Part 3 out of 15
whereas the calves escape so long as they continue sucking,
made us imagine that the mischief might be produced by some plant
in the locality, and not by tsetse; but Major Vardon, of the Madras Army,
settled that point by riding a horse up to a small hill infested by the insect
without allowing him time to graze, and, though he only remained long enough
to take a view of the country and catch some specimens of tsetse
on the animal, in ten days afterward the horse was dead.
The well-known disgust which the tsetse shows to animal excreta,
as exhibited when a village is placed in its habitat,
has been observed and turned to account by some of the doctors.
They mix droppings of animals, human milk, and some medicines together,
and smear the animals that are about to pass through a tsetse district;
but this, though it proves a preventive at the time, is not permanent.
There is no cure yet known for the disease. A careless herdsman
allowing a large number of cattle to wander into a tsetse district
loses all except the calves; and Sebituane once lost
nearly the entire cattle of his tribe, very many thousands, by unwittingly
coming under its influence. Inoculation does not insure immunity,
as animals which have been slightly bitten in one year may perish
by a greater number of bites in the next; but it is probable
that with the increase of guns the game will perish, as has happened
in the south, and the tsetse, deprived of food, may become extinct
simultaneously with the larger animals.
The Makololo whom we met on the Chobe were delighted to see us;
and as their chief Sebituane was about twenty miles down the river,
Mr. Oswell and I proceeded in canoes to his temporary residence.
He had come from the Barotse town of Naliele down to Sesheke
as soon as he heard of white men being in search of him,
and now came one hundred miles more to bid us welcome into his country.
He was upon an island, with all his principal men around him,
and engaged in singing when we arrived. It was more like church music
than the sing-song ee ee ee, ae ae ae, of the Bechuanas of the south,
and they continued the tune for some seconds after we approached.
We informed him of the difficulties we had encountered, and how glad we were
that they were all at an end by at last reaching his presence.
He signified his own joy, and added, "Your cattle are all bitten
by the tsetse, and will certainly die; but never mind, I have oxen,
and will give you as many as you need." We, in our ignorance, then thought
that as so few tsetse had bitten them no great mischief would follow.
He then presented us with an ox and a jar of honey as food, and handed us over
to the care of Mahale, who had headed the party to Kolobeng,
and would now fain appropriate to himself the whole credit of our coming.
Prepared skins of oxen, as soft as cloth, were given to cover us
through the night; and, as nothing could be returned to this chief,
Mahale became the owner of them. Long before it was day Sebituane came,
and sitting down by the fire, which was lighted for our benefit
behind the hedge where we lay, he narrated the difficulties
he had himself experienced, when a young man, in crossing that same desert
which we had mastered long afterward. As he has been most remarkable
in his career, and was unquestionably the greatest man in all that country,
a short sketch of his life may prove interesting to the reader.
Sebituane was about forty-five years of age; of a tall and wiry form,
an olive or coffee-and-milk color, and slightly bald; in manner
cool and collected, and more frank in his answers than any other chief
I ever met. He was the greatest warrior ever heard of beyond the colony;
for, unlike Mosilikatse, Dingaan, and others, he always
led his men into battle himself. When he saw the enemy,
he felt the edge of his battle-axe, and said, "Aha! it is sharp,
and whoever turns his back on the enemy will feel its edge."
So fleet of foot was he, that all his people knew there was no escape
for the coward, as any such would be cut down without mercy.
In some instances of skulking he allowed the individual to return home;
then calling him, he would say, "Ah! you prefer dying at home
to dying in the field, do you? You shall have your desire."
This was the signal for his immediate execution.
He came from the country near the sources of the Likwa and Namagari rivers
in the south, so we met him eight hundred or nine hundred miles
from his birth-place. He was not the son of a chief, though related closely
to the reigning family of the Basutu; and when, in an attack by Sikonyele,
the tribe was driven out of one part, Sebituane was one in that
immense horde of savages driven back by the Griquas from Kuruman in 1824.*
He then fled to the north with an insignificant party of men and cattle.
At Melita the Bangwaketse collected the Bakwains, Bakatla, and Bahurutse,
to "eat them up". Placing his men in front, and the women
behind the cattle, he routed the whole of his enemies at one blow.
Having thus conquered Makabe, the chief of the Bangwaketse,
he took immediate possession of his town and all his goods.
* See an account of this affair in Moffat's "Missionary Enterprise in Africa".
Sebituane subsequently settled at the place called Litubaruba,
where Sechele now dwells, and his people suffered severely
in one of those unrecorded attacks by white men, in which murder is committed
and materials laid up in the conscience for a future judgment.
A great variety of fortune followed him in the northern part
of the Bechuana country; twice he lost all his cattle
by the attacks of the Matabele, but always kept his people together,
and retook more than he lost. He then crossed the Desert
by nearly the same path that we did. He had captured a guide,
and, as it was necessary to travel by night in order to reach water,
the guide took advantage of this and gave him the slip.
After marching till morning, and going as they thought right,
they found themselves on the trail of the day before.
Many of his cattle burst away from him in the phrensy of thirst,
and rushed back to Serotli, then a large piece of water,
and to Mashue and Lopepe, the habitations of their original owners.
He stocked himself again among the Batletli, on Lake Kumadau,
whose herds were of the large-horned species of cattle.*
Conquering all around the lake, he heard of white men
living at the west coast; and, haunted by what seems to have been
the dream of his whole life, a desire to have intercourse with the white man,
he passed away to the southwest, into the parts opened up lately
by Messrs. Galton and Andersson. There, suffering intensely from thirst,
he and his party came to a small well. He decided that the men,
not the cattle, should drink it, the former being of most value,
as they could fight for more should these be lost. In the morning
they found the cattle had escaped to the Damaras.
* We found the Batauana in possession of this breed when we discovered
Lake Ngami. One of these horns, brought to England by Major Vardon,
will hold no less than twenty-one imperial pints of water; and a pair,
brought by Mr. Oswell, and now in the possession of Colonel Steele,
measures from tip to tip eight and a half feet.
Returning to the north poorer than he started, he ascended the Teoughe
to the hill Sorila, and crossed over a swampy country to the eastward.
Pursuing his course onward to the low-lying basin of the Leeambye,
he saw that it presented no attraction to a pastoral tribe like his,
so he moved down that river among the Bashubia and Batoka,
who were then living in all their glory. His narrative resembled closely
the "Commentaries of Caesar", and the history of the British in India.
He was always forced to attack the different tribes, and to this day
his men justify every step he took as perfectly just and right.
The Batoka lived on large islands in the Leeambye or Zambesi,
and, feeling perfectly secure in their fastnesses, often allured
fugitive or wandering tribes on to uninhabited islets
on pretense of ferrying them across, and there left them to perish
for the sake of their goods. Sekomi, the chief of the Bamangwato,
was, when a child, in danger of meeting this fate; but a man still living
had compassion on him, and enabled his mother to escape with him by night.
The river is so large that the sharpest eye can not tell the difference
between an island and the bend of the opposite bank; but Sebituane,
with his usual foresight, requested the island chief who ferried him across
to take his seat in the canoe with him, and detained him by his side
till all his people and cattle were safely landed. The whole Batoka country
was then densely peopled, and they had a curious taste
for ornamenting their villages with the skulls of strangers.
When Sebituane appeared near the great falls, an immense army collected
to make trophies of the Makololo skulls; but, instead of succeeding in this,
they gave him a good excuse for conquering them, and capturing so many cattle
that his people were quite incapable of taking any note
of the sheep and goats. He overran all the high lands toward the Kafue,
and settled in what is called a pastoral country, of gently undulating plains,
covered with short grass and but little forest. The Makololo have never lost
their love for this fine, healthy region.
But the Matebele, a Caffre or Zulu tribe, under Mosilikatse,
crossed the Zambesi, and, attacking Sebituane in this choice spot,
captured his cattle and women. Rallying his men, he followed
and recaptured the whole. A fresh attack was also repulsed,
and Sebituane thought of going farther down the Zambesi,
to the country of the white men. He had an idea, whence imbibed
I never could learn, that if he had a cannon he might live in peace.
He had led a life of war, yet no one apparently desired peace
more than he did. A prophet induced him to turn his face again
to the westward. This man, by name Tlapane, was called a "senoga" --
one who holds intercourse with the gods. He probably had a touch of insanity,
for he was in the habit of retiring no one knew whither,
but perhaps into some cave, to remain in a hypnotic or mesmeric state
until the moon was full. Then, returning to the tribe quite emaciated,
he excited himself, as others do who pretend to the prophetic AFFLATUS,
until he was in a state of ecstasy. These pretended prophets
commence their operations by violent action of the voluntary muscles.
Stamping, leaping, and shouting in a peculiarly violent manner,
or beating the ground with a club, they induce a kind of fit,
and while in it pretend that their utterances are unknown to themselves.
Tlapane, pointing eastward, said, "There, Sebituane, I behold a fire:
shun it; it is a fire which may scorch thee. The gods say, go not thither."
Then, turning to the west, he said, "I see a city and a nation of black men --
men of the water; their cattle are red; thine own tribe, Sebituane,
is perishing, and will be all consumed; thou wilt govern black men,
and, when thy warriors have captured red cattle, let not the owners be killed;
they are thy future tribe -- they are thy city; let them be spared
to cause thee to build. And thou, Ramosinii, thy village
will perish utterly. If Mokari removes from that village
he will perish first, and thou, Ramosinii, wilt be the last to die."
Concerning himself he added, "The gods have caused other men to drink water,
but to me they have given bitter water of the chukuru (rhinoceros).
They call me away myself. I can not stay much longer."
This vaticination, which loses much in the translation, I have given
rather fully, as it shows an observant mind. The policy recommended was wise,
and the deaths of the "senoga" and of the two men he had named,
added to the destruction of their village, having all happened soon after,
it is not wonderful that Sebituane followed implicitly the warning voice.
The fire pointed to was evidently the Portuguese fire-arms,
of which he must have heard. The black men referred to were the Barotse,
or, as they term themselves, Baloiana; and Sebituane spared their chiefs,
even though they attacked him first. He had ascended the Barotse valley,
but was pursued by the Matebele, as Mosilikatse never could forgive
his former defeats. They came up the river in a very large body.
Sebituane placed some goats on one of the large islands of the Zambesi
as a bait to the warriors, and some men in canoes to co-operate
in the manoeuvre. When they were all ferried over to the island,
the canoes were removed, and the Matebele found themselves completely
in a trap, being perfectly unable to swim. They subsisted for some time
on the roots of grass after the goats were eaten, but gradually became
so emaciated that, when the Makololo landed, they had only to perform
the part of executioners on the adults, and to adopt the rest
into their own tribe. Afterward Mosilikatse was goaded on by his warriors
to revenge this loss; so he sent an immense army, carrying canoes with them,
in order that no such mishap might occur again. Sebituane had by this time
incorporated the Barotse, and taught his young men to manage canoes;
so he went from island to island, and watched the Matebele on the main land
so closely that they could not use their canoes to cross the river any where
without parting their forces. At last all the Makololo and their cattle
were collected on the island of Loyelo, and lay all around, keeping watch
night and day over the enemy. After some time spent in this way,
Sebituane went in a canoe toward them, and, addressing them by an interpreter,
asked why they wished to kill him; he had never attacked them,
never harmed their chief: "Au!" he continued, "the guilt is on your side."
The Matebele made no reply; but the Makololo next day saw
the canoes they had carried so far lying smashed, and the owners gone.
They returned toward their own country, and fever, famine, and the Batoka
completed their destruction; only five men returned to Mosilikatse.
Sebituane had now not only conquered all the black tribes
over an immense tract of country, but had made himself dreaded even by
the terrible Mosilikatse. He never could trust this ferocious chief, however;
and, as the Batoka on the islands had been guilty of ferrying his enemies
across the Zambesi, he made a rapid descent upon them, and swept them all
out of their island fastnesses. He thus unwittingly performed
a good service to the country by completely breaking down the old system
which prevented trade from penetrating into the great central valley.
Of the chiefs who escaped, he said, "They love Mosilikatse,
let them live with him: the Zambesi is my line of defense;"
and men were placed all along it as sentinels. When he heard of our wish
to visit him, he did all he could to assist our approach.
Sechele, Sekomi, and Lechulatebe owed their lives to his clemency;
and the latter might have paid dearly for his obstructiveness.
Sebituane knew every thing that happened in the country, for he had
the art of gaining the affections both of his own people and of strangers.
When a party of poor men came to his town to sell their hoes or skins,
no matter how ungainly they might be, he soon knew them all.
A company of these indigent strangers, sitting far apart
from the Makololo gentlemen around the chief, would be surprised
to see him come alone to them, and, sitting down, inquire if they were hungry.
He would order an attendant to bring meal, milk, and honey, and, mixing them
in their sight, in order to remove any suspicion from their minds,
make them feast, perhaps for the first time in their lives, on a lordly dish.
Delighted beyond measure with his affability and liberality,
they felt their hearts warm toward him, and gave him all the information
in their power; and as he never allowed a party of strangers to go away
without giving every one of them, servants and all, a present,
his praises were sounded far and wide. "He has a heart! he is wise!"
were the usual expressions we heard before we saw him.
He was much pleased with the proof of confidence we had shown
in bringing our children, and promised to take us to see his country,
so that we might choose a part in which to locate ourselves. Our plan was,
that I should remain in the pursuit of my objects as a missionary,
while Mr. Oswell explored the Zambesi to the east. Poor Sebituane, however,
just after realizing what he had so long ardently desired,
fell sick of inflammation of the lungs, which originated in and extended from
an old wound got at Melita. I saw his danger, but, being a stranger,
I feared to treat him medically, lest, in the event of his death,
I should be blamed by his people. I mentioned this to one of his doctors,
who said, "Your fear is prudent and wise; this people would blame you."
He had been cured of this complaint, during the year before,
by the Barotse making a large number of free incisions in the chest.
The Makololo doctors, on the other hand, now scarcely cut the skin.
On the Sunday afternoon in which he died, when our usual religious service
was over, I visited him with my little boy Robert. "Come near,"
said Sebituane, "and see if I am any longer a man. I am done."
He was thus sensible of the dangerous nature of his disease, so I ventured
to assent, and added a single sentence regarding hope after death.
"Why do you speak of death?" said one of a relay of fresh doctors;
"Sebituane will never die." If I had persisted, the impression
would have been produced that by speaking about it I wished him to die.
After sitting with him some time, and commending him to the mercy of God,
I rose to depart, when the dying chieftain, raising himself up a little
from his prone position, called a servant, and said, "Take Robert to Maunku
(one of his wives), and tell her to give him some milk."
These were the last words of Sebituane.
We were not informed of his death until the next day.
The burial of a Bechuana chief takes place in his cattle-pen,
and all the cattle are driven for an hour or two around and over the grave,
so that it may be quite obliterated. We went and spoke to the people,
advising them to keep together and support the heir. They took this kindly;
and in turn told us not to be alarmed, for they would not think
of ascribing the death of their chief to us; that Sebituane had just gone
the way of his fathers; and though the father had gone, he had left children,
and they hoped that we would be as friendly to his children
as we intended to have been to himself.
He was decidedly the best specimen of a native chief I ever met.
I never felt so much grieved by the loss of a black man before;
and it was impossible not to follow him in thought into the world of which
he had just heard before he was called away, and to realize
somewhat of the feelings of those who pray for the dead.
The deep, dark question of what is to become of such as he,
must, however, be left where we find it, believing that, assuredly,
the "Judge of all the earth will do right."
At Sebituane's death the chieftainship devolved, as her father intended,
on a daughter named Ma-mochisane. He had promised to show us his country
and to select a suitable locality for our residence. We had now
to look to the daughter, who was living twelve days to the north, at Naliele.
We were obliged, therefore, to remain until a message came from her;
and when it did, she gave us perfect liberty to visit any part of the country
we chose. Mr. Oswell and I then proceeded one hundred and thirty miles
to the northeast, to Sesheke; and in the end of June, 1851, we were rewarded
by the discovery of the Zambesi, in the centre of the continent.
This was a most important point, for that river was not previously known
to exist there at all. The Portuguese maps all represent it
as rising far to the east of where we now were; and if ever any thing
like a chain of trading stations had existed across the country between
the latitudes 12 Deg. and 18 Deg. south, this magnificent portion of the river
must have been known before. We saw it at the end of the dry season,
at the time when the river is about at its lowest, and yet there was
a breadth of from three hundred to six hundred yards of deep flowing water.
Mr. Oswell said he had never seen such a fine river, even in India.
At the period of its annual inundation it rises fully twenty feet
in perpendicular height, and floods fifteen or twenty miles of lands
adjacent to its banks.
The country over which we had traveled from the Chobe was perfectly flat,
except where there were large ant-hills, or the remains of former ones,
which had left mounds a few feet high. These are generally
covered with wild date-trees and palmyras, and in some parts
there are forests of mimosae and mopane. Occasionally the country
between the Chobe and Zambesi is flooded, and there are
large patches of swamps lying near the Chobe or on its banks.
The Makololo were living among these swamps for the sake of the protection
the deep reedy rivers afforded them against their enemies.
Now, in reference to a suitable locality for a settlement for myself,
I could not conscientiously ask them to abandon their defenses
for my convenience alone. The healthy districts were defenseless,
and the safe localities were so deleterious to human life,
that the original Basutos had nearly all been cut off by the fever;
I therefore feared to subject my family to the scourge.
As we were the very first white men the inhabitants had ever seen,
we were visited by prodigious numbers. Among the first who came to see us
was a gentleman who appeared in a gaudy dressing-gown of printed calico.
Many of the Makololo, besides, had garments of blue, green, and red baize,
and also of printed cottons; on inquiry, we learned that these
had been purchased, in exchange for boys, from a tribe called Mambari,
which is situated near Bihe. This tribe began the slave-trade
with Sebituane only in 1850, and but for the unwillingness of Lechulatebe
to allow us to pass, we should have been with Sebituane in time to have
prevented it from commencing at all. The Mambari visited in ancient times
the chief of the Barotse, whom Sebituane conquered, and he refused
to allow any one to sell a child. They never came back again till 1850;
and as they had a number of old Portuguese guns marked "Legitimo de Braga",
which Sebituane thought would be excellent in any future invasion of Matebele,
he offered to purchase them with cattle or ivory, but the Mambari
refused every thing except boys about fourteen years of age.
The Makololo declare they never heard of people being bought and sold
till then, and disliked it, but the desire to possess the guns prevailed,
and eight old guns were exchanged for as many boys; these were not
their own children, but captives of the black races they had conquered.
I have never known in Africa an instance of a parent selling
his own offspring. The Makololo were afterward incited to make a foray
against some tribes to the eastward; the Mambari bargaining
to use their guns in the attack for the captives they might take,
and the Makololo were to have all the cattle. They went off
with at least two hundred slaves that year. During this foray the Makololo
met some Arabs from Zanzibar, who presented them with three English muskets,
and in return received about thirty of their captives.
In talking with my companions over these matters, the idea was suggested that,
if the slave-market were supplied with articles of European manufacture
by legitimate commerce, the trade in slaves would become impossible.
It seemed more feasible to give the goods, for which the people now part
with their servants, in exchange for ivory and other products of the country,
and thus prevent the trade at the beginning, than to try to put a stop to it
at any of the subsequent steps. This could only be effected
by establishing a highway from the coast into the centre of the country.
As there was no hope of the Boers allowing the peaceable instruction
of the natives at Kolobeng, I at once resolved to save my family
from exposure to this unhealthy region by sending them to England,
and to return alone, with a view to exploring the country
in search of a healthy district that might prove a centre of civilization,
and open up the interior by a path to either the east or west coast.
This resolution led me down to the Cape in April, 1852,
being the first time during eleven years that I had visited
the scenes of civilization. Our route to Cape Town led us to pass
through the centre of the colony during the twentieth month of a Caffre war;
and if those who periodically pay enormous sums for these inglorious affairs
wish to know how our little unprotected party could quietly travel
through the heart of the colony to the capital with as little
sense or sign of danger as if we had been in England,
they must engage a "`Times' Special Correspondent" for the next outbreak
to explain where the money goes, and who have been benefited
by the blood and treasure expended.
Having placed my family on board a homeward-bound ship, and promised
to rejoin them in two years, we parted, for, as it subsequently proved,
nearly five years. The Directors of the London Missionary Society
signified their cordial approval of my project by leaving the matter
entirely to my own discretion; and I have much pleasure in acknowledging
my obligations to the gentlemen composing that body for always acting
in an enlightened spirit, and with as much liberality
as their constitution would allow.
I have the like pleasure in confessing my thankfulness to the Astronomer Royal
at the Cape, Thomas Maclear, Esq., for enabling me to recall
the little astronomical knowledge which constant manual labor
and the engrossing nature of missionary duties had effaced from my memory,
and in adding much that I did not know before. The promise he made
on parting, that he would examine and correct all my observations,
had more effect in making me persevere in overcoming the difficulties
of an unassisted solitary observer than any thing else; so whatever credit
may be attached to the geographical positions laid down in my route
must be attributed to the voluntary aid of the excellent and laborious
astronomer of the Cape observatory.
Having given the reader as rapid a sketch as possible of events
which attracted notice between 1840 and 1852, I now proceed to narrate
the incidents of the last and longest journey of all, performed in 1852-6.
Start in June, 1852, on the last and longest Journey from Cape Town --
Companions -- Wagon-traveling -- Physical Divisions of Africa --
The Eastern, Central, and Western Zones -- The Kalahari Desert --
Its Vegetation -- Increasing Value of the Interior for Colonization --
Our Route -- Dutch Boers -- Their Habits -- Sterile Appearance
of the District -- Failure of Grass -- Succeeded by other Plants --
Vines -- Animals -- The Boers as Farmers -- Migration of Springbucks --
Wariness of Animals -- The Orange River -- Territory of
the Griquas and Bechuanas -- The Griquas -- The Chief Waterboer --
His wise and energetic Government -- His Fidelity -- Ill-considered Measures
of the Colonial Government in regard to Supplies of Gunpowder --
Success of the Missionaries among the Griquas and Bechuanas --
Manifest Improvement of the native Character -- Dress of the Natives --
A full-dress Costume -- A Native's Description of the Natives --
Articles of Commerce in the Country of the Bechuanas --
Their Unwillingness to learn, and Readiness to criticise.
Having sent my family home to England, I started in the beginning of June,
1852, on my last journey from Cape Town. This journey extended
from the southern extremity of the continent to St. Paul de Loando,
the capital of Angola, on the west coast, and thence across
South Central Africa in an oblique direction to Kilimane (Quilimane)
in Eastern Africa. I proceeded in the usual conveyance of the country,
the heavy, lumbering Cape wagon drawn by ten oxen, and was accompanied
by two Christian Bechuanas from Kuruman -- than whom I never saw
better servants any where -- by two Bakwain men, and two young girls,
who, having come as nurses with our children to the Cape,
were returning to their home at Kolobeng. Wagon-traveling in Africa
has been so often described that I need say no more than that
it is a prolonged system of picnicking, excellent for the health,
and agreeable to those who are not over-fastidious about trifles,
and who delight in being in the open air.
Our route to the north lay near the centre of the cone-shaped mass of land
which constitutes the promontory of the Cape. If we suppose this cone
to be divided into three zones or longitudinal bands, we find each presenting
distinct peculiarities of climate, physical appearance and population.
These are more marked beyond than within the colony. At some points
one district seems to be continued in and to merge into the other,
but the general dissimilarity warrants the division, as an aid to memory.
The eastern zone is often furnished with mountains, well wooded
with evergreen succulent trees, on which neither fire nor droughts can have
the smallest effect (`Strelitzia', `Zamia horrida', `Portulacaria afra',
`Schotia speciosa', `Euphorbias', and `Aloes arborescens');
and its seaboard gorges are clad with gigantic timber.
It is also comparatively well watered with streams and flowing rivers.
The annual supply of rain is considerable, and the inhabitants
(Caffres or Zulus) are tall, muscular, and well made;
they are shrewd, energetic, and brave; altogether they merit the character
given them by military authorities, of being "magnificent savages".
Their splendid physical development and form of skull show that,
but for the black skin and woolly hair, they would take rank
among the foremost Europeans.
The next division, that which embraces the centre of the continent,
can scarcely be called hilly, for what hills there are are very low.
It consists for the most part of extensive, slightly undulating plains.
There are no lofty mountains, but few springs, and still fewer
flowing streams. Rain is far from abundant, and droughts
may be expected every few years. Without artificial irrigation
no European grain can be raised, and the inhabitants (Bechuanas),
though evidently of the same stock, originally, with those already mentioned,
and closely resembling them in being an agricultural as well as
a pastoral people, are a comparatively timid race, and inferior to the Caffres
in physical development.
The western division is still more level than the middle one, being rugged
only near the coast. It includes the great plain called the Kalahari Desert,
which is remarkable for little water and very considerable vegetation.
The reason, probably, why so little rain falls on this extensive plain
is that the prevailing winds of most of the interior country are easterly,
with a little southing. The moisture taken up by the atmosphere
from the Indian Ocean is deposited on the eastern hilly slope;
and when the moving mass of air reaches its greatest elevation, it is then
on the verge of the great valley, or, as in the case of the Kalahari,
the great heated inland plains; there, meeting with the rarefied air
of that hot, dry surface, the ascending heat gives it greater capacity
for retaining all its remaining humidity, and few showers can be given
to the middle and western lands in consequence of the increased
This is the same phenomenon, on a gigantic scale, as that
which takes place on Table Mountain, at the Cape, in what is called
the spreading of the "table-cloth". The southeast wind causes a mass of air,
equal to the diameter of the mountain, suddenly to ascend
at least three thousand feet; the dilatation produced by altitude,
with its attendant cold, causes the immediate formation of a cloud
on the summit; the water in the atmosphere becomes visible;
successive masses of gliding-up and passing-over air cause the continual
formation of clouds, but the top of the vapory mass, or "table-cloth",
is level, and seemingly motionless; on the lee side, however,
the thick volumes of vapor curl over and descend, but when they reach
the point below, where greater density and higher temperature
impart enlarged capacity for carrying water, they entirely disappear.
Now if, instead of a hollow on the lee side of Table Mountain,
we had an elevated heated plain, the clouds which curl over that side,
and disappear as they do at present when a "southeaster" is blowing,
might deposit some moisture on the windward ascent and top;
but the heat would then impart the increased capacity
the air now receives at the lower level in its descent to leeward,
and, instead of an extended country with a flora of the `Disa grandiflora',
`gladiolus', `rushes', and `lichens', which now appear on Table Mountain,
we should have only the hardy vegetation of the Kalahari.
Why there should be so much vegetation on the Kalahari may be explained
by the geological formation of the country. There is a rim or fringe
of ancient rocks round a great central valley, which, dipping inward,
form a basin, the bottom of which is composed of the oldest silurian rocks.
This basin has been burst through and filled up in many parts
by eruptive traps and breccias, which often bear in their substances
angular fragments of the more ancient rocks, as shown in the fossils
they contain. Now, though large areas have been so dislocated
that but little trace of the original valley formation appears,
it is highly probable that the basin shape prevails over
large tracts of the country; and as the strata on the slopes,
where most of the rain falls, dip in toward the centre, they probably
guide water beneath the plains but ill supplied with moisture from the clouds.
The phenomenon of stagnant fountains becoming by a new and deeper outlet
never-failing streams may be confirmatory of the view that water is conveyed
from the sides of the country into the bottom of the central valley;
and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the wonderful river system
in the north, which, if native information be correct, causes a considerable
increase of water in the springs called Matlomagan-yana (the Links),
extends its fertilizing influence beneath the plains of the Kalahari.
The peculiar formation of the country may explain why there is
such a difference in the vegetation between the 20th and 30th
parallels of latitude in South Africa and the same latitudes
in Central Australia. The want of vegetation is as true
of some parts too in the centre of South America as of Australia;
and the cause of the difference holds out a probability
for the success of artesian wells in extensive tracts of Africa now unpeopled
solely on account of the want of surface water. We may be allowed
to speculate a little at least on the fact of much greater vegetation,
which, from whatever source it comes, presents for South Africa
prospects of future greatness which we can not hope for
in Central Australia. As the interior districts of the Cape Colony
are daily becoming of higher value, offering to honest industry
a fair remuneration for capital, and having a climate unequaled
in salubrity for consumptive patients, I should unhesitatingly
recommend any farmer at all afraid of that complaint in his family
to try this colony. With the means of education already possessed,
and the onward and upward movement of the Cape population,
he need entertain no apprehensions of his family sinking into barbarism.
The route we at this time followed ran along the middle,
or skirted the western zone before alluded to, until we reached
the latitude of Lake Ngami, where a totally different country begins.
While in the colony, we passed through districts inhabited by
the descendants of Dutch and French refugees who had fled
from religious persecution. Those living near the capital differ but little
from the middle classes in English counties, and are distinguished
by public spirit and general intelligence; while those situated
far from the centres of civilization are less informed,
but are a body of frugal, industrious, and hospitable peasantry.
A most efficient system of public instruction was established
in the time of Governor Sir George Napier, on a plan drawn up
in a great measure by that accomplished philosopher, Sir John Herschel.
The system had to contend with less sectarian rancor than elsewhere;
indeed, until quite recently, that spirit, except in a mild form, was unknown.
The population here described ought not to be confounded with some Boers
who fled from British rule on account of the emancipation of
their Hottentot slaves, and perhaps never would have been so
had not every now and then some Rip Van Winkle started forth at the Cape
to justify in the public prints the deeds of blood and slave-hunting
in the far interior. It is therefore not to be wondered at if the whole race
is confounded and held in low estimation by those who do not know
the real composition of the Cape community.
Population among the Boers increases rapidly; they marry soon,
are seldom sterile, and continue to have children late.
I once met a worthy matron whose husband thought it right to imitate
the conduct of Abraham while Sarah was barren; she evidently agreed
in the propriety of the measure, for she was pleased to hear the children
by a mother of what has been thought an inferior race address her
as their mother. Orphans are never allowed to remain long destitute;
and instances are frequent in which a tender-hearted farmer has adopted
a fatherless child, and when it came of age portioned it as his own.
Two centuries of the South African climate have not had much effect
upon the physical condition of the Boers. They are a shade darker,
or rather ruddier, than Europeans, and are never cadaverous-looking,
as descendants of Europeans are said to be elsewhere.
There is a tendency to the development of steatopyga,
so characteristic of Arabs and other African tribes; and it is probable
that the interior Boers in another century will become in color
what the learned imagine our progenitors, Adam and Eve, to have been.
The parts of the colony through which we passed were of sterile aspect;
and, as the present winter had been preceded by a severe drought,
many farmers had lost two thirds of their stock. The landscape
was uninviting; the hills, destitute of trees, were of a dark brown color,
and the scanty vegetation on the plains made me feel that they deserved
the name of Desert more than the Kalahari. When first taken possession of,
these parts are said to have been covered with a coating of grass,
but that has disappeared with the antelopes which fed upon it,
and a crop of mesembryanthemums and crassulas occupies its place.
It is curious to observe how, in nature, organizations the most dissimilar
are mutually dependent on each other for their perpetuation.
Here the original grasses were dependent for dissemination
on the grass-feeding animals, which scattered the seeds.
When, by the death of the antelopes, no fresh sowing was made,
the African droughts proved too much for this form of vegetation.
But even this contingency was foreseen by the Omniscient One;
for, as we may now observe in the Kalahari Desert, another family of plants,
the mesembryanthemums, stood ready to neutralize the aridity
which must otherwise have followed. This family of plants
possesses seed-vessels which remain firmly shut on their contents
while the soil is hot and dry, and thus preserve the vegetative power intact
during the highest heat of the torrid sun; but when rain falls,
the seed-vessel opens and sheds its contents just when there is
the greatest probability of their vegetating. In other plants
heat and drought cause the seed-vessels to burst and shed their charge.
One of this family is edible (`Mesembryanthemum edule'); another possesses
a tuberous root, which may be eaten raw; and all are furnished with thick,
fleshy leaves, having pores capable of imbibing and retaining moisture
from a very dry atmosphere and soil, so that, if a leaf is broken
during a period of the greatest drought, it shows abundant circulating sap.
The plants of this family are found much farther north,
but the great abundance of the grasses prevents them from making any show.
There, however, they stand ready to fill up any gap which may occur
in the present prevailing vegetation; and should the grasses disappear,
animal life would not necessarily be destroyed, because a reserve supply,
equivalent to a fresh act of creative power, has been provided.
One of this family, `M. turbiniforme', is so colored as to blend in well with
the hue of the soil and stones around it; and a `gryllus' of the same color
feeds on it. In the case of the insect, the peculiar color is given as
compensation for the deficiency of the powers of motion to enable it to elude
the notice of birds. The continuation of the species is here the end in view.
In the case of the plant the same device is adopted for a sort of double end,
viz., perpetuation of the plant by hiding it from animals, with the view
that ultimately its extensive appearance will sustain that race.
As this new vegetation is better adapted for sheep and goats in a dry country
than grass, the Boers supplant the latter by imitating the process
by which graminivorous antelopes have so abundantly disseminated
the seed of grasses. A few wagon-loads of mesembryanthemum plants, in seed,
are brought to a farm covered with a scanty crop of coarse grass,
and placed on a spot to which the sheep have access in the evenings.
As they eat a little every night, the seeds are dropped
over the grazing grounds in this simple way, with a regularity
which could not be matched except at the cost of an immense amount of labor.
The place becomes in the course of a few years a sheep-farm,
as these animals thrive on such herbage. As already mentioned,
some plants of this family are furnished with an additional contrivance
for withstanding droughts, viz., oblong tubers, which, buried deep enough
beneath the soil for complete protection from the scorching sun,
serve as reservoirs of sap and nutriment during those rainless periods
which recur perpetually in even the most favored spots of Africa. I have
adverted to this peculiarity as often seen in the vegetation of the Desert;
and, though rather out of place, it may be well -- while noticing
a clever imitation of one process in nature by the Cape farmers --
to suggest another for their consideration. The country beyond
south lat. 18 Deg. abounds in three varieties of grape-bearing vines,
and one of these is furnished with oblong tubers every three or four inches
along the horizontal root. They resemble closely those of the asparagus.
This increase of power to withstand the effects of climate
might prove of value in the more arid parts of the Cape colony,
grapes being well known to be an excellent restorative in the debility
produced by heat: by ingrafting, or by some of those curious manipulations
which we read of in books on gardening, a variety might be secured
better adapted to the country than the foreign vines at present cultivated.
The Americans find that some of their native vines yield wines superior
to those made from the very best imported vines from France and Portugal.
What a boon a vine of the sort contemplated would have been
to a Rhenish missionary I met at a part in the west of the colony
called Ebenezer, whose children had never seen flowers, though old enough
to talk about them!
The slow pace at which we wound our way through the colony
made almost any subject interesting. The attention is attracted
to the names of different places, because they indicate
the former existence of buffaloes, elands, and elephants,
which are now to be found only hundreds of miles beyond.
A few blesbucks (`Antilope pygarga'), gnus, bluebucks (`A. cerulea'),
steinbucks, and the ostrich (`Struthio camelus'), continue, like the Bushmen,
to maintain a precarious existence when all the rest are gone.
The elephant, the most sagacious, flees the sound of fire-arms first;
the gnu and ostrich, the most wary and the most stupid, last.
The first emigrants found the Hottentots in possession of
prodigious herds of fine cattle, but no horses, asses, or camels.
The original cattle, which may still be seen in some parts of the frontier,
must have been brought south from the north-northeast, for from this point
the natives universally ascribe their original migration.
They brought cattle, sheep, goats, and dogs; why not the horse,
the delight of savage hordes? Horses thrive well in the Cape Colony
when imported. Naturalists point out certain mountain ranges
as limiting the habitat of certain classes of animals;
but there is no Cordillera in Africa to answer that purpose, there being
no visible barrier between the northeastern Arabs and the Hottentot tribes
to prevent the different hordes, as they felt their way southward,
from indulging their taste for the possession of this noble animal.
I am here led to notice an invisible barrier, more insurmountable
than mountain ranges, but which is not opposed to the southern progress
of cattle, goats, and sheep. The tsetse would prove a barrier
only until its well-defined habitat was known, but the disease
passing under the term of horse-sickness (peripneumonia) exists
in such virulence over nearly seven degrees of latitude that no precaution
would be sufficient to save these animals. The horse is so liable
to this disease, that only by great care in stabling can he be kept any where
between 20 Deg. and 27 Deg. S. during the time between December and April.
The winter, beginning in the latter month, is the only period
in which Englishmen can hunt on horseback, and they are in danger
of losing all their studs some months before December. To this disease
the horse is especially exposed, and it is almost always fatal.
One attack, however, seems to secure immunity from a second. Cattle, too,
are subject to it, but only at intervals of a few, sometimes many years;
but it never makes a clean sweep of the whole cattle of a village,
as it would do of a troop of fifty horses. This barrier, then,
seems to explain the absence of the horse among the Hottentots,
though it is not opposed to the southern migration of cattle,
sheep, and goats.
When the flesh of animals that have died of this disease is eaten,
it causes a malignant carbuncle, which, when it appears over
any important organ, proves rapidly fatal. It is more especially dangerous
over the pit of the stomach. The effects of the poison
have been experienced by missionaries who had eaten properly cooked food,
the flesh of sheep really but not visibly affected by the disease.
The virus in the flesh of the animal is destroyed neither by boiling
nor roasting. This fact, of which we have had innumerable examples,
shows the superiority of experiments on a large scale
to those of acute and able physiologists and chemists in the laboratory,
for a well known physician of Paris, after careful investigation,
considered that the virus in such cases was completely neutralized by boiling.
This disease attacks wild animals too. During our residence at Chonuan
great numbers of tolos, or koodoos, were attracted to the gardens
of the Bakwains, abandoned at the usual period of harvest because
there was no prospect of the corn (`Holcus sorghum') bearing that year.
The koodoo is remarkably fond of the green stalks of this kind of millet.
Free feeding produced that state of fatness favorable for
the development of this disease, and no fewer than twenty-five died
on the hill opposite our house. Great numbers of gnus and zebras perished
from the same cause, but the mortality produced no sensible diminution
in the numbers of the game, any more than the deaths of many of the Bakwains
who persisted, in spite of every remonstrance, in eating the dead meat,
caused any sensible decrease in the strength of the tribe.
The farms of the Boers consist generally of a small patch of cultivated land
in the midst of some miles of pasturage. They are thus less an agricultural
than a pastoral people. Each farm must have its fountain;
and where no such supply of water exists, the government lands
are unsalable. An acre in England is thus generally more valuable
than a square mile in Africa. But the country is prosperous,
and capable of great improvement. The industry of the Boers augurs well
for the future formation of dams and tanks, and for the greater fruitfulness
that would certainly follow.
As cattle and sheep farmers the colonists are very successful.
Larger and larger quantities of wool are produced annually,
and the value of colonial farms increases year by year.
But the system requires that with the increase of the population
there should be an extension of territory. Wide as the country is,
and thinly inhabited, the farmers feel it to be too limited,
and they are gradually spreading to the north. This movement proves
prejudicial to the country behind, for labor, which would be directed
to the improvement of the colony, is withdrawn and expended in a mode of life
little adapted to the exercise of industrial habits. That, however,
does not much concern the rest of mankind. Nor does it seem much of an evil
for men who cultivate the soil to claim a right to appropriate lands
for tillage which other men only hunt over, provided some compensation
for the loss of sustenance be awarded. The original idea of a title
seems to have been that "subduing" or cultivating gave that right.
But this rather Chartist principle must be received with limitations,
for its recognition in England would lead to the seizure of all
our broad ancestral acres by those who are willing to cultivate them.
And, in the case under consideration, the encroachments lead at once
to less land being put under the plow than is subjected to the native hoe,
for it is a fact that the Basutos and Zulus, or Caffres of Natal,
cultivate largely, and undersell our farmers wherever they have
a fair field and no favor.
Before we came to the Orange River we saw the last portion
of a migration of springbucks (`Gazella euchore', or tsepe).
They come from the great Kalahari Desert, and, when first seen after crossing
the colonial boundary, are said often to exceed forty thousand in number.
I can not give an estimate of their numbers, for they appear spread
over a vast expanse of country, and make a quivering motion as they feed,
and move, and toss their graceful horns. They feed chiefly on grass;
and as they come from the north about the time when the grass most abounds,
it can not be want of food that prompts the movement.
Nor is it want of water, for this antelope is one of the most abstemious
in that respect. Their nature prompts them to seek as their favorite haunts
level plains with short grass, where they may be able to watch
the approach of an enemy. The Bakalahari take advantage of this feeling,
and burn off large patches of grass, not only to attract the game
by the new crop when it comes up, but also to form bare spots
for the springbuck to range over.
It is not the springbuck alone that manifests this feeling. When oxen are
taken into a country of high grass, they are much more ready to be startled;
their sense of danger is increased by the increased power of concealment
afforded to an enemy by such cover, and they will often start off in terror
at the ill-defined outlines of each other. The springbuck,
possessing this feeling in an intense degree, and being eminently gregarious,
becomes uneasy as the grass of the Kalahari becomes tall.
The vegetation being more sparse in the more arid south,
naturally induces the different herds to turn in that direction.
As they advance and increase in numbers, the pasturage becomes more scarce;
it is still more so the further they go, until they are at last obliged,
in order to obtain the means of subsistence, to cross the Orange River,
and become the pest of the sheep-farmer in a country which contains
scarcely any of their favorite grassy food. If they light on a field of wheat
in their way, an army of locusts could not make a cleaner sweep of the whole
than they will do. It is questionable whether they ever return,
as they have never been seen as a returning body. Many perish
from want of food, the country to which they have migrated
being unable to support them; the rest become scattered over the colony;
and in such a wide country there is no lack of room for all.
It is probable that, notwithstanding the continued destruction by fire-arms,
they will continue long to hold their place.
On crossing the Orange River we come into independent territory
inhabited by Griquas and Bechuanas. By Griquas is meant
any mixed race sprung from natives and Europeans. Those in question
were of Dutch extraction, through association with Hottentot and Bushwomen.
Half-castes of the first generation consider themselves superior
to those of the second, and all possess in some degree the characteristics
of both parents. They were governed for many years by an elected chief,
named Waterboer, who, by treaty, received a small sum per annum
from the colonial government for the support of schools in his country,
and proved a most efficient guard of our northwest boundary.
Cattle-stealing was totally unknown during the whole period
of this able chief's reign; and he actually drove back, single-handed,
a formidable force of marauding Mantatees that threatened
to invade the colony.* But for that brave Christian man, Waterboer,
there is every human probability that the northwest
would have given the colonists as much trouble as the eastern frontier;
for large numbers among the original Griquas had as little scruple
about robbing farmers of cattle as the Caffres are reputed to have.
On the election of Waterboer to the chieftainship, he distinctly declared
THAT NO MARAUDING SHOULD BE ALLOWED. As the government
of none of these tribes is despotic, some of his principal men,
in spite of this declaration, plundered some villages of Corannas
living to the south of the Orange River. He immediately seized
six of the ringleaders, and, though the step put his own position in jeopardy,
he summoned his council, tried, condemned, and publicly executed
the whole six. This produced an insurrection, and the insurgents
twice attacked his capital, Griqua Town, with the intention of deposing him;
but he bravely defeated both attempts, and from that day forth,
during his long reign of thirty years, not a single plundering expedition
ever left his territory. Having witnessed the deleterious effects
of the introduction of ardent spirits among his people,
he, with characteristic energy, decreed that any Boer or Griqua
bringing brandy into the country should have his property in ardent spirits
confiscated and poured out on the ground. The Griqua chiefs
living farther east were unable to carry this law into effect as he did,
hence the greater facility with which Boers in that direction
got the Griquas to part with their farms.
* For an account of this, see Moffat's "Scenes and Labors in South Africa".
Ten years after he was firmly established in power he entered into a treaty
with the colonial government, and during the twenty years which followed
not a single charge was ever brought against either him or his people;
on the contrary, his faithful adherence to the stipulated provisions
elicited numerous expressions of approbation from successive governments.
A late governor, however, of whom it is impossible to speak without respect,
in a paroxysm of generalship which might have been good,
had it not been totally inappropriate to the case, set about conciliating
a band of rebellious British subjects (Boers), who murdered
the Honorable Captain Murray, by proclaiming their independence
while still in open rebellion, and not only abrogated the treaty
with the Griquas, but engaged to stop the long-accustomed
supplies of gunpowder for the defense of the frontier,
and even to prevent them from purchasing it for their own defense
by lawful trade.
If it had been necessary to prevent supplies of ammunition
from finding their way into the country, as it probably was,
one might imagine that the exception should not have been made
in favor of either Boers or Caffres, our openly-avowed enemies;
but, nevertheless, the exception was made, and is still continued
in favor of the Boers, while the Bechuanas and Griquas,
our constant friends, are debarred from obtaining a single ounce
for either defense or trade; indeed, such was the state of ignorance
as to the relation of the border tribes with the English, even at Cape Town,
that the magistrates, though willing to aid my researches,
were sorely afraid to allow me to purchase more than ten pounds of gunpowder,
lest the Bechuanas should take it from me by force. As it turned out,
I actually left more than that quantity for upward of two years
in an open box in my wagon at Linyanti.
The lamented Sir George Cathcart, apparently unconscious of what he was doing,
entered into a treaty with the Transvaal Boers, in which articles
were introduced for the free passage of English traders to the north,
and for the entire prohibition of slavery in the free state.
Then passed the "gunpowder ordinance", by which the Bechuanas,
whom alone the Boers dare attempt to enslave, were rendered quite defenseless.
The Boers never attempt to fight with Caffres, nor to settle in Caffreland.
We still continue to observe the treaty. The Boers never did,
and never intended to abide by its provisions; for, immediately on
the proclamation of their independence, a slave-hunt was undertaken
against the Bechuanas of Sechele by four hundred Boers, under Mr. Peit Scholz,
and the plan was adopted which had been cherished in their hearts
ever since the emancipation of the Hottentots. Thus, from unfortunate
ignorance of the country he had to govern, an able and sagacious governor
adopted a policy proper and wise had it been in front of our enemies,
but altogether inappropriate for our friends against whom
it has been applied. Such an error could not have been committed by
a man of local knowledge and experience, such as that noble of colonial birth,
Sir Andries Stockenstrom; and such instances of confounding friend and foe,
in the innocent belief of thereby promoting colonial interests,
will probably lead the Cape community, the chief part of which
by no means feels its interest to lie in the degradation of the native tribes,
to assert the right of choosing their own governors.
This, with colonial representation in the Imperial Parliament,
in addition to the local self-government already so liberally conceded,
would undoubtedly secure the perpetual union of the colony
to the English crown.
Many hundreds of both Griquas and Bechuanas have become Christians
and partially civilized through the teaching of English missionaries.
My first impressions of the progress made were that the accounts
of the effects of the Gospel among them had been too highly colored.
I expected a higher degree of Christian simplicity and purity
than exists either among them or among ourselves. I was not anxious
for a deeper insight in detecting shams than others, but I expected character,
such as we imagine the primitive disciples had -- and was disappointed.*
When, however, I passed on to the true heathen in the countries beyond
the sphere of missionary influence, and could compare the people there
with the Christian natives, I came to the conclusion that,
if the question were examined in the most rigidly severe or scientific way,
the change effected by the missionary movement would be considered
* The popular notion, however, of the primitive Church
is perhaps not very accurate. Those societies especially
which consisted of converted Gentiles -- men who had been accustomed
to the vices and immoralities of heathenism -- were certainly
any thing but pure. In spite of their conversion, some of them carried
the stains and vestiges of their former state with them when they passed
from the temple to the church. If the instructed and civilized Greek
did not all at once rise out of his former self, and understand and realize
the high ideal of his new faith, we should be careful,
in judging of the work of missionaries among savage tribes,
not to apply to their converts tests and standards of too great severity.
If the scoffing Lucian's account of the impostor Peregrinus may be believed,
we find a church probably planted by the apostles manifesting
less intelligence even than modern missionary churches. Peregrinus,
a notoriously wicked man, was elected to the chief place among them,
while Romish priests, backed by the power of France, could not find
a place at all in the mission churches of Tahiti and Madagascar.
We can not fairly compare these poor people with ourselves,
who have an atmosphere of Christianity and enlightened public opinion,
the growth of centuries, around us, to influence our deportment;
but let any one from the natural and proper point of view behold
the public morality of Griqua Town, Kuruman, Likatlong, and other villages,
and remember what even London was a century ago, and he must confess
that the Christian mode of treating aborigines is incomparably the best.
The Griquas and Bechuanas were in former times clad much like the Caffres,
if such a word may be used where there is scarcely any clothing at all.
A bunch of leather strings about eighteen inches long hung
from the lady's waist in front, and a prepared skin of a sheep or antelope
covered the shoulders, leaving the breast and abdomen bare:
the men wore a patch of skin, about the size of the crown of one's hat,
which barely served for the purposes of decency, and a mantle
exactly like that of the women. To assist in protecting the pores of the skin
from the influence of the sun by day and of the cold by night,
all smeared themselves with a mixture of fat and ochre;
the head was anointed with pounded blue mica schist mixed with fat;
and the fine particles of shining mica, falling on the body
and on strings of beads and brass rings, were considered as highly ornamental,
and fit for the most fastidious dandy. Now these same people come to church
in decent though poor clothing, and behave with a decorum certainly superior
to what seems to have been the case in the time of Mr. Samuel Pepys in London.
Sunday is well observed, and, even in localities where no missionary lives,
religious meetings are regularly held, and children and adults taught to read
by the more advanced of their own fellow-countrymen; and no one is allowed
to make a profession of faith by baptism unless he knows how to read,
and understands the nature of the Christian religion.
The Bechuana Mission has been so far successful that,
when coming from the interior, we always felt, on reaching Kuruman,
that we had returned to civilized life. But I would not give any one
to understand by this that they are model Christians -- we can not claim
to be model Christians ourselves -- or even in any degree superior
to the members of our country churches. They are more stingy and greedy
than the poor at home; but in many respects the two are exactly alike.
On asking an intelligent chief what he thought of them, he replied,
"You white men have no idea of how wicked we are; we know each other
better than you; some feign belief to ingratiate themselves
with the missionaries; some profess Christianity because they like
the new system, which gives so much more importance to the poor,
and desire that the old system may pass away; and the rest --
a pretty large number -- profess because they are really true believers."
This testimony may be considered as very nearly correct.
There is not much prospect of this country ever producing
much of the materials of commerce except wool. At present
the chief articles of trade are karosses or mantles --
the skins of which they are composed come from the Desert;
next to them, ivory, the quantity of which can not now be great,
inasmuch as the means of shooting elephants is sedulously debarred entrance
into the country. A few skins and horns, and some cattle,
make up the remainder of the exports. English goods, sugar, tea, and coffee
are the articles received in exchange. All the natives of these parts
soon become remarkably fond of coffee. The acme of respectability
among the Bechuanas is the possession of cattle and a wagon.
It is remarkable that, though these latter require frequent repairs,
none of the Bechuanas have ever learned to mend them. Forges and tools
have been at their service, and teachers willing to aid them,
but, beyond putting together a camp-stool, no effort has ever been made
to acquire a knowledge of the trades. They observe most carefully
a missionary at work until they understand whether a tire
is well welded or not, and then pronounce upon its merits with great emphasis,
but there their ambition rests satisfied. It is the same peculiarity
among ourselves which leads us in other matters, such as book-making,
to attain the excellence of fault-finding without the wit to indite a page.
It was in vain I tried to indoctrinate the Bechuanas with the idea
that criticism did not imply any superiority over the workman,
or even equality with him.
Kuruman -- Its fine Fountain -- Vegetation of the District --
Remains of ancient Forests -- Vegetable Poison --
The Bible translated by Mr. Moffat -- Capabilities of the Language --
Christianity among the Natives -- The Missionaries should extend
their Labors more beyond the Cape Colony -- Model Christians --
Disgraceful Attack of the Boers on the Bakwains -- Letter from Sechele --
Details of the Attack -- Numbers of School-children carried away
into Slavery -- Destruction of House and Property at Kolobeng --
The Boers vow Vengeance against me -- Consequent Difficulty of getting
Servants to accompany me on my Journey -- Start in November, 1852 --
Meet Sechele on his way to England to obtain Redress from the Queen --
He is unable to proceed beyond the Cape -- Meet Mr. Macabe
on his Return from Lake Ngami -- The hot Wind of the Desert --
Electric State of the Atmosphere -- Flock of Swifts --
Reach Litubaruba -- The Cave Lepelole -- Superstitions regarding it --
Impoverished State of the Bakwains -- Retaliation on the Boers --
Slavery -- Attachment of the Bechuanas to Children --
Hydrophobia unknown -- Diseases of the Bakwains few in number --
Yearly Epidemics -- Hasty Burials -- Ophthalmia -- Native Doctors --
Knowledge of Surgery at a very low Ebb -- Little Attendance given to Women
at their Confinements -- The "Child Medicine" -- Salubrity of the Climate
well adapted for Invalids suffering from pulmonary Complaints.
The permanence of the station called Kuruman depends entirely
on the fine ever-flowing fountain of that name. It comes from
beneath the trap-rock, of which I shall have to speak when describing
the geology of the entire country; and as it usually issues at a temperature
of 72 Deg. Fahr., it probably comes from the old silurian schists,
which formed the bottom of the great primeval valley of the continent.
I could not detect any diminution in the flow of this gushing fountain
during my residence in the country; but when Mr. Moffat first attempted
a settlement here, thirty-five years ago, he made a dam six or seven miles
below the present one, and led out the stream for irrigation,
where not a drop of the fountain-water ever now flows. Other parts,
fourteen miles below the Kuruman gardens, are pointed out as having contained,
within the memory of people now living, hippopotami, and pools sufficient
to drown both men and cattle. This failure of water must be chiefly ascribed
to the general desiccation of the country, but partly also
to the amount of irrigation carried on along both banks of the stream
at the mission station. This latter circumstance would have more weight
were it not coincident with the failure of fountains
over a wide extent of country.
Without at present entering minutely into this feature of the climate,
it may be remarked that the Kuruman district presents evidence
of this dry southern region having, at no very distant date,
been as well watered as the country north of Lake Ngami is now.
Ancient river-beds and water-courses abound, and the very eyes of fountains
long since dried up may be seen, in which the flow of centuries
has worn these orifices from a slit to an oval form, having on their sides
the tufa so abundantly deposited from these primitive waters;
and just where the splashings, made when the stream fell
on the rock below, may be supposed to have reached and evaporated,
the same phenomenon appears. Many of these failing fountains no longer flow,
because the brink over which they ran is now too high,
or because the elevation of the western side of the country
lifts the land away from the water supply below; but let a cutting be made
from a lower level than the brink, and through it to a part
below the surface of the water, and water flows perennially.
Several of these ancient fountains have been resuscitated by the Bechuanas
near Kuruman, who occasionally show their feelings of self-esteem
by laboring for months at deep cuttings, which, having once begun,
they feel bound in honor to persevere in, though told by a missionary
that they can never force water to run up hill.
It is interesting to observe the industry of many Boers in this region
in making long and deep canals from lower levels up to spots
destitute of the slightest indication of water existing beneath
except a few rushes and a peculiar kind of coarse, reddish-colored grass
growing in a hollow, which anciently must have been the eye of a fountain,
but is now filled up with soft tufa. In other instances,
the indication of water below consists of the rushes growing
on a long, sandy ridge a foot or two in height instead of in a furrow.
A deep transverse cutting made through the higher part of this
is rewarded by a stream of running water. The reason why the ground
covering this water is higher than the rest of the locality
is that the winds carry quantities of fine dust and sand about the country,
and hedges, bushes, and trees cause its deposit. The rushes in this case
perform the part of the hedges, and the moisture rising as dew by night
fixes the sand securely among the roots, and a height,
instead of a hollow, is the result. While on this subject it may be added
that there is no perennial fountain in this part of the country
except those that come from beneath the quartzose trap,
which constitutes the "filling up" of the ancient valley;
and as the water supply seems to rest on the old silurian schists
which form its bottom, it is highly probable that Artesian wells
would in several places perform the part which these deep cuttings now do.
The aspect of this part of the country during most of the year
is of a light yellow color; for some months during the rainy season
it is of a pleasant green mixed with yellow. Ranges of hills
appear in the west, but east of them we find hundreds of miles
of grass-covered plains. Large patches of these flats are covered
with white calcareous tufa resting on perfectly horizontal strata of trap.
There the vegetation consists of fine grass growing in tufts
among low bushes of the "wait-a-bit" thorn (`Acacia detinens'),
with its annoying fish-hook-like spines. Where these rocks
do not appear on the surface, the soil consists of yellow sand
and tall, coarse grasses, growing among berry-yielding bushes,
named moretloa (`Grewia flava') and mohatla (`Tarchonanthus'),
which has enough of aromatic resinous matter to burn brightly,
though perfectly green. In more sheltered spots we come on clumps
of the white-thorned mimosa (`Acacia horrida', also `A. atomiphylla'),
and great abundance of wild sage (`Salvia Africana'),
and various leguminosae, ixias, and large-flowering bulbs:
the `Amaryllis toxicaria' and `A. Brunsvigia multiflora'
(the former a poisonous bulb) yield in the decayed lamellae
a soft, silky down, a good material for stuffing mattresses.
In some few parts of the country the remains of ancient forests
of wild olive-trees (`Olea similis') and of the camel-thorn (`Acacia giraffe')
are still to be met with; but when these are leveled
in the proximity of a Bechuana village, no young trees spring up
to take their places. This is not because the wood has a growth so slow
as not to be appreciable in its increase during the short period
that it can be observed by man, which might be supposed from its being
so excessively hard; for having measured a young tree of this species
growing in the corner of Mr. Moffat's garden near the water, I found
that it increased at the rate of a quarter of an inch in diameter annually
during a number of years. Moreover, the larger specimens,
which now find few or no successors, if they had more rain in their youth,
can not be above two or three hundred years old.
It is probable that this is the tree of which the Ark of the Covenant
and the Tabernacle were constructed, as it is reported to be found
where the Israelites were at the time these were made.
It is an imperishable wood, while that usually pointed out
as the "shittim" (or `Acacia nilotica') soon decays and wants beauty.
In association with it we always observe a curious plant, named ngotuane,
which bears such a profusion of fine yellow strong-scented flowers
as quite to perfume the air. This plant forms a remarkable exception
to the general rule, that nearly all the plants in the dry parts of Africa
are scentless, or emit only a disagreeable odor. It, moreover,
contains an active poison; a French gentleman, having imbibed
a mouthful or two of an infusion of its flowers as tea, found himself rendered
nearly powerless. Vinegar has the peculiar property of rendering this poison
perfectly inert, whether in or out of the body. When mixed with vinegar,
the poison may be drunk with safety, while, if only tasted by itself,
it causes a burning sensation in the throat. This gentleman described
the action of the vinegar, when he was nearly deprived of power
by the poison imbibed, to have been as if electricity had run along his nerves
as soon as he had taken a single glassful. The cure was
instantaneous and complete. I had always to regret want of opportunity
for investigating this remarkable and yet controllable agent
on the nervous system. Its usual proximity to camel-thorn-trees
may be accounted for by the PROBABILITY that the giraffe,
which feeds on this tree, MAY make use of the plant as a medicine.
During the period of my visit at Kuruman, Mr. Moffat, who has been
a missionary in Africa during upward of forty years, and is well known
by his interesting work, "Scenes and Labors in South Africa",
was busily engaged in carrying through the press, with which
his station is furnished, the Bible in the language of the Bechuanas,
which is called Sichuana. This has been a work of immense labor;
and as he was the first to reduce their speech to a written form,
and has had his attention directed to the study for at least thirty years,
he may be supposed to be better adapted for the task than any man living.
Some idea of the copiousness of the language may be formed from the fact
that even he never spends a week at his work without discovering new words;
the phenomenon, therefore, of any man who, after a few months' or years'
study of a native tongue, cackles forth a torrent of vocables,
may well be wondered at, if it is meant to convey instruction.
In my own case, though I have had as much intercourse with the purest idiom
as most Englishmen, and have studied the language carefully,
yet I can never utter an important statement without doing so very slowly,
and repeating it too, lest the foreign accent, which is distinctly perceptible
in all Europeans, should render the sense unintelligible. In this I follow
the example of the Bechuana orators, who, on important matters,
always speak slowly, deliberately, and with reiteration.
The capabilities of this language may be inferred from the fact that
the Pentateuch is fully expressed in Mr. Moffat's translation in fewer words
than in the Greek Septuagint, and in a very considerably smaller number
than in our own English version. The language is, however, so simple
in its construction, that its copiousness by no means requires the explanation
that the people have fallen from a former state of civilization and culture.
Language seems to be an attribute of the human mind and thought;
and the inflections, various as they are in the most barbarous tongues,
as that of the Bushmen, are probably only proofs of the race being human,
and endowed with the power of thinking; the fuller development of language
taking place as the improvement of our other faculties goes on.
It is fortunate that the translation of the Bible has been effected
before the language became adulterated with half-uttered foreign words,
and while those who have heard the eloquence of the native assemblies
are still living; for the young, who are brought up in our schools,
know less of the language than the missionaries; and Europeans
born in the country, while possessed of the idiom perfectly,
if not otherwise educated, can not be referred to for explanation of any
uncommon word. A person who acted as interpreter to Sir George Cathcart
actually told his excellency that the language of the Basutos
was not capable of expressing the substance of a chief's diplomatic paper,
while every one acquainted with Moshesh, the chief who sent it,
well knows that he could in his own tongue have expressed it without study
all over again in three or four different ways. The interpreter
could scarcely have done as much in English.
This language both rich and poor speak correctly; there is no vulgar style;
but children have a `patois' of their own, using many words in their play
which men would scorn to repeat. The Bamapela have adopted a click
into their dialect, and a large infusion of the ringing "ny",
which seems to have been for the purpose of preventing others
from understanding them.
The fact of the complete translation of the Bible at a station
seven hundred miles inland from the Cape naturally suggests the question
whether it is likely to be permanently useful, and whether Christianity,
as planted by modern missions, is likely to retain its vitality
without constant supplies of foreign teaching? It would certainly
be no cause for congratulation if the Bechuana Bible seemed at all likely
to meet the fate of Elliot's Choctaw version, a specimen of which
may be seen in the library of one of the American colleges --
as God's word in a language which no living tongue can articulate,
nor living mortal understand; but a better destiny seems in store for this,
for the Sichuana language has been introduced into the new country
beyond Lake Ngami. There it is the court language, and will take a stranger
any where through a district larger than France. The Bechuanas, moreover,
in all probability possess that imperishability which forms
so remarkable a feature in the entire African race.
When converts are made from heathenism by modern missionaries,
it becomes an interesting question whether their faith possesses
the elements of permanence, or is only an exotic too tender
for self-propagation when the fostering care of the foreign cultivators
is withdrawn. If neither habits of self-reliance are cultivated,
nor opportunities given for the exercise of that virtue,
the most promising converts are apt to become like spoiled children.
In Madagascar, a few Christians were left with nothing but the Bible
in their hands; and though exposed to persecution, and even death itself,
as the penalty of adherence to their profession, they increased ten-fold
in numbers, and are, if possible, more decided believers now
than they were when, by an edict of the queen of that island,
the missionaries ceased their teaching.
In South Africa such an experiment could not be made,
for such a variety of Christian sects have followed the footsteps
of the London Missionary Society's successful career,
that converts of one denomination, if left to their own resources,
are eagerly adopted by another, and are thus more likely to become spoiled
than trained to the manly Christian virtues.
Another element of weakness in this part of the missionary field
is the fact of the missionary societies considering the Cape Colony itself
as a proper sphere for their peculiar operations. In addition to
a well-organized and efficient Dutch Reformed Established Church,
and schools for secular instruction, maintained by government,
in every village of any extent in the colony, we have a number of other sects,
as the Wesleyans, Episcopalians, Moravians, all piously laboring
at the same good work. Now it is deeply to be regretted
that so much honest zeal should be so lavishly expended in a district wherein
there is so little scope for success. When we hear an agent of one sect
urging his friends at home to aid him quickly to occupy some unimportant nook,
because, if it is not speedily laid hold of, he will "not have room for
the sole of his foot," one can not help longing that both he and his friends
would direct their noble aspirations to the millions of untaught heathen
in the regions beyond, and no longer continue to convert
the extremity of the continent into, as it were, a dam of benevolence.
I would earnestly recommend all young missionaries to go at once
to the real heathen, and never to be content with what has been made
ready to their hands by men of greater enterprise. The idea of making
model Christians of the young need not be entertained by any one
who is secretly convinced, as most men who know their own hearts are,
that he is not a model Christian himself. The Israelitish slaves
brought out of Egypt by Moses were not converted and elevated
in one generation, though under the direct teaching of God himself.
Notwithstanding the numbers of miracles he wrought, a generation
had to be cut off because of unbelief. Our own elevation, also,
has been the work of centuries, and, remembering this,
we should not indulge in overwrought expectations as to the elevation
which those who have inherited the degradation of ages may attain in our day.
The principle might even be adopted by missionary societies,
that one ordinary missionary's lifetime of teaching should be considered
an ample supply of foreign teaching for any tribe in a thinly-peopled country,
for some never will receive the Gospel at all, while in other parts,
when Christianity is once planted, the work is sure to go on.
A missionary is soon known to be supported by his friends at home;
and though the salary is but a bare subsistence, to Africans it seems
an enormous sum; and, being unable to appreciate the motives
by which he is actuated, they consider themselves entitled
to various services at his hands, and defrauded if these
are not duly rendered. This feeling is all the stronger when a young man,
instead of going boldly to the real heathen, settles down
in a comfortable house and garden prepared by those into whose labors
he has entered. A remedy for this evil might be found
in appropriating the houses and gardens raised by the missionaries' hands
to their own families. It is ridiculous to call such places as Kuruman,
for instance, "Missionary Society's property". This beautiful station was
made what it is, not by English money, but by the sweat and toil of fathers
whose children have, notwithstanding, no place on earth which they can
call a home. The Society's operations may be transferred to the north,
and then the strong-built mission premises become the home of a Boer,
and the stately stone church his cattle-pen. This place has been
what the monasteries of Europe are said to have been when pure.
The monks did not disdain to hold the plow. They introduced fruit-trees,
flowers, and vegetables, in addition to teaching and emancipating the serfs.
Their monasteries were mission stations, which resembled ours
in being dispensaries for the sick, almshouses for the poor,
and nurseries of learning. Can we learn nothing from them
in their prosperity as the schools of Europe, and see naught in their history
but the pollution and laziness of their decay? Can our wise men tell us
why the former mission stations (primitive monasteries) were self-supporting,
rich, and flourishing as pioneers of civilization and agriculture,
from which we even now reap benefits, and modern mission stations
are mere pauper establishments, without that permanence or ability
to be self-supporting which they possessed?
Protestant missionaries of every denomination in South Africa
all agree in one point, that no mere profession of Christianity
is sufficient to entitle the converts to the Christian name.
They are all anxious to place the Bible in the hands of the natives,
and, with ability to read that, there can be little doubt as to the future.
We believe Christianity to be divine, and equal to all it has to perform;
then let the good seed be widely sown, and, no matter to what sect
the converts may belong, the harvest will be glorious.
Let nothing that I have said be interpreted as indicative of feelings
inimical to any body of Christians, for I never, as a missionary,
felt myself to be either Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or Independent,
or called upon in any way to love one denomination less than another.
My earnest desire is, that those who really have the best interests
of the heathen at heart should go to them; and assuredly, in Africa at least,
self-denying labors among real heathen will not fail to be appreciated.
Christians have never yet dealt fairly by the heathen and been disappointed.
When Sechele understood that we could no longer remain with him at Kolobeng,
he sent his children to Mr. Moffat, at Kuruman, for instruction
in all the knowledge of the white men. Mr. Moffat very liberally
received at once an accession of five to his family, with their attendants.
Having been detained at Kuruman about a fortnight by the breaking
of a wagon-wheel, I was thus providentially prevented from being present
at the attack of the Boers on the Bakwains, news of which was brought,
about the end of that time, by Masebele, the wife of Sechele.
She had herself been hidden in a cleft of a rock, over which
a number of Boers were firing. Her infant began to cry,
and, terrified lest this should attract the attention of the men,
the muzzles of whose guns appeared at every discharge over her head,
she took off her armlets as playthings to quiet the child.
She brought Mr. Moffat a letter, which tells its own tale.
Nearly literally translated it was as follows:
"Friend of my heart's love, and of all the confidence of my heart,
I am Sechele. I am undone by the Boers, who attacked me, though I had
no guilt with them. They demanded that I should be in their kingdom,
and I refused. They demanded that I should prevent the English and Griquas
from passing (northward). I replied, These are my friends,
and I can prevent no one (of them). They came on Saturday,
and I besought them not to fight on Sunday, and they assented.
They began on Monday morning at twilight, and fired with all their might,
and burned the town with fire, and scattered us. They killed
sixty of my people, and captured women, and children, and men.
And the mother of Baleriling (a former wife of Sechele) they also
took prisoner. They took all the cattle and all the goods of the Bakwains;
and the house of Livingstone they plundered, taking away all his goods.
The number of wagons they had was eighty-five, and a cannon; and after they
had stolen my own wagon and that of Macabe, then the number of their wagons
(counting the cannon as one) was eighty-eight. All the goods of the hunters
(certain English gentlemen hunting and exploring in the north)
were burned in the town; and of the Boers were killed twenty-eight.
Yes, my beloved friend, now my wife goes to see the children,
and Kobus Hae will convey her to you.
I am, SECHELE,
The Son of Mochoasele."
This statement is in exact accordance with the account given by
the native teacher Mebalwe, and also that sent by some of the Boers themselves
to the public colonial papers. The crime of cattle-stealing, of which
we hear so much near Caffreland, was never alleged against these people,
and, if a single case had occurred when I was in the country,
I must have heard of it, and would at once say so. But the only crime
imputed in the papers was that "Sechele was getting too saucy."
The demand made for his subjection and service in preventing
the English traders passing to the north was kept out of view.
Very soon after Pretorius had sent the marauding party against Kolobeng,
he was called away to the tribunal of infinite justice.
His policy is justified by the Boers generally from the instructions given
to the Jewish warriors in Deuteronomy 20:10-14. Hence, when he died,
the obituary notice ended with "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord."
I wish he had not "forbidden us to preach unto the Gentiles
that they may be saved."
The report of this outrage on the Bakwains, coupled with denunciations
against myself for having, as it was alleged, taught them to kill Boers,
produced such a panic in the country, that I could not engage
a single servant to accompany me to the north. I have already alluded
to their mode of warfare, and in all previous Boerish forays
the killing had all been on one side; now, however, that a tribe
where an Englishman had lived had begun to shed THEIR blood as well,
it was considered the strongest presumptive evidence against me.
Loud vows of vengeance were uttered against my head,
and threats of instant pursuit by a large party on horseback,
should I dare to go into or beyond their country; and as these were coupled
with the declaration that the English government had given over
the whole of the native tribes to their rule, and would assist
in their entire subjection by preventing fire-arms and ammunition
from entering the country, except for the use of the Boers,
it was not to be wondered at that I was detained for months at Kuruman
from sheer inability to get wagon-drivers. The English name,
from being honored and respected all over the country,
had become somewhat more than suspected; and as the policy of depriving
those friendly tribes of the means of defense was represented by the Boers
as proof positive of the wish of the English that they should be subjugated,
the conduct of a government which these tribes always thought
the paragon of justice and friendship was rendered totally incomprehensible
to them; they could neither defend themselves against their enemies,
nor shoot the animals in the produce of which we wished them to trade.
At last I found three servants willing to risk a journey to the north;
and a man of color named George Fleming, who had generously been assisted
by Mr. H. E. Rutherford, a mercantile gentleman of Cape Town,
to endeavor to establish a trade with the Makololo, had also managed
to get a similar number; we accordingly left Kuruman on the 20th of November,
and proceeded on our journey. Our servants were the worst possible specimens
of those who imbibe the vices without the virtues of Europeans,
but we had no choice, and were glad to get away on any terms.
When we reached Motito, forty miles off, we met Sechele on his way,
as he said, "to the Queen of England." Two of his own children,
and their mother, a former wife, were among the captives seized by the Boers;
and being strongly imbued with the then very prevalent notion of England's
justice and generosity, he thought that in consequence of the violated treaty
he had a fair case to lay before her majesty. He employed
all his eloquence and powers of persuasion to induce me to accompany him,
but I excused myself on the ground that my arrangements were already made
for exploring the north. On explaining the difficulties of the way,
and endeavoring to dissuade him from the attempt, on account of the knowledge
I possessed of the governor's policy, he put the pointed question,
"Will the queen not listen to me, supposing I should reach her?"
I replied, "I believe she would listen, but the difficulty is to get to her."
"Well, I shall reach her," expressed his final determination.
Others explained the difficulties more fully, but nothing could shake
his resolution. When he reached Bloemfontein he found the English army
just returning from a battle with the Basutos, in which both parties
claimed the victory, and both were glad that a second engagement
was not tried. Our officers invited Sechele to dine with them,
heard his story, and collected a handsome sum of money to enable him
to pursue his journey to England. The commander refrained from noticing him,
as a single word in favor of the restoration of the children of Sechele
would have been a virtual confession of the failure of his own policy
at the very outset. Sechele proceeded as far as the Cape; but his resources
being there expended, he was obliged to return to his own country,
one thousand miles distant, without accomplishing the object of his journey.
On his return he adopted a mode of punishment which he had seen in the colony,
namely, making criminals work on the public roads. And he has since,
I am informed, made himself the missionary to his own people.
He is tall, rather corpulent, and has more of the negro feature than common,
but has large eyes. He is very dark, and his people swear by "Black Sechele".
He has great intelligence, reads well, and is a fluent speaker.
Great numbers of the tribes formerly living under the Boers
have taken refuge under his sway, and he is now greater in power
than he was before the attack on Kolobeng.
Having parted with Sechele, we skirted along the Kalahari Desert,
and sometimes within its borders, giving the Boers a wide berth.
A larger fall of rain than usual had occurred in 1852,
and that was the completion of a cycle of eleven or twelve years,
at which the same phenomenon is reported to have happened on three occasions.
An unusually large crop of melons had appeared in consequence.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Mr. J. Macabe returning from Lake Ngami,
which he had succeeded in reaching by going right across the Desert
from a point a little to the south of Kolobeng. The accounts of
the abundance of watermelons were amply confirmed by this energetic traveler;
for, having these in vast quantities, his cattle subsisted
on the fluid contained in them for a period of no less than twenty-one days;
and when at last they reached a supply of water, they did not seem to care
much about it. Coming to the lake from the southeast, he crossed the Teoughe,
and went round the northern part of it, and is the only European traveler
who had actually seen it all. His estimate of the extent of the lake
is higher than that given by Mr. Oswell and myself, or from about ninety
to one hundred miles in circumference. Before the lake was discovered,
Macabe wrote a letter in one of the Cape papers recommending a certain route
as likely to lead to it. The Transvaal Boers fined him 500 dollars
for writing about "ouze felt", OUR country, and imprisoned him, too,
till the fine was paid. I now learned from his own lips
that the public report of this is true. Mr. Macabe's companion, Mahar,
was mistaken by a tribe of Barolongs for a Boer, and shot as he approached
their village. When Macabe came up and explained that he was an Englishman,
they expressed the utmost regret, and helped to bury him.
This was the first case in recent times of an Englishman being slain
by the Bechuanas. We afterward heard that there had been some fighting
between these Barolongs and the Boers, and that there had been
capturing of cattle on both sides. If this was true, I can only say that
it was the first time that I ever heard of cattle being taken by Bechuanas.
This was a Caffre war in stage the second; the third stage in the development
is when both sides are equally well armed and afraid of each other;
the fourth, when the English take up a quarrel not their own,
and the Boers slip out of the fray.
Two other English gentlemen crossed and recrossed the Desert
about the same time, and nearly in the same direction. On returning,
one of them, Captain Shelley, while riding forward on horseback,
lost himself, and was obliged to find his way alone to Kuruman,
some hundreds of miles distant. Reaching that station shirtless,
and as brown as a Griqua, he was taken for one by Mrs. Moffat,
and was received by her with a salutation in Dutch, that being the language
spoken by this people. His sufferings must have been far more severe
than any we endured. The result of the exertions of both Shelley and Macabe
is to prove that the general view of the Desert always given by the natives
has been substantially correct.
Occasionally, during the very dry seasons which succeed our winter
and precede our rains, a hot wind blows over the Desert from north to south.
It feels somewhat as if it came from an oven, and seldom
blows longer at a time than three days. It resembles in its effects
the harmattan of the north of Africa, and at the time the missionaries
first settled in the country, thirty-five years ago,
it came loaded with fine reddish-colored sand. Though no longer
accompanied by sand, it is so devoid of moisture as to cause
the wood of the best seasoned English boxes and furniture to shrink,
so that every wooden article not made in the country is warped.
The verls of ramrods made in England are loosened, and on returning to Europe
fasten again. This wind is in such an electric state
that a bunch of ostrich feathers held a few seconds against it
becomes as strongly charged as if attached to a powerful electrical machine,
and clasps the advancing hand with a sharp crackling sound.
When this hot wind is blowing, and even at other times, the peculiarly strong
electrical state of the atmosphere causes the movement of a native
in his kaross to produce therein a stream of small sparks.
The first time I noticed this appearance was while a chief
was traveling with me in my wagon. Seeing part of the fur of his mantle,
which was exposed to slight friction by the movement of the wagon,
assume quite a luminous appearance, I rubbed it smartly with the hand,
and found it readily gave out bright sparks, accompanied with distinct cracks.
"Don't you see this?" said I. "The white men did not show us this,"
he replied; "we had it long before white men came into the country,
we and our forefathers of old." Unfortunately, I never inquired the name
which they gave to this appearance, but I have no doubt there is one for it
in the language. Otto von Guerrike is said, by Baron Humboldt, to have been
the first that ever observed this effect in Europe, but the phenomenon
had been familiar to the Bechuanas for ages. Nothing came of that, however,
for they viewed the sight as if with the eyes of an ox.
The human mind has remained here as stagnant to the present day,
in reference to the physical operations of the universe,
as it once did in England. No science has been developed,
and few questions are ever discussed except those which have
an intimate connection with the wants of the stomach.
Very large flocks of swifts (`Cypselus apus') were observed
flying over the plains north of Kuruman. I counted a stream of them,
which, by the time it took to pass toward the reeds of that valley,
must have numbered upward of four thousand. Only a few of these birds
breed at any time in this country. I have often observed them,
and noticed that there was no appearance of their having paired;
there was no chasing of each other, nor any playing together.
There are several other birds which continue in flocks, and move about
like wandering gipsies, even during the breeding season, which in this country
happens in the intervals between the cold and hot seasons,
cold acting somewhat in the same way here as the genial warmth of spring
does in Europe. Are these the migratory birds of Europe,
which return there to breed and rear their young?
On the 31st of December, 1852, we reached the town of Sechele,
called, from the part of the range on which it is situated, Litubaruba.
Near the village there exists a cave named Lepelole;
it is an interesting evidence of the former existence of a gushing fountain.
No one dared to enter the Lohaheng, or cave, for it was the common belief
that it was the habitation of the Deity. As we never had a holiday
from January to December, and our Sundays were the periods of our greatest
exertions in teaching, I projected an excursion into the cave on a week-day
to see the god of the Bakwains. The old men said that every one who went in
remained there forever, adding, "If the teacher is so mad as to kill himself,
let him do so alone, we shall not be to blame." The declaration of Sechele,
that he would follow where I led, produced the greatest consternation.
It is curious that in all their pretended dreams or visions of their god
he has always a crooked leg, like the Egyptian Thau. Supposing that
those who were reported to have perished in this cave had fallen over
some precipice, we went well provided with lights, ladder, lines, &c.;
but it turned out to be only an open cave, with an entrance
about ten feet square, which contracts into two water-worn branches,
ending in round orifices through which the water once flowed.
The only inhabitants it seems ever to have had were baboons.
I left at the end of the upper branch one of Father Mathew's
leaden teetotal tickets.
I never saw the Bakwains looking so haggard and lean as at this time.
Most of their cattle had been swept away by the Boers,
together with about eighty fine draught oxen; and much provision
left with them by two officers, Captains Codrington and Webb,
to serve for their return journey south, had been carried off also.
On their return these officers found the skeletons of the Bakwains
where they expected to find their own goods. All the corn, clothing,
and furniture of the people, too, had been consumed in the flames
which the Boers had forced the subject tribes to apply to the town
during the fight, so that its inhabitants were now literally starving.
Sechele had given orders to his people not to commit any act of revenge
pending his visit to the Queen of England; but some of the young men
ventured to go to meet a party of Boers returning from hunting,
and, as the Boers became terrified and ran off, they brought their wagons
to Litubaruba. This seems to have given the main body of Boers an idea
that the Bakwains meant to begin a guerrilla war upon them.
This "Caffre war" was, however, only in embryo, and not near
that stage of development in which the natives have found out
that the hide-and-seek system is the most successful.
The Boers, in alarm, sent four of their number to ask for peace!
I, being present, heard the condition: "Sechele's children must be
restored to him." I never saw men so completely and unconsciously in a trap
as these four Boers were. Strong parties of armed Bakwains occupied
every pass in the hills and gorges around; and had they not promised much more
than they intended, or did perform, that day would have been their last.
The commandant Scholz had appropriated the children of Sechele
to be his own domestic slaves. I was present when one little boy,
Khari, son of Sechele, was returned to his mother; the child had been allowed
to roll into the fire, and there were three large unbound open sores
on different parts of his body. His mother and the women received him
with a flood of silent tears.
Slavery is said to be mild and tender-hearted in some places.
The Boers assert that they are the best of masters, and that,
if the English had possessed the Hottentot slaves, they would have received
much worse treatment than they did: what that would have been it is difficult
to imagine. I took down the names of some scores of boys and girls,
many of whom I knew as our scholars; but I could not comfort
the weeping mothers by any hope of their ever returning from slavery.
The Bechuanas are universally much attached to children.
A little child toddling near a party of men while they are eating
is sure to get a handful of the food. This love of children may arise,
in a great measure, from the patriarchal system under which they dwell.
Every little stranger forms an increase of property to the whole community,
and is duly reported to the chief -- boys being more welcome than girls.
The parents take the name of the child, and often address their children
as Ma (mother), or Ra (father). Our eldest boy being named Robert,
Mrs. Livingstone was, after his birth, always addressed as Ma-Robert,
instead of Mary, her Christian name.
I have examined several cases in which a grandmother has taken upon herself
to suckle a grandchild. Masina of Kuruman had no children
after the birth of her daughter Sina, and had no milk after Sina was weaned,
an event which usually is deferred till the child is two or three years old.
Sina married when she was seventeen or eighteen, and had twins;
Masina, after at least fifteen years' interval since she had suckled a child,
took possession of one of them, applied it to her breast, and milk flowed,
so that she was able to nurse the child entirely. Masina was at this time
at least forty years of age. I have witnessed several other cases
analogous to this. A grandmother of forty, or even less, for they
become withered at an early age, when left at home with a young child,
applies it to her own shriveled breast, and milk soon follows.
In some cases, as that of Ma-bogosing, the chief wife of Mahure,
who was about thirty-five years of age, the child was not entirely dependent
on the grandmother's breast, as the mother suckled it too.
I had witnessed the production of milk so frequently by the simple
application of the lips of the child, that I was not therefore surprised
when told by the Portuguese in Eastern Africa of a native doctor who,
by applying a poultice of the pounded larvae of hornets
to the breast of a woman, aided by the attempts of the child,
could bring back the milk. Is it not possible that the story
in the "Cloud of Witnesses" of a man, during the time of persecution
in Scotland, putting his child to his own breast, and finding,
to the astonishment of the whole country, that milk followed the act,
may have been literally true? It was regarded and is quoted as a miracle;
but the feelings of the father toward the child of a murdered mother
must have been as nearly as possible analogous to the maternal feeling;
and, as anatomists declare the structure of both male and female breasts
to be identical, there is nothing physically impossible in the alleged result.
The illustrious Baron Humboldt quotes an instance of the male breast
yielding milk; and, though I am not conscious of being over-credulous,
the strange instances I have examined in the opposite sex make me believe
that there is no error in that philosopher's statement.
The Boers know from experience that adult captives may as well be left alone,
for escape is so easy in a wild country that no fugitive-slave-law
can come into operation; they therefore adopt the system of seizing only
the youngest children, in order that these may forget their parents and remain
in perpetual bondage. I have seen mere infants in their houses repeatedly.
This fact was formerly denied; and the only thing which was wanting
to make the previous denial of the practice of slavery and slave-hunting
by the Transvaal Boers no longer necessary was the declaration
of their independence.
In conversation with some of my friends here I learned that Maleke,
a chief of the Bakwains, who formerly lived on the hill Litubaruba,
had been killed by the bite of a mad dog. My curiosity was strongly excited
by this statement, as rabies is so rare in this country.
I never heard of another case, and could not satisfy myself
that even this was real hydrophobia. While I was at Mabotsa,
some dogs became affected by a disease which led them to run about
in an incoherent state; but I doubt whether it was any thing
but an affection of the brain. No individual or animal got the complaint
by inoculation from the animals' teeth; and from all that I could hear,
the prevailing idea of hydrophobia not existing within the tropics
seems to be quite correct.
The diseases known among the Bakwains are remarkably few.
There is no consumption nor scrofula, and insanity and hydrocephalus are rare.
Cancer and cholera are quite unknown. Small-pox and measles passed
through the country about twenty years ago, and committed great ravages;
but, though the former has since broken out on the coast repeatedly,
neither disease has since traveled inland. For small-pox,
the natives employed, in some parts, inoculation in the forehead
with some animal deposit; in other parts, they employed
the matter of the small-pox itself; and in one village they seem
to have selected a virulent case for the matter used in the operation,
for nearly all the village was swept off by the disease
in a malignant confluent form. Where the idea came from I can not conceive.
It was practiced by the Bakwains at a time when they had no intercourse,
direct or indirect, with the southern missionaries. They all adopt readily
the use of vaccine virus when it is brought within their reach.
A certain loathsome disease, which decimates the North American Indians,
and threatens extirpation to the South Sea Islanders,
dies out in the interior of Africa without the aid of medicine;
and the Bangwaketse, who brought it from the west coast,
lost it when they came into their own land southwest of Kolobeng.
It seems incapable of permanence in any form in persons of pure African blood
any where in the centre of the country. In persons of mixed blood
it is otherwise; and the virulence of the secondary symptoms seemed to be,
in all the cases that came under my care, in exact proportion
to the greater or less amount of European blood in the patient.
Among the Corannas and Griquas of mixed breed it produces the same ravages
as in Europe; among half-blood Portuguese it is equally frightful
in its inroads on the system; but in the pure Negro of the central parts
it is quite incapable of permanence. Among the Barotse
I found a disease called manassah, which closely resembles
that of the `foeda mulier' of history.
Equally unknown is stone in the bladder and gravel. I never met with a case,
though the waters are often so strongly impregnated with sulphate of lime
that kettles quickly become incrusted internally with the salt;
and some of my patients, who were troubled with indigestion, believed that
their stomachs had got into the same condition. This freedom from calculi
would appear to be remarkable in the negro race, even in the United States;
for seldom indeed have the most famed lithotomists there
ever operated on a negro.
The diseases most prevalent are the following: pneumonia,
produced by sudden changes of temperature, and other inflammations,
as of the bowels, stomach, and pleura; rheumatism; disease of the heart --
but these become rare as the people adopt the European dress --
various forms of indigestion and ophthalmia; hooping-cough comes frequently;
and every year the period preceding the rains is marked
by some sort of epidemic. Sometimes it is general ophthalmia,
resembling closely the Egyptian. In another year it is a kind of diarrhoea,
which nothing will cure until there is a fall of rain, and any thing
acts as a charm after that. One year the epidemic period was marked
by a disease which looked like pneumonia, but had the peculiar symptom
strongly developed of great pain in the seventh cervical process.
Many persons died of it, after being in a comatose state
for many hours or days before their decease. No inspection of the body
being ever allowed by these people, and the place of sepulture
being carefully concealed, I had to rest satisfied with conjecture.
Frequently the Bakwains buried their dead in the huts where they died,
for fear lest the witches (Baloi) should disinter their friends,
and use some part of the body in their fiendish arts.
Scarcely is the breath out of the body when the unfortunate patient
is hurried away to be buried. An ant-eater's hole is often selected,
in order to save the trouble of digging a grave. On two occasions
while I was there this hasty burial was followed by the return home
of the men, who had been buried alive, to their affrighted relatives.
They had recovered, while in their graves, from prolonged swoons.
In ophthalmia the doctors cup on the temples, and apply to the eyes
the pungent smoke of certain roots, the patient, at the same time,
taking strong draughts of it up his nostrils. We found the solution
of nitrate of silver, two or three grains to the ounce of rain-water,
answer the same end so much more effectually, that every morning
numbers of patients crowded round our house for the collyrium.
It is a good preventive of an acute attack when poured into the eyes
as soon as the pain begins, and might prove valuable for travelers.
Cupping is performed with the horn of a goat or antelope, having a little hole
pierced in the small end. In some cases a small piece of wax is attached,
and a temporary hole made through it to the horn. When the air
is well withdrawn, and kept out by touching the orifice, at every inspiration,
with the point of the tongue, the wax is at last pressed together
with the teeth, and the little hole in it closed up, leaving a vacuum
within the horn for the blood to flow from the already scarified parts.
The edges of the horn applied to the surface are wetted,
and cupping is well performed, though the doctor occasionally,
by separating the fibrine from the blood in a basin of water by his side,
and exhibiting it, pretends that he has extracted something more than blood.
He can thus explain the rationale of the cure by his own art,
and the ocular demonstration given is well appreciated.
Those doctors who have inherited their profession as an heirloom
from their fathers and grandfathers generally possess some valuable knowledge,
the result of long and close observation; but if a man can not say
that the medical art is in his family, he may be considered a quack.
With the regular practitioners I always remained on the best terms,
by refraining from appearing to doubt their skill in the presence of
their patients. Any explanation in private was thankfully received by them,
and wrong treatment changed into something more reasonable
with cordial good-will, if no one but the doctor and myself
were present at the conversation. English medicines were eagerly
asked for and accepted by all; and we always found medical knowledge
an important aid in convincing the people that we were really anxious
for their welfare. We can not accuse them of ingratitude;
in fact, we shall remember the kindness of the Bakwains to us
as long as we live.
The surgical knowledge of the native doctors is rather at a low ebb.
No one ever attempted to remove a tumor except by external applications.
Those with which the natives are chiefly troubled are
fatty and fibrous tumors; and as they all have the `vis medicatrix naturae'
in remarkable activity, I safely removed an immense number.
In illustration of their want of surgical knowledge may be mentioned
the case of a man who had a tumor as large as a child's head.
This was situated on the nape of his neck, and prevented his walking straight.
He applied to his chief, and he got some famous strange doctor
from the East Coast to cure him. He and his assistants
attempted to dissolve it by kindling on it a little fire
made of a few small pieces of medicinal roots. I removed it for him,
and he always walked with his head much more erect than he needed to do
ever afterward. Both men and women submit to an operation without wincing,
or any of that shouting which caused young students to faint
in the operating theatre before the introduction of chloroform.
The women pride themselves on their ability to bear pain. A mother will
address her little girl, from whose foot a thorn is to be extracted, with,
"Now, ma, you are a woman; a woman does not cry." A man scorns to shed tears.
When we were passing one of the deep wells in the Kalahari,
a boy, the son of an aged father, had been drowned in it
while playing on its brink. When all hope was gone, the father uttered
an exceedingly great and bitter cry. It was sorrow without hope.
This was the only instance I ever met with of a man weeping in this country.
Their ideas on obstetrics are equally unscientific, and a medical man
going near a woman at her confinement appeared to them more out of place
than a female medical student appears to us in a dissecting-room.
A case of twins, however, happening, and the ointment
of all the doctors of the town proving utterly insufficient
to effect the relief which a few seconds of English art afforded,
the prejudice vanished at once. As it would have been out of the question
for me to have entered upon this branch of the profession -- as indeed
it would be inexpedient for any medical man to devote himself exclusively,
in a thinly-peopled country, to the practice of medicine --
I thereafter reserved myself for the difficult cases only,
and had the satisfaction of often conferring great benefits on poor women
in their hour of sorrow. The poor creatures are often placed in a little hut
built for the purpose, and are left without any assistance whatever,
and the numbers of umbilical herniae which are met with in consequence
is very great. The women suffer less at their confinement than is the case
in civilized countries; perhaps from their treating it, not as a disease,
but as an operation of nature, requiring no change of diet except
a feast of meat and abundance of fresh air. The husband on these occasions
is bound to slaughter for his lady an ox, or goat, or sheep,
according to his means.
My knowledge in the above line procured for me great fame
in a department in which I could lay no claim to merit.
A woman came a distance of one hundred miles for relief in a complaint
which seemed to have baffled the native doctors; a complete cure
was the result. Some twelve months after she returned to her husband,
she bore a son. Her husband having previously reproached her
for being barren, she sent me a handsome present, and proclaimed
all over the country that I possessed a medicine for the cure of sterility.
The consequence was, that I was teased with applications
from husbands and wives from all parts of the country.
Some came upward of two hundred miles to purchase the great boon,
and it was in vain for me to explain that I had only cured
the disease of the other case. The more I denied, the higher
their offers rose; they would give any money for the "child medicine";
and it was really heart-rending to hear the earnest entreaty,
and see the tearful eye, which spoke the intense desire for offspring:
"I am getting old; you see gray hairs here and there on my head,
and I have no child; you know how Bechuana husbands cast their old wives away;
what can I do? I have no child to bring water to me when I am sick," etc.
The whole of the country adjacent to the Desert, from Kuruman to Kolobeng,
or Litubaruba, and beyond up to the latitude of Lake Ngami,
is remarkable for its great salubrity of climate. Not only the natives,
but Europeans whose constitutions have been impaired by an Indian climate,
find the tract of country indicated both healthy and restorative.
The health and longevity of the missionaries have always been fair,
though mission-work is not very conducive to either elsewhere. Cases have
been known in which patients have come from the coast with complaints
closely resembling, if they were not actually, those of consumption;
and they have recovered by the influence of the climate alone.
It must always be borne in mind that the climate near the coast, from which
we received such very favorable reports of the health of the British troops,
is actually inferior for persons suffering from pulmonary complaints
to that of any part not subjected to the influence of sea-air.
I have never seen the beneficial effects of the inland climate
on persons of shattered constitutions, nor heard their high praises
of the benefit they have derived from traveling, without wishing
that its bracing effects should become more extensively known in England.
No one who has visited the region I have above mentioned fails
to remember with pleasure the wild, healthful gipsy life of wagon-traveling.
A considerable proportion of animal diet seems requisite here.
Independent of the want of salt, we required meat in as large quantity daily
as we do in England, and no bad effects, in the way of biliousness,
followed the free use of flesh, as in other hot climates.
A vegetable diet causes acidity and heartburn.
Mr. Oswell thought this climate much superior to that of Peru,
as far as pleasure is concerned; the want of instruments unfortunately
prevented my obtaining accurate scientific data for the medical world
on this subject; and were it not for the great expense of such a trip,
I should have no hesitation in recommending the borders of the Kalahari Desert
as admirably suited for all patients having pulmonary complaints.
It is the complete antipodes to our cold, damp, English climate.
The winter is perfectly dry; and as not a drop of rain falls
during that period, namely, from the beginning of May to the end of August,
damp and cold are never combined. However hot the day may have been
at Kolobeng -- and the thermometer sometimes rose, previous to a fall of rain,
up to 96 Deg. in the coolest part of our house -- yet the atmosphere
never has that steamy feeling nor those debilitating effects
so well known in India and on the coast of Africa itself. In the evenings
the air becomes deliciously cool, and a pleasant refreshing night follows
the hottest day. The greatest heat ever felt is not so oppressive as it is
when there is much humidity in the air; and the great evaporation consequent
on a fall of rain makes the rainy season the most agreeable for traveling.
Nothing can exceed the balmy feeling of the evenings and mornings
during the whole year. You wish for an increase neither of cold nor heat;
and you can sit out of doors till midnight without ever thinking
of colds or rheumatism; or you may sleep out at night, looking up to the moon
till you fall asleep, without a thought or sign of moon-blindness.
Indeed, during many months there is scarcely any dew.
Departure from the Country of the Bakwains -- Large black Ant --
Land Tortoises -- Diseases of wild Animals -- Habits of old Lions --
Cowardice of the Lion -- Its Dread of a Snare -- Major Vardon's Note --
The Roar of the Lion resembles the Cry of the Ostrich --
Seldom attacks full-grown Animals -- Buffaloes and Lions --
Mice -- Serpents -- Treading on one -- Venomous and harmless Varieties --
Fascination -- Sekomi's Ideas of Honesty -- Ceremony of the Sechu for Boys
-- The Boyale for young Women -- Bamangwato Hills -- The Unicorn's Pass --
The Country beyond -- Grain -- Scarcity of Water -- Honorable Conduct
of English Gentlemen -- Gordon Cumming's hunting Adventures --
A Word of Advice for young Sportsmen -- Bushwomen drawing Water --
Ostrich -- Silly Habit -- Paces -- Eggs -- Food.
Having remained five days with the wretched Bakwains,
seeing the effects of war, of which only a very inadequate idea
can ever be formed by those who have not been eye-witnesses of its miseries,