THE LANDERS' DISCOVERY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE NIGER.
MR. MURRAY is resolved to be as great in duodecimo as he was once in quarto. Somehow or other, the idea of dignity is attached to a book of large dimensions; but dignity is often a lumberine- article, very inconvenient to the possessor and very annoying to the spectator: assuredly it i so in the matter of huge volumes; and we cannot help thinking that a bibliopolical fame, equally il- lustrious, may be acquired by the sale of small as well as big books. We prefer them, not merely for their superior utility and convenience, but also as signs of the times—they prove the ex- tension of the reading circle. When the Classics were first printed, the size was usually folio, and the number of readers small ; but after they became, as it were, the standard literature of Eu- rope, and were universally. studied and imitated, E L ZEN'. I R arose, and recast the colossal tome into a series of portable household gods.
Of small-volume publications, it is not likely that any will soon arise to eclipse the interest of the work before us. In many respects it is unique, more especially in the character of the event it records, and also in the quality of its writers—the enterprising young men, who have succeeded where so many have failed. It is unnecessary to repeat how many speculations have been indulged in respecting the nature, and all the world knows how melancholy has been the termination, of the various expeditions that have been set on foot to satisfy the curiosity of mankind. The mystery is disclosed in the narrative of the two youths JOHN and RICHARD LANDER,- discoverers who started under the least favourable auspices, and who have returned the most successful. RICHARD LANDER, as is well known, was the attendant of Captain CLAPPERTON in the former expedition, and was the sole survivor out of several accomplished and enthusiastic travellers and scientific men. On his return after the burial of his master in the sands of Africa, he wrote, with the aid of his brother, his Wanderings in Africa, in which he gave an account of the melancholy circumstances which attended the whole pro- gress of the expedition. It was a very creditable performance. Prefixed to it was an account of the life of its author; in which it appeared, that from the age of eleven, when he accompanied a gentleman to the WestIndies, RICHARD LANDER had been blessed or cursed with a passion for travelling; and at the time he offered himself to Captain CLAPPERTON to join in the African expedition, be had already visited many parts of the globe. Of the younger brother, Jolt w, we learn only from the present work that it was he who actually wrote the former work from the communications of RICHARD; that he is a person of some literary taste • and that the adventures to which he had lent the language only, inspired him with the enthusiasm of joining his brother in the attempt he had conceived, of putting the final stroke to the discoveries of his master and his predecessors. With encouragement of a very measured description from the Colonial Office, these two young men set out on an enterprise which in all previous instances had led to nothing but death • and In this case, all who knew the deadlynature of the climate, and the variety of the hardships they had to encounter from various sources, predicted that the only news their countrymen would ever receive concerning them, would be some obscure rumour of their destruc- tion. The narrative will show how very often such predictions were on the point of being verified. There is scarcely a misery to be en- dured by human nature which is consistent with the existence of life, except indeed the extreme of starvation, that these young men have not encountered : they have been frequently on the brink of death by illness—they have been imprisoned in filthy and suf- focating huts—they have been sold as slaves—they have been plundered, and had to swim for their lives, and not sure, in the end, that they were not swimming into greater danger—and, to crown the whole, they have been brutally treated and nearly sacrificed to the cupidity and revenge of savages by one of their own countrymen. In spite of all these obstacles, by means of a spirit of patience and of perseverance, a mixture of enthusiasm and resignation, of courage and the power of long-suffering, they finally triumphed over every species of resistance, and, what is more, completely gained the object of their mission. The result of Captain CLAPPERTON'S discoveries was a very shrewd guess, that the Niger flowed to the westward, and disem- bogued in the Bight of Benin: with the view of ascertaining this fact, the LANDERS were set down at the same point of the coast of Guinea that the "former expedition had commenced from; thence they proceeded inland, in order to reach the Niger at some place visited by Captain CLAPPERTON, with a view of following its course until it fairly brought them to its mouth. This has been accom- plished. The interior expedition was not without its dangers or its difficulties, and the risk from climate had already destroyed their predecessors; yet its perils were small compared to those they iesperienced in following the example of poor Muwao PARK, whose fate they had nearly shared: they succeeded, however, and traced one of the main branches of the mysterious Niger to the • coast, and thus completely confirmed Captain CLAPPERTON'S sus- picions, and set controversy at rest for ever. The fate of PARK had been gathered by the last expeditiss, pretty nearly in all its details ; and the LANDERS recovered, in their search after his journals, many things that had belonged' to him; but, as if a fate attached to all that had been embarked with him in the expedition, they were all plundered or compelled to be given up. Among other things, was a robe he wore when driven into the river, and his double-barrelled gun. At one place they were gi ievously dis- appointed : they heard that a native had in his possession a book which had belonged to PARK, which he preserved with supersti- tious care, regarding it as a fetish or charm ; and after some diffi- culty, they were permitted to see it. It was folded in a cloth, which being unrolled, displayed an old printed book on Navigation. The only manuscript it contained, was a note of invitation to tea from a Mr. and Mrs. WATSON, dated Strand, 1804. how little did the writers of this scrawl expect that it would ever be treasured up as a powerful charm, in the very heart of Africa! The Journal is written by both RICHARD and JOHN LANDER, and does them great credit. We do not say that it is always cor- rect either in style or taste, but it is clever, picturesque, and very descriptive,—in short, it is all it need be; we gather from it a most complete picture of all that befel them. It would be an endless matter to attempt to extract all the cir- cumstances or descriptions that will strike the reader as novel or curious : we will, instead of such a course, give an animated scene, and which is exceedingly well painted, that occurred to the party as they were descending the river.
The course of the river this morning was south-south-west, and its width varied as usual from two to five or six miles. The angry and scowling appear- ance of the firmament forewarned us of a heavy shower, or something worse, which induced us hastily to erect an awning of mats under a 1,Am-tree's shade. As soon as we had leisure to look around us, though no habitation could anywhere be seen, yet it was evident the spot had been visited, and that very recently, by numbers of people. We discovered the remains of several extinct fires, with broken calabashes and pieces of earthen vessels, which were scattered around ;
and our men likewise picked up a quantity of cocoa-nut shells, and three or four staves of a powder-barrel. These discoveries, trilling as they were, filled us
with pleasant and hopeful -sensations; and we felt assured, from the circum- stance of a barrel of powder having found its way hither, that the natives in the neighbourhood maintained some kind of intercourse with Europeans from the sea.
The spot, for a hundred yards, was cleared of grass, underwood, and vegeta- tion of all kinds ; and, on a further observation, we came to the conclusion that a market or fair was periodically held thereon. Very shortly afterwards, as three of our men were straggling about in the bush, searching for firewood, a village suddenly opened before them : this did not excite their astonishment, and they entered one of the huts which was nearest them to procure a little fire. However, it happened to contain only women ; but these were terrified beyond measure at the sudden and abrupt entrance of strange-looking men, whose lan- guage they did not know, and whose business they could not understand ; and they.all.ran out in a fright into the woods, to warn their male relatives of diem, who were labouring at their usual occupation of husbandry. Meanwhile our men had very composedly taken some burning embers from the fire, and re- turned to us in a few minutes, with the brief allusion to the circumstance of having discovered a village. They told us also that they had seen cultivated land, and that these women had run away from them as soon as they saw them. This we thought lightly of; but rejoiced that they had seen the village, and immediately sent Pascoe, Abraham, and Jowtlie, in company, to obtain some fire, and to purchase a few yams for us. In about ten minutes after, they re- turned in haste, telling us that they had been to the village, and had asked for Borne fire, but that the people did not understand them, and-, instead of attending to their wishes, they looked terrified, and had suddenly disappeared. In conse- quence of their threatening attitudes, our people had left the village, and rejoined us with all the haste they could. We did not, however, think that they would attack us, and we proceeded to make our fires, and then laid ourselves down. Totally unconscious of danger, we were reclining on our mats,—for we, too, like our people, were wearied with toil, and overcome with drowsiness,—when in about twenty minutes after our men had returned, one of them shouted, with a loud voice, "War is coming! 0 war is coining!" and ran towards us with a scream of terror, telling us that the natives were hastening to attack us. We started up at this unusual exclamation, and, looking about us, we beheld a large party of men, almost naked, running in a very irregular manner, and with un- couth gestures, towards our little encampment. They were all variously armed with muskets, bows and arrows, knives, cutlasses, barbs, long spears, and other instruments of destruction ; and, as we gazed upon this band of wild men, with their ferocious looks and hostile appearance, which was not a little heightened on observing the weapons in their hands, we felt a very uneasy kind of sensation, and wished ourselves safe out of their hands. To persons peaceably inclined, like ourselves, and who had done them no harm, we could look on their prepara- tions with calmness; but as it is impossible to foresee to what extremities such encounters might lead, we waited the result with the most painful anxiety. Our party was much scattered, but fortunately we could see them coming to us at kome distance, and we had time to collect our men. We resolved, how- ever, to prevent bloodshed if possible,—our numbers were too few to leave us a chance of escaping by any other way. The natives were approaching us fast, and had by this time arrived almost close to our palm-tree. Not a moment was to he lost. We desired Pascoe and all our people to follow behind us at a short distance with the loaded muskets and pistols ; and we enjoined them strictly not to fire, unless they first fired at us. One of the natives, who proved to be the chief, we perceived a little in advance of his companions; anti, throwing down our pistols, which we had snatched up in the first moment of surprise, my brother and I walked very composedly, and unarmed, towards him. As we ap- proached him, we made all the signs and motions we could with our arms, to deter him and his people from firing on us. His quiver was dangling at his side, his bow was bent, and an arrow, which was pointed at our breasts, already trembled on the string, when we were within a few yards of his person. This was a highly critical moment—the next might be our last. But the hand of Providence averted the blow ; for just as the chief was about to pull the fatal cord, a man that was nearest him rushed forward and stayed his arm. At that instant we stood before him, and immediately held forth our hands ; all of theirs trembled like aspen-leaves; the chief looked up full in our faces, kneeling on the ground—light seemed to flash from his dark, rolling eyes—his body was convulsed all over, as though he were enduring the utmost torture, and with a timorous, yet undefinable expression of countenance, in which all the passions of our nature were strangely blended, be drooped his head, 'eagerly grasped our proffered bands, and burst into tears. This was a sign of friendstup-:--harmony followed, and war and bloodshed were thought of no more. Peace and friend- ship now reigned among UK ; and the first thing that we did was to lift the old ' chief from the ground, and to convey him to our encampment. The behaviour of our men affbrded us no little amusement, now that the danger was past. We . had now had a fair trial of their courage, and should know who to trust on a future occasion. Pascoe was firm to his post, and stood still with his musket pointed at the chief's breast during the whole time. He is a brave fellow, and said to us, as we passed him to our encampment with the old man, "If the black rascals had fired at either of you, I should have brought the old chief down like a guinea-fowl." It was impossible to avoid smiling at the fellow's honesty, al- though we were on the best of terms with the old chief,—and we have little doubt that he would have been as good as his word. As for our two brave fellows, Sans and Antonio, they took to their heels, and scampered off as fast as they could, directly they saw the natives approaching us over the long grass, nor did they make their appearance again until the chief and all his people were sitting round us; and even when they did return, they were so frightened, they could not speak for some time. All the armed villagers had now gathered round their leader, and anxiously watched his looks and gestures. The result of the meeting delighted them— every eye sparkled with pleasure—they uttered a shout of joy—they thrust their bloodless arrows into their quivers—they ran about as though they were pos- sessed of evil spirits—they twanged their bowstrings, fired off their muskets, shook their spears, clattered their quivers, danced, put their bodies into all manner of ridiculous positions, laughed, cried, and sung in rapid succession— they were like a troop of maniacs. Never was spectacle 'more wild and terrific. When this sally of passion, to which they had worked themselves, had subsided into calmer and more reasonable behaviour, we presented cads of the war-men with a quantity of needles, as a further token of our friendly intentions. The chief sat himself down on the turf, with one of us on earl, -side of him, while the men were leaning on their weapons on his right and left. At first no one could understand us ; but an old man made his appearance shortly after, who understood the HAussa language. Mtn the chief employed as an interpreter, ' and el,:ery one listened with anxiety to the following explanation which he gave :— " A few minutes after you first landed, one of my people came tome and said, . that a number of strange people had arrived at the market-place. I sent him . back again to get as near to you as he could, to hear Aviett yeu intended doing. He soon after returned to me, and said that you spoke in it language which he could not understand. Not doubting that it was your intet dion to attack my village at night, and carry off my people, I desired them to g.:t ready to fight. We were all prepared and eager to kill you, and cattle down breathing vengeance and ;laughter, supposing that you were my enemies, and had landed from the opposite side of the river. But when you mole to meet us unarmed, and we saw your white faces, we were all so frightened that we cc old not pull our bows, nor move hand or foot ; and when you drew near me, and extended your hands towards me, I felt my heart faint within me, and believed that you were Chil- dren of Heaven,' and had dropped from the skies." Such was the effect we bad produced on him ; and, under this impression, he knew not what he did. " And now," said lie, " White men, all I want is your forgiveness." " That you shall have most heartily," we said, as we shook hands with the old chief; and having taken care to assure loin we had not come from so good a place as he bad imagined, we congratulated ourselves, as well as hint, that this aftitir bad ended so happily. For our own parts, we had reason to fed the most unspeakable pleasure at its favourable termination; and we cill.red up internally to our mer- ciful Creator, a prayer of thanhsgiving and praise, for his providt ntial inter- ference in our behalf; for the Ahnighty has imlecd, to use the wm-ds of the Psalmist of Israel, " delivered our soul from death, and our feet floe; ft i mtg ; and preserved its from any terror by night, and from the in-row that II hal : by day ; front the pestilence that walked' in darkness; and fruits die sickness that de- stroyed' at noon-day." We were grateful to find that our Mood i1 not been shed, and that we had been prevented from spilling the blood id others, which we imagined we should have been constrained to do from irremediable necessity. Our guns were all double-loaded with halls and slugs, our men were ready to present fluent, and a single arrow from a bow would have been the signal for immediate destruction. It was a narrow escape ; and God grant we may never be so near a cruel death again. It was happy f a- us that our white faces and calm behaviour produced the effect it did on these people—in another minute our bodies would have been as full of arrows as a porcupine's is full of quills.