126 MEMORIES OF MY LIFE
time then at my disposal. The excellent facilities now afforded by the Royal Geographical Society for the instruction of intending travellers did not then exist; indeed, I had a large part in their introduction many years later. I was, however, familiar with the requisite book-work, and relied on what I could pick up on board ship and elsewhere to supplement it. Let me anticipate that I took very kindly indeed to instrumental work, and learnt in time to get more out of my sextants, etc., than most persons. Land work admits of far greater exactitude with that instrument than sea work, where the true position of the horizon is never known, owing to uncertainties of refraction, and is not seen at all at night. The sun, which is the principal object of observation at sea, is little used on land, where the altitudes of stars are obtainable with great accuracy from their reflections in a small trough of mercury. Also the hand can be so rested that the images of the star and of its reflection shall be quite steady when seen through the telescope. Moreover, the two images, whether of the star and its reflection, or of the star and the moon, can be toned to an exactly equal degree of brightness. The sextant is a very powerful instrument for its size, in the hands of those who have patience and skill to get the most out of it.
I was received very kindly at the Cape by the Governor, Sir Harry Smith, and by his lady, whose name is perpetuated in that of the well-known town
Ladysmith," called after her. But the news from the frontier recently received at Cape Town scattered my plans like a bombshell. The Boers, who had been very unruly, had affirmed their intention of