Mr. Mackay was not wrong. One of the eight, the builder, died as soon as he landed in Africa. The seven others set off for the interior to find the country of King Mtesa. Two of these, Mackay the engineer, and Robertson the blacksmith, were taken so ill with fever that they were compelled to go back to the coast.
It was a long wearisome journey, of from four to five months, from the coast to Victoria Nyanza; for a little way they were able to go in a boat which they had brought with them from England, but after a short distance they were obliged to leave the river, and, taking their boat to pieces, to carry it with them through the tangled forest. When they arrived at a place named Mpwapwa, it seemed such a good field for missionary labour that one of their number, Mr. Clark, was left to begin missionary work there, whilst the rest pressed forward to Uganda.
The great lake at last came in sight, and they were cheered by the sight of its blue waters. But, when they arrived on its shores, the naval officer and the doctor were both very ill; for thirty-one days they had been carried by the porters, being quite unable to walk, and only a few months after their arrival at the south end of the lake the young doctor died. He was worn to a skeleton, and suffered terribly. The three who remained buried him by the side of the lake, and put a heap of stones over his grave. On a slab of limestone they carved—
M.B. EDN., C.M.S.
DIED MAY 11, 1877,
AGED 25 YEARS.’
Now, only the clergyman, the architect, and the naval officer were left to carry on the work. But that very same year, in December, a quarrel broke out between two tribes living at the south of the lake. A man named Songoro, who had been friendly to the missionaries, fled to them for protection. They were at once surrounded by a party of the natives, and, on refusing to give up Songoro to his enemies, Lieutenant Smith and Mr. O’Neill, together with all the men who were with them, were murdered on December 7.
Only two days before, Lieutenant Smith had written a letter to a friend in England, in which were these words:
’One feels very near to heaven here, for who knows what a day may bring forth?’
Only one of the five who had arrived at the lake was now left, Mr. Wilson, the clergyman. But, thank God, man after man has offered himself to fill up the vacant places. Some have fallen, some still remain, labouring on.
The people blessed the men who willingly offered themselves for the post of danger. Should we not bless them too? Should we not day by day call down blessings on the brave noble missionaries? Should we not pray for them, that strength and courage may be given them? Should we not help them all we can? Let our daily prayer be:
’Lord, bless them all!
Thy workers in the field,
Where’er they be;
Prosper them, Lord, and bless
Their work for Thee—
Lord, bless them all.