Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Dave Macfarlane and PG Distributed
SCENES IN AFRICA
_WRITTEN FOR YOUNG PEOPLE_
AUTHOR OF "FRANK MILDMAY," "PERCIVAL KEENE," "PHANTOM SHIP," "DOG
FIEND," "JACOB FAITHFUL," "POACHER," ETC., ETC.
GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS
LONDON: BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL
NEW YORK: 9 LAFAYETTE PLACE
[Illustration: THE ONWARD MARCH.--_Front_. P. 226.]
Account of Sir Charles Wilmot--Loss of the Grosvenor--Sir
Charles's doubts respecting the Survival of his Wife and
Children--Alexander Wilmot--His Character--The Newspaper
Paragraph--Details of the Wreck of the Grosvenor--Surmises
as to the Fate of the Passengers
Alexander's Reflections--His Plan--Sir Charles opposes it--His
unwilling Consent--Alexander's Departure
Alexander's Melancholy--Finds a Friend--Sea Sickness--Mr.
Fairburn--The Passengers--Conversations--The Cape--Mr. Fairburn's
Account of the Treatment of the Hottentots by the Dutch
Natural History discussed--Mr. Swinton's Enthusiasm--Further
History of the Cape--Dutch Barbarity--Alexander's Indignation
Aquatic Birds--Guano--Mr. Fairburn's Narrative
continued--Stuurman--Mokanna--The Attack--Failure of the Caffres
Sharks--Their Cowardice--Attack on one by Neptune--Divers' Dangers--Mr.
Fairburn continues his Story--Mokanna's Fate--Disturbances among the
Mr. Swinton agrees to accompany Alexander--Land, ho!--Cape
Town--Major Henderson--He joins the Party--Begum--Chaka's
Night in Algoa Bay--The Major meets Maxwell--Preparations
to start--The Caravan--Description of it--The Departure
The Plans of the Adventurers--Big Adam's Bravery--Milius--His
Refreshments--What his House contained--Speech to the Hottentots--The
Bushman Boy, Prince Omrah
Wild Beasts--Insubordination of the Hottentots--Danger from
Elephants--Their hideous Shrieks--Big Adam's Terror--Lieutenant
Hoodie's wonderful Escape--Sagacity of the Elephant--Intentions
of the Party
Arrival at Mr. S.'s Station--The Quarrel between Hinza and Voosani--An
Escort proposed--The Caffre Character--The Sabbath--Painful Position
of a Missionary's Wife
The Royal Visit--Mutual Civilities--The Band of
Warriors--Hippopotami--Their Carcasses--Omrah's Cunning--The
Trick--Big Adam sulky--A narrow Escape--Preparations for the
Look out--The Signal--The Major's Nerve--Charge upon the
Camp--Hottentots drunk--Begum's Uneasiness--Signs of Danger--Lions'
A Storm--Sober again--Elephant Steak--Omrah's Tricks--Man-eaters--A
horrible Adventure--The Sleepers awakened
Quah! quah!--Alexander's and the Major's Danger--A critical
Situation--Omrah's Presence of Mind--Divine Worship--Instruction
of Caffres--Advance of the Enemy--Panic of the Natives--Refusal
to proceed--The tables turned--The Council--Submission--Arrangements
An Expedition--Rumors of War--Judicious Advice--Daaka's
Hut--The Interview with Daaka--Explanations--Remains
of the Grosvenor--The Mystery solved--Alexander's Joy--The
Wagons again--The Major's Fortress--Plans for the Future
Quetoo's Movements--Destruction of his Army--The Return--Plenty
of Sport--The Warriors rewarded--Precautions--Antelopes--The
Victim--A large Meal
Conversation--Gnoos--Five Lions--Thirst quenched--Ferocity
of the Hyena--Anecdotes--Preparations for a Chase
A practical Joke--A lucky Escape--History of the Mantatees--Mantatee
Courage--A final Slaughter--Discussions--Swinton's Account
Omrah's Intelligence--Lion-hunting--Silence and Caution--An
unpleasant Surprise--Self-sacrifice of a Gemsbok--Swinton's
Story continued--Conversation on Lions--Anecdotes--Big Adam punished
Interview with Bushmen--A shrewd Surmise--A Herd of Buffaloes--A
providential Escape--A Scene--Swanevelt in Danger--Conversation--A
Overpowering Heat--Divine Service--An Intrusion--The poisoned
Lion--Discussion on venomous Reptiles--Lizard shot--Swinton's
Information to his Companions
A good Shot--Water scarce--Omrah in Trouble--Turtle
Soup--Sufferings--Sufferings at an end--An earthly Paradise
Aspect of the Country--Chase of a Rhinoceros--Omrah's Plan
succeeds--A Lion's Leap--Account of a Rhinoceros-Hunt--Elands
shot--A Lioness attacked--The Lion's Skin awarded--An expiring Effort
Swinton's Astonishment--A Dialogue--Maternal Affection--An Alarm--Griquas
fallen in with--The Message to Moselekatsee--Fire!--The Matabili
Chase of a Giraffe--Proposed Retreat--The Major's Object
attained--Treachery--Treachery defeated--Omrah's Scheme--Hopes
of Water disappointed
Further Progress--The Horses and Oxen break away--The
Pursuit--Hopes and Fears--The Caravan lost--Intense Heat--Omrah's
Courage--A Temporary Relief--Despair--Water at last obtained--Swinton's
Panic produced by a Lion--Omrah's and Big Adam's Predicament--A Lion's
Mode of stimulating his Appetite--A Meeting with Bushmen--Cattle
stolen--Recovery attempted--Oxen poisoned--Death of Piets--Arrival
at Cape Town
Parting Scenes--Alexander and the Major embark--Alexander's
Arrival at Home--He relates his adventures--Sir Charles's
Health gradually declines--His Presents to Swinton and the
THE MISSION, OR SCENES IN AFRICA.
It was in the autumn of the year 1828, that an elderly and infirm
gentleman was slowly pacing up and down in a large dining-room. He had
apparently finished his dinner, although it was not yet five o'clock,
and the descending sun shone bright and warm through the windows, which
were level with the ground, and from which there was a view of a
spacious park, highly ornamented with old timber. He held a newspaper in
one hand, and had the other behind his back, as if for support, for he
was bent forward, and looked very feeble and emaciated.
After pacing for some time, he sat down in an easy chair and remained in
deep thought, holding the newspaper in both his hands.
This old gentleman's name was Sir Charles Wilmot. He had in early life
gone out to India as a writer, and after remaining there for a few
years, during which he had amassed a handsome fortune, was advised to
leave the country for a time on account of his health. He returned to
England on furlough, and had not been there more than six months when
the death, without issue, of his eldest brother, Sir Henry Wilmot, put
him in possession of the entailed estates and of the baronetcy.
This decided him not to return to India for his wife and three
daughters, whom he had left out there, but to write, desiring them to
return home by the first ship. The reply which he received was most
painful; his wife and two of his daughters had been carried off by the
cholera, which had been very fatal during the previous rainy season.
His remaining daughter was about to sail, in obedience to his wishes, in
the _Grosvenor_ East-Indiaman, under the care of Colonel and Mrs. James,
who were near connections.
This was a heavy blow with which it pleased God to visit him in his
prosperity, and was almost a total wreck of all his hopes and
anticipations. But he was a good man and a religious one, and he bowed
in humility to the dispensation, submitting with resignation to his
loss, and still thankful to Heaven that it had graciously spared one of
the objects of his affections to console him, and to watch his declining
Sir Charles Wilmot took possession of the family mansion and estate in
Berkshire, in which he was still residing at the time our history
commences. By degrees he became more resigned, and waited with anxiety
for the return of his only daughter, who now seemed more dear to him
than ever. He employed himself in making preparations for her reception,
fitting up her apartments in the Oriental style which she had been
accustomed to, and devising every little improvement and invention which
he thought would give pleasure to a child of ten years old.
But it pleased Heaven that Sir Charles should be more severely
chastised; the _Grosvenor's_ time of arrival had elapsed, and still she
was not reported in the Channel; week after week of anxiety and suspense
passed slowly away, and the East-India ship did not make her appearance.
It was supposed that she had been captured by the enemy, but still no
tidings of her capture were received. At length, however, this state of
anxiety and doubt was put an end to by the dreadful intelligence that
the ship had been wrecked on the east coast of Africa, and that nearly
the whole of the crew and passengers had perished. Two men belonging to
her had been brought home by a Danish East-Indiaman, and shortly after
the first intelligence, these men arrived in London, and gave a more
particular detail of what had occurred.
Sir Charles, in a state of feverish anxiety, as soon as he heard of
their arrival, hastened up to town to question these men; and the
result of his interrogatories fully convinced him that he was now quite
bereaved and childless. This was the last blow and the most severe; it
was long before he could resign himself to the unsearchable
dispensations of Providence; but time and religion had at last overcome
all his repining feelings,--all disposition to question the goodness or
wisdom of his Heavenly Father, and he was enabled to say, with
sincerity, "Not my will, but Thine be done."
But although Sir Charles was thus left childless, as years passed away,
he at last found that he had those near to him for whom he felt an
interest, and one in particular who promised to deserve all his regard.
This was his grand-nephew, Alexander Wilmot, who was the legal heir to
the title and entailed property,--the son of a deceased nephew, who had
fallen during the Peninsular war.
On this boy Sir Charles had lavished those affections which it pleased
Heaven that he should not bestow upon his own issue, and Alexander
Wilmot had gradually become as dear to him as if he had been his own
child. Still the loss of his wife and children was ever in his memory,
and as time passed on, painful feelings of hope and doubt were
occasionally raised in Sir Charles's mind, from the occasional
assertions of travelers, that all those did not perish who were supposed
so to do when the _Grosvenor_ was wrecked, and that, from the reports of
the natives, some of them and of their descendants were still alive. It
was a paragraph in the newspaper, containing a renewal of these
assertions, which had attracted the attention of Sir Charles, and which
had put him in the state of agitation and uneasiness in which we have
described him at the opening of this chapter.
We left him in deep and painful thought, with the newspaper in his
hands. His reveries were interrupted by the entrance of Alexander
Wilmot, who resided with him, being now twenty-two years of age, and
having just finished his college education. Alexander Wilmot was a tall,
handsome young man, very powerful in frame, and very partial to all
athletic exercises; he was the best rower and the best cricketer at
Oxford, very fond of horses and hunting, and an excellent shot; in
character and disposition he was generous and amiable, frank in his
manner, and obliging to his inferiors. Every one liked Alexander Wilmot,
and he certainly deserved to be liked, for he never injured or spoke ill
of any body. Perhaps his most prominent fault was obstinacy; but this
was more shown in an obstinate courage and perseverance to conquer what
appeared almost impossible, and at the greatest risk to himself; he was
of that disposition that he would hardly get out of the way of a mad
bull if it crossed his path, but risk his life probably, and to no
purpose; but there is no perfection in this world, and it was still less
to be expected in a young man of only twenty-two years of age.
"Well, uncle, I've conquered him," said Alexander, as he came into the
room, very much heated with exercise.
"Conquered whom, my boy?" replied Sir Charles.
"The colt; I've backed him, and he is now as gentle as a lamb; but he
fought hard for two hours at least."
"Why should you run such risk, Alexander, when the horsebreaker would
have broke him just as well?"
"But not so soon, uncle."
"I did not know that you were in such want of a horse as to require such
hurry; I thought you had plenty in the stable."
"So I have, uncle, thanks to you, more than I can use; but I like the
"There you state the truth, my dear Alexander; when you have lived as
long as I have, you will find more pleasure in quiet and repose,"
replied Sir Charles, with a heavy sigh.
"Something has disturbed you, my dear uncle," said Alexander, going up
to Sir Charles and taking his hand; "what is it, sir?"
"You are right, Alexander; something has unsettled me, has called up
painful feelings and reminiscences; it is that paragraph in the
Alexander was now as subdued almost as his uncle; he took a chair and
quietly read the paragraph.
"Do you think there is any foundation for this, my dear sir?" said he,
after he had read it.
[Illustration: THE NEWSPAPER PARAGRAPH.]
"It is impossible to say, my dear boy; it may be so, it has often been
asserted before. The French traveler Le Vaillant states that he received
the same information, but was prevented from ascertaining the truth;
other travelers have subsequently given similar accounts. You may easily
credit the painful anxiety which is raised in my mind when I read such a
statement as this. I think I see my poor Elizabeth, the wife or slave to
some wild savage; her children, merciful Heaven! my grandchildren,
growing up as the brutes of the field, in ignorance and idolatry. It is
torture, my dear Alexander--absolute torture, and requires long prayer
and meditation to restore my mind to its usual tone, and to enable me to
bow to the dispensations of the Divine will."
"Although I have long been acquainted with the general statement, my
dear uncle, respecting the loss of the ship, I have never yet heard any
such details as would warrant this apprehension of yours. It is
generally supposed that all perished, perished indeed most miserably,
except the few men who made their way to the Cape, and returned to
"Such was the supposition, my dear boy, but subsequent reports have to a
certain degree contradicted it, and there is reason to believe that all
did not perish who were accounted as dead. If you have nothing
particularly to engage you at this moment, I will enter into a detail of
what did occur, and of the proofs that the fate of a large portion,
among which that of your aunt Elizabeth, was never ascertained."
"If it will not be too painful to you, my dear uncle, I will most gladly
"I will not dwell longer upon it than is necessary, Alexander; believe
me, the subject is distressing, but I wish you to know it also, and then
to give me your opinion. You are of course aware that it was on the
coast of Caffraria, to the southward of Port Natal, that the _Grosvenor_
was wrecked. She soon divided and went to pieces, but by a sudden--I
know not that I can say a _fortunate_--change of wind, yet such was the
will of Heaven,--the whole of the crew and passengers (with the
exception of sixteen who had previously attempted to gain the shore by
a hawser, and one man who was left on board in a state of intoxication)
were all safely landed, even to the little children who were coming home
in the vessel; among whom was my poor Elizabeth."
Alexander made no observation when Sir Charles paused for a while: the
latter then continued:--
"By the time that they had all gained the shore, the day was far spent;
the natives, who were of the Caffre race, and who had been busy in
obtaining all the iron that they could from the mainmast, which had
drifted on shore, left the beach at dark. The wretched sufferers lighted
fires, and having collected some casks of beef and flour, and some live
stock, they remained on the rocks during that night. The next morning
the captain proposed that they should make their way to Cape Town, the
Dutch settlement, to which they all unanimously consented; certainly a
most wild proposition, and showing very little judgment."
"Could they have done otherwise, my dear uncle?"
"Most certainly; they knew that they were in a country of lawless
savages, who had already come down and taken by force every thing that
they could lay their hands upon. The Captain calculated that they would
reach Cape Town in sixteen or seventeen days. How far his calculation
was correct, is proved by the fact that those who did reach it at last
were one hundred and seventeen days on their journey. But even admitting
that the distance could have been performed in the time stated by the
captain, the very idea of attempting to force their way through a
country inhabited by savage people, with such a number of helpless women
and children, and without any arms for their defense, was indeed an act
of folly and madness, as it eventually proved."
"What then should have been their plan?"
"Observe, Alexander, the ship was wrecked not a cable's length from the
shore, firmly fixed upon a reef of rocks upon which she had been thrown;
the water was smooth, and there was no difficulty in their
communication. The savages, content with plundering whatever was washed
on shore, had to the time of their quitting the rocks left them
uninjured. They might have gone on board again, have procured arms to
defend themselves and the means of fortifying their position against any
attempt of the savages, who had no other weapons but assaguays or
spears, and then might have obtained the provisions and other articles
necessary for their support. Armed as they might have been, and numerous
as they were, for there were one hundred and fifty souls on board at the
time of the wreck, they might have protected themselves until they had
built boats or small vessels out of the timber of the wreck; for all
their carpenters and blacksmiths were safely landed on shore with them.
By taking this course they might have coasted along shore, and have
arrived without difficulty at the Cape."
"Most certainly, sir, it would have been the most judicious plan."
"The captain must have been very deficient in judgment to have acted as
he did. He had every thing to his hand--the means--the men to build the
boats, provisions, arms, sails and cordage, and yet he threw all these
chances away, and attempted to do what was impossible."
"He was not one of those who were saved, I believe, sir?"
"No, he is one of those who have not been heard of; but to proceed: The
first day of their march from the site of the wreck ought to have been a
warning to them to turn back. The savages robbed them of every thing and
threw stones at them. A Dutchman of the name of Trout, who had fled to
the Caffre country for some murder he had committed in the colony, fell
in with them and told them the attempt was impracticable, from the
number of savage nations, the width of the rivers, the desert countries
without water, and the number of wild beasts which they would encounter;
but still they were not persuaded, and went on to their destruction.
They were not five miles from the wreck at the time, and might have
returned to it before night."
"May it not fairly be supposed that after such a dreadful shipwreck any
thing was considered preferable by the major portion of them, especially
the passengers, to re-embarking?"
"It may be so; but still it was a feeling that was to be surmounted,
and would have been, had they been counseled by a judicious leader; for
he might fairly have pointed out to them,--without re embarkation, how
are you to arrive in England?"
"Very true, uncle. Pray continue."
"From the accounts given by the seamen who returned, before they had
traveled a week they were attacked by a large party of natives, to whose
blows and ill-treatment as they passed along they had hitherto
submitted; but as in this instance the natives appeared determined to
massacre them, they resisted as well as they could, and, being nearly
one hundred men in force, succeeded in driving them off, not without
receiving many severe wounds. After a few days' more traveling, their
provisions were all expended, and the seamen began to murmur, and
resolved to take care of themselves, and not to be encumbered with women
and children. The consequence was, that forty-three of the number
separated from the rest, leaving the captain and all the male and female
passengers and children (my dear Elizabeth among them), to get on as
"Yes! but self-preservation is the first law of nature, and I fear it is
in vain to expect that persons not under the influence of religious
principles will risk their lives, or submit to much self-denial, for the
sake of alleviating the miseries of others. The reason given for this
separation was, that it was impossible to procure food for so large a
number, and that they would be more likely to obtain sustenance when
divided. The party who thus proceeded in advance encountered the most
terrible difficulties; they coasted along the seashore because they had
no other food than the shell-fish found on the rocks; they had
continually to cross rivers from a mile to two miles wide; they were
kept from their slumbers by the wild beasts which prowled around them,
and at length they endured so much from want of water, that their
sufferings were extreme. They again subdivided and separated, wandering
they hardly knew where, exposed to a burning sun, without clothing and
without food. One by one they sat down and were left behind to die, or
to be devoured by the wild beasts before they were dead. At last they
were reduced to such extremity, that they proposed to cast lots for one
to be killed to support the others; they turned back on their route,
that they might find the dead bodies of their companions for food.
Finally, out of the whole crew, three or four, purblind and staggering
from exhaustion, craving for death, arrived at the borders of the
colony, where they were kindly received and gradually recovered."
"You now speak of the first party who separated from the captain and the
passengers, do you not, uncle?"
"And what became of the captain's party?"
"No tidings were heard of them; their fate was unknown; it was long
supposed that they had all perished; for if the sufferings of the
seamen, inured to toil and danger, had been so great, what chance was
there for helpless women and children? But after some years, there was a
report that they had been saved, and were living with the savages. Le
Vaillant first mentioned it, and then it died away and was not credited;
but since that, the reports of various travelers appear to give
confirmation to what Le Vaillant asserted. The paragraph you have now
read in the newspaper has again renewed the assertion, and the parties
from whom it proceeds are by all accounts worthy of credence. You may
imagine, my dear boy, what a pang it gives me when I read these
reports,--when I reflect that my poor girl, who was with that party, may
at this moment be alive, may have returned to a state of barbarism,--the
seeds of faith long dead in her bosom,--now changed to a wild, untutored
savage, knowing no God."
"But, my dear uncle, allowing that my aunt is alive, she was not so
young at the time of the wreck as to forget entirely what she had been
"That is possible; but then her condition must be still more painful, or
rather I should say must have been, for probably she is dead long before
this, or if not dead, she must be a woman advanced in life; indeed, as
you may observe in the account given by the traveler in the paragraph
you have read, it speaks only of the _descendants_ of those who were
lost in the _Grosvenor_. The idea of my grandchildren having returned to
a state of barbarism is painful enough; I wish it were possible that I
could discover the truth, for it is the uncertainty which so much
distresses me. I have but a few years to live, Alexander; I am a very
old man, as you know, and may be summoned to-morrow or to-night, for we
know not what a day may bring forth. If I were only certain that my
child had died, miserable as her death must have been, it would be
happiness, to the idea that she was one of those whose descendants they
speak of. If you knew how for the last thirty years this has preyed upon
my mind, you would comprehend my anxiety on this account; but God's will
be done. Do not let me detain you longer, Alexander; I should prefer
Alexander, at this intimation, took the proffered hand of his
grand-uncle in a reverential and feeling manner, and, without saying any
more, quitted the room.
The conversation which he had had with his grand-uncle made a very
forcible impression upon Alexander Wilmot; it occasioned him to pass a
very sleepless night, and he remained till nearly four o'clock turning
it over in his mind. The loss of the _Grosvenor_ Indiaman had occurred
long before he was born; he was acquainted with the outline of what had
taken place, and had been told, when a child, that a relation of his
family had perished; but although the narrative had, at the time, made
some impression upon his young mind, he had seldom, if ever, heard it
spoken of since, and may have been said to have almost forgotten it. He
was therefore not a little surprised when he found how great an
influence it had upon his grand-uncle, who had never mentioned it to him
before; indeed it had escaped Alexander's memory that it was his
grand-uncle's only surviving daughter who had been lost in the vessel.
Alexander Wilmot was warmly attached to the old gentleman; indeed he
would have been very ungrateful if he had not been, for it was
impossible that any one could have been treated with more kindness and
liberality than he was by Sir Charles. It was but the week before, that
he had expressed a wish to travel on the continent, and Sir Charles had
immediately given his consent that he should remain abroad, if he
pleased, for two years. When he approved, however, of Alexander's plans,
he had made a remark as to his own age and infirmity, and the probable
chance that they might not meet again in this world; and this remark of
his grand-uncle left such an impression upon Alexander, that he almost
repented having made the request, and had been ever since in a state of
indecision as to whether he should avail himself of his grand-uncle's
kindness and disregard of self shown toward him in thus having granted
The conversation with Sir Charles had brought up a new idea in his mind;
he had witnessed the anxiety and longing which his good old relation had
shown about the fate of his daughter; he had heard from his own lips how
long the ignorance of her fate had preyed upon his mind, and that to be
satisfied on this point was the one thing wanting to enable the old man
to die happy,--to permit him to say with sincerity, "Lord, now lettest
Thou thy servant depart in peace." Why, then, should he not go to
discover the truth? It would not, perhaps, occupy him so long as the two
years of traveling on the continent, which had been consented to by his
grand-uncle, and, instead of traveling for his own pleasure, he might be
the means of satisfying the mind and quieting the anxiety of one who had
been so kind to him. Indeed, he should actually prefer a journey into
the interior of Africa to a mere sojourn of some time on the continent;
the very peril and danger, the anticipation of distress and hardship,
were pleasing to his high and courageous mind, and before he fell asleep
Alexander had made up his mind that he would propose the expedition, and
if he could obtain his uncle's permission would proceed upon it
forthwith. Having come to this resolution, he fell fast asleep and
dreamed away, till eight o'clock in the morning, that he was hunting
elephants and having hand-to-hand conflicts with every variety of beast
with which he had peopled Africa in his fancy. When he was called up in
the morning, he found his determination of the night before rather
strengthened than otherwise, and accordingly, after breakfast was over,
he opened the subject.
"My dear sir," said he to Sir Charles, "you were kind enough to give me
your permission to travel on the continent for two years."
"I did do so, Alexander; it is natural at your age that you should wish
to see the world, and you have my full permission. When do you think of
"That depends upon circumstances, sir, and I must be altogether guided
by you; to tell you the truth, I do not think that one sees much of the
world by following in the beaten track made by so many of our
"There I agree with you; in the present high state of civilization there
will be found little or no difference in the manners and customs of
people; in the courts, none; very little in the best society, in which
you will of course mix; and not so very much as people may imagine among
the mass of population; but the scenery of the countries and the remains
of ancient times are still interesting, and will afford pleasure; it
must be your own reflections and comments upon what you see which must
make it profitable; most people, however, travel from the love of change
added to the love of excitement."
"I grant it, sir, and I do not mean to say but that I should receive
much pleasure from a continental tour; perhaps I may add that I should
derive more profit if I were to delay it till I am a little older and a
little wiser; do you not think so?"
"I certainly do, Alexander. What then? do you propose remaining in
England for the present?--if so, I am sure it is on my account, and I am
very grateful to you for your sacrifice."
"If you wish it, sir, I will undoubtedly remain in England; at all
events, if I do not go elsewhere. I have abandoned my continental tour
for the present; but I have another proposal to make, which I hope will
meet with your approbation."
"Why, my dear Alexander, on what expedition would you now proceed? Do
you wish to visit the United States or South America?"
"No, sir; I wish to make a voyage of still more interest--I wish to go
to Africa,--that is, to embark for the Cape of Good Hope, and from
thence proceed to the northward, to ascertain, if possible, what now is
a source of sad disquiet to you, the actual fate of those who were
wrecked in the _Grosvenor_, and have not since been heard of with any
degree of certainty."
Sir Charles was for a time silent. He pressed his hands to his forehead;
at last he removed them, and said,--"I can not, much as I wish it,
no,--I can not consent, my dear boy; the danger will be too great. You
must not risk your life. It is very kind of you--very kind; but no, it
must not be."
"Indeed, sir, I think, on reflection, you will alter your mind. As for
danger--what danger can there be when missionaries are permitted to form
their stations, and reside uninjured among the very savages who were so
hostile when the _Grosvenor_ was lost? The country, which was then a
desert, is now inhabited by Europeans, within 200 miles of the very spot
where the _Grosvenor_ was wrecked. The continual emigration since the
Cape has fallen under British government, and the zeal of those who have
braved all dangers to make known the Word of God to the heathen and
idolater, have in forty years made such an alteration, that I see no
more danger in the mission which I propose than I do in a visit to
Naples; and as for time, I have every reason to expect that I shall be
back sooner than in the two years which you have proposed for my stay on
"But if some accident were to happen to you, I should never forgive
myself for having given my consent, and the few days that are left to me
would be rendered miserable."
"My dear sir, we are in the hands of God; and (short-sighted as we are)
in running away from danger, as often run into it. What we call an
accident, the fall of a brick or a stone, the upsetting of a vehicle,
any thing trivial or seemingly improbable, may summon us away when we
least expect it: 'In the midst of life we are in death,' and that death
I may meet by staying in this country, which I might have avoided by
going on this expedition. Difficulties may arise, and some danger there
may be, I admit; but when prepared to encounter both, we are more safe
than when, in fancied security, we are taken unawares. Do not, I entreat
you, sir, refuse me this favor; I have considered well, and shall be
most unhappy if I am not permitted to obtain the information for you
which you have so much at heart. Let my travels be of some advantage to
you as well as to myself. Do not refuse, I entreat you."
"You are a good boy, Alexander, and your kindness makes me still more
unwilling to part with you. I hardly know what to say. Let us drop the
subject for the present; we will talk of it to-morrow or next day. I
must have time for reflection."
Alexander Wilmot did not fail to renew his entreaties on the following
day, but could not gain Sir Charles's consent. He was not, however,
discouraged. He had taken from the library all the works he could find
relative to Southern Africa, and continually enforcing his arguments by
quotations from various authors, all tending to prove that he might
travel through the country without much risk, if he took proper
precautions, his grand-uncle's objections grew daily more feeble, and at
last Sir Charles gave his unwilling consent. In the meantime, the books
which Alexander had read had produced a great effect upon him. When he
first proposed the mission, it was more from a feeling of gratitude
toward his old relative than any other, but now he was most anxious to
go on his own account. The narratives of combats with wild beasts, the
quantity and variety of game to be found, and the continual excitement
which would be kept up, inflamed his imagination and his love of field
sports, and he earnestly requested to be permitted to depart
immediately, pointing out to Sir Charles that the sooner he went away,
the sooner he would be back again. This last argument was not without
its weight, and Alexander was allowed to make every preparation for his
journey. Inquiries were made, and a passage secured on board of a
free-trader, which was to touch at the Cape, and in six weeks from the
time that the subject had been brought up, Alexander Wilmot took leave
of his grand-uncle.
"May God bless you, sir, and keep you well till my return," said
Alexander, pressing his hand.
"May the Lord protect you, my dear boy, and allow you to return and
close my eyes," replied Sir Charles, with much emotion.
Before night Alexander Wilmot was in London, from thence he hastened
down to Portsmouth to embark. The next day, the _Surprise_ weighed
anchor and ran through the Needles, and before the night closed in was
well down the Channel, standing before the wind, with studding sails
below and aloft.
A melancholy feeling clouded the features of Alexander Wilmot as, on the
following morning, the vessel, under a heavy press of sail, was fast
leaving the shores of his native country. He remained on the poop of the
vessel with his eyes fixed upon the land, which every moment became more
indistinct. His thoughts may easily be imagined. Shall I ever see that
land again? Shall I ever return, or shall my bones remain in Africa,
perhaps not even buried, but bleaching in the desert? And if I do
return, shall I find my old relation still alive, or called away, loaded
as he is with years, to the silent tomb? We are in the hands of a
gracious God. His will be done.
Alexander turned away, as the land had at last become no longer visible,
and found a young man of about his own age standing close to him, and
apparently as much lost in reverie as he had been. As in turning round
Alexander brushed against him, he thought it right to apologize for the
unintentional act, and this occasioned a conversation.
"I believe, sir," said the other party, who was a tall, spare,
slight-built man, with a dark complexion, "that we were both indulging
in similar thoughts as we took leave of our native shores. Every
Englishman does the same, and indeed every true lover of his country,
let the country be what it will. We find the feeling as strong in the
savage as in the enlightened; it is universal. Indeed, we may fairly say
that it extends lower--down to the brute species, from their love of
"Very true, sir," replied Alexander; "but with brutes, as you say, it is
merely the love of locality; with men, I trust, the feeling is more
generous and noble."
"So it ought to be, or else why are we so much more nobly endowed? This
is not your first voyage, I presume?" continued the stranger.
"Indeed, it is," said Alexander; "I never was out of England, or on
board of a vessel, before yesterday."
"I should have imagined otherwise," remarked his companion: "the other
passengers are all suffering from sea-sickness, while you and I only are
on the deck. I presumed, therefore, that you had been afloat before."
"I did feel very giddy yesterday evening," observed Alexander, "but this
morning I have no unpleasant sensation whatever. I believe that some
people do not suffer at sea."
"A very few; but it appears that you are one of those most fortunate,
for by experience I know how painful and distressing the sickness is for
some time. Breakfast will soon be ready; do you think that you can eat
"Yes, a little--not much; a cup of tea or coffee," replied Alexander;
"but I can not say that I have my usual appetite. What bird is that
which skims along the water?"
"It is the _procellarius_, as we naturalists call it, but in English,
the stormy petrel; its presence denotes rough weather coming on."
"Then I wish it had not made its appearance," said Alexander, laughing;
"for with rough weather, there will of course be more motion in the
vessel, and I feel the motion too much already."
"I think if you eat your breakfast (although without appetite), and keep
on deck, you may get over any further indisposition," replied the
"Have we many passengers on board?"
"No; nine or ten, which is considered a small number, at least by the
captain, who was complaining of his ill-luck. They are mostly females
and children. There is a Cape gentleman who has long resided in the
colony, and is now returning there. I have had some conversation with
him, and he appears a very intelligent person. But here is the steward
coming aft, to let us know that breakfast is ready."
The person who had thus conversed with Alexander Wilmot was a Mr.
Swinton, who, as he had accidentally observed, was a naturalist; he was
a person of some independent property, whose ardor for science had
induced him to engage in no profession, being perfectly satisfied with
his income, which was sufficient for his wants and to enable him to
follow up his favorite study. He was now on his passage to the Cape of
Good Hope, with no other object than to examine the natural productions
of that country, and to prosecute his researches in science there, to a
greater extent than had hitherto been practicable.
Before they had arrived at Madeira, at which island the ship remained
three days to take in wine and fresh provisions, a great intimacy had
been established between Alexander and Mr. Swinton, although as yet
neither knew the cause of the other's voyage to the Cape; they were both
too delicate to make the inquiry, and waited till the other should of
his own accord impart his reasons.
We have mentioned that there were other passengers, one of whom was a
gentleman who resided in Cape Town, and who held a lucrative situation
under the government. He was an elderly gentleman, of about sixty years
of age, of a very benign and prepossessing appearance; and it so
happened that Alexander found out, on looking over his letters of
introduction when at anchor at Madeira, that he possessed one to this
gentleman. This of course he presented at once, although they were
already on intimate terms; and this introduction made Mr. Fairburn (for
such was his name) take an immediate interest in his welfare, and also
warranted his putting the question, as to what were Alexander's views
and intentions in visiting the Cape: for Mr. Fairburn knew from the
letter that he was heir to Sir Charles Wilmot, and therefore that he was
not likely to be going out as a speculator or emigrant.
It hardly need be said that Alexander made no hesitation in confiding to
one who could so materially assist him in the object of his voyage.
The other passengers were three young ladies bound to their friends in
India, and a lady returning with her two marriageable daughters to
rejoin her husband, who was a colonel in the Bengal army. They were all
pleasant people, the young ladies very lively, and on the whole the
cabin of the _Surprise_ contained a very agreeable party; and soon after
they left Madeira, they had fine weather, smooth water, and every thing
that could make a voyage endurable.
The awnings were spread, chairs brought up, and the major portion of the
day was spent upon the quarter-deck and poop of the vessel, which for
many days had been running down before the trade-winds, intending to
make Rio, and there lay in a supply of fresh provisions for the
remainder of her voyage.
One morning, as Alexander and Mr. Fairburn were sitting together,
"You have passed many years at the Cape, Mr. Fairburn, have you not?"
"Yes; I was taken prisoner when returning from India, and remained a
year in Cape Town during the time that it was in the hands of the Dutch;
I was about to be sent home as a prisoner to Holland, and was embarked
on board one of the vessels in Saldanha Bay, when they were attacked by
the English. Afterward, when the English captured the Cape, from my long
residence in, and knowledge of, the country, I was offered a situation,
which I accepted: the colony was restored to the Dutch, and I came home.
On its second capture I was again appointed, and have been there almost
"Then you are well acquainted with the history of the colony?"
"I am, certainly, and if you wish it, shall be happy to give you a short
account of it."
"It will give me the greatest pleasure, for I must acknowledge that I
know but little, and _that_ I have gleaned from the travels which I have
run through very hastily."
"I think it was in the year 1652 that the Dutch decided upon making a
settlement at the Cape. The aborigines, or natives, who inhabited that
part of the country about Cape Town, were the Hottentots, a mild,
inoffensive people, living wholly upon the produce of their cattle; they
were not agriculturists, but possessed large herds of cattle, sheep and
goats, which ranged the extensive pastures of the country. The history
of the founding of one colony is, I fear, the history of most, if not
all--commencing in doing all that is possible to obtain the goodwill of
the people until a firm footing has been obtained in the land, and then
treating them with barbarity and injustice.
"The Hottentots, won over by kindness and presents, thought it of little
consequence that strangers should possess a small portion of their
extensive territory, and willingly consented that the settlement should
be made. They, for the first time in their lives, tasted what proved the
cause of their ruin and subsequent slavery--tobacco and strong liquors.
These two poisons, offered gratuitously, till the poor Hottentots had
acquired a passion for them, then became an object of barter--a pipe of
tobacco or a glass of brandy was the price of an ox; and thus daily were
the colonists becoming enriched, and the Hottentots poor.
"The colony rapidly increased, until it was so strong, that the governor
made no ceremony of seizing upon such land as the government wished to
retain or to give away; and the Hottentots soon discovered that not only
their cattle, but the means of feeding them, were taken from them.
Eventually, they were stripped of every thing except their passion for
tobacco and spirits, which they could not get rid of. Unwilling to leave
the land of their forefathers, and seeing no other way of procuring the
means of intoxication which they coveted, they sold themselves and their
services to the white colonists, content to take care of those herds
which had once been their own, and to lead them out to pasture on the
very lands which had once been their birthright."
"Did they then become slaves?" inquired Alexander.
"No; although much worse treated, they never were slaves, and I wish to
point that out; but they became a sort of feudal property of the Dutch,
compelled to hire themselves out, and to work for them upon nominal
wages, which they seldom or never received, and liable to every species
of harsh treatment and cruelty, for which they could obtain no redress.
Yet still they were not bought and sold as were the slaves which were
subsequently introduced into the colony from the east coast of Africa
and Madagascar. The position of the slave was, in my opinion, infinitely
superior, merely from the self-interest of the owner, who would not kill
or risk the life of a creature for whom he had paid two or three hundred
rix-dollars; whereas, the Dutch boors, or planters, thought little of
the life of a Hottentot. If the cattle were to be watched where lions
were plentiful, it was not a slave who had charge of them, but a
Hottentot, as he had cost nothing, and the planter could procure
another. In short, the life of a Hottentot was considered as of no
value, and there is no denying that they were shot by their masters or
employers upon the most trifling offense."
"How dreadful! but did the Dutch government suffer this?"
"They could not well help it, and therefore were compelled to wink at
it; the criminals were beyond its reach. But now I will proceed to give
you some further insight, by describing the Dutch boors, or planters,
who usurped and stood in the shoes of the poor Hottentots.
"The Dutch government seized upon all the land belonging to the
Hottentots, and gave it away in grants to their own countrymen, who now
became herdsmen, and possessed of a large quantity of cattle; they also
cultivated the ground to a certain extent round about their
habitations. As the colony increased, so did the demand for land, until
the whole of the country that was worth having was disposed of as far as
to the country of the Caffres, a fine, warlike race, of whom we will
speak hereafter. It must not, however, be supposed that the whole of the
Hottentot tribes became serfs to the soil. Some few drove away their
cattle to the northward, out of reach of the Dutch, to the borders of
the Caffre land; others, deprived of their property, left the plains,
and took to the mountains, living by the chase and by plunder. This
portion were termed boshmen, or bushmen, and have still retained that
appellation: living in extreme destitution, sleeping in caves,
constantly in a state of starvation, they soon dwindled down to a very
diminutive race, and have continued so ever since.
"The Dutch boors, or planters, who lived in the interior, and far away
from Cape Town, had many enemies to contend with: they had the various
beasts of the forest, from the lion to the jackal, which devastated
their flocks and herds, and also these bushmen, who lived upon plunder.
Continually in danger, they were never without their muskets in their
hands, and they and their descendants became an athletic, powerful, and
bulky race, courageous, and skilled in the use of fire-arms, but at the
same time cruel and avaricious to the highest degree. The absolute power
they possessed over the slaves and Hottentots demoralized them, and made
them tyrannical and blood-thirsty. At too great a distance from the seat
of government for its power to reach them, they defied it and knew no
law but their own imperious wills, acknowledging no authority,--guilty
of every crime openly, and careless of detection."
"I certainly have read of great cruelty on the part of these Dutch
boors, but I had no idea of the extent to which it was carried."
"The origin was in that greatest of all curses, slavery; nothing
demoralizes so much. These boors had been brought up with the idea that
a Hottentot, a bushman, or a Caffre were but as the mere brutes of the
field, and they have treated them as such. They would be startled at
the idea of murdering a white man, but they will execute wholesale
slaughter among these poor natives, and think they have committed no
crime. But the ladies are coming up, and we shall be interrupted, so I
will not task your patience any more to-day. I shall therefore conclude
what I may term part the first of my little history of the Cape colony."
Alexander Wilmot was too much pleased with Mr. Swinton not to cultivate
his acquaintance, and they soon became very intimate. The conversation
often turned upon Mr. Swinton's favorite study, that of natural history.
"I confess myself wholly ignorant of the subject," observed Alexander
one day, "though I feel that it must be interesting to those who study
it; indeed, when I have walked through the museums, I have often wished
that I had some one near who could explain to me what I wished to know
and was puzzled about. But it appears to me that the study of natural
history is such an immense undertaking if you comprehend all its
branches. Let me see,--there is botany, mineralogy, and geology--these
are included, are they not?"
"Most certainly," replied Mr. Swinton, laughing; "and perhaps the three
most interesting branches. Then you have zoology, or the study of
animals, ornithology for birds, entomology for insects, conchology for
shells, ichthyology for fishes; all very hard names, and enough to
frighten a young beginner. But I can assure you, a knowledge of these
subjects, to an extent sufficient to create interest and afford
continual amusement, is very easily acquired."
"'The proper study of mankind is man,' says the poet,"--observed
"Poets deal in fiction, Mr. Wilmot," replied Mr. Swinton; "to study man
is only to study his inconsistencies and his aberrations from the right
path, which the free-will permitted to him induces him to follow; but
in the study of nature, you witness the directing power of the Almighty,
who guides with an unerring hand, and who has so wonderfully apportioned
out to all animals the means of their providing for themselves. Not only
the external, but the inward structure of animals, shows such variety
and ingenuity to surmount all difficulties, and to afford them all the
enjoyment their nature is capable of, that after every examination you
rise with increased astonishment and admiration at the condescension and
goodness of the Master Hand, thus to calculate and provide for the
necessities of the smallest insect; and you are compelled to exclaim
with the Psalmist, 'O God, how manifold are thy works; in wisdom hast
Thou made them all!'"
"You certainly do put the study in a new and most pleasurable light,"
"The more you search into nature, the more wonderful do you find her
secrets, and, by the aid of chemistry, we are continually making new
discoveries. Observe, Mr. Wilmot," said Swinton, picking up a straw
which had been blown by the wind on the quarter-deck, "do you consider
that there is any analogy between this straw and the flint in the lock
of that gun?"
"Certainly, I should imagine them as opposite particles of nature as
well might be."
"Such is not the case. This piece of wheat-straw contains more than
sixty per cent. of silica or flint in its composition; so that, although
a vegetable, it is nearly two-thirds composed of the hardest mineral
substance we know of. You would scarcely believe that the fibers of the
root of this plant were capable of dissolving, feeding upon, and
digesting such a hard substance; but so it is."
"It is very wonderful."
"It is, but it is not a solitary instance; the phosphate of lime, which
is the chief component part of the bones of animals, is equally sought
by plants, dissolved in the same manner, and taken into their bodies;
barley and oats have about thirty per cent. of it in their composition,
and most woods and plants have more or less."
"I am less surprised at that than I am with the flint, which appears
"Nothing is impossible with God; there is a rush in Holland which
contains much more silex than the wheat-straw, and it is employed by the
Dutch to polish wood and brass, on that very account. We know but little
yet, but we do know that mineral substances are found in the composition
of most living animals, if not all; indeed, the coloring-matter of the
blood is an oxide and phosphate of iron."
"I can now understand why you are so enthusiastic in the science, Mr.
Swinton, and I regret much that the short time which will be occupied in
the remainder of our voyage will not enable me to profit as I should
wish by your conversation; for when we arrive at the Cape, I fear our
pursuits will lead us different ways."
"I presume they will, for I am about to penetrate as far as possible
into the interior of the country," replied Mr. Swinton, "which of course
is not your intention."
"Indeed, but it is," replied Alexander; "I am about to do the same,
although perhaps not in the same direction. May I ask your intended
route, if not too inquisitive?"
"Not at all; I can hardly say myself. I shall be guided by the
protection I may fall in with. Africa is a wide field for science, and I
can hardly go any where without being well rewarded for my journey; and
I will say, that should it meet both our views, I should be very glad if
we were to travel in company."
Mr. Fairburn, who had come on deck, had been standing close to them at
the latter portion of the conversation, and made the observation--
"I think it would be a very good plan if Mr. Swinton would venture to go
where you are bound, Mr. Wilmot, but you can talk of that another day,
when you have been longer together. There is nothing that requires more
deliberation than the choice of a traveling companion; any serious
imperfection of temper may make a journey very miserable. Now, Wilmot,
if you are tired of natural history, and wish to change it for the
painful history of human nature, I am ready to continue my
"With great pleasure, sir."
"I hope you have no objection to my reaping the benefit also?" said Mr.
"Oh, most certainly not," replied Mr. Fairburn, "although I fear you
will not gain much information, as you have been at the Cape before. In
a former conversation with Mr. Wilmot I have pointed out the manner in
which the Cape was first settled, and how the settlers had gradually
reduced the original possessors of the land to a state of serfdom; I
will now continue.
"The Dutch boors, as they increased their wealth in cattle, required
more pasture, and were now occupying the whole of the land south of the
Caffre country: the Caffres are wild, courageous savages, whose wealth
consists chiefly in cattle, but in some points they may be considered
superior to the Hottentots.
"The weapon of the Hottentot may be said to be the bow and arrow, but
the Caffre scorns this warfare, or indeed any treachery; his weapons are
his assaguay, or spear, and his shield; he fights openly and bravely.
The Caffres also cultivate their land to a certain extent, and are more
cleanly and civilized. The boors on the Caffre frontier were often
plundered by the bushmen, and perhaps occasionally by some few of the
Caffres who were in a lawless state on the frontier; but if any
complaint was made to the Caffre chiefs, every redress in their power
was given: this, however, did not suit the Dutch boors.
"They had entered the Caffre country, and had perceived that the Caffres
possessed large herds of cattle, and their avarice pointed out to them
how much easier it would be to grow rich by taking the cattle of the
Caffres than by rearing them themselves. If the bushmen stole a few head
of cattle, complaints were immediately forwarded to Cape Town, and
permission asked to raise a force, and recover them from the Caffres.
"The force raised was termed a _Commando_, and was composed of all the
Dutch boors and their servants, well armed and mounted; these would make
an incursion into the Caffre territory, and because a few head of cattle
had been stolen by parties unknown, they would pour down upon the
Caffres, who had but their assaguays to oppose to destructive fire-arms,
set the kraals or villages in flames, murder indiscriminately man,
woman, and child, and carry off, by way of indemnification for some
trifling loss, perhaps some twenty thousand head of cattle belonging to
"The Caffres, naturally indignant at such outrage and robbery, made
attacks upon the boors to recover the cattle, but with this difference
between the Christian boor and the untutored savage: the boors murdered
women and children wantonly, the Caffres never harmed them, and did not
even kill men, if they could obtain possession of their property without
"But how could the Dutch government permit such atrocities?"
"The representations made to the government were believed, and the order
was given in consequence. It is true that afterward the government
attempted to put a stop to these horrors, but the boors were beyond
their control; and in one instance in which the home government had
insisted that punishment should be inflicted for some more than common
outrage on the part of the boors, the Cape governor returned for answer,
that he could not venture to do as they wished, as the system was so
extensive and so common, that all the principal people in the colony
were implicated, and would have to be punished.
"Such was therefore the condition of the colony at the time that it fell
into the possession of the English--the Hottentots serfs to the land,
and treated as the beasts of the field; the slave-trader supplying
slaves; and continual war carried on between the boors and the Caffres."
"I trust that our government soon put an end to such barbarous
"That was not so easy; the frontier boors rose in arms against the
English government, and the Hottentots, who had been so long patient,
now fled and joined the Caffres. These people made a combined attack
upon the frontier boors, burned their houses to the ground, carried off
the cattle, and possessed themselves of their arms and ammunition. The
boors rallied in great force; another combat took place, in which the
Hottentots and Caffres were victorious, killing the leader of the boors,
and pursuing them with great slaughter, till they were stopped by the
advance of the English troops. But I can not dwell long upon this period
of the Cape history; these wars continued until the natives, throwing
themselves upon the protection of the English, were induced to lay down
their arms, and the Hottentots to return to their former masters. The
colony was then given up to the Dutch, and remained with them until the
year 1806, when it was finally annexed to the British empire. The Dutch
had not learned wisdom from what had occurred; they treated the
Hottentots worse than before, maiming them and even murdering them in
their resentment, and appeared to defy the British government; but a
change was soon to take place."
"Not before it was necessary, at all events," said Alexander.
"It was by the missionaries chiefly that this change was brought about;
they had penetrated into the interior, and saw with their own eyes the
system of cruelty and rapine that was carried on; they wrote home
accounts, which were credited, and which produced a great alteration. To
the astonishment and indignation of the boors, law was introduced where
it had always been set at defiance; they were told that the life of a
Hottentot was as important in the eye of God, and in the eye of the law,
as that of a Dutch boor, and that the government would hold it as such.
Thus was the first blow struck; but another and a heavier was soon to
fall upon those who had so long sported with the lives of their
fellow-creatures. The press was called to the aid of the Hottentot, and
a work published by a missionary roused the attention of the public at
home to their situation. Their cause was pleaded in the House of
Commons, and the Hottentot was emancipated forever."
"Thank God!" exclaimed Alexander; "my blood has been boiling at the
description which you have been giving. Now, when I hear that the poor
Hottentot is a free man, it will cool down again."
"Perhaps it will be as well to leave off just now, Mr. Wilmot," said Mr.
Fairburn; "we will renew our conversation to-morrow, if wind and
weather permit, as the seamen say."
The next day the ship was off Rio, and immediately sent her boats for
provisions and supplies; the passengers did not land, as the captain
stated that he would not stay an hour longer than was necessary, and on
the second evening after their arrival they again made sail for the
The gulls were flying in numbers astern of the ship, darting down and
seizing every thing edible which was thrown overboard, and the
conversation turned upon aquatic birds.
"What difference is there in the feathers of aquatic birds and others?"
inquired Alexander; "a hen, or any land bird, if it falls into the
water, is drowned as soon as its feathers are saturated with the water."
"There is, I believe, no difference in the feathers of the birds,"
replied Mr. Swinton; "but all aquatic birds are provided with a small
reservoir, containing oil, with which they anoint their feathers, which
renders them water-proof. If you will watch a duck pluming and dressing
itself, you will find it continually turns its bill round to the end of
its back, just above the insertion of the tail; it is to procure this
oil, which, as it dresses its feathers that they may carefully overlap
each other, it smears upon them so as to render them impenetrable to the
water; but this requires frequent renewal, or the duck would be drowned
as well as the hen."
"How long can a sea-bird remain at sea?"
"I should think not very long, although it has been supposed otherwise;
but we do not know so much of the habits of these birds as of others."
"Can they remain long under water?"
"The greater portion of them can not; ducks and that class, for
instance. Divers can remain some time; but the birds that remain the
longest under water are the semi-aquatic, whose feet are only
half-webbed. I have watched the common English water-hen for many
minutes walking along at the bottom of a stream, apparently as much in
its element as if on shore, pecking and feeding as it walked."
"You say that aquatic birds can not remain long at sea,--where do they
"They resort to the uninhabited islands over the globe, rocks that
always remain above water, and the unfrequented shores of Africa and
elsewhere; there they congregate to breed and bring up their young. I
have seen twenty or thirty acres of land completely covered with these
birds or their nests, wedged together as close as they could sit. Every
year they resort to the same spot, which has probably been their
domicile for centuries,--I might say since the creation. They make no
nests, but merely scrape so as to form a shallow hole to deposit their
eggs. The consequence of their always resorting to the same spot is
that, from the voidings of the birds and the remains of fish brought to
feed the young, a deposit is made over the whole surface, a fraction of
an inch every year, which by degrees increases until it is sometimes
twenty or thirty feet deep, if not more, and the lower portion becomes
almost as hard as rock. The deposit is termed guano, and has, from time
immemorial, been used by the Peruvians and Chilians as manure for the
land; it is very powerful, as it contains most of the essential salts,
such as ammonia, phosphates, etc., which are required for agriculture.
Within these last few years samples have been brought to England, and as
the quantities must be inexhaustible, when they are sought for and
found, no doubt it may one day become a valuable article of our carrying
trade. Here comes Mr. Fairburn; I hope he intends to continue his
notices of the Cape settlement."
"They have interested me very much, I must confess; he appears well
acquainted with the colony."
"He has had the advantage of a long residence, and during that time an
insight into all the public documents: this you may be certain of, that
he knows more than he will tell."
As soon as Mr. Fairburn joined them, Alexander requested him to
continue his narrative, which he did as follows.
"You must not suppose, Mr. Wilmot, that because the English had now
possession of the colony, every thing went right; governors who are
appointed to the control of a colony require to be there some time
before they can see with their own eyes; they must, from their want of
information, fall into the hands of some interested party or another,
who will sway their councils. Thus it was at the Cape.
"It is true that much good had already been done by the abolition of
slavery and the emancipation of the Hottentot; but this was effected,
not by the colonial government, but by the representations of the
missionaries and an influential and benevolent party at home. The
prejudices against the Hottentots, and particularly the Caffres, still
existed, and were imbibed by the colonial authorities. Commandoes, or,
as they should be more properly termed, marauding parties, were still
sent out, and the Caffre was continually oppressed, and, in defiance of
the government orders, little justice could be obtained for the
Hottentot, although his situation was somewhat improved.
"I will give one instance to show how the rights of the Hottentots were
respected by the Cape authorities in 1810,--previous to the
emancipation, it is true, but still at a time when the position of the
Hottentots and their sufferings had been strenuously pressed upon the
colonial authorities by the government at home.
"When the conduct of the Dutch boors had roused the Caffres and
Hottentots to war, there were three brothers by the name of Stuurman,
Hottentots, who were the leaders. Peace was at length restored, which
was chiefly effected by the exertions of these men, who retired
peaceably with their own kraal to Algoa Bay; and the government, being
then Dutch, appointed Stuurman as captain of the kraal. This independent
horde of Hottentots gave great offense to the Dutch boors,--the more so
as the three brothers had been the leaders of the Hottentots in the
former insurrection. For seven years they could find no complaint to
make against them, until at last two of his Hottentots, who had engaged
to serve a boor for a certain time, went back to the kraal at the
expiration of the term, against the wish of the boor, who would have
detained them; the boor went and demanded them back, but Stuurman
refused to give them up; upon which, although justice was clearly on the
side of the Hottentots, an armed force was dispatched to the kraal.
Stuurman still refused to surrender the men, and the armed men retired,
for they knew the courage of the Hottentots, and were afraid to attack
"By treachery they gained possession of Stuurman and one of his brothers
(the other having been killed hunting the buffalo), and sent them to
Cape Town, from whence, against all justice, they were sent as prisoners
to Robin Island, where malefactors are confined. They made their escape,
and returned to Caffreland. Three years afterward, Stuurman, anxious to
see his family, returned to the colony without permission. He was
discovered and apprehended, and sent as a convict to New South Wales;
for the government was at that time English.
"Such was the fate of the first Hottentot who stood up for the rights of
his countrymen, and such was the conduct of the English colonial
government; so you will observe, Mr. Wilmot, that although the strides
of cruelty and oppression are most rapid, the return to even-handed
justice is equally slow. Eventually the gross injustice to this man was
acknowledged, for an order from the home government was procured for his
liberation and return; but it was too late,--Stuurman had died a
"I have mentioned this circumstance, as it will prepare you for a
similar act of injustice to the Caffres. When the colony was in
possession of the Dutch there was a space of about thirty thousand
square miles between the colonial boundary (that is, the land formerly
possessed by the Hottentots) and the Great Fish River. This extent of
thirty thousand square miles belonged to the Caffres, and was the site
of continual skirmishing and marauding between the Dutch boors and the
"In 1811 it was resolved by the colonial government that the Caffres
should be driven from this territory, and confined to the other side of
the Great Fish River. This was an act of injustice and great hardship,
and was proceeded in with extreme cruelty, the Caffres being obliged to
leave all their crops, and turned out with great and unnecessary
"It may be proper, however, to state the causes which led to this Caffre
war with the English. At this time the colonial governor had entered
into negotiations with a Caffre chief of the name of Gaika. He was a
chief of a portion of the Caffres, but not the principal chief, and
although the English treated with him as such, the Caffres would not
acknowledge his authority. This is a very frequent error committed in
our intercourse with savage nations, who are as pertinacious of their
rights as the monarchs of Europe. The error on our part was soon
discovered, but the government was too proud to acknowledge it.
"It so happened that the other Caffre chiefs formed a powerful
confederacy against Gaika, who, trusting to the support of the English,
had treated them with great arrogance. They fought and conquered him,
carrying off, as usual, his cattle. As this was a war between the
Caffres, and confined to their own land, we certainly had no business to
interfere; but the colonial government thought otherwise, and an
expedition was prepared.
"The Caffres sent forward messengers declaring their wish to remain at
peace with the English, but refusing to submit to Gaika, who was only a
secondary chief, and whom they had conquered. No regard was paid to this
remonstrance; the English troops were sent forward, the Caffres attacked
in their hamlets, slaughtered or driven into the woods, 23,000 head of
cattle taken from them, of which 9,000 were given to Gaika, and the rest
distributed to the Dutch boors, or sold to defray part of the expenses
of the expedition.
"Deprived of their means of subsistence by the capture of their cattle,
the Caffres were rendered furious reckless, and no sooner had the
expedition returned, than they commenced hostilities. They poured into
the frontier districts, captured several detached military forts, drove
the Dutch boors from the Zurweld, or neutral territory, and killed a
great many of our soldiers and of the Dutch boors. All the country was
overrun as far as the vicinity of Algoa Bay, and nothing could at first
check their progress."
"Why, it really does not appear that the colonial government, when in
our hands, was more considerate than when it was held by the Dutch,"
"Not much, I fear," said Mr. Fairburn.
"The councils of the Caffre chiefs were at that time much influenced by
a most remarkable personage of the name of Mokanna. In the colony he was
usually known by the sobriquet of 'Links,' or the left-handed. He was
not a chief, but had by his superior intellect obtained great power. He
gave himself out to be a prophet, and certainly showed quite as much
skill as ever did Mahommed or any other false prophet. He had often
visited Cape Town, and had made himself master of all that he could
acquire of European knowledge.
"This man, by his influence, his superior eloquence, and his pretended
revelations from heaven, was now looked up to by the whole Caffre
nation; and he promised the chiefs, if they would implicitly obey his
orders, he would lead them to victory, and that he would drive the
English into the ocean. He resolved upon the bold measure of making an
attack upon Graham's Town, and marched an army of between nine and ten
thousand men to the forest bordering on the Great Fish River.
"According to the custom of the Caffres, who never use surprise or
ambush on great occasions, they sent a message to the commandant of
Graham's Town, stating that they would breakfast with him the next
morning. The commandant, who had supposed the message to be a mere
bravado, was very ill prepared when on the following morning he
perceived, to his great astonishment, the whole force of the Caffres on
the heights above the town.
"Had the Caffres advanced in the night, there is no doubt but that they
would have had possession of the place, and that with the greatest ease.
There were about 350 regular troops and a small force of Hottentots in
Graham's Town, and fortunately a few field-pieces. The Caffres rushed to
the assault, and for some time were not to be checked; they went up to
the very muzzles of the field-pieces, and broke their spears off short,
to decide the battle by a hand-to-hand conflict.
"At this critical moment, the field-pieces opened their fire of grape
and canister, and the front ranks of the Caffres were mowed down like
grass. After several rallyings under Mokanna, the Caffres gave way and
fled. About 1400 of the bravest remained on the field of battle, and as
many more perished from their wounds before they could regain their
country. Mokanna, after using every exertion, accompanied the Caffre
army in their flight."
"It certainly was a bold attempt on the part of the Caffres, and showed
Mokanna to be a great man even in the failure."
"It was so unprecedented an attempt, that the colonial government were
dreadfully alarmed, and turned out their whole force of militia as well
as of regular troops. The Caffre country was again overrun, the
inhabitants destroyed, without distinction of age or sex, their hamlets
fired, cattle driven away, and when they fled to the thickets, they were
bombarded with shells and Congreve rockets. Mokanna and the principal
chiefs were denounced as outlaws, and the inhabitants threatened with
utter extermination if they did not deliver them up dead or alive.
Although driven to despair, and perishing from want, not a single Caffre
was to be found who would earn the high reward offered for the surrender
of the chiefs."
"The more I hear of them, the more I admire the Caffres," observed
Alexander Wilmot; "and I may add--but never mind, pray go on."
"I think I could supply the words which you have checked, Mr. Wilmot,
but I will proceed, or dinner will be announced before I have finished
this portion of my history."
"The course adopted by Mokanna under these circumstances was such as
will raise him much higher in your estimation. As he found that his
countrymen were to be massacred until he and the other chiefs were
delivered up, dead or alive, he resolved to surrender himself as a
hostage for his country. He sent a message to say that he would do so,
and the next day, with a calm magnanimity that would have done honor to
a Roman patriot, he came, unattended, to the English camp. His words
were 'People say that I have occasioned this war: let me see if my
delivering myself up will restore peace to my country.' The commanding
officer, to whom he surrendered himself, immediately forwarded him as a
prisoner to the colony."
"What became of him?"
"Of that hereafter; but I wish here to give you the substance of a
speech made by one of Mokanna's head men, who came after Mokanna's
surrender into the English camp. I am told that the imperfect notes
taken of it afford but a very faint idea of its eloquence; at all
events, the speech gives a very correct view of the treatment which the
Caffres received from our hands.
"'This war,' said he, 'British chiefs, is an unjust one, for you are
trying to extirpate a people whom you have forced to take up arms. When
our fathers and the fathers of the boors first settled on the Zurweld,
they dwelt together in peace. Their flocks grazed the same hills, their
herdsmen smoked out of the same pipe; they were brothers until the herds
of the Amakosa (Caffres) increased so much as to make the hearts of the
Dutch boors sore. What those covetous men could not get from our fathers
for old buttons, they took by force. Our fathers were men; they loved
their cattle; their wives and children lived upon milk; they fought for
their property; they began to hate the colonists, who coveted their all,
and aimed at their destruction.
"'Now their kraals and our fathers' kraals were separate. The boors made
commandoes for our fathers; our fathers drove them out of the Zurweld,
and we dwelt there because we had conquered it; there we married wives;
there our children were born; the white men hated us, but could not
drive us away; when there was war, we plundered you; when there was
peace, some of our bad people stole; but our chiefs forbade it.
"'We lived in peace; some bad people stole, perhaps; but the nation was
quiet; Gaika stole; his chiefs stole; you sent him copper; you sent him
beads; you sent him horses, on which he rode to steal more; to _us_ you
only sent _commandoes_. We quarreled with Gaika about grass;--no
business of yours; you send a commando; you take our last cow; you leave
only a few calves, which die for want, and so do our children; you give
half the spoil to Gaika; half you kept yourselves.
"'Without milk; our corn destroyed; we saw our wives and children
perish; we followed, therefore, the tracks of our cattle into the
colony; we plundered, and we fought for our lives; we found you weak,
and we destroyed your soldiers; we saw that we were strong, and we
attacked your headquarters, and if we had succeeded, our right was good,
for you began the war; we failed, and you are here.
"We wish for peace; we wish to rest in our huts; we wish to get milk for
our children; our wives wish to till the land; but your troops cover the
plains, and swarm in the thickets, where they can not distinguish the
men from the women, and shoot _all_. You wish us to submit to Gaika;
that man's face is fair to you, but his heart is false; leave him to
himself; make peace with us: let him fight for himself; and we shall not
call upon you for help; set Mokanna at liberty, and all our chiefs will
make peace with you at any time you fix; but if you still make war, you
may indeed kill the last man of us, but Gaika shall not rule over the
followers of those who think him a woman.'
"If eloquence consists (as it does not in the English House of Commons)
in saying much in few words, I know no speech more comprehensive of the
facts and arguments of a case than the above. I am sorry to say it had
no effect in altering the destination of Mokanna, or of obtaining any
relief for his countrymen, who were still called upon to deliver up the
other chiefs _outlawed_ by the government."
"I before remarked the absurdity of that expression," said Mr. Swinton;
"we outlaw a member of our own society and belonging to our own country;
but to _outlaw_ the chiefs of another country is something too absurd; I
fear the English language is not much studied at the Cape."
"At all events, every attempt made to obtain possession of these
_outlawed_ chiefs was unavailing. After plundering the country of all
that could be found in it, leaving devastation and misery behind, the
expedition returned without obtaining their object, but with the
satisfaction of knowing that by taking away 30,000 more cattle, they
left thousands of women and children to die of starvation. But I must
leave off now. The results of the war, and the fate of Mokanna, shall be
the subject of another meeting."
"We are much obliged to you, Mr. Fairburn, for the interesting narrative
you have given us. It is, however, to be hoped that you will have no
more such painful errors and injustice to dwell upon."
"As I before observed, Mr. Wilmot, it requires time for prejudice and
falsehood to be overthrown; and until they are mastered, it can not be
expected that justice can be administered. The colonial government had
to contend with the whole white population of the colony who rose up in
arms against them, considering, from long habit, that any interference
with their assumed despotism over the natives was an infringement of
"You must also recollect how weak was the power of the colonial
government for a long time, and how impossible it was to exert that
power over such an extensive country; and to give you some idea of this,
I will state what was the reply of some of the Dutch boors to the
traveler La Vaillant, when the latter expressed his opinion that the
government should interfere with an armed force to put an end to their
cruelty and oppression.
"'Are you aware,' said they, 'what would be the result of such an
attempt?--Assembling all in an instant, we would massacre half of the
soldiers, salt their flesh, and send it back by those we might spare,
with threats to do the same thing to those who should be bold enough to
appear among us afterward.' It is not an easy task for any government to
deal with such a set of people, Mr. Wilmot."
"I grant it," replied Alexander; "and the conviction makes me more
anxious to know what has been since done."
The following morning the wind was very slight, and before noon it fell
calm. Two sharks of a large size came under the stern of the vessel, and
the sailors were soon very busy trying to hook one of them; but they
refused the bait, which was a piece of salt pork, and after an hour they
quitted the vessel and disappeared, much to the disappointment of both
passengers and ship's company, the former wishing very much to see the
sharks caught, and the latter very anxious to cut them up and fry them
for their suppers.
"I thought that sharks always took the bait," observed Alexander.
"Not always, as you have now seen," replied Mr. Swinton; "all depends
upon whether they are hungry or not. In some harbors where there are
plenty of fish, I have seen sharks in hundreds, which not only refused
any bait, but would not attempt to seize a man if he was in the water;
but I am surprised at these Atlantic sharks refusing the bait, I must
confess, for they are generally very ravenous, as are, indeed, all the
sharks which are found in the ocean."
"I can tell you, sir, why they refused the bait," said the boatswain of
the vessel, who was standing by; "it's because we are now on the track
of the Brazilian slavers, and they have been well fed lately, depend
"I should not be surprised if you were correct in your idea," replied
"There are many varieties of sharks, are there not?" inquired Wilmot.
"Yes, a great many; the fiercest, however, and the largest kind is the
one which has just left us, and is termed the white shark; it ranges the
whole Atlantic Ocean, but is seldom found far to the northward, as it
prefers the tropics: it is, however, to be seen in the Mediterranean, in
the Gulf of Lyons, and is there remarkably fierce. In the English
Channel you find the blue shark, which is seldom dangerous; there is
also a very large-sized but harmless shark found in the north seas,
which the whalers frequent. Then there is the spotted or tiger-shark,
which is very savage, although it does not grow to a large size; the
hammer-headed shark, so called from the peculiar formation of its head;
and the ground shark, perhaps the most dangerous of all, as it lies at
the bottom and rises under you without giving you notice of its
approach. I believe I have now mentioned the principal varieties."
"If a man was to fall overboard and a shark was nigh, what would be the
best plan to act upon--that is, if there would be any chance of escape
from such a brute?"
"The best plan, and I have seen it acted upon with success, is, if you
can swim well, to throw yourself on your back and splash as much as you
can with your feet, and halloo as loud as you can. A shark is a cowardly
animal, and noise will drive it away.
"When I went out two or three years ago, I had a Newfoundland dog, which
was accustomed to leap into the water from almost any height. I was very
partial to him, and you may imagine my annoyance when, one day, as we
were becalmed along the Western Islands, and a large shark came up
alongside, the dog, at once perceiving it, plunged off the taffrail to
seize it, swimming toward the shark, and barking as loud as he could. I
fully expected that the monster would have dispatched him in a moment;
but to my surprise the shark was frightened and swam away, followed by
the dog, until the boat that was lowered down picked him up."
"I don't think the shark could have been very hungry."
"Probably not; at all events I should not have liked to have been in
Neptune's place. I think the most peculiar plan of escaping from sharks
is that pursued by the Cingalese divers, and often with success."
"Tell me, if you please."
"The divers who go down for the pearl oysters off Ceylon generally drop
from a boat, and descend in ten or twelve fathoms of water before they
come to the bed of pearl oysters, which is upon a bank of mud: it often
happens that when they are down, the sharks make for them, and I hardly
need say that these poor fellows are constantly on the watch, looking in
every direction while they are filling their baskets. If they perceive a
shark making for them, their only chance is to stir up the mud on the
bank as fast as they can, which prevents the animal from distinguishing
them, and under the cover of the clouded water they regain the surface;
nevertheless, it does not always answer, and many are taken off every
"A lady, proud of her pearl necklace, little thinks how many poor
fellows may have been torn to pieces to obtain for her such an
"Very true; and when we consider how many pearl-fisheries may have taken
place, and how many divers may have been destroyed, before a string of
fine pearls can be obtained, we might almost say that every pearl on the
necklace has cost the life of a human creature."
"How are the pearls disposed of, and who are the proprietors?"
"The government are the proprietors of the fishery, I believe; but
whether they farm it out yearly, or not, I can not tell; but this I
know, that as the pearl oysters are taken, they are landed unopened and
packed upon the beach in squares of a certain dimension. When the
fishing is over for the season, these square lots of pearl oysters are
put up to auction, and sold to the highest bidder, of course 'contents
unknown;' so that it becomes a species of lottery; the purchaser may not
find a single pearl in his lot, or he may find two or three, which will
realize twenty times the price which he has paid for his lot."
"It is, then, a lottery from beginning to end; the poor divers' lottery
is shark or no shark; the purchasers', pearls or no pearls. But Mr.
Fairburn is coming up the ladder, and I am anxious to know what was the
fate of Mokanna."
Mr. Fairburn, who had come on deck on purpose to continue the narrative,
took his seat by his two fellow passengers and went on as follows:--
"I stated that Mokanna had been forwarded to the Cape. You must have
perceived that his only crime was that of fighting for his native land
against civilized invaders; but this was a deep crime in the eyes of the
colonial government; he was immediately thrown into the common gaol, and
finally was condemned to be imprisoned for life on Robben Island, a
place appropriated for the detention of convicted felons and other
malefactors, who there work in irons at the slate-quarries."
"May I ask, where is Robben Island?"
"It is an island a few miles from the mainland, close to Table Bay, upon
which the Cape Town is built.
"Mokanna remained there about a year, when, having made his intentions
known to some Caffres who were confined there with him, he contrived out
of the iron hoops of the casks to make some weapons like cutlasses, with
which he armed his followers, rose upon the guard and overpowered them;
he then seized the boat, and with his Caffres made for the mainland.
Unfortunately, in attempting to disembark upon the rocks of the
mainland, the boat was upset in the surf, which was very violent;
Mokanna clung some time to a rock, but at last was washed off, and thus
perished the unfortunate leader of the Caffres."
"Poor fellow," said Alexander; "he deserved a better fate and a more
generous enemy; but did the war continue?"
"No; it ended in a manner every way worthy of that in which it was
begun. You recollect that the war was commenced to support Gaika, our
selected chief of the Caffres, against the real chiefs. The Caffres had
before been compelled to give up their territories on our side of the
Fish River; the colonial government now insisted upon their retiring
still further, that is, beyond the Keisi and Chumi rivers, by which
3,000 more square miles were added to the colonial territory. This was
exacted, in order that there might be a neutral ground to separate the
Caffres and the Dutch boors, and put an end to further robberies on
either side. The strangest part of the story is, that this territory was
not taken away from the Caffre chiefs, against whom we had made war, but
from Gaika, our ally, to support whom we had entered into the war."
"Well, it was even-handed--not justice, but injustice, at all events."
"Exactly so; and so thought Gaika, for when speaking of the protection
he received from the colonial government, he said, 'But when I look upon
the large extent of fine country which has been taken from me, I am
compelled to say, that, although protected, I am _rather oppressed_ by
"Unjust as was the mode of obtaining the neutral ground, I must say that
it appears to me to have been a good policy to put one between the
"I grant it; but what was the conduct of the colonial government? This
neutral ground was afterward given away in large tracts to the Dutch
boors, so as again to bring them into contact with the Caffres."
"Is it possible?"
"Yes; to men who had always been opposed to the English government, who
had twice risen in rebellion against them, and who had tried to bring in
the Caffres to destroy the colony. Neither were the commandoes, or
excursions against the Caffres, put an end to: Makomo, the son of Gaika,
our late ally, has, I hear, been the party now attacked. I trust,
however, that we may soon have affairs going on in a more favorable and
reputable manner; indeed, I am sure that, now the government at home
have been put in possession of the facts, such will be the case.
"I have now given you a very brief insight into the history of the Cape
up to the present time. There are many points which I have passed over,
not wishing to diverge from a straightforward narrative; but upon any
questions you may wish to ask, I shall be most happy to give you all the
information in my power. I can not, however, dismiss the subject
without making one remark, which is, that it is principally, if not
wholly, to the missionaries, to their exertions and to their
representations, that what good has been done is to be attributed. They
are entitled to the greatest credit and the warmest praise; and great as
has been the misrule of this colony for many years, it would have been
much greater and much more disgraceful, if it had not been for their
efforts. Another very important alteration has been taking place in the
colony, which will eventually be productive of much good. I refer to the
British immigration, which every year becomes more extensive; and as
soon as the British population exceeds and masters that of the old Dutch
planters and boors, we shall have better feeling in the colony. Do not
suppose that all the Dutch boors are such as those whose conduct I have
been obliged to point out. There are many worthy men, although but few
educated or enlightened.
"I know from my own observation that the failings and prejudices against
the natives are fast fading away, and that lately the law has been able
to hold its ground, and has been supported by the people inhabiting the
districts. The Dutch, with all their prejudices and all their vices,
will soon be swallowed up by the inundation of English settlers, and
will gradually be so incorporated and intermingled by marriage that no
distinction will be known. Time, however, is required for such
consolidation and cementation; that time is arriving fast, and the
future prospects of the Cape are as cheering, as you may think, from my
narrative, they have been disheartening and gloomy."
"I trust in God that such will be the case," replied Alexander. "If this
wind continues, in a few days we shall be at the Cape, and I shall be
most anxious to hear how affairs are going on."
"I had a letter just before I set out from England, stating that the
Zoolu tribes, to the northward of the Caffres, are in an unquiet state;
and as you must pass near to these tribes on your journey, I am anxious
to know the truth. At all events, Chaka is dead; he was murdered about
two years back by his own relations."
"Who was Chaka?" inquired Alexander.
"That I have yet to tell you; at present we have only got as far as the
Caffres, who are immediately on our frontiers."
The wind continued fair, and the vessel rapidly approached the Cape.
Alexander, who had contracted a great friendship for Mr. Swinton, had
made known to him the cause of his intended journey into the interior,
and the latter volunteered, if his company would not be displeasing, to
accompany Alexander on his tedious and somewhat perilous expedition.
Alexander gladly accepted the offer, and requested Mr. Swinton would put
himself to no expense, as he had unlimited command of money from his
grand-uncle, and Mr. Swinton's joining the caravan would make no
difference in his arrangements.
After it had been agreed that they should travel together, the continued
subject of discourse and discussion was the nature of the outfit, the
number of wagons, their equipment, the stores, the number of horses and
oxen which should he provided; and they were busy every day adding to
their memoranda as to what it would be advisable to procure for their
Mr. Fairburn often joined in the discussion, and gave his advice, but
told them that, when they arrived at Cape Town, he might be more useful
to them. Alexander, who, as we have before observed, was a keen hunter,
and very partial to horses and dogs, promised himself much pleasure in
the chase of the wild animals on their journey, and congratulated
himself upon being so well provided with guns and rifles, which he had
brought with him, more with the idea that they might be required for
self-defense than for sport.
At last, "Land, ho!" was cried out by the man who was at the mast-head
in the morning watch, and soon afterward, the flat top of Table Mountain
was distinctly visible from the deck. The _Surprise_, running before a
fresh breeze, soon neared the land, so that the objects on it might be
perceived with a glass. At noon they were well in for the bay, and
before three o'clock the _Surprise_ was brought to an anchor between two
other merchant vessels, which were filling up their home cargoes.
After a three months' voyage, passengers are rather anxious to get on
shore; and therefore before night all were landed, and Alexander found
himself comfortably domiciled in one of the best houses in Cape Town;
for Mr. Fairburn had, during the passage, requested Alexander to take up
his abode with him.
Tired with the excitement of the day, he was not sorry to go to bed
early, and he did not forget to return his thanks to Him who had
preserved him through the perils of the voyage.
The next morning Mr. Fairburn said to Alexander--
"Mr. Wilmot, I should recommend you for the first ten days to think
nothing about your journey. Amuse yourself with seeing the public
gardens, and other things worthy of inspection; or, if it pleases you,
you can make the ascent of Table Mountain with your friend Swinton. At
all events, do just as you please; you will find my people attentive,
and ready to obey your orders. You know the hours of meals; consider
yourself at home, and as much master here as I am. As you may well
imagine, after so long an absence, I have much to attend to in my
official capacity, and I think it will be a week or ten days before I
shall be comfortably reseated in my office, and have things going on
smoothly, as they ought to do. You must therefore excuse me if I am not
quite so attentive a host at first as I should wish to be. One thing
only I recommend you to do at present, which is, to accompany me this
afternoon to Government-house, that I may introduce you to the governor.
It is just as well to get over that mark of respect which is due to him,
and then you will be your own master."
Alexander replied with many thanks. He was graciously received by the
governor, who promised him every assistance in his power in the
prosecution of his journey. Having received an invitation for dinner on
the following day, Alexander bowed and took his leave in company with
On the following day Alexander was visited by Mr. Swinton. Mr. Swinton
was accompanied by a major in the Bengal Cavalry, whom he introduced as
Major Henderson. He had arrived a few days before from Calcutta, having
obtained leave of absence for the recovery of his health, after a smart
jungle-fever, which had nearly proved fatal. The voyage, however, had
completely reinstated him, and he appeared full of life and spirits.
They walked together to the Company's gardens, in which were a few
lions, and some other Cape animals, and the discourse naturally turned
upon them. Major Henderson described the hunting in India, especially
the tiger-hunting on elephants, to which he was very partial; and
Alexander soon discovered that he was talking to one who was
passionately fond of the sport. After a long conversation they parted,
mutually pleased with each other. A day or two afterward, Mr. Swinton,
who had been talking about their intended journey with Alexander, said
"You must not be surprised at the off-hand and unceremonious way we have
in the colonies. People meeting abroad, even Englishmen occasionally,
throw aside much ceremony. I mention this, because Major Henderson
intends to call this afternoon, and propose joining our party into the
interior. I do not know much of him, but I have heard much said in his
favor, and it is easy to see by his manners and address that he is a
gentleman. Of course, when he stated his intention, I could do nothing
but refer him to you, which I did. What do you think, Wilmot?"
"I think very well of Major Henderson, and I consider that, as the
journey must be one of some peril, the more Europeans the better,
especially when we can find one who is used to danger from his
profession, and also to dangerous hunting, which we must also expect. So
far from not wishing him to join us, I consider him a most valuable
acquisition, and am delighted at the idea."
"Well, I am glad to hear you say so, for I agree with you. He is hunting
mad, that is certain, and I hear, a most remarkable shot. I think with
you he will be an acquisition. It appears that it was his intention to
have gone into the interior, even if he went by himself; and he has two
Arab horses which he brought with him from India with that view."
"If you see him before he comes, you may say that you have stated his
wishes to me, and that I am quite delighted at his joining our
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