dr. Adam Ferguson,
formerly Professor of Moral Philosophy in Edinburgh, and author
of several well-known works. Toilsome and monotonous as was his
professional life, it was not without its brighter and more humorous
side, as witness the following story told by Dr. Anderson, the nephew
of Park’s wife:--

“One wild night in winter Park lost his way, till discovering a light,
he directed his horse towards it, and found himself before a shepherd’s
cottage. It so happened that the Doctor arrived there in the nick
of time, for the shepherd’s wife was on the point of confinement.
He waited till all was safely over, and next morning the shepherd
escorted him to where he could see the distant road. Park, noticing
his conductor lag behind, asked him the reason, on which the simple or
humorous man replied, ‘’Deed, sir, my wife said she was sure you must
be an angel, and I think sae tae; so I am just keepin’ ahint to be sure
I’ll see you flee up.’”

As time went on, Park’s longing to return to Africa grew ever more
intense, nourished as it was by hopes from time to time held out to
him. Barely, for instance, had he settled down to life in Peebles,
when he received a letter from Sir Joseph Banks, acquainting him that
in consequence of the Peace (then recently signed with France), the
Association intended to revive their project of sending a mission to
Africa in order to penetrate to and navigate the Niger. If Government
took up the matter, Park would certainly be recommended as the person
proper to be employed for carrying it into execution. As with previous
projects, however, nothing came of it for the time being, though it
continued to be talked about more or less during the next two years.

In the autumn of 1803 he was desired by the Colonial Office to
repair without delay to London. This summons he promptly obeyed. On
his arrival he had an interview with the Earl of Buckingham, the
Secretary for the Colonies, who informed him that the Government had
resolved on fitting out an expedition to Africa, of which he was to
have the command, if he was willing to take it. It was exactly what
he wanted--exactly what he had been impatiently awaiting for three
years; but nevertheless he asked for a short time to think the matter
over and consult his friends. The favour was granted, and he returned
to Scotland. The consultations referred to being for the most part a
mere formality, in a few days his acceptance was forwarded to London,
whither he followed immediately after arranging his affairs and taking
leave of his family.




In this as in his earlier expedition, Park was dogged by his usual

Disappointment met him at the very outset.

He had left Scotland in the belief that almost every arrangement had
been made, and that a very short time would suffice to complete the
necessary preparations.

He arrived in London only to hear that the departure of the expedition
had been postponed till the end of February 1804. With what patience he
possessed he waited. The allotted time went by. Once more everything
was ready. Part of the troops destined for the service were actually on
board ship, when orders came countermanding the expedition, pending the
decision of Lord Camden, the new Colonial Secretary, as to whether it
should go at all or not.

Park was naturally bitterly disappointed at thus being thrown again on
the seas of uncertainty. The expedition might now never set out, and
the task of solving the great African problem would be reserved for

Meanwhile the date of departure was provisionally put off till
September, and till then he was recommended to return to Scotland
and occupy the interval in perfecting himself in taking astronomical
observations and in learning Arabic--acquirements which would be of
the utmost importance to him afterwards.

A suitable teacher of Arabic was found in one Sidi Ambak Bubi, a native
of Mogador, and then residing in London. Accompanied by the Moor,
Park returned to Peebles in March. Here he remained till May, when he
finally quitted that town and took up his residence at Foulshiels while
awaiting the decision of the Colonial Office.

It was at this time that the great traveller came in contact with his
still greater countryman and neighbour, Sir Walter Scott, then living
at Ashesteil, and separated from Foulshiels only by the sharp ridge of
hills which divides the Yarrow from the Tweed.

Between two such men--the one absorbed in a career of prospective
action in a new continent, the other revelling in a romantic world of
retrospective thought--it might be supposed there was little in common.

In reality there was much. Scott, though he delighted to sing of
the past and conjure up its knightly deeds, had a soul capable of
appreciating all forms of glorious and adventurous enterprise, whether
seen in the prosaic lights of the passing moment, or invested with the
romantic vagueness and fascinating glamour which the shades of time
gather around bygone days. To such an one Park was a man after his own
heart. Had but his deeds been surrounded with the pomp and circumstance
which glorified those of the knights of old, Scott might have sung them
in a similar heroic strain. Mayhap the day will come when another Scott
will arise to do for Park and his successors what Sir Walter and others
have done for the heroic figures of our nation’s history.

On the other hand, Park, imbued as he likewise was with the romantic
instinct, could not fail to be attracted by Scott’s peculiar genius.
Moreover, both were Scotchmen, both Borderers, and both alike were
passionate lovers of the minstrelsy, tales, traditions, and ballads of
their native country. The ballads especially were dear to Park, and
he tells how, in his last expedition, one of his followers used “to
beguile the watches of the night with the songs of our dear native

But whatever were the links which drew these two famous men together,
they were sufficient speedily to develop a very warm and cordial
friendship, and visits were frequently interchanged across the heathery
hills which separated them. On one of these occasions Scott discovered
Park sitting alone beside the noisy Yarrow, employed in the apparently
idle and boyish amusement of throwing stones into the river and
anxiously watching the bubbles as they rose to the surface. On being
asked what interest he found in such a pastime, Park replied that he
was thus in the habit of ascertaining the depth of rivers in Africa
before venturing to cross them--the time taken by the bubbles to rise
being an indication of the depth.

Early in September came the long expected summons to repair to London,
and Park lost no time in settling his affairs preparatory to leaving
home. Among others, he paid a farewell visit to Sir Walter Scott at
Ashesteil, where he spent the night. Next morning his host accompanied
him on his way to Foulshiels. The path lay up the Glenkinnen to
Williamhope, whence it continued over the ridge and passed between the
Brown Knowe and the humpy elevation of the Broomy Law. As they passed
from the birchen slopes of Glenkinnen into the heather and grass-clad
zones above, Park talked much of his plans of exploration, and the
results that would accrue to science and commerce should he prove

Under other conditions the panorama which slowly unfolds itself with
the ascent of the hill would have been sufficient to draw even Park’s
thoughts from Africa and the Niger. The various glens and valleys of
the Tweed, the Gala, the Yarrow, and the Ettrick divide the land into a
picturesque succession of winding ridges, isolated hills, and rounded
mountain tops, where wood, heather, and grass give variety of colour to
the higher levels, while below waving crops and busy harvest-fields,
ruined castle and noble mansion, humble cottage and straggling village,
with glancing bits of stream and river, flocks of sheep and scattered
herds of cattle, combine to produce the softer effects of “cultivated

But on this day of leave-taking a leaden-coloured mist hung over hill
and valley, hiding their every feature. Only now and again did the
breeze lift a corner of the enshrouding veil and give a momentary
glimpse, vague and fleeting, of glen and hill-top. As they talked of
the coming journey Scott seemed to see in the vaguely defined landscape
an emblem of his friend’s prospects, where all was problematic,
uncertain--the path beset with unknown dangers and pitfalls, nothing
sure save the presence of surrounding perils which might neither be
foreseen nor prepared for. In this ignorance as regards the exact
nature of the dangers to be faced lies one of the chief difficulties
and terrors of travel in unexplored savage lands. All the traveller
does know is that dangers in various forms will most assuredly confront
him, and he must depend upon his presence of mind and readiness of
resource at the moment to avoid or repel them.

But Park was not to be debarred from his enterprise by any thought of
the difficulties in the way. To all that Scott could urge he had his
answer. The idea of solving the question of the Niger’s termination was
one which possessed him to the exclusion of all thoughts of self. As
well have asked him to renounce his belief in the existence of God as
expect him to give up his cherished scheme.

At last the glen of the Yarrow lay before them. At the bottom could be
hazily defined the “birchen bower,” from which the stately tower of
Newark and the humble cottage of Foulshiels alike looked forth on the
beautiful murmurous stream.

Here they must say good-bye. A ditch divided the road from the moor,
and in crossing it Park’s horse stumbled and nearly fell. “I am afraid,
Mungo,” said Scott, “that is a bad omen.” “Freits” (_i.e._, omens)
“follow those who look to them,” was the prompt reply; and without
another word Park rode away and disappeared in the mist.

It now only remained to Park to take farewell of his wife. Brave as
he was, the ordeal was more than he dared face. Not that she had
raised any objections to his going, or put any barriers in the way.
Seeing how much her husband’s heart was in it, and not perhaps without
some natural womanly pride in being the wife of a hero rather than
of a nobody, she seems to have accepted as a matter of course his
determination to avail himself of the chance of further distinction
presented by the proposed expedition. Still, the moment of actual
parting, with the prospect of at best a long period of separation,
would be agony. Even better than his wife Park knew how many chances
there were that the separation might be final--that wife and children,
of whom there were now three, might never see him again. Sanguine as he
was of success, there were moments when he could not but admit that the
coming enterprise looked very like a forlorn hope--moments, too, when
it became difficult for him to discern whether his duty to humanity or
to his family had the stronger claim upon him.

It was under the influence of some such feeling of despondency that
he finally resolved to spare both himself and his wife the anguish
of a parting scene, and betaking himself to Edinburgh on the plea of
business, thence wrote to her his last farewell.

On his arrival in London in September 1804, Park presented a written
statement to the Colonial Office embodying his views as to the
commercial and geographical results likely to accrue from the intended
expedition, at the same time pointing out the best means to accomplish
the work as regards men and goods. In this memorandum he pointed out
the course he proposed to pursue. Passing through Bondu, Kajaaga,
Fuladu, and Bambarra to Sego, he would construct a boat and proceed by
way of Jenné and Kabara (the port of Timbuktu) through the kingdoms of
Haussa, Nyffé (now called Nupé), and Kashna, &c., to the kingdom of
Wangara. If the river ended here, he pointed out, his chief difficulty
would begin. To return by the Niger, to cross the desert to Tripoli or
Egypt, or to pass eastward to the Nile and Abyssinia, he considered
equally difficult. The most feasible course seemed that towards
the Bight of Benin. If, however, the Niger was, as he confidently
believed, in reality the Congo, he would follow it to its termination.
After pointing out the grounds for his belief, Park concluded with the
opinion that when “your Lordship shall have duly weighed the above
reasons, you will be induced to conclude that my hopes of returning by
the Congo are not altogether fanciful, and that the expedition, though
attended with extreme danger, promises to be productive of the utmost
advantage to Great Britain. Considered in a commercial point of view,
it is second only to the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope, and in a
geographical point of view is certainly the greatest discovery that
remains to be made in the world”--a very strong statement of the case,
it must be admitted, though undoubtedly if the Niger and the Congo had
proved to be one, it could scarcely have been said to be too strong.

Park had been converted to this view of the identity of the two great
rivers by one George Maxwell, a West African trader, who had seen much
of the Congo near its mouth, and had published a chart embodying the
results of his observations. When closely examined, the arguments in
its favour were of small value, and practically arose out of the fact
that there was a large river with a southerly trend whose termination
was unknown, while further south there was a second, the Congo, whose
origin was equally a mystery. Prolong these in the necessary direction
and the result is identity, and the mystery of both is settled.

Meanwhile Major Rennell stuck to his view with all the pertinacity of
the arm-chair geographer, and the man of one idea. For him the Niger
ended in the desert wastes of Wangara and Ghana. Unfortunately for his
theory the Major was unconsciously confounding two Wangaras separated
from each other by fifteen hundred miles and more, and likewise the
old Empire of Ghana on the middle course of the Niger with Kano at
the eastern extremity of the Haussa States. A similar confusion also
appears in Park’s memorandum, where he speaks of the continuation of
the river after Nupé to Kashna (Katsina) and the kingdom of Wangara.

Strange indeed it seems to us now that no geographer even at this time
ever suggested that the outlet of the Niger might be in the Bight
of Benin, among the numerous creeks that penetrate the low swampy
mangrove ground which here subtends the Bight. Looking at the map,
the suggestion seems to us to come naturally, yet Park had to carry
the course of the river away south to the Congo; Rennell turned it
west, and ended it where our maps are now occupied by Lake Chad, while
there were not wanting others, like Jackson, who persisted in joining
it to the Nile, “en abusant, pour ainsi dire, du vaste carrière que
l’intérieur de l’Afrique y laissait prendre,” as D’Anville had said of
earlier geographers.

Whatever we may now think of Park’s theories as to the termination of
the Niger, they did not appear in any way absurd in his own time. The
wildest conjecture was permissible as regards a vast river flowing
by an uncertain course through a continent still blank on our maps.
Accordingly his memorandum was received favourably by Lord Camden, and
the despatch of the expedition to carry out the traveller’s ideas was
determined on.

A liberal compensation was to be given to Park on his return, and it
was also stipulated that in the event of his death, or of his not
being heard of within a given period, a certain sum should be paid by
Government as a provision for his wife and family.

Meanwhile Rennell, in the most friendly fashion, not only argued
against Park’s views as to the Niger termination, but earnestly advised
him to relinquish his dangerous project. With as little effect in
the one case as in the other, however. The explorer’s determination,
like his opinions, was not to be shaken. Sir Joseph Banks took up a
more philosophic position. He admitted the hazardous nature of the
enterprise; but since the work was not to be accomplished without risk
of life, he could not attempt to dissuade Park from it, he being the
man most likely to carry it through with least danger of a fatal issue.

Gradually the affairs of the expedition began to take shape. Dr.
Alexander Anderson, Park’s young brother-in-law, was selected as
his second in command, and Mr. George Scott, a fellow-dalesman, was
added to the party as draughtsman. A few boat-builders and artificers
were also to accompany the party from England, for the purpose of
constructing the boat intended for the navigation of the Niger when it
was reached. Soldiers to assist and protect the expedition were to be
selected at Goree, where a garrison of the African corps was stationed.

It was now a matter of paramount importance that the expedition should
leave England at once if it was to take advantage of the dry season.
But official red-tape was as difficult to galvanise into activity and
life as African apathy, and in spite of his utmost endeavours to push
matters on, delay succeeded upon delay, and Park saw the good season
gradually dwindling away, leaving him to the maddening contemplation
of all the additional difficulties and dangers engendered by the rains.
Two whole months were thus lost; and when he at last received his
official instructions, he knew that the Government, by its continued
procrastination, had done much if not everything to ensure a disastrous
termination to the expedition.

In the instructions supplied to him Park’s mission was defined as being
to discover whether and to what extent commercial intercourse could be
established in the interior of Africa for the mutual benefit of the
natives and of His Majesty’s subjects. He was directed to proceed up
the Gambia, and thence to the banks of the Niger by way of the Senegal.
The special object of his journey was to determine the course of the
Niger, and to establish communication with all the different nations
on its banks. He was at liberty to pursue any return route which he
might find most suitable, either by turning west to the Atlantic, or by
marching upon Cairo.

To carry out this great mission effectively, a captain’s commission
was bestowed on him, and that of a lieutenant on Anderson. European
soldiers to the number of forty-five, and as many natives as he might
deem necessary, were to be selected at Goree, and a sufficient number
of donkeys at St. Jago. He was further empowered to draw for any sum he
might want not exceeding £5000.



On the 31st January 1805, Park, with his companions and four or five
artificers, sailed from Portsmouth in the _Crescent_ transport for St.
Jago, Cape Verde Islands.

In crossing the Bay of Biscay they were considerably detained by storms
and contrary winds, so that it took five weeks to reach their primary
destination. From St. Jago, where forty-four donkeys were purchased,
they proceeded to Goree, arriving at that station on the 21st of March.
Here the idea of an expedition to the Niger was received with such
enthusiasm by officers and men alike that the entire garrison was ready
to join--the officers for the adventure and honour of the thing, the
men for the increased pay and promised discharge on their return.

One officer, Lieutenant Martyn, was selected, and with him thirty-five
privates and two seamen.

Park’s idea of taking with him a considerable number of European
artisans and soldiers must be considered one of the greatest blunders
he ever made. A moment’s thought should surely have told him that he
ran a terrible risk of speedily losing the greater number by death, and
that through sickness the majority of those who kept alive would be
more a hindrance than a help to him. He should have known that these
ignorant men were not as he himself seemed to be--rendered disease and
privation proof by the determination to achieve a certain great object.
Against all forms of death, save death by violence, his _will_ was to
him a magic mail. With his men it was different. Ignorant of what was
before them--incapable of comprehending it even had it been told--they
only saw in the enterprise a certain freedom from irksome garrison
restrictions and military discipline, increased pay, and the prospect
of early discharge. To all else they were blind.

Brought face to face with hourly dangers, privations, and incessant
toil, they quickly realised their mistake. Everything was forgotten
save the present physical suffering. Sick and dispirited, what was the
question of the Niger’s course to them? A mere name, without power to
fire their imagination or inspire their enthusiasm. How insignificant,
too, appeared the material recompense. Thus with nothing to buoy them
up, nothing to lure them on and keep them from magnifying and dwelling
on their troubles, there could be nothing but apathy--with apathy,
despondency, and finally death. This has been the history, more or
less, of nearly all African expeditions in which ignorant European
men have been employed, tempted to join merely for pay or other
considerations of a personal character. In proportion as the members
of an expedition have been inspired by its ultimate objects, they have
lived to see it through, because in that proportion they have given
less attention to their hardships and sicknesses. The less they have
thought of themselves, and the more their minds have been centred on
their work, the better have been their chances of pulling through.

But though all the whites of the Goree garrison were willing to
accompany Park, not one of the negroes of the place could be induced
to join, and he therefore had to depend on getting such natives as he
wanted on the Gambia. He left Goree on the 6th of April, and reached
Kayi, on the Gambia, a few days later.

The prospect now before him was anything but pleasant. The rainy
season, which he had such good grounds to fear, was rapidly approaching.
There were but two alternatives--either to wait till the next dry
season before starting, or go on and face the worst--the fevers,
the rains, the marshes, the flooded rivers, and all the other
accompaniments of the wet season. These must undoubtedly produce much
sickness, probably many deaths, innumerable exasperating delays, and
other troubles--must increase, in fact, by a hundredfold the perils
and trials of the expedition. On the other hand, to wait would mean
a delay of seven months--seven months of inaction, of intolerable
fretting at the very threshold of the enterprise. The idea was out of
the question. Besides, men, animals, and goods were ready for the road,
and the Government expected them to proceed forthwith. A delay of the
kind had not been foreseen, and had not been provided for in Park’s
instructions. Of the two evils, therefore, he chose the one which was
most in harmony with his own eager spirit, determining to risk all
and start forthwith. Having once made up his mind, he put aside all
fears and apprehensions, and would allow nothing to damp his sanguine
hopes. In this spirit he wrote to Dickson:--“Everything at present
looks as favourable as I could wish, and if all things go well this
day six weeks I expect to drink all your healths in the water of the
Niger. The soldiers are in good health and spirits. They are the most
_dashing_ men I ever saw, and if they preserve their health we may keep
ourselves perfectly secure from any hostile attempt on the part of the
natives. I have little doubt but that I shall be able, with presents
and fair words, to pass through the country to the Niger, and if once
we are afloat the day is won.”

We can easily believe that Park in this letter does not give a faithful
indication of his real position at the moment of writing. He may have
expressed his hopes truly enough, but he carefully avoids showing the
fears which went side by side with them. What exact significance the
term “dashing,” as applied to his soldiers, bears in relation to their
qualities as members of an African expedition, might be a matter of
discussion; but while we have every reason to believe they were the
best the garrison could supply, it must also be remembered that the
African corps was the residuum of the British army at a time when it
was the chief resort of the rascaldom of the country. A residence,
however short, in a West African garrison, could have improved neither
their physique, their morals, nor their discipline, and certainly was
not calculated to fit them for one of the most dangerous and trying
enterprises any man could enter upon, and requiring moral and physical
qualities which only the very few possess.

To his error in taking with him such a large party of Europeans, Park
added an even worse mistake, and one for which less excuse can be
found. Nowhere in his diary do we find a single reference to his having
any native followers to do the common drudgery of the camp and the
road. This was a want of foresight which appears almost incredible in
one who knew what was before him, and the results which followed when
all the men fell sick were disastrous beyond description.

Thus, then, to the extreme perils and hardships which attend an African
expedition at all times, Park added a start at the worst possible time
of the year, and with the worst possible selection of men. What came of
it the following pages will show.

On the 27th of April 1805, all was ready for the march. The initial
point was Kayi, on the river Gambia, a few miles below Pisania, the
place from which Park started on his first expedition. How different
were his preparations for this new attempt. In the former he had left
for the interior attended by a man and a boy--a single donkey carrying
all the goods and stores he required. This time he was provided with
forty-four Europeans, and a large quantity of baggage of all kinds,
transported by as many donkeys as there were men. As already said,
we find no allusion in his letters or journals to his having any
native attendants, though possibly there might have been one or two as
personal servants. Isaaco, a Mandingo priest and merchant, had been
engaged to act as guide, and he it seems was accompanied by several of
his own people.

Under cover of a salute from the _Crescent_ and other vessels gathered
on the river, the caravan filed out of Kayi, and took the road for
the interior--each man, according to his temperament, aspirations,
and education, filled with varied emotions of hope and fear, at once
attracted and repelled by the vague unknown which lay before him.

The troubles and worries attendant on leading a large caravan in Africa
became only too soon apparent. The day was extremely hot. Under the
influence of the overpowering temperature the overloaded donkeys lay
down and refused to proceed, while others, resenting the imposition of
any burden, did what they could to kick themselves free, thus giving an
infinite amount of trouble to their drivers.

The men themselves, fresh from the relaxing life and coarse debaucheries
of a West African garrison, soon began to give in as well as their
donkeys, so that before long the caravan, from being a continuous
line, was broken into detached groups and isolated individuals resting
here, struggling on there. Finally the party got completely divided,
some under Lieutenant Martyn taking one way, and the rest with Park
another. Towards evening they again became united, and reached a
suitable camping ground thoroughly fatigued by their first march. Next
day Pisania was reached, and here a halt became necessary to make some
final preparations and purchase eight more donkeys.

On the 4th of May the journey was resumed. The caravan was divided into
six messes, each with its due proportion of animals marked for easy
identification. Scott and one of Isaaco’s men led the way, Martyn took
charge of the centre body, while Anderson and Park brought up the rear.
Even with the additional beasts of burden there was a repetition of
the troubles which marked the first march--troubles which became each
day more harassing with the failing strength of the donkeys and the
sickness which after a time developed among their drivers. The leaders
were each provided with horses for riding, but in a very short time
they had to take to their feet, that their animals might be utilised
for the transport of loads belonging to broken-down donkeys. A few days
more and this likewise proved insufficient, and both new donkeys and
new drivers had to be hired.

By the fourth day from Pisania two soldiers were attacked by dysentery,
and a further addition to the strength of the caravan was found
necessary. In a week the expedition reached Medina, the capital of
Wuli, without special mishap, but with ever growing worries for its

The keen eye to business so characteristic of negro races was well
shown by the women of Bambaku, who, on hearing of the coming of the
white men, drew all the water out of the wells in the hope of forcing
the strangers to buy it at a high price in beads and other gauds
dear to the negro heart. In this, however, they were outwitted by
the soldiers, and they had the inexpressible mortification of seeing
twenty-four hours’ labour utterly lost, and the beads as unattainable
as ever.

Meanwhile the report of the passage of a rich caravan conducted by
many Europeans spread like wildfire, gaining in exaggeration with
every mile, and putting all the robber bands and chiefs on the
alert. Preceded by such rumours it became necessary to travel with
great circumspection, and in constant readiness for an attack. No
one was allowed to lay aside his gun. By way of invoking the aid of
a higher power than that of man, Isaaco, on entering the reputedly
dangerous woods of Simbani, laid a black ram across the road, and
after reciting a long prayer, cut its throat as a sacrifice. These
woods were alive with hundreds of antelopes. The Gambia, where it
traversed them, was a hundred yards wide, and showed a perceptible
tide. On the sands were great numbers of alligators, while the pools
teemed with hippos. Viewed from an eminence, the country towards the
west appeared abundantly rich and enchanting, the course of the Gambia
being traceable by its fringing lines of dark green trees winding in
serpentine curves seaward.

At a place called Faraba, while unloading the animals preparatory to
camping, one of the soldiers fell down in an epileptic fit, and expired
in an hour. Here water was only to be got by digging. During the night,
as they were in the wilderness, and liable to attack, double sentries
were posted round the camp, and every man slept with his loaded musket
beside him.

Next morning the Neaulico stream, then nearly dry, was passed, and
on that and a succeeding night they camped in the woods, the second
occasion being at the river Nerico.

On the 18th the caravan entered Jallacotta, the first town of Tenda.

Two days later they met with an insolent reception from the chief of
the independent village of Bady, who refused the caravan-tax sent him,
and threatened war if his exorbitant demands were not satisfied. Park
tried personally to arrange the dispute, but only met with threats. The
soldiers were at once ordered to be in readiness for whatever might
happen, while the chief was told that nothing more would be given
him, and that if he would not allow their peaceable passage through
his district, another would be found. After many angry words Park
prepared to carry his resolution into effect, but before the necessary
preparations were completed, Isaaco’s horse was seized by the Bady
people. On the owner going to demand its restitution, he himself was
laid hold of, deprived of his gun and sword, and then tied to a tree
and flogged. At the same time his boy was put in irons.

It was now dark, but prompt action was necessary. Accordingly Park,
with a detachment of soldiers, entered the village to seize the robbers
of the horse, intending to hold them as hostages for the safe delivery
of the guide. This attempt naturally led to much uproar, ending finally
in blows, and the driving of all the chief’s people out of the village.
Isaaco, however, was nowhere to be found, and Park was somewhat puzzled
to know what to do. It would of course have been easy to burn down the
village, but this would have entailed death and ruin on many innocent
persons, possibly without producing the desired effect. Under the
circumstances it was deemed advisable to wait till daylight before
making an attack. This course proved to be both wise and humane, for
in the morning Isaaco was liberated and his horse restored, so that
eventually all ended amicably.

On the 24th of May much lightning was seen to the south-east--ominous
premonition of the approaching rains. Of the party Park and Isaaco
alone could realise what those electric flashes betokened to the
fortunes of the expedition.

Their way for the next three days lay through the Tenda Wilderness--with
all the hard marches, short rations, and scant supplies of water which
an uninhabited district at the end of the dry season implies, and which
were hardly to be compensated by the exceeding picturesqueness of the

At the second camp in the wilderness an extraordinary mishap befell
them. A hive of bees was disturbed by one of the men, with the result
that they swarmed out in angry myriads to attack the intruders. They
set upon man and beast alike, and in a twinkling had routed every
two-legged and four-footed thing in the camp. The men threw down
weapons--everything--and fled in dismay, along with frantic braying
donkeys. The horses similarly broke loose, and galloped to the woods
in a panic. Meanwhile the fires which had been kindled, being thus
left unattended, speedily began to spread to the surrounding dry grass
and bamboos. When Park and his companions had time to look round, they
discovered to their dismay that the whole camp was on fire, and menaced
by absolute and irretrievable ruin.

Forgetful of all else before such an appalling danger to the
expedition, those who had suffered least from the furious bees rushed
back to save what they could. Happily not too late. Before the goods
were reached by the fire, Park and some of the men were ready to
receive the enemy, and eventually succeeded in extinguishing it.

The impending conflagration over, the horses and donkeys were with
difficulty collected from the woods, many of them terribly stung
and swollen about the head. Three animals, besides Isaaco’s horse,
disappeared altogether. One donkey died that evening, another next
morning, and a third had to be abandoned, so vicious and deadly had
been the bees’ onslaught.

Many curious superstitions were noticed by Park _en route_ through Wuli
and Tenda. At one place death was believed to be the portion of any one
who slept under a particular tree; at another, the fish in the river
must not be caught, else the water would dry up entirely; while at a
third, any traveller who would assure himself of a safe journey, must
lift and turn round a particular stone.

At Julifunda the chief made exorbitant demands on the caravan,
threatening to attack them in the woods if these were not complied
with. Park’s resolute attitude, however, combined with an addition to
his first present, brought the quarrel to an amicable conclusion, and
he was permitted to continue his route unmolested.

The expedition had now reached the eastern confines of the Gambia
basin, and writing home to his wife, Park reviewed his situation as

“We are half through our journey (_i.e._ to the Niger) without the
smallest accident or unpleasant circumstance. We all of us keep our
health, and are on the most friendly terms with the natives.... By
the 27th of June we expect to have finished all our travels by land,
and when we have once got afloat on the river, we shall conclude
that we are embarking for England. I have never had the smallest
sickness, and Alexander (Mrs. Park’s brother) is quite free from all
his complaints.... We carry our own victuals with us, and live very
well--in fact we have only had a very pleasant journey; and yet this is
what we thought would be the worst part of it.”

In looking back undoubtedly Park had every reason to be satisfied with
his journey so far. His men seemed to have worked heartily enough--at
least we find no indications in his journal of insubordination,
grumbling, or bad conduct. But then he never was in the habit of
putting the least stress on his troubles. It was of more importance to
him to be able to say that he had advanced a day’s march nearer the
Niger than that he had been subjected to a week’s maddening worry. All
vexations and discomforts he treated like the suppressed adventures
of his former narrative, of which he said that as they were only of
importance to himself, he would not weary the reader with a recital of


It is only too probable that he had much trouble with his men, and
certainly between the lines we gather that he had an immense amount of
work to perform--looking after his caravan on the road, buying food,
and holding innumerable palavers, &c., in camp. Even the nights he
could not call his own, for observations for latitude and longitude
must be taken at all hours--notes written out, and the observations
calculated. He had to be at once overseer, buyer of food, interpreter,
surveyor, doctor, and general inspirer of the whole party. But he was
equal to everything that could be put on his shoulders. Within him he
had a sustaining force such as was known to none of those about him,
and which gave him a giant’s strength and the spirit of the gods.



Park in his letter home was careful only to look backward: it is now
our business to accompany him forward, and see what happened as he
passed across the Senegal basin on his way to the Niger.

On the 7th of June he crossed the Samaku, which flows north to join
the Falemé, and in fear of an attack, travelled rapidly through an
uninhabited district by a forced march. Here two of the donkeys had to
be abandoned, and there being no guiding pathway, as darkness came on,
muskets were frequently fired to prevent the men losing each other.

Early next day the Falemé was seen in the distance. The carpenter, who
had become very ill, could not sit upright on a donkey, and time after
time threw himself off, declaring that he would rather die. Latterly
it took two men to hold him in his seat by force, and at the Falemé,
which was crossed in the course of the day, he had to be left behind in
charge of a soldier. He died a few hours after.

That night a heavy tornado burst upon the caravan. Five soldiers who
had not been under proper shelter, and got a wetting, became ill in

It could no longer be ignored that the rains were at last upon them,
and that just when they were in the network of streams into which the
Senegal and the Niger divide in their uppermost reaches. One terrible
necessity of their situation was, that sick or not sick, there could
be no halting to allow of possible recovery. They must push forward
towards their goal, though the route should be marked by the dead
bodies of their comrades. The longer the delay, the more difficult
would the march become, from flooded rivers, more incessant rains, and
the increasing swampiness of the country.

Up to this time Park had followed his former return route. He
now determined to strike a line further north in order to avoid
the Jallonka Wilderness, of whose horrors he had such a lively
recollection. The new route was hard and rocky, and very fatiguing to
the donkeys. As the day went on many of the sick became hopelessly
unfit to drive their animals. One of them Park mounted on his own horse
while he himself assumed the part of donkey driver. Even then four of
the donkeys had to be left in the woods, and he himself did not reach
camp till long after dark. Before the tents could be pitched a tornado
came down upon them and drenched them to the skin. The ground was
speedily covered to a depth of three inches, and in this uncomfortable
plight--fireless, tentless, dripping--they had to pass the night. A
second tornado about two in the morning completed their discomfiture.

This night, in Park’s own words, was “the beginning of sorrows....
Now that the rain had set in, I trembled to think that we were only
half way through our journey. The rain had not commenced three minutes
before many of the soldiers were affected with vomiting, others fell
asleep, and seemed as if half intoxicated. I felt a strong inclination
to sleep during the storm, and as soon as it was over I fell asleep on
the wet ground, although I used every exertion to keep myself awake.
The soldiers likewise fell asleep on the wet bundles.”

The immediate result of that night was the addition of twelve men
to the sick list. Next day all the horses and spare donkeys were
requisitioned to carry such as were unable to walk. The road proved
to be a difficult one along the base of the Konkadu mountains, whose
precipices overhung the line of march in threatening masses.

Barely had camp been reached when once more a tornado burst in all its
fury, but thanks to the proximity of a village, with less disastrous
results than on the previous evening.

The storm past, Park proceeded to examine some gold diggings; after
which, accompanied by Scott, he set off to the top of the Konkadu
hills, finding them cultivated to the highest elevations. There also he
found villages romantically situated in delightful glens, with water
and grass in abundance throughout the year; and there, “while the
thunder rolls in awful grandeur over their heads, they can look from
their tremendous precipices over all that wild and woody plain which
extends from the Falemé to the Bafing or Black River.”

To struggle forward handicapped with incapable men and driverless
donkeys was now hard work. Half the caravan were sick, or too weak to
exert themselves with effect. The result was never-ending confusion
and delay. Unable to hold together, men and donkeys alike went astray,
keeping Park, who could not be in a dozen places at once, in a state
of continual watchfulness and motion, doing his best to bring up the
incapables, and “coaxing” them to further exertions each time they
insisted on lying down, indifferent alike to robbers, lions, or the
fevers of night.

In spite of his iron constitution and sanguine heroic spirit Park
himself was not altogether invulnerable, and he too became fevered at
times--only, however, to show himself superior to suffering by virtue
of his marvellous will and the exigencies of his situation. Conscious
that the whole fate of the expedition depended upon his keeping well,
he dared not give way. He was a second self to every one--without him
all were absolutely helpless.

On leaving Fankia on the 15th of June, most of the men were ill,
some of them even delirious. In this condition the caravan had to
commence the ascent of the Tambaura mountains. The road was excessively
steep--the donkeys terribly overloaded under their double burden of
sick men and goods. Owing to the nature of the ground, each animal
would have required at least one separate driver to guide and assist,
but in the present case this was impossible. The result was a scene
of dreadful confusion and disaster. Loaded donkeys were constantly
tumbling over the rocks or falling exhausted on the pathway, while sick
men, indifferent to their fate, threw themselves down, declaring they
could go no further. The natives, discovering the predicament of the
caravan, crept down among the rocks and stole what they could when a
favourable opportunity offered.

At length, by means of superhuman exertions, Park succeeded in bringing
all safely out of the perilous pass to a village, where he had the
inexpressible pleasure of meeting the Mohammedan schoolmaster who had
been so kind to him at Kamalia, and while travelling with Karfa. As an
earnest of his gratitude for past favours, Park gave him a handsome
present of cloth, beads, and amber, with which the good old man was
delighted. The God-fearing Scotchman did not neglect to add an Arabic
New Testament to his other gifts.

The history of the expedition was now one of growing trouble, sickness,
and disorganisation. Tornadoes were almost of daily occurrence, and the
country and the streams became more and more difficult to traverse.

Up to the 17th of June two men had died, and on that date two more
were left behind at the point of death. The three days following Park
himself was sick, as were now more than half his men, though still
they struggled on. To add to the dangers of their situation, they were
utterly unable to keep proper watch over their goods either by day or
night--a fact the natives speedily learned, and constantly dogged their
footsteps, intent on plunder.

At one village the inhabitants turned out _en masse_, prepared to find
the white man’s caravan so reduced by sickness as to fall an easy
prize. As a preliminary to further depredations one of the villagers
seized the bridle of the sergeant’s horse and tried to lead it and its
apparently helpless owner inside the village walls. The presentation
of the rider’s pistol made him think better of it. At the same time
others made as if they would drive away the donkeys. They had reckoned
without their host, however. Galvanised into new life, the soldiers
promptly loaded their muskets and fixed their bayonets, at sight of
which warlike preparations the natives were not slow to quit their prey
and retire to a safer distance.


Having driven their animals across a torrent, the soldiers left certain
of their number to guard them, and returned to the village, ready to
give its inhabitants a lesson in courtesy and hospitality. At this
moment Park arrived on the scene. Ever anxious to avoid bloodshed, he
called a palaver, and speedily convinced the chief how insane it would
be for him or his people to molest him. At the same time, desirous of
leaving a favourable impression behind, in case any sick men might have
to repass this way, Park gave the chief a present, with the remark that
it was to show he did not come to make war, though if he were attacked
he would fight to the last.

Beyond this point the country became picturesque beyond words,
resembling in its physical features all sorts of architectural forms,
ruined castles, spires, pyramids. One rocky hill looked so like a
ruined Gothic abbey that the whole party had to approach close to it
to satisfy themselves that its various features were not really what
they seemed. Beyond this _lusus naturæ_ a compact mass of red granite
stood up bare and gaunt, absolutely destitute of a relieving blade of
grass. Here and there were villages clustering in the curved niches of
giant precipices, alike secured from tropic blasts and the devastating
attacks of men. Everything was rugged and grand--the sterner features
only enhanced by the interchange of beautiful fertile hollows and
silvery streams winding through the green fields and darker forest

Similar scenes characterised the whole journey through Konkadu, and
the caravan at length reached the borders of Wuladu at the Bafing. The
crossing of this river in small rickety canoes was not accomplished
without a sad fatality, one of them capsizing with three soldiers, of
whom one was drowned.

The people of Wuladu had a notorious reputation as thieves, the justice
of which was speedily illustrated by their various more or less
successful attempts to lift from the strangers whatever they saw, thus
keeping the latter continually on the alert.

After crossing the Bafing, many of the sick who had struggled on
bravely so far began to lose all spirit. An unconquerable lassitude
at times seized them, and no matter what the danger of the situation,
their only desire was to lie down and be left to die. To escape the
cajolery and coercion to which they were subjected, they frequently
left the track, and gave their leader no end of worry and trouble
hunting them up after camp was reached. In this way several men
disappeared altogether, bringing up the total losses on the 29th June
to nine.

Besides its human cormorants, Wuladu proved to be infested with various
beasts of prey, whereby further anxiety and watchfulness were entailed
on the harassed and despondent little band, weak, and growing every day

Anderson and Scott, on whom Park so much depended to encourage and
push on his followers, besides themselves doing the work of three or
four, now became incapacitated, while as far as we can gather from
the journal, Lieutenant Martyn never seems to have been of any use.
Everything, accordingly, devolved on the leader himself, who, ailing
as he was, had to put forth superhuman exertions--driving refractory
and exhausted donkeys, lifting the fallen, and reloading such as had
kicked off or dropped their burdens--at every step spurring on the
sick and despondent to strive towards their destination, and not allow
themselves to be murdered by natives, devoured by wild beasts, or
overcome by the deadly malaria of the jungles. In camp he had as little
rest as on the road. No one else was fit to do anything--or being
fit, was not willing--so that he had to be man-of-all-work to nearly
forty men. The night brought neither oblivion nor relaxation--only
new anxieties and new duties. Sleep he could only get in short
snatches--between whiles taking his astronomical observations, and
making the round of the camp to stir up indifferent and sickly
sentinels. Not unfrequently he had to mount guard himself throughout
the whole night to save the donkeys from being killed or stampeded by
the wild beasts which kept constantly prowling about. The stormier the
night, the greater necessity was there for him to be up and doing, no
matter what the cost to himself personally.

On the 4th of July the Furkomo River, another important tributary of
the Senegal, was reached. The number of deaths now amounted to eleven,
most of them having occurred within the last fortnight.

In crossing the Furkomo or Bakhoy, Isaaco had a narrow escape from a
crocodile. When near the middle of the river, he was seized by the left
thigh and pulled under water. With wonderful presence of mind he thrust
his finger into the reptile’s eye, with the result that it let go its
hold. Ere he could regain the shore, however, the crocodile returned
to the attack, and seized him by the other thigh. Again he thrust his
finger into its eye, with a similar happy result, and before it could
come at him again, bleeding and lacerated, he reached land. That night,
though it threatened rain, every one was so sick and exhausted--even
Park being unable to stand upright--that it was only with the utmost
difficulty that the tents were put up and the loads placed inside.
Isaaco’s wounds made travelling impossible for him, and as the caravan
was largely dependent on his services, a three days’ halt was decided

With the guide’s partial recovery the march was continued to Keminum,
the neighbourhood of which they reached with apprehension. The town was
fortified in a remarkably strong fashion. There was first a ditch 8
feet deep, backed by a wall as many feet high. Inside was a second wall
10 feet in height, within which was a third of 16 feet.

The chief and his thirty sons were neither more nor less than an
organised band of robbers who terrorised over the whole district. Ample
evidence of the manner of his rule was afforded by the heap of human
bones outside the walls, where he executed such prisoners as were not
made slaves of. During the night all the energies of the caravan were
employed in seeking to protect themselves from the incessant attempts
of the natives to steal; but so helpless were most of the men that they
allowed themselves to be deprived of great-coats, muskets, pistols,
almost without resistance.

The morning brought no reprieve. The chief’s sons, not satisfied with
their share of the present and the plunder, did their best to secure
some valuable souvenirs of the white man. This one of them first tried
to do wholesale by simply lifting a load from a donkey, but the culprit
was chased and had to drop his plunder. The confusion produced by this
incident gave another thief a chance to bolt with a musket.

Innumerable exasperating attempts of a similar nature kept Park in
constant alarm lest some of the soldiers should use their weapons and
precipitate a fight. Accordingly, his chief anxiety became to get away
as quickly as possible. Riding a little way out of the village to see
the nature of the road ahead, one of the chief’s sons distracted his
attention while he halted, whereupon the other suddenly snatched away
the traveller’s loosely held musket. At once Park gave chase with
brandished sword. Anderson, seeing what had occurred, rushed to his
assistance with upraised gun; but observing who was the offender, he
hesitated to fire, with the result that the thief escaped safely to the
rocks. Meanwhile the brother had leisurely helped himself to whatever
loose property he found on Park’s horse.

Orders were now given to shoot the first person found stealing. But the
princes were not easily frightened, and during a tornado that burst
overhead, one of them got off with a musket and a couple of pistols.
An attempt was next made to drive off the donkeys, but fortunately
was frustrated. By way of example, a native detected in stealing was
promptly fired at. On the march being resumed, every foot of the road
was dogged by the plundering wretches, who scented their prey in every
man who lagged behind, and every donkey that fell or strayed from the

It was dark before a camping place was reached, and the night was
passed in much misery, man and beast lying on the wet ground without
shelter, exposed to the excessively heavy dews.

The march through Wuladu was simply a daily repetition of the
experiences at Keminum. Thieves hung on the skirts of the caravan like
hyenas on the track of blood, never quitting them by night or by day.
All stragglers, human or animal, they made their prey, and by their
attempted depredations kept the unhappy travellers in constant alarm.
Each morning and evening had its tale of loss. Everything, however, was
tolerated, that bloodshed might be avoided--a forbearance only looked
upon as weakness and cowardice by the natives, who were encouraged
accordingly to continue their marauding with increased audacity. Park
was at length driven to stronger measures, and on one occasion pursued
a robber on horseback, and after hunting him down, shot him through
the leg. This example had a most salutary effect for a time, though
that day’s tale of spoliation alone included the more or less complete
stripping of four sick men, and a donkey loaded with the muskets, &c.,
of the other invalids.

Let us quote a characteristic day’s proceedings from Park’s own

“_July 19th._--Having purchased an ass in lieu of the one stolen, we
left Nummabu, which is a walled village, and proceeded onwards. Had two
tornadoes. The last, about eleven o’clock, wetted us much, and made
the road slippery. Two asses unable to go on. Put their loads on the
horses and left them. Mr. Scott’s horse unable to walk. Left it to our
guide. At noon came to the ruins of a town. Found two more of the asses
unable to carry their loads. Hired people to carry the loads, and a
boy to drive the asses. Passed the ruins of another town at half-past
twelve, where I found two of the sick who had laid themselves down
under a tree and refused to rise. They were afterwards stripped by the
negroes, and came naked to our tents next morning. Shortly after this
came to an ass lying on the road unable to proceed with its load. Put
part of the load on my horse, which was already heavily loaded. Took a
knapsack on my back. The soldier carried the remainder, and drove the
ass before him. We arrived at the Ba Winbina at half-past one o’clock.”
Here follows a description of how a bridge was built, which, though
instructive in the extreme, is too long for insertion. “Our people
being all sickly, I hired the negroes to carry over all the baggage,
and swim over the asses. Our baggage was laid on the rocks on the east
side of the river, but such was our weakly state that we were unable
to carry it up the bank. Francis Beedle, one of the soldiers, was
evidently dying of the fever, and having in vain attempted, with the
assistance of one of his messmates, to carry him over, I was forced to
leave him on the west bank, thinking it very probable that he would die
in the course of the night.”

Day after day the same disheartening tale had to be told. Now a man is
found expiring, and no time can be lost waiting for his death. Anon
another left for dead is galvanised into life by the appearance of
wolves ready to make a meal of him. On the 27th July one man had to
be left in camp at the point of death--four more dropped down on the
road and refused to proceed, wishing only to die. Park himself was
“very sick and faint, having to drive my horse loaded with rice and an
ass with the pit saw. Came to an eminence from which I had a view of
some very distant mountains to the east half south. The certainty that
the Niger washes the southern base of these mountains made me forget
my fever, and I thought of nothing all the way but how to climb over
their blue summits.” But to his men the sight gave neither health nor
inspiration, and but for the fact that to go back was as difficult as
to push forward, they would speedily have shown in what direction their
desires tended.

What the inmost thoughts of the intrepid explorer were at this time
we would give much to know. In his journal he nowhere lifts the veil.
Throughout there is only the bare statement of fact that to-day
so-and-so has died--yesterday such another had to be left to his fate:
here a donkey was plundered--there an astronomical observation taken.
The one thing that can touch his feelings is the sight of the blue
summits of distant hills whose bases are washed by the waters of the



Writing home on the 29th of May, Park, calculating from his rate of
progress so far, predicted that he would reach the Niger on the 27th
of June. It was now the 27th of July, and he was still in the heart of
Wuladu, and quite a hundred miles in a straight line from Bammaku, his
primary destination.

Meanwhile every one of the donkeys he had originally started with had
died or been stolen, and great inroads had been made on his stores in
replacing them, not to speak of the loss entailed by plunder and other
unforeseen causes. Twenty of his men had died or been murdered, and all
of them were more or less unfit for work. Nevertheless his hopes were
as unquenchable as ever, and he buoyed himself up with the belief that
if he could reach the Niger with a certain proportion of his caravan,
the success of his mission would be assured, as the rest of the wet
season might be passed in comparative comfort while making preparations
for navigating the river. Once launched on its broad bosom, there would
be no more transport difficulties, and but little work for his men, so
that everything might be expected to end happily and successfully.

Looking forward thus hopefully, Park turned S.W. from Bangassi, the
chief town of Wuladu, and set his face towards Bammaku. But however
sanguine he might be, he could not improve the conditions of his march.
The rains were now at their very worst. They fell no longer in passing
tornadoes, but in an incessant drenching downpour. Every stream was
swollen to the dimensions of a river--every plain became a lake or
swamp through which the luckless travellers had to slip and plunge as
best they might. The very pathways developed into rushing torrents.
Subjected to such conditions of travel, disease demanded its daily
quota of victims, while reducing the strength of all to the vanishing
point. The men speedily became unable to load their animals--could
hardly even drive them along. Nearly the whole work of the caravan fell
upon its indomitable leader, who even on the road would sometimes have
as many as thirteen fallen donkeys to raise up and reload.

On the 7th of August matters became so bad that he found it necessary
to halt for two days--a delay which to him was almost maddening.

At the Ba Wulima, Park found Anderson lying under a bush apparently
dying, and had to carry him over on his back. To assist in the
transport of loads, &c., he had to cross the river sixteen times, with
the water reaching to his waist. In spite of his exertions, however,
several soldiers with their donkeys had to be left behind.

In two days four men had been lost--the slow agony of death from fever
being undoubtedly in each case accelerated by the daggers of robber
negroes or the fell fangs of wolves and other wild beasts.

On the day after leaving the Ba Wulima, Park was the only European able
to do any work, and but for the assistance of Isaaco and his men, the
caravan would have been compelled to remain in camp. The day’s march
was a trying one. Anderson seemed at the point of death, and it was
with difficulty that his brother-in-law succeeded in holding him on
a horse. Every hour threatened to be his last, and only by frequent
rests could he be got forward in short stages. While thus employed
supporting and cheering his well-loved friend on the way towards camp,
Park was suddenly confounded by coming face to face with three large
lions making rapidly towards them. Intent first of all on saving
Anderson, with splendid courage he ran forward to meet them half way,
and so as to reserve himself a second chance if his musket should miss
fire, he aimed as soon as the lions were within easy shot, and fired
at the middle one of the three. This reception brought the enemy to
a standstill, and after seemingly taking counsel of each other, they
turned tail and bounded away. One, however, quickly stopped, and turned
round as if meditating another attack, but thinking better of it, again
resumed its flight, and left the travellers to continue their way,
though not without the strongest suspicions that they were still being
tracked, and might be pounced upon in the fast gathering darkness.
Before camp was reached the path taken by the caravan was lost, and in
the darkness Park and his companion wandered into a gully, where the
road became so dangerous that at length they dared not move further
from fear of being killed by falling over a precipice. Accordingly
they were compelled to make the best of their position, and wait till
morning tentless and foodless. Fortunately they were able to raise
a fire, near which, while Anderson lay wrapt in a cloak, Park kept
watch all night, to drive off lions and wolves. In the morning it was
discovered that half the caravan had passed the night in scattered
parties in much the same manner as their leader. Happily there were no

At a place called Dumbila, Park had the pleasure of meeting his old
friend and protector, Karfa Taura. Here Anderson became too ill to be
moved, Scott had disappeared, and only one man was able to drive a
donkey. At night rain descended in drenching torrents, and the men took
refuge in the village, leaving their leader alone to watch that the
donkeys did not stray into the neighbouring corn-fields, and to defend
them and their loads alike from the attacks of wild beasts and from the
bands of marauding natives. But no matter how heavy the burdens, not a
grumble escaped the hero who had to bear them all--not a hint that he
felt himself badly treated by his men and their officers.

On the 19th of August, Park, with the helpless, shattered remnant of
his caravan, ascended the mountain ridge which forms the watershed
between the Senegal and the Niger. Pushing on eagerly to the summit of
the hill, the toil and careworn traveller’s eyes were gladdened by the
spectacle of the “Niger rolling its immense stream along the plain.”

“After the fatiguing march which we had just experienced, the sight of
this river was no doubt pleasant, as it promised an end to, or at least
an alleviation of, our toils. But when I reflected that three-fourths
of the soldiers had died on the march, and that in addition to our
weakly state we had no carpenters to build the boats in which we
proposed to prosecute our discoveries, the prospect appeared somewhat
gloomy. It, however, afforded me peculiar pleasure when I reflected
that in conducting a party of Europeans with immense baggage through
an extent of more than five hundred miles, I had always been able to
preserve the most friendly terms with the natives.”

The latter sentence is well worthy of note as illustrative of Park’s
methods of travel at a time when the sanctity of human life, whether
black or white, was not quite so much thought of as at present.

In speaking of the distance traversed as five hundred miles, it must
be remembered that what is meant is the distance in a straight line
expressed in geographical miles. The actual number of English miles
travelled over would be in reality little short of a thousand.

Notwithstanding his frightful experiences, Park considered that his
“journey plainly demonstrates--first, that with common prudence any
quantity of merchandise may be transported from the Gambia to the Niger
without danger of being robbed by the natives; second, that if this
journey be performed in the dry season, one may calculate on losing not
more than three, or at most four men, out of fifty.”

We would naturally have expected him to add as a third conclusion, that
under no circumstance should Europeans be employed in such a caravan
except as conductors, or it might be as guards. That conclusion,
however, he apparently did not reach--indeed, we look in vain
throughout his journal for any indication that he was at all aware of
the frightful nature of his blunder in starting only with Europeans.

And yet before him was the tangible fact, that of thirty-four soldiers
and four carpenters who left the Gambia with him, only seven entered
Bammaku, while Isaaco and his attendants were all alive and hearty,
though much of the white men’s work had fallen upon them in addition to
their own.

Three days after their arrival at Bammaku the travellers continued
their way. Martyn, with the men and the donkeys, proceeded by land,
while Park, Anderson, and the goods glided down the river in canoes,
at the rate of five knots an hour, without the necessity of paddling.
At their starting point the river was a mile broad; but further down,
where it passes through a range of hills and forms rapids, it attains
twice that breadth. Here the great mass of water is gathered into
three principal channels, along which it rushes with much noise, and
a speed which made Park sigh as the frail canoes containing all his
precious stores sped into the sweeping tide, and seemed threatened with
momentary destruction.

Two such rapids and three smaller ones were safely passed during the
afternoon. At one place an elephant was seen standing on an island, so
near that if Park had not been too ill, he would have had a shot at it.

At several points the canoes ran considerable danger of being upset
by hippos. At night the party landed, and after a supper of rice and
fresh-water turtle, spent a night exposed to the violence of a tropic

At Marrabu, where they arrived on the second day, a halt was called,
while Isaaco was despatched to Sego with a message and a present for
Mansong, king of Bambarra, whose good offices were likely to prove
invaluable, ruling as he did over the whole country from Bammaku to
Timbuktu. While awaiting his messenger’s return, Park, who had been
suffering from dysentery ever since his arrival on the river, and found
himself failing fast under its deadly attacks, dosed himself with
calomel till it affected his throat to such a degree that he could
neither speak nor sleep for six days. The experiment was successful,
however, as regards stopping the progress of the disease, and his
health speedily began to improve.

The interval of waiting to which he was now subjected was a time of
extreme anxiety. The check which all the physical difficulties of the
march and the death of three-fourths of his men had failed to give
him might be effected by the will of Mansong. On the decision of the
negro ruler depended Park’s further movements. A Yes might assure the
complete realisation of all his dearest hopes--a No would be their

Each day brought its crop of unfavourable rumours. Among others came
the report that Mansong had killed Isaaco with his own hands, and
intended to finish off the white men in a similar summary fashion.
Happily this and kindred stories proved to be pure inventions, and
after a fortnight’s delay a messenger arrived to conduct Park to Sego,
bringing with him an encouraging account of Mansong’s disposition
towards him.

The drastic methods of the emissaries of negro kings were well
illustrated by the following incident. A native refusing to give up a
canoe for the messenger’s use, the latter not only seized the canoe in
question, but cut the owner across the forehead with his sword, broke
the brother’s head with a paddle, and finally made a slave of the son.
Before such deeds criticism was dumb.

And now all seemed about to go well with the expedition. Cradled on
the majestic bosom of the great river, with toils and worry over,
its leader could afford to allow himself to be lulled into a sweet
dreamland, in which he saw himself gliding peacefully towards the Congo
and the Atlantic. Of goods he had still sufficient for his object--of
men, too, there were enough; and with mind thus comparatively at ease,
he could give himself up to the enjoyment of the beautiful views of
“this immense river--sometimes as smooth as a mirror, at others ruffled
by a gentle breeze, but at all times sweeping along at the rate of six
or seven miles an hour.”

In two days Yamina was reached, and a third brought the party to
Sami, where once more they halted while the messenger went forward to
inform Mansong of their proximity, and ask instructions concerning
them. Two days later Isaaco joined them from Sego. He reported that
Mansong’s position was very neutral. The king showed impatience when
the subject of the white men was broached, though he had said that they
were at liberty to pass down the river. In addition he gave Isaaco to
understand that he wanted no direct dealings with Park.

On the following day a king’s messenger arrived to receive Mansong’s
present from Park’s own hands, as well as to hear the object of his
visit. In his speech the traveller told how he was the same poor white
man who, after being plundered by the Moors, was so hospitably received
by their king, whose generous conduct had made his name much respected
in the country of the Europeans. He then proceeded to point out what
a trading people his (the traveller’s) were, and how all the articles
of value that reached the country of Mansong were made by them, being
afterwards brought by Moors and others by long and expensive routes,
which made everything extremely dear. That these European goods might
be brought cheaper to Bambarra for the mutual benefit of whites and
blacks, his king had sent him to see if a short and easy route could
not be found by way of the Niger. If such was discovered, then the
white men’s vessels would come direct all the way from Europe and
supply them with abundance of all their good things at cheap prices.

In reply to this speech the emissary said that the white man’s journey
was a good one, and prayed that God might prosper him in it. Mansong
would protect him. The sight of the presents added to the friendly
feelings thus expressed.

To dash Park’s joy at the favourable aspect of affairs two more
soldiers died--one of fever, the other of dysentery--leaving him with
only four men, besides Anderson and Martyn.

In a couple of days the king sent a further message intimating that
the white strangers would be protected, and that wherever his power
and influence extended the road would be open to them. If they went
East, no man would harm them till beyond Timbuktu. Westward, the name
of Mansong’s stranger would be a safe password through the land to the
Atlantic itself. If they wished to sail down the river, they were at
liberty to build boats at any town they pleased.

As Mansong had never once expressed a wish to see him, and seemingly
had some superstitious fear of the possible consequence, Park fixed
upon Sansandig as the best place to prepare for his new adventure.
Here, too, he would have more quiet, and would be more exempt from
begging, than within the daily range of the king’s officials.

In his passage from Sami to Sansandig, Park was attacked by a violent
fever, which rendered him temporarily delirious. According to the
sufferer, the heat was so terrific as to have been equal to the
roasting of a sirloin, and there was neither covering to ward it off
nor slightest puff of wind to temper it.

On reaching his destination the traveller was received by his old
friend Kunti Mamadi, who placed the necessary huts at his disposal. On
the following day two more of his men expired, and it began to look as
if at the very moment when success seemed assured he was to be doomed
to lose all. So frightfully were they all reduced at this time, and so
little able to look after each other, that, unmolested, hyenas entered
the dead men’s hut, dragged one of them out, and devoured him.

From Park’s journal we get an interesting glimpse of Sansandig, with
its 11,000 inhabitants and its mosques, of which two were by “no means
inelegant.” But, as in all African towns, it was the market-place
which was the centre of life and interest. From morning till night
the square was crowded with busy groups of people gathered round the
various mat-covered stalls which formed the shops, each containing its
own speciality--beads in every gorgeous hue to catch the eye of the
ornament-loving sex, antimony to darken and beautify the tips of the
ladies’ eyelids, rings and bracelets to attract wandering male glances
to female feet and hands. In more substantial houses were scarlet
cloths, silks, amber, and other valuable commodities which had found
their way across the desert from Morocco or Tripoli--over roads marked
out by the skeletons of slaves and camels who had sunk down to perish
under the frightful hardships of the route. Vegetables, meat, salt,
&c., each had their own stalls--beer, too, in large quantities, near a
booth where leather work found its purchasers.

Such was the everyday state of the square; but the scene was still
more animated and interesting on the occasion of the Tuesday weekly
market. On that day enormous crowds of people gathered from the whole
surrounding country to buy and sell wholesale, and many were the
delightful glimpses of native life and character continually presenting
themselves to the eyes of the observant traveller. He even found a
means whereby to turn the market to his own advantage.

Mansong being slow in carrying out his promise to supply canoes to
be turned into boats, Park opened a shop himself for the purpose of
exchanging some of his articles for cowries, by which he hoped to
purchase the necessary means of transport. He made such a tempting
display that he had at once a great run of business, and became the
envy of all the merchants of the place. In one day he secured 25,000

While thus peacefully employed, every effort was being made on the part
of the Moors and native merchants in order to set Mansong against the
white man, and get him killed, or sent back by the way he had come.
They even did not hesitate to say that his object was to kill the
king and his sons by means of charms. Mansong, however, was not to be
prevailed on by such instigations, though his behaviour showed some
belief in the reported magical powers.

After much delay, Park succeeded in obtaining two canoes, to join
which together he and Bolton, the sole remaining capable man, now set
themselves with great vigour. The rotten parts were replaced, the holes
were repaired, and after eighteen days’ hard labour the united canoes
were launched and christened His Majesty’s schooner _Joliba_, the
length being forty feet, and the breadth six. Being flat-bottomed, it
drew only one foot of water.

While Park was thus toiling with feverish energy to complete his
preparations, Martyn seems to have been taking life very easily.
From a letter written from Sansandig to a friend at Goree we get
an idea of the sort of man he was, and how much he assisted in the
work of the expedition. “Whitebread’s beer,” says the Lieutenant,
“is nothing to what we get at this place, as I feel by my head this
morning, having been drinking all night with a Moor, and ended by
giving him an excellent thrashing.” Could the contrast possibly be
greater between Park and this man--the one possessed with a consuming
desire to accomplish a work seemingly beyond mortal power, slaving
with the strength of half-a-dozen ordinary men, uncrushed by a myriad
misfortunes, his hero’s spirit equal to every difficulty and danger;
the other spending his time in drunken orgies, seemingly as careless of
his life as indifferent to the great mission that was partly his.

The last and worst stroke of evil fortune that could befall Park came
upon him in the form of his brother-in-law Anderson’s death, which
occurred on the 28th October. He had been Park’s special support in
all his trials, ever the one to whom he could open his heart, or from
whom he could seek advice and encouragement. His thoughts and feelings
on the occasion, Park, with characteristic reserve, does not put on
paper, though he cannot help observing “that no event which took place
during the journey ever threw the smallest gloom on my mind till I laid
Mr. Anderson in the grave. I then felt myself as if left a second time
lonely and friendless amidst the wilds of Africa.”



By the middle of November the last preparations for the great voyage
on the Niger were completed. Isaaco had been paid off, and one Amadi
Fatuma, a native of Karson, and a great traveller, hired in his place
to guide the party to Kashna, which Park still believed to be on the
river. To Isaaco, Park’s precious journal was entrusted for conveyance

On the 17th November, dating from “On board of H.M. schooner _Joliba_,
at anchor off Sansandig,” Park wrote to Lord Camden. After some remarks
on his situation, he continues--

“From this account I am afraid that your Lordship will be apt to
consider matters as in a very hopeless state, but I assure you I am
far from desponding. With the assistance of one of the soldiers I have
changed a large canoe into a tolerably good schooner, on board of which
I shall set sail to the east, with the fixed resolution to discover the
termination of the Niger or perish in the attempt. I have heard nothing
I can depend on respecting the remote course of this mighty stream, but
I am more and more inclined to think that it can end nowhere but in the

“My dear friend Mr. Anderson, and likewise Mr. Scott, are both dead;
but though all the Europeans who are with me should die, and though
I were myself half dead, I would still persevere, and if I could not
succeed in the object of my journey, I would at least die on the Niger.
If I succeed in the object of my journey, I expect to be in England in
the month of May or June, by way of the West Indies.”

On the 19th he wrote to his wife--

“ ... I am afraid that, impressed with a woman’s fears and the
anxieties of a wife, you may be led to consider my situation as a
great deal worse than it is.... The rains are completely over, and the
healthy season has commenced, so that there is no danger of sickness,
and I have still a sufficient force to protect me from any insult in
sailing down the river to the sea.

“We have already embarked all our things, and shall sail the moment I
have finished this letter. I do not intend to stop nor land anywhere
till we reach the coast, which I suppose will be some time in the
end of January.... I think it not unlikely but that I shall be in
England before you receive this.... We this morning have done with all
intercourse with the natives. The sails are now being hoisted for our
departure to the coast.”

These letters are full of brave words, yet they do not express one
iota more than what Park was capable of. They breathe his remarkable
personality in every line. They show the heroic spirit that does not
know the word impossible, that does not know when it is beaten--that
having once set itself a task, is incapable of turning back. They speak
eloquently of a stubborn resolution which only death itself can render
powerless, and such a resolution as the world has rarely seen.

It is almost impossible to realise the position of our hero at the
moment when he prepared to embark on one of the most perilous and
uncertain voyages history records. In some aspects it deserves to
rank with the voyage of Columbus across the Atlantic. The bourne was
equally uncertain, the distance not so very much less, the perils
quite as great. It might even be said that compared with that of
Park, the enterprise of Columbus was most hopeful. Columbus, too, had
always the option of turning back. For Park there was no such door of
escape. Success or death was his only choice, and even success might
mean captivity or worse, the best geographer of the time holding that
the Niger termination was not in the ocean, but in the heart of the
continent. If he proved right, how many were the chances against Park’s
ever finding his way out again.

It is to be remembered, in addition, that this voyage of from 2000
to 3000 miles--supposing the Niger to be the same as the Congo--was
not embarked upon in the heyday of the party’s hopes, but after an
unparalleled series of misfortunes and a frightful tale of death.

For sole means of carrying out this wonderful enterprise Park had
nothing better than an unwieldy half-rotten canoe, and a crew
consisting of an officer wholly unsuited to the work, three European
privates, of whom one was mad and the others sick, and lastly, Amadi
Fatuma, the guide, and three slaves--nine men in all.

With this “sufficient force to protect me from insult,” the canoe had
to be navigated without a pilot for hundreds of miles along a river
studded at parts with dangerous rocks, and everywhere infested by
equally dangerous hippos--a river whose banks were occupied for much
of the way by fanatical Moors and Tuaregs, while beyond were unknown
tribes of cannibal savages and other bloodthirsty natives.

But nothing could daunt the intrepid explorer--nothing make him waver
in his “fixed resolution to discover the termination of the Niger or
die in the attempt.”

Thus spiritually armed and inspired, and thus materially supported,
with the writing of his last words to the world, the sails of the
_Joliba_ were unfurled to the wind, and like Ulysses of old, Park
pushed off from land bent on some work of noble note. And though made
“weak by time and fate,” still “strong in will, to strive, to seek, to
find, and not to yield” till death itself should close his toilsome
struggle, or Ocean once more happily receive him on its broad bosom,
and bear him to the “Happy Isles” and the blessed guerdon of his
accomplished work.

The die was cast, and down the great river he glided towards the
untravelled countries of the east and south--towards the heart of
savage Africa, and the deep darkness of the Unexplored.

His journals and letters in the hands of the faithful Isaaco safely
reached the coast and afterwards Europe, thrilling all true-born
men and women with the unparalleled tale of travel they so simply
yet graphically unfolded. All waited with eager impatience for the
reappearance of the hero. Speculation was rife as to his point of exit,
or whether he would ever be heard of more.

May of 1806 passed into June without bringing further news. The year
1806 gave place to 1807, and then fears as to the ultimate fate of the
expedition began to find expression. To strengthen these, rumours from
West Africa reached home that native traders from the interior reported
a disastrous close to the enterprise. With each succeeding month these
reports grew in number and consistency, till Government could no longer
ignore them, and determined to send a reliable native to the Niger to
make special inquiries.

For this task Isaaco was engaged, and in January 1810 he left Senegal.
In October of the same year he reached Sansandig, where he was so
fortunate as to find Amadi Fatuma, the guide Park had taken with him
down the Niger.

On seeing Isaaco, Amadi broke into tears and lamentations, crying out,
“They are all dead, they are lost for ever!” His story was soon told.
The substance of it was as follows:--

On leaving Sansandig, Park, in pursuance of his plan not to hold
communication with the people on land, so as if possible to avoid
attack or detention, pursued his course down the middle of the stream.
At Silla another slave was added to the party, and at Jenné a present
was sent to the head man, though no landing was made at either place.

On reaching the point where the Niger divides to form the island of
Jinbala, they were attacked by three canoes armed with pikes and
bows and arrows, which were repulsed by force on the failure of more
peaceful methods.

At a place called Rakhara a similar attempt was made to stop the
progress of the _Joliba_, and a third near Timbuktu. On each occasion
the natives were driven back with the loss of many killed and wounded.

On passing Timbuktu, the country of Gurma and the lands of the Tuaregs
lay before them. In this part of the river a determined attempt to
dispute their passage was made by seven canoes; but the natives having
no guns, were easily repulsed by the crew of the _Joliba_, which,
though reduced to eight in number, were well supplied with muskets,
constantly kept ready for action. Here another soldier died. Further on
the _Joliba_ was attacked by sixty canoes, but without serious result.

If the guide is to be trusted, Martyn seems to have enjoyed this part
of the work to the full--so much so, indeed, that once, after a good
deal of bloodshed, Amadi seized the Lieutenant’s hand and begged him to
desist, there being no further necessity for fighting. So enraged was
Martyn, that the humane interference would have cost Amadi his life,
but for Park’s intervention.

Some distance beyond the scene of this battle the _Joliba_ struck
on the rocks, and during the confusion which ensued a hippo nearly
completed their discomfiture by rushing at the boat, which it would
have destroyed or upset, but for the timely firing of the men’s guns.
With great difficulty the canoe was got off without having suffered any
material damage.

The party had now reached the centre of the ancient empire of Songhay,
and everything was going as well as could be expected. They had still
sufficient provisions to make landing unnecessary.

At a place called Kaffo three more canoes had to be driven back, and
further on the guide, on landing to buy some milk, was seized by the
natives. Park, seeing this, promptly laid hold of two canoes which had
come alongside, and let their owners understand that unless his man
was released he would kill them all and carry off their canoes. This
threat had the required result, the guide being released, and amicable
relations resumed.

Beyond the point where this incident happened, the river became
difficult to navigate. It was broken up by islands and rocks into three
narrow passages. The place is probably that marked in Barth’s map,
some seventy miles south of Gargo, the former capital of Songhay. The
first passage tried was found to be guarded by armed men, “which,”
says the guide, “caused great uneasiness to us, especially to me,
and I seriously promised never to pass there again without making
considerable charitable donations to the poor.” On trying a second
channel the party was not molested.

A few days later they reached the Haussa country, probably near
the Gulbi-n-Gindi, which comes from Kebbi, the western of the then
independent states. Here, according to Amadi, his agreement ended,
though, according to Park’s letters, he was to have gone as far as
Kashna. Before separating from his guide Park wrote down the names of
the necessaries of life and some useful phrases in the dialects of the
remaining countries through which he had to pass. This task occupied
two days, during which the _Joliba_ remained at anchor, but without
landing any of her crew.

Though thus losing his interpreter, and adding in consequence to the
dangers of the voyage by having no one through whom to communicate when
necessary with the natives, Park had every reason to be hopeful. He had
now sailed over a thousand miles down the river without any serious
mishap, though the way had lain through the country of the Moors, and
their equally fanatical co-religionists the Tuaregs. Ahead lay the land
of the negroes, among whom, all things considered, he had ever found a
kindly welcome and hospitable treatment. Especially encouraging was the
fact that the Niger was flowing due south--consequently towards the
Atlantic, and not to the inland swamps of Rennell’s theories.

There was therefore no great reason to consider the want of an
interpreter as an important drawback, and consequently no attempt
was made to induce Amadi to go further than Yauri, the next district
to the south of the Gulbi-n-Gindi. Here Amadi went ashore, and after
exchanging presents on the part of Park with the king, Al Hadj, or the
“Pilgrim,” bought more provisions, to enable the white men to continue
their way without landing. This, though probably a necessary business,
was destined to prove fatal to the prospects of the expedition. The
cupidity of the natives was aroused by the wealth which the strangers
were believed to have with them--a sample of which was afforded by the
presents sent to the king.

Immediately to the south of Yauri, the low, flat valley of the Niger
contracts to a glen or gorge, where the subtending sandstone hills pass
into abrupt and precipitous masses of hard metamorphic rock, and break
up the channel of the river by dangerous rocks and islands occupied
by villages. Thus narrowed and divided the waters of the river sweep
onward in three branches--one of them easy to navigate; the others
difficult at flood time, and almost impossible when the river is low.

During the delay at Yauri the news of the strangers’ coming either
spread in the ordinary way to Bussa, or was conveyed by special
messenger, and preparations were made to stop them.


Unconscious of the dangers ahead, Park left Yauri and continued his
way south. Having no one acquainted with the river in his canoe, he
unluckily struck upon the worst of the three channels, and rushed to
his doom. Once in the sweep of the current to turn back was impossible.
To land was equally out of the question even had it been possible, for
to right and left the rocks and islands were crowded with natives in
war array bent on stopping the intruders. The energy and attention of
the handful of travellers was divided between the double danger--the
rapids and rocks around and ahead of them, and the weapons hurtling
through the air. Two of the slaves were speedily killed; for the rest
there was no other course but to keep onward, alternately firing and
paddling, ever hoping to make good their escape. A little more and they
would be out of danger. Before they were aware, however, the _Joliba_
rushed into the grip of a hidden cleft rock and there stuck fast. With
desperate energy each man seized his paddle, and mindful only of the
supreme peril of the moment, plied it with the strength of one who
works for dear life. In vain--the _Joliba_ would not yield to their
frantic efforts. With delighted yells the natives gathered on the
neighbouring rocks, and sure of their prey, plied their weapons with
renewed zeal.

The last resource was to lighten the canoe, and everything of weight
was accordingly thrown into the river. That too proved useless, and
now Park and his little band of followers knew they had reached the
culminating point of their misfortunes. For a time they fought on as if
determined to sell their lives dearly, but at length desisted, struck
with the futility of their efforts. Their goods were gone--their number
was reduced to four. To continue fighting was only further to enrage
their enemies. What were the feelings of the hero at this supreme
moment of disaster--what his last determination, who shall say?

Amadi tells us that in the end Park took hold of one white man and
Martyn of the other, and thus united they all four jumped into the
river, whether to die together, or with the intention of mutually
assisting each other, will never be known. The latter supposition is
the more probable, for with Park while there was life there was hope.
In any case the result was the same. The Niger claimed him as its own,
and since to unlock its secrets was not to be his, what more fitting
for him than death beneath its rushing waters.

Of the party only one slave remained alive. Of the contents of the
canoe the sole articles left were a sword-belt, which the King of Yauri
utilised as a horse-girth, and some books, one of which has reached

The guide did not escape scathless any more than the other members
of the expedition. Scarcely had he taken leave of Park, when he was
seized and loaded with chains, remaining in imprisonment for some
months. His first business on obtaining his freedom was to find out
the sole survivor of the expedition, and learn from him the manner of
its leader’s death. Having satisfied himself as far as might be on
this point, he returned home to Sansandig, from which rumour gradually
carried his sad tale to the coast, and resulted in the mission of

To obtain the sword-belt, and otherwise substantiate Amadi’s story,
Isaaco despatched a Fulah to Yauri. The Fulah succeeded in stealing
the belt, and gathered confirmation of the tale of disaster, whereupon
Isaaco set out for the coast with the melancholy tidings and solitary

With the many the tragic story obtained immediate credence. A few there
were, however, who refused to give up hope, though that hope was but
the offspring of their love and ardent wishes. Among these was Mrs.
Park, who to her dying day, thirty years after the above events, clung
to the belief that her husband was yet alive, and would some day be

The Government, not unmindful of their duty to the family of such a
heroic servant, granted Mrs. Park a small pension, which she continued
to receive till her death in 1840.

Her children as they grew up speedily showed that they inherited much
of the spirit of their father. Mungo, the eldest, obtained a commission
in the Indian army. But he had not his father’s constitution, and he
died ten days after landing at Bombay. His younger brother, Archibald,
was more fortunate in the same field of honour, and rose to the rank of

But it was the second son, Thomas, who seemed most largely to have
inherited the adventurous nature of his father. He, like his mother,
never lost belief in the idea that his father was somewhere a prisoner
in the heart of Africa. Thither, in the ardent, impulsive days of
youth, his thoughts perpetually turned, till the desire of ascertaining
the truth possessed him as strongly as the solution of the mystery of
the Niger had formerly possessed Park himself. But by this time the
Parks were alone in their belief, and unsupported, the impetuous young
fellow was next to helpless. In secret, however, he continued to scheme
and plan all the more, ever with the one object in view.

At length in the year 1827 he embarked on board a vessel bound for the
South Seas. In some way or other he contrived to leave the ship and
reach the Gold Coast, determined now to carry out by himself his long
cherished desire to discover his father’s fate.

The following letter, dated Accra, 1827, tells all we know of his

    “MY DEAREST MOTHER,--I was in hopes I should have been back before
    you were aware of my absence. I went off--now that the murder
    is out--entirely from fear of hurting your feelings. I did not
    write to you lest you should not be satisfied. Depend upon it,
    my dearest mother, I shall return safe. You know what a curious
    fellow I am, therefore don’t be afraid for me. Besides, it was my
    duty--my filial duty--to go, and I shall yet raise the name of
    Park. You ought rather to rejoice that I took it into my head.
    Give my kindest love to my sister. Tell her I think the boat would
    do very well for the Niger. I shall be back in three years at the
    most--perhaps in one. God bless you, my dearest mother, and believe
    me to be, your most affectionate and dutiful son,

                                                          THOMAS PARK.”

Thereafter an ominous silence followed. Like the elder Park,
the hot-headed young fellow, whom we cannot help loving for his
folly--knowing as we do its mainspring--disappeared from sight in the
Dark Continent, whence only vague rumours ever came back, sorrow-laden,
telling of a speedy and bloody close to his wild yet heroic mission.

And so fatally ended the connection of the Park family with the
exploration of the River Niger, and thus closed the first great chapter
in the history of the opening up of Inner Africa.



Simultaneously with the commencement of Park’s work of exploration,
an event of almost equal moment in the history of the Niger basin had
begun to germinate. This was the phenomenal rise to a position of
immense political and religious importance of the Fulahs--a people
known among the Haussa as Fillani, and in Bornu as Fillatah.

As Park was the forerunner of Christian enterprise, so Othman dan
Fodiyo, a simple Fulah Malaam or teacher, in raising the banner of
Islam, marked the revival of the political and religious spirit of
Mohammedanism in the Central and Western Sudan.

We have seen how the huge empire of Songhay crumbled into pieces before
the musketeers of a Moorish sultan--how with its political influence
went its civilising influence, and whole kingdoms and provinces fell
back into the old idolatry and barbarism.

Similarly and almost contemporaneously, Bornu, largely though not so
entirely, lost its old military power and progressive force. The Haussa
States, left to themselves, showed a like degenerative tendency, and
largely lapsed into the old heathen ways.

But in all the mass of idolatry was a leaven of quickening influence,
which prevented it from becoming altogether dead and sodden. From Lake
Chad to the Atlantic there was scattered one remarkable race who forgot
not God, neither lapsed into the abominations of the infidel. Though
without political status, and holding no better position than that
of semi-serfs--being, moreover, spread broadcast in small groups as
shepherds--they yet had in them a bond of union and an inspiring force
which supported them in all their trials, and kept them from racial

[Illustration: GROUP OF FULAHS.]

That race was the Fulah, and their bond of union was the religion of

Where they came from is unknown. Everything relating to them is a
matter of conjecture, though in the Sudanese chronicles we find
various allusions to them extending back several centuries.

Their well-chiselled features, straight wiry hair, and copper-coloured
skin, all distinctly mark them off as not African, and point towards
the East as the cradle of their race. Still more, their well-developed
skulls and high intellectual average place them on an altogether higher
level in the scale of humanity than any of the negro or Bantu races
among whom they settled.

At some remote period, we may safely conjecture, they immigrated from
the East, and gradually moved westward--not as warrior-conquerors, but
as peace-loving shepherds, whose knowledge of cattle, &c., made them
welcome additions to every country they reached. Nomadic in habit, and
depending for subsistence on their flocks and herds, it was impossible
for them to settle in large numbers in any one place--the country being
already occupied by the negro inhabitants. Accordingly it was ever
necessary for them to move westward, leaving behind them only such
numbers as could conveniently get a living.

By the fourteenth or fifteenth century the Fulahs had reached the
watersheds of the Niger and the Gambia. Here the migratory tide was
stopped by physical and other causes. The country beyond proved to be
less adapted for pastoral pursuits, and possibly was already thickly

There being no further outlet westward, the newcomers naturally
accumulated as does the dammed back stream. They increased in numbers,
and correspondingly in power, till they became of no small importance,
and founded for themselves a kingdom which has been already mentioned
under the name of Fulahdu.

When Islam crossed the desert and found its way in the ninth and
tenth centuries into the Sudan, the Fulahs were the very first to
become converts to the new religion. Their temperament, their higher
intellectual development, made them more quickly susceptible to the
new influences, and hence it was that while as yet the great mass of
the aborigines were still infidel, the Fulahs with one voice were
proclaiming their belief in Allah and His Prophet. Persecution, as in
the case of other religions, had only the result of burning the tenets
of Islam deeper into their souls, causing their faith to shine with a
clearer and more spiritual light to the edification and instruction of
the surrounding idolaters. In the Western Sudan, where they enjoyed, or
came to enjoy, an independent existence, Islam spread among the Fulahs
with special rapidity; and with the fall of Songhay and the crippling
of the influence of Timbuktu, they became the chief propagators of
Mohammedanism and the great encouragers of learning by means of mosques
and schools--rarely by the power of fire and the sword. Not only did
they and their co-religionists of neighbouring tribes, the Mandingoes
and the Jolofs, thus spread a knowledge of the One God--they at the
same time did an equally noble work in arraying themselves against the
rapidly advancing flood of gin which Christian Europe was pouring into
their country. With that traffic they would have nothing to do, and
unlike so many of our Christian merchants, no consideration of profit
would tempt them to a compromise between their conscience and the lust
for gain.

Meanwhile the Fulahs of the kingdoms of the interior had much to do
to hold their own among their Pagan masters. Their position was most
galling to a race which knew themselves infinitely superior to those
whom they were obliged to own as masters--more bitter still that they,
the inheritors of the promises, should be ruled by idolaters and men
whose portion was Gehenna. Broken up as they were into little groups
scattered over an enormous area, what could they do? The answer to
that question was speedily forthcoming. They had, as we have shown,
the necessary bond of union and the inspiring spiritual force to make
them fight as one man for a common end. They only needed the leader
to utilise this force and bring it into action. Such a man is never
wanting when the times demand him, and he in this case was forthcoming
in the person of Othman, the Imam or religious sheik of the Fulah of
Gober, the northern of the Haussa States.

Under the influence of this sheik the Fulah of that region were roused
to a state of religious fervour such as they had never known before.
His fiery eloquence touched their excitable and imaginative nature as
he brought home to them the shame of their semi-enslaved position.
The fires of discontent were thus set smouldering, and required but a
little more fanning to cause them to blaze into the flames of rebellion.

Meanwhile their Haussa ruler, Bawa, was not blind to the dangerous
ferment existing among them, and fearing the results, summoned Othman
to his presence, and severely reprimanded him. This was sufficient for
the proud and enthusiastic “Believer.” He left Bawa’s presence only to
raise the standard of revolt--the sacred banner of Islam. The effect
was electric. In response to his summons the Fulah at once gathered
around him in an enthusiastic army.

But they were mostly shepherds--men of peace, unaccustomed to the use
of arms; and they could not be at once transformed into successful
warriors. Consequently at first they met with discomfiture and defeat
in every encounter. Had they been fighting for themselves the movement
would undoubtedly have collapsed at the first rude shock of arms. But
happily for them they had a higher interest at heart. They fought for
God and His Prophet, whose instruments they believed themselves to be.
In such a warfare there could be no doubt in their minds as to whose
would ultimately be the victory. With ever-growing zeal they returned
to the charge, stimulated in their glorious crusade by their leader
Othman’s religious songs and fiery words, which told them that theirs
was a cause for which it was much to live and fight, but even more to
die, if it should be God’s will.

Thus led and encouraged, the Fulah grew in experience of battle and
the use of arms. The hordes of shepherds were gradually beaten into a
disciplined army of warriors, and from defeat rose to victory.

Thus it was that Othman and his ever-victorious army burst forth
from Gober on their irresistible career, filling the wild wastes of
Central African heathendom with their cry of “None but the One God,”
till the whole of the Western and Central Sudan, from Lake Chad to the
Atlantic, acknowledged more or less temporarily the political supremacy
of the Fulah. Yet it was no mere temporal power that Othman and his
people sought to establish--theirs was a conquest for God. They acted
but as His agents. Before them fetishism and all its degrading rites
disappeared. No longer did the natives bow down to stocks and stones,
but to Allah, the One God. Once more, as in the palmy days of Songhay
and Bornu, schools and mosques sprang up throughout the land, and the
Greatness, the Compassionateness, and the All-embracing Mercy of the
Ruler of the Universe were taught to natives released from the foul
blight of idolatry in its worst form.

In this work of releasing the Faithful from their bondage to heathen
taskmasters, and bringing new light in a forcible fashion to the
barbarous and breechless natives, the Fulah did not stop till from
every village of the Central Sudan there was heard in the grey dawn
of the tropic morning the stentorian voice of the negro Mueddin,
announcing that prayer was better than sleep--bringing from out the
faintly illumined houses the devout Moslems to humble their faces in
the dust, and acknowledge their utter faith in and dependence on Allah.

No less thoroughly was the material welfare of the people cared for.
“The laws of the Koran were in his (Othman’s) time strictly put in
force, not only among the Fillahtah (Fulah), but the negroes and the
Arabs; and the whole country, when not in a state of war, was so well
regulated, that it was a common saying that a woman might travel with a
casket of gold upon her head from one end of the Fillahtah dominions to
the other.” So wrote Clapperton a few years after the death of Othman,
as eye-witness of the wonderful revolution effected by the Fulah.

Unhappily the religious fervour of the remarkable leader speedily
developed into religious mania, and ended in his death in 1817.

On the death of Othman, the huge empire he had raised was divided
between his sons Bello and Abd Allahi. To the former was given Sokoto
and all the east and south, while to the latter fell the western
provinces along the Niger, with Gandu as capital. The countries to
the west of the Niger, including Massina, became independent under
Ahmed Lebbo, one of Othman’s lieutenants, who conquered that region
immediately before the death of Othman.



As we have seen, Park’s second expedition was fruitful in nothing but
disaster, and the legacy of experience that helps others to success.

The journal Isaaco brought back from the Niger did not add anything to
our knowledge of the river, and so little did Amadi Fatuma’s narrative
supplement it as to the results of the voyage down the stream to Bussa,
that in the map attached to the published journal and biographical
notice in 1816, Park’s furthest point is placed only some eighty miles
to the E.S.E. of Timbuktu, instead of nearly 700 miles in a straight
line S.E.

There was one geographer, however, more far-seeing than the others,
who, though at the time unheeded, struck upon the real solution of the
problem of the Niger’s termination. This was M. Richard, a German, who
published his views on the subject in the “Ephemerides Geographique” as
far back as 1808. These, briefly stated, were as follows. The Niger,
after reaching Wangara, takes a direction towards the south, and being
joined by other rivers from that part of Africa, makes a great turn
thence towards the south-west, pursuing its course till it approaches
the north-eastern extremity of the Gulf of Guinea, where it divides and
discharges itself by different channels into the Atlantic, after having
formed an immense delta, of which the Rio del Rey constitutes the
eastern, and the Rio Formosa or Benin the western branch.

Never was a better instance of a mental discovery of a geographical
fact. Richard’s hypothesis is a graphic description of the actual
geography of the middle and lower Niger. This of course was not to be
recognised by the world, before whose eyes the Kong Mountains ever
loomed up as an impassable barrier running across the suggested line
of drainage. Till these could be removed, turned aside, or broken up,
no geographer was prepared to allow that the Niger could possibly
discharge itself into the Gulf of Guinea.

Mungo Park had left one legacy of theory behind him, viz., that the
Niger and the Congo were one. What was known of his last voyage in
nowise helped to disabuse men of that idea--on the contrary, it
obtained more widely than ever.

To set at rest once for all this important question, the Government,
undeterred by the disastrous termination of the last expedition,
determined to fit out another on an even larger scale, and in spite
of the dire fate which had befallen Park and his companions, there
were not wanting plenty of ardent spirits to risk all the dangers of a
similar enterprise.

To ensure success the expedition was divided into two parts--one to
follow Park’s route more or less closely and descend the Niger; the
other to ascend the Congo, haply to meet half way, if the fates were

Captain Tuckey was the leader of the Congo section; and along with him
went a botanist, a geologist, a naturalist, a comparative anatomist, a
gentleman volunteer, and fifty of a crew.

The party left England on the 16th February 1816, and reached the mouth
of the Congo in five months and a half. The impression they received on
entering the river was one of disappointment, the river appearing as
one of second class magnitude instead of the gigantic stream they had
been taught to expect.

In vain, too, did they look for traces of the great kingdoms described
by the early Portuguese explorers, or of the churches and cities
founded by the Europeans in the early days of Portuguese national
and Christian enterprise. For the most part they were met only by
the dark depths of malarious mangrove swamps, and the profound
stillness and impenetrable vegetation of the tropical forest, though
here and there in the clearings were miserable villages, inhabited
by idle, good-humoured natives, with a decided appetite for ardent
spirits--seemingly the only legacy permanently left behind by the

Pushing up the river, they at length reached the first cataracts of the
Congo, which, instead of proving to be another Niagara, seemed to their
jaundiced eyes “a comparative brook bubbling over its stony bed”--a
description, needless to say, not confirmed by subsequent expeditions.

Unable to proceed further in their boats, Tuckey and his companions
continued the exploration by land, and in spite of the extreme
difficulties they had to encounter in cutting their way through
pathless forests without a guide, they surmounted the first stretch
of falls, and reached a point where the river widened and presented
no difficulties to navigation. Unhappily, however, the old story of
disease commenced. Three of the principal men had successively to
return to the ship; and finally Tuckey and his companion Smith, the
botanist, abandoned their projects, seeing their further progress
hopeless in face of so many difficulties and their own helpless
condition under the paralysing influence of disease. They reached the
ship to find their three companions dead. Smith was the next victim.
Finally, overcome by depression and mental anxiety, Captain Tuckey died
also. How many sailors succumbed we are not told.

Meanwhile no better luck fell to the lot of the other section of the

On the 14th December, this party, consisting of 100 men and 200
animals, under the command of Major Peddie, landed at the mouth of the
Rio Nunez, nearly midway between the Gambia and Sierra Leone. Major
Peddie’s intention was to pass across the narrow part between the Ocean
and the Niger. Hardly had he landed, however, before the fell demon
of disease, which in its foul lair keeps watch and ward over the fair
expanse of Inner Africa, laid its invisible hand upon him, and ere the
march was begun he found a grave in the land he had come to explore.

Under Captain Campbell the expedition experienced only a succession
of disasters. The donkeys rapidly perished under the hands of men
unaccustomed to look after them. Food was only to be obtained with the
utmost difficulty, and at ruinous prices.

Arrived near the frontiers of the Fulah country, they were detained for
four months owing to the suspicions entertained towards them by the
king and his people.

Everything they had began to melt away at an alarming rate. Soon not
a beast of burden was left, and when, seeing advance hopeless, they
turned seawards, their retreat became one continued story of plunder.
Kumner, the naturalist, died _en route_, and Campbell only reached
Kakunda to add his name to the list of victims to African exploration.
The final stroke was given to the unlucky fortunes of this evidently
ill-conducted enterprise by the death of Lieutenant Stoker, a young
naval officer who assumed command, and was about to make a new attempt
to penetrate the country.

Clearly African exploration was no light matter, requiring the making
of wills and the setting of earthly affairs in order for such as put
their hand to the work. Yet strangely enough there was no halting--no
dearth of volunteers. When one died, another was ready to take his

    “Each stepping where his comrade stood
    The instant that he fell.”

In this spirit Captain Gray, a survivor of Peddie’s party, made an
attempt to follow Park’s track, but got no further than Bondou, from
which, after being detained for nearly a year, he managed to return to
the coast.

But what all these various disastrous attempts were unable to
achieve was meanwhile being once more accomplished by a stay-at-home
geographer, James M‘Queen. The circumstances under which he was
attracted to the subject are in harmony with the romantic character of
African history. A copy of the narrative of Park’s first expedition
found its way into the hands of M‘Queen while resident in the Island of
Grenada, West Indies. Among the negroes under his charge were several
Mandingoes from the banks of the Niger. One Haussa negro he came in
contact with had actually rowed Park across the Niger.

Already imbued with pronounced geographical tastes, M‘Queen’s
imagination was at once taken captive by the mystery of the Great
River. With all the enthusiasm of an ardent temperament, he devoted
himself to the solution of the question as thoroughly as Park himself,
though in a very different manner. While, one after another, explorers
toiled and struggled, sickened and died, with but small result to
science, he set about collecting information from all the negroes and
freemen he met who had come from or even set foot in West Africa. More
especially did he study all the available materials supplied by Arabs
who had travelled and traded in the Sudan, or by Europeans and natives
who, bent on commerce or discovery, had penetrated to the interior from
the West Coast.

With extraordinary genius and industry, and admirable clear-sightedness
and judgment, he set in their true light and pieced together the
various items thus collected relating to the course of the Niger, till
he succeeded in mapping out for himself the broad geographical features
of the whole region through which it runs. As far back as 1816 the
first sketch of his views was given to the world in a small treatise,
in which he pointed out, as had Richard before him, that the Niger
certainly entered the ocean in the Bight of Benin. The treatise fell
unheeded, however--at least by the world at large; but undiscouraged,
M‘Queen continued his researches for five years more, and in 1821
produced a book, “Containing a Particular Account of the Course and
Termination of the Great River Niger in the Atlantic Ocean.”

In this interesting work M‘Queen reviews all the various theories
respecting the Niger. He demolishes Rennell’s opinion that it
disappeared in some central wastes of sand, or becomes evaporated in
a series of swamps under the burning heats of a tropical sun. The view
that it flows east and joins the Nile met a similar fate before his
army of facts. The obstructing Kong barrier was cleft asunder with a
Titan’s strength, and made to separate instead of join the Congo and
the Niger.

But the writer was not merely destructive. He could build as well. With
the very weapons with which he pulled down the theories of the past,
he set about constructing a theory of his own. Laying together fact
upon fact, gathered from every available source, he traced the course
of the Niger in a southerly direction. Bussa, from being left near
Timbuktu, he transported several hundred miles further south. From the
kingdom of Bornu and adjacent states he gathered together the various
drainage streams, and ran them into a common channel--the Gir or Nile
of the Sudan; but instead of directing it to the true Nile, as had
formerly been the case when it was believed to be the Niger itself, he
gave it a westerly course south of the Haussa States and Nyffé (Nupé)
to its junction with the Kwora or Main Niger. Here the Arab writers
and traders failed him, though leaving him without a doubt as to the
ultimate destination of the Central Sudanese waters.

For the termination, however, he had to seek information from the
Atlantic side. Everything pointed to the Bight of Benin as the only
possible place of discharge of such a huge river. Here was found an
unknown extent of low flat country and fetid mangrove swamp, pierced by
many-branched anastomosing creeks. From Calabar to Benin canoes could
pass in all directions by means of these creeks, and it was known that
they extended far into the interior. Though subject to the ebb and flow
of the tide, there was no question as to the volume of fresh water
which moved seaward, bearing floating islands on its discoloured floods.

Supported by a convincing array of facts such as these, M‘Queen could
come to no other conclusion but that “in the Bights of Benin and
Biafra, therefore, is the great outlet of the Niger, bearing along in
his majestic stream all the waters of Central Africa from 10° west
longitude to 28° east longitude, and from the Tropic of Cancer to the
shores of Benin.”

Never was a piece of arm-chair geography worked out more admirably. In
its broad outlines it was perfectly correct. To M‘Queen it was as much
a certainty as if he had actually explored and mapped it on the spot.

Imbued with this faith, he proceeded to point out the importance of
the Niger to the commerce of England and the future of Africa. With
Fernando Po and the Niger in the hands of his countrymen, he saw
Britain mistress of the fate of the continent. Bussa was to be the
inner key of the situation. “Therefore,” he says, “on this commanding
spot let the British standard be firmly planted, and no power on earth
could tear it up.... Firmly planted in Central Africa, the British flag
would become the rallying point of all that is honourable, useful,
beneficial, just, and good. Under the mighty shade thereof the nations
would seek security, comfort, and repose. Allies Great Britain would
find in abundance. They would flock to her settlement, if it had the
power and the means to protect them. The resources of Africa, and the
energies of Africa, under a wise and vigorous policy, may be made to
subdue and control Africa. Let Britain only form such a settlement,
and give it that countenance, support, and protection which the
wisdom and energy of British councils can give, and which the power
and resources of the British empire can so well maintain, and Central
Africa to future ages will remain a grateful and obedient dependency
of this empire. The latter will become the centre of all the wealth,
and the focus of all the industry, of the former. Thus the Niger, like
the Ganges, would acknowledge Great Britain as its protector, our king
as its lord.... A city built there under the protecting wings of Great
Britain, and extended, enriched, and embellished by the industry,
skill, and spirit of her sons, would ere long become the capital of
Africa. Fifty millions of people, yea, even a greater number, would be
dependent on it.”

These are brave words, truly, about what after all was merely a “mental
discovery,” and taken alone, they might only evoke a smile, if we did
not know that they are those of a man of no ordinary genius and power
of insight. Looking back seventy years after he wrote, we can see how
truly prophetic he was in most that he wrote, and that he was no more
the blatant patriot than the geographical dreamer. His genius for
looking ahead was as great as for looking around. Take, for instance,
his warning of the danger of a French advance from the Senegal to
the Niger, and its far-reaching consequence, if carried out, to our
commercial and political position in West Central Africa. He it was who
foresaw nearly seventy years before its accomplishment the necessity of
a Chartered Company to take full advantage of our (then prospective)
position on the Niger, and the results that would ensue without
such a method of developing the resources of that region. Of these
matters, however, we shall treat in their proper place. Enough for
the moment if we show how thoroughly M‘Queen had made himself master
of the geographical problems then before the public, as well as of the
political and commercial situation that was to follow the opening up
of the Niger to European intercourse. Only now, after more than half a
century of gross and irreparable mismanagement in West Africa, we are
waking up to the wisdom of his views, and striving in some measure to
carry them into effect.



Unhappily for the stay-at-home geographer, no matter how skilfully he
may set forth the discoveries made in his study, his triumph can only
come after they have been demonstrated by actual travel, and even then
the credit that falls to his share is small. The case of M‘Queen is one
in point. We have no evidence that his theory regarding the Niger’s
termination made any special impression upon the general opinion of the
time. Unfortunately for him, too, his views were published immediately
after several disastrous attempts from the West Coast to settle the
question he had so ably worked out, so that Government and people alike
were disposed to fight shy of the fatal region.

Yet with every succeeding failure the attraction of the mysterious
river seemed ever to become greater, and a stubborn determination was
evinced to break through the deadly belt which hedged in the countries
of the interior. Conquered and rebuffed in one direction, there was
nothing for it but to try another, and once more the Arab caravan route
from Tripoli to the Sudan was thought of. As has been elsewhere shown,
attempts in this direction had already been made by other travellers,
and all had alike failed. Of these Horneman alone had penetrated beyond
the northern borderland of the desert, only, however, to disappear
for ever. In every other case these expeditions had failed at the
outset through fatal fevers and Oriental obstructiveness--what, then,
had the traveller to expect, who, surmounting these initial dangers,
found himself face to face with the terrors of the great Sahara, where
nature in its fiercest aspects reigned supreme, and man was represented
only by wild roving tribes savage as their environment.

Nevertheless men there were ready and eager to try this route, as had
been others before them to brave the dangers of the West Coast.


In 1820 Britain held an exceptionably favourable position in the
councils of the Court of Tripoli, while at the same time the Basha,
thanks to his guns, exercised a very marked influence over all the
Arab, Berber, and Tibbu tribes lying between his country and the
far-distant regions of the Sudan. Hence any one starting under the
protection of the Basha had a fair guarantee of success, provided he
could withstand the possible onslaughts of disease, and the terrible
privations incidental to desert marches.

Encouraged by this favourable state of matters, the British Government
determined to make another attempt to explore by the Arab route the
regions which they had so signally failed to reach from the Atlantic.

Lieutenant Clapperton--like Park, a Scottish borderer--Dr. Oudney,
and Major Denham, were selected for the task, and the 18th November
1821 saw them landed in Tripoli. Little time was lost in making their
preparations and in setting forth for Murzuk in Fezzan, where they
were to make their final arrangements before plunging into the dread
Sahara. Here, though received kindly enough by the Sultan, they were
threatened with the system of Oriental delays which had proved fatal
to previous travellers. This, however, they were not the men to brook,
and Major Denham promptly returned to Tripoli to lay a complaint before
the Basha. As promptly he started for England on getting nothing but
promises. This was sufficient to throw the Basha and his Court into
consternation, and vessel after vessel was despatched to bring back the
indignant traveller. They succeeded in catching him up at Marseilles,
and induced him to return. On his arrival in Tripoli he was informed
that already his escort awaited him at Sokna, on the borders of the
Tripolitan desert.

Murzuk was triumphantly re-entered on the 30th October 1822. Clapperton
and Oudney were found much reduced by the fevers, which were here so
prevalent that even amongst the natives anything like a healthy-looking
person was a rarity. To get away from this dangerously unhealthy
place, Bu Khalum, the leader of the caravan, exerted himself with
most unoriental and praiseworthy energy, though the task of gathering
together the various elements of such a company as his was no small

When ready, the party consisted of four Europeans, and servants to the
number of ten, an Arab escort of 210, gathered from the most obedient
tribes under the rule of Tripoli, and a number of merchants and freed
slaves, who brought up the roll to about 300.

It was the 29th November before the whole party was ready for the road.
The Europeans were in no very promising plight. They were all more or
less down with fever, and Oudney and Hillman, a carpenter, were in
a specially hopeless condition, considering what was before them.
Nevertheless each one was eager and determined to go on, always hoping
in the future, as is the manner of enthusiasts.

Almost with the disappearance of the walls, mosques, and date-trees
of Murzuk in their rear, the desert rose up grim and terrible before
them. The second day saw them among wild wastes of burning billowy
sands, where was seen no living thing, nor other sound heard than the
melancholy sweep of the wind over the endless tracts of sand. For some
days, however, watering-places were not unfrequent, while here and
there small oases gave a temporary relief to the monotonous landscape,
and afforded a scanty subsistence to Tibbu or Berber inhabitants, who
preferred to face the terror of the wilderness rather than live under
the harsh rule of Arab masters. With the continued advance southward
the wells grew more scarce, and it became a matter of congratulation
when the day’s march ended beside one. With the wells went the
date-trees and the cultivated oases, the prowling beast and the
wandering native--only a great yellow expanse perpetually unrolled its
vastness and monotony beneath the brazen canopy of a cloudless sky.

Into this realm of Desolation and Death the caravan now passed,
their route marked out by the skeletons of human beings, ominously
indicative of the dangers ahead and the horrors of the slave trade.
As many as 107 such skeletons were counted by the wayside in a single
march, and 100 were found around one well. At some places the numbers
were beyond calculation. For days together now there was nothing but
desert--hummocky mounds, painful stone-strewn stretches of barrenness,
and shattered ribs of rock, grim, gaunt, and terrible. The wind came
like blasts from a furnace, and from the cloudless sky the sun poured
down its burning rays in a painful flood. Under the influences of heat,
thirst, and fatigue, no word was spoken--even the camels uttered not a
groan, as if conscious of the dire alternative to not pushing on. At
times the horses’ hoofs crunched through the bones of human beings who
had perished on the march. Night only brought relief from the hardships
of the route. Then came the clear soothing darkness lit by a myriad
stars, the cool refreshing breezes, and the soft couch of sand, so
inexpressibly welcome to the weary, parched, and blinded wayfarers.

Thus the year passed away, and 1823 was ushered in, bringing promise of
a successful issue to the enterprise. The explorers had now reached a
scantily populated Tibbu country, where, in equal danger from drought,
famine, sandstorms, and the murderous raids and plundering onslaughts
of Berber tribes and passing caravans, men somehow contrived to wring
from the flinty, almost arid, bosom of mother earth the wherewithal to
keep body and soul together.

On leaving Bilma, the chief centre of this district, another desert
tract had to be crossed, necessitating long and harassing marches,
under the hardships of which as many as twenty camels would sink down
exhausted in a single day. This dread region was at length also safely
traversed, and infinite was the relief and thankfulness of all when
towards the end of January the approach to more fertile tracts was
indicated by the appearance of clumps of grass, and further on of a few
scattered and stunted trees. This miserable and dingy vegetation looked
delightful and refreshing to travellers who for over two weary months
had been in a land of death and desolation. Tibbu inhabitants, with
their flocks and herds, reappeared with the vegetation, and fresh meat
and camel’s milk were to be had in abundance.

The caravan had this time reached no mere oasis. With each day’s
march south the country improved in appearance, till the party found
themselves in charming valleys shaded by leafy trees, festooned with
creeping vines of the Colocynth, while underneath the sheltering canopy
the ground was aglow with many-hued and brilliantly-coloured flowers.
Nor was there lack of animal life to give animation and variety to
the scene. Hundreds of twittering birds fluttered from tree to tree,
careless of the vultures and kites which gracefully circled far up
in the heavens. From a distance shy gazelles watched the newcomers
with their beautiful eyes wide-stretched, but ready, if alarmed, to
bound away at a moment’s notice to their forest haunts. The very sky
reflected the softer conditions of nature, and showed a brighter blue
cloud-speckled; and the natives in their smiling faces and hospitality
harmonised with the happier conditions under which they lived, though
from time to time the ruthless acts of the Arab caravan sent them
flying in terror.

There was no mistaking the fact that the Sudan--the country known by
hearsay for over four centuries, but which so far had baffled all
attempts to explore it--had at last been reached. On the 4th February
1823 the travellers’ eyes were greeted with a sight “so gratifying and
inspiring that it would be difficult for language to convey an idea
of its force. The great lake Chad, glowing with the golden rays of
the sun in its strength, appeared within a mile of the spot on which
we stood. My heart bounded within me at the prospect, for I believed
this lake to be the key to the great object of our search (presumably
the Niger), and I could not refrain from silently imploring Heaven’s
continued protection, which had enabled us to proceed so far in health
and strength even to the accomplishment of our task.”

Nine days later the river Yeou was discovered flowing from the west.
The name given to it by the Arabs unlocked the secrets of many
geographical misconceptions. But that it was neither the true Nile
nor the Niger was soon made patent--for, on the one hand, its course
ended in the Chad; and, on the other, its size, and the reports of the
natives, made it clear that it drained only the eastern Haussa States.

February 17 was a momentous date in the history of the expedition, for
on that day they reached Kuka, the capital of Bornu.

Their entry was made in great state, worthy the traditions of a
powerful semi-civilised Sultan. Several thousand well equipped and
marvellously caparisoned horsemen awaited the strangers outside
the town, and on seeing them, charged as if with the intention of
annihilating the little band. Suddenly, while at full gallop, they
pulled up right in the faces of the newcomers, almost smothering them
with clouds of dust, and putting them in some danger from the crowding
of horses and clashing of spears.

The Sultan’s negroes, as they were called, were specially conspicuous,
“habited in coats of mail composed of iron chain, which covered them
from the throat to the knees, dividing behind and coming on each side
of the horse. Some of them had helmets, or rather skull caps, of the
same metal, with china pieces all sufficiently strong to ward off the
shock of a spear. Their horses’ heads were also defended by plates of
iron, brass, and silver.”

It would be difficult to give the faintest idea of the strange sights
and scenes which now opened up before our travellers in the centre of
the ancient empire of Bornu. Nothing more remarkable had ever been
seen by any European explorer--at least in Africa. From the Sultan
and his much-robed courtiers down to the scantily-draped country
people, all were alike interesting. The teeming life in all its varied
forms--Arab, Berber, Fulah, and negro of twenty different tribes--made
up a picture of strange attractiveness. Not less interesting were
the curious customs, the industries, the mixture of a considerable
degree of civilisation and religious elevation with the lowest depths
of barbarism and degrading superstition. These were the more marked,
inasmuch as when the English travellers saw Bornu and its remarkable
court, it was just re-emerging from a temporary eclipse of its national
glory. Only a short time before it had thrown off the temporary
domination of the Fulahs, to whom it had succumbed in their first
irresistible onrush.

The reception of Clapperton and Denham was exceedingly promising, and a
bright career of discovery seemingly lay open to them.

Matters assumed a worse aspect, however, when differences of opinion
arose among the Arabs of the caravan. They had been despatched as an
escort to the travellers, it is true, but they were not placed directly
under their command. To do absolutely nothing but look after the
safety of the Europeans was as alien to their conception of duty as the
idea of travelling all the way to Bornu without turning the journey
to profitable account. The majority of them not being merchants, and
therefore not supplied with goods for barter, had only their weapons
to depend upon to recoup them for their trouble. A slave raid was
therefore determined on, in spite of the opposition and remonstrances
of Bu Khalum and the Europeans. As the Arabs were not to be turned
aside from their project, the leader reluctantly agreed to go with
them, and Denham, finding himself helpless, resolved to join the party
likewise in order to extend his knowledge of the region.

The mountains of Mandara, to the south of Bornu, were chosen as the
most suitable spot for a slave hunt, and thither the raiders proceeded,
accompanied by a considerable contingent of the Bornu army.

Leaving Kuka in the middle of April, they reached Mandara towards the
end of the month, without any misadventure. Here they found themselves
surrounded with mountain scenery, which could scarcely be exceeded for
beauty and richness. On all sides interminable chains of hill closed in
the view in rugged magnificence and picturesque grandeur. Here, too,
nature revelled in its most luxuriant forms among giant trees almost
masked under the wealth of creepers which wound around the trunks
and branches, or hung in graceful festoons swaying responsive to the
passing breeze. Native villages were everywhere to be seen perched
airily, like eagles’ nests, far up on the rocks and mountain tops,
or nestling in the valleys, hidden like the wild deer’s lair in the
depths of the forest. Such was the lovely district into which the Arabs
had come to bring death, ruin, and slavery. But for once they had
miscalculated their powers, or depended too much on the co-operation
of the Bornu contingent. At the first attack the invaders drove the
natives before them, but soon they were outnumbered. Bu Khalum was
severely wounded along with the leader of the Bornuese, and Denham
received a wound in the face. Beaten on all sides, the only safety of
the survivors lay in flight.

A frightful scene ensued. Denham passed through a series of the most
marvellous escapes, but at last, unhorsed and unarmed, was seized and
stripped, receiving several wounds from spear thrusts in the process.
Seeing nothing but a cruel death before him, he resolved to make one
more effort to escape, and putting the thought into action, he slipped
below a horse, and started for the woods, pursued by two Fulah.
Reaching the shelter of the trees, hope revived on his seeing a ravine
opening in front of him, and offering a further chance of life. As he
was on the point of letting himself down the cliff into the stream, a
puff-adder raised its head to strike. He recoiled horror-stricken, and
fell headlong into the ravine, his fall fortunately made harmless by
a deep pool of water, where, recovering his presence of mind, three
strokes of his arms sent him to the opposite side, and placed him in
comparative safety among the dense vegetation.

Shortly after, he met the remnants of the defeated party, and six days
later they re-entered Kuka, after enduring great hardships.

For the next few months little of importance was done to elucidate
the geography of the Chad Region. An expedition westward to Manga was
accomplished with less disastrous results than that to the Mandara
mountains; and then the rainy season set in, threatening for a time to
end the days of the European travellers by the fevers which accompanied
it. With the return of the dry season came renewed health and renewed
determination to add further to their discoveries.

On the 14th December, Clapperton and Oudney set forth to visit Kano and
the Haussa States in the company of a trading caravan.

Two days later a Mr. Toole arrived at Kuka with fresh supplies for the
expedition, at a moment when they were much needed.

In the beginning of the year 1824 Denham and Toole started for the
district of Logun with the object of visiting the Shari River. The
project was safely accomplished, and they found a majestic river 400
yards broad, flowing from the south and south-west into the Chad.

The difficulty of obtaining correct geographical information from the
natives was well illustrated in their case, it being clear that they
confounded with the Shari a great river (the Benué) they heard of as
flowing _from_ the south and south-west of Mandara, whereas in reality
the latter flows _to_ the west. It is extremely probable, however, that
some sort of connection exists between them in the wet season.

At Logun Mr. Toole died.

Meanwhile Clapperton and Oudney were travelling towards Kano, and
giving shape and form to the confused and conflicting accounts
over which geographers had quarrelled for a couple of centuries.
Unfortunately on this journey, Oudney, who had never enjoyed good
health from the day he left Tripoli, gradually became worse, and
died on the 12th January 1824. Left to himself, Clapperton passed on to
Kano, which he found to be a town of 30,000 to 40,000 inhabitants, and
chiefly important as a trading and industrial centre, it being famed as
such from the most remote times.

[Illustration: VIEW IN SOKOTO.]

On the 16th of March he reached Sokoto, the capital of the new Fulah
Empire, and there was hospitably received by Bello, son and successor
of the founder. From Sokoto he hoped to make his way to Yauri and Nupé,
to clear up as far as possible the question of the course of the Niger.
At first everything looked favourable for his plans, but gradually his
hopes vanished, as every one set about dissuading him from attempting
the journey.

At last the Sultan himself withdrew his promise of protection, on the
plea of excessive danger to his guest. In the face of such a decided
veto it was useless to attempt to proceed, though for several weary
weeks Clapperton waited on in the hope that something would turn up
which would open a way for him. No change for the better occurred,
however, and at length he took leave of Sultan Bello, and returned to

On September 3rd a caravan having been got together, the homeward
journey was commenced.

In the course of the next four months the Sahara was safely recrossed,
and Tripoli re-entered on the 26th January, the travellers having been
absent nearly three years on their arduous undertaking.

This must be considered the most successful African expedition up to
that period--successful alike in its scientific results and in the
extent of country explored for the first time. Once for all it settled
the question as to the direction in which the mouth of the Niger
must be looked for. Certainly it neither flowed east, nor did it end
in any known desert or lake. Yet curiously enough, to judge from the
travellers’ maps, they were still some way behind M‘Queen in their
knowledge of the general geography of the great eastern tributary of
the Niger. Through a misunderstanding on Clapperton’s part as to the
direction of the Benué, the River Shari was represented as draining its
waters from the west instead of from the south and east. But perhaps
the most valuable result of the expedition was, that for the first time
form and coherence were given to the geography of the Arab writers
and traders, and exact information collected regarding the remarkable
kingdoms forming the Central Sudan.



Among the many valuable results arising from Clapperton and Denham’s
expedition, not the least important was the great encouragement it gave
to renewed enterprise. With the successes of these two explorers the
tide of evil fortune seemed to have turned, and they had shown that
death or failure did not necessarily meet whomsoever had the temerity
to seek to unlock the secrets of Ethiopia.

Clapperton, moreover, had brought back with him from Sokoto the most
friendly messages from Bello, the Sultan, expressive of his desire
for direct intercourse with the British, and pointing out how that
intercourse might best be established by way of the Niger and the West
Coast, to which, he asserted, his dominions extended. To take advantage
of this more hopeful state of affairs, the British Government organised
another expedition, once more with the object of settling the vexed
question of the Niger termination, and at the same time opening up a
way to the rich provinces of Sokoto, Bornu, &c.

Clapperton was again selected as leader, and with him were associated
Captain Pearce and Surgeon Morrison.

The Gulf of Benin was chosen as the landing point, the reason being
that there they hoped to find the entrance to the river and follow it
to Bussa. On their arrival, however, it was deemed advisable not to
lose time and health among the interminable creeks and fatal mangrove
swamps known to distinguish the probable delta of the Niger. It was
known that Haussa caravans were in the habit of annually descending
overland to the coast at Badagry, a point a few miles to the west
of what is now known as Lagos. With much wisdom and common sense
Clapperton and his companions therefore elected to penetrate to the
Niger by this route, and after completing their business with Sokoto,
to descend the river in canoes.

On the 7th December 1825 the party left the coast. Hardly, however,
had they got beyond earshot of the Atlantic rollers, when it seemed as
if the fate which had befallen so many earlier ventures was about to
overtake Clapperton’s also. Through imprudently sleeping in the open
air, they were all attacked by fever. Undismayed and unsubdued, they
nevertheless pushed on, staggering forward as best they might. But
there were limits to their defiance of disease. Morrison gave in first,
and turning to retrace his way to the coast, died on the road. Captain
Pearce was the next victim, and he, like the soldier who falls in
battle with his face to the foe, dropped on the road, struggling onward
to the last.

Though now deprived of both his friends, Clapperton was not yet
absolutely alone. He had with him an English servant named Richard
Lander, who, with a spirit worthy of such a master, faced all the
perils and hardships of the route. Happily, however, by the end of
the month the deadly coast belt was safely passed, and healthier
lands lay before them. They entered the populous country of Yoruba,
with its teeming population, its well cultivated fields, enormous
towns, and general air of prosperity. Through Yoruba they passed in a
semi-triumphal procession, with no greater trouble to face than the
anxiety of the king to keep the white men in his own capital, or the
siren wiles of the widow Zuma, who, with her colossal charms, sought
to woo them from the path of danger and toil to the flower-strewn
haunts of love and ease. Heedless alike, however, of kingly favours and
full-fed charms--the widow being fat and twenty--Clapperton held on
his way, as also did Lander, who was as little to be seduced from his
master’s side as his master from the path of duty.

Clapperton had hoped to reach the Niger at Nupé, but news of war and
bloodshed in that region caused him to deviate from his intended route
and strike the great river somewhat higher up. As the fates would
have it, he reached the Niger at the very point where Park had ended
at once his voyage and his career. Clapperton’s reception seemed to
belie the story of Amadi Fatuma as to the manner of Park’s death, but
a little investigation proved beyond a doubt the truth of its chief
particulars. The natives had attacked him under a misconception as
to his nationality, and every one spoke with regret of the unhappy
catastrophe. The place was pointed out where the boat and crew were

At this point the river is divided into three channels, none more
than twenty yards broad when the water is low. The left branch is the
only safe one for canoes, the other two being broken up by rocks into
dangerous whirlpools and rapids. Bussa itself stands on an island about
three miles long by one and a half broad.

From Bussa, Clapperton passed through Nupé and across the Haussa States
to Kano. Thence he proceeded to join Bello at Sokoto. He arrived,
however, at an unfortunate time. Civil war and rebellion were rife on
all hands, and it seemed as if the great Fulah Empire was about to fall
to pieces as quickly as it had been built up. Bello, in consequence,
was in a fit state to listen to all sorts of insinuations as to the
causes which brought the Europeans into his country, and the results
that were likely to follow. Accordingly, Clapperton’s reception
was anything but friendly, and under the worries consequent on his
treatment, and the fevers by which he was attacked, he at length
succumbed on the 13th April 1827.

Of the members of the expedition there now remained only Richard
Lander, who had attached himself to Clapperton with such remarkable
fidelity. Three courses were open to him--to return to England by
way of the desert and Tripoli, to go back by the way he had come, or
thirdly, to attempt to carry out his late master’s intention of tracing
the Niger to its mouth. Lander was a man of no ordinary intelligence
and character, notwithstanding his subordinate position in life, and
as if Clapperton’s mantle had fallen on him, he elected to do what he
could to complete the unfinished work.

With this object in view he returned to Kano from Sokoto, and thence
started south to reach the Niger, being under the belief that the great
river in that direction was the object of his search--while in reality
it was another.

In this, however, he failed. He had almost reached the great town of
Yakoba, when his progress was stopped, and he was compelled to return
to Kano. Thence he made his way back as he had come through Yoruba to
Badagry, which he reached on the 21st November 1827.

The unhappy issue of Clapperton’s second expedition somewhat chilled
African enterprise for the time being. Our knowledge of the course
and termination of the Niger was left exactly where it had been
before--though it was made more and more clear that from Bussa it
flowed south to Benin. Still the river seemed to lie under some charm
fatal to whomsoever should brave it and seek to lift the veil.

The Government began to lose hope, or to conclude that the deadly
nature of the climate rendered the discovery of the mouth of the Niger
one only of geographical importance. But though they wavered and felt
disposed to give up the task, there were still plenty of volunteers
eager to make one more attempt.

No matter what the dangers were, Africa had a strange power of
fascination which irresistibly drew men under its influence; not those
merely who had never set foot on its deadly shore, and who consequently
could not fully realise all that travel in Africa meant, but men who
had seen their companions die beside them on the road, struck down by
disease or the weapon of the savage, and who had themselves known what
it was to be at death’s door. It is a species of mesmeric influence
this of African travel, irresistibly compelling him who has once come
beneath its spell to return again and again, even though at last it be
to his death.

Lander was no exception to the rule. He went out to Africa knowing
nothing, and probably caring less, for the objects of his master’s
expedition. But he was of the right sort to come beneath the fatal
charm; and with the death of his master he felt himself consecrated
to the work of exploration. In this spirit he returned to England with
Clapperton’s journal, only to offer himself for one more effort to
complete the task the death of the writer had left unfinished. Such
an offer the Government could not very well refuse, though the terms
promised by them showed that they had but little faith in a favourable

[Illustration: RICHARD LANDER.]

But Lander was no longer the servant. African travel had ennobled him
and placed him in the roll of her knight-errantry. He knew no sordid
motives, asked no pay or other remuneration. Success should be his only
reward. His enthusiasm infected his brother John with a like spirit,
and caused him to throw in his fortunes with him.

The 22nd March 1830 saw the gallant fellows landed at Badagry. They
followed practically the same route as Clapperton’s expedition to Eyeo,
from which they were compelled to take a circuitous northerly course to
the Niger at Bussa, which they reached in three months from the coast.

After having paid a visit to the King of Yauri some distance up the
river, preparations were commenced for the voyage down to the ocean.
With difficulty two canoes were obtained, but at length, on the
20th September, everything was ready for departure. Before pushing
clear of the land, the Landers “humbly thanked the Almighty for past
deliverances, and fervently prayed that He would always be with us and
crown our enterprise with success.” Having thus placed themselves under
Divine protection, the word was given to push off, and away the canoes
glided towards their uncertain bourne.

The first part of the voyage lay through a narrow valley bounded by
metamorphic hills, through which the river wound its way in broad
curving reaches, broken up at times by inhabited islands, which rose
precipitously from the dark waters, and gave variety to the scene.
Majestic trees lined the banks, and lent their own peculiar charm to
the panoramic landscape, while village and cultivated field spoke of
industrious inhabitants. From the latter they had nothing to fear--on
the contrary, the travellers were everywhere received hospitably, and
sent on their way with prayers for their safety and food for their
wants. A more instant danger lay in the numerous rocks which thrust
their crests above the water, or more treacherously lay hid beneath,
requiring constant watchfulness.

Soon this rocky section was passed, and the district of Nupé entered.

Here the river, emerging from the metamorphic hills, turns eastward and
widens, flowing through a broad valley whose precipitous sides form the
escarpments of a low sandstone plateau-land. This section is scantily
inhabited and sparsely wooded, on account of the fact that while the
river is in flood, the great plains which form the bottom of the valley
are submerged, and the river assumes the aspect of a lake.

Sixty miles further down is a picturesque range of mountains--now
called Rennell’s--shortly after passing which comes the town of Egga.
From thence the broad valley begins to narrow, and the river to wind in
sharp curves through the low sandstone gorges, till, turning sharply
to the south, it enters a lake-like expanse, where the Landers found
that a large tributary from the east, which they conjectured to be the
Tchadda or Benué, joined the main stream. This was the river which
Clapperton had confounded with the Shari, though M‘Queen had worked out
its true relationship to the Niger system.

Immediately beyond the point of junction, the Niger leaves the
sandstone plateau and passes through a series of bold picturesque
mountains by a narrow gorge, guarded on either side by isolated peaks
and table-topped mountains, which frown over the waters in defiant,
barren ruggedness. As if to stop all ingress or egress, small islands
and hidden rocks rise in mid-stream, round which the swift currents of
the contracted river angrily sweep and swirl.

This natural gateway passed, the river expands again into majestic
reaches, sunning its full bosom under the tropic sun, unbroken by rock
or island. The mountains fall into gentle undulations, and these
again into a limitless, flat expanse, but little raised above the
level of the river. With every mile the vegetation grows more and more
luxuriant, more and more prodigal, till the primeval forest lies before
the traveller in all its height and depth and solemnity. Never before
had the brothers Lander seen such trees, such a profusion of shrubs,
such a tangle of varied creepers.

Here and there villages, charmingly adorned with nodding palms, peeped
cosily from their bosky corners in the dark protecting forest. Near the
houses stood or lolled groups of scantily clothed natives, passing the
lazy hours away in dreamy idleness, as became the lords of creation.
Children, naked as the day they were born, gambolled in the river like
frogs; and women, ever at work, busied themselves with domestic cares.
At some places battle had been given to the rank luxuriance of nature,
and small clearings made in the forest for the raising of yams, beans,
or sugar-canes.

Not least inviting in the scene was the Niger itself. Now it spread
before the voyagers like a beautiful lake, ringed with fringing
festooned trees, and flashing brilliantly under the rays of the
tropic sun. Again, far ahead, the forest frame opened and displayed
the serpentine course of the silvery river, edged with yellow banks
of sand. Canoes were seen gliding swiftly down stream, or with more
laborious paddling were forced upward against the current. On the banks
left by the falling waters, crocodiles disposed their repulsive length
like rotting logs of wood, while in the deeper pools the hippos snorted
defiance. Waterfowl in great numbers skimmed along the surface of the
water, fished in the shallows, or rested on _terra firma_.

The scene was arcadian and fascinating seen from the river. A closer
acquaintance did not enhance its attractiveness. The voyagers were now
among a people far different from those above the confluence of the
Niger and the Benué (Tchadda). Here were only Pagan savages, steeped in
the lowest barbarism, and ruled by the grossest superstition. Murder
and plunder were in congenial union with fetishism and cannibalism,
and hospitality was unknown. Only by force could Lander get his men
to venture into this dangerous region. That their fears were not mere
fancies was speedily proved on the very first occasion of landing,
and again later on they only escaped utter destruction, to fall into
semi-captivity to a party of men in large canoes who were up river
ready to trade with the strong, and to attack and plunder the weak.

The travellers now found themselves among people who came from near
the sea, and who had not only heard of, but had actually traded with
Europeans. It was therefore in no despondent mood that they submitted
to their fate, and proceeded on their way, the captives of the Ibo.

Soon it was clear that the delta of the river had been reached. From
being a united volume of water it began to break up into numerous
branches, running in all directions. At the apex of the delta the
land was dry, and clad with palm oil groves and silk cotton trees.
Gradually, however, these disappeared, and as the dry land gave
place to hybrid swamp, the mangrove asserted its ownership. Nature
then showed as repulsive an aspect as is to be met with in any other
region on the face of the globe--what was swamp when the tide was out
resembling a submerged forest when the tide was in, and both then
and at all other times, reeking with pestilential vapours from the
slimy mud oozing from between the octopus-like roots of the mangrove.

[Illustration: AKASSA.]

In passing through this foul region the travellers had little reason to
wonder that no one had ever ventured to explore the labyrinthine creeks
and river branches which penetrated the mangrove in all directions, but
seemed to lead to nowhere in particular.

On the 24th November 1830 the dull thunder of the Atlantic rollers
breaking on the shore came like sweetest music to the travellers’ ears,
growling a gruff but hearty welcome, and soon the sea itself lay before
them--its cool healthy breezes fanning them with delicious touch, its
gleaming limitless expanse fair as a glimpse of heaven.

The Niger mystery was solved at last, and the river portals thrown wide
open to the world, never again to be closed.



While Clapperton and Lander were thus bringing the work of Park to a
successful conclusion, and proving the accuracy of M‘Queen’s geography
of the Niger basin, there were others at work in the region which the
labours and death of their great pioneer had made classic ground.
Major Laing, in the course of a Government mission, had travelled from
Sierra Leone to Falaba, in the country of Sulima, and ascertained that
the Niger took its rise in the Highlands of Kurauka, some 70 miles
south-west of Falaba, and not more than 150 miles east of Sierra Leone.
The river itself he was prevented from reaching, but none the less did
he come under the irresistible influence of its fascination.

More than ever had Timbuktu and the Niger become names to conjure with,
as well as to infect men with a species of reckless self-sacrifice that
no amount of past experience, prudence, or common sense could dispel.
As in the case of Lander, and others of his predecessors, having
once tasted the bitter-sweet of African exploration, there could be
no rest for Major Laing until he had gathered again the magic fruit.
Accordingly, after an interval of three years, he once more set forth,
determined to carry his cherished dreams into realisation.

Timbuktu and the Upper Niger were the goals of his journey. Like
Denham and Clapperton, he took Tripoli as his starting-point. Thence
he passed south-west to Ghadamis and the oasis of Twat. Between
the latter and Timbuktu lay the wild wastes of the Sahara--never
trodden by man without extreme risk of encounter with plunder and
bloodshed-loving nomads, and death from thirst or privation. Even
these factors of an African journey had their wild attraction for men
of Laing’s temperament, adding a _sauce piquante_, as it were, to the
otherwise monotonous march and daily routine of worry and privation.
To such, too, the frowning immensity of the Sahara--the frightful
desolation which marks its every feature--and the flaming sun and lurid
heavens that hang above it, have elements which strike them with the
profoundest feelings of awe, and leave an indelible impress on their

For sixteen days after leaving Twat, Laing underwent all these
sensations in their most striking form; and that his experiences of
desert travel might be complete, he was attacked at night by a party
of Tuareg marauders, and left for dead, with no less than twenty-four
wounds. Thanks, however, to the secret elixir of heroic minds and
the soundness of his constitution, he miraculously recovered, and
undismayed, continued his way to Timbuktu, which was reached on the
18th August 1826.

Laing was the first European who had ever entered that historic city,
which for four centuries had been the loadstone of kings, merchants,
and savants. He arrived in an unhappy hour. Only a short time before
the first waves of the approaching tide of Fulah influence had entered
the region of the Upper Niger. Already Timbuktu had felt its strange
power, though resenting the political position usurped by the
ministers of the new revival.

For a month Laing was allowed to remain unmolested. Then he was
ordered to leave the city of the Faithful. There was no resisting the
mandate, and he passed forth on the 22nd September, only to be foully
murdered two days later by the people who had undertaken to escort him
across the desert. With him unfortunately perished the records of his
observations and inquiries.

Two years later, Caillé, a somewhat illiterate, though persevering and
intrepid Frenchman, entered the city from which Laing had been driven
forth. Years before, this young explorer, in his far-off French home,
had heard the echoes of African enterprise. Inflamed with the romantic
story, he had seen by the blank maps of the continent how much there
was to be done, and what fame there was to be acquired by him who could
make his mark on those still virgin sheets. To be an African traveller
became thenceforth the object of his life. For years he dreamed of and
prepared himself for the work. But it was one thing to dream of--one
thing even to reach the threshold of new lands--and quite another to
penetrate them, as he soon found. Time after time his hopes, when
almost at the point of realisation, were rudely dashed to the ground;
but uncrushed, he waited his time and opportunity, though without
private means, and conscious that the ears of the wealthy and the
powerful were deaf to his schemes and representations.

But while Caillé dreamed and petitioned he also worked. As a
subordinate official under the Government of Sierra Leone, he was
enabled by dint of economy and industry to save the sum of £80. To him
this slender sum appeared the “open sesame” of fame and fortune. It
was the instrument whereby he should open the oyster shell, and gain
the priceless pearl within.

On the 19th April 1827, Caillé left Kakundy, on the River Nunez, and
midway between Sierra Leone and the Gambia, in the company of a small
caravan of Mandingoes. Travelling east, he crossed the country of
Futa Jallon, through which northward ran the upper tributaries of the
Senegal, and eastward those of the Niger. The latter river was reached
at Kurusa, in the district of Kankan, and was found to be even there a
fine stream from eight to ten feet deep.

Having crossed the Niger, he continued east to the country of Wasulu,
a well cultivated and thickly inhabited region. Thence he travelled
north-east, till at length he again reached the banks of the Niger,
a short distance to the west of Jenné. This town he was the first
European to enter, though Park had seen it on his last journey.

From Jenné, Caillé sailed down the Niger in a rudely built vessel of
considerable dimensions to Kabara, the port of Timbuktu, whence he
proceeded on horseback to the city itself.

The aspect of Timbuktu in nowise realised the glowing anticipations of
the traveller. Instead of the wealthy and powerful city, touched with
the glamour of the shining orient, which he had been taught to expect,
there lay before him only a collection of miserable mud buildings,
among which rose several mosques, looking imposing only in comparison
with the rude huts around them. To the north-east and south spread the
immensity of the great desert as one vast plain of burning, repellent
sands, over which the silence of death brooded, except where pariah
dogs or loathsome vultures feasted on the carrion or offal thrown out
of the town. Such was the place in which Commerce had established her
Central African emporium, and gathered together the trading veins
and arteries which ramified more or less throughout the whole of
North-eastern Africa. Here, too, amid these dreary wastes, Moslem
learning had made her seat; and here the religion of Islam had found
an abiding centre from which to radiate its influence into the most
barbarous depths of negro Africa.

Seen thus in relation to its surroundings, its position, and its
functions, the mud huts and rudely built mosques which compose it
acquire a tinge of the sublime, and strike the imagination more even
than the stupendous wonders of a London or a Paris.

For a fortnight Caillé--secure in his disguise--remained in Timbuktu,
after which he set forth with a caravan to cross the desert to Morocco.
Along no other part of the Sahara does the desert appear in such a
terror-striking aspect. Through one tract the caravan had to travel
with all possible expedition for ten days, not a drop of water being
obtainable. The privations endured were indescribable, men and animals
alike being reduced to the direst extremity before water was reached
and their tortures assuaged. Further north similar experiences awaited
them, till the caravan arrived at the River Dra. Thence the march was
performed with comparative comfort by way of Tafilet and the Atlas to
Fez and Tangier, where Caillé arrived on the 18th August 1828.

[Illustration: TIMBUKTU.]

With Lander’s descent of the Niger from Bussa to the sea, the course of
Niger enterprise received a new development and impetus. The glowing
accounts brought back by its explorers of the rich lands and powerful
civilised kingdoms through which it flowed found eager hearers in
England; and now that an entrance had been found by which the heart of
these promising regions could be reached, such hearers were not slow to
act and test in a practical fashion the commercial value of the great

In this new movement Macgregor Laird, of Liverpool, was the leading
spirit. Under his instructions two steamers were specially constructed
for the work. Laird himself took command, and with him were associated
Lander, and Lieutenant Allen of the navy, with Dr. Briggs and Mr.
Oldfield as medical attendants.

Hardly had the party entered the Nun branch of the river, in August
1832, when the malaria commenced its ravages, causing the death of a
captain and two seamen. The first business of the expedition was to
find a suitable navigable channel among the many bewildering branches,
creeks, and backwaters which spread a labyrinthine network over the
delta, whose mangrove swamps were “uninviting when descried, repulsive
when approached, dangerous when examined, and horrible and loathsome
when their qualities and their inhabitants were known.” Here the air
reeked with the essence of poisonous odours--damp, clammy, and deadly;
and the nights were made hideous by the never-ceasing attacks of clouds
of mosquitoes and sandflies.


For six weeks Laird was engaged in his exploration of the delta,
with the result that eighteen men succumbed to fever. For a time the
expedition threatened to end in the death of the entire party, hardly
one escaping the dire effects of the malaria. But Laird and his
companions were men not easily discouraged or defeated, and at length
they got away from the deadly area, and reached the undivided river
and healthier upper regions. It was like an escape from a loathsome
purgatory to an earthly paradise, when the party sailed into the open
reaches of the noble stream, barred in by tropic forest and swept by
cooling breezes. Viewed commercially,however, the prospect proved
somewhat unsatisfactory, and did not correspond with the glowing
hopes with which the party had left England. There was no thought,
however, of giving way to the first feeling of disappointment, and in
the belief that matters would improve once beyond the barbarous zone,
they continued their way up the river. Unfortunately, they had chosen
the wrong time of the year to make the ascent. Already the river was
falling. More than once the larger of the two steamers grounded on
sand-banks, and finally had to be laid up till the rising of the
waters should set in once more. Attempts to reach Rabba signally
failed, though Laird ascended the Benué some distance in a boat.

In the following season Oldfield and Lander were more successful.
The Benué was ascended to a distance of 104 miles before they were
compelled to return from want of supplies. On the Main Niger they
were also more fortunate than in the previous year. Rabba was safely
reached, and found to contain a population little short of 40,000,
being at that time the capital of Nupé.

Beyond Rabba it was found impossible to proceed, and it was deemed
advisable to return to the coast, to recruit and prepare for another
attempt to establish a trade in the river.

This new venture, however, ended in disaster. On the way back Lander
was shot, and was only kept alive till Fernando Po was reached. With
him ended for the time being Macgregor Laird’s enterprise. Though
carried out with splendid persistence and self-sacrifice, its results
were sadly negative, while out of the forty-nine Europeans who had been
engaged in it only nine survived the fevers.

For several years nothing more was done to turn what was only too well
named “the white man’s grave” to further account. In 1840, however,
Governor Beecroft ascended the river to within thirty miles of Bussa,
and got back without much loss of life, though adding but little to our
knowledge of the geography of the region.

Meanwhile philanthropists were as much interested in the opening up
of the Niger basin to European influence as was the commercial world.
Laird’s expedition, though having trade as its primary object, “hoped
also to aid in suppressing the slave trade, in introducing true
religion, civilisation, and humanising influences among natives whose
barbarism had hitherto been only heightened by European connection.”

These unselfish aims were further emphasised in 1841, when the
Government, still undaunted by the fatal character of the work, sent
out three steamers with the object of making treaties with the Niger
chiefs for the suppression of the slave trade. A model farm was to
be established at the confluence of the Benué and the main river,
to teach the natives better methods of agriculture, and generally
the foundations were to be laid of the great British Empire of which
M‘Queen had dreamed. Thus, in some small way, expiation was to be
made for the sins of earlier generations. Everything that science and
forethought could suggest was done to make this expedition a success,
but unhappily no way had yet been found to ward off the insidious
attacks of malaria, or counteract the effects of the fever germs once
they had gained a footing in the system. The result was death and
disaster. No higher point than Egga was reached, and that only by one
steamer. Out of one hundred and forty-five men, forty-eight died within
the two months the vessels were in the river.

The project of turning the Niger to profitable account, in the face of
such frightful mortality and deadly climatic conditions, seemed now to
be utterly hopeless. From Major Houghton downwards, death by violence,
privation, or disease had been the fate of whoever had attempted to
open it up to European influence. No other river had such a romantic
history of heroic self-sacrifice--none such a martyr roll--none such a
record of heroism and precious blood apparently uselessly thrown away.

Was it really all in vain? Was neither the European nor the native to
derive any benefit from the exploration of this silvery streak through
the beautiful West Coast Highlands, the densely populated plains of
Sego and Massina, the depopulated half desert wilderness of Songhay
and Gandu, the forest depths of Igara and Ado, and the mangrove swamps
around the Bight of Benin. Were Park, Clapperton, Lander, and all the
other explorers of the Niger basin, only to be remembered in future
ages for the heroic virtues they had shown, and not as the pioneers
of a new era of hope to the African--the founders of a great national
enterprise, bright with promise alike to Britain and to Africa?

The thought of such an ending was not to be entertained without
reluctance, yet it seemed inevitable. Savage opposition and ordinary
physical difficulties might in time be overcome, but who could fight
against the disease which lurked unseen in the fœtid depths of mangrove
forests, and filled the air with its poisonous germs? Who could avoid
the incurable blight of its deadly breath?

Already such questions had been asked, when the failure of Tuckey’s
expedition gave pause for a time to Niger exploration, till Clapperton
and Denham, attacking the region from the rear, had made the despondent
once more hopeful. Strangely enough, the recurrence of the same crisis
brought with it a similar cure.

In 1849 an expedition set forth from Tripoli, under Government auspices
this time, commanded by Richardson, and Drs. Barth and Overweg.

The frontiers of Bornu were safely reached, and here the party
divided--never to meet again. Richardson and Overweg went the way of
Toole and Oudney, and only Barth was left to carry out the objects of
the expedition. Right worthily he performed his task. Never before had
such a rich harvest of geographical, historical, ethnographical, and
philological facts been gathered in the African field of research.

From Kanem to Timbuktu, from Tripoli to Adamawa, he laid the land under
contribution. Vain would it be in the restricted space of these pages
to follow him in his wonderful travels. It may be noted, however, that
while travelling south-west from Kuka in Bornu to the Fulah province
of Adamawa, he reached on the 18th June 1851 the river Benué, at its
junction with the Faro, and 415 geographical miles in a direct line
from its confluence with the Niger. Not since leaving Europe had he
seen so large and imposing a river. Even at this distant point the
Benué, or “Mother of Waters,” is half a mile broad, and runs with a
swift current to the west. It was said to rise nine days’ journey to
the south-east, while the Faro came from a mountain seven days’ journey

Only second in importance to his discovery of the Benué so far to the
east of the Niger, was his exploration of the great bend of the Niger

Travelling from Bornu, he passed west through Sokoto and Gandu to the
Niger at Say, some distance above the point where the Gulbi-n-Gindi
from Sokoto joins the main river.

From Say he travelled in a north-easterly direction across the great
bend, among wild Tuareg tribes, and the romantic mountains of Hombori,
to Timbuktu. Thence he once more returned to the safer Haussa States
along the river banks, whereon no European eye save Park’s had ever
before rested. Here he was in the centre of the once wonderful Songhay
Empire, of which the sole relics left after the destructive blows
of Moor, Tuareg, and Fulah, were a few miserable villages, whose
inhabitants eked out a wretched existence, equally ground down by
drought and the ravages of human marauders.

One result of Barth’s discovery of the Benué so near Lake Chad was
the despatch of another expedition, to determine if possible the
navigability of the river, a point which previous attempts had failed
to settle satisfactorily.

Macgregor Laird was again the leading spirit in this new enterprise,
and anything that past experience could suggest was taken advantage of
to ensure a successful trip. Dr. Baikie, R.N., and D. J. May, R.N.,
went as surveying officers and leaders, several other gentlemen being
associated with them. This in some respects was the most successful
of the Government surveying expeditions, for it not only explored and
surveyed the Benué for a distance of 340 miles, but returned without
any special loss of life.

With this trip practically closed our Government’s participation in
the work of opening up the Niger. Thenceforth it contented itself with
sending from time to time a gunboat into the river on some punitive
mission, but no special attempts were made to further enlighten the
world as to its geography and resources. Henceforth all such work
was left to private enterprise, Government remaining aloof, disposed
neither to encourage nor discourage, but clearly satisfied that nothing
of importance could be made of a partially navigable river, flowing
through a country of seemingly no great commercial capabilities, and
with a climate which made colonisation out of the question, and even a
residence, however short, almost impossible to the average European.



With the practical withdrawal of our Government from Niger enterprise,
M‘Queen’s magnificent dream of British Empire in the heart of Africa
seemingly vanished for ever. A new school of politicians appeared
in our national councils who had so little read the secrets of
our country’s greatness, that their cry was for no more foreign
expansion--no more colonial responsibilities.

The influence of the retrograde movement soon began to tell on the
fortunes of West Africa. Already its natural development had been
retarded by a deadly climate, a scarcity of valuable products, and the
barbarity and laziness of its inhabitants. To these were now added
Government neglect and mismanagement. Administrators and governors were
told to restrict their operations to the narrowest limits. Merchants
were either debarred access to the interior, or informed that they
would advance at their own risk, and with no hope of Government
support. Geographical enterprise shared in the general blight. The work
of exploring a region which had become classic through the travels and
martyred lives of so many of Britain’s most worthy sons was stopped.

Needless to say, such a policy led to disgraceful results. British
influence was confined to the coast region, there to eke out a
miserable political and commercial existence among its deadly swamps;
our governors were given the old woman’s task of administering
ludicrously unsuitable laws, or palavering over petty disputes with
still more petty tribal chiefs; our merchants, thanks to the conditions
under which they were placed, became degraded into barterers of gin,
rum, tobacco, gunpowder, and guns, the best Europe had to give in
return for Africa’s oils, gold, and ivory. But while we were thus
degenerating into an invertebrate abortion of British colonial genius,
fit occupant of slimy swamps and fever-breeding jungles, a continental
rival was preparing to step into our shoes, and reap the reward of our
former labours.

Almost coincidently with the practical throwing up of our work on the
Lower Niger, the French began to bestir themselves on the Senegal, and
cast longing eyes towards Bambarra and the Upper Niger. They too began
to dream of Central African Empire--as once M‘Queen had done--and to
see far off in the future their flag supreme from the Mediterranean
coast line of Algiers to the shores of the Atlantic. The key of the
situation they clearly saw lay in the Niger. Once established there,
with the necessary openings to the west, they would have command of the
whole of the Western Sudan, and possibly also of the Central Region.

With patient foresight they began to send explorers along the line
of proposed conquest, carrying with them ready-made treaties, French
flags, and blank maps. Already French influence had made itself felt
far up the river, and forts had been established in the very earliest
days of their rule. Such of the latter as had fallen into ruins or had
been deserted were once more occupied and repaired, and new advance
posts were pushed further into the heart of the country.

Soon they had firmly established themselves as high up the Senegal as
the point where Park in his first expedition had crossed it on his way
to Kaarta. This was the limit of the river’s navigability in the wet
season. But no consideration of natural difficulties gave limit to
their dream of power.

In 1863, two officers, E. Mage and Dr. Quintin, prospected a way to the
Niger across the intervening highlands lying between the two rivers.
French arms were not slow to follow where French explorers led, and
speedy preparations were made to complete the base of operations for
the final advance to their promised land.

Meanwhile our representatives on the coast, stewing in their miserable,
disease-stricken belt, were not blind to the progress being made by
our enterprising neighbours, nor unaware of their vast designs of
conquest and commercial monopoly, and the probable result to England’s
political and commercial position in these regions. In vain they drew
the attention of the Home Government to the situation, and asked for
power to act before it was too late. They were but as voices crying in
the wilderness, to which as little heed was paid as gives the Bedouin
to the desert mirage. More than that, the coast authorities were told
to let the French go where they liked, and not to throw any obstacles
in their way.

The French were not slow to take advantage of the field thus left open
to them. By 1880 their line of forts on the Senegal was completed,
and everything ready for their next move. For this enterprise Captain
Gallieni was appointed leader, and at the head of a small army of
drilled troops, and a considerable train of donkeys, native drivers,
native servants, &c., he started in 1880 on his mission of planting the
French flag on the Upper Niger, where, from our geographical position
and priority of exploration, the Union Jack alone should have floated.

As far as the confluence of the Bakhoy and the Bafing, the march of
Gallieni was attended by nothing worse than the usual amount of worry
and trouble incident to the passage of a small army through a barbarous
or semi-barbarous country. Beyond, however, lay the unoccupied and but
partially explored country between the Senegal and the Niger. Here
the special trials and cares of the expedition commenced. Food was
often obtained with difficulty. Their advance was naturally viewed
with suspicion by the natives, and much care and tact was required to
prevent friction. In spite of all obstructions, however, they gradually
pushed south towards their goal, leaving French flags in the hands of
the chiefs, and bearing with them treaties placing the latter and their
people under the protection of France.

Before the Niger was reached the expedition came near being destroyed
by a determined attack made on it by a people called Beleris. The
Beleris were successfully repulsed, however, and two days later
Bammaku on the Niger was reached, where already the tricolour was
found floating--an advance section of the party having succeeded in
concluding the customary treaty. By what means the treaty was obtained
we are not told, though we do learn that Gallieni’s reception was cold
and inhospitable.

It now only remained to get to Sego, to see the Suzerain of the Upper
Niger chiefs and kings, and conclude a treaty with him. For this
purpose Gallieni crossed the Niger and travelled along the south side
of the river. On his arrival in the neighbourhood of the capital, he
was stopped, and ordered to remain where he was, till his business was
settled. Many weary weeks and months were passed in the attempt to
get Amadu, the Sultan of Sego, to sign a treaty, placing his country
under a French protectorate. In the end the necessary signature was
obtained, and from that moment French rule--on paper--was supreme from
the sources of the Niger to Timbuktu.

France, however, was by no means inclined to be satisfied with a
merely mental recognition of her authority. With splendid energy and
perseverance she pushed forward her forts into the valley of the
Bakhoy--the watershed of the two rivers; and finally built herself an
abiding habitation on the Niger itself. At the same time a railway
was commenced, having for its object the connection of the highest
navigable point of the Senegal with Bammaku. At the same time a gunboat
was carried over in sections, and put together on the river, as a
further symbol of French authority, and a potent instrument to spread
its influence.

To further secure their prize from the possible results of the
awakening of the British Government, France set about isolating the
River Gambia by a cordon of treaties, leaving the waterway British, but
making all else French. To make her position yet more strong, all the
countries towards the upper tributaries and sources of the Niger were
placed under French protection, and almost the entire coast line from
the Gambia south to Sierra Leone was taken possession of. And through
it all our Government peacefully slept on, having left orders not to be
awakened; or it woke up only to blink approval, delighted to be rid of
the whole troublesome business.

Sixty years before M‘Queen had written--“France is already established
on the Senegal, and commands that river, and if the supineness and
carelessness of Great Britain allow that powerful, enterprising, and
ambitious rival to step before us and fix herself securely on the
Niger, then it is evident that with such a settlement in addition to
her command of the Senegal, France will command all Northern Africa.
The consequences cannot fail to be fatal to the best interests of
this country, and by means surer than even by war and conquest, tend
ultimately to bring ruin on our best tropical colonial establishment.”

What M‘Queen had feared, had now come to pass, as regards the political
aspect of the action of the French in the Niger kingdoms. It still
remains to be seen what is to be the commercial outcome of their
African dream.



It has ever been a good thing for British commercial enterprise that
its agents have never had to rely on their Government to pioneer new
trade routes, and secure for them unexploited territory. Our merchants
have required nothing but a free hand to cut out their own paths, and
that the fruits of their labours should not be taken from them by the
political action of other nationalities. What has been accomplished on
these terms let half our colonies say.

The above rule, though general, has not been invariably applied, as
witness the case of West Africa, already described, in which, as the
result of Government restriction and interference, the harvest of
British labour has passed into French hands, and commercial enterprise
has become crushed and degraded along with the regions in which it has
been carried on.

Happily for our position in West Central Africa, the Niger basin never
fell under these blighting influences. When our Government withdrew
from that region it withdrew completely, otherwise there would have
been yet another chapter of lamentable mal-administration and gross
betrayal of a nation’s trust to add to the annals of West African

The Niger was thus left free to be made the most of by the operations
of private enterprise.

For a few years after Baikie’s expedition nothing more was done to
establish a trade in the river. Not that the task was abandoned as
hopeless. On the contrary, new plans were germinating and steadily
taking shape and form preparatory to renewed attempts under more
hopeful conditions.

By this time people had begun to realise more thoroughly the nature
of a tropical life, and knew better how to fight the insidious and
dangerous influences of excessive heat and moisture, and the germs of
disease they fostered. By substituting quinine for the lancet in the
treatment of fever, that hitherto deadly disease had been robbed of
half its terrors.

Once more Macgregor Laird--a name that must be bracketed with those
of Park, M‘Queen, and Lander--was the leader in the new movement.
Undaunted by past losses and failures--on the contrary, shown by their
teaching how victory was to be achieved--he again entered the Niger
in 1852--this time not to leave it till he had laid the permanent
foundations of British commercial influence.

In this new enterprise the pioneer did not restrict himself to mere
voyages up the river and passing calls at the chief marketing centres.
He established stations at various points, in the form of movable hulks
moored in the river, which had the double advantage of being capable
of removal bodily, and of providing a certain measure of security from
hostile attack. At the same time, profiting by past experience of the
deadly nature of the climate, the number of European agents was reduced
to a minimum, and educated coast natives were employed instead.

Palm oil, ivory, and Benni-seed were the sole products exported--cotton
goods, metals of various kinds, beads and salt, being the chief
articles given in exchange. Nearer the coast, gin, rum, gunpowder, and
guns were largely in demand, as a result of the old shameful days of
slave dealing. A profitable trade was soon established, and before many
years Macgregor Laird had to compete with new firms who sought to share
the profits.

But though the Europeans thus increased in numbers, their position
continued to be extremely precarious. The cannibal tribes of the delta
were not slow to recognise that their monopoly of the trade of the
upper river was being completely abolished, and they sought to bar the
way by incessant attacks on the steamers and stations of the various
traders. These having conflicting interests, could not be made to
combine for common action against the common enemy. From time to time
a gunboat paid a hurried punitive visit, but produced no permanent
impression upon the refractory inhabitants.

The result of this divided action on the part of the traders, and
the growing power and truculence of the native tribes, was extremely
disastrous for Macgregor Laird, who eventually was forced to retire
from the river.

Along with the growing dangers to the various houses engaged in the
Niger trade, new troubles began to loom up before them, retarding
the proper and healthy commercial development of the region, and
threatening all in a common ruin. At first the field to be exploited
was so large that the traders came but little into conflict. Gradually,
however, with the entrance of new firms, and the planting of new
stations, they began to encroach on each other’s districts. The result
was soon seen in the keen competition which ensued. The price of
native produce began to go up, till it threatened to rise above its
value. To keep the trade going profitably the agents were forced to
become more and more unscrupulous as to the nature of the articles of
import--more and more regardless of the claims of their commercial
competitors. Each sought to drive the other out, and the natives,
not slow to see the advantages to themselves, did their best to
encourage the strife. Under such conditions all legitimate progress
was rendered impossible. At any given point the inhabitants were in
a position to say, Thus far shalt thou go and no further, or could
clear the merchants out if they thought fit. Enterprise requiring
considerable outlay was out of the question when the fruits were
probably to be reaped only by rivals. The trade, from being restricted
to useful articles, was rapidly degenerating, so as largely to include
vile spirits and weapons of destruction. Gradually the conditions
of competition were making a wholesome trade an impossibility, and
the natives, instead of being bettered spiritually and materially by
European intercourse, were being driven down into deeper depths of
barbarism. A state of things which our prophet M‘Queen had foretold
in these memorable words--“If this erroneous policy is pursued, then
to the latest period of time the central and southern parts of that
vast continent are doomed to remain in the same deplorable state of
ignorance, degradation, and misery which has been their lot during the
lapse of three hundred years.”

This was a consummation of their labours which the merchants could not
contemplate with equanimity. That they were honourable men we have
no reason to doubt. True, they went to the Niger in order to make
money, but they had no thought of growing wealthy on the ruin and
degradation of the people among whom they traded. They had become the
victims of the circumstances under which their business was carried on,
whereby they were driven irresistibly and even unwittingly into the
deplorable situation in which they at length found themselves. In a
manner they were more to be pitied than blamed, for they had conjured
up a Frankenstein that threatened to be their ruin. To one and all it
was alike clear that as long as open unregulated competition lasted,
the character of the trade could not be altered--must indeed go from
bad to worse--their profits become less and less, and their footing in
the country more precarious, subject as it was to the whims, enmities,
extortions, and restrictions of the barbarous tribes, armed by the
traders themselves with guns which on occasion were turned against the

A turning point in the commercial history of the Niger had been
reached, and everything now depended on the course pursued whether the
next departure would be for the weal or for the woe of all concerned.

Happily the right man was forthcoming at this critical juncture, when
the necessity of a change was evident to all. Clear-headed, far-seeing
business men were in the trade--the peers among British merchants
wherever engaged; but something more was wanted in him who should
extricate his fellows from the difficult situation in which they had
placed themselves. Some one was needed who, with business instincts and
knowledge, should combine the _savoir faire_ and knowledge of the world
of the diplomatist. Such an one was Sir George T. Goldie--then Mr. G.
Goldie Taubman--a name which, like that of Macgregor Laird, must ever
rank in the galaxy of great names associated with the annals of Niger

At the time Sir George Goldie joined the Central African Company of
London, the only other houses in the river were Messrs. Miller & Co.,
Glasgow, the West African Company of Manchester, and Mr James Pinnock
of Liverpool. Trade was carried on as far north as Egga, though
commercially the Benué still remained a closed river. A visit to the
seat of operations was sufficient to make Sir George aware of the exact
situation, and the absolute necessity of a change, if a legitimate
and at the same time profitable trade were to be continued. The other
firms were already impressed with the same opinion, and the result of a
little laying of heads together was the amalgamation of all the firms
into the United African Company in the year 1879.

The happy results of this policy were soon made apparent in improved
profits. The expense of management was enormously reduced. Where
formerly there had been floating hulks, permanent stations were built
on land, and at the same time the number was increased. The Company
thus found itself on an altogether new footing with the natives, who
could now be treated with on equal terms. The trade grew by leaps and
bounds, and bade fair to become of national importance.

Naturally such prosperity could not continue without attracting the
envious attention of other nations, and more especially of the French,
who, having succeeded far beyond their wildest expectations in reaping
the harvest sown by the English in the Upper Niger basin, hoped by a
little judicious manipulation to be able to do the same along the
lower course of the river, and so carry out their dream of an almost
exclusive African Empire stretching from Benin to the Mediterranean.

Under the patronage, more or less open, of Gambetta--certainly
instigated and encouraged by him--the first feelers were thrown out
in the establishment of two commercial associations--the Compagnie
Française de l’Afrique Equatoriale of Paris, with a capital of
£160,000; and the Compagnie du Senegal et de la Côte Occidentale
d’Afrique of Marseilles, with a subscribed capital of £600,000.

Happily for British enterprise in the Niger basin our interests were
watched over by argus eyes, else the course of events would have taken
a different turn, French commerce bringing everywhere with it the
French flag and administrative system, to the eventual strangling of
any trade of ours.

The United African Company, till then private, was promptly thrown
open to the public, and the capital raised to a million sterling.
Thus provided with “the sinews of war,” the Company proceeded to give
battle to the foreign interlopers, and speedily swept them out of the
entire region. None the less, however, did the French contrive to do
incalculable harm during their brief inglorious career, under which the
gin trade flourished, and further anarchy was spread among the savage
tribes, as usual ever ready to take full advantage of division and
enmity among the European traders.

With the annihilation of the French Companies our merchants once more
reigned supreme, and all immediate danger of French political and
commercial aggression was completely quashed.

The footing, however, which the former had even temporarily been able
to effect, had shown the precarious position of the British Company’s
hold on the country, unsupported as they were by Government backing.
They were still open to renewed attempts at aggression--still liable
to have the fruits of their labour and enterprise wrested from them.
Under such conditions there could be no real attempts to develop the
resources of the country, or introduce new civilising institutions
among the natives, to effect which ends it was perfectly clear that
two things were necessary--first, that the Niger basin below Timbuktu
should be declared British, as a guarantee against all further foreign
intrusion; and second, that a Royal Charter should be obtained, under
the authority of which the Company would be enabled to proceed with the
work of development and progress.

The necessity of this latter step had already been foreseen by M‘Queen
long before the Lower Niger had been explored, except in M‘Queen’s own
mind. With an insight truly prophetic, he pointed out that if ever
Great Britain’s mission in the Niger was to be achieved, it could only
be by means of a Chartered Company. While deprecating a prolonged term
of privilege, he argues that its duration ought not to be narrowed
too much, otherwise that circumstance would tend to discourage the
merchant, and prevent him from laying out money at the first outset,
or embarking in the trade with that vigour which alone could render it
productive and successful.

In answer to the argument against exclusive privilege, he shows that
this exclusive privilege is for a trade yet to be formed, and that
the commercial conditions of a civilised and an uncivilised country
are totally different. In the latter “everything is to do. Regular
commerce is to be created. Society is almost altogether to be formed.
Security and civilisation, law, order, and religion are each and
all yet to be introduced. Unity of action and design, therefore,
become absolutely necessary to accomplish all these desirable
objects--conflicting interests amidst such a disjointed population must
and will indefinitely retard it. A charter is clearly and indispensably
necessary in order to conduct mercantile affairs to a prosperous
issue--in order to regulate the supply, to explore the country and find
out the proper markets, to negotiate as an irresistible and stable
power with the native princes, to purchase lands, to protect trade, to
punish aggression, to rear up gradually an empire in Africa such as
had been done in India, against which no native power shall be able
to raise its head. Then and not till then the trade may be thrown
open.... Without such regulations for a time there is too good reason
to dread that our connection with Africa will never be more than the
transient visitations of insulated merchants,” &c. &c. In these and
other remarkable words M‘Queen graphically sketches the history of the
sixty years of British intercourse with the Niger subsequent to the
time at which he wrote. Only after such a lapse of time, and through a
long series of mistakes and the rude buffeting of facts, were our eyes
opened to the necessity of taking his advice.

Even then, however, the National African Company might have petitioned
the Government in vain to make the Niger secure from foreign
aggression, or to put them on the only possible footing to exploit and
develop a savage country lying under the blight of a deadly climate,
but for the sudden awaking of Europe to the supposed-to-be vast
latent possibilities of the African continent. A magnificent bubble
was puffed up into view, dazzling all eyes with its iridescent hues,
and inflaming all minds with its promise of wealth and power. European
commerce was to be regenerated--the pressure on the population was to
be relieved--nations were to rise in power and importance. El Dorado
and Second India were terms too weak to express the possibilities of
the future when Africa was under discussion.

Under the electric glow of the new craze deserts were made to bloom
like Eden, swamps became veritable arcadias, the wilderness was
repeopled, and peace and a demand for European goods were discovered
to be the prevailing characteristics of the natives. The result was
the scramble for Africa, in which the chief nations of Europe made
themselves ridiculous by the indecent haste with which they rushed to
raise their respective flags. Our own Government was the last to feel
the quickening influences, and then only awoke under the pressure of
public opinion, and after much that should have been ours had been lost.

But for the National African Company the Niger would probably now have
fallen a prey to France or Germany, but with admirable forethought they
had strengthened their position and secured their rights by treaties
with every native tribe from the mouth of the Niger to the Benué. By
virtue of persistent nagging at the Foreign Office, these treaties were
recognised by Government, and a protectorate proclaimed over the region
thus acquired.

Then came the Berlin Conference in the winter of 1884, in which the
free navigation of the Niger was established, but the administration
of the river from Timbuktu to the sea was left in the hands of the

This was much; but more remained to be done. The Niger and Benué above
their confluence still lay open to political and commercial aggression,
which might be fatal to the best interests of this country as well as
to the Company which had already done so much.

Thanks to the persistent efforts of one Herr Flegel, the Germans were
not slow to recognise this fact. This indefatigable trader and explorer
commenced his career as a clerk in a trading house in Lagos. Filled
with an ambition to explore and extend German influence, he contrived
to ascend the Niger in British mission steamers and trading vessels,
spying out the land wherever he went, and ever on the outlook how the
British bread he ate might be turned to German account. With much
daring and industry, and assisted by German funds, he added much on
subsequent trips to our knowledge of some parts of the Niger and Benué.

The result of his inquiries and exploration was to fire the German
Colonial Society with the hope of establishing their national influence
in the regions beyond the British Protectorate.

Happily the National African Company were as usual wideawake, and soon
became aware of the new danger which threatened them. Immediately they
set about preparing to forestall any action on the part of the Germans.
Already in their self-imposed task of securing Britain’s rights in the
Niger they had used up all the profits of their trade, but they had no
thought of shrinking from the work. To have the Germans in the Niger
would mean irreparable ruin to legitimate commerce, and the flooding of
the whole land with the styx-like flood of gin which would inevitably
flow in a devastating flood from Hamburg. At this supreme moment it
became necessary once for all to secure the Niger basin to Britain. The
Company did the writer of these lines the honour of inviting him to
take up the task. Accordingly, in February 1885, I found myself once
more steaming towards the tropics, while as yet my friends for the most
part imagined me recruiting in the Mediterranean from the effects of my
recent expedition to Masai-land.



On the 16th March 1885 we entered the Nun mouth of the River Niger.

Heavy leaden clouds hung overhead, from which rain fell in a steady
downpour, and lightning flashed at rapid intervals. From time to time
thunder crashed deafeningly about us, or more distantly blended with
the monotonous impressive roar of the Atlantic breakers. A steaming
atmosphere threw its depressing shroud over the scene, suggesting fever
germs, and all manner of liver and stomachic complaints. On all sides
stretched a discoloured reach of water, reflecting the leaden tints
overhead, and running into the mist-veiled mangrove that ringed the

As we stood on the deck of the S.S. _Apobo_, under a dripping awning,
we could not but be infected by the melancholy of the scene, and might
doubtless have exclaimed in Roman heroics, “We who come to die salute
thee,” but that we had to pack our traps and prepare for landing.

A few more miles of steaming into this “white man’s grave,” and our
thoughts were diverted from the melancholy of our immediate prospect
by a new and more interesting feature. There ahead of us, on the left,
where creek and mangrove met, a leviathian-like object stretched its
weird length far into the water, and laved its hundred limbs in the
placid depths. This was the iron pier of Akassa, the then chief trading
centre and depôt of the National African Company.

Soon we were enabled to distinguish the beach strewn with the relics
of the ships and barges of other days, and with the boats and canoes
still in use. Higher up lay piles of stores and palm-oil casks, while
behind rose a series of roomy warehouses built of corrugated iron.
Further seaward stood the quarters of the Company’s agents--the whole
cosily ensconced in the arms of the mangrove forest, which in the
distance looked fascinating, but on closer acquaintance proved to be a
fever-breeding quagmire.

Such was Akassa, where throbbed with undying energy the busy current of
British commercial life.

With our arrival in the river my days of ease were over, and prompt
action and stern work became the order of the day. No one knew where
Flegel was, or where he might turn up. With his minute knowledge of the
river, he was a rival not to be despised. It behoved me, therefore, to
waste no time, and accordingly, having collected such stores as were
necessary, I started on my voyage in the steam launch _Français_ two
days after reaching Akassa.

For the first hour we steamed up the rapidly narrowing creek till we
found ourselves confronted by a dense barrier of mangrove. For an
instant we seemed to be insanely heading to wreck and disaster, when
all at once the wall of vegetation presented a narrow opening, and we
were engulfed in its leafy depths. Could this be the Niger--the mighty
river which drained the quarter of a continent--only a stream thirty
yards in breadth, and some five in depth, lazily flowing seaward? That
stream was formed of Niger water, but it was not the Niger.

Up this insignificant winding waterway our course now lay. First there
was mangrove and nothing else simulating the appearance of dry land,
alternately exposed as pestilential mud or covered by water, according
to the state of the tide. After a time land appeared on the level
of the highest tides--the swamp vegetation began to exhibit a less
vigorous growth, and was intermingled with other trees and bushes.
Each mile made the transformation more marked. The land rose higher
and higher; the mangrove trees grew more stunted and fewer in number;
terrene plants took their place, and grew in size, in beauty, and in
majesty, till the ideal tropical forest spread its romantic depths
before our admiring eyes.

Coincidently other developments of the panorama were taking place. The
river gathered together its various branches and increased in breadth
and depth, till in its full majestic unity it sunned its broad bosom in
the tropic glare--a magnificent stream from a mile to a mile and a half

With the gathering together of the various branches and the improvement
in the physical conditions, evidences of human occupation began to show

For the first eight hours not the faintest trace of man had been
discernible. Then appeared a deserted fishing weir, next an old
plantation, by-and-by a new clearing, and immediately after a canoe
propelled by two women, which was seen creeping slowly along under the
river’s banks.

At last, towards sunset, a couple of villages were sighted, and
thenceforward man proclaimed his sway over the land, giving animation
to the scene, with now and then a picturesque effect.

As we continued our course our eyes were greeted by the sight of much
that Lander and his successors had only dreamed of as the possible to
be. Already trade had laid a prosaic hand on the great highway of Tale
and Travel--the river sacred to romance, whose “golden sands,” by the
alchemy of its touch, are now transmuted to a golden freight of palm

The surging screws, the puff of steam and clang of machinery, break
the impressive stillness of the forest, and fill the tropic air with
their unhallowed echoes, driving the hippo from his favourite pool,
the crocodile from the yellow sand-bank. Amid such sounds, the shrill
scream of the parrot, and the indignant chatter of the monkey, strike
upon the ear with a strange sense of incongruity.

Here and there the graceless front of a trading station, with its
whitewashed corrugated iron walls and roof of European design, glares
forth unblushingly from its bosky niche of palm and silk cotton tree.
Thence issues the matter of fact trader--no longer in the picturesque
disarray of the “palm oil ruffian,” but resplendent in the dazzling
glory of a well-starched shirt and snow white duck trousers--who
strolls down to the landing-place through a garden aglow with
sunflowers and walks shaded by a canopy of trailing vines and other

[Illustration: TRADERS’ HOUSE, ABUTSHI.]

The natives around the station share in the unromantic changes.
They still carry about with them an air of picturesque sansculottic
barbarity, but jarring elements have been superadded. The negro has
degenerated into that hybrid creature the “nigger,” bids you “good
morning” as he asks for a pipe of tobacco or a nip of gin, or calls
your attention to his lawn-tennis hat--the latest fashion, and almost
his sole dress.

The only circumstance which serves to maintain an air of romance about
him is the knowledge we possess that he still loves his neighbour to
the extent of becoming at times literally one flesh with him.

Everywhere there is evidence that the trader is in possession. The
missionary has accompanied him, eager in the cause of Christ and
humanity. Not unfrequently the sweet tones of the church bell may be
heard ringing silver clear from the cathedral gloom of the forest.
They call, alas! to those who will not hear, though doubtless to the
yearning ear of faith those sweetly solemn sounds shape themselves into
a prophecy of the coming good destined to re-echo some day through
every forest depth and wide waste of jungle.

Meanwhile, whatever be the future of Christianity in these lands,
one thing becomes abundantly clear to us as we continue our ascent
of the river, namely, that it is not the only religious force which
is penetrating the sodden mass of Niger heathenism. Islam, with
untiring missionary enterprise, has entered the field and thrown
down the gauntlet to the older religion for the possession of the
natives. Unhappily so far, as compared with the advancing tide of
Mohammedanism, the progress of the Christian faith is practically at a
standstill. Half way between the Delta and Lokoja the pioneer Moslem
outposts are found wielding a marked and yearly increasing influence
on the ideas and habits of the natives. With each mile nearer the
Sudan that influence becomes more and more discernible, till before we
have reached the confines of Gandu we have altogether left behind the
congenial trinity--fetishism, cannibalism, and the gin bottle--and
find the erewhile unwashed barbarian in a measure clothed and in his
right mind, instinct with religious activity and enthusiasm, and
wonderfully far advanced in the arts and industries. Here it is clear
that we are in the presence of no assumed veneer, no mere formality, no
extraneous influences to bolster up a savage people to the semblance of
higher things, but face to face with a force which has taken deep root
in the lives of the inhabitants and altogether transformed them.

On nearing Lokoja we bade adieu to the reeking plains and dense forest
region, and entered a picturesque section of lofty table-topped and
peaked mountains, delighting the eye by their varied shape and rugged
aspect--here stern and threatening with bare precipices; there basking
under the tropic sun in smiling slopes, beautified and shaded by groups
of trees; at other places swelling upwards and towering into fantastic
peaks. But however delightful to us as passengers and spectators, this
part of the journey was anything but pleasant to our skipper, whose
whole thoughts were absorbed by the hidden rocks in the river-bed and
the fierce currents which swirled around them.

The passage, however, was safely accomplished on the evening of the
25th, and we anchored off Lokoja just as the last glints of sunshine
passed from the hill-tops, and gave place to the sepia shades of

In continuing our journey it now behoved us to proceed with more
circumspection. We had reached the southern confines of Gandu, the
western half of the great Fillani (Fulah) Empire. At this time Maliké,
Emir of Nupé, held a complete monopoly of the trade between the Company
and the rest of Gandu. We were only too well aware that any attempt to
break through this monopoly would be strenuously resisted by him, and
that therefore if he scented the object of our expedition to his liege
lord at Gandu, we might bid adieu to all hopes of advancing inland. As
our presence could not be kept secret from him, we thought it well to
send him a letter merely to intimate that we were passing.

On the 28th we left Lokoja and pushed on to Rabba, at work now in dead
earnest, making up loads in the small hold of the launch, where we
were nearly roasted alive. At various stations porters were shipped
secretly and stowed away in barges, everything being made ready for a
surprise-march the moment we landed.

On the 8th April we reached Rabba, from which our land march was to
commence. Maliké was still expecting a visit from us at Bida, when we
were actually landing a hundred miles to the west with a hundred and
twenty men, two educated negro traders, one Arab interpreter, and two
Europeans besides myself. So completely had all our plans been laid
that we started on the following day, leaving the chiefs and headmen
dumfounded and perplexed, not knowing what to do without instructions
from the capital.

Our first feelings of joy on leaving Rabba behind were speedily damped
when one of my European companions got his leg broken, and had to be
promptly returned to the launch. Soon a shoal of troubles and worries
descended on us. The headmen of the various districts began to throw
every possible obstacle in our way, refusing us guides, porters, and
food. The men, unaccustomed to scanty fare and the steady grind of
a caravan march, mutinied, and tried to force us to turn back. They
threatened to murder us, and more than once presented their rifles
at us by way of intimidation. One man tried to stab me, and was only
secured after a terrific struggle, the porters passively looking on.
Yet it was a matter of life and death to us that we should press
forward in spite of all opposition--a few days might mean ruin to the
expedition, by giving the emir’s messenger time to come up with us.
The thought inspired us to redouble our exertions. We fought like
men at bay, though we were but two against a hundred and twenty; and
happily by dint of machiavellian strategy and diplomacy, with not a
little determined flourishing of revolvers, we came out of the battle
triumphant--safe beyond the clutches of Maliké, and complete masters
of the situation.

[Illustration: HAUSSA HUT.]

It is quite beyond the scope of this chapter to tell how we continued
our way through Nupé to Kontakora, and thence by way of Yauri, the
Niger, and Gulbi-n-Gindi to Jega, Sokoto, and Wurnu, where the Sultan
of Sokoto had established his court.

Here we were in a region teeming with varied interest, having reached
the religious, political, and commercial centre of the Western and
Central Sudan. We could hardly believe our senses, and realise that we
were in the heart of Africa, among a people popularly called negroes.
Rather did it seem to us as if, worn out by the tiresome miles and
the monotonous jogging of our horses, we had fallen asleep, and in a
dream imagined ourselves in some part of Moorish Africa. A blazing
sun beat down with terrific effect upon a parched land, in which here
and there appeared green oases of acacia, baobab and _doum_ palm, in
which nestled villages and towns half hid by the grateful shadow of the

On all hands, as we pushed along, we were reminded of Mohammedan
customs, of eastern amplitude of dress, if not of gorgeousness of
colour. Everything bore the impress of Moorish ideas and North African
civilisation. In the early dewy mornings, in the sultry heats of
noontide, at the close of the tropic day, we could hear the sacred
call to prayer. By the wayside, far from mosque and town, were to be
seen spots marked off by stones, which with silent eloquence invited
the dusty and footsore traveller to stay his weary march and wean his
thoughts for a moment from his worldly affairs.

The types of men, the fashions in dress, were of the most varied

Specially interesting were those mysterious people the Fillani, or
Fulah, numbers of whom passed us from time to time. Simple herdsmen,
semi-nomadic in habit, and semi-serfs in position at the beginning
of this century--warriors and Mohammedan propagandists a few years
later--they are now the rulers of a hundred races between the Atlantic
and Bornu. Portentously picturesque, with their voluminous garments,
their massive turbans, and _litham_-veiled faces, they pranced along on
gorgeously caparisoned horses with the dignified bearing of the Moor.


More numerous were the Haussa, the most intelligent and industrious of
black races.

Very different from this interesting people were the Tuareg visitors
from the plateau lands of Asben, who stalked past us in artistically
ragged dresses, with eyes which seemed to glow in the shadow of their
face cloth and overhanging turban with the fiercest of human passions.

On the 24th May the goal of our expedition was reached, and the object
of our mission attained a very few days after. No time was then
lost in proceeding to Gandu, where similar success met our efforts;
and then with treaties written in Arabic, sealed with the seals of
the two Sultans, and signed by their respective wazirs, practically
placing their two empires under a British Protectorate, and giving all
commercial privileges to the National African Company, we commenced,
with no small elation, our return home.

The one unpleasant occurrence which marked our journey coastwards was
the stealing of my journals and personal effects, though happily the
precious treaties remained safe. Rabba was duly reached, and thence we
continued our way down the river in canoes to Lokoja. On the way the
German expedition, which had meanwhile been set afoot with a view to
forestalling other nations in the regions we had just quitted, was met
moving up the river, all unconscious of the fact that not a yard of
ground from Timbuktu to Akassa, or from Bornu to Yoruba, had been left
on which to plant the flag of the Fatherland.

Within seven months after leaving Liverpool I was back home again,
my work successfully accomplished in a much shorter time than at the
outset I had dared to hope.

Next year our Government, now awake to the errors of the past, and
recognising the incontestable claims and magnificent patriotic
enterprise of the National African Company, granted it a Royal Charter,
and the right to the title of Royal Niger Company, which it now bears.

The Right Honourable Lord Aberdare was its first Governor, and Sir
George Goldie--to whose diplomatic genius and untiring industry this
country as well as the Company owes so much--was the Deputy-Chairman.
Around these gathered as counsellors and advisers many who had been
among the pioneers of British trade and influence on the Niger, and had
assisted in preparing the way for the magnificent national undertaking
they have lived to see inaugurated. Among these are the Messrs. Miller,
Mr. Edgar, and Mr. Croft, whose names cannot but find an honourable
place in the annals of the Company.

Of the career, bright with promise, upon which the Company has thus
entered, it is unnecessary to speak at length. Already good results
are flowing from the new administration. The gin traffic has been
taken in hand, suppressed where possible, and restricted elsewhere by
enormous duties. Arms and gunpowder are also no longer sold wholesale
to the savage natives. The resources of the country are being tested
and developed as they never were before, and with the most gratifying

[Illustration: HAUSSA VILLAGE.]

In closing this record of Niger exploration we cannot do better than
quote the prophetic words of M‘Queen--applicable still, though later
than they might have been in approaching fulfilment. He it was who
first conclusively demonstrated the course and termination of the
great river. His was the first warning of the certainty of the
French advance; his the clear vision which foresaw the necessity of a
Chartered Company. Let him, then, speak for the future, foretelling
what is to come, as he foretold what is now past, in the concluding
words of his Commercial Survey of the Region.

“I have thus, though feebly, I confess, in comparison to the magnitude
of the subject brought forward, completed the object which I had in
view, namely, to call the attention of the British Government, and the
power and energies of our people, to an honour of the first rank, and
at the same time endeavoured to rouse the resource and enterprise of
our merchants to engage in a trade of the first magnitude. By means of
the Niger and its tributary streams, it is quite evident that the whole
trade of Central Africa may be rendered exclusively and permanently our
own.... To support and carry into execution the measures necessary to
accomplish this undertaking is worthy of the ministry of Great Britain,
and worthy of the first country of the world. It will confer immortal
honour on our native land, lasting glory on the name and reign of
George the Fourth, bring immense and permanent advantages to Britain,
and bestow incalculable blessings and benefits on Africa. Agriculture,
manufactures, and commerce, learning and religion, will spread rapidly
and widely over a country abounding in the richest productions whether
on the surface of the earth or below it, but at present a country
overspread with the most abject servitude, and sunk in the deepest
ignorance, superstition, and barbarity. Every obstacle will vanish
before judicious and patient exertions. The glory of our Creator, the
good of mankind, the prosperity of our country, the interest of the
present and the welfare of future generations--glory, honour, interest
call us, and united point out the sure path to gain the important end.
Let but the noble Union Ensign wave over and be planted by the stream
of the mighty Niger, and the deepest wounds of Africa are healed.”


 Adamawa, 13.

 Africa, early exploration of, 2, 16.

 ---- English in, 24, 26, 29, 46-245, 255, 257, 265, 276, 289, 299,
   308, 293-332.

 ---- French in, 29, 291, 302-306, 313.

 ---- Germans in, 317.

 ---- Portuguese in, 20.

 African Association, the, 31, 41, 45, 176, 178, 184.

 ---- Company, the, 28.

 Agades, 17.

 Ahmed Baba of Timbuktu, 11.

 Akassa, 320.

 Ali of Bornu, 13.

 ---- of Ludamar, 83, 93.

 Amadi Fatuma, Park’s guide, 233, 237, 238, 239, 243.

 Anderson, Dr. Alexander, Park’s brother-in-law, 194, 214, 217, 222,

 Arabs, 7, 16, 272.

 Arab conquests, 6.

 ---- explorers, 16.

 ---- historians, 16.

 Armour, Sudanese, 270.

 Askia, 10.

 ---- Ishak, 11.

 Badagry, 278, 281, 283.

 Bady, 203.

 Bafing R., 151, 210, 213.

 Baikie, Dr., 299, 308.

 Bakhoy or Furkomo, 215.

 Bambaku, 202.

 Bambarra, district of, 72, 76, 105, 226.

 ---- king of, 108.

 Bambuk, 29, 34.

 Bammaku, 128, 226.

 Bangassi, 220.

 Banks, Sir Joseph, 41, 45, 184, 194.

 Barth, 8-12, 239, 297.

 ---- quoted, 9, 10, 12.

 Bathurst, 46.

 Bawa, king of Haussa, 250.

 Beecroft, Governor, 296.

 Bees, caravan attacked by, 147, 205.

 Bello, Sultan of Sokoto, 252, 275, 277.

 Benaum, Moorish camp at, 82.

 ---- Park’s reception at, 83.

 Benin, Bight of, 193, 260.

 Benué or Tchadda, 119, 274, 286, 295, 298, 316.

 Berbers, 8, 268.

 Berlin Conference, 316.

 Bintingala, 154.

 Birni-n-Kebbi, 119.

 Birthplace of Park, 36.

 Biru, 15, 113.

 _Bombyx_ or silk-cotton tree, 46.

 Bondou, district of, 58, 59, 258.

 Bornu, district of, 9, 12, 246, 270.

 ---- historians of, 13.

 ---- kings of, 13.

 ---- rise to political importance, 13.

 Bridge, a primitive, 151.

 Bushreens, 51.

 Bussa, 240, 261, 279, 283.

 Caillé, 290-292.

 Campbell, Captain, expedition of, 257.

 Captivity of Park. _See_ Park.

 Caravan, a day with, 218.

 ---- an early, 56.

 ---- Park’s, 201.

 ---- a slave, 143-158.

 _Catherine_, the, voyage of, 24.

 Chad, Lake, 9, 193, 269.

 Chandos, Duke of, 28.

 _Charlestown_, the, 161.

 Charms, 127.

 Charter for Royal Niger Company, 330.

 Chivalry, Pagan, an example of, 152.

 Christianity in Africa, 6, 161, 323.

 Clapperton, Lieutenant, 265-275.

 Commerce, articles of, 160, 308, 309.

 ---- on the Gambia, 48.

 ---- on the Niger, 309.

 Companies, chartered, 262, 314.

 ---- commercial, enterprise of, 294-332.

 Company, the African, 28.

 Congo River, the, 192, 256.

 ---- cataracts of, 256.

 Conversion, a Mohammedan mode of, 70.

 Counti Mamadi, 113, 123.

 Cowries, 111, 231.

 Customs, Negro, 56, 58, 77.

 Daisy, king of Kaarta, 89, 94.

 Dalli, 81.

 De Barros, 21.

 Debo (Dibbie) Lake, 118.

 Demba, Park’s servant, 54, 68, 79, 80, 82, 89, 92, 159.

 Denham, Major, 265, 273.

 Dibalami Dunama Selmami, king of Bornu, 13.

 Dina, 79, 82.

 Discovery. _See_ Exploration, African.

 Dunama ben Humé, king of Bornu, 12.

 _Duté_, 113.

 East India Company, 42.

 Ebn Batuta, 16.

 ---- Khaldun, 8, 16.

 ---- Said, 13, 16.

 Edris Alawoma, 13.

 ---- king of Bornu, 13.

 Education, Mohammedan, 141, 249.

 Edwards, Mr. Bryan, 165, 166, 171.

 Effects of European intercourse, 50.

 Egga, 284, 296.

 Egypt, 15.

 El Bekri, 16.

 ---- Edrisi, 16.

 _Endeavour_, the, voyage of, 46.

 English. _See_ Africa, English in.

 Explorers. _See_ Exploration.

 Exploration, African, under--
   The Nasamones, 4.
   Ebn Batuta, 16.
   Leo Africanus, 16.
   Gilianez, 21.
   Nuno Tristan, 21.
   Fernandez, 21.
   Lancelot, 21.
   Richard Thompson, 24.
   Richard Jobson, 26.
   Bartholomew Stibbs, 29.
   Ledyard, 32.
   Lucas, 32.
   Horneman, 33.
   Houghton, 33.
   Park, 46-242.
   Tuckey, 255.
   Peddie, 257.
   Campbell, 257.
   Gray, 258.
   Denham and Clapperton, 265-275.
   Clapperton and Lander, 276-281.
   The Brothers Lander, 282-287.
   Laing, 288-290.
   Caillé, 290-292.
   Barth, 297.
   Baikie, 308.
   Commercial companies, 294-332.

 Factories, 48.

 Falemé River, 34, 61, 154, 208, 210.

 Falika, 59, 60.

 Family, the, of Park, 177.

 Fatticonda, 60, 62.

 Fernandez, 21.

 Fetters of slaves, 140.

 Fevers, African, and Europeans, 208-211, 212, 214, 219, 256.

 Flegel, 317.

 Formosa River, 255.

 Fortifications, Negro, 216.

 Foulshiels, 37, 169, 187.

 French. _See_ Africa, French in.

 ---- African Companies, 29, 313.

 Fulahs, Fulatah, or Fillani, the, 14, 59, 246-253, 328.

 ---- characteristics of, 248.

 ---- conquest of Sudan by, 251.

 ---- history of, 248.

 ---- nomadic habits, 248.

 ---- pastoral life, 248.

 Fulahdu, 248.

 Fuludu Mountains, 73.

 Furkomo River. _See_ Bakhoy.

 Futa Jallon, district of, 291.

 ---- Larra, 70.

 ---- Torra, 152.

 Gallieni, Captain, 304-306.

 Gambia, commerce on, 48.

 ---- exploration of, 21, 24, 26, 29, 157, 158, 198, 203.

 Gandu, 119, 253, 329.

 Ghana or Ghanata, 8, 10, 17, 192.

 Gilianez, 21.

 Gin trade, the, 50, 161, 167, 249.

 Gober, 17, 250.

 Gogo, 12, 16.

 Gold, 29.

 Goree, 161, 178, 196.

 Government, British, the, and the Niger, 296, 299, 301.

 Gray, Captain, expedition of, 258.

 Guinea, Gulf of, 255.

 Gulbi-n-Gindi River, 239, 327.

 Gum, 29.

 Gurma, 237.

 Hadj Mohammed Askia, 10.

 Hanno, expedition of, 2.

 Haussa States, 119, 193, 239, 246.

 Hawkins, 23.

 Heat, tropic, 230.

 Herodotus, 3, 4.

 Hibbert, Mr. George, 168.

 Historians, African, 3, 8, 11, 13, 16, 21.

 Horneman, 32, 178.

 Hospitality, Negro, 68, 109.

 Houghton, Major, 33.

 Ibo, the, 286.

 Inauguration of modern exploration, 31.

 Intercourse, European, effects of, 50.

 Isaaco, Park’s guide, 200, 203, 215, 226, 233, 237, 243.

 ---- attacked by a crocodile, 215.

 Islam. _See_ Mohammedanism.

 Jalonka Wilderness, the, 137, 145-151.

 Jarra or Yarra, 75, 77, 91.

 Jenné or Jinni, 12, 119, 237, 291.

 Jillifri, 46.

 Jinbala, Island of, 119, 237.

 Joag, 65.

 Jobson, Richard, 26, 157.

 Johnson, Park’s servant, 54, 66, 79, 89, 94, 159.

 Joliba. _See_ Niger.

 Joloffs or Jaloffs, the, 65, 152, 249.

 Jonkakonda, 46.

 Journals, Park’s, 236, 254.

 Kaarta, district of, 72, 76.

 ---- capital of, 74.

 ---- Park’s reception at, 74.

 Kabara or Kabra, 16, 119, 291.

 Kajaaga, district of, 65.

 Kakundy, 291.

 Kamalia, 137.

 Kankan, 291.

 Kano, 17, 193, 275, 280.

 ---- Clapperton and Oudney’s expedition to, 274.

 Karfa Taura, 137, 143, 155, 158, 159, 224.

 Kashna or Katsena, 17, 191, 193, 233.

 Kasson, district of, 68.

 Kayi, 69, 198, 200.

 Kokoro River, 145.

 Kong Mountains, 129, 255.

 Konkadu Mountains, 210.

 Kugha, 18.

 Kuka, 18, 270.

 Kullo, district of, 151.

 Kuranka, Highlands of, 288.

 Kurusa, 291.

 Kwora or Main Niger, 260.

 Laidley, Dr., 34, 47, 54, 158, 159.

 Laing, Major, 288.

 Lancelot, 21.

 Lander, Richard, 278, 280.

 Ledyard, 32.

 Leo Africanus, 16.

 Logun, district of, 274.

 Lotophagi, 77.

 Lucas, 32.

 Ludamar, district of, 75.

 ---- Park’s sojourn in, 78-96.

 Macgregor Laird, 293, 299, 308.

 Mage, E., 303.

 Makrizi, 16.

 Malacotta, 152.

 Mandara Mountains, 272.

 Manding, district of, 134.

 ---- famine in, 135.

 Mandingoes, 55, 160, 249.

 Manga, Denham’s expedition to, 273.

 Mangrove swamps, 46, 256, 286.

 Mansong, king of Bambarra, 108, 111, 226.

 March, a desert, 267.

 Market-place, an African, 230.

 Martyn, Lieutenant, 196, 214, 232, 238, 242.

 Medina, 33, 56, 158, 202.

 Melli, kingdom of, 10, 11.

 Modibu, 115, 122.

 Mohammedanism. 6, 8, 51, 70, 141, 161, 246, 249, 292, 323.

 ---- influence of, 9, 51, 141, 161, 247, 292.

 ---- propagation of, 8, 70, 141.

 ---- spread of, 6, 249, 323.

 Moorish conquests, 11.

 ---- idea of beauty, 89.

 Moors, 78-96, 160, 231, 239.

 Morocco, 11, 12, 15, 16.

 Mortality from fever, 208, 212, 221, 225, 229.

 Mosi, 10.

 M‘Queen, James, 17, 258, 314.

 ---- quoted, 306, 310, 315, 331.

 ---- theory of Niger geography, 259.

 ---- views on commercial importance of Niger, 261.

 Mulai Hamed, 11.

 Mumbo Jumbo, 57.

 Murzuk in Fezzan, 265.

 Nasamones, the, expedition of, 4.

 National African Co. _See_ United African Co.

 Necho, expedition, of 2.

 Negro, the, and European intercourse, 50.

 Nereko River, 61, 158, 203.

 New South Wales, Park’s proposed mission to, 177.

 Niger or Joliba, the, 106, 128, 145, 224, 226, 228, 232.

 ---- ancient knowledge of, 3.

 ---- commercial development under--
   Macgregor Laird, 294, 299, 308, 309.
   Oldfield and Lander, 293, 295.
   Beecroft, 295.
   British Government, 296, 299.
   The French, 302-306, 312.
   The Germans, 317.
   The Royal Niger Co., 307-332.

 ---- course of, 118, 254, 283, 291.

 ---- delta of, 255, 286, 293.

 ---- exploration of. _See_ Exploration, African.

 ---- importance of, to Britain. _See_ M‘Queen.

 ---- Park reaches, 106.

 ---- source of, 288.

 ---- supposed identity with Congo, 192, 255, 260.

 ---- ---- Nile, 4, 260.

 ---- ---- termination in interior, 192.

 ---- termination of, 192, 193, 233, 235, 254, 261, 264-287.

 Nile, 4, 17, 260.

 Nun River, 293, 319.

 Nunez River, 257, 291.

 Nupé, kingdom of, 191, 193, 280, 284, 327.

 Othman dan Fodiyo, 246-252.

 ---- conquest of Sudan by, 251.

 Oudney, Dr., 265, 275.

 Overweg, 298.

 Park, Mungo, early life, 36-43.

 ---- choice of a profession, 40.

 ---- religious convictions, 43.

 ---- voyage to Sumatra, 44.

 ---- connection with African Association, 45.

 ---- first African expedition, 46.

 ---- views on the slave trade, 49, 168.

 ---- captivity among the Moors, 85.

 ---- his escape, 90.

 ---- reaches the Niger, 106.

 ---- journey to Silla, 107.

 ---- return to coast, 122.

 ---- fever at Kamalia, 137.

 ---- reaches the Gambia, 158.

 ---- sails for England, 161.

 ---- reception in England, 165.

 ---- publication of journals, 166, 171.

 ---- marriage, 175.

 ---- proposed mission to New South Wales, 179.

 ---- practises medicine in Peebles, 180.

 ---- second journey, 196.

 ---- proposed route, 191, 195.

 ---- preparations, 186-195.

 ---- voyage down Niger, 235.

 ---- death, 242, 279.

 ---- family of, 244.

 Park. Thomas, son of the explorer, 244.

 Peddie, Major, 257.

 Peebles, Park’s life in, 180-184.

 Pisania, 47, 200.

 Pliny, 3.

 Portuguese. _See_ Africa, Portuguese in.

 Products, African commercial, 160.

 Protectorate British, proclamation of, 316, 329.

 Ptolemy, 3.

 Quintin, Dr., 303.

 Rabba, 295.

 Railway between Senegal and Bammaku, 305.

 Rapids, 241, 256.

 Reception, a Sudanese, 270.

 Relics of Park, 243.

 Rennell, Major, 165, 192.

 Rennell’s Mountains, 284.

 Rey, Rio del, 255.

 Rhamadan, the month of fasting, 86, 141.

 Richard, M., and the Niger termination, 254.

 Richardson, 297, 298.

 Robbers, Park among, 130, 203, 216, 218.

 Royal Niger Company, 307-332.

 ---- prospects of Niger basin under, 330.

 Ruskin’s charges against Park, 181.

 Sahara, 11, 15, 33, 265, 267, 289, 292.

 Samaku River, 208.

 Sansandig, 113, 123, 229, 230, 237, 243.

 _Saphias._ _See_ Charms.

 Scenery, African, 27, 46, 55, 65, 69, 203, 210, 213, 240, 272, 283,
   320, 321.

 School, a Mohammedan, 141.

 Scott, Mr. George, 194, 214.

 ---- Sir Walter’s, friendship with Park, 187.

 “Scramble for Africa,” the, 316.

 Sego, 106, 107, 226.

 ---- Park’s reception at, 108.

 Senegal, the, 21, 29, 69, 145.

 ---- exploration of, 29.

 ---- the French on, 302.

 Senegambia, 9, 21.

 Serawulies, the, 65, 155.

 Shari River, 274.

 Shea butter, 112.

 Sibidulu, 129, 134.

 Sieur Brue, 29, 69.

 ---- Denham and Toole’s expedition to, 274.

 Silla, 117, 237.

 Slave caravan, departure of a, 144.

 ---- raid, a, 272.

 ---- route, horrors of, 49, 143-153.

 ---- ship, a, 162.

 ---- trade, 23, 48, 147-149, 155, 156.

 ---- Park’s views on, 49, 168, 174.

 Slaves, how obtained, 136, 140.

 Sokoto, 10, 253, 275, 327.

 Sonakies, 51.

 Song of the Negro women, 110.

 Songhay, kingdom of, 9, 10, 246, 299.

 ---- kings of, 10.

 ---- historians of, 11.

 Stibbs, Bartholomew, 29.

 St. Joseph, Fort, 29, 69.

 St. Louis, Fort, 29.

 Strabo, 3.

 Sudan, the, 8, 14, 269.

 ---- Christianity in, 6.

 ---- Denham’s expedition to, 266.

 ---- early exploration of, 2.

 ---- early trade with, 15.

 ---- Fulah conquest of, 251.

 ---- historians of, 3, 8, 11, 13, 16.

 ---- Mohammedan conquest of, 6, 9, 246, 254.

 ---- Moorish conquest of, 11.

 Superstitions, Negro, 56, 58, 68, 73, 121, 202, 205, 231.

 Tambaura Mountains, 211.

 Tchadda. _See_ Benué.

 Tenda, 29, 203.

 ---- wilderness, 157, 204.

 Thompson, Richard, 24.

 Thomson, Joseph, 318-329.

 Tibbu tribes, 267.

 Timbuktu, 8, 15, 16, 48, 119, 237, 288, 291.

 ---- first entered by a European, 289.

 Tombaconda or Tombakunda, 157.

 Toole, 274.

 Treaties, commercial, with Sokoto and Gandu, 329.

 Tripoli, 13, 15, 265, 275, 289.

 Tuaregs, 15, 237, 239, 289, 328.

 Tuckey, Captain, on the Congo, 255.

 Twat or Tuat, oasis of, 10, 12, 16, 289.

 United African Company, the, 312, 315, 316, 317.

 Voyage of the _Catherine_, 24.

 ---- _Endeavour_, 46.

 ---- _Joliba_, 235.

 Wadan, 13.

 Walata, 15, 16.

 Wali, district of, 33, 56, 158, 202.

 Wangara, 191, 192, 254.

 Wawra, 105.

 Wonda, 135.

 ---- River, 146.

 Wuladu, 213, 217.

 Wuli, district of, 33, 56, 158, 202.

 Wulima River, 222.

 Wurnu, 327.

 Yakoba, 280.

 Yamina, 126, 228.

 Yarra. _See_ Jarra.

 Yauri River, 240, 327.

 Yeou River, 270.

 Yoruba, 279.

 Zeghaza, 12.

[Map: LIBYA Secundum PTOLOMÆUM, A.C. 130]


[Map: Catalan Map of the World, 1375.]

[Map: D’ANVILLE. 1749.]

[Map: J. RENNELL. 1798.]


[1] Barth’s Travels, vols. ii. and iv., Appendices V. and IX.

[2] Barth’s Travels, vol. iv. p. 415.

[3] Barth’s Travels, vol. iv., Appendix IX., p. 624.

[4] A Geographical and Commercial View of Northern and Central Africa.

[5] The following is the Duchess of Devonshire’s version of the above

    “The loud wind roared, the rain fell fast,
    The white man yielded to the blast;
    He sat him down beneath a tree,
    For weary, sad, and faint was he,
    And ah, no wife, no mother’s care
    For him the milk or corn prepare.


    The white man shall our pity share;
    Alas, no wife or mother’s care
    For him the milk or corn prepare.

    The storm is o’er, the tempest past,
    And mercy’s voice has hushed the blast,
    The wind is heard in whispers low,
    The white man far away must go,
    But ever in his heart must bear
    Remembrance of the negro’s care.


    Go, white man, go--but with thee bear
    The negro’s wish, the negro’s prayer,
    Remembrance of the negro’s care.”

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