A WONDERFUL FEAT OF ADVENTURE
A YOUNG ENGLISHMAN'S JOURNEY THE WHOLE LENGTH OF AFRICA, FROM THE CAPE TO CAIRO—HOW A COLLEGE LAD ON A VACATION RAMBLE DID WHAT THE PONDEROUS EXPLORERS HAVE FAILED TO DO
[Originally published in THE WORLD'S WORK for January 1901. See Commentary on this article.]
No one who knows the splendid youth of England would have been surprised to learn that a young man from Cambridge, twenty-four years old, had conceived the idea of going on an expedition of his own the whole distance of Africa, from south to north. But that he should have succeeded is nothing less than marvellous. Those who were thrilled by the stories of Stanley, with his force of armed men, can scarcely realize when they recall his bloody chapters, that this gentle-mannered young man took his white umbrella and a few servants and walked through darkest Africa with a smile and a kindly manner as his chief weapons. No wonder there was a furore in England last spring over this unexpected achievement and that much attention was paid to its hero on his arrival in the United States in November. He came here with his bride on his way to Australia.
On February 28, 1898, Ewart Scott Grogan and Arthur Henry Sharp landed at Beira, the port of Rhodesia, East Africa, ostensibly on one of those big game hunting expeditions which carry Englishmen to the furthest corners of the earth. Mr. Grogan had been in the Matabele war two years before and was familiar with the veldt from Cape Town to the Zambesi. Both were great hunters, and if they had any ideas of exploration before them, they wisely kept silent about them, for failure is unpardonable. In the heart of one of them was a secret purpose breathed only to a single man at home, and not even then broached to his comrade, a secret so gigantic that he was almost afraid of it himself. Before him stretched hundreds of miles never traversed by man, and beyond that, even where white men had formerly been known, the long stretches of the Nile were again in savage hands. Yet eighteen months after starting north Mr. Grogan set foot on the platform of the railway station at Cairo, where the people of all nations meet. Half the way he had come alone, his friend refusing to continue the journey into the deadly Dinka swamps south of Fashoda.
He has told the story in his book, and no story has been so welcomed in England since Nansen's. They love a tale of travel, those English! And who ever had a better one to tell, one more likely to move the feet of the young men who go up and down the world? Even with a story which tells itself, there is often cause to marvel at the style in which Mr. Grogan writes, particularly after he tells you that before he wrote this book he had never set pen to paper for literary ends unless one counts Greek verses at college.
Perhaps the man best fitted to appreciate this great feat is the veritable wizard of the dark continent himself, who has inspired cabinets and emperors to lend him aid and who, unwittingly, fired Mr. Grogan's courage. Here is an extract from a characteristic letter that Cecil Rhodes wrote to Mr. Grogan, from the Government House at Buluwayo, on September 7, 1900:
“I must say I envy you, for you have done that which for centuries has been the ambition of every explorer; namely, to walk through Africa from south to north. The amusement of the whole thing is that a youth from Cambridge during his vacation should have succeeded in doing that which the ponderous explorers of the world have failed to accomplish. There is a distinct humour in the whole thing. It makes me the more certain that we shall complete the telegraph and railway, for surely I am not going to be beaten by the legs of a Cambridge undergraduate. Your success the more confirms one's belief. The schemes described by Sir William Harcourt as ‘wild cat’ you have proved are capable of being completed even in that excellent gentleman's lifetime.”
EWART SCOTT GROGAN.
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