“We had very rough weather after leaving Malta, and yesterday at midday the shaft of the engine—an enormous mass of malleable iron—broke with a sort of oblique fracture, evidently from the terrific strains which the tremendous seas inflicted as they thumped and tossed this gigantic vessel like a plaything. We were near the island called Zembra, which is in sight of the Bay of Tunis. The wind, which had been a full gale ahead when we did not require it, now fell to a dead calm, and a current was drifting our gallant ship, with her sails flapping all helplessly, against the rocks; the boats were provisioned, watered, and armed, the number each was to carry arranged (the women and children to go in first, of course), when most providentially a wind sprung up and carried us out of danger into the Bay of Tunis, where I now write. The whole affair was managed by Captain Powell most admirably. He was assisted by two gentlemen whom we all admire—Captain Tregear of the same Company, and Lieutenant Chimnis of the Royal Navy, and though they and the sailors knew that the vessel was so near destruction as to render it certain that we should scarcely clear her in the boats before the swell would have overwhelmed her, all was managed so quietly that none of us passengers knew much about it. Though we saw the preparation, no alarm spread among us. The Company will do everything in their power to forward us quickly and safely. I’m only sorry for your sake, but patience is a great virtue, you know. Captain Tregear has been six years away from his family, I only four and a half.”
The passengers were sent on via Marseilles, and Livingstone proceeded homeward by Paris and Dover.
At last he reached “dear old England” on the 9th of December, 1856. Tidings of a great sorrow had reached him on the way. At Cairo he heard of the death of his father. He had been ill a fortnight, and died full of faith and peace. “You wished so much to see David,” said his daughter to him as his life was ebbing away. “Ay, very much, very much; but the will of the Lord be done.” Then after a pause he said, “But I think I’ll know whatever is worth knowing about him. When you see him, tell him I think so.” David had not less eagerly desired to sit once more at the fireside and tell his father of all that had befallen him on the way. On both sides the desire had to be classed among hopes unfulfilled. But on both sides there was a vivid impression that the joy so narrowly missed on earth would be found in a purer form in the next stage of being.
FIRST VISIT HOME.