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African Trader; Or, The Adventures of Harry Bayford

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The African Trader; or, The Adventures of Harry Bayford, by W.H.G.Kingston.


  This is rather a short book, only 120 small pages in book format. Harryis a young chap, just about ready to leave school, when his fathersuffers some business losses, and the stress kills him. Harry is leftwith some sisters, and he does not want to be a burden to them so hegets a job on board a trading vessel, and off they go to Africa.

  Here many of the crew catch the Yellow Fever, and die. The captain isill, but appears to be surviving. An African seaman is a senior ratingaboard the vessel. With a rich cargo, and badly under-manned, thevessel sets off for home. There is a fire in one of the holds, to whichthe vessel succumbs. Harry and the African seaman make themselves araft, but the captain perishes. They are picked up almost at once by aslave trader, but a Royal Navy man-of-war appears and gives chase. Theslave trader delays the chase by chucking slaves overboard, who thenhave to be picked up by the pursuer. It all gets sorted out, andHarry's cousin is an officer on the man-of-war. The African seaman is areligious man, and it actually turns out that he is the very personHarry had been asked to look out for by his old nurse. So there is ahappy ending, as far as Harry is concerned, but there certainly were afew casualties on the way.





  Our school was breaking up for the midsummer holidays--north, south,east, and west we sped to our different destinations, thinking with gleeof the pleasures we believed to be in store for us.

  I was bound for Liverpool, where my father, a West India merchant, nowresided. He had for most of his life lived in Jamaica, where I wasborn, and from whence I had a few years before accompanied him toEngland to go to school.

  "I am sorry we shall not see you back, Bayford," said the good doctor,as he shook me warmly by the hand. "May our heavenly Father protectyou, my boy, wherever you go."

  "I hope to go as a midshipman on board a man-of-war, sir," I answered."My father expects to get me appointed to a ship this summer, and Isuppose that is the reason I am leaving."

  The doctor looked kindly and somewhat sadly at me. "You must not,Harry, raise your hopes on that point too high," he answered, in a gravetone. "When I last heard from your father, saying he desired to removeyou, he was very unwell. I grieve to have to say this, but it is betterthat you should be prepared for evil tidings. God bless you HarryBayford. The coach will soon be up; I must not detain you longer."

  The doctor again warmly wrung my hand.

  I hastened after Peter the porter, who was wheeling my trunk down to thevillage inn where the coach stopped, and I had just time to mount on thetop when the guard cried out, "All right;" the coachman laid his whipalong the backs of the horses, which trotted gaily forward along thedusty road.

  My spirits would naturally have risen at finding myself whirled along atthe rate of ten miles an hour on my way homeward, but the last wordsspoken by the doctor continually recurred to me, and contributed greatlyto damp them. I managed, however, at length, to persuade myself that myanticipations of evil were mere fancies. On reaching Liverpool, havingcalled a porter to carry my things, I hurried homewards, expecting toreceive the usual happy greetings from my father and sisters. Myspirits sank when looking up at the windows, I saw that all the blindswere drawn down. I knocked at the door with trembling hand. A strangeand rough-looking man opened it. "Is my father at home?" I asked, in alow voice. The man hesitated, looking hard at me, and then said, "Yes;but you can't see him. There are some ladies upstairs--your sisters, Isuppose--you had better go to them."

  There was an ominous silence in the house; no one was moving about.What had become of all the servants? I stole gently up to Jane andMary's boudoir. They, and little Emily our younger sister, were seatedtogether, all dressed in black. Sobs burst from them, as they threwtheir arms round my neck, without uttering a word. I then knew to acertainty what had happened--our kind father was dead; but I littleconceived the sad misfortunes which had previously overtaken him andbroken his heart, leaving his children utterly destitute.

  Jane, on recovering herself, in a gentle sad voice told me all about it."Mary and I intend going out as governesses, but we scarcely know whatto do for dear Emily and you Harry, though we will devote our salariesto keep you and her at school."

  "Oh, I surely can get a place as a nursemaid," said Emily, a fairdelicate girl, looking but ill-adapted for the situation she proposedfor herself. "And I, Jane, will certainly not deprive you and Mary ofyour hard-earned salaries, even were you to obtain what would berequired," I answered, firmly. "I ought rather to support you, and Ihope to be able to do so by some means or other."

  My sisters even then were not aware of the sad position in which we wereplaced. Our father had been a man of peculiarly reserved and retiringmanners; he had formed no friendships in England, and the few people heknew were simply business acquaintances. An execution had been put intothe house even before his death, so that we had no power over a singlearticle it contained.

  The servants, with the exception of my sisters' black nurse, had goneaway, and we had not a friend whose hospitality we could claim. She,good creature (Mammy, as we called her), finding out, on seeing my trunkin the hall, that I had arrived, came breathless, from hurrying upstairs, into the room, and embracing me, kissed my forehead and cheeksas if I had still been a little child; and I felt the big drops fallfrom her eyes as she held me in her shrivelled arms. "Sad all this,Massa Harry, but we got good Fader up dere, and He take care of usthough He call massa away," and she cast her eyes to heaven, trustingwith a simple firm faith to receive from thence that protection shemight have justly feared she was not likely to obtain on earth.

  "We all have our sorrows, dear children," she continued, "massa had manysorrows when he lose your mother and his fortune, and I have my sorrowswhen I was carried away by slaver people, and leave my husband andpiccaniny in Africa, and now your sorrows come. But we can pray to thegood God, and he lift us out of dem all."

  Mammy had often told us of the cruel way in which she had beenkidnapped, and how her husband had escaped with her little boy; andafter she became a Christian (and a very sincere one she was), her greatgrief arose from supposing that her child would be brought up as asavage heathen in ignorance of the blessed truths of the gospel. Mysisters and I, as children, had often wept while she recounted her sadhistory, but at the time I speak of, I myself was little able toappreciate the deeper cause of her sorrow. I thought, of course, thatit was very natural she should grieve for the loss of her son, but I didnot understand that it arose on account of her anxiety for his soul'ssalvation.

  "I pray day and night," I heard her once tell Jane, "dat my piccaninylearn to know Christ, and I sure God hear my prayers. How He bring itabout I cannot tell."

  We and Mammy followed our father to the grave, and were then compelledto quit the house, leaving everything behind us, with the exception ofmy sisters' wardrobes and a few ornaments, which they claimed as theirproperty. Mammy did her best to cheer us. She had taken, unknown to mysisters, some humble, though clean, l
odgings in the outskirts of thetown, and to these she had carried whatever we were allowed to remove.

  "See, Massa Harry," she said, showing me an old leathern purse full ofgold. "We no want food for long time to come, and before then God findus friends and show us what to do."

  My sisters possessed various talents, and they at once determined toemploy them to the best advantage. Jane and Mary drew beautifully, andwere adepts in all sorts of fancy needle-work. Emily, though young, hadwritten one or two pretty tales, and we were sure that she was destinedto be an authoress. Mammy, therefore, entreated them not to separate,assuring them that her only pleasure on earth would be to labour andassist in protecting them. Had they had no other motive, for her sakealone, they would have been anxious to follow her advice.

  I was the only one of the family who felt unable to do anything formyself. I wrote too bad a hand to allow me any hopes of obtaining asituation in a counting-house; and though I would have gone out as anerrand boy or page rather than be a burden to my sisters, I was surethey would not permit this, and, besides, I felt that by my taking aninferior position they would be lowered in the cold eyes of the world.I had ardently wished to go to sea, and I thought that the captain whohad promised to take me as a midshipman would still receive me could Ireach Portsmouth. I did not calculate the expense of an outfit, nor didI think of the allowance young gentlemen are expected to receive onboard a man-of-war.

  I had wandered one day down to the docks to indulge myself in the sightof the shipping, contemplating the possibility of obtaining a berth onboard one of the fine vessels I saw fitting out, and had been standingfor some time on the quay, when I observed a tall good-looking man, inthe dress of a merchantman's captain, step out of a boat which hadapparently come from a black rakish looking brigantine lying a shortdistance out in the stream. I looked at him hard, for suddenly itoccurred to me that I remembered his features. Yes, I was certain. Hehad been junior mate of the "Fair Rosomond," in which vessel we had comehome from Jamaica, and a great chum of mine. "Mr Willis," I said, "doyou remember me? I am Harry Bayford."

  "Not by looks, but by your voice and eyes I do, my boy," he answered,grasping my hand and shaking it heartily. "But what has happened? Isee you are in mourning."

  I told him of my father's misfortunes and death; and as we walked alongfrankly opened out on my views and plans. "You will have no chance inthe navy without means or friends, Harry," he answered. "There's no usethinking about the matter; but if your mind is set on going to sea I'lltake you, and do my best to make a sailor of you. I have command of the`Chieftain,' an African trader, the brigantine you see off in the streamthere. Though we do not profess to take midshipmen, I'll give you aberth in my cabin, and I don't see that in the long run you will runmore risk than you would have to go through on board vessels trading toother parts of the world."

  "Thank you, Captain Willis, very much," I exclaimed, "I little expectedso soon to go to sea."

  "Don't talk of thanks, Harry," he answered, "your poor father was verykind to me, and I am glad to serve you. I had intended calling on himbefore sailing; and if your sisters will allow me, I'll pay them avisit, and answer any objections they may make to your going."

  After dining with the captain at an inn, I hurried home with, what Iconsidered, this good news. My sisters, however, were very unwilling tosanction my going. They had heard so much of the deadly climate of theAfrican coast, and of dangers from slavers and pirates, that theydreaded the risk I should run. Captain Willis, according to hispromise, called the next day, and not without difficulty quieted theirapprehensions.

  Mammy, though unwilling to part with me, still could not help feeling adeep interest in my undertaking, as she thought that I was going tovisit her own still-loved country; and while assisting my sisters toprepare my outfit she entertained me with an account of its beauties andwonders, while I promised to bring her back from it all sorts of thingswhich I expected to collect. "And suppose, Mammy, I was to fall in withyour little piccaniny, shall I bring him back to you?" I asked, withthe thoughtlessness of a boy--certainly not intending to hurt herfeelings. She dropped her work, gazing at me with a tearful eye.

  "He fine little black boy, big as you when four year old," she said, andstopped as if in thought, and then added, "Ah, Massa Harry, he no littleboy now though, him great big man like him fader, you no know him, I noknow him."

  "But what is his name, Mammy? That would be of use," I said.

  "Him called Cheebo," she answered, heaving a deep sigh. "But Africagreat big country--tousands and tousands of people; you no find Cheeboamong dem; God only find him. His eye everywhere. He hears Mammy'sprayers, dat great comfort."

  "That it is, indeed," said Jane, fearing that my careless remarks hadneedlessly grieved poor Mammy, by raising long dormant feelings in herheart. "And oh, my dear Harry, if you are brought into danger, andinclined to despair--and I fear you will have many dangers to gothrough--recollect that those who love you at home are earnestly prayingfor you; and at the same time never forget to pray for yourself, and tofeel assured that God will hear our united prayers, and preserve you inthe way He thinks best."

  "I will try to remember," I said, "but do not fancy, Jane, that I amgoing to run my head into all sorts of dangers. I daresay we shall havea very pleasant voyage out, and be back again in a few months with afull cargo of palm oil, ivory, gold-dust, and all sorts of preciousthings, such as I understand Captain Willis is going to trade for."

  "You will not forget Cheebo though, Massa Harry," said Mammy, in a lowvoice. The idea that I might meet her son was evidently taking strongpossession of her mind.

  "That I will not," I answered. "I'll ask his name of every black fellowI meet, and if I find him I'll tell him that I know his mother Mammy,and ask him to come with me to see you."

  "Oh, but he not know dat name," exclaimed Mammy. "Me called Ambah inAfrica; him fader called Quamino. You no forget dat."

  "I hope not; but I'll put them in my pocketbook," I said, writing downthe names, though I confess that I did so without any serious thoughtsabout the matter, but merely for the sake of pleasing old Mammy. When Itold Captain Willis afterwards, he was highly amused with the notion,and said that I might just as well try to find a needle in a bundle ofhay as to look for the old woman's son on the coast of Africa.

  The day of parting from my poor sisters and our noble-hearted nursearrived. I did not expect to feel it so much as I did, and I could thenunderstand how much grief it caused them.

  "Cheer up, Harry," said Captain Willis, as the "Chieftain," under allsail, was standing down the Mersey. "You must not let thoughts of homeget the better of you. We shall soon be in blue water, and you mustturn to and learn to be a sailor. By the time you have made anothervoyage or so I expect to have you as one of my mates, and, perhaps,before you are many years older, you will become the commander of a finecraft like this."

  I followed the captain's advice, and by the time we had crossed the lineI could take my trick at the helm, and was as active aloft as many ofthe elder seamen on board.