When the news of the Bishop's unfortunate collisions with the natives, and of his untimely end, reached England, much blame was imputed to him. The policy, which with the formal sanction of all his companions he had adopted, being directly contrary to the advice which Dr. Livingstone tendered, and to the assurances of the peaceable nature of the Mission which the Doctor had given to the natives, a friendly disapproval of a bishop's engaging in war was ventured on, when we met him at Chibisa's in November. But when we found his conduct regarded with so much bitterness in England, whether from a disposition to "stand by the down man," or from having an intimate knowledge of the peculiar circumstances of the country in which he was placed, or from the thorough confidence which intimacy caused us to repose in his genuine piety, and devout service of God, we came to think much more leniently of his proceedings, than his assailants did. He never seemed to doubt but that he had done his duty; and throughout he had always been supported by his associates.
The question whether a Bishop, in the event of his flock being torn from his bosom, may make war to rescue them, requires serious consideration. It seems to narrow itself into whether a Christian man may lawfully use the civil power or the sword at all in defensive war, as police or otherwise. We would do almost anything to avoid a collision with degraded natives; but in case of an invasion--our blood boils at the very thought of our wives, daughters, or sisters being touched--we, as men with human feelings, would unhesitatingly fight to the death, with all the fury in our power.
The good Bishop was as intensely averse to using arms, before he met the slave-hunters, as any man in England. In the course he pursued he may have made a mistake, but it is a mistake which very few Englishmen on meeting bands of helpless captives, or members of his family in bonds, would have failed to commit likewise.
During unhealthy April, the fever was more severe in Shupanga and Mazaro than usual. We had several cases on board--they were quickly cured, but, from our being in the delta, as quickly returned. About the middle of the month Mrs. Livingstone was prostrated by this disease; and it was accompanied by obstinate vomiting. Nothing is yet known that can allay this distressing symptom, which of course renders medicine of no avail, as it is instantly rejected. She received whatever medical aid could be rendered from Dr. Kirk, but became unconscious, and her eyes were closed in the sleep of death as the sunset on the evening of the Christian Sabbath, the 27th April, 1862. A coffin was made during the night, a grave was dug next day under the branches of the great baobab-tree, and with sympathizing hearts the little band of his countrymen assisted the bereaved husband in burying his dead. At his request, the Rev. James Stewart read the burial-service; and the seamen kindly volunteered to mount guard for some nights at the spot where her body rests in hope. Those who are not aware how this brave, good, English wife made a delightful home at Kolobeng, a thousand miles inland from the Cape, and as the daughter of Moffat and a Christian lady exercised most beneficial influence over the rude tribes of the interior, may wonder that she should have braved the dangers and toils of this down- trodden land. She knew them all, and, in the disinterested and dutiful attempt to renew her labours, was called to her rest instead. "Fiat, Domine, voluntas tua!"
On the 5th of May Dr. Kirk and Charles Livingstone started in the boat for Tette, in order to see the property of the Expedition brought down in canoes. They took four Mazaro canoe-men to manage the boat, and a white sailor to cook for them; but, unfortunately, he caught fever the very day after leaving the ship, and was ill most of the trip; so they had to cook for themselves, and to take care of him besides.
We now proceeded with preparations for the launch of the "Lady Nyassa." Ground was levelled on the bank at Shupanga, for the purpose of arranging the compartments in order: she was placed on palm-trees which were brought from a place lower down the river for ways, and the engineer and his assistants were soon busily engaged; about a fortnight after they were all brought from Kongone, the sections were screwed together. The blacks are more addicted to stealing where slavery exists than elsewhere. We were annoyed by thieves who carried off the iron screw-bolts, but were gratified to find that strychnine saved us from the man-thief as well as the hyena-thief. A hyena was killed by it, and after the natives saw the dead animal and knew how we had destroyed it, they concluded that it was not safe to steal from men who possessed a medicine so powerful. The half-caste, who kept Shupanga-house, said he wished to have some to give to the Zulus, of whom he was mortally afraid, and to whom he had to pay an unwilling tribute.
The "Pioneer" made several trips to the Kongone, and returned with the last load on the 12th of June. On the 23rd the "Lady Nyassa" was safely launched, the work of putting her together having been interrupted by fever and dysentery, and many other causes which it would only weary the reader to narrate in detail. Natives from all parts of the country came to see the launch, most of them quite certain that, being made of iron, she must go to the bottom as soon as she entered the water. Earnest discussions had taken place among them with regard to the propriety of using iron for ship-building. The majority affirmed that it would never answer. They said, "If we put a hoe into the water, or the smallest bit of iron, it sinks immediately. How then can such a mass of iron float? it must go to the bottom." The minority answered that this might be true with them, but white men had medicine for everything. "They could even make a woman, all except the speaking; look at that one on the figure-head of the vessel." The unbelievers were astonished, and could hardly believe their eyes, when they saw the ship float lightly and gracefully on the river, instead of going to the bottom, as they so confidently predicted. "Truly," they said, "these men have powerful medicine."
Birds are numerous on the Shupanga estate. Some kinds remain all the year round, while many others are there only for a few months. Flocks of green pigeons come in April to feed on the young fruit of the wild fig-trees, which is also eaten by a large species of bat in the evenings. The pretty little black weaver, with yellow shoulders, appears to enjoy life intensely after assuming his wooing dress. A hearty breakfast is eaten in the mornings and then come the hours for making merry. A select party of three or four perch on the bushes which skirt a small grassy plain, and cheer themselves with the music of their own quiet and self-complacent song. A playful performance on the wind succeeds. Expanding his soft velvet-like plumage, one glides with quivering pinions to the centre of the open space, singing as he flies, then turns with a rapid whirring sound from his wings--somewhat like a child's rattle--and returns to his place again. One by one the others perform the same feat, and continue the sport for hours, striving which can produce the loudest brattle while turning. These games are only played during the season of courting and of the gay feathers; the merriment seems never to be thought of while the bird wears his winter suit of sober brown.