« VorigeDoorgaan »
He wished to save their strength; the snails and ants, and all manner of creepswitches, too, were worn, and the new ing things, “perished in the flaming night supply had not yet come. And lastly, of their last judgment.” though all this has taken some time to An idle man would have found mucb to read, the doing of it was quickly carried interest him in the way in which different out. Only a few stragglers had come up people did their work that night, and yet, and it was with divided forces, and could have made many studies of characweary arms, and inefficient weapons, that ter by that fierce light. The estate on the enemy had to be met. A few seconds which all this happened was a very large would show whether men were to sleep one, and many different trades were repin bed that night, or spend it in grappling resented on the bill. There was the clerk with the wildest conflagration the oldest of works, summoned from his office by a inhabitant had ever seen. The great, shrieking lass telling him that “the propirregular wall of fire came threateningly erty was on fire." "It was not his busion; already stray bits of lighted stuff ness to meddle with such things, but he flew on ahead, each one kindling the was there as soon as any one, manfully heather outside, and being hastily beaten lashing at the fierce red edge, and retiring and trampled out by hurrying men. But at intervals into the dark background to the flames were still some way back from cough and groan out the smoke which the plantation fence when most saw that penetrated into the inmost recesses of his nothing but a miracle could save them honest interior. Many of his men were from spreading over that frail march. there too,
and joiners and The wind seemed to exult in giving help plumbers, in the main good fellows, to their enemy, a hundred burning tufts working hard and diligently at the unacflew out on to the moor— five hundred customed job. The cattleman left his a thousand: panting men beating out one cattle; the butler asked leave for absence in their front found two or three blazing from dinner, and had to return after comup at their backs, each demanding instant ing half the way, to change bis dress aitention. Every blow of the beaters coat. Many shepherds were there: tbey loosened lighted fragments of the wiry hurried from their homes in lonely glens, bent, dry as touchwood, and these in their guided by the great blaze which their turn kindled fresh places. By the time knowledge of the ground told them had the reinforcements arrived, and fresh no right to be where it was. These men strength was added to the weary workers, understood their business: they did not the wood was left far behind, black and rush at their work with the fury of inexsmouldering, and a great body of fame perience, but quietly and determinedly was driving through the heather, pressing stuck to it in a way which was in the long across the moor towards the thousands run the most serviceable.
In fact, every of acres of wood which still rejoiced in able-bodied man in the district, and many their green beauty miles away, whilst a who were exceedingly decrepid, reached hundred and fifty inen toiled in its wake, during the night the place of action. And and thrust themselves'on its flanks, and all these men worked according to their even unavailingly charged it in front. inclinations and lights, no one had time And the good men set their teeth and to see in the smoke and confusion that swore to themselves, that if men could individuals scattered over a large space put out that fire they would do it; and did what they ought. the skulkers idled and lit their pipes, and “We'll no manage it unless the wind wondered how much whisky they would gaes doun,” said a shepherd. be able to get hold of, working prodi. “We must manage it,” said the factor. giously when the factor or any one in au. “We'll no' manage it, wind or no',” thority was Before nine o'clock said an old saw-miller, who had been at. the fire was a mile and a half on its way, tracted by the blaze and the hope of with a head a quarter of a mile broad, whisky, and who had not done one stroke the crowd following it, doing at present of real work. little more than follow it, but yet in some " It'll be in Langwell wood in an hour," measure guiding it and preventing it from said another. spreading and carrying utter desolation “If it gets into Langwell,” said the for. over the whole length and breadth of the ester, “it'll get into Creildarrach; and if
The frightened grouse and black its gets into Creildarrach game flew before it; the wood-cocks nes- Perhaps the factor should have gone on tled in the heather, hardly stirring till the at once and made sure of the saiety of heat compelled them; and the beetles and the Langwell woods by burning a strip
outside, but that meant sacrificing most line of defence for the plantation. It was of the moor which lay in front of them. no easy task: the night was now very He was very anxious to save some part of dark, the switches almost useless; the it, and he knew that the shepherd had heather bere also was so rank and high greatly overestimated the pace at which that the greatest caution was necessary to the work of destruction was being done. keep it froin spreading. A boy lit the On him the responsibility rested, and it line too far ahead, and it got away from was not easy to decide, it was almost them and passed on to the wood'; and at painful. He compromised the matter. one time it seemed to the half-distracted
“ We will stay here for a bit,” he said, | factor that by their coming they had “and if the worst comes to the worst, we merely hastened the advent of the fire. shall still have time to save the woods." It was put out, however, by immense ex
The forester shook his bead at this ertion; and they got back to their old stadecision, and once more applied himself tions, owing to the increasing strength of to his work. Soon there were two hun. the wind, and, to some extent, to the withdred men on the ground — nearly one-half drawal of the small force sent on, before quite useless — and large supplies of the old fire burned more fiercely than bread and cheese and drink arrived; but ever. There were no brooks in its way, birch-beaters were scarce, and they were few sheep drains, and these well filled in wanted most of all. Great big fellows and harınless; and the flames swept on, were expending their strength in thrash meeting with small opposition : if they ing at the flames with sticks almost as lost ground for a moment in one place thin and as “ feckless” as a pitchfork at a temporary obstacle, at another they would have been. It is not always easy were sure to gain. A band of wearied, to cut good ones by daylight, and it is ex- blackened, silent men followed it, doing ceedingly difficult to get them at night. what they could. Some haci fallen out So many that were brought up were use of the ranks and were left far behind, less too heavy to wield, or too thin to and those for the most part the best. A do any good; and some of the men at sturdy Highlander is bad to beat at any. last strapped bunches of heather to their thing on which his mind is deeply set, sticks and used them. The food and its but even his sinews and limbs will fail at accompaniment tempted some to stray last if no rest is given them. Few of the away and hold little impromptu picnics in workers waste their strength in shouts the dark, and all this took time; and there now, though at the first there had been no are few seasons when time is more valu. lack of shouting. able then when fire of any kind has to be “We're no' fit for it," said an ancient fought.
“ bodach "who for hours had done nothing Then the factor saw he was beaten but give advice and smoke; and this feels where he stood. The men were hardly ing was probably more or less strong in gaining ground. Many of the good work. most of the men's minds. ers were worn out and unable to do more, If the factor got his track burnt in and many were discouraged; and fioding time, the fire was beaten; if not, they their feeble efforts of little use, became were. It seemed doubtful if the track still feebler, and stood by, as it were, would be burnt in time. Part of it was when they could, and wondered what well done, - a broad band of smouldering would happen. He got hold of about five. turf lay like a black moat round its for. and-twenty men, some good and some tress -the forest; but lower down the evil, and leaving the command and his bill, and yet well within the scope of the last instructions to the forester, led his approaching fire, the wood was still undedetachment, as quickly as he could get fended. The heather there had to be them to travel, across the rough moor to burat slowly and cautiously for the reawhere the great woods began. It was a sons given, and the most part of it rerelief to feel the cool wind blowing, free mained unburnt when the old fire was from smoke and heat, and to leave behind within a hundred yards, a wide strip of for a little the din and roar and confusion dense high ling keeping up the dangerous of the huge tossing mass of flame. Ar communication between the moor and ihe riving at the wood, they carefully began trees. Then the factor called off all his to use their enemy as a friend; and as a men, and took them to meet their enemy: surgeon will sometimes stop a dangerous He knew that as the greedy blaze rolled bleeding by cutting an artery, and causing up it, it would die out harmlessly on for a moment a greater flow of blood, so reaching his burnt strip, and that its did they set fire against fire by burning a power would be concentrated on the nar.
rower lane which ran into the wood, and to the hill and see the mischief that had that it must be beaten there if anywhere. been done. He shouted this out to the men,
Where's Master Tommy?” heard, and some not; but all, at any rate, “I think he is at the manse, sir.” knew that a few seconds would show “ But it's not his time," said the astonwhether the woods of half a county were ished father, who well knew his son's to go down or not.
proclivities. And then a suspicion sho Those men who had not already left through his breast. Ah, Tommy! foolish, their coats behind took them off now, and foolish Tommy! that was not a wise move used them as beaters. The flames were of yours. You might have known it was so long and hot that it was quite impossi. one which would attract attention at any ble to tackle them in front, almost impos- time. You go voluntarily to school? Not sible from the sides; but a gap had to be without reason. Later, the whole matter made in them for a start, and after a sec- was explained — matches were found in ond's pause, a shepherd threw himself his greasy knickerbocker pockets. A note into the fiery mass, - a brave jump, and to the minister brought back a reply stating brought his heavy beater down. He was at what time he had left the manse. He badly burnt about the legs and face, and had been late in returning bome. How had to come out at once and go home, but did he explain the hiatus? Tommy dehis daring saved the woods. A dozen clined to explain anything. It is the duty followed him, and a gap was made in the of an upright historian pot to blink facts, long bright line of fire. Then the shout- however unpleasant, but mercifully custom ing began again – “Out with it! out with permits him to draw a veil over minute it! out with it! Now we have her: into and unpleasant detail. So it is sufficient her men, into her now!” and a stum. to say that a tall woman, of severe coun. bling, half-suffocated, yelling mass pressed tenance and great muscular development forward hard on the flames, beating them his nurse spent some time in a copse, with coats and what switches were left, apparently cutting a heather-beater of trampling on them, gaining on them birch, to be ready in case of an emergency. rapidly, extinguishing them by sheer With this in one hand, and Master weight. There was no shirking then. Tommy, so to speak, in the other, she The top of a knoll was reached, and all disappeared into an inner chamber, where saw the tall, dark pines of the old woods it would be unbecoming to follow. Masstanding mistily out above the smoke ter Tommy has, during the last few days, against the dim sky. They saw, too, the quite lost his taste for “muir-burn." He head of the fire just thirty yards in front looks askance at the beaters, and vows of them, burning almost as hotly as ever, that the smell of heather smoke almost but narrowed by want of fuel on one side. makes him sick. But its assailants were close upon it, and their goal was in sight; and the men gave a mighty roar, and rushed at their prey. Peter M.Doodle, and Roderick M'Gilp, and Johnnie M.Howdie, were the first
From Blackwood's Magazine. down from that knoll. But as the grieve said the next day,
no' their A TELEGRAM from Zanzibar has an. fault; the deevils had no choice gi'en nounced the death of the most remarkathem; they had to gae doun on their legs ble of African potentates a king who or lie doun on their stumınacks and be has never ceased to interest Europeans run ower."
since he was introduced to them more In twenty seconds the fire was extin. than twenty years ago by Captain Speke. guished. A shepherd smashed out the The figure of Mtésa, king of Uganda, last blazing bit, and an old mole-catcher, with his barbaric court, hedged in by even having neither wind nor strength left him more formality and ceremoniousness than to raise his aching arm, just eyed for a the aula of the Holy Roman Empire; bis moment a dangerous mass of red-hot teeming harem; his summary and often ashes, and then sat down on it. The indiscriminate justice; and bis curious woods were saved.
mixture of shrewd cunning and childishThe next morning the fire was naturally ness, - stood forth in such bold relief on a topic of conversation at the big house, Speke's brilliant pages, that it has never and many were the surmises as to how it since failed to claim an attention denied originated. The laird, soon after break- to any other African prince, with the exfast, called for Tommy to go with him up ception of those like Cetewayo and King
" It was
Coffee, with whom we have been brought his side, as also a knot of staff officers, with into actual hostility. Of Speke's and whom he kept up a brisk conversation on one Grant's discoveries, Mtésa was not the side ; and on the other was a band of Wich least interesting item; and to the accounts wézi, or lady-sorcerers. given of him by these distinguished trav- The plates which illustrate the more ellers is due the notice which his death recent works of travel are significant of has attracted. Since the time of Speke the enlarged ideas which, in the course of and Grant other explorers and mission- twenty years' intercourse with explorers, aries have visited the court of Uganda, and a more free communication with the and each of them has added his testimony Mohammedans of the coast, had opened to the striking character of its ruler. up in the king's mind. The king appears The most prominent was Mr. Stanley, in a semi- Moslem attire. The bark whose account of the king's later years clothes and beautiful skins of the country, offers many notable points of contrast to worn down to the ankles, had given place the experiences of the first Europeans to the tawdry muslins of the Arabs, and who visited Mtésa.
taken away the primitive and national apFrom the attractions of its court and pearance which the king and his courtiers its geographical position on Victoria Ny. wore when girt in their simple robes of anza, Uganda has been a magnet drawing mbugů, without shoes, stockings, or hats. people of many tribes and nations; and The change which came over Mtésa seems Mtésa was brought more into contact to have corresponded with the alteration with external civilization than any of his in his outward appearance.
He was fellow-potentates in the equatorial region. young, brave, handsome, and fearless, full How accessible he was to outside infiu- of dignity and dash, when seen at the ence may readily be inferred from a com- early age of twenty-five — viz, in 1862– parison of Stanley's observations with by Captains Speke and Grant. He had those of Speke and Grant. The illustra. not then been long on the throne. He tions to Speke’s “Journal of the Discov- had been chosen by the chiefs of Uganda ery of the Source of the Nile" show the from among forty or filty brothers, the king and his court in the costume and sons of King Sunna, and his career fully manners of primitive African barbarism, justified the wisdom of bis selection. In but invested with a rude dignity that was the “Journal” we have a most amusing imposing from its very simplicity. account of the struggles made by the
young monarch to safeguard his dignity, A more theatrical sight I never saw [says and at the same time gratify his curiosity Speke). The king, a good-looking, well-fig. during Speke's visit. The efforts made ured, tall young man of twenty-five, was sitting by the explorer to have himself recog. on a red blanket spread upon a square plat nized as standing on a footing of equality form of royal grass encased in tiger-grass reeds, with the king, and the skilful persistency scrupulously well dressed in a new mbugů. The hair of his head was cut short, excepting with which Mtésa evaded his demands, on the top, where it was combed' up into & and also succeeded in retaining Speke at bigh ridge, running from stem to stern like a his court, is a comical proof of the succockscomb. On his neck was a very neat cess with which the arts of diplomacy
- a large ring, of beautifu worked may be cultivated among even the most small beads, forming elegant patterns by their primitive peoples. The talents which various colors. On one arm was another bead Mtésa unfolded in his intercourse with ornament, prettily devised ; and on the other a wooden charm, tied by a string covered with Speke appear to have become fully develsnake-skin. On every finger and every toe he oped in succeeding years. Though aphad alternate brass and copper rings; and parently a despotic and frequently cruel above the ankles, half-way up to the calf, a ruler, he acted under the control of his stocking of very pretty beads. Everything was ministry, and exerted, by diplomacy or light, neat, and elegant in its way; not a fault force, a paramount influence over all the could be found with the taste of his "getting States on his borders and around the
For a bandkerchief be held a well. shores of his lake. He had a large army folded piece of bark, and a piece of gold, at his command - a hundred and twentyenbroidered silk, which he constantly employed five thousand fighting men, according to to hide bis large mouth when laughing, or to Stanley; and he appears to have found wipe it after a drink of plantain-wine, of which he took constant and copious draughts from constant occupation for these outside his neat little gourd-cups, administered by his own territories, for almost every traveller ladies-in-waiting, who were at once his sisters who has visited Uganda has found Mtésa's and wives. A "white dog, spear, shield, and forces engaged in expeditionary opera
-the Uganda cognizance — were by tions against some of his rival neighbors
or recalcitrant feudatories. Like most | Mtésa, with the unvarnished but striking African monarchs, he placed little or no narrative of Speke, we cannot forbear the value on human life. Speke declared that suspicion that the former bas allowed his during his residence in Mtésa's palace, prepossessions and imagination to give, he witnessed almost every day one, two, perhaps unconsciously, a color to his or three of the wretched palace-women facts; and even Stanley himself was led past with heartrending cries to instant forced to admit that when the chances of death; and the executioner was one of war placed his enemies in Mtésa's hands, the great officers of state, as seems usual the precepts of Christianity had little in African courts. On the other hand, influence in restraining him from exercisMtésa appeared to be easily accessible to ing the natural barbarity of the African appeals for mercy, and readily granted to conqueror. Yet Mtésa personally was Captain Speke the life of one of his not cruel: his dignity as king of Uganda, courtiers who had been ordered for exe- and the maintenance of his prestige cution, thinking that the matter was so among his neighbors of the lake country, trivial a one as not to be worth disoblig. required such manifestations of his power ing a distinguished stranger for. A free as would strike terror into the hearts of exercise of his power to infict death was, his enemies and subjects. in Mtésa's estimation, necessary to the All travellers who have made Mtésa's maintenance of his dignity; besides, it acquaintance agree in assuring us that he was the traditionary custom of his coun- was a great ruler, and possessed of pertry: and, by way of impressing his im. sonal qualities which raised him far above portance on Colonel Long, he had some the level of the ordinary African despot. thirty of his subjects killed on the occa. He had none of the fierce brutality of sion of that traveller's first visit to his Theodore, the late Negus of Abyssinia ; palace, while a smaller number was sacri. and no one who knew his character would ficed at each of his successive receptions. for a moment compare him with such
At the time of Speke's visit Mtésa's re- bloated tyrants as Cetewayo, or with the ligion was the ordinary paganism of the savage kings with whom we have been country; and he had a profound belief in brought into contact in western Africa. witchcraft and magic. Every article pre. Considering his isolated position he exsented to the king had previously to be ercised greater power and show hightouched by some of the witch-doctors of er administrative qualities than any of his court, in order that all possible harm these; and all over the wide Nyanza from poison or magic might be removed country the tribes feared his name and from it; but by the time that Stanley power quite as much as the name and visited Uganda, the king and his court power of the first Napoleon were feared, had adopted a corrupt species of Moham. eighty years ago, throughout the Euromedanism which had been picked up from pean States. He was an African Louis the Arab traders of the east coast. King XIV. in his observance of all those for. Mtésa, however, certainly never pos. malities and minutia which fence in the sessed more than the merest smattering person of a king, and keep him clearly of the faith of Islam, which supplemented separated from the common herd. He rather than superseded his former be upheld his popularity, and the rigorous liess; and down to his latest days the etiquette of the court of Uganda — ac. witch-doctors and witch-priestesses played counted a most brilliant one throughout an important part in all court ceremonials. equatorial Africa — with the firmness and Mr. Stanley claims credit for having made decorum which in the early days of his a convert to Christianity of Mtéså. He reign so greatly impressed Captain Speke. took some pains to explain its leading It was an every.day occurrence that from doctrines to the king, who listened atten. one to two hundred generals, with little tively, and received its truths in an un. armies of their followers, attended his questioning spirit, according to his teach. receptions at the palace in levee er; but though he made a formal profes: tume; and several hundred women, the sion of his belief in the superiority of pick of equatorial African beauty, daily Christianity to Islamism, he cannot be waited at the “ drawing-room” partie's said in practice to have shown any grasp held by the king. Each and every one or appreciation of the doctrines of the present, from the commander-in-chief to gospel, or to have abandoned his belief the page of ten years old, was dressed in his early paganism. When we contrast with scrupulous neatness on these octhe accounts which Stanley gives of his casions; and though the alterations in conversations on religious matters with court costume which were carried out