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Two Trips to

Gorilla Land

the Cataracts of the Congo.


Richard F. Burton.

In Two Volumes

Vol. I.

London: 1876

"Quisquis amat Congi fines peragrare nigrantes,
Africć et Ćthiopum cernere regna, domus,
* * * * * * *
Perlegat hunc librum."
Fra Angelus de Map. Piccardus.

"Timbuctoo travels, voyages to the poles,
Are ways to benefit mankind as true
Perhaps as shooting them at Waterloo."--Don Juan.

Trieste, Jan. 31, 1875. My Dear Sir George,

Our paths in life have been separated by a long interval. Whilst
inclination led you to explore and to'survey the wild wastes of
the North, the Arctic shores and the Polar seas, with all their
hardships and horrors; my lot was cast in the torrid regions of
Sind and Arabia; in the luxuriant deserts of Africa, and in the
gorgeous tropical forests of the Brazil. But the true traveller
can always appreciate the record of another's experience, and
perhaps the force of contrast makes him most enjoy the adventures
differing the most from his own. To whom, then, more
appropriately than to yourself, a discoverer of no ordinary note,
a recorder of explorations, and, finally, an earnest labourer in
the cause of geography, can I inscribe this plain, unvarnished
tale of a soldier-traveller? Kindly accept the trifle as a token
of the warmest esteem, an earnest of my thankfulness for the
interest ever shown by you in forwarding my plans and projects of
adventure; and, in the heartfelt hope that Allah may prolong your
days, permit me to subscribe myself,

Your sincere admirer and grateful friend, RICHARD F. BURTON.

Admiral Sir George Back, D.C.L., F.R.S.,
Vice-Pres. R.G.S., &c.


The notes which form the ground-work of these volumes have long
been kept in the obscurity of manuscript: my studies of South
America, of Syria and Palestine, of Iceland, and of Istria, left
me scant time for the labour of preparation. Leisure and
opportunity have now offered themselves, and I avail myself of
them in the hope that the publication will be found useful to
more than one class of readers. The many who take an interest in
the life of barbarous peoples may not be displeased to hear more
about the Fán; and the few who would try a fall with Mister
Gorilla can learn from me how to equip themselves, whence to set
out and whither to go for the best chance. Travelling with M.
Paul B. du Chaillu's "First Expedition" in my hand, I jealously
looked into every statement, and his numerous friends will be
pleased to see how many of his assertions are confirmed by my

The second part is devoted to the Nzadi or lower Congo River,
from the mouth to the Yellala or main rapids, the gate by which
the mighty stream, emerging from the plateau of Inner Africa,
goes to its long home, the Atlantic. Some time must elapse before
the second expedition, which left Ambriz early in 1873, under
Lieutenant Grandy, R. N., can submit its labours to the public:
meanwhile these pages will, I trust, form a suitable introduction
to the gallant explorer's travel in the interior. It would be
preposterous to publish descriptions of any European country from
information gathered ten years ago. But Africa moves slowly, and
thus we see that the results of an Abyssinian journey (M. Antoine
d'Abbadie's "Géodésic d'Ethiopie," which took place about 1845,
are not considered obsolete in 1873.

After a languid conviction during the last half century of owning
some ground upon the West Coast of Africa, England has been
rudely aroused by a little war which will have large
consequences. The causes that led to the "Ashantee Campaign," a
negro copy of the negroid Abyssinian, may be broadly laid down as
general incuriousness, local mismanagement, and the operation of
unprincipled journalism.

It is not a little amusing to hear the complaints of the public
that plain truth about the African has not been told. I could
cite more than one name that has done so. But what was the
result? We were all soundly abused by the negrophile; the
multitude cared little about reading "unpopular opinions;" and
then, when the fulness of time came, it turned upon us, and rent
us, and asked why we had not spoken freely concerning Ashanti and
Fanti, and all the herd. My "Wanderings in West Africa" is a case
in point: so little has it been read, that a President of the
Royal Geographical Society (African section of the Society of
Arts Journal, Feb. 6, 1874) could state, "If Fantees are cowardly
and lazy, Krumen are brave;" the latter being the most notorious
poltroons on the West African seaboard.

The hostilities on the Gold Coast might have been averted with
honour to ourselves at any time between 1863 and 1870, by a
Colonial Office mission and a couple of thousand pounds. I need
hardly say what has been the case now. The first steps were taken
with needless disasters, and the effect has been far different
from what we intended or what was advisable. For a score of years
we (travellers) have been advising the English statesman not to
despise the cunning of barbarous tribes, never to attempt
finessing with Asiatic or African; to treat these races with
perfect sincerity and truthfulness. I have insisted, and it is
now seen with what reason, that every attempt at deception, at
asserting the "thing which is not," will presently meet with the
reward it deserves. I can only regret that my counsels have not
made themselves heard.

Yet this ignoble war between barbarous tribes whom it has long
been the fashion to pet, this poor scuffle between the
breechloader and the Birmingham trade musket, may yet in one
sense do good. It must perforce draw public attention to the West
Coast of Africa, and raise the question, "What shall we do with
it?" My humble opinion, expressed early in 1865 to the Right
Honourable Mr. Adderley, has ever been this. If we are determined
not to follow the example of the French, the Dutch, the
Portuguese, and the Spaniards, and not to use the country as a
convict station, resolving to consume, as it were, our crime at
home, we should also resolve to retain only a few ports and
forts, without territory, at points commanding commerce, after
the fashion of the Lusitanians in the old heroic days. The export
slave-trade is now dead and buried; the want of demand must
prevent its revival; and free emigration has yet to be created.
As Mr. Bright rightly teaches, strong places and garrisons are
not necessary to foster trade and to promote the success of
missions. The best proof on the West African Coast is to be found
in the so-called Oil Rivers, where we have never held a mile of
ground, and where our commerce prospers most. The great "Tribune"
will forgive my agreeing in opinion with him when he finds that
we differ upon one most important point. It is the merchant, not
the garrison, that causes African wars. If the home authorities
would avoid a campaign, let them commit their difficulty to a
soldier, not to a civilian.

The chronic discontent of the so-called "civilized" African, the
contempt of the rulers if not of the rule, and the bitter hatred
between the three races, white, black, and black-white, fomented
by many an unprincipled print, which fills its pocket with coin
of cant and Christian charity, will end in even greater scandals
than the last disreputable war. If the damnosa licentia be not
suppressed--and where are the strong hands to suppress it?--we
may expect to see the scenes of Jamaica revived with improvements
at Sierra Leone. However unwilling I am to cut off any part of
our great and extended empire, to renew anywhere, even in Africa,
the process of dismemberment--the policy which cast off Corfu--it
is evident to me that English occupation of the West African
Coast has but slightly forwarded the cause of humanity, and that
upon the whole it has proved a remarkable failure.

We can be wise in time.

Richard F. Burton.

P.S.--Since these pages were written, a name which frequently
occurs in them has become a memory to his friends--I allude to W.
Winwood Reade, and I deplore his loss. The highest type of
Englishman, brave and fearless as he was gentle and loving, his
short life of thirty-seven years shows how much may be done by
the honest, thorough worker. He had emphatically the courage of
his opinions, and he towered a cubit above the crowd by telling
not only the truth, as most of us do, but the whole truth, which
so few can afford to do. His personal courage in battle during
the Ashanti campaign, where the author of "Savage Africa" became
correspondent of the "Times," is a matter of history. His noble
candour in publishing the "Martyrdom of Man" is an example and a
model to us who survive him. And he died calmly and courageously
as he lived, died in harness, died as he had resolved to die,
like the good and gallant gentleman of ancient lineage that he

Contents of Vol. I.

Chapter I. Landing at the Rio Gabăo (Gaboon River).--le
Plateau, the French Colony
Chapter II. The Departure.--the Tornado.--arrival at "The
Chapter III. Geography of the Gaboon
Chapter IV. The Minor Tribes and the Mpongwe
Chapter V. To Sánga-Tánga and Back
Chapter VI. Village Life in Pongo-Land
Chapter VII. Return to the River
Chapter VIII. Up the Gaboon River
Chapter IX. A Specimen Day with the Fán Cannibals
Chapter X. To the Mbíka (Hill); the Sources of the Gaboon.--
Return to the Plateau
Chapter. XI. Mr., Mrs., and Master Gorilla
Chapter XII. Corisco.--"Home" to Fernando Po


The Gaboon River and Gorilla Land.

"It was my hint to speak, such was my process;
And of the cannibals that each other eat,
The anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their Shoulders."–Othello.

Part I.

Trip to Gorilla Land.

Chapter I.

Landing at the Rio Gabăo (Gaboon River).--le Plateau, the French

I remember with lively pleasure my first glance at the classic
stream of the "Portingal Captains" and the "Zeeland interlopers."
The ten-mile breadth of the noble Gaboon estuary somewhat dwarfed
the features of either shore as we rattled past Cape Santa Clara,
a venerable name, "'verted" to Joinville. The bold northern head,
though not "very high land," makes some display, because we see
it in a better light; and its environs are set off by a line of
scattered villages. The vis-a-vis of Louis Philippe Peninsula on
the starboard bow (Zuidhoeck), "Sandy Point" or Sandhoeck, by the
natives called Pongára, and by the French Péninsule de Marie-
Amélie, shows a mere fringe of dark bristle, which is tree, based
upon a broad red-yellow streak, which is land. As we pass through
the slightly overhung mouth, we can hardly complain with a late
traveller of the Gaboon's "sluggish waters;" during the ebb they
run like a mild mill-race, and when the current, setting to the
north-west, meets a strong sea-breeze from the west, there is a
criss-cross, a tide-rip, contemptible enough to a cruizer, but
quite capable of filling cock-boats. And, nearing the end of our
voyage, we rejoice to see that the dull down-pourings and the
sharp storms of Fernando Po have apparently not yet migrated so
far south. Dancing blue wavelets, under the soft azure sky, plash
and cream upon the pure clean sand that projects here and there
black lines of porous ironstone waiting to become piers; and the
water-line is backed by swelling ridges, here open and green-
grassed, there spotted with islets of close and shady trees.
Mangrove, that horror of the African voyager, shines by its
absence; and the soil is not mud, but humus based on gravels or
on ruddy clays, stiff and retentive. The formation, in fact, is
everywhere that of Eyo or Yoruba, the goodly region lying west of
the lower Niger, and its fertility must result from the abundant
water supply of the equatorial belt.

The charts are fearful to look upon. The embouchure, well known
to old traders, has been scientifically surveyed in our day by
Lieutenant Alph. Fleuriot de Langle, of La Malouine (1845), and
the chart was corrected from a survey ordered by Capitaine Bouët-
Willaumez (1849); in the latter year it was again revised by M.
Charles Floix, of the French navy, and, with additions by the
officers of Her Britannic Majesty's service, it becomes our No.
1877. The surface is a labyrinth of banks, rocks, and shoals,
"Ely," "Nisus," "Alligator," and "Caraibe." In such surroundings
as these, when the water shallows apace, the pilot must not be

Her Majesty's steam-ship "Griffon," Commander Perry, found
herself, at 2 P.M. on Monday, March, 17, 1862, in a snug berth
opposite Le Plateau, as the capital of the French colony is
called, and amongst the shipping of its chief port, Aumale Road.
The river at this neck is about five miles broad, and the scene
was characteristically French. Hardly a merchant vessel lay
there. We had no less than four naval consorts "La Caravane,"
guard-ship, store-ship, and hospital-hulk; a fine transport, "La
Ričge," bound for Goree; "La Recherche," a wretched old sailing
corvette which plies to Assini and Grand Basam on the Gold Coast;
and, lastly, "La Junon," chef de division Baron Didelot, then one
of the finest frigates in the French navy, armed with fifty
rifled sixty-eight pounders. It is curious that, whilst our
neighbours build such splendid craft, and look so neat and natty
in naval uniform, they pay so little regard to the order and
cleanliness of their floating homes.

After visiting every English colony on the West Coast of Africa,
I resolved curiously to examine my first specimen of our rivals,
the "principal centre of trade in western equatorial Africa." The
earliest visit--in uniform, of course--was to Baron Didelot,
whose official title is "Commandant Supérieur des Établissements
de la Côte d'Or et du Gabon;" the following was to M. H. S.
L'Aulnois, "Lieutenant de Vaisseau et Commandant Particulier du
Comptoir de Gabon." These gentlemen have neat bungalows and
gardens; they may spend their days ashore, but they are very
careful to sleep on board. All the official whites appear to have
a morbid horror of the climate; when attacked by fever, they
"cave in" at once, and recovery can hardly be expected. This year
also, owing to scanty rains, sickness has been rife, and many
cases which began with normal mildness have ended suddenly and
fatally. Besides fear of fever, they are victims to ennui and
nostalgia; and, expecting the Comptoir to pay large profits, they
are greatly disappointed by the reverse being the case.

But how can they look for it to be otherwise? The modern French
appear fit to manage only garrisons and military posts. They will
make everything official, and they will not remember the protest
against governing too much, offered by the burgesses of Paris to
Louis le Grand. They are always on duty; they are never out of
uniform, mentally and metaphorically, as well as bodily and
literally. Nothing is done without delay, even in the matter of
signing a ship's papers. A long procčs-verbal takes the place of
our summary punishment, and the gros canon is dragged into use on
every occasion, even to enforce the payment of native debts.

In the Gaboon, also, there is a complication of national
jealousy, suggesting the mastiff and the poodle. A perpetual war
rages about flags. English craft may carry their colours as far
up stream as Coniquet Island; beyond this point they must either
hoist a French ensign, or sail without bunting--should the
commodore permit. Otherwise they will be detained by the
commander of the hulk "l'Oise," stationed at Anenge-nenge, some
thirty-eight to forty miles above Le Plateau. Lately a Captain
Gordon, employed by Mr. Francis Wookey of Taunton, was ordered to
pull down his flag: those who know the "mariner of England" will
appreciate his feelings on the occasion. Small vessels belonging
to foreigners, and employed in cabotage, must not sail with their
own papers, and even a change of name is effected under
difficulties. About a week before my arrival a certain pan-
Teutonic Hamburgher, Herr B--, amused himself, after a copious
breakfast, with hoisting and saluting the Union Jack, in honour
of a distinguished guest, Major L--. report was at once spread
that the tricolor had been hauled down "with extreme indignity;"
and the Commodore took the trouble to reprimand the white, and to
imprison "Tom Case," the black in whose town the outrage had been

This by way of parenthesis. My next step was to request the
pleasure of a visit from Messrs. Hogg and Kirkwood, who were in
charge of the English factories at Glass Town and Olomi; they
came down stream at once, and kindly acted as ciceroni around Le
Plateau. The landing is good; a reef has been converted into a
jetty and little breakwater; behind this segment of a circle we
disembarked without any danger of being washed out of the boat,
as at S'a Leone, Cape Coast Castle, and Accra. Unfortunately just
above this pier there is a Dutch-like jardin d'été--beds of dirty
weeds bordering a foul and stagnant swamp, while below the
settlement appears a huge coal-shed: the expensive mineral is
always dangerous when exposed in the tropics, and some thirty per
cent. would be saved by sending out a hulk. The next point is the
Hotel and Restaurant Fischer--pronounced Fi-cherre, belonging to
an energetic German-Swiss widow, who during six years' exile had
amassed some 65,000 francs. In an evil hour she sent a thieving
servant before the "commissaire de police;" the negress escaped
punishment, but the verandah with its appurtenances caught fire,
and everything, even the unpacked billiard-table, was burnt to
ashes. Still, Madame the Brave never lost heart. She applied
herself valiantly as a white ant to repairing her broken home,
and, wonderful to relate in this land of no labour, ruled by the
maxim "festina lente," all had been restored within six months.
We shall dine at her table d'hôte.

Our guide led up and along the river bank, where there is almost
a kilometre of road facing six or seven kilometres of nature's
highway--the stream. The swampy jungle is not cleared off from
about the Comptoir, and presently the perfume of the fat, rank
weeds; and the wretched bridges, a few planks spanning black and
fetid mud, drove us northwards or inland, towards the neat house
and grounds of the "Commandant Particulier." The outside walls,
built in grades with the porous, dark-red, laterite-like stone
dredged from the river, are whitewashed with burnt coralline and
look clean; whilst the house, one of the best in the place, is
French, that is to say, pretty. Near it is a cluster of native
huts, mostly with walls of corded bamboo, some dabbed with clay
and lime, and all roofed with the ever shabby-looking palm-leaf;
none are as neat as those of the "bushmen" in the interior, where
they are regularly and carefully made like baskets or panniers.
The people appeared friendly; the men touched their hats, and the
women dropped unmistakably significant curtsies.

After admiring the picturesque bush and the natural avenues
behind Le Plateau, we diverged towards the local Pčre-la-Chaise.
The new cemetery, surrounded by a tall stone wall and approached
by a large locked gate, contains only four tombs; the old burial
ground opposite is unwalled, open, and painfully crowded; the
trees have run wild, the crosses cumber the ground, the
gravestones are tilted up and down; in fact the foul Golgotha of
Santos, Săo Paulo, the Brazil, is not more ragged, shabby, and
neglected. We were shown the last resting-place of M. du Chaillu
pere, agent to Messrs. Oppenheim, the old Parisian house: he died
here in 1856.

Resuming our way parallel with, but distant from the river, we
passed a bran-new military storehouse, bright with whitewash.
Outside the compound lay the lines of the "Zouaves," some forty
negroes whom Goree has supplied to the Gaboon; they were
accompanied by a number of intelligent mechanics, who loudly
complained of having been kidnapped, coolie-fashion. We then
debouched upon Fort Aumale; from the anchorage it appears a
whitewashed square, whose feet are dipped in bright green
vegetation, and its head wears a dingy brown roof-thatch. A
nearer view shows a pair of semi-detached houses, built upon
arches, and separated by a thoroughfare; the cleaner of the two
is a hospital; the dingier, which is decorated with the brown-
green stains, the normal complexion of tropical masonry, lodges
the station Commandant and the medical officers. Fronting the
former and by the side of an avenue that runs towards the sea is
an unfinished magazine of stone, and to the right, as you front
the sun, lies the garden of the "Commandant du Comptoir," choked
with tropical weeds. Altogether there is a scattered look about
the metropolis of the "Gabon," which numbers one foot of house to
a thousand of "compound."

Suddenly a bonnet like a pair of white gulls wings and a blue
serge gown fled from us, despite the weight of years, like a
young gazelle; the wearer was a sister of charity, one of five
bonnes sœurs. Their bungalow is roomy and comfortable, near a
little chapel and a largish school, whence issue towards sunset
the well-known sounds of the Angelus. At some distance down
stream and on the right or northern bank lies a convent, and a
house superintended by the original establisher of the mission in
1844, the bishop, Mgr. Bessieux, who died in 1872, aged 70. There
are extensive plantations, but the people are too lazy to take
example from them.

Before we hear the loud cry ŕ table, we may shortly describe the
civilized career of the Gaboon. In 1842, when French and English
rivalry, burning hot on both sides of the Channel, extended deep
into the tropics and spurned the equator, and when every naval
officer, high and low, went mad about concluding treaties and
conquering territory on paper, France was persuaded to set up a
naval station in Gorilla-land. The northern and the southern
shore each had a king, whose consent, after a careless fashion,
was considered decorous. His Majesty of the North was old King
Glass[FN#1] and his chief "tradesman," that is, his premier, was
the late Toko, a shrewd and far-seeing statesman. His Majesty of
the South was Rapwensembo, known to the English as King William,
to the French as Roi Denis.

Matters being in this state, M. le Comte Bouët-Willaumez, then
Capitaine de Vaisseau and Governor of Senegal, resolved, coűte
que coűte, to have his fortified Comptoir. Evidently the northern
shore was preferable; it was more populous and more healthy,
facing the fresh southerly winds. During the preliminary
negotiations Toko, partial to the English, whose language he
spoke fluently, and with whom the Glass family had ever been
friendly, thwarted the design with all his might, and, despite
threats and bribes, honestly kept up his opposition to the last.
Roi Denis, on the other hand, who had been decorated with the
Légion d'Honneur for saving certain shipwrecked sailors, who knew
French well, and who hoped to be made king of the whole country,
favoured to the utmost Gallic views, taking especial care,
however, to place the broad river between himself and his white
friends. M. de Moleon, Capitaine de Frégate, and commanding the
brig "Le Zčbre," occupied the place, Mr. Wilson[FN#2]("Western
Africa," p. 254) says by force of arms, but that is probably an
exaggeration. To bring our history to an end, the sons of Japheth
overcame the children of Ham, and, as the natives said, "Toko he
muss love Frenchman, all but out of (anglicč 'in') his heart."

As in the streets of Paris, so in every French city at home and

"Verborum vetus interit ćtas,"

and an old colonial chart often reads like a lesson in modern
history. Here we still find under the Empire the Constitutional
Monarchy of 1842-3. Mount Bouët leads to Fort "Aumale:" Point
Joinville, at the north jaw of the river, faces Cap Montagnies:
Parrot has become "Adelaide," and Coniquet "Orleans" Island.
Indeed the love of Louis-Philippe's family has lingered in many a
corner where one would least expect to meet it, and in 1869 I
found "Port Saeed" a hot-bed of Orleanism.

The hotel verandah was crowded with the minor officials, the
surgeons, and the clerks of the comptoir, drinking absinthe and
colicky vermouth, smoking veritable "weeds," playing at dominoes,
and contending who could talk longest and loudest. At 7 P.M. the
word was given to "fall to." The room was small and exceedingly
close; the social board was big and very rickety. The clientčle
rushed in like backwoodsmen on board a Mississippi floating-
palace, stripped off their coats, tucked up their sleeves, and,
knife in one hand and bread in the other, advanced gallantly to
the fray. They began by quarrelling about carving; one made a
sporting offer to découper la soupe, but he would go no farther;
and Madame, as the head of the table, ended by asking my
factotum, Selim Agha, to "have the kindness." The din, the heat,
the flare of composition candles which gave 45 per cent. less of
light than they ought, the blunders of the slaves, the
objurgations of the hostess, and the spectacled face opposite me,
were as much as I could bear, and a trifle more. No wonder that
the resident English merchants avoid the table-d'hôte.

Provisions are dear and scarce at the Gaboon, where, as in other
parts of West Africa, the negro will not part with his animals,
unless paid at the rate of some twenty-two or twenty-three
shillings for a lean goat or sheep. Yet the dinner is copious;
the employés contribute, their rations; and thus the table shows
beef twice a week. Black cattle are imported from various parts
of the coast, north and south; perhaps those of the Kru country
stand the climate best; the Government yard is well stocked, and
the polite Commodore readily allows our cruizers to buy bullocks.
Madame also is not a "bird with a long bill;" the dinner,
including piquette, alias vin ordinaire, coffee, and the petit
verre, costs five francs to the stranger, and one franc less pays
the déjeuner a la fourchette--most men here eat two dinners. The
soi-disant Médoc (forty francs per dozen) is tolerable, and the
cassis (thirty francs) is drinkable. I am talking in the present
of things twelve years past. What a shadowy, ghostly table d'hôte
it has now become to me!

After dinner appeared cigar and pipe, which were enjoyed in the
verandah: I sat up late, admiring the intense brilliancy of the
white and blue lightning, but auguring badly for the future,--
natives will not hunt during the rains. A strong wind was blowing
from the north-east, which, with the north-north-east, is here,
as at Fernando Po and Camaronen, the stormy quarter. A "dry
tornado," however, was the only result that night.

My trip to Gorilla-land was limited by the cruise upon which
H.M.S.S. "Griffon" had been ordered, namely, to and from the
South Coast with mail-bags. Many of those whom I had wished to
see were absent; but Mr. Hogg set to work in the most business-
like style. He borrowed a boat from the Rev. William Walker, of
the Gaboon Mission, who kindly wrote that I should have something
less cranky if I could wait awhile; he manned it with three of
his own Krumen, and he collected the necessary stores and
supplies of cloth, pipes and tobacco, rum, white wine, and
absinthe for the natives.

My private stores cost some 200 francs. They consisted of
candles, sugar, bread, cocoa, desiccated milk, and potatoes;
Cognac and Médoc; ham, sausages, soups, and preserved meats, the
latter French and, as usual, very good and very dear. The total
expenditure for twelve days was 300 francs.

My indispensables were reduced to three loads, and I had four
"pull-a-boys," one a Mpongwe, Mwáká alias Captain Merrick, a
model sluggard; and Messrs. Smoke, Joe Williams, and Tom Whistle-
-Kru-men, called Kru-boys. This is not upon the principle, as
some suppose, of the grey-headed post-boy and drummer-boy: all
the Kraoh tribes end their names in bo, e.g. Worebo, from "wore,"
to capsize a canoe; Grebo, from the monkey "gre" or "gle;" and
many others. Bo became "boy," even as Sipahi (Sepoy) became Sea-
pie, and Sukhani (steersman) Sea-Coney.

Gaboon is French, with a purely English trade. Gambia is English,
with a purely French trade; the latter is the result of many
causes, but especially of the large neighbouring establishments
at Goree, Saint Louis de Sénégal, and Saint Joseph de Galam.
Exchanging the two was long held the soundest of policy. The
French hoped by it to secure their darling object,--exclusive
possession of the maritime regions, as well as the interior,
leading to the gold mines of the Mandengas (Mandingas), and
allowing overland connection with their Algerine colony. The
English also seemed willing enough to "swop" an effete and
dilapidated settlement, surrounded by more powerful rivals--a
hot-bed of dysentery and yellow fever, a blot upon the fair face
of earth, even African earth--for a new and fresh country, with a
comparatively good climate, in which the thermometer ranges
between 65° (Fahr.) and 90°, with a barometer as high as the heat
allows; and where, being at home and unwatched, they could
subject a lingering slave-trade to a regular British putting-
down. But, when matters came to the point in 1870-71, the
proposed bargain excited a storm of sentimental wrath which was
as queer as unexpected. The French object to part with the
Gaboon, as the Germans appear inclined to settle upon the Ogobe
River. In England, cotton, civilization, and even Christianity
were thrust forward by half-a-dozen merchants, and by a few venal
colonial prints. The question assumed the angriest aspect; and,
lastly, the Prussian-French war underwrote the negotiations with
a finis pro temp. I hope to see them renewed; and I hope still
more ardently to see the day when we shall either put our so-
called "colonies" on the West Coast of Africa to their only
proper use, convict stations, or when, if we are determined upon
consuming our own crime at home, we shall make up our minds to
restore them to the negro and the hyaena, their "old

At the time of my visit, the Gaboon River had four English
traders; viz.

1. Messrs. Laughland and Co., provision-merchants, Fernando Po
and Glasgow. Their resident agent was Mr. Kirkwood.

2. Messrs. Hatton and Cookson, general merchants, Liverpool.
Their chief agent, Mr. R.B.N. Walker, who had known the river for
eleven years (1865), had left a few days before my arrival; his
successor, Mr. R.B. Knight, had also sailed for Cape Palmas, to
engage Kru-men, and Mr. Hogg had been left in charge.

3. Messrs. Wookey and Dyer, general merchants, Liverpool. Agents,
Messrs. Gordon and Bryant.

4. Messrs. Bruford and Townsend, of Bristol. Agent, Captain

The resident agents for the Hamburg houses were Messrs. Henert
and Bremer.

The English traders in the Gaboon are nominally protected by the
Consulate of Sao Paulo de Loanda, but the distance appears too
great for consul or cruizer. They are naturally anxious for some
support, and they agitate for an unpaid Consular Agent: at
present they have, in African parlance, no "back." A Kruman,
offended by a ration of plantains, when he prefers rice, runs to
the Plateau, and lays some fictitious complaint before the
Commandant. Monsieur summons the merchant, condemns him to pay a
fine, and dismisses the affair without even permitting a protest.
Hence, impudent robbery occurs every day. The discontent of the
white reacts upon his clients the black men; of late, les Gabons,
as the French call the natives, have gone so far as to declare
that foreigners have no right to the upper river, which is all
private property. The line drawn by them is at Fetish Rock, off
Pointe Française, near the native village of Mpíra, about half a
mile above the Plateau; and they would hail with pleasure a
transfer to masters who are not so uncommonly ready with their
gros canons.

The Gaboon trade is chronicled by John Barbot, Agent-General of
the French West African Company, "Description of the Coast of
South Guinea," Churchill, vol. v. book iv. chap. 9; and the chief
items were, and still are, ivory and beeswax. Of the former,
90,000 lbs. may be exported when the home prices are good, and
sometimes the total has reached 100 tons. Hippopotamus tusks are
dying out, being now worth only 2s. per lb. Other exports are
caoutchouc, ebony (of which the best comes from the Congo), and
camwood or barwood (a Tephrosia). M. du Chaillu calls it the
"Ego-tree;" the natives (Mpongwe) name the tree Igo, and the
billet Ezígo.

Chapter II.

The Departure.--the Tornado.--arrival at "The Bush."

I set out early on March 19th, a day, at that time, to me the
most melancholy in the year, but now regarded with philosophic
indifference. A parting visit to the gallant "Griffons," who
threw the slipper, in the shape of three hearty cheers and a
"tiger," wasted a whole morning. It was 12.30 P.M. before the
mission boat turned her head towards the southern bank, and her
crew began to pull in the desultory manner of the undisciplined

The morning had been clear but close, till a fine sea breeze set
in unusually early. "The doctor" seldom rises in the Gaboon
before noon at this season; often he delays his visit till 2
P.M., and sometimes he does not appear at all. On the other hand,
he is fond of late hours. Before we had progressed a mile,
suspicious gatherings of slaty-blue cloud-heaps advanced from the
north-east against the wind, with a steady and pertinacious
speed, showing that mischief was meant. The "cruel, crawling sea"
began to rough, purr, and tumble; a heavy cross swell from the
south-west dandled the up-torn mangrove twigs, as they floated
past us down stream, and threatened to swamp the deeply laden and
cranky old boat, which was far off letter A1 of Lloyd's. The
oarsmen became sulky because they were not allowed to make sail,
which, in case of a sudden squall, could not have been taken in
under half an hour. Patience! Little can be done, on the first
day, with these demi-semi-Europeanized Africans, except to
succeed in the inevitable trial of strength.

The purple sky-ground backing the Gaboon's upper course admirably
set off all its features. Upon the sea horizon, where the river
measures some thirty miles across, I could distinctly see the
junction of the two main branches, the true Olo' Mpongwe, the
main stream flowing from the Eastern Ghats, and the Rembwe
(Ramboue) or south-eastern influent. At the confluence, tree-
dots, tipping the watery marge, denoted what Barbot calls the
"Pongo Islands." These are the quoin-shaped mass "Dámbe" (Orleans
Island) alias "Coniquet" (the Conelet), often corrupted to
Konikey; the Konig Island of the old Hollander,[FN#3] and the
Prince's Island of the ancient Briton. It was so called because
held by the Mwáni-pongo, who was to this region what the Mwáni-
congo was farther south. The palace was large but very mean, a
shell of woven reeds roofed with banana leaves: the people, then
mere savages, called their St. James' "Goli-patta," or "Royal
House," in imitation of a more civilized race near Cape Lopez.
The imperial islet is some six miles in circumference; it was
once very well peopled, and here ships used to be careened. The
northern point which starts out to meet it is Ovindo (Owëendo of
old), alias Red Point, alias "Rodney's," remarkable for its fair
savannah, of which feature more presently. In mid-stream lies
Mbini (Embenee), successively Papegay, Parrot--there is one in
every Europeo-African river--and Adelaide Island.

Between Ovindo Point, at the northern bend of the stream, stand
the so-called "English villages," divided from the French by
marshy ground submerged during heavy rains. The highest upstream
is Olomi, Otonda-naga, or town of "Cabinda," a son of the late
king. Next comes Glass Town, belonging to a dynasty which has
lasted a century--longer than many of its European brethren. In
1787 a large ship-bell was sent as a token of regard by a Bristol
house, Sydenham and Co., to an old, old "King Glass," whose
descendants still reign. Olomi and Glass Town are preferred by
the English, as their factories catch the sea-breeze better than
can Le Plateau: the nearer swamps are now almost drained off, and
the distance from the "authorities" is enough for comfort. Follow
Comba (Komba) and Tom Case, the latter called after Case Glass, a
scion of the Glasses, who was preferred as captain's "tradesman"
by Captain Vidal, R.N., in 1827, because he had "two virtues
which rarely fall to the lot of savages, namely, a mild, quiet
manner, and a low tone of voice when speaking." Tom Qua Ben,
justly proud of the "laced coat of a mail coach guard," was
chosen by Captain Boteler, R.N. The list concludes with Butabeya,
James Town, and Mpira.

These villages are not built street-wise after Mpongwe fashion.
They are scatters of shabby mat-huts, abandoned after every
freeman's death; and they hardly emerge from the luxuriant
undergrowth of manioc and banana, sensitive plant and physic nut
(Jatropha Curcas), clustering round a palm here and there. Often
they are made to look extra mean by a noble "cottonwood," or
Bombax (Pentandrium), standing on its stalwart braces like an old
sea-dog with parted legs; extending its roots over a square acre
of soil, shedding filmy shade upon the surrounding underwood, and
at all times ready, like a certain chestnut, to shelter a hundred

Between the Plateau and Santa Clara, beginning some two miles
below the former, are those hated and hating rivals, Louis Town,
Qua Ben, and Prince Krinje, the French settlements. The latter is
named after a venerable villain who took in every white man with
whom he had dealings, till the new colony abolished that
exclusive agency, that monopoly so sacred in negro eyes, which
here corresponded with the Abbánat of the Somal. Mr. Wilson (p.
252) recounts with zest a notable trick played by this "little,
old, grey-headed, humpback man" upon Captain Bouët-Willaumez, and
Mr. W. Winwood Reade (chap, xi.) has ably dramatized "Krinji,
King George and the Commandant." On another occasion, the whole
population of the Gaboon was compelled by a French man-o-war to
pay "Prince Cringy's" debts, and he fell into disfavour only when
he attempted to wreck a frigate by way of turning an honest

But soon we had something to think of besides the view. The
tumultuous assemblage of dark, dense clouds, resting upon the
river-surface in our rear, formed line or rather lines, step upon
step, and tier on tier. While the sun shone treacherously gay, a
dismal livid gloom palled the eastern sky, descending to the
watery horizon; and the estuary, beneath the sable hangings which
began to depend from the cloud canopy, gleamed with a ghastly
whitish green. Distant thunders rumbled and muttered, and flashes
of the broadest sheets inclosed fork and chain lightning; the
lift-fire zigzagged in tangled skeins here of chalk-white
threads, there of violet wires, to the surface of earth and sea.
Presently nimbus-step, tier and canopy, gradually breaking up,
formed a low arch regular as the Bifröst bridge which Odin
treads, spanning a space between the horizon, ninety degrees
broad and more. The sharply cut soffit, which was thrown out in
darkest relief by the dim and sallow light of the underlying sky,
waxed pendent and ragged, as though broken by a torrent of storm.
What is technically called the "ox-eye," the "egg of the
tornado," appeared in a fragment of space, glistening below the
gloomy rain-arch. The wind ceased to blow; every sound was hushed
as though Nature were nerving herself, silent for the throe, and
our looks said, "In five minutes it will be down upon us." And
now it comes. A cold blast smelling of rain, and a few drops or
rather splashes, big as gooseberries and striking with a blow,
are followed by a howling squall, sharp and sudden puffs,
pulsations and gusts; at length a steady gush like a rush of
steam issues from that awful arch, which, after darkening the
heavens like an eclipse, collapses in fragmentary torrents of
blinding rain. In the midst of the spoon-drift we see, or we
think we see, "La Junon" gliding like a phantom-ship towards the
river mouth. The lightning seems to work its way into our eyes,
the air-shaking thunder rolls and roars around our very ears; the
oars are taken in utterly useless, the storm-wind sweeps the boat
before it at full speed as though it had been a bit of straw.
Selim and I sat with a large mackintosh sheet over our hunched
backs, thus offering a breakwater to the waves; happily for us,
the billow-heads were partly cut off and carried away bodily by
the raging wind, and the opened fountains of the firmament beat
down the breakers before they could grow to their full growth.
Otherwise we were lost men; the southern shore was still two
miles distant, and, as it was, the danger was not despicable.
These tornadoes are harmless enough to a cruiser, and under a
good roof men bless them. But H.M.S. "Heron" was sunk by one, and
the venture of a cranky gig laden ŕ fleur d'eau is what some call
"tempting Providence."

Stunned with thunder, dazzled by the vivid flashes of white
lightning, dizzy with the drive of the boat, and drenched by the
torrents and washings from above and below, we were not a little
pleased to feel the storm-wind slowly lulling, as it had cooled
the heated regions ahead, and to see the sky steadily clearing up
behind, as the blackness of the cloud, rushing with racer speed,
passed over and beyond us. The increasing stillness of the sea
raised our spirits;

"For nature, only loud when she destroys,
Is silent when she fashions."

But the storm-demon's name is "Tornado" (Cyclone): it will
probably veer round to the south, where, meeting the dry clouds
that are gathering and massing there, it will involve us in
another fray. Meanwhile we are safe, and as the mist clears off
we sight the southern shore. The humbler elevation, notably
different from the northern bank, is dotted with villages and
clearings. The Péninsula de Marie-Amélie, alias "Round Corner,"
the innermost southern point visible from the mouth, projects to
the north-north-east in a line of scattered islets at high tides,
ending in Le bois Fétiche, a clump of tall trees somewhat
extensively used for picnics. It has served for worse purposes,
as the name shows.

A total of two hours landed me from the Comte de Paris Roads upon
the open sandy strip that supports Denistown; the single broad
street runs at right angles from the river, the better to catch
the sea-breeze, and most of the huts have open gables, a practice
strongly to be recommended. Le Roi would not expose himself to
the damp air; the consul was not so particular. His majesty's
levée took place in the verandah of a poor bamboo hut, one of the
dozen which compose his capital. Seated in a chair and ready for
business, he was surrounded by a crowd of courtiers, who listened
attentively to every word, especially when he affected to
whisper; and some pretty women collected to peep round the
corners at the Utangáni (white man). [FN#4]

Mr. Wilson described Roi Denis in 1856 as a man of middle
stature, with compact frame and well-made, of great muscular
power, about sixty years old, very black by contrast with the
snow-white beard veiling his brown face. "He has a mild and
expressive eye, a gentle and persuasive voice, equally affable
and dignified; and, taken altogether, he is one of the most king-
like looking men I have ever met in Africa," says the reverend
gentleman. The account reminded me of Kimwere the Lion of
Usumbara, drawn by Dr. Krapf. Perhaps six years had exercised a
degeneratory effect upon Roi Denis, or perchance I have more
realism than sentiment; my eyes could see nothing but a petit
vieux vieux, nearer sixty than seventy, with a dark, wrinkled
face, and an uncommonly crafty eye, one of those African organs
which is always occupied in "taking your measure" not for your

I read out the introductory letter from Baron Didelot--the king
speaks a little French and English, but of course his education
ends there. After listening to my projects and to my offers of
dollars, liquor, and cloth, Roi Denis replied, with due gravity,
that his chasseurs were all in the plantations, but that for a
somewhat increased consideration he would attach to my service
his own son Ogodembe, alias Paul. It was sometime before I found
out the real meaning of this crafty move; the sharp prince, sent
to do me honour, intended me to recommend him to Mr. Hogg as an
especially worthy recipient of "trust." Roi Denis added an
abundance of "sweet mouf," and, the compact ended, he
condescendingly walked down with me to the beach, shook hands and
exchanged a civilized "Au revoir." I reentered the boat, and we
pushed off once more.

Prince Paul, a youth of the Picaresque school, a hungry as well
as a thirsty soul and vain with knowledge, which we know "puffeth
up," having the true African eye on present gain as well as to
future "trust," proceeded: "Papa has at least a hundred sons,"
enough to make Dan Dinmont blush, "and say" (he was not sure), "a
hundred and fifty daughters. Father rules all the southern shore;
the French have no power beyond the brack and there are no
African rivals,"--the prince evidently thought that the new-comer
had never heard of King George. Like most juniors here, the youth
knew French, or rather Gaboon-French; it was somewhat startling
to hear clearly and tolerably pronounced, "M'sieur, veux-tu des
macacques?" But the jargon is not our S'a Leone and West-coast
"English;" the superior facility of pronouncing the neo-Latin
tongues became at once apparent. It is evident that European
languages have been a mistake in Africa: the natives learn a
smattering sufficient for business purposes and foreigners remain
without the key to knowledge; hence our small progress in
understanding negro human nature. Had we so acted in British
India, we should probably have held the proud position which now
contents us in China as in Western Africa, with factories and
hulks at Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, and Madras.

From Comte de Paris Roads the southern Gaboon shore is called in
charts Le Paletuvier, the Mangrove Bank; the rhizophora is the
growth of shallow brackish water, and at the projections there
are fringings of reefs and "diabolitos," dangerous to boats.
After two hours we crossed the Mombe (Mombay) Creek-mouth, with
its outlying rocks, and passed the fishing village of Nenga-Oga,
whence supplies are sent daily to the Plateau. Then doubling a
point of leek-green grass, based upon comparatively poor soil,
sand, and clay, and backed by noble trees, we entered the Mbátá
River, the Toutiay of the chart and the Batta Creek of M. du
Chaillu's map. It comes from the south-west, and it heads much
nearer the coast than is shown on paper.

Presently the blood-red sun sank like a fire-balloon into the
west, flushing with its last fierce beams the higher clouds of
the eastern sky, and lighting the white and black plume of the
soaring fish-eagle. This Gypohierax (Angolensis) is a very wild
bird, flushed at 200 yards: I heard of, but I never saw, the
Gwanyoni, which M. du Chaillu, (chapter xvi.) calls Guanionian,
an eagle or a vulture said to kill deer. Rain fell at times,
thunder, anything but "sweet thunder," again rolled in the
distance; and lightning flashed and forked before and behind us,
becoming painfully vivid in the shades darkening apace. We could
see nothing of the channel but a steel-grey streak, like a
Damascus blade, in a sable sheathing of tall mangrove avenue; in
places, however, tree-clumps suggested delusive hopes that we
were approaching a region where man can live. On our return we
found many signs of population which had escaped our sight during
the fast-growing obscurity. The first two reaches were long and
bulging; the next became shorter, and Prince Paul assured us
that, after one to the right, and another to the left, we should
fall into the direct channel. Roi Denis had promised us arrival
at sunset; his son gradually protracted sunset till midnight.
Still the distance grew and grew. I now learned for the first
time that the boat was too large for the channel, and that oars
were perfectly useless ahead.

At 8 P.M. we entered what seemed a cul de sac; it looked like
charging a black wall, except where a gleam of grey light
suggested the further end of the Box Tunnel, and cheered our poor
hearts for a short minute, whilst in the distance we heard the
tantalizing song of the wild waves. The boughs on both sides
brushed the boat; we held our hands before our faces to avoid the
sharp stubs threatening ugly stabs, and to fend off the low
branches, ready to sweep us and our belongings into the deep
swirling water. The shades closed in like the walls of the
Italian's dungeon; until our eyes grew to it, the blackness of
Erebus weighed upon our spirits; perspiration poured from our
brows, and in this watery mangrove-lane the pabulum vitć seemed
to be wanting. After forcing a passage through three vile
"gates," the sheet-lightning announced a second tornado. We
sighed for more vivid flashes, but after twenty minutes they
dimmed and died away, still showing the "bush"-silhouette on
either side. The tide rushed out in strength under the amphibious
forest--all who know the West Coast will appreciate the position.
It was impossible to advance or to remain in this devil's den,
the gig bumped at every minute, and the early flood would
probably crush her against the trees. So we dropped down to the
nearest "open," which we reached at 9.30 P.M.

After enduring a third tornado we grounded, and the crew sprang
ashore, saying that they were going to boil plantains on the
bank. I made snug for the night with a wet waterproof and a strip
of muslin, to be fastened round the mouth after the fashion of
Outram's "fever guard," and shut my lips to save my life, by the
particular advice of Dr. Catlin. The first mosquito piped his "Io
Pćan" at 8 P.M.; another hour brought legions, and then began the
battle for our blood. I had resolved not to sleep in the fetid
air of the jungle; time, however, moved on wings of lead; a dull
remembrance of a watery moon, stars dimly visible, a southerly
breeze, and heavy drops falling from the trees long haunted me.
About midnight, Prince Paul, who had bewailed the hardship of
passing a night sans mostiquaire in the bush, and whose violent
plungings showed that he failed to manage un somme, proposed to
land and to fetch fire from l'habitation.

"What habitation?"

"Oh! a little village belonging to papa."

"And why the ---didn't you mention it?"

"Ah! this is Mponbinda, and you know we're bound for Mbátá!"

Nothing negrotic now astonishes us, there is nought new to me in
Africa. We landed upon a natural pier of rock ledge, and, after
some 400 yards of good path, we entered a neat little village,
and found our crew snoring snugly asleep. We "exhorted them,"
refreshed the fire, and generously recruited exhausted nature
with quinine, julienne and tea, potatoes and potted meats, pipes
and cigars. So sped my annual unlucky day, and thus was spent my
first jungle-night almost exactly under the African line.

At 5 A. M. the new morning dawned, the young tide flowed, the
crabs disappeared, and the gig, before high and dry on the hard
mud, once more became buoyant. Forward again! The channel was a
labyrinthine ditch, an interminable complication of over-arching
roots, and of fallen trees forming gateways; the threshold was a
maze of slimy stumps, stems, and forks in every stage of growth
and decay, dense enough to exclude the air of heaven. In parts
there were ugly snags, and everywhere the turns were so puzzling,
that I marvelled how a human being could attempt the passage by
night. The best time for ascending is half-flood, for descending
half-ebb; if the water be too high, the bush chokes the way; if
too low, the craft grounds. At the Gaboon mouth the tide rises
three feet; at the head of the Mbátá Creek, where it arrests the
sweet water rivulet, it is, of course, higher.

And now the scene improved. The hat-palm, a brab or wild date,
the spine-palm (Phœnix spinosa), and the Okumeh or cotton-tree
disputed the ground with the foul Rhizophora. Then clearings
appeared. At Ejéné, the second of two landing-places evidently
leading to farms, we transferred ourselves to canoes, our boat
being arrested by a fallen tree. Advancing a few yards, all
disembarked upon trampled mud, and, ascending the bank, left the
creek which supplies baths and drinking water to our destination.
Striking a fair pathway, we passed westward over a low wave of
ground, sandy and mouldy, and traversed a fern field surrounded
by a forest of secular trees; some parasite-grown from twig to
root, others blanched and scathed by the fires of heaven; these
roped and corded with runners and llianas, those naked and
clothed in motley patches. At 6.30 A.M., after an hour's work,
probably representing a mile, and a total of 7 h. 30 m., or six
miles in a south-south-west direction from Le Plateau, we left
the ugly cul de sac of a creek, and entered Mbátá, which the
French call "La Plantation."

Women and children fled in terror at our approach--and no wonder:
eyes like hunted boars, haggard faces, yellow as the sails at the
Cape Verdes, and beards two days long, act very unlike cosmetics.
A house was cleared for us by Hotaloya, alias "Andrew," of the
Baráka Mission, the lord of the village, who, poor fellow! has
only two wives; he is much ashamed of himself, but his excuse is,
"I be boy now," meaning about twenty-two. After breakfast we
prepared for a sleep, but the popular excitement forbade it; the
villagers had heard that a white greenhorn was coming to bag and
to buy gorillas, and they resolved to make hay whilst the sun

Prince Paul at once gathered together a goodly crowd of fathers
and mothers, uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters, cousins and
connections. A large and loud-voiced dame, "Gozeli," swore that
she was his "proper Ngwe," being one of his numerous step mas,
and she would not move without a head, or three leaves, of
tobacco. Hotaloya was his brother; Mesdames Azízeh and Asúnye
declared themselves his sisters, and so all. My little stock of
goods began visibly to shrink, when I informed the greedy
applicants that nothing beyond a leaf of tobacco and a demi verre
of tafia would be given until I had seen my way to work.
Presently appeared the chief huntsman appointed by Roi Denis to
take charge of me, he was named Fortuna, a Spanish name corrupted
to Forteune. A dash was then prepared for his majesty and for
Prince Paul. I regret to say that this young nobleman ended his
leave-taking by introducing a pretty woman, with very neat hands
and ankles and a most mutine physiognomy, as his sister,
informing me that she was also my wife pro temp. She did not seem
likely to coiffer Sainte Cathérine, and here she is.

The last thing the prince did was to carry off, without a word of
leave, the mission boat and the three Kru-boys, whom he kept two
days. I was uneasy about these fellows, who, hating and fearing
the Gaboon "bush," are ever ready to bolt.

Forteune and Hotaloya personally knew Mpolo (Paul du Chaillu),
and often spoke to me of his prowess as a chasseur and his
knowledge of their tongue. But reputation as a linguist is easily
made in these regions by speaking a few common sentences. The
gorilla-hunter evidently had only a colloquial acquaintance with
the half-dozen various idioms of the Mpongwe and Mpángwe (Fán)
Bakele, Shekyani, and Cape Lopez people. Yet, despite verbal
inaccuracies, his facility of talking gave him immense advantages
over other whites, chiefly in this, that the natives would deem
it useless to try the usual tricks upon travellers.

Forteune is black, short, and "trapu;" curls of the jettiest
lanugo invest all his outward man; bunches of muscle stand out
from his frame like the statues of Crotonian Milo; his legs are
bandy; his hands and feet are large and patulous, and he wants
only a hunch to make an admirable Quasimodo. He has the frank and
open countenance of a sportsman--I had been particularly warned
by the Plateau folk about his skill in cheating and lying.
Formerly a cook at the Gaboon, he is a man of note in his tribe,
as the hunter always is; he holds the position of a country
gentleman, who can afford to write himself M.F.H.; he is looked
upon as a man of valour; he is admired by the people, and he is
adored by his wives--one of them at once took up her station upon
the marital knee. Perhaps the Nimrod of Mbátá is just a little
henpecked--the Mpongwe mostly are--and I soon found out that
soigner les femmes is the royal road to getting on with the men.
He supplies the village with "beef," here meaning not the roast
of Old England, but any meat, from a field-rat to a hippopotamus.
He boasts that he has slain with his own hand upwards of a
hundred gorillas and anthropoid apes, and, since the demand arose
in Europe, he has supplied Mr. R.B.N. Walker and others with an
average of one per month, including a live youngster; probably
most, if not all, of them were killed by his "bushmen," of whom
he can command about a dozen.

Forteune began by receiving his "dash," six fathoms of "satin
cloth," tobacco, and pipes. After inspecting my battery, he
particularly approved of a smooth-bored double-barrel (Beattie of
Regent Street) carrying six to the pound. Like all these people,
he uses an old and rickety trade-musket, and, when lead is
wanting, he loads it with a bit of tile: as many gorillas are
killed with tools which would hardly bring down a wild cat, it is
evident that their vital power cannot be great. He owned to
preferring a charge of twenty buckshot to a single ball, and he
received with joy a little fine gunpowder, which he compared
complimentarily with the blasting article, half charcoal withal,
to which he was accustomed.

Presently a decently dressed, white-bearded man of light
complexion announced himself, with a flourish and a loud call for
a chair, as Prince Koyálá, alias "Young Prince," father to
Forteune and Hotaloya and brother to Roi Denis,--here all
tribesmen are of course brethren. This being equivalent to
"asking for more," it drove me to the limits of my patience. It
was evidently now necessary to assume wrath, and to raise my
voice to a roar.

"My hands dey be empty! I see nuffin, I hear nuffin! What for I
make more dash?"

Allow me, parenthetically, to observe that the African, like the
Scotch Highlander, will interpose the personal or demonstrative
pronoun between noun and verb: "sun he go down," means "the sun
sets" and, as genders do not exist, you must be careful to say,
"This woman he cry too much."

The justice of my remark was owned by all; had it been the height
of tyranny, the supple knaves would have agreed with me quite as
politely. They only replied that "Young Prince," being a man of
years and dignity, would be dishonoured by dismissal empty-
handed, and they represented him as my future host when we moved
nearer the bush.

"Now lookee here. This he be bad plábbá (palaver). This he be
bob! I come up for white man, you come up for black man. All
white man he no be fool, 'cos he no got black face!"

Ensued a chorus of complimentary palaver touching the infinite
superiority of the Aryan over the Semite, but the point was in no
wise yielded. At last Young Prince subsided into a request for a
glass of rum, which being given "cut the palaver" (i.e. ended the
business). I soon resolved to show my hosts, by threatening to
leave them, the difference between traders and travellers. Barbot
relates that the Mpongwe of olden time demanded his "dassy"
before he consented to "liquor up," and boldly asked, "If he was
expected to drink gratis?" The impertinence was humoured,
otherwise not an ivory would have found its way to the factory.
But the traveller is not bound to endure these whimsy-whamsies;
and the sooner he declares his independence the better. Many
monkeys' skins were brought to me for sale, but I refused to buy,
lest the people might think it my object to make money; moreover,
all were spoilt for specimens by the "points" being snipped off.

I happened during the first afternoon to show my hosts a picture
of the bald-headed chimpanzee, Nchígo Mbúwwe (Troglodytes
calvus), here more generally called Nchígo Mpolo, "large
chimpanzee," or Nchígo Njúe, "white-haired chimpanzee." They
recognized it at once; but when I turned over to the cottage
("Adventures," &c., p. 423), with its neat parachute-like roof,
all burst out laughing.

"You want to look him Nágo (house)?" asked Hotaloya.

"Yes, for sure," I replied.

Forteune set out at once, carrying my gun, Selim followed me, and
the rear was brought up by a couple of little prick-eared curs
with a dash of the pointer, probably from St. Helena: the people
will pay as much as ten dollars for a good dog. They are never
used in hunting apes, as they start the game; on this occasion
they nearly ran down a small antelope.

The path led through a new clearing; a field of fern and some
patches of grass breaking the forest, which, almost clear of
thicket and undergrowth, was a charming place for deer. The soil,
thin sand overlying humus, suggested rich crops of ground-nuts;
its surface was everywhere cut by nullahs, now dry, and by
brooks, running crystal streams; these, when deep, are crossed by
tree-trunks, the Brazilian "pingela." After twenty minutes or so
we left the "picada" (foot-path) and struck into a thin bush,
till we had walked about a mile.

"Look him house, Nchígo house!" said Hotaloya, standing under a
tall tree.

I saw to my surprise two heaps of dry sticks, which a schoolboy
might have taken for birds' nests; the rude beds, boughs, torn
off from the tree, not gathered, were built in forks, one ten and
the other twenty feet above ground, and both were canopied by the
tufted tops. Every hunter consulted upon the subject ridiculed
the branchy roof tied with vines, and declared that the Nchigo's
industry is confined to a place for sitting, not for shelter;
that he fashions no other dwelling; that a couple generally
occupies the same or some neighbouring tree, each sitting upon
its own nest; that the Nchígo is not a "hermit" nor a rare, nor
even a very timid animal; that it dwells, as I saw, near
villages, and that its cry, "Aoo! Aoo! Aoo!" is often heard by
them in the mornings and evenings. During my subsequent
wanderings in Gorilla land, I often observed tall and mushroom-
shaped trees standing singly, and wearing the semblance of the
umbrella roof. What most puzzles me is, that M. du Chaillu
("Second Expedition," chap, iii.) "had two of the bowers cut down
and sent to the British Museum." He adds, "They are formed at a
height of twenty to thirty feet in the trees, by the animals
bending over and intertwining a number of the weaker boughs, so
as to form bowers, under which they can sit, protected from the
rains by the masses of foliage thus entangled together, some of
the boughs being so bent that they form convenient seats." Surely
M. du Chaillu must have been deceived by some vagary of nature.

The gorilla-hunter's sketch had always reminded me of the Rev.
Mr. Moffat's account of the Hylobian Bakones, the aborigines of
the Matabele country. Mr. Thompson, a missionary to Sherbro ("The
Palm Land," chap. xiii), has, however, these words:--"It is said
of the chimpanzees, that they build a kind of rude house of
sticks in their wild state, and fill it with leaves; and I doubt
it not, for when domesticated they always want some good bed, and
make it up regularly."

Thus I come to the conclusion that the Nchígo Mpolo is a vulgar
nest-building ape. The bushmen and the villagers all assured me
that neither the common chimpanzee, nor the gorilla proper
(Troglodytes gorilla), "make 'im house." On the other hand, Mr.
W. Winwood Reade, writing to "The Athenćum" from Loanda (Sept. 7,
1862), asserts,--"When the female is pregnant he (the gorilla)
builds a nest (as do also the Kulu-Kamba and the chimpanzee),
where she is delivered, and which is then abandoned." And he thus
confirms what was told to Dr. Thomas Savage (1847): "In the wild
state their (i.e. the gorillas') habits are in general like those
of the Troglodytes niger, building their nests loosely in trees."

Chapter III.

Geography of the Gaboon.

Before going further afield I may be allowed a few observations,
topographical and ethnological, about this highly interesting
section of the West African coast.

The Gaboon country, to retain the now familiar term, although no
one knows much about its derivation, is placed, by old travellers
in "South Guinea," the tract lying along the Ethiopic, or South
Atlantic Ocean, limited by the Camarones Mountain-block in north
latitude 4°, and by Cabo Negro in south latitude 15° 40' 7", a
sea-line of nearly 1,200 miles. The Gaboon proper is included
between the Camarones Mountains to the north, and the
"Mayumba,"properly the "Yumba" country southwards, in south
latitude 3° 22',--a shore upwards of 400 miles long. The inland
depth is undetermined; geographically we should limit it to the
Western Ghats, which rarely recede more than 60 miles from the
sea, and ethnologically no line can yet be drawn. The country is
almost bisected by the equator, and by the Rio de Gabăo, which
discharges in north latitude 0° 21' 25" and east longitude 9° 21'
23"; and it corresponds in parallel with the Somali-Galla country
and the Juba River on the east coast.

The general aspect of the region is prepossessing. It is a
rolling surface sinking towards the Atlantic, in parts broken by
hills and dwarf chains, either detached or pushed out by the
Ghats; a land of short and abnormally broad rivers, which cannot,
like the Congo, break through the ridges flanking the Central
African basin, and which therefore are mere surface drains of the
main ranges. The soil is mostly sandy, but a thin coat of rich
vegetable humus, quickened by heavy rains and fiery suns,
produces a luxuriant vegetation; whilst the proportion of area
actually cultivated is nothing compared with the expanse of bush.
In the tall forests, which abound in wild fruits, there are
beautiful tracts of clear grassy land, and the woods, clear of
undergrowth, resemble an English grove more than a tropical
jungle. Horses, which die of the tsetse (Glossina morsitans) in
the interior of North Guinea, and of damp heat at Fernando Po,
thrive on its downs and savannahs. The Elais palm is rare,
sufficing only for home use. The southern parts, about Cape Lopez
and beyond it, resemble the Oil River country in the Biafran
Bight: the land is a mass of mangrove swamps, and the climate is
unfit for white men.

The Eastern Ghats were early known to the "Iberians," as shown by
the Sierra del Crystal, del Sal, del Sal Nitro and other names,
probably so called from the abundance of quartz in blocks and
veins that seam the granite, as we shall see in the Congo
country, and possibly because they contain rock crystal. Although
in many places they may be descried subtending the shore in lumpy
lines like detached vertebrć, and are supposed to represent the
Aranga Mons of Ptolemy, they are not noticed by Barbot. Between
the Camarones River and Cape St. John (Corisco Bay), blue,
rounded, and discontinuous masses, apparently wooded, rise before
the mariner, and form, as will be seen, the western sub-ranges of
the great basin-rim. To the north they probably anastomose with
the Camarones, the Rumbi, the Kwa, the Fumbina north-east, and
the Niger-Kong mountains.[FN#5]

They are not wanting who declare them to be rich in precious
metals. Some thirty years ago an American super-cargo ascended
the Rembwe River, the south-eastern line of the Gaboon fork, and
is said to have collected "dirt" which, tested at New York,
produced 16 dollars per bushel. All the old residents in the
Gaboon know the story of the gold dust. The prospector was the
late Captain Richard E. Lawlin, of New York, who was employed by
Messrs. Bishop of Philadelphia, the same house that commissioned
the chasseur de gorilles to collect "rubber" for them, and who
was so eminently useful to the young French traveller that the
scant notice of his name is considered curious.

Great would be my wonder if the West African as well as the East
African Ghats did not prove auriferous; both fulfil all the
required conditions, and both await actual discovery. The
Mountains of the Moon, so frequently mentioned by M. du Chaillu
and the Gaboon Mission, are doubtless the versants between the
valleys of the Niger and the Congo. Lately Dr. Schweinfurth found
an equatorial range which, stretching northwards towards the Bahr
el Ghazal, was seen to trend westward. According to Mr. Consul
Hutchinson ("Ten Years' Wanderings among the Ethiopians," p.
250), the Rev. Messrs. Mackey and Clemens, of the Corisco Mission
"explored more than a hundred miles of country across the Sierra
del Crystal Range of Mountains" --I am inclined to believe that a
hundred miles from the coast was their furthest point. We shall
presently travel towards this mysterious range, and there is no
difficulty in passing it, except the utter want of a commercial
road, and the wildness of tribes that have never sighted a
traveller nor a civilized man.

The rivers of our region are of three kinds; little surface
drains principally in the north; broad estuaries like the Mersey
and many streams of Eastern Scotland in the central parts, and a
single bed, the Ogobe, breaking through the subtending Ghats, and
forming a huge lagoon-delta. Beginning at Camarones are the Boroa
and Borba Waters, with the Rio de Campo, fifteen leagues further
south; of these little is known, except that they fall into the
Bight of Panari or Pannaria.

According to Barbot (iv. 9), the English charts give the name of
Point Pan to a large deep bight in which lies the harbour-bay
"Porto de Garapo" (Garápa, sugar-cane juice?); and he calls the
two rounded hillocks, extending inland from Point Pan to the
northern banks of the Rio de Campo, "Navia." The un-African word
Panari or Pannaria is probably a corruption of Páo de Nao, the
bay north of Garapo, and "Navia."

These small features are followed by the Rio de Săo Bento,
improperly called in our charts the St. Benito, Bonito, Bonita,
and Boneto; the native name is Lobei, and it traverses the Kombi
country, --such is the extent of our information. The next is the
well-known Muni, the Ntambounay of M. du Chaillu, generally
called the Danger River, in old charts "Rio de Săo Joăo," and
"Rio da Angra" (of the bight); an estuary which, like most of its
kind, bifurcates above, and, receiving a number of little
tributaries from the Sierra, forms a broad bed and empties itself
through a mass of mangroves into the innermost north-eastern
corner of Corisco Bay. This sag in the coast is formed by Ninje
(Nenge the island?), or the Cabo de Săo Joăo (Cape St. John) to
the north, fronted south by a large square-headed block of land,
whose point is called Cabo das Esteiras--of matting (Barbot's
Estyras), an article of trade in the olden time. The southern
part receives the Munda (Moondah) river, a foul and unimportant
stream, which has been occupied by the American missionaries.

We shall ascend the Gaboon estuary to its sources. South of it, a
number of sweet little water-courses break the shore-line as far
as the Nazareth River, which debouches north of Urungu, or Cape
Lopez (Cabo de Lopo Gonsalvez), and which forms by anastomosing
with a southern river the Ogobe (Ogowai of M. du Chaillu), a
complicated delta whose sea-front extends from north to south, at
least eighty miles. Beyond Cape Lopez is an outfall, known to
Europeans as the Rio Mexias: it is apparently a mesh in the net-
work of the Nazareth-Ogobe. The same may be said of the Rio
Fernăo Vaz, about 110 miles south of the Gaboon, and of yet
another stream which, running lagoon-like some forty miles along
the shore, has received in our maps the somewhat vague name of R.
Rembo or River River. Orembo (Simpongwe) being the generic term
for a stream or river, is applied emphatically to the Nkomo
branch of the Gaboon, and to the Fernăo Vaz.

The Ogobe is the only river between the Niger and the Congo which
escapes, through favouring depressions, from the highlands
flanking the great watery plateau of Inner Africa. By its plainly
marked double seasons of flood at the equinoxes, and by the time
of its low water, we prove that it drains the belt of calms, and
the region immediately upon the equator. The explorations of
Lieutenant Serval and others, in "Le Pionnier" river-steamer,
give it an average breadth of 8,200 feet, though broken by sand-
banks and islands; the depth in the main channel, which at times
is narrow and difficult to find, averages between sixteen and
forty-eight feet; and, in the dry season of 1862, the vessel ran
up sixty English miles.

Before M. du Chaillu's expeditions, "the rivers known to
Europeans," he tells us in his Preface ("First Journey," p. iv.),
"as the Nazareth, Mexias, and Fernam Vaz, were supposed to be
three distinct streams." In 1817 Bowdich identified the "Ogoowai"
with the Congo, and the Rev. Mr. Wilson (p. 284) shows us the
small amount of knowledge that existed even amongst experts, five
years before the "Gorilla book" appeared. "From Cape Lopez, where
the Nazareth debouches, there is a narrow lagoon running along
the sea-coast, and very near to it, all the way to Mayumba. This
lagoon is much traversed by boats and canoes, and, when the
slave-trade was in vigorous operation, it afforded the Portuguese
traders great facilities for eluding the vigilance of British
cruizers, by shifting their slaves from point to point, and
embarking them, according to a preconcerted plan."

M. du Chaillu first proved that the Ogobe was formed by two
forks, the northern, or Rembo Okanda, and the southern, or Rembo
Nguye. The former is the more important. Mr. R.S.N. Walker found
this stream above the confluence to be from 1,800 to 2,100 feet
wide, though half the bed was occupied by bare sand-banks. Higher
up, where rocks and rapids interfered with the boat-voyage, the
current was considerable, but the breadth diminished to 600 feet.
The southern branch (also written Ngunië) was found in Apono Land
(S. lat. 2°), about the breadth of the Thames at London Bridge,
700 feet. In June the depth was ten to fifteen feet, to which the
rainy season added ten.

M. du Chaillu also established the facts that the Nazareth river
was the northern arm of the Delta, and that the Fernăo Vaz
anastomosed with the Delta's southern arm.

The only pelagic islands off the Gaboon coast are the Brancas,
Great and Little; Corisco Island, which we shall presently visit;
Great and Little Elobi, called by old travellers Mosquito
Islands, probably for "Moucheron," a Dutchman who lost his ship
there in 1600. The land about the mouths of the Ogobe is a mass
of mangrove swamps, like the Nigerian Delta, which high tides
convert into insular ground; these, however, must be considered
terra firma in its infancy. The riverine islands of the Gaboon
proper will be noticed as we ascend the bed.

Pongo-land ignores all such artificial partitions as districts or
parishes; the only divisions are the countries occupied by the
several tribes.

The Gaboon lies in "Africa-on-the-Line," and a description of the
year at Zanzibar Island applies to it in many points.[FN#6] The
characteristic of this equatorial belt is uniformity of
temperature: whilst the Arabian and the Australian deserts often
show a variation of 50° Fahr. in a single day, the yearly range
of the mercury at Singapore is about 10°. The four seasons of the
temperates are utterly unknown to the heart of the tropics--even
in Hindostan the poet who would sing, for instance, the charms of
spring must borrow the latter word (Buhar) from the Persian. If
the "bull" be allowed, the only rule here appears to be one of
exceptions. The traveller is always assured that this time there
have been no rains, or no dries, or no tornadoes, or one or all
in excess, till at last he comes to the conclusion that the Clerk
of the Weather must have mislaid his ledger. Contrary to the
popular idea, which has descended to us from the classics, the
climate under the Line is not of that torrid heat which a
vertical sun suggests; the burning zone of the Old World begins
in the northern hemisphere, where the regular rains do not
extend, beyond the tenth as far as the twenty-fifth degree. The
equatorial climate is essentially temperate: for instance, the
heat of Sumatra, lying almost under the Line, rarely exceeds 24°
R.= 86° Fahr. In the Gaboon the thermometer ranges from 65° to
90° Fahr., "a degree of heat," says Dr. Ford, "less than in many
salubrious localities in other parts of the world."

Upon the Gaboon the wet seasons are synchronous with the vertical
suns at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. "The rainy season of a
place within the tropics always begins when the sun has reached
the zenith of that place. Then the tradewinds, blowing regularly
at other seasons, become gradually weaker, and at length cease
and give way to variable winds and calms. The trade-wind no
longer brings its regular supply of cooler, drier air; the rising
heats and calms favour an ascending current" (in the sea-depths,
I may add, as well as on land), "which bears the damp air into
the upper regions of the atmosphere, there to be cooled, and to
occasion the heavy down-pour of each afternoon. The nights and
mornings are for the most part bright and clear. When the sun
moves away from the zenith, the trade-winds again begin to be
felt, and bring with them the dry season of the year, during
which hardly ever a cloud disturbs the serenity of the skies.

"Between the tropical limits and the equator, however, the sun
comes twice to the zenith of each place. If now, between the
going and coming of the sun, from the Line to its furthest range,
a sufficient pause intervenes, or if the sun's temporary distance
from the zenith is great enough, the rainy season is divided into
two portions, separated by a lesser dry season. Closer to the
tropical lines, where the sun remains but once in the zenith, the
rainy season is a continuous one."

Such is the theory of the "Allgemeine Erdkunde" (Hahn,
Hochstetter and Pokorny, Prague, 1872). An explanation should be
added of the reason why the cool wind ceases to blow, at the time
when the air, heated and raised by a perpendicular sun, might be
expected to cause a greater indraught. We at once, I have said,
recognize its correctness at sea. The Gaboon, "in the belt of
calms, with rain during the whole year," has two distinctly
marked dry seasons, at the vernal and the autumnal equinoxes. The
former or early rains (Nchangyá?) are expected to begin in
February, with violent tornadoes and storms, especially at the
full and change, and to end in April. The heavy downfalls are
mostly at night, possibly an effect of the Sierra del Crystal. I
found March 28th (1862) very like damp weather at the end of an
English May; April 6th was equally exceptional, raining from dawn
to evening. During my trip to Sánga-Tánga and back (March 25th to
29th) we had frequent fogs, locally called "smokes," and almost
daily tornadoes, sometimes from the south-east, whilst the
lightning was dangerous as upon the Western prairies. After an
interval of fiery sun, with occasional rain torrents and
discharges of electricity, begin the Enomo (Enun?), the "middle"
or long dries, which last four months to September. The "Enomo"
is the Angolan Cacimbo, meaning cool and cloudy weather, when no
umbrella is required, and when the invariably grey sky rarely
rains. Travellers are told that June and July are the cream of
the year, the healthiest time for seasoned Europeans, and this
phantom of a winter renders the climate more supportable to the
northern constitution.

During the "middle dries," when the sun, retiring to the summer
solstice, is most distant, land winds and sea breezes are strong
and regular, and the people suffer severely from cold. In the
Gaboon heavy showers sometimes fall, July being the least subject
to them, and the fiery sun, when it can disperse the clouds,
turns the soil to dust. At the end of September appear the
"latter rains," which are the more copious, as they seldom last
more than six hours at a time. It is erroneous to assert that
"the tract nearest the equator on both sides has the longest
rainy season;" the measure chiefly depends upon altitude and
other local conditions.

The rainy seasons are healthier for the natives than the cold
seasons; and the explorer is often urged to take advantage of
them. He must, however, consult local experience. Whilst
ascending rivers in November, for instance, he may find the many
feet of flood a boon or a bane, and his marching journeys are
nearly sure to end in ulcerated feet, as was the case with poor
Dr. Livingstone. The rains drench the country till the latter end
of December, when the Nángá or "little dries" set in for two
months. The latter also are not unbroken by storms and showers,
and they end with tornadoes, which this year (1862) have been
unusually frequent and violent. Thus we may distribute the twelve
months into six of rains, vernal and autumnal, and six of dry
weather, ćstival and hibernal: the following table will show the

Early December to early February, the "little dries;" February to
early April, the "former," early or spring rains; May to early
June, the variable weather; June to early September, the Cacimbo,
Enomo, long or middle dries; September to early December, the
"latter rains."

Under such media the disease, par excellence, of the Gaboon is
the paroxysm which is variously called Coast, African, Guinea,
and Bullom fever. Dr. Ford, who has written a useful treatise
upon the subject,[FN#7] finds hebdomadal periodicity in the
attacks, and lays great stress upon this point of
chronothermalism. He recognizes the normal stages, preparatory,
invasional, reactionary, and resolutionary. Like Drs. Livingstone
and Hutchinson, he holds fever and quinine "incompatibles," and
he highly approves of the prophylactic adhibition of chinchona
used by the unfortunate Douville in 1828. Experience in his own
person and in numerous patients "proves all theoretical
objections to the use of six grains an hour, or fifty and sixty
grains of quinine in one day or remission to be absolutely
imaginary." He is "convinced that it is not a stimulant," and
with many apologies he cautiously sanctions alcohol, which should
often be the physician's mainstay. As he advocated ten-grain
doses of calomel by way of preliminary cathartic, the American
missionaries stationed on the River have adopted a treatment
still more "severe"--quinine till deafness ensues, and half a
handful of mercury, often continued till a passage opens through
the palate, placing mouth and nose in directer communication. Dr.
Ford also recommends during the invasion or period of chills
external friction of mustard or of fresh red pepper either in
tincture or in powder, a good alleviator always procurable; and
the internal use of pepper-tea, to bring on the stages of
reaction and resolution. Few will agree with him that gruels and
farinaceous articles are advisable during intermissions, when the
patient craves for port, essence of beef, and consomme; nor can
we readily admit the dictum that in the tropics "the most
wholesome diet, without doubt, is chiefly vegetable." Despite
Jacquemont and all the rice-eaters, I cry beef and beer for ever
and everywhere! Many can testify personally to the value of the
unofficinal prescription which he offers in cases of severe
lichen (prickly heat), leading to impetigo. It is as follows, and
it is valuable:--

Cold cream. . . . . . . . . . 3j.
Glycerine . . . . . . . . . . 3j.
Chloroform . . . . . . . . .3ij.
Oil of bitter almonds . . gtt. x.

Chapter IV.

The Minor Tribes and the Mpongwe.

The tribes occupying the Gaboon country may roughly be divided
into two according to habitat--the maritime and those of the
interior, who are quasi-mountaineers. Upon the sea-board dwell
the Banôkô (Banaka), Bapuka, and Batanga; the Kombe, the Benga
and Mbiko, or people about Corisco; the Shekyani, who extend far
into the interior, the Urungu and Aloa, clans of Cape Lopez; the
Nkommi, Commi, Camma or Cama, and the Mayumba races beyond the
southern frontier. The inner hordes are the Dibwe (M. du
Chaillu's "Ibouay"), the Mbúsha; the numerous and once powerful
Bákele, the Cannibal Fán (Mpongwe), the Osheba or 'Sheba, their
congeners, and a variety of "bush-folk," of whom little is known
beyond the names. Linguistically we may distribute them into
three, namely, 1. the Banôkô and Batanga; 2. the Mpongwe,
including the minor ethnical divisions of Benga, and Shekyani;
the Urungu, the Nkommi, the Dongas or Ndiva, and the Mbúsha, and
3. the Mpongwe and the tribes of the interior. Lastly, there are
only three peoples of any importance, namely, the Mpongwe, the
Bákele, and the Fán.

The Mpongwe, whom the French call "les Gabons," are the
aristocracy of the coast, the Benga being the second, and the
Banôkô and Bapuka ranking third. They are variously estimated at
5,000 to 7,000 head, serviles included. They inhabit both sides
of the Gaboon, extending about thirty-five miles along its banks,
chiefly on the right; on the left only seawards of the Shekyani.
But it is a wandering race, and many a "mercator vagus" finds his
way to Corisco, Cape Lopez, Batanga, and even Fernando Po. The
two great families on the northern river bank are the Quabens and
the Glass, who style themselves kings and princes; the southern
side lodges King William (Roi Denis) near the mouth, and the
powerful King George, about twenty-five miles higher up stream.
There are also settlements scattered at various distances from
the great highway of commerce to which they naturally cling, and
upon the Coniquet and Parrot Islands.

Barbot (iv. 9) describes the "Gaboon blacks" as "commonly tall,
robust, and well-shaped;" they appeared to me rather below the
average of West Coast size and weight. Both sexes, even when
running to polysarcia, have delicate limbs and extremities, and
the features, though negroid, are not the negro of the
tobacconist's shop: I noticed several pyramidal and
brachycephalic heads, contrary to the rule for African man and
simiad. In the remarkable paper read (1861) by Professor Busk
before the Ethnological Society, that eminent physiologist proved
that the Asiatic apes, typified by the ourang-outang, are
brachycephalic, like the Mongolians amongst whom they live, or
who live amongst them; whilst the gorillas and the African
anthropoids are dolichocephalic as the negroes. The Gaboon men
are often almost black, whilst the women range between dark brown
and cafe au lait. The beard, usually scanty, is sometimes bien
fournie, especially amongst the seniors, but, whenever I saw a
light-coloured and well-bearded man, the suspicion of mixed blood
invariably obtruded itself. It is said that during the last
thirty years they have greatly diminished, yet their habitat is
still that laid down half a century ago by Bowdich, and all admit
that the population of the river has not been materially

The Mpongwe women have the reputation of being the prettiest and
the most facile upon the West African coast. It is easy to
distinguish two types. One is large-boned and heavy-limbed,
hoarse-voiced, and masculine, like the "Ibos" of Bonny and New
Calabar, who equal the men in weight and stature, strength and
endurance, suggesting a mixture of the male and female
temperaments. Some of the Gaboon giantesses have, unlike their
northern sisters, regular and handsome features. The other type
is quasi-Hindú in its delicacy of form, with small heads, oval
faces, noses ŕ la Roxolane, lips sub-tumid but without
prognathism, and fine almond-shaped eyes, with remarkably thick
and silky lashes. The throat is thin, the bosom is high and well
carried, or, as the admiring Arab says, "nejdá;" the limbs are
statuesque, and the hands and feet are Norman rather than Saxon.
Many Europeans greatly admire these minois mutins et

Early in the present century the Mpongwe braided whiskers and
side curls, tipping the ends with small beads, and they plaited
the front locks to project like horns, after the fashion of the
present Fán and other wild tribes. A custom noticed by Barbot,
but apparently obsolete in the days of Bowdich, was to bore the
upper lip, and to insert a small ivory pin, extending from nose
to mouth. The painting and tattooing were fantastic and
elaborate; and there was a hideous habit of splitting either lip,
so as to "thrust the tongue through on ceremonial occasions." A
curious reason is given for this practice. "They are subject to a
certain distemper very common there, which on a sudden seizes
them, and casts them into fits of so long a continuance, that
they would inevitably be suffocated, if by means of the split at
their upper lip they did not pour into their mouths some of the
juice of a certain medicinal herb, which has the virtue of easing
and curing the diseased person in a very short time."

All these things, fits included, are now obsolete. The men shave
a line in the hair like a fillet round the skull, and what is
left is coiffe au coup de vent. The head-dress is a cap, a straw
hat, a billy cock, or a tall silk "chimney pot," the latter
denoting a chief; he also sports in full dress a broad coat,
ending in a loin cloth of satin stripe or some finer stuff, about
six feet long by four and a half broad; it is secured by a
kerchief or an elastic waist belt; during work it is tucked up,
but on ceremonial occasions it must trail upon the ground. The
lieges wear European shirts, stuffed into a waist-cloth of
cheaper material, calico or domestics; This Tángá, or kilt, is,
in fact, an article of general wear, and it would be an airy,
comfortable, and wholesome travelling costume if the material
were flannel. The ornaments are necklaces of Venetian beads, the
white pound, and the black and yellow seed: Canutille or bugles
of various patterns are preferred, and all are loaded with
"Mengo," Grígrís (which old travellers call "gregories"), or
talismans, chiefly leopards' teeth, rude bells, and horns. The
Monda are hunting prophylacteries, antelope horns filled with
"fetish" medicines, leopard's hair, burnt and powdered heart
mixed with leaves, and filth; the mouths are stopped with some
viscid black stuff, probably gum. They are often attached to rude
bells of iron or brass (Igelenga, Ngenge, Nkendo, or Wonga), like
the Chingufu of the Congo regions and the metal cones which are
struck for signals upon the Tanganyika Lake.

A great man is known by his making himself a marvellous "guy,"
wearing, for instance, a dingily laced cocked hat, stuck athwart-
ships upon an unwashed night-cap, and a naval or military
uniform, fifty years old, "swearing" with the loin-cloth and the
feet, which are always bare.

The coiffure of the is peculiar and
elaborate as that of the Gold Coast. These ladies seem to have
chosen for their model the touraco or cockatoo,--they have never
heard of "Kikeriki,"--and the effect is at first wondrously
grotesque. Presently the eye learns to admire pretty Fanny's
ways; perhaps the pleureuse, the old English corkscrew ringlet,
might strike the stranger as equally natural in a spaniel, and
unnatural in a human. Still a style so peculiar requires a
toilette in keeping; the "king" in uniform is less ridiculous
than the Gaboon lady's chignon, contrasting with a tight-bodied
and narrow-skirted gown of pink calico.

The national "tire-valiant" is a galeated crest not unlike the
cuirassier's helmet, and the hair, trained from the sides into a
high ridge running along the cranium, not unfrequently projects
far beyond the forehead. Taste and caprice produce endless
modifications. Sometimes the crest is double, disposed in
parallel ridges, with a deep hollow between; or it is treble,
when the two lines of parting running along the mastoids make it
remarkably like bears' ears, the central prism rises high, and
the side hair is plaited into little pig-tails. Others again
train four parallel lines from nape to forehead, forming two
cushions along the parietals. The crest is heightened by padding,
and the whole of the hair is devoted to magnifying it,--at a
distance, some of the bushwomen look as if they wore cocked hats.
When dreaded baldness appears, rosettes of false hair patch the
temples, and plaits of purchased wigs are interwoven to increase
the bulk: the last resources of all are wigs and toupets of
stained pine-apple fibre. The comb is unknown, its succedaneum
being a huge bodkin, like that which the Trasteverina has so
often used as a stiletto. This instrument of castigation is made
of ivory or metal, with a lozenge often neatly carved and
ornamented at the handle. The hair, always somewhat "kinky," is
anointed every morning with palm-oil, or the tallow-like produce
of a jungle-nut; and, in full dress, it is copiously powdered
with light red or bright yellow dust of pounded camwood, redwood,
and various barks.

The ears are adorned with broad rings of native make, and, near
the trading stations, with French imitation jewellery. The neck
supports many strings of beads, long and short, with the
indispensable talismans. The body dress is a Tobe or loin-cloth,
like that of the men; but under the "Námbá," or outer wrapper,
which hangs down the feet, there is a "Siri," or petticoat,
reaching only to the knees. Both are gathered in front like the
Shukkah of the eastern coast, and the bosom is left bare. Few
except the bush-folk now wear the Ibongo, Ipepe, or Ndengi, the
woven fibres and grass-cloths of their ancestry; amongst the
hunters, however, a Tángá, or grass-kilt, may still be seen. The
exposure of the upper person shows the size and tumidity of the
areola, even in young girls; being unsupported, the mammae soon
become flaccid.

The legs, which are peculiarly neat and well turned, are made by
art a fitting set-off to the head. It is the pride of a Mpongwe
wife to cover the lower limb between knee and ankle with an
armour of metal rings, which are also worn upon the wrists; the
custom is not modern, and travellers of the seventeenth century
allude to them. The rich affect copper, bought in wires two feet
and a half long, and in two sizes; of the larger, four, of the
smaller, eight, go to the dollar; the brass are cheaper, as 5: 4;
and I did not see iron or tin. The native smiths make the
circles, and the weight of a full set of forty varies from
fifteen to nineteen pounds. They are separate rings, not a single
coil, like that used by the Wagogo and other East African tribes;
they press tightly on the limb, often causing painful chafes and
sores. The ankle is generally occupied by a brass or iron chain,
with small links. Girls may wear these rings, of which the
husband is expected to present a considerable number to his
bride, and the consequence is, that when in full dress she
waddles like a duck.

Commerce and intercourse with whites has made the Mpongwe, once
the rudest, now one of the most civilized of African tribes; and,
upon the whole, there is an improvement. The exact Barbot (iv. 9)
tells us "the Gaboon blacks are barbarous, wild, bloody, and
treacherous, very thievish and crafty, especially towards
strangers. The women, on the contrary, are as civil and courteous
to them, and will use all possible means to enjoy their company;
but both sexes are the most wretchedly poor and miserable of any
in Guinea, and yet so very haughty, that they are perfectly
ridiculous ... They are all excessively fond of brandy and other
strong liquors of Europe and America ... If they fancy one has
got a mouthful more than another, and they are half drunk, they
will soon fall a-fighting, even with their own princes or priests
... Their exceeding greediness for strong liquors renders them so
little nice and curious in the choice of them, that, though mixed
with half water, and sometimes a little Spanish soap put into it
to give it a froth, to appear of proof by the scum it makes, they
like it and praise it as much as the best and purest brandy."
Captain Boteler remarks, in 1827: "The women do not speak
English; though, for the sake of what trifles they can procure
for their husbands, they are in the habit of flocking on board
the different vessels which visit the river, and will permit them
to remain; and the wives are generally maintained in clothing by
the proceeds of their intercourse with the whites." He further
assures us, that mulatto girls thus born are not allowed to
marry, although there is no such restriction for the males; and
elsewhere, he concludes, that never having seen an infant or an
adult offspring of mixed blood, abortion is practised as at
Delagoa and Old Calabar, where, in 1862, I found only one child
of mixed blood. If so, the Mpongwe have changed for the better.
Half-castes are now not uncommon; there are several nice "yaller
gals" well known on the river; and the number of old and sick
speaks well for the humanity of the tribe.

Devoted to trade and become a people of brokers, of go-betweens,
of middle-men, the Mpongwe have now acquired an ease and
propriety, a polish and urbanity of manner which contrasts
strongly with the Kru-men and other tribes, who, despite
generations of intercourse with Europeans, are rough and
barbarous as their forefathers. The youths used to learn English,
which they spoke fluently and with tolerable accent, but always
barbarously; they are more successful with the easier neo-Latin
tongues. Their one aim in life is not happiness, but "trust," an
African practice unwisely encouraged by Europeans; so Old Calabar
but a few years ago was not a trust-river," and consequently the
consul and the gunboat had little to do there. Many of them have
received advances of dollars by thousands, but the European
merchant has generally suffered from his credulity or rapacity.
In low cunning the native is more than a match for the stranger;
moreover, he has "the pull" in the all-important matter of time;
he can spend a fortnight haggling over the price of a tooth when
the unhappy capitalist is eating his heart. Like all the African
aristocracy, they hold agriculture beneath the dignity of man and
fit only for their women and slaves; the "ladies" also refuse to
work at the plantations, especially when young and pretty,
leaving them to the bush-folk, male and female. M. du Chaillu
repeatedly asserts (chap xix.) "there is no property in land,"
but this is a mistake often made in Africa. Labourers are hired
at the rate of two to three dollars per mensem, and gangs would
easily be collected if one of the chiefs were placed in command.
No sum of money will buy a free-born Mpongwe, and the sale is
forbidden by the laws of the land. A half-caste would fetch one
hundred dollars; a wild "nigger" near the river costs from thirty
to thirty-five dollars; the same may be bought in the Apinji
country for four dollars' worth of assorted goods, the "bundle-
trade" as it is called; but there is the imminent risk of the
chattel's running away. A man's only attendants being now his
wives and serviles, it is evident that plurality and domestic
servitude will extend--

"Far into summers which we shall not see;"

in fact, till some violent revolution of society shall have
introduced a servant class.

The three grades of Mpongwe may be considered as rude beginnings
of caste. The first are the "Sons of the Soil," the "Ongwá ntye"
(contracted from Onwana wi ntye), Mpongwes of pure blood; the
second are the "Mbámbá," children of free-men by serviles; and
lastly, "Nsháká," in Bákele "Nsháká," represents the slaves. M.
du Chaillu's distribution (chap, iii.) into five orders, namely,
pure, mixed with other tribes, half free, children of serviles,
and chattels, is somewhat over-artificial; at any rate, now it is
not generally recognized. Like the high-caste Hindu, the nobler
race will marry women of lower classes; for instance, King
Njogoni's mother was a Benga; but the inverse proceeding is a
disgrace to the woman, apparently an instinctive feeling on the
part of the reproducer, still lingering in the most advanced
societies. Old travellers record a belief that, unlike all other
Guinea races, the Mpongwe marries his mother, sister, or
daughter; and they compare the practice with that of the polished
Persians and the Peruvian Incas, who thus kept pure the solar and
lunar blood. If this "breeding-in" ever existed, no trace of it
now remains; on the contrary, every care is taken to avoid
marriages of consanguinity. Bowdich, indeed, assures us that a
man may not look at nor converse with his mother-in-law, on pain
of a heavy, perhaps a ruinous fine; "this singular law is founded
on the tradition of an incest."

Marriage amongst the Mpongwe is a purely civil contract, as in
Africa generally, and so perhaps it will some day be in Europe,
Asia, and America. Cœlebs pays a certain sum for the bride, who,
where "marriage by capture" is unknown, has no voice in the
matter. Many promises of future "dash" are made to the girl's
parents; and drinking, drumming, and dancing form the ceremony.
The following is, or rather I should say was, a fair list of
articles paid for a virgin bride. One fine silk hat, one cap, one
coat; five to twenty pieces of various cottons, plain and
ornamental; two to twenty silk kerchiefs; three to thirty jars of
rum; twenty pounds of trade tobacco; two hatchets; two cutlasses;
plates and dishes, mugs and glasses, five each; six knives; one
kettle; one brass pan; two to three Neptunes (caldrons, the old
term being "Neptune's pots"), a dozen bars of iron; copper and
brass rings, chains with small links, and minor articles ad
libitum. The "settlement" is the same in kind, but has increased
during the last forty years, and specie has become much more

After marriage there is a mutual accommodation system suggesting
the cicisbeo or mariage ŕ trois school; hence we read that wives,
like the much-maligned Xantippe, were borrowed and lent, and that
not fulfilling the promise of a loan is punishable by heavy
damages. Where the husband acts adjutor or cavaliere to his
friend's "Omantwe"--female person or wife--and the friend is
equally complaisant, wedlock may hardly be called permanent, and
there can be no tie save children. The old immorality endures; it
is as if the command were reversed by accepting that misprint
which so scandalized the Star Chamber, "Thou shalt commit
adultery." Yet, unpermitted, the offence is one against property,
and Moechus may be cast in damages ranging from $100 to $200:
what is known in low civilization as the "panel dodge" is an
infamy familiar to almost all the maritime tribes of Africa. He
must indeed be a Solomon of a son who, sur les bords du Gabon,
can guess at his own sire; a question so impertinent is never put
by the ex-officio father. The son succeeds by inheritance to his
father's relict, who, being generally in years, is condemned to
be useful when she has ceased to be an ornament, and, if there
are several, they are equally divided amongst the heirs.

Trading tribes rarely affect the pundonor which characterizes the
pastoral and the predatory; these people traffic in all things,
even in the chastity of their women. What with pre-nuptial
excesses, with early unions, often infructuous, with a virtual
system of community, and with universal drunkenness, it is not to
be wondered at if the maritime tribes of Africa degenerate and
die out. Such apparently is the modus operandi by which Nature
rids herself of the effete races which have served to clear the
ground and to pave the way for higher successors. Wealth and
luxury, so generally inveighed against by poets and divines,
injure humanity only when they injuriously affect reproduction;
and poverty is praised only because it breeds more men. The true
tests of the physical prosperity of a race, and of its position
in the world, are bodily strength and the excess of births over

Separation after marriage can hardly be dignified on the Gaboon
by the name of divorce. Whenever a woman has or fancies she has a
grievance, she leaves her husband, returns to "the paternal" and
marries again. Quarrels about the sex are very common, yet, in
cases of adultery the old murderous assaults are now rare except
amongst the backwoodsmen. The habit was simply to shoot some man
belonging to the seducer's or to the ravisher's village; the
latter shot somebody in the nearest settlement, and so on till
the affair was decided. In these days "violent retaliation for
personal jealousy always 'be-littles' a man in the eyes of an
African community." Perhaps also he unconsciously recognizes the
sentiment ascribed to Mohammed, "Laysa bi-zányatin ilia bi záni,"
"there is no adulteress without an adulterer," meaning that the
husband has set the example.

Polygamy is, of course, the order of the day; it is a necessity
to the men, and even the women disdain to marry a "one-wifer." As
amongst all pluralists, from Moslem to Mormon, the senior or
first married is No. 1; here called "best wife:" she is the
goodman's viceroy, and she rules the home-kingdom with absolute
sway. Yet the Mpongwe do not, like other tribes on the west
coast, practise that separation of the sexes during gestation and
lactation, which is enjoined to the Hebrews, recommended by
Catholicism, and commanded by Mormonism--a system which partly
justifies polygamy. In Portuguese Guinea the enceinte is claimed
by her relatives, especially by the women, for three years, that
she may give undivided attention to her offspring, who is rightly
believed to be benefited by the separation, and that she may
return to her husband with renewed vigour. Meanwhile custom
allows the man to co-habit with a slave girl.

Polygamy, also, in Africa is rather a political than a domestic
or social institution. A "judicious culture of the marriage tie"
is necessary amongst savages and barbarians whose only friends
and supporters are blood relations and nuptial connections;
besides which, a multitude of wives ministers to the great man's
pride and influence, as well as to his pleasures and to his
efficiency. When the head wife ages, she takes charge of the
girlish brides committed to her guardianship by the husband. I
should try vainly to persuade the English woman that there can be
peace in households so constituted: still, such is the case.
Messrs. Wilson and Du Chaillu both assert that the wives rarely
disagree amongst themselves. The sentimental part of love is
modified; the common husband becomes the patriarch, not the
paterfamilias; the wife is not the mistress, but the mčre de

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