Part 6 out of 15
in trying to ascend a steep bank to lay her eggs, had toppled on her back,
thus enabling us to capture her, was an infallible omen of good luck
for our journey.
* The `Hagidash', Latham; or `Tantalus capensis' of Lich.
Among the forest-trees which line the banks of the rocky parts of the Leeambye
several new birds were observed. Some are musical, and the songs
are pleasant in contrast with the harsh voice of the little green,
yellow-shouldered parrots of the country. There are also great numbers
of jet-black weavers, with yellowish-brown band on the shoulders.
Here we saw, for the first time, a pretty little bird, colored dark blue,
except the wings and tail, which were of a chocolate hue.
From the tail two feathers are prolonged beyond the rest six inches.
Also, little birds colored white and black, of great vivacity,
and always in companies of six or eight together, and various others.
From want of books of reference, I could not decide whether they were
actually new to science.
Francolins and Guinea-fowl abound along the banks; and on every dead tree
and piece of rock may be seen one or two species of the web-footed `Plotus',
darter, or snake-bird. They sit most of the day sunning themselves
over the stream, sometimes standing erect with their wings outstretched;
occasionally they may be seen engaged in fishing by diving,
and, as they swim about, their bodies are so much submerged
that hardly any thing appears above the water but their necks.
The chief time of feeding is by night, and, as the sun declines,
they may be seen in flocks flying from their roosting-places
to the fishing-grounds. This is a most difficult bird to catch when disabled.
It is thoroughly expert in diving -- goes down so adroitly and comes up again
in the most unlikely places, that the people, though most skillful
in the management of the canoes, can rarely secure them.
The rump of the darter is remarkably prolonged, and capable of being bent,
so as to act both as a rudder in swimming, and as a lever to lift the bird
high enough out of the water to give free scope to its wings.
It can rise at will from the water by means of this appendage.
The fine fish-hawk, with white head and neck, and reddish-chocolate
colored body, may also frequently be seen perched on the trees,
and fish are often found dead which have fallen victims to its talons.
One most frequently seen in this condition is itself a destroyer of fish.
It is a stout-bodied fish, about fifteen or eighteen inches long,
of a light yellow color, and gayly ornamented with stripes and spots.
It has a most imposing array of sharp, conical teeth outside the lips --
objects of dread to the fisherman, for it can use them effectually.
One which we picked up dead had killed itself by swallowing another fish,
which, though too large for its stomach and throat, could not be disgorged.
This fish-hawk generally kills more prey than it can devour.
It eats a portion of the back of the fish, and leaves the rest
for the Barotse, who often had a race across the river
when they saw an abandoned morsel lying on the opposite sand-banks.
The hawk is, however, not always so generous, for, as I myself was a witness
on the Zouga, it sometimes plunders the purse of the pelican.
Soaring over head, and seeing this large, stupid bird fishing beneath,
it watches till a fine fish is safe in the pelican's pouch;
then descending, not very quickly, but with considerable noise of wing,
the pelican looks up to see what is the matter, and, as the hawk comes near,
he supposes that he is about to be killed, and roars out "Murder!"
The opening of his mouth enables the hawk to whisk the fish out of the pouch,
upon which the pelican does not fly away, but commences fishing again,
the fright having probably made him forget he had any thing in his purse.
A fish called mosheba, about the size of a minnow, often skims along
the surface for several yards, in order to get out of the way of the canoe.
It uses the pectoral fins, as the flying-fish do, but never makes
a clean flight. It is rather a succession of hops along the surface,
made by the aid of the side fins. It never becomes large.
Numbers of iguanos (mpulu) sit sunning themselves on overhanging
branches of the trees, and splash into the water as we approach.
They are highly esteemed as an article of food, the flesh being
tender and gelatinous. The chief boatman, who occupies the stem,
has in consequence a light javelin always at hand to spear them
if they are not quickly out of sight. These, and large alligators
gliding in from the banks with a heavy plunge as we come round
a sudden bend of the stream, were the occurrences of every hour
as we sped up the river.
The rapids in the part of the river between Katima-molelo and Nameta
are relieved by several reaches of still, deep water, fifteen or twenty
miles long. In these very large herds of hippopotami are seen,
and the deep furrows they make, in ascending the banks to graze
during the nights, are every where apparent. They are guided
back to the water by the scent, but a long continued pouring rain
makes it impossible for them to perceive, by that means,
in which direction the river lies, and they are found bewildered on the land.
The hunters take advantage of their helplessness on these occasions
to kill them.
It is impossible to judge of the numbers in a herd, for they are almost always
hidden beneath the waters; but as they require to come up every few minutes
to breathe, when there is a constant succession of heads thrown up,
then the herd is supposed to be large. They love a still reach of the stream,
as in the more rapid parts of the channel they are floated down so quickly
that much exertion is necessary to regain the distance lost
by frequently swimming up again: such constant exertion disturbs them
in their nap. They prefer to remain by day in a drowsy, yawning state,
and, though their eyes are open, they take little notice of things
at a distance. The males utter a loud succession of snorting grunts,
which may be heard a mile off. The canoe in which I was,
in passing over a wounded one, elicited a distinct grunting,
though the animal lay entirely under water.
The young, when very little, take their stand on the neck of the dam,
and the small head, rising above the large, comes soonest to the surface.
The dam, knowing the more urgent need of her calf, comes more frequently
to the surface when it is in her care. But in the rivers of Londa,
where they are much in danger of being shot, even the hippopotamus gains wit
by experience; for, while those in the Zambesi put up their heads openly
to blow, those referred to keep their noses among water-plants, and breathe
so quietly that one would not dream of their existence in the river
except by footprints on the banks.
Increasing Beauty of the Country -- Mode of spending the Day --
The People and the Falls of Gonye -- A Makololo Foray -- A second prevented,
and Captives delivered up -- Politeness and Liberality of the People --
The Rains -- Present of Oxen -- The fugitive Barotse --
Sekobinyane's Misgovernment -- Bee-eaters and other Birds --
Fresh-water Sponges -- Current -- Death from a Lion's Bite at Libonta --
Continued Kindness -- Arrangements for spending the Night
during the Journey -- Cooking and Washing -- Abundance of animal Life --
Different Species of Birds -- Water-fowl -- Egyptian Geese --
Alligators -- Narrow Escape of one of my Men -- Superstitious Feelings
respecting the Alligator -- Large Game -- The most vulnerable Spot --
Gun Medicine -- A Sunday -- Birds of Song -- Depravity; its Treatment --
Wild Fruits -- Green Pigeons -- Shoals of Fish -- Hippopotami.
30TH OF NOVEMBER, 1853. At Gonye Falls. No rain has fallen here,
so it is excessively hot. The trees have put on their gayest dress,
and many flowers adorn the landscape, yet the heat makes all the leaves
droop at midday and look languid for want of rain. If the country
increases as much in beauty in front as it has done within
the last four degrees of latitude, it will be indeed a lovely land.
We all felt great lassitude in traveling. The atmosphere is oppressive
both in cloud and sunshine. The evaporation from the river
must be excessively great, and I feel as if the fluids of the system
joined in the general motion of watery vapor upward,
as enormous quantities of water must be drunk to supply its place.
When under way our usual procedure is this: We get up a little before
five in the morning; it is then beginning to dawn. While I am dressing,
coffee is made; and, having filled my pannikin, the remainder is handed
to my companions, who eagerly partake of the refreshing beverage.
The servants are busy loading the canoes, while the principal men
are sipping the coffee, and, that being soon over, we embark.
The next two hours are the most pleasant part of the day's sail.
The men paddle away most vigorously; the Barotse, being a tribe of boatmen,
have large, deeply-developed chests and shoulders, with indifferent
lower extremities. They often engage in loud scolding of each other
in order to relieve the tedium of their work. About eleven we land,
and eat any meat which may have remained from the previous evening meal,
or a biscuit with honey, and drink water.
After an hour's rest we again embark and cower under an umbrella.
The heat is oppressive, and, being weak from the last attack of fever,
I can not land and keep the camp supplied with flesh. The men,
being quite uncovered in the sun, perspire profusely, and in the afternoon
begin to stop, as if waiting for the canoes which have been left behind.
Sometimes we reach a sleeping-place two hours before sunset,
and, all being troubled with languor, we gladly remain for the night.
Coffee again, and a biscuit, or a piece of coarse bread made of maize meal,
or that of the native corn, make up the bill of fare for the evening,
unless we have been fortunate enough to kill something, when we boil
a potful of flesh. This is done by cutting it up into long strips
and pouring in water till it is covered. When that is boiled dry,
the meat is considered ready.
The people at Gonye carry the canoes over the space requisite
to avoid the falls by slinging them on poles tied on diagonally.
They place these on their shoulders, and, setting about the work
with good humor, soon accomplish the task. They are a merry set of mortals;
a feeble joke sets them off in a fit of laughter. Here, as elsewhere,
all petitioned for the magic lantern, and, as it is a good means
of conveying instruction, I willingly complied.
The falls of Gonye have not been made by wearing back, like those of Niagara,
but are of a fissure form. For many miles below, the river is confined
in a narrow space of not more than one hundred yards wide.
The water goes boiling along, and gives the idea of great masses of it
rolling over and over, so that even the most expert swimmer
would find it difficult to keep on the surface. Here it is that the river,
when in flood, rises fifty or sixty feet in perpendicular height.
The islands above the falls are covered with foliage as beautiful
as can be seen any where. Viewed from the mass of rock
which overhangs the fall, the scenery was the loveliest I had seen.
Nothing worthy of note occurred on our way up to Nameta.
There we heard that a party of the Makololo, headed by Lerimo,
had made a foray to the north and up the Leeba, in the very direction
in which we were about to proceed. Mpololo, the uncle of Sekeletu,
is considered the head man of the Barotse valley; and the perpetrators
had his full sanction, because Masiko, a son of Santuru,
the former chief of the Barotse, had fled high up the Leeambye,
and, establishing himself there, had sent men down to the vicinity of Naliele
to draw away the remaining Barotse from their allegiance.
Lerimo's party had taken some of this Masiko's subjects prisoners,
and destroyed several villages of the Balonda, to whom we were going.
This was in direct opposition to the policy of Sekeletu,
who wished to be at peace with these northern tribes;
and Pitsane, my head man, was the bearer of orders to Mpololo
to furnish us with presents for the very chiefs they had attacked.
Thus we were to get large pots of clarified butter and bunches of beads,
in confirmation of the message of peace we were to deliver.
When we reached Litofe, we heard that a fresh foray was in contemplation,
but I sent forward orders to disband the party immediately.
At Ma-Sekeletu's town we found the head offender, Mpololo himself,
and I gave him a bit of my mind, to the effect that, as I was going
with the full sanction of Sekeletu, if any harm happened to me
in consequence of his ill-advised expedition, the guilt would rest with him.
Ma-Sekeletu, who was present, heartily approved all I said,
and suggested that all the captives taken by Lerimo should be returned
by my hand, to show Masiko that the guilt of the foray
lay not with the superior persons of the Makololo, but with a mere servant.
Her good sense appeared in other respects besides, and, as this was exactly
what my own party had previously resolved to suggest, we were pleased to hear
Mpololo agree to do what he was advised. He asked me to lay the matter
before the under-chiefs of Naliele, and when we reached that place,
on the 9th of December, I did so in a picho, called expressly for the purpose.
Lerimo was present, and felt rather crestfallen when his exploit was described
by Mohorisi, one of my companions, as one of extreme cowardice,
he having made an attack upon the defenseless villagers of Londa,
while, as we had found on our former visit, a lion had actually killed
eight people of Naliele without his daring to encounter it.
The Makololo are cowardly in respect to animals, but brave against men.
Mpololo took all the guilt upon himself before the people, and delivered up
a captive child whom his wife had in her possession; others followed
his example, till we procured the release of five of the prisoners.
Some thought, as Masiko had tried to take their children by stratagem,
they ought to take his by force, as the two modes suited
the genius of each people -- the Makalaka delight in cunning,
and the Makololo in fighting; and others thought, if Sekeletu meant them
to be at peace with Masiko, he ought to have told them so.
It is rather dangerous to tread in the footsteps of a marauding party
with men of the same tribe as the aggressors, but my people
were in good spirits, and several volunteers even offered to join our ranks.
We, however, adhered strictly to the orders of Sekeletu as to our companions,
and refused all others.
The people of every village treated us most liberally, presenting,
besides oxen, butter, milk, and meal, more than we could stow away
in our canoes. The cows in this valley are now yielding,
as they frequently do, more milk than the people can use,
and both men and women present butter in such quantity that I shall be able
to refresh my men as we move along. Anointing the skin prevents
the excessive evaporation of the fluids of the body, and acts as clothing
in both sun and shade. They always made their presents gracefully.
When an ox was given, the owner would say, "Here is a little bit of bread
for you." This was pleasing, for I had been accustomed to the Bechuanas
presenting a miserable goat, with the pompous exclamation, "Behold an ox!"
The women persisted in giving me copious supplies of shrill praises,
or "lullilooing"; but, though I frequently told them to modify
their "great lords" and "great lions" to more humble expressions,
they so evidently intended to do me honor that I could not help being pleased
with the poor creatures' wishes for our success.
The rains began while we were at Naliele; this is much later than usual;
but, though the Barotse valley has been in need of rain,
the people never lack abundance of food. The showers are refreshing,
but the air feels hot and close; the thermometer, however, in a cool hut,
stands only at 84 Deg. The access of the external air to any spot
at once raises its temperature above 90 Deg. A new attack of fever here
caused excessive languor; but, as I am already getting tired
of quoting my fevers, and never liked to read travels myself
where much was said about the illnesses of the traveler,
I shall henceforth endeavor to say little about them.
We here sent back the canoe of Sekeletu, and got the loan of others
from Mpololo. Eight riding oxen, and seven for slaughter,
were, according to the orders of that chief, also furnished;
some were intended for our own use, and others as presents
to the chiefs of the Balonda. Mpololo was particularly liberal
in giving all that Sekeletu ordered, though, as he feeds on the cattle
he has in charge, he might have felt it so much abstracted
from his own perquisites. Mpololo now acts the great man,
and is followed every where by a crowd of toadies, who sing songs
in disparagement of Mpepe, of whom he always lived in fear.
While Mpepe was alive, he too was regaled with the same fulsome adulation,
and now they curse him. They are very foul-tongued; equals, on meeting,
often greet each other with a profusion of oaths, and end the volley
with a laugh.
In coming up the river to Naliele we met a party of fugitive Barotse
returning to their homes, and, as the circumstance illustrates
the social status of these subjects of the Makololo, I introduce it here.
The villagers in question were the children, or serfs, if we may use the term,
of a young man of the same age and tribe as Sekeletu, who,
being of an irritable temper, went by the nickname of Sekobinyane --
a little slavish thing. His treatment of his servants was so bad
that most of them had fled; and when the Mambari came,
and, contrary to the orders of Sekeletu, purchased slaves,
Sekobinyane sold one or two of the Barotse children of his village.
The rest fled immediately to Masiko, and were gladly received
by that Barotse chief as his subjects.
When Sekeletu and I first ascended the Leeambye, we met Sekobinyane
coming down, on his way to Linyanti. On being asked the news,
he remained silent about the loss of his village, it being considered
a crime among the Makololo for any one to treat his people so ill
as to cause them to run away from him. He then passed us,
and, dreading the vengeance of Sekeletu for his crime, secretly made
his escape from Linyanti to Lake Ngami. He was sent for, however,
and the chief at the lake delivered him up, on Sekeletu declaring
that he had no intention of punishing him otherwise than by scolding.
He did not even do that, as Sekobinyane was evidently terrified enough,
and also became ill through fear.
The fugitive villagers remained only a few weeks with their new master Masiko,
and then fled back again, and were received as if they had done nothing wrong.
All united in abusing the conduct of Sekobinyane, and no one condemned
the fugitives; and the cattle, the use of which they had previously enjoyed,
never having been removed from their village, they re-established themselves
with apparent gladness.
This incident may give some idea of the serfdom of the subject tribes, and,
except that they are sometimes punished for running away and other offenses,
I can add nothing more by way of showing the true nature
of this form of servitude.
Leaving Naliele, amid abundance of good wishes for the success of
our expedition, and hopes that we might return accompanied with white traders,
we began again our ascent of the river. It was now beginning to rise,
though the rains had but just commenced in the valley. The banks are low,
but cleanly cut, and seldom sloping. At low water they are from
four to eight feet high, and make the river always assume very much
the aspect of a canal. They are in some parts of whitish, tenacious clay,
with strata of black clay intermixed, and black loam in sand,
or pure sand stratified. As the river rises it is always wearing
to one side or the other, and is known to have cut across from one bend
to another, and to form new channels. As we coast along the shore,
pieces which are undermined often fall in with a splash like that caused
by the plunge of an alligator, and endanger the canoe.
These perpendicular banks afford building-places to a pretty bee-eater,*
which loves to breed in society. The face of the sand-bank is perforated
with hundreds of holes leading to their nests, each of which is about a foot
apart from the other; and as we pass they pour out of their hiding-places,
and float overhead.
* `Merops apiaster' and `M. bullockoides' (Smith).
A speckled kingfisher is seen nearly every hundred yards,
which builds in similar spots, and attracts the attention of herd-boys,
who dig out its nest for the sake of the young. This, and a most lovely
little blue and orange kingfisher, are seen every where along the banks,
dashing down like a shot into the water for their prey. A third,
seen more rarely, is as large as a pigeon, and is of a slaty color.
Another inhabitant of the banks is the sand-martin, which also likes company
in the work of raising a family. They never leave this part of the country.
One may see them preening themselves in the very depth of winter,
while the swallows, of which we shall yet speak, take winter trips.
I saw sand-martins at the Orange River during a period of winter frost;
it is, therefore, probable that they do not migrate even from thence.
Around the reeds, which in some parts line the banks,
we see fresh-water sponges. They usually encircle the stalk,
and are hard and brittle, presenting numbers of small round grains
near their circumference.
The river was running at the rate of five miles an hour,
and carried bunches of reed and decaying vegetable matter on its surface;
yet the water was not discolored. It had, however, a slightly
yellowish-green tinge, somewhat deeper than its natural color.
This arose from the quantity of sand carried by the rising flood
from sand-banks, which are annually shifted from one spot to another,
and from the pieces falling in as the banks are worn; for when the water
is allowed to stand in a glass, a few seconds suffice for its deposit
at the bottom. This is considered an unhealthy period. When waiting,
on one occasion, for the other canoes to come up, I felt no inclination
to leave the one I was in; but my head boatman, Mashauana,
told me never to remain on board while so much vegetable matter
was floating down the stream.
17TH DECEMBER. At Libonta. We were detained for days together collecting
contributions of fat and butter, according to the orders of Sekeletu,
as presents to the Balonda chiefs. Much fever prevailed,
and ophthalmia was rife, as is generally the case before the rains begin.
Some of my own men required my assistance, as well as the people of Libonta.
A lion had done a good deal of mischief here, and when the people
went to attack it two men were badly wounded; one of them had his thigh-bone
quite broken, showing the prodigious power of this animal's jaws.
The inflammation produced by the teeth-wounds proved fatal to one of them.
Here we demanded the remainder of the captives, and got our number
increased to nineteen. They consisted of women and children,
and one young man of twenty. One of the boys was smuggled away in the crowd
as we embarked. The Makololo under-chiefs often act in direct opposition
to the will of the head chief, trusting to circumstances and brazenfacedness
to screen themselves from his open displeasure; and as he does not always
find it convenient to notice faults, they often go to considerable lengths
Libonta is the last town of the Makololo; so, when we parted from it,
we had only a few cattle-stations and outlying hamlets in front,
and then an uninhabited border country till we came to Londa or Lunda.
Libonta is situated on a mound like the rest of the villages
in the Barotse valley, but here the tree-covered sides of the valley
begin to approach nearer the river. The village itself
belongs to two of the chief wives of Sebituane, who furnished us
with an ox and abundance of other food. The same kindness was manifested
by all who could afford to give any thing; and as I glance over
their deeds of generosity recorded in my journal, my heart glows
with gratitude to them, and I hope and pray that God may spare me
to make them some return.
Before leaving the villages entirely, we may glance at our way of spending
the nights. As soon as we land, some of the men cut a little grass
for my bed, while Mashauana plants the poles of the little tent.
These are used by day for carrying burdens, for the Barotse fashion
is exactly like that of the natives of India, only the burden is fastened
near the ends of the pole, and not suspended by long cords. The bed is made,
and boxes ranged on each side of it, and then the tent pitched over all.
Four or five feet in front of my tent is placed the principal or kotla fire,
the wood for which must be collected by the man who occupies
the post of herald, and takes as his perquisite the heads
of all the oxen slaughtered, and of all the game too. Each person knows
the station he is to occupy, in reference to the post of honor at the fire
in front of the door of the tent. The two Makololo occupy my right and left,
both in eating and sleeping, as long as the journey lasts. But Mashauana,
my head boatman, makes his bed at the door of the tent as soon as I retire.
The rest, divided into small companies according to their tribes,
make sheds all round the fire, leaving a horseshoe-shaped space in front
sufficient for the cattle to stand in. The fire gives confidence to the oxen,
so the men are always careful to keep them in sight of it. The sheds
are formed by planting two stout forked poles in an inclined direction,
and placing another over these in a horizontal position. A number of branches
are then stuck in the ground in the direction to which the poles are inclined,
the twigs drawn down to the horizontal pole and tied with strips of bark.
Long grass is then laid over the branches in sufficient quantity
to draw off the rain, and we have sheds open to the fire in front,
but secure from beasts behind. In less than an hour
we were usually all under cover. We never lacked abundance of grass
during the whole journey. It is a picturesque sight at night,
when the clear bright moon of these climates glances on
the sleeping forms around, to look out upon the attitudes of profound repose
both men and beasts assume. There being no danger from wild animals
in such a night, the fires are allowed almost to go out; and as there is
no fear of hungry dogs coming over sleepers and devouring the food,
or quietly eating up the poor fellows' blankets, which at best
were but greasy skins, which sometimes happened in the villages,
the picture was one of perfect peace.
The cooking is usually done in the natives' own style, and,
as they carefully wash the dishes, pots, and the hands before handling food,
it is by no means despicable. Sometimes alterations are made
at my suggestion, and then they believe that they can cook
in thorough white man's fashion. The cook always comes in
for something left in the pot, so all are eager to obtain the office.
I taught several of them to wash my shirts, and they did it well,
though their teacher had never been taught that work himself.
Frequent changes of linen and sunning of my blanket kept me more comfortable
than might have been anticipated, and I feel certain that
the lessons of cleanliness rigidly instilled by my mother in childhood
helped to maintain that respect which these people entertain
for European ways. It is questionable if a descent to barbarous ways
ever elevates a man in the eyes of savages.
When quite beyond the inhabited parts, we found the country abounding
in animal life of every form. There are upward of thirty species of birds
on the river itself. Hundreds of the `Ibis religiosa' come down the Leeambye
with the rising water, as they do on the Nile; then large white pelicans,
in flocks of three hundred at a time, following each other
in long extending line, rising and falling as they fly so regularly all along
as to look like an extended coil of birds; clouds of a black
shell-eating bird, called linongolo (`Anastomus lamelligerus');
also plovers, snipes, curlews, and herons without number.
There are, besides the more common, some strange varieties.
The pretty white `ardetta' is seen in flocks, settling on
the backs of large herds of buffaloes, and following them on the wing
when they run; while the kala (`Textor erythrorhynchus') is a better horseman,
for it sits on the withers when the animal is at full speed.
Then those strange birds, the scissor-bills, with snow-white breast,
jet-black coat, and red beak, sitting by day on the sand-banks,
the very picture of comfort and repose. Their nests are only little hollows
made on these same sand-banks, without any attempt of concealment;
they watch them closely, and frighten away the marabou and crows
from their eggs by feigned attacks at their heads. When man approaches
their nests, they change their tactics, and, like the lapwing and ostrich,
let one wing drop and make one leg limp, as if lame. The upper mandible
being so much shorter than the lower, the young are more helpless
than the stork in the fable with the flat dishes, and must have every thing
conveyed into the mouth by the parents till they are able to provide
for themselves. The lower mandible, as thin as a paper-knife,
is put into the water while the bird skims along the surface,
and scoops up any little insects it meets. It has great length of wing,
and can continue its flight with perfect ease, the wings acting,
though kept above the level of the body. The wonder is,
how this plowing of the surface of the water can be so well performed
as to yield a meal, for it is usually done in the dark.
Like most aquatic feeders, they work by night, when insects and fishes
rise to the surface. They have great affection for their young,
its amount being increased in proportion to the helplessness of the offspring.
There are also numbers of spoonbills, nearly white in plumage;
the beautiful, stately flamingo; the Numidian crane, or demoiselle,
some of which, tamed at Government House, Cape Town, struck every one
as most graceful ornaments to a noble mansion, as they perched on its pillars.
There are two cranes besides -- one light blue, the other also light blue,
but with a white neck; and gulls (`Procellaria') of different sizes abound.
One pretty little wader, an avoset, appears as if standing on stilts,
its legs are so long; and its bill seems bent the wrong way, or upward.
It is constantly seen wading in the shallows, digging up
little slippery insects, the peculiar form of the bill enabling it
to work them easily out of the sand. When feeding, it puts its head
under the water to seize the insect at the bottom, then lifts it up quickly,
making a rapid gobbling, as if swallowing a wriggling worm.
The `Parra Africana' runs about on the surface, as if walking on water,
catching insects. It too has long, thin legs, and extremely long toes,
for the purpose of enabling it to stand on the floating lotus-leaves
and other aquatic plants. When it stands on a lotus-leaf five inches
in diameter, the spread of the toes, acting on the principle of snow-shoes,
occupies all the surface, and it never sinks, though it obtains a livelihood,
not by swimming or flying, but by walking on the water.
Water-birds, whose prey or food requires a certain aim or action
in one direction, have bills quite straight in form, as the heron and snipe;
while those which are intended to come in contact with hard substances,
as breaking shells, have the bills gently curved, in order that the shock
may not be communicated to the brain.
The Barotse valley contains great numbers of large black geese.*
They may be seen every where walking slowly about, feeding.
They have a strong black spur on the shoulder, like the armed plover,
and as strong as that on the heel of a cock, but are never seen to use them,
except in defense of their young. They choose ant-hills for their nests,
and in the time of laying the Barotse consume vast quantities of their eggs.
There are also two varieties of geese, of somewhat smaller size,
but better eating. One of these, the Egyptian goose, or Vulpanser,
can not rise from the water, and during the floods of the river
great numbers are killed by being pursued in canoes. The third is furnished
with a peculiar knob on the beak. These, with myriads of ducks
of three varieties, abound every where on the Leeambye.
On one occasion the canoe neared a bank on which a large flock was sitting.
Two shots furnished our whole party with a supper, for we picked up
seventeen ducks and a goose. No wonder the Barotse always look back
to this fruitful valley as the Israelites did to the flesh-pots of Egypt.
The poorest persons are so well supplied with food from their gardens,
fruits from the forest trees, and fish from the river, that their children,
when taken into the service of the Makololo, where they have only
one large meal a day, become quite emaciated, and pine for a return
to their parents.
* `Anser leucagaster' and `melanogaster'.
Part of our company marched along the banks with the oxen, and part went
in the canoes, but our pace was regulated by the speed of the men on shore.
Their course was rather difficult, on account of the numbers of
departing and re-entering branches of the Leeambye, which they had
to avoid or wait at till we ferried them over. The number of alligators
is prodigious, and in this river they are more savage than in some others.
Many children are carried off annually at Sesheke and other towns;
for, notwithstanding the danger, when they go down for water
they almost always must play a while. This reptile is said by the natives
to strike the victim with its tail, then drag him in and drown him.
When lying in the water watching for prey, the body never appears.
Many calves are lost also, and it is seldom that a number of cows
can swim over at Sesheke without some loss. I never could avoid shuddering
on seeing my men swimming across these branches, after one of them
had been caught by the thigh and taken below. He, however,
retained, as nearly all of them in the most trying circumstances do,
his full presence of mind, and, having a small, square, ragged-edged javelin
with him, when dragged to the bottom gave the alligator a stab
behind the shoulder. The alligator, writhing in pain, left him,
and he came out with the deep marks of the reptile's teeth on his thigh.
Here the people have no antipathy to persons who have met
with such an adventure, but, in the Bamangwato and Bakwain tribes,
if a man is either bitten or even has had water splashed over him
by the reptile's tail, he is expelled his tribe. When on the Zouga
we saw one of the Bamangwato living among the Bayeiye, who had the misfortune
to have been bitten and driven out of his tribe in consequence.
Fearing that I would regard him with the same disgust which his countrymen
profess to feel, he would not tell me the cause of his exile,
but the Bayeiye informed me of it, and the scars of the teeth were visible
on his thigh. If the Bakwains happened to go near an alligator
they would spit on the ground, and indicate its presence
by saying "Boleo ki bo" -- "There is sin". They imagine the mere sight of it
would give inflammation of the eyes; and though they eat the zebra
without hesitation, yet if one bites a man he is expelled the tribe,
and obliged to take his wife and family away to the Kalahari.
These curious relics of the animal-worship of former times
scarcely exist among the Makololo. Sebituane acted on the principle,
"Whatever is food for men is food for me;" so no man is here
considered unclean. The Barotse appear inclined to pray to alligators
and eat them too, for when I wounded a water-antelope, called mochose,
it took to the water; when near the other side of the river
an alligator appeared at its tail, and then both sank together.
Mashauana, who was nearer to it than I, told me that,
"though he had called to it to let his meat alone, it refused to listen."
One day we passed some Barotse lads who had speared an alligator,
and were waiting in expectation of its floating soon after.
The meat has a strong musky odor, not at all inviting for any one
except the very hungry.
When we had gone thirty or forty miles above Libonta we sent
eleven of our captives to the west, to the chief called Makoma,
with an explanatory message. This caused some delay; but as we were loaded
with presents of food from the Makololo, and the wild animals
were in enormous herds, we fared sumptuously. It was grievous, however,
to shoot the lovely creatures, they were so tame. With but little skill
in stalking, one could easily get within fifty or sixty yards of them.
There I lay, looking at the graceful forms and motions of beautiful pokus,*
leches, and other antelopes, often till my men, wondering what was the matter,
came up to see, and frightened them away. If we had been starving,
I could have slaughtered them with as little hesitation as I should cut off
a patient's leg; but I felt a doubt, and the antelopes got the benefit of it.
Have they a guardian spirit over them? I have repeatedly observed,
when I approached a herd lying beyond an ant-hill with a tree on it,
and viewed them with the greatest caution, they very soon showed
symptoms of uneasiness. They did not sniff danger in the wind,
for I was to leeward of them; but the almost invariable apprehension of danger
which arose, while unconscious of the direction in which it lay,
made me wonder whether each had what the ancient physicians thought
we all possessed, an archon, or presiding spirit.
* I propose to name this new species `Antilope Vardonii',
after the African traveler, Major Vardon.
If we could ascertain the most fatal spot in an animal, we could dispatch it
with the least possible amount of suffering; but as that is probably
the part to which the greatest amount of nervous influence is directed
at the moment of receiving the shot, if we can not be sure
of the heart or brain, we are never certain of speedy death.
Antelopes, formed for a partially amphibious existence,
and other animals of that class, are much more tenacious of life
than those which are purely terrestrial. Most antelopes,
when in distress or pursued, make for the water. If hunted, they always do.
A leche shot right through the body, and no limb-bone broken, is almost sure
to get away, while a zebra, with a wound of no greater severity,
will probably drop down dead. I have seen a rhinoceros, while standing
apparently chewing the cud, drop down dead from a shot in the stomach,
while others shot through one lung and the stomach go off as if little hurt.
But if one should crawl up silently to within twenty yards
either of the white or black rhinoceros, throwing up a pinch of dust
every now and then, to find out that the anxiety to keep the body
concealed by the bushes has not led him to the windward side,
then sit down, rest the elbow on the knees, and aim, slanting a little upward,
at a dark spot behind the shoulders, it falls stone dead.
To show that a shock on the part of the system to which much nervous force
is at the time directed will destroy life, it may be mentioned that an eland,
when hunted, can be dispatched by a wound which does little more
than injure the muscular system; its whole nervous force is then imbuing
the organs of motion; and a giraffe, when pressed hard by a good horse
only two or three hundred yards, has been known to drop down dead,
without any wound being inflicted at all. A full gallop
by an eland or giraffe quite dissipates its power, and the hunters,
aware of this, always try to press them at once to it, knowing that
they have but a short space to run before the animals are in their power.
In doing this, the old sportsmen are careful not to go too close
to the giraffe's tail, for this animal can swing his hind foot round
in a way which would leave little to choose between a kick with it
and a clap from the arm of a windmill.
When the nervous force is entire, terrible wounds may be inflicted
without killing; a tsessebe having been shot through the neck while
quietly feeding, we went to him, and one of the men cut his throat deep enough
to bleed him largely. He started up after this and ran more than a mile,
and would have got clear off had not a dog brought him to bay under a tree,
where we found him standing.
My men, having never had fire-arms in their hands before,
found it so difficult to hold the musket steady at the flash of fire
in the pan, that they naturally expected me to furnish them
with "gun medicine", without which, it is almost universally believed,
no one can shoot straight. Great expectations had been formed
when I arrived among the Makololo on this subject; but, having invariably
declined to deceive them, as some for their own profit have done,
my men now supposed that I would at last consent, and thereby relieve myself
from the hard work of hunting by employing them after due medication.
This I was most willing to do, if I could have done it honestly;
for, having but little of the hunting `furore' in my composition,
I always preferred eating the game to killing it. Sulphur is the remedy
most admired, and I remember Sechele giving a large price
for a very small bit. He also gave some elephants' tusks, worth 30 Pounds,
for another medicine which was to make him invulnerable to musket balls.
As I uniformly recommended that these things should be tested by experiment,
a calf was anointed with the charm and tied to a tree. It proved decisive,
and Sechele remarked it was "pleasanter to be deceived than undeceived."
I offered sulphur for the same purpose, but that was declined, even though
a person came to the town afterward and rubbed his hands with a little
before a successful trial of shooting at a mark.
I explained to my men the nature of a gun, and tried to teach them,
but they would soon have expended all the ammunition in my possession.
I was thus obliged to do all the shooting myself ever afterward.
Their inability was rather a misfortune; for, in consequence of working
too soon after having been bitten by the lion, the bone of my left arm had not
united well. Continual hard manual labor, and some falls from ox-back,
lengthened the ligament by which the ends of the bones were united,
and a false joint was the consequence. The limb has never been painful,
as those of my companions on the day of the rencounter with the lion
have been, but, there being a joint too many, I could not steady the rifle,
and was always obliged to shoot with the piece resting on the left shoulder.
I wanted steadiness of aim, and it generally happened that the more hungry
the party became, the more frequently I missed the animals.
We spent a Sunday on our way up to the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye.
Rains had fallen here before we came, and the woods had put on
their gayest hue. Flowers of great beauty and curious forms grow every where;
they are unlike those in the south, and so are the trees.
Many of the forest-tree leaves are palmated and largely developed;
the trunks are covered with lichens, and the abundance of ferns
which appear in the woods shows we are now in a more humid climate
than any to the south of the Barotse valley. The ground begins to swarm
with insect life; and in the cool, pleasant mornings the welkin rings
with the singing of birds, which is not so delightful as the notes of birds
at home, because I have not been familiar with them from infancy.
The notes here, however, strike the mind by their loudness and variety,
as the wellings forth from joyous hearts of praise to Him
who fills them with overflowing gladness. All of us rise early
to enjoy the luscious balmy air of the morning. We then have worship;
but, amid all the beauty and loveliness with which we are surrounded,
there is still a feeling of want in the soul in viewing
one's poor companions, and hearing bitter, impure words
jarring on the ear in the perfection of the scenes of Nature,
and a longing that both their hearts and ours might be brought into harmony
with the Great Father of Spirits. I pointed out, in, as usual,
the simplest words I could employ, the remedy which God has presented to us,
in the inexpressibly precious gift of His own Son, on whom the Lord
"laid the iniquity of us all." The great difficulty in dealing
with these people is to make the subject plain. The minds of the auditors
can not be understood by one who has not mingled much with them.
They readily pray for the forgiveness of sins, and then sin again;
confess the evil of it, and there the matter ends.
I shall not often advert to their depravity. My practice has always been
to apply the remedy with all possible earnestness, but never allow my own mind
to dwell on the dark shades of men's characters. I have never been able
to draw pictures of guilt, as if that could awaken Christian sympathy.
The evil is there. But all around in this fair creation are scenes of beauty,
and to turn from these to ponder on deeds of sin can not promote a healthy
state of the faculties. I attribute much of the bodily health I enjoy
to following the plan adopted by most physicians, who, while engaged
in active, laborious efforts to assist the needy, at the same time
follow the delightful studies of some department of natural history.
The human misery and sin we endeavor to alleviate and cure may be likened
to the sickness and impurity of some of the back slums of great cities.
One contents himself by ministering to the sick and trying to remove
the causes, without remaining longer in the filth than is necessary
for his work; another, equally anxious for the public good,
stirs up every cesspool, that he may describe its reeking vapors,
and, by long contact with impurities, becomes himself infected,
sickens, and dies.
The men went about during the day, and brought back wild fruits
of several varieties, which I had not hitherto seen. One, called mogametsa,
is a bean with a little pulp round it, which tastes like sponge-cake;
another, named mawa, grows abundantly on a low bush. There are many
berries and edible bulbs almost every where. The mamosho or moshomosho,
and milo (a medlar), were to be found near our encampment.
These are both good, if indeed one can be a fair judge who felt quite disposed
to pass a favorable verdict on every fruit which had the property of being
eatable at all. Many kinds are better than our crab-apple or sloe,
and, had they the care and culture these have enjoyed, might take high rank
among the fruits of the world. All that the Africans have thought of
has been present gratification; and now, as I sometimes deposit date-seeds
in the soil, and tell them I have no hope whatever of seeing the fruit,
it seems to them as the act of the South Sea Islanders appears to us,
when they planted in their gardens iron nails received from Captain Cook.
There are many fruits and berries in the forests, the uses of which
are unknown to my companions. Great numbers of a kind of palm
I have never met with before were seen growing at and below
the confluence of the Loeti and Leeambye; the seed probably came down
the former river. It is nearly as tall as the palmyra. The fruit is larger
than of that species; it is about four inches long, and has a soft yellow pulp
round the kernel or seed; when ripe, it is fluid and stringy,
like the wild mango, and not very pleasant to eat.
Before we came to the junction of the Leeba and Leeambye
we found the banks twenty feet high, and composed of marly sandstone.
They are covered with trees, and the left bank has the tsetse and elephants.
I suspect the fly has some connection with this animal,
and the Portuguese in the district of Tete must think so too,
for they call it the `Musca da elephant' (the elephant fly).
The water of inundation covers even these lofty banks, but does not stand long
upon them; hence the crop of trees. Where it remains for any length of time,
trees can not live. On the right bank, or that in which the Loeti flows,
there is an extensive flat country called Manga, which,
though covered with grass, is destitute in a great measure of trees.
Flocks of green pigeons rose from the trees as we passed along the banks,
and the notes of many birds told that we were now among
strangers of the feathered tribe. The beautiful trogon,
with bright scarlet breast and black back, uttered a most peculiar note,
similar to that we read of as having once been emitted by Memnon,
and likened to the tuning of a lyre. The boatmen answered it
by calling "Nama, nama!" -- meat, meat -- as if they thought
that a repetition of the note would be a good omen for our success in hunting.
Many more interesting birds were met; but I could make no collection,
as I was proceeding on the plan of having as little luggage as possible,
so as not to excite the cupidity of those through whose country
we intended to pass.
Vast shoals of fish come down the Leeambye with the rising waters,
as we observed they also do in the Zouga. They are probably induced
to make this migration by the increased rapidity of the current
dislodging them from their old pasture-grounds higher up the river.
Insects constitute but a small portion of the food of many fish.
Fine vegetable matter, like slender mosses, growing on the bottom,
is devoured greedily; and as the fishes are dislodged from the main stream
by the force of the current, and find abundant pasture on the flooded plains,
the whole community becomes disturbed and wanders.
The mosala (`Clarias Capensis' and `Glanis siluris'), the mullet
(`Mugil Africanus'), and other fishes, spread over the Barotse valley
in such numbers that when the waters retire all the people are employed
in cutting them up and drying them in the sun. The supply exceeds the demand,
and the land in numerous places is said to emit a most offensive smell.
Wherever you see the Zambesi in the centre of the country,
it is remarkable for the abundance of animal life in and upon its waters,
and on the adjacent banks.
We passed great numbers of hippopotami. They are very numerous
in the parts of the river where they are never hunted.
The males appear of a dark color, the females of yellowish brown.
There is not such a complete separation of the sexes among them
as among elephants. They spend most of their time in the water, lolling about
in a listless, dreamy manner. When they come out of the river by night,
they crop off the soft succulent grasses very neatly. When they blow,
they puff up the water about three feet high.
Message to Masiko, the Barotse Chief, regarding the Captives --
Navigation of the Leeambye -- Capabilities of this District --
The Leeba -- Flowers and Bees -- Buffalo-hunt -- Field for a Botanist --
Young Alligators; their savage Nature -- Suspicion of the Balonda --
Sekelenke's Present -- A Man and his two Wives -- Hunters --
Message from Manenko, a female Chief -- Mambari Traders -- A Dream --
Sheakondo and his People -- Teeth-filing -- Desire for Butter --
Interview with Nyamoana, another female Chief -- Court Etiquette --
Hair versus Wool -- Increase of Superstition -- Arrival of Manenko;
her Appearance and Husband -- Mode of Salutation -- Anklets --
Embassy, with a Present from Masiko -- Roast Beef -- Manioc --
Magic Lantern -- Manenko an accomplished Scold: compels us to wait --
On the 27th of December we were at the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye
(lat. 14d 10' 52" S., long. 23d 35' 40" E.). Masiko, the Barotse chief,
for whom we had some captives, lived nearly due east of this point. They were
two little boys, a little girl, a young man, and two middle-aged women.
One of these was a member of a Babimpe tribe, who knock out
both upper and lower front teeth as a distinction. As we had been informed
by the captives on the previous Sunday that Masiko was in the habit of seizing
all orphans, and those who have no powerful friend in the tribe
whose protection they can claim, and selling them for clothing to the Mambari,
we thought the objection of the women to go first to his town
before seeing their friends quite reasonable, and resolved to send
a party of our own people to see them safely among their relatives.
I told the captive young man to inform Masiko that he was very unlike
his father Santuru, who had refused to sell his people to Mambari.
He will probably be afraid to deliver such a message himself,
but it is meant for his people, and they will circulate it pretty widely,
and Masiko may yet feel a little pressure from without. We sent Mosantu,
a Batoka man, and his companions, with the captives. The Barotse whom we had
were unwilling to go to Masiko, since they owe him allegiance
as the son of Santuru, and while they continue with the Makololo
are considered rebels. The message by Mosantu was, that "I was sorry to find
that Santuru had not borne a wiser son. Santuru loved to govern men,
but Masiko wanted to govern wild beasts only, as he sold his people
to the Mambari;" adding an explanation of the return of the captives,
and an injunction to him to live in peace, and prevent his people kidnapping
the children and canoes of the Makololo, as a continuance in these deeds
would lead to war, which I wished to prevent. He was also instructed to say,
if Masiko wanted fuller explanation of my views, he must send a sensible man
to talk with me at the first town of the Balonda, to which I was
about to proceed.
We ferried Mosantu over to the left bank of the Leeba.
The journey required five days, but it could not have been at a quicker rate
than ten or twelve miles per day; the children were between
seven and eight years of age, and unable to walk fast in a hot sun.
Leaving Mosantu to pursue his course, we shall take but one glance
down the river, which we are now about to leave, for it comes at this point
from the eastward, and our course is to be directed to the northwest,
as we mean to go to Loanda in Angola. From the confluence,
where we now are, down to Mosioatunya, there are many long reaches,
where a vessel equal to the Thames steamers plying between the bridges
could run as freely as they do on the Thames. It is often, even here,
as broad as that river at London Bridge, but, without accurate
measurement of the depth, one could not say which contained most water.
There are, however, many and serious obstacles to a continued navigation
for hundreds of miles at a stretch. About ten miles below
the confluence of the Loeti, for instance, there are many large sand-banks
in the stream; then you have a hundred miles to the River Simah,
where a Thames steamer could ply at all times of the year;
but, again, the space between Simah and Katima-molelo
has five or six rapids with cataracts, one of which, Gonye,
could not be passed at any time without portage. Between these rapids
there are reaches of still, deep water, of several miles in length.
Beyond Katima-molelo to the confluence of the Chobe you have nearly
a hundred miles again, of a river capable of being navigated in the same way
as in the Barotse valley.
Now I do not say that this part of the river presents a very inviting prospect
for extemporaneous European enterprise; but when we have a pathway
which requires only the formation of portages to make it equal to our canals
for hundreds of miles, where the philosophers supposed there was naught
but an extensive sandy desert, we must confess that the future partakes
at least of the elements of hope. My deliberate conviction was and is
that the part of the country indicated is as capable of supporting
millions of inhabitants as it is of its thousands. The grass
of the Barotse valley, for instance, is such a densely-matted mass that,
when "laid", the stalks bear each other up, so that one feels as if walking
on the sheaves of a hay-stack, and the leches nestle under it
to bring forth their young. The soil which produces this,
if placed under the plow, instead of being mere pasturage,
would yield grain sufficient to feed vast multitudes.
We now began to ascend the Leeba. The water is black in color
as compared with the main stream, which here assumes the name of Kabompo.
The Leeba flows placidly, and, unlike the parent river,
receives numbers of little rivulets from both sides. It winds slowly
through the most charming meadows, each of which has either
a soft, sedgy centre, large pond, or trickling rill down the middle.
The trees are now covered with a profusion of the freshest foliage,
and seem planted in groups of such pleasant, graceful outline
that art could give no additional charm. The grass, which had been burned off
and was growing again after the rains, was short and green,
and all the scenery so like that of a carefully-tended gentleman's park,
that one is scarcely reminded that the surrounding region
is in the hands of simple nature alone. I suspect that the level meadows
are inundated annually, for the spots on which the trees stand
are elevated three or four feet above them, and these elevations,
being of different shapes, give the strange variety of outline
of the park-like woods. Numbers of a fresh-water shell are scattered
all over these valleys. The elevations, as I have observed elsewhere,
are of a soft, sandy soil, and the meadows of black, rich alluvial loam.
There are many beautiful flowers, and many bees to sip their nectar.
We found plenty of honey in the woods, and saw the stages on which
the Balonda dry their meat, when they come down to hunt and gather
the produce of the wild hives. In one part we came upon
groups of lofty trees as straight as masts, with festoons of orchilla-weed
hanging from the branches. This, which is used as a dye-stuff,
is found nowhere in the dry country to the south. It prefers
the humid climate near the west coast.
A large buffalo was wounded, and ran into the thickest part of the forest,
bleeding profusely. The young men went on his trail;
and, though the vegetation was so dense that no one could have run
more than a few yards, most of them went along quite carelessly,
picking and eating a fruit of the melon family called Mponko.
When the animal heard them approach he always fled,
shifting his stand and doubling on his course in the most cunning manner.
In other cases I have known them to turn back to a point
a few yards from their own trail, and then lie down in a hollow
waiting for the hunter to come up. Though a heavy, lumbering-looking animal,
his charge is then rapid and terrific. More accidents happen
by the buffalo and the black rhinoceros than by the lion.
Though all are aware of the mischievous nature of the buffalo when wounded,
our young men went after him quite carelessly. They never lose
their presence of mind, but, as a buffalo charges back in a forest,
dart dexterously out of his way behind a tree, and, wheeling round,
stab him as he passes.
A tree in flower brought the pleasant fragrance of hawthorn hedges
back to memory; its leaves, flowers, perfumes, and fruit
resembled those of the hawthorn, only the flowers were as large as dog-roses,
and the "haws" like boys' marbles. Here the flowers smell sweetly,
while few in the south emit any scent at all, or only a nauseous odor.
A botanist would find a rich harvest on the banks of the Leeba.
This would be his best season, for the flowers all run rapidly to seed,
and then insects of every shape spring into existence to devour them.
The climbing plants display great vigor of growth, being not only
thick in the trunk, but also at the very point, in the manner of
quickly-growing asparagus. The maroro or malolo now appears,
and is abundant in many parts between this and Angola. It is a small bush
with a yellow fruit, and in its appearance a dwarf "anona".
The taste is sweet, and the fruit is wholesome: it is full of seeds,
like the custard-apple.
On the 28th we slept at a spot on the right bank from which had just emerged
two broods of alligators. We had seen many young ones as we came up,
so this seems to be their time of coming forth from the nests,
for we saw them sunning themselves on sand-banks in company with the old ones.
We made our fire in one of the deserted nests, which were strewed all over
with the broken shells. At the Zouga we saw sixty eggs taken
out of one such nest alone. They are about the size of those of a goose,
only the eggs of the alligator are of the same diameter at both ends,
and the white shell is partially elastic, from having a strong
internal membrane and but little lime in its composition. The distance
from the water was about ten feet, and there were evidences of the same place
having been used for a similar purpose in former years. A broad path led up
from the water to the nest, and the dam, it was said by my companions,
after depositing the eggs, covers them up, and returns afterward
to assist the young out of the place of confinement and out of the egg.
She leads them to the edge of the water, and then leaves them
to catch small fish for themselves. Assistance to come forth
seems necessary, for here, besides the tough membrane of the shell,
they had four inches of earth upon them; but they do not require
immediate aid for food, because they all retain a portion of yolk,
equal to that of a hen's egg, in a membrane in the abdomen,
as a stock of nutriment, while only beginning independent existence
by catching fish. Fish is the principal food of both small and large,
and they are much assisted in catching them by their broad, scaly tails.
Sometimes an alligator, viewing a man in the water from the opposite bank,
rushes across the stream with wonderful agility, as is seen
by the high ripple he makes on the surface caused by his rapid motion
at the bottom; but in general they act by stealth, sinking underneath
as soon as they see man. They seldom leave the water to catch prey,
but often come out by day to enjoy the pleasure of basking in the sun.
In walking along the bank of the Zouga once, a small one,
about three feet long, made a dash at my feet, and caused me
to rush quickly in another direction; but this is unusual,
for I never heard of a similar case. A wounded leche,
chased into any of the lagoons in the Barotse valley,
or a man or dog going in for the purpose of bringing out a dead one,
is almost sure to be seized, though the alligators may not appear
on the surface. When employed in looking for food they keep out of sight;
they fish chiefly by night. When eating, they make a loud, champing noise,
which when once heard is never forgotten.
The young, which had come out of the nests where we spent the night,
did not appear wary; they were about ten inches long, with yellow eyes,
and pupil merely a perpendicular slit. They were all marked
with transverse slips of pale green and brown, half an inch broad.
When speared, they bit the weapon savagely, though their teeth
were but partially developed, uttering at the same time a sharp bark
like that of a whelp when it first begins to use its voice.
I could not ascertain whether the dam devours them, as reported,
or whether the ichneumon has the same reputation here as in Egypt.
Probably the Barotse and Bayeiye would not look upon it as a benefactor;
they prefer to eat the eggs themselves, and be their own ichneumons.
The white of the egg does not coagulate, but the yolk does,
and this is the only part eaten.
As the population increases, the alligators will decrease, for their nests
will be oftener found; the principal check on their inordinate multiplication
seems to be man. They are more savage and commit more mischief
in the Leeambye than in any other river. After dancing long
in the moonlight nights, young men run down to the water to wash off the dust
and cool themselves before going to bed, and are thus often carried away.
One wonders they are not afraid; but the fact is, they have as little
sense of danger impending over them as the hare has when not actually pursued
by the hound, and in many rencounters, in which they escape,
they had not time to be afraid, and only laugh at the circumstance afterward:
there is a want of calm reflection. In many cases, not referred to
in this book, I feel more horror now in thinking on dangers I have run
than I did at the time of their occurrence.
When we reached the part of the river opposite to the village of Manenko,
the first female chief whom we encountered, two of the people called Balunda,
or Balonda, came to us in their little canoe. From them we learned
that Kolimbota, one of our party, who had been in the habit of visiting
these parts, was believed by the Balonda to have acted as a guide
to the marauders under Lerimo, whose captives we were now returning.
They very naturally suspected this, from the facility with which
their villages had been found, and, as they had since removed them
to some distance from the river, they were unwilling to lead us
to their places of concealment. We were in bad repute, but,
having a captive boy and girl to show in evidence of Sekeletu and ourselves
not being partakers in the guilt of inferior men, I could freely express
my desire that all should live in peace. They evidently felt
that I ought to have taught the Makololo first, before coming to them,
for they remarked that what I advanced was very good, but guilt lay
at the door of the Makololo for disturbing the previously existing peace.
They then went away to report us to Manenko.
When the strangers visited us again in the evening, they were accompanied
by a number of the people of an Ambonda chief named Sekelenke.
The Ambonda live far to the N.W.; their language, the Bonda,
is the common dialect in Angola. Sekelenke had fled, and was now living
with his village as a vassal of Masiko. As notices of such men
will perhaps convey the best idea of the state of the inhabitants
to the reader, I shall hereafter allude to the conduct of Sekelenke,
whom I at present only introduce. Sekelenke had gone with his villagers
to hunt elephants on the right bank of the Leeba, and was now on his way
back to Masiko. He sent me a dish of boiled zebra's flesh, and a request
that I should lend him a canoe to ferry his wives and family across the river
to the bank on which we were encamped. Many of Sekelenke's people came
to salute the first white man they ever had an opportunity of seeing;
but Sekelenke himself did not come near. We heard he was offended
with some of his people for letting me know he was among the company. He said
that I should be displeased with him for not coming and making some present.
This was the only instance in which I was shunned in this quarter.
As it would have been impolitic to pass Manenko, or any chief,
without at least showing so much respect as to call and explain
the objects of our passing through the country, we waited two entire days
for the return of the messengers to Manenko; and as I could not hurry matters,
I went into the adjacent country to search for meat for the camp.
The country is furnished largely with forest, having occasionally open lawns
covered with grass, not in tufts as in the south, but so closely planted that
one can not see the soil. We came upon a man and his two wives and children,
burning coarse rushes and the stalks of tsitla, growing in a brackish marsh,
in order to extract a kind of salt from the ashes. They make
a funnel of branches of trees, and line it with grass rope,
twisted round until it is, as it were, a beehive-roof inverted.
The ashes are put into water, in a calabash, and then it is allowed
to percolate through the small hole in the bottom and through the grass.
When this water is evaporated in the sun, it yields sufficient salt
to form a relish with food. The women and children fled with precipitation,
but we sat down at a distance, and allowed the man time to gain
courage enough to speak. He, however, trembled excessively
at the apparition before him; but when we explained that our object
was to hunt game, and not men, he became calm, and called back his wives.
We soon afterward came to another party on the same errand with ourselves.
The man had a bow about six feet long, and iron-headed arrows about
thirty inches in length; he had also wooden arrows neatly barbed, to shoot
in cases where he might not be quite certain of recovering them again.
We soon afterward got a zebra, and gave our hunting acquaintances
such a liberal share that we soon became friends. All whom we saw that day
then came with us to the encampment to beg a little meat;
and as they have so little salt, I have no doubt they felt grateful
for what we gave.
Sekelenke and his people, twenty-four in number, defiled past our camp
carrying large bundles of dried elephants' meat. Most of them came
to say good-by, and Sekelenke himself sent to say that he had gone to visit
a wife living in the village of Manenko. It was a mere African manoeuvre
to gain information, and not commit himself to either one line of action
or another with respect to our visit. As he was probably
in the party before us, I replied that it was all right,
and when my people came up from Masiko I would go to my wife too.
Another zebra came to our camp, and, as we had friends near, it was shot.
It was the `Equus montanus', though the country is perfectly flat,
and was finely marked down to the feet, as all the zebras are in these parts.
To our first message, offering a visit of explanation to Manenko,
we got an answer, with a basket of manioc roots, that we must remain
where we were till she should visit us. Having waited two days already
for her, other messengers arrived with orders for me to come to her.
After four days of rains and negotiation, I declined going at all,
and proceeded up the river to the small stream Makondo (lat. 13d 23' 12" S.),
which enters the Leeba from the east, and is between twenty and thirty
JANUARY 1ST, 1854. We had heavy rains almost every day; indeed,
the rainy season had fairly set in. Baskets of the purple fruit called mawa
were frequently brought to us by the villagers; not for sale,
but from a belief that their chiefs would be pleased to hear
that they had treated us well; we gave them pieces of meat in return.
When crossing at the confluence of the Leeba and Makondo,
one of my men picked up a bit of a steel watch-chain of English manufacture,
and we were informed that this was the spot where the Mambari cross
in coming to Masiko. Their visits explain why Sekelenke kept his tusks
so carefully. These Mambari are very enterprising merchants:
when they mean to trade with a town, they deliberately begin the affair
by building huts, as if they knew that little business could be transacted
without a liberal allowance of time for palaver. They bring Manchester goods
into the heart of Africa; these cotton prints look so wonderful
that the Makololo could not believe them to be the work of mortal hands.
On questioning the Mambari they were answered that English manufactures
came out of the sea, and beads were gathered on its shore.
To Africans our cotton mills are fairy dreams. "How can the irons spin,
weave, and print so beautifully?" Our country is like what Taprobane was
to our ancestors -- a strange realm of light, whence came the diamond,
muslin, and peacocks; an attempt at explanation of our manufactures
usually elicits the expression, "Truly ye are gods!"
When about to leave the Makondo, one of my men had dreamed that Mosantu
was shut up a prisoner in a stockade: this dream depressed the spirits
of the whole party, and when I came out of my little tent in the morning,
they were sitting the pictures of abject sorrow. I asked if we were
to be guided by dreams, or by the authority I derived from Sekeletu,
and ordered them to load the boats at once; they seemed ashamed to confess
their fears; the Makololo picked up courage and upbraided the others
for having such superstitious views, and said this was always their way;
if even a certain bird called to them, they would turn back
from an enterprise, saying it was unlucky. They entered the canoes at last,
and were the better of a little scolding for being inclined
to put dreams before authority. It rained all the morning, but about eleven
we reached the village of Sheakondo, on a small stream named Lonkonye.
We sent a message to the head man, who soon appeared with two wives,
bearing handsome presents of manioc: Sheakondo could speak
the language of the Barotse well, and seemed awestruck when told
some of the "words of God". He manifested no fear, always spoke frankly,
and when he made an asseveration, did so by simply pointing up to the sky
above him. The Balonda cultivate the manioc or cassava extensively;
also dura, ground-nuts, beans, maize, sweet potatoes, and yams,
here called "lekoto", but as yet we see only the outlying villages.
The people who came with Sheakondo to our bivouac had their teeth filed
to a point by way of beautifying them, though those which were left untouched
were always the whitest; they are generally tattooed in various parts,
but chiefly on the abdomen: the skin is raised in small elevated cicatrices,
each nearly half an inch long and a quarter of an inch in diameter,
so that a number of them may constitute a star, or other device.
The dark color of the skin prevents any coloring matter being deposited
in these figures, but they love much to have the whole surface of their bodies
anointed with a comfortable varnish of oil. In their unassisted state
they depend on supplies of oil from the Palma Christi, or castor-oil plant,
or from various other oliferous seeds, but they are all
excessively fond of clarified butter or ox fat. Sheakondo's old wife
presented some manioc roots, and then politely requested
to be anointed with butter: as I had been bountifully supplied
by the Makololo, I gave her as much as would suffice, and as they have
little clothing, I can readily believe that she felt her comfort
greatly enhanced thereby.
The favorite wife, who was also present, was equally anxious for butter.
She had a profusion of iron rings on her ankles, to which were attached
little pieces of sheet iron, to enable her to make a tinkling as she walked
in her mincing African style; the same thing is thought pretty
by our own dragoons in walking jauntingly.
We had so much rain and cloud that I could not get a single observation
for either longitude or latitude for a fortnight. Yet the Leeba
does not show any great rise, nor is the water in the least discolored.
It is slightly black, from the number of mossy rills which fall into it.
It has remarkably few birds and fish, while the Leeambye swarms with both.
It is noticeable that alligators here possess more of the fear of man
than in the Leeambye. The Balonda have taught them, by their poisoned arrows,
to keep out of sight. We did not see one basking in the sun.
The Balonda set so many little traps for birds that few appear.
I observed, however, many (to me) new small birds of song on its banks.
More rain has been falling in the east than here, for the Leeambye
was rising fast and working against the sandy banks so vigorously
that a slight yellow tinge was perceptible in it.
One of our men was bitten by a non-venomous serpent, and of course
felt no harm. The Barotse concluded that this was owing to many of them
being present and seeing it, as if the sight of human eyes
could dissolve the poison and act as a charm.
On the 6th of January we reached the village of another female chief,
named Nyamoana, who is said to be the mother of Manenko,
and sister of Shinte or Kabompo, the greatest Balonda chief
in this part of the country. Her people had but recently come
to the present locality, and had erected only twenty huts.
Her husband, Samoana, was clothed in a kilt of green and red baize,
and was armed with a spear and a broadsword of antique form,
about eighteen inches long and three broad. The chief and her husband
were sitting on skins placed in the middle of a circle thirty paces
in diameter, a little raised above the ordinary level of the ground,
and having a trench round it. Outside the trench sat about a hundred persons
of all ages and both sexes. The men were well armed with bows, arrows,
spears, and broadswords. Beside the husband sat a rather aged woman,
having a bad outward squint in the left eye. We put down our arms
about forty yards off, and I walked up to the centre of the circular bench,
and saluted him in the usual way by clapping the hands together
in their fashion. He pointed to his wife, as much as to say,
the honor belongs to her. I saluted her in the same way,
and a mat having been brought, I squatted down in front of them.
The talker was then called, and I was asked who was my spokesman.
Having pointed to Kolimbota, who knew their dialect best,
the palaver began in due form. I explained the real objects I had in view,
without any attempt to mystify or appear in any other character than my own,
for I have always been satisfied that, even though there were
no other considerations, the truthful way of dealing with the uncivilized
is unquestionably the best. Kolimbota repeated to Nyamoana's talker
what I had said to him. He delivered it all verbatim to her husband,
who repeated it again to her. It was thus all rehearsed four times over,
in a tone loud enough to be heard by the whole party of auditors.
The response came back by the same roundabout route, beginning at the lady
to her husband, etc.
After explanations and re-explanations, I perceived that our new friends
were mixing up my message of peace and friendship with Makololo affairs,
and stated that it was not delivered on the authority of any one less
than that of their Creator, and that if the Makololo did again
break His laws and attack the Balonda, the guilt would rest with the Makololo
and not with me. The palaver then came to a close.
By way of gaining their confidence, I showed them my hair,
which is considered a curiosity in all this region. They said,
"Is that hair? It is the mane of a lion, and not hair at all."
Some thought that I had made a wig of lion's mane, as they sometimes do
with fibres of the "ife", and dye it black, and twist it so as to resemble
a mass of their own wool. I could not return the joke by telling them
that theirs was not hair, but the wool of sheep, for they have none of these
in the country; and even though they had, as Herodotus remarked,
"the African sheep are clothed with hair, and men's heads with wool."
So I had to be content with asserting that mine was the real original hair,
such as theirs would have been had it not been scorched and frizzled
by the sun. In proof of what the sun could do, I compared
my own bronzed face and hands, then about the same in complexion
as the lighter-colored Makololo, with the white skin of my chest.
They readily believed that, as they go nearly naked and fully exposed
to that influence, we might be of common origin after all.
Here, as every where, when heat and moisture are combined, the people
are very dark, but not quite black. There is always a shade of brown
in the most deeply colored. I showed my watch and pocket compass,
which are considered great curiosities; but, though the lady
was called on by her husband to look, she would not be persuaded
to approach near enough.
These people are more superstitious than any we had yet encountered;
though still only building their village, they had found time to erect
two little sheds at the chief dwelling in it, in which were placed two pots
having charms in them. When asked what medicine they contained,
they replied, "Medicine for the Barimo;" but when I rose and looked into them,
they said they were medicine for the game. Here we saw
the first evidence of the existence of idolatry in the remains of an old idol
at a deserted village. It was simply a human head carved on a block of wood.
Certain charms mixed with red ochre and white pipe-clay are dotted over them
when they are in use; and a crooked stick is used in the same way for an idol
when they have no professional carver.
As the Leeba seemed still to come from the direction in which we wished to go,
I was desirous of proceeding farther up with the canoes;
but Nyamoana was anxious that we should allow her people
to conduct us to her brother Shinte; and when I explained
the advantage of water-carriage, she represented that her brother
did not live near the river, and, moreover, there was a cataract in front,
over which it would be difficult to convey the canoes. She was afraid, too,
that the Balobale, whose country lies to the west of the river,
not knowing the objects for which we had come, would kill us.
To my reply that I had been so often threatened with death
if I visited a new tribe that I was now more afraid of killing any one
than of being killed, she rejoined that the Balobale would not kill me,
but the Makololo would all be sacrificed as their enemies.
This produced considerable effect on my companions, and inclined them
to the plan of Nyamoana, of going to the town of her brother
rather than ascending the Leeba. The arrival of Manenko herself on the scene
threw so much weight into the scale on their side that I was forced
to yield the point.
Manenko was a tall, strapping woman about twenty, distinguished by
a profusion of ornaments and medicines hung round her person;
the latter are supposed to act as charms. Her body was smeared all over
with a mixture of fat and red ochre, as a protection against the weather;
a necessary precaution, for, like most of the Balonda ladies,
she was otherwise in a state of frightful nudity. This was not
from want of clothing, for, being a chief, she might have been as well clad
as any of her subjects, but from her peculiar ideas of elegance in dress.
When she arrived with her husband, Sambanza, they listened for some time
to the statements I was making to the people of Nyamoana, after which
the husband, acting as spokesman, commenced an oration, stating the reasons
for their coming, and, during every two or three seconds of the delivery,
he picked up a little sand, and rubbed it on the upper part
of his arms and chest. This is a common mode of salutation in Londa;
and when they wish to be excessively polite, they bring
a quantity of ashes or pipe-clay in a piece of skin, and, taking up handfuls,
rub it on the chest and upper front part of each arm; others, in saluting,
drum their ribs with their elbows; while others still touch the ground
with one cheek after the other, and clap their hands. The chiefs go through
the manoeuvre of rubbing the sand on the arms, but only make a feint
at picking up some. When Sambanza had finished his oration,
he rose up, and showed his ankles ornamented with a bundle of copper rings;
had they been very heavy, they would have made him adopt a straggling walk.
Some chiefs have really so many as to be forced, by the weight and size,
to keep one foot apart from the other, the weight being
a serious inconvenience in walking. The gentlemen like Sambanza,
who wish to imitate their betters, do so in their walk;
so you see men, with only a few ounces of ornament on their legs,
strutting along as if they had double the number of pounds.
When I smiled at Sambanza's walk, the people remarked, "That is the way
in which they show off their lordship in these parts."
Manenko was quite decided in the adoption of the policy of friendship
with the Makololo which we recommended; and, by way of cementing the bond,
she and her counselors proposed that Kolimbota should take a wife among them.
By this expedient she hoped to secure his friendship,
and also accurate information as to the future intentions of the Makololo.
She thought that he would visit the Balonda more frequently afterward,
having the good excuse of going to see his wife; and the Makololo
would never, of course, kill the villagers among whom
so near a relative of one of their own children dwells.
Kolimbota, I found, thought favorably of the proposition,
and it afterward led to his desertion from us.
On the evening of the day in which Manenko arrived, we were delighted
by the appearance of Mosantu and an imposing embassy from Masiko.
It consisted of all his under-chiefs, and they brought a fine elephant's tusk,
two calabashes of honey, and a large piece of blue baize, as a present.
The last was intended perhaps to show me that he was a truly great chief,
who had such stores of white men's goods at hand that he could afford
to give presents of them; it might also be intended for Mosantu,
for chiefs usually remember the servants; I gave it to him.
Masiko expressed delight, by his principal men, at the return of the captives,
and at the proposal of peace and alliance with the Makololo.
He stated that he never sold any of his own people to the Mambari,
but only captives whom his people kidnapped from small neighboring tribes.
When the question was put whether his people had been in the habit
of molesting the Makololo by kidnapping their servants and stealing canoes,
it was admitted that two of his men, when hunting, had gone
to the Makololo gardens, to see if any of their relatives were there.
As the great object in all native disputes is to get both parties to turn over
a new leaf, I explained the desirableness of forgetting past feuds,
accepting the present Makololo professions as genuine, and avoiding in future
to give them any cause for marauding. I presented Masiko with an ox,
furnished by Sekeletu as provision for ourselves. All these people
are excessively fond of beef and butter, from having been accustomed to them
in their youth, before the Makololo deprived them of cattle.
They have abundance of game, but I am quite of their opinion that,
after all, there is naught in the world equal to roast beef, and that
in their love for it the English show both good taste and sound sense.
The ox was intended for Masiko, but his men were very anxious
to get my sanction for slaughtering it on the spot. I replied
that when it went out of my hands I had no more to do with it.
They, however, wished the responsibility of slaughtering it to rest with me;
if I had said they might kill it, not many ounces would have remained
in the morning. I would have given permission, but had nothing else to offer
in return for Masiko's generosity.
We were now without any provisions except a small dole of manioc roots
each evening from Nyamoana, which, when eaten raw, produce poisonous effects.
A small loaf, made from nearly the last morsel of maize-meal from Libonta,
was my stock, and our friends from Masiko were still more destitute;
yet we all rejoiced so much at their arrival that we resolved
to spend a day with them. The Barotse of our party, meeting with
relatives and friends among the Barotse of Masiko, had many old tales to tell;
and, after pleasant hungry converse by day, we regaled our friends with
the magic lantern by night, and, in order to make the thing of use to all,
we removed our camp up to the village of Nyamoana. This is a good means
of arresting the attention, and conveying important facts
to the minds of these people.
When erecting our sheds at the village, Manenko fell upon
our friends from Masiko in a way that left no doubt on our minds
but that she is a most accomplished scold. Masiko had, on a former occasion,
sent to Samoana for a cloth, a common way of keeping up intercourse,
and, after receiving it, sent it back, because it had the appearance
of having had "witchcraft medicine" on it; this was a grave offense,
and now Manenko had a good excuse for venting her spleen,
the embassadors having called at her village, and slept in one of the huts
without leave. If her family was to be suspected of dealing in evil charms,
why were Masiko's people not to be thought guilty of leaving the same
in her hut? She advanced and receded in true oratorical style,
belaboring her own servants as well for allowing the offense,
and, as usual in more civilized feminine lectures, she leaned over
the objects of her ire, and screamed forth all their faults and failings
ever since they were born, and her despair of ever seeing them become better,
until they were all "killed by alligators". Masiko's people
followed the plan of receiving this torrent of abuse in silence,
and, as neither we nor they had any thing to eat, we parted next morning.
In reference to Masiko selling slaves to the Mambari, they promised to explain
the relationship which exists between even the most abject of his people
and our common Father; and that no more kidnapping ought to be allowed,
as he ought to give that peace and security to the smaller tribes
on his eastern borders which he so much desired to obtain himself
from the Makololo. We promised to return through his town
when we came back from the sea-coast.
Manenko gave us some manioc roots in the morning, and had determined
to carry our baggage to her uncle's, Kabompo or Shinte.
We had heard a sample of what she could do with her tongue;
and as neither my men nor myself had much inclination to encounter
a scolding from this black Mrs. Caudle, we made ready the packages;
but she came and said the men whom she had ordered for the service had not
yet come; they would arrive to-morrow. Being on low and disagreeable diet,
I felt annoyed at this further delay, and ordered the packages
to be put into the canoes to proceed up the river without her servants;
but Manenko was not to be circumvented in this way; she came forward
with her people, and said her uncle would be angry if she did not
carry forward the tusks and goods of Sekeletu, seized the luggage,
and declared that she would carry it in spite of me. My men succumbed sooner
to this petticoat government than I felt inclined to do, and left me no power;
and, being unwilling to encounter her tongue, I was moving off to the canoes,
when she gave me a kind explanation, and, with her hand on my shoulder,
put on a motherly look, saying, "Now, my little man, just do
as the rest have done." My feelings of annoyance of course vanished,
and I went out to try and get some meat.
The only game to be found in these parts are the ZEBRA,
the KUALATA or tahetsi (`Aigoceros equina'), kama (`Bubalus caama'),
buffaloes, and the small antelope hakitenwe (`Philantomba').
The animals can be seen here only by following on their trail for many miles.
Urged on by hunger, we followed that of some zebras during the greater part
of the day: when within fifty yards of them, in a dense thicket,
I made sure of one, but, to my infinite disgust, the gun missed fire,
and off they bounded. The climate is so very damp, from daily heavy rains,
that every thing becomes loaded with moisture, and the powder
in the gun-nipples can not be kept dry. It is curious to mark
the intelligence of the game; in districts where they are much annoyed
by fire-arms, they keep out on the most open spots of country they can find,
in order to have a widely-extended range of vision, and a man armed
is carefully shunned. From the frequency with which I have been allowed
to approach nearer without than with a gun, I believe they know
the difference between safety and danger in the two cases. But here,
where they are killed by the arrows of the Balonda, they select for safety
the densest forest, where the arrow can not be easily shot.
The variation in the selection of standing-spots during the day may, however,
be owing partly to the greater heat of the sun, for here it is particularly
sharp and penetrating. However accounted for, the wild animals here do select
the forests by day, while those farther south generally shun these covers,
and, on several occasions, I have observed there was no sunshine
to cause them to seek for shade.
Nyamoana's Present -- Charms -- Manenko's pedestrian Powers -- An Idol --
Balonda Arms -- Rain -- Hunger -- Palisades -- Dense Forests --
Artificial Beehives -- Mushrooms -- Villagers lend the Roofs of their Houses
-- Divination and Idols -- Manenko's Whims -- A night Alarm --
Shinte's Messengers and Present -- The proper Way to approach a Village --
A Merman -- Enter Shinte's Town: its Appearance --
Meet two half-caste Slave-traders -- The Makololo scorn them --
The Balonda real Negroes -- Grand Reception from Shinte --
His Kotla -- Ceremony of Introduction -- The Orators -- Women --
Musicians and Musical Instruments -- A disagreeable Request --
Private Interviews with Shinte -- Give him an Ox -- Fertility of Soil --
Manenko's new Hut -- Conversation with Shinte -- Kolimbota's Proposal --
Balonda's Punctiliousness -- Selling Children -- Kidnapping --
Shinte's Offer of a Slave -- Magic Lantern -- Alarm of Women --
Delay -- Sambanza returns intoxicated -- The last and greatest
Proof of Shinte's Friendship.
11TH OF JANUARY, 1854. On starting this morning,
Samoana (or rather Nyamoana, for the ladies are the chiefs here)
presented a string of beads, and a shell highly valued among them,
as an atonement for having assisted Manenko, as they thought,
to vex me the day before. They seemed anxious to avert any evil
which might arise from my displeasure; but having replied
that I never kept my anger up all night, they were much pleased
to see me satisfied. We had to cross, in a canoe, a stream which flows
past the village of Nyamoana. Manenko's doctor waved some charms over her,
and she took some in her hand and on her body before she ventured
upon the water. One of my men spoke rather loudly when near
the doctor's basket of medicines. The doctor reproved him,
and always spoke in a whisper himself, glancing back to the basket
as if afraid of being heard by something therein. So much superstition
is quite unknown in the south, and is mentioned here to show the difference
in the feelings of this new people, and the comparative want of reverence
on these points among Caffres and Bechuanas.
Manenko was accompanied by her husband and her drummer;
the latter continued to thump most vigorously until a heavy, drizzling mist
set in and compelled him to desist. Her husband used
various incantations and vociferations to drive away the rain,
but down it poured incessantly, and on our Amazon went,
in the very lightest marching order, and at a pace that few of the men
could keep up with. Being on ox-back, I kept pretty close to our leader,
and asked her why she did not clothe herself during the rain,
and learned that it is not considered proper for a chief to appear effeminate.
He or she must always wear the appearance of robust youth,
and bear vicissitudes without wincing. My men, in admiration of
her pedestrian powers, every now and then remarked, "Manenko is a soldier;"
and thoroughly wet and cold, we were all glad when she proposed a halt
to prepare our night's lodging on the banks of a stream.
The country through which we were passing was the same succession
of forest and open lawns as formerly mentioned: the trees were
nearly all evergreens, and of good, though not very gigantic size.
The lawns were covered with grass, which, in thickness of crop,
looked like ordinary English hay. We passed two small hamlets
surrounded by gardens of maize and manioc, and near each of these I observed,
for the first time, an ugly idol common in Londa -- the figure of an animal,
resembling an alligator, made of clay. It is formed of grass,
plastered over with soft clay; two cowrie-shells are inserted as eyes,
and numbers of the bristles from the tail of an elephant are stuck in
about the neck. It is called a lion, though, if one were not told so,
he would conclude it to be an alligator. It stood in a shed,
and the Balonda pray and beat drums before it all night in cases of sickness.
Some of the men of Manenko's train had shields made of reeds,
neatly woven into a square shape, about five feet long and three broad.
With these, and short broadswords and sheaves of iron-headed arrows,
they appeared rather ferocious. But the constant habit of wearing arms
is probably only a substitute for the courage they do not possess.
We always deposited our fire-arms and spears outside a village
before entering it, while the Balonda, on visiting us at our encampment,
always came fully armed, until we ordered them either to lay down
their weapons or be off. Next day we passed through a piece of forest
so dense that no one could have penetrated it without an axe. It was flooded,
not by the river, but by the heavy rains which poured down every day,
and kept those who had clothing constantly wet. I observed,
in this piece of forest, a very strong smell of sulphureted hydrogen.
This I had observed repeatedly in other parts before.
I had attacks of fever of the intermittent type again and again,
in consequence of repeated drenchings in these unhealthy spots.
On the 11th and 12th we were detained by incessant rains,
and so heavy I never saw the like in the south. I had a little tapioca
and a small quantity of Libonta meal, which I still reserved for worse times.
The patience of my men under hunger was admirable; the actual want
of the present is never so painful as the thought of getting nothing
in the future. We thought the people of some large hamlets very niggardly
and very independent of their chiefs, for they gave us and Manenko nothing,
though they had large fields of maize in an eatable state around them.
When she went and kindly begged some for me, they gave her five ears only.
They were subjects of her uncle; and, had they been Makololo,
would have been lavish in their gifts to the niece of their chief.
I suspected that they were dependents of some of Shinte's principal men,
and had no power to part with the maize of their masters.
Each house of these hamlets has a palisade of thick stakes around it,
and the door is made to resemble the rest of the stockade;
the door is never seen open; when the owner wishes to enter,
he removes a stake or two, squeezes his body in, then plants them again
in their places, so that an enemy coming in the night would find it difficult
to discover the entrance. These palisades seem to indicate
a sense of insecurity in regard to their fellow-men, for there are
no wild beasts to disturb them; the bows and arrows have been
nearly as efficacious in clearing the country here as guns have in the country
farther south. This was a disappointment to us, for we expected
a continuance of the abundance of game in the north which we found
when we first came up to the confluence of the Leeba and Leeambye.
A species of the silver-tree of the Cape (`Leucodendron argenteum')
is found in abundance in the parts through which we have traveled
since leaving Samoana's. As it grows at a height of between two and three
thousand feet above the level of the sea, on the Cape Table Mountain,
and again on the northern slope of the Cashan Mountains,
and here at considerably greater heights (four thousand feet),
the difference of climate prevents the botanical range
being considered as affording a good approximation to the altitude.
The rapid flow of the Leeambye, which once seemed to me
evidence of much elevation of the country from which it comes, I now found,
by the boiling point of water, was fallacious.*
* On examining this subject when I returned to Linyanti, I found that,
according to Dr. Arnott, a declivity of three inches per mile
gives a velocity in a smooth, straight channel of three miles an hour.
The general velocity of the Zambesi is three miles and three quarters
per hour, though in the rocky parts it is sometimes as much
as four and a half. If, however, we make allowances
for roughness of bottom, bendings of channel, and sudden descents
at cataracts, and say the declivity is even seven inches per mile,
those 800 miles between the east coast and the great falls
would require less than 500 feet to give the observed velocity,
and the additional distance to this point would require
but 150 feet of altitude more. If my observation of this altitude
may be depended on, we have a steeper declivity for the Zambesi
than for some other great rivers. The Ganges, for instance,
is said to be at 1800 miles from its mouth only 800 feet above
the level of the sea, and water requires a month to come that distance.
But there are so many modifying circumstances, it is difficult to draw
any reliable conclusion from the currents. The Chobe is sometimes
heard of as flooded, about 40 miles above Linyanti, a fortnight before
the inundation reaches that point, but it is very tortuous.
The great river Magdalena falls only 500 feet in a thousand miles;
other rivers much more.
The forests became more dense as we went north. We traveled much more
in the deep gloom of the forest than in open sunlight. No passage existed
on either side of the narrow path made by the axe. Large climbing plants
entwined themselves around the trunks and branches of gigantic trees
like boa constrictors, and they often do constrict the trees
by which they rise, and, killing them, stand erect themselves.
The bark of a fine tree found in abundance here, and called "motuia",
is used by the Barotse for making fish-lines and nets, and the "molompi",
so well adapted for paddles by its lightness and flexibility,
was abundant. There were other trees quite new to my companions;
many of them ran up to a height of fifty feet of one thickness,
and without branches.
In these forests we first encountered the artificial beehives
so commonly met with all the way from this to Angola. They consist of
about five feet of the bark of a tree fifteen or eighteen inches in diameter.
Two incisions are made right round the tree at points five feet apart,
then one longitudinal slit from one of these to the other;
the workman next lifts up the bark on each side of this slit,
and detaches it from the trunk, taking care not to break it,
until the whole comes from the tree. The elasticity of the bark
makes it assume the form it had before; the slit is sewed or pegged up
with wooden pins, and ends made of coiled grass-rope are inserted,
one of which has a hole for the ingress of the bees in the centre,
and the hive is complete. These hives are placed in a horizontal position
on high trees in different parts of the forest, and in this way
all the wax exported from Benguela and Loanda is collected.
It is all the produce of free labor. A "piece of medicine" is tied round
the trunk of the tree, and proves sufficient protection against thieves.
The natives seldom rob each other, for all believe that certain medicines
can inflict disease and death; and though they consider
that these are only known to a few, they act on the principle
that it is best to let them all alone. The gloom of these forests
strengthens the superstitious feelings of the people. In other quarters,
where they are not subjected to this influence, I have heard the chiefs
issue proclamations to the effect that real witchcraft medicines
had been placed at certain gardens from which produce had been stolen,
the thieves having risked the power of the ordinary charms
previously placed there.
This being the rainy season, great quantities of mushrooms were met with,
and were eagerly devoured by my companions: the edible variety
is always found growing out of ant-hills, and attains the diameter of
the crown of a hat; they are quite white, and very good, even when eaten raw;
they occupy an extensive region of the interior; some, not edible,
are of a brilliant red, and others are of the same light blue as the paper
used by apothecaries to put up their medicines.
There was a considerable pleasure, in spite of rain and fever,
in this new scenery. The deep gloom contrasted strongly
with the shadeless glare of the Kalahari, which had left
an indelible impression on my memory. Though drenched day by day
at this time, and for months afterward, it was long before I could believe
that we were getting too much of a good thing. Nor could I look at water
being thrown away without a slight, quick impression flitting across the mind
that we were guilty of wasting it. Every now and then we emerged
from the deep gloom into a pretty little valley, having a damp portion
in the middle; which, though now filled with water, at other times contains
moisture enough for wells only. These wells have shades put over them
in the form of little huts.
We crossed, in canoes, a little never-failing stream, which passes
by the name of Lefuje, or "the rapid". It comes from a goodly high mountain,
called Monakadzi (the woman), which gladdened our eyes as it rose to our sight
about twenty or thirty miles to the east of our course.
It is of an oblong shape, and seemed at least eight hundred feet
above the plains. The Lefuje probably derives its name
from the rapid descent of the short course it has to flow
from Monakadzi to the Leeba.
The number of little villages seemed about equal to the number of valleys.
At some we stopped and rested, the people becoming more liberal
as we advanced. Others we found deserted, a sudden panic having seized
the inhabitants, though the drum of Manenko was kept beaten pretty constantly,
in order to give notice of the approach of great people. When we had decided
to remain for the night at any village, the inhabitants lent us
the roofs of their huts, which in form resemble those of the Makololo,
or a Chinaman's hat, and can be taken off the walls at pleasure.
They lifted them off, and brought them to the spot we had selected
as our lodging, and, when my men had propped them up with stakes,
they were then safely housed for the night. Every one who comes to salute
either Manenko or ourselves rubs the upper parts of the arms and chest
with ashes; those who wish to show profounder reverence put some also
on the face.
We found that every village had its idols near it. This is the case
all through the country of the Balonda, so that, when we came
to an idol in the woods, we always knew that we were within
a quarter of an hour of human habitations. One very ugly idol we passed
rested on a horizontal beam placed on two upright posts.
This beam was furnished with two loops of cord, as of a chain,
to suspend offerings before it. On remarking to my companions that these
idols had ears, but that they heard not, etc., I learned that the Balonda,
and even the Barotse, believe that divination may be performed
by means of these blocks of wood and clay; and though the wood itself
could not hear, the owners had medicines by which it could be made
to hear and give responses, so that if an enemy were approaching
they would have full information. Manenko having brought us to a stand
on account of slight indisposition and a desire to send forward
notice of our approach to her uncle, I asked why it was necessary
to send forward information of our movements, if Shinte had idols
who could tell him every thing. "She did it only,"* was the reply.
It is seldom of much use to show one who worships idols the folly of idolatry
without giving something else as an object of adoration instead.
They do not love them. They fear them, and betake themselves to their idols
only when in perplexity and danger.
* This is a curious African idiom, by which a person implies
he had no particular reason for his act.
While delayed, by Manenko's management, among the Balonda villages,
a little to the south of the town of Shinte, we were well supplied
by the villagers with sweet potatoes and green maize;
Sambanza went to his mother's village for supplies of other food.
I was laboring under fever, and did not find it very difficult
to exercise patience with her whims; but it being Saturday,
I thought we might as well go to the town for Sunday (15th).
"No; her messenger must return from her uncle first."
Being sure that the answer of the uncle would be favorable,
I thought we might go on at once, and not lose two days in the same spot.
"No, it is our custom;" and every thing else I could urge was answered
in the genuine pertinacious lady style. She ground some meal for me
with her own hands, and when she brought it told me she had actually
gone to a village and begged corn for the purpose. She said this with an air
as if the inference must be drawn by even a stupid white man:
"I know how to manage, don't I?" It was refreshing to get food
which could be eaten without producing the unpleasantness described
by the Rev. John Newton, of St. Mary's, Woolnoth, London,
when obliged to eat the same roots while a slave in the West Indies.
The day (January 14th), for a wonder, was fair, and the sun shone,
so as to allow us to dry our clothing and other goods, many of which
were mouldy and rotten from the long-continued damp. The guns rusted,
in spite of being oiled every evening.
During the night we were all awakened by a terrific shriek
from one of Manenko's ladies. She piped out so loud and long
that we all imagined she had been seized by a lion, and my men snatched up
their arms, which they always place so as to be ready at a moment's notice,
and ran to the rescue; but we found the alarm had been caused
by one of the oxen thrusting his head into her hut and smelling her:
she had put her hand on his cold, wet nose, and thought it was all over
On Sunday afternoon messengers arrived from Shinte, expressing his approbation
of the objects we had in view in our journey through the country,
and that he was glad of the prospect of a way being opened by which white men
might visit him, and allow him to purchase ornaments at pleasure.
Manenko now threatened in sport to go on, and I soon afterward perceived
that what now seemed to me the dilly-dallying way of this lady
was the proper mode of making acquaintance with the Balonda;
and much of the favor with which I was received in different places
was owing to my sending forward messengers to state the object of our coming
before entering each town and village. When we came in sight of a village
we sat down under the shade of a tree and sent forward a man to give notice
who we were and what were our objects. The head man of the village
then sent out his principal men, as Shinte now did, to bid us welcome
and show us a tree under which we might sleep. Before I had profited
by the rather tedious teaching of Manenko, I sometimes entered a village
and created unintentional alarm. The villagers would continue
to look upon us with suspicion as long as we remained. Shinte sent us
two large baskets of manioc and six dried fishes. His men had
the skin of a monkey, called in their tongue "poluma" (`Colobus guereza'),
of a jet black color, except the long mane, which is pure white:
it is said to be found in the north, in the country of Matiamvo,
the paramount chief of all the Balonda. We learned from them
that they are in the habit of praying to their idols when unsuccessful
in killing game or in any other enterprise. They behaved with reverence
at our religious services. This will appear important if the reader remembers
the almost total want of prayer and reverence we encountered in the south.
Our friends informed us that Shinte would be highly honored
by the presence of three white men in his town at once. Two others
had sent forward notice of their approach from another quarter (the west);
could it be Barth or Krapf? How pleasant to meet with Europeans
in such an out-of-the-way region! The rush of thoughts
made me almost forget my fever. Are they of the same color as I am?
"Yes; exactly so." And have the same hair? "Is that hair?
we thought it was a wig; we never saw the like before; this white man
must be of the sort that lives in the sea." Henceforth my men took the hint,
and always sounded my praises as a true specimen of the variety of white men
who live in the sea. "Only look at his hair; it is made quite straight
by the sea-water!"
I explained to them again and again that, when it was said
we came out of the sea, it did not mean that we came from beneath the water;
but the fiction has been widely spread in the interior by the Mambari
that the real white men live in the sea, and the myth was too good not to be
taken advantage of by my companions; so, notwithstanding my injunctions,
I believe that, when I was out of hearing, my men always
represented themselves as led by a genuine merman: "Just see his hair!"
If I returned from walking to a little distance, they would remark of some
to whom they had been holding forth, "These people want to see your hair."
As the strangers had woolly hair like themselves, I had to give up the idea
of meeting any thing more European than two half-caste Portuguese,
engaged in trading for slaves, ivory, and bees'-wax.
16TH. After a short march we came to a most lovely valley
about a mile and a half wide, and stretching away eastward
up to a low prolongation of Monakadzi. A small stream meanders
down the centre of this pleasant green glen; and on a little rill,
which flows into it from the western side, stands the town of Kabompo,
or, as he likes best to be called, Shinte. (Lat. 12d 37' 35" S.,
long. 22d 47' E.) When Manenko thought the sun was high enough
for us to make a lucky entrance, we found the town embowered
in banana and other tropical trees having great expansion of leaf;
the streets are straight, and present a complete contrast
to those of the Bechuanas, which are all very tortuous.
Here, too, we first saw native huts with square walls and round roofs.
The fences or walls of the courts which surround the huts
are wonderfully straight, and made of upright poles a few inches apart,
with strong grass or leafy bushes neatly woven between. In the courts
were small plantations of tobacco, and a little solanaceous plant
which the Balonda use as a relish; also sugar-cane and bananas.
Many of the poles have grown again, and trees of the `Ficus Indica' family
have been planted around, in order to give to the inhabitants
a grateful shade: they regard this tree with some sort of veneration
as a medicine or charm. Goats were browsing about, and,
when we made our appearance, a crowd of negroes, all fully armed,
ran toward us as if they would eat us up; some had guns,
but the manner in which they were held showed that the owners
were more accustomed to bows and arrows than to white men's weapons.
After surrounding and staring at us for an hour, they began to disperse.
The two native Portuguese traders of whom we had heard had erected
a little encampment opposite the place where ours was about to be made.
One of them, whose spine had been injured in youth -- a rare sight
in this country -- came and visited us. I returned the visit next morning.
His tall companion had that sickly yellow hue which made him look
fairer than myself, but his head was covered with a crop of unmistakable wool.
They had a gang of young female slaves in a chain, hoeing the ground
in front of their encampment to clear it of weeds and grass;
these were purchased recently in Lobale, whence the traders had now come.
There were many Mambari with them, and the establishment was conducted
with that military order which pervades all the arrangements
of the Portuguese colonists. A drum was beaten and trumpet sounded
at certain hours, quite in military fashion. It was the first time
most of my men had seen slaves in chains. "They are not men," they exclaimed
(meaning they are beasts), "who treat their children so."
The Balonda are real negroes, having much more wool on their heads and bodies
than any of the Bechuana or Caffre tribes. They are generally
very dark in color, but several are to be seen of a lighter hue;
many of the slaves who have been exported to Brazil have gone
from this region; but while they have a general similarity
to the typical negro, I never could, from my own observation,
think that our ideal negro, as seen in tobacconists' shops,
is the true type. A large proportion of the Balonda, indeed,
have heads somewhat elongated backward and upward, thick lips, flat noses,
elongated `ossa calces', etc., etc.; but there are also many good-looking,
well-shaped heads and persons among them.
17TH, TUESDAY. We were honored with a grand reception by Shinte
about eleven o'clock. Sambanza claimed the honor of presenting us,
Manenko being slightly indisposed. The native Portuguese and Mambari
went fully armed with guns, in order to give Shinte a salute;
their drummer and trumpeter making all the noise that very old instruments
would produce. The kotla, or place of audience, was about
a hundred yards square, and two graceful specimens of a species of banian
stood near one end; under one of these sat Shinte, on a sort of throne
covered with a leopard's skin. He had on a checked jacket,
and a kilt of scarlet baize edged with green; many strings of large beads
hung from his neck, and his limbs were covered with iron and copper
armlets and bracelets; on his head he wore a helmet made of beads
woven neatly together, and crowned with a great bunch of goose-feathers.
Close to him sat three lads with large sheaves of arrows over their shoulders.
When we entered the kotla, the whole of Manenko's party
saluted Shinte by clapping their hands, and Sambanza did obeisance
by rubbing his chest and arms with ashes. One of the trees being unoccupied,
I retreated to it for the sake of the shade, and my whole party did the same.
We were now about forty yards from the chief, and could see
the whole ceremony. The different sections of the tribe came forward
in the same way that we did, the head man of each making obeisance
with ashes which he carried with him for the purpose; then came the soldiers,
all armed to the teeth, running and shouting toward us,
with their swords drawn, and their faces screwed up so as to appear as savage
as possible, for the purpose, I thought, of trying whether they could not
make us take to our heels. As we did not, they turned round toward Shinte
and saluted him, then retired. When all had come and were seated,
then began the curious capering usually seen in pichos. A man starts up,
and imitates the most approved attitudes observed in actual fight,
as throwing one javelin, receiving another on the shield,
springing to one side to avoid a third, running backward or forward,
leaping, etc. This over, Sambanza and the spokesman of Nyamoana stalked
backward and forward in front of Shinte, and gave forth, in a loud voice,
all they had been able to learn, either from myself or people,
of my past history and connection with the Makololo;
the return of the captives; the wish to open the country to trade;
the Bible as a word from heaven; the white man's desire for the tribes
to live in peace: he ought to have taught the Makololo that first,
for the Balonda never attacked them, yet they had assailed the Balonda:
perhaps he is fibbing, perhaps not; they rather thought he was;
but as the Balonda had good hearts, and Shinte had never done harm to any one,
he had better receive the white man well, and send him on his way.
Sambanza was gayly attired, and, besides a profusion of beads,
had a cloth so long that a boy carried it after him as a train.
Behind Shinte sat about a hundred women, clothed in their best,
which happened to be a profusion of red baize. The chief wife of Shinte,
one of the Matebele or Zulus, sat in front with a curious red cap on her head.
During the intervals between the speeches, these ladies burst forth
into a sort of plaintive ditty; but it was impossible for any of us to catch
whether it was in praise of the speaker, of Shinte, or of themselves.
This was the first time I had ever seen females present in a public assembly.
In the south the women are not permitted to enter the kotla;
and even when invited to come to a religious service there, would not enter
until ordered to do so by the chief; but here they expressed approbation
by clapping their hands, and laughing to different speakers;
and Shinte frequently turned round and spoke to them.
A party of musicians, consisting of three drummers and four performers
on the piano, went round the kotla several times, regaling us
with their music. Their drums are neatly carved from the trunk of a tree,
and have a small hole in the side covered with a bit of spider's web:
the ends are covered with the skin of an antelope pegged on;
and when they wish to tighten it, they hold it to the fire
to make it contract: the instruments are beaten with the hands.
The piano, named "marimba", consists of two bars of wood placed side by side,
here quite straight, but, farther north, bent round so as to resemble
half the tire of a carriage-wheel; across these are placed
about fifteen wooden keys, each of which is two or three inches broad,
and fifteen or eighteen inches long; their thickness is regulated
according to the deepness of the note required: each of the keys
has a calabash beneath it; from the upper part of each a portion is cut off
to enable them to embrace the bars, and form hollow sounding-boards
to the keys, which also are of different sizes, according to
the note required; and little drumsticks elicit the music.
Rapidity of execution seems much admired among them, and the music
is pleasant to the ear. In Angola the Portuguese use the marimba
in their dances.
When nine speakers had concluded their orations, Shinte stood up,
and so did all the people. He had maintained true African dignity of manner
all the while, but my people remarked that he scarcely ever
took his eyes off me for a moment. About a thousand people were present,
according to my calculation, and three hundred soldiers.
The sun had now become hot; and the scene ended by the Mambari