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Two Trips to Gorilla Land and the Cataracts of the Congo Volume 1 by Richard F. Burton

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famille. The alliance rises or sinks to one of interest and
affection instead of being amorous or uxorious, whilst the
underlying idea, "the more the merrier," especially in lands
where free service is unknown, seems to stifle envy and jealousy.
Everywhere, moreover, amongst polygamists, the husband is
strictly forbidden by popular opinion to show preference for a
favourite wife; if he do so, he is a bad man.

But polygamy here has not rendered the women, as theoretically it
should, a down-trodden moiety of society; on the contrary, their
position is comparatively high. The marriage connection is not
"one of master and slave," a link between freedom and serfdom;
the "weaker vessel" does not suffer from collision with the pot
de fer; generally the fair but frail ones appear to be, as
amongst the Israelites generally, the better halves. Despite the
Okosunguu or cow-hide "peacemaker," they have conquered a
considerable latitude of conducting their own affairs. When poor
and slaveless and, naturally, when no longer young, they must
work in the house and in the field, but this lot is not singular;
in journeys they carry the load, yet it is rarely heavier than
the weapons borne by the man. On the other hand, after feeding
their husbands, what remains out of the fruits of their labours
is their own, wholly out of his reach--a boon not always granted
by civilization. As in Unyamwezi, they guard their rights with a
truly feminine touchiness and jealousy. There is always, in the
African mind, a preference for descent and inheritance through
the mother, "the surer side,"--an unmistakable sign, by the by,
of barbarism. The so-called royal races in the eight great
despotisms of Pagan Africa--Ashanti, Dahome, and Benin; Karagwah,
Uganda, and Unyoro; the Mwt y Nvo, and the Mwt Cazembe--
allow the greatest liberty even to the king's sisters; they are
expected only to choose handsome lovers, that the race may
maintain its physical superiority; and hence, doubtless, the
stalwart forms and the good looks remarked by every traveller. As
a rule, the husband cannot sell his wife's children whilst her
brother may dispose of them as he pleases--the vox populi
exclaims, "What! is the man to go hungry when he can trade off
his sister's brats?"

The strong-minded of London and New York have not yet succeeded
in thoroughly organizing and popularizing their clubs; the belles
sauvages of the Gaboon have. There is a secret order, called
"Njembe," a Rights of Woman Association, intended mainly to
counterbalance the Nda of the lords of creation, which will
presently be described. Dropped a few years ago by the men, it
was taken up by their wives, and it now numbers a host of
initiated, limited only by heavy entrance fees. This form of
freemasonry deals largely in processions, whose preliminaries and
proceedings are kept profoundly secret. At certain times an old
woman strikes a stick upon an "Orega" or crescent-shaped drum,
hollowed out of a block of wood; hearing this signal, the
worshipful sisterhood, bedaubed, by way of insignia, with red and
white chalk or clay, follow her from the village to some remote
nook in the jungle, where the lodge is tiled. Sentinels are
stationed around whilst business is transacted before a vestal
fire, which must burn for a fortnight or three weeks, in the awe-
compelling presence of a brass pipkin filled with herbs, and a
basin, both zebra'd like the human limbs. The Rev. William Walker
was once detected playing "Peeping Tom" by sixty or seventy
viragos, who attempted to exact a fine of forty dollars, and who
would have handled him severely had he not managed to escape. The
French officers, never standing upon ceremony in such matters,
have often insisted upon being present.

Circumcision, between the fourth and eighth year, is universal in
Pongo-land, and without it a youth could not be married. The
operation is performed generally by the chief, often by some old
man, who receives a fee from the parents: the thumb nails are
long, and are used after the Jewish fashion:[FN#10] neat rum with
red pepper is spirted from the mouth to "kill wound." It is
purely hygienic, and not balanced by the excisio Judaica, Some
physiologists consider the latter a necessary complement of the
male rite; such, however, is not the case. The Hebrews, who
almost everywhere retained circumcision, have, in Europe at
least, long abandoned excision. I regret that the delicacy of the
age does not allow me to be more explicit.

The Mpongwe practise a rite so resembling infant baptism that the
missionaries have derived it from a corruption of Abyssinian
Christianity which, like the flora of the Camarones and
Fernandian Highlands, might have travelled across the Dark
Continent, where it has now been superseded by El Islam. I
purpose at some period of more leisure to prove an ancient
intercourse and rapprochement of all the African tribes ranging
between the parallels of north latitude 20 and south latitude
30. It will best be established, not by the single great family
of language, but by the similarity of manners, customs, and
belief; of arts and crafts; of utensils and industry. The baptism
of Pongo-land is as follows. When the babe is born, a crier,
announcing the event, promises to it in the people's name
participation in the rights of the living. It is placed upon a
banana leaf, for which reason the plantain is never used to stop
the water-pots; and the chief or the nearest of kin sprinkles it
from a basin, gives it a name, and pronounces a benediction, his
example being followed by all present. The man-child is exhorted
to be truthful, and the girl to "tell plenty lie," in order to
lead a happy life. Truly a new form of the regenerative rite!

A curious prepossession of the African mind, curious and yet
general, in a land where population is the one want, and where
issue is held the greatest blessing, is the imaginary necessity
of limiting the family. Perhaps this form of infanticide is a
policy derived from ancestors who found it necessary. In the
kingdom of Apollonia (Guinea) the tenth child was always buried
alive; never a Decimus was allowed to stand in the way of the
nine seniors. The birth of twins is an evil portent to the
Mpongwes, as it is in many parts of Central Africa, and even in
the New World; it also involves the idea of moral turpitude, as
if the woman were one of the lower animals, capable of
superfetation. There is no greater insult to a man, than to point
at him with two fingers, meaning that he is a twin; of course he
is not one, or he would have been killed at birth. Albinos are
allowed to live, as in Dahome, in Ashanti, and among some East
African tribes, where I have been "chaffed" about a brother
white, who proved to be an exceptional negro without pigmentum

There is no novelty in the Mpongwe funeral rites; the same system
prevails from the Oil Rivers to Congo-land, and extends even to
the wild races of the interior. The corpse, being still sentient,
is accompanied by stores of raiment, pots, and goats' flesh; a
bottle is placed in one hand and a glass in the other, and, if
the deceased has been fond of play, his draught-board and other
materials are buried with him. The system has been well defined
as one in which the "ghost of a man eats the ghost of a yam,
boiled in the ghost of a pot, over the ghost of a fire." The
body, after being stretched out in a box, is carried to a lonely
place; some are buried deep, others close to the surface. There
is an immense show of grief, with keening and crocodiles' tears,
perhaps to benefit the living by averting a charge of witchcraft,
which would inevitably lead to "Sassy" or poison-water. The wake
continues for five days, when they "pull the cry," that is to
say, end mourning. If these pious rites be neglected, the
children incur the terrible reproach, "Your father he be hungry."
The widow may re-marry immediately after "living for cry," and,
if young and lusty, she looks out for another consort within the
week. The slave is thrown out into the bush--no one will take the
trouble to dig a hole for him.

The industry of the Mpongwe is that of the African generally;
every man is a host in himself; he builds and furnishes his
house, he makes his weapons and pipes, and he ignores division of
labour, except in the smith and the carpenter; in the potter, who
works without a wheel, and in the dyer, who knows barks, and who
fixes his colours with clay. The men especially pride themselves
upon canoe-making; the favourite wood is the buoyant Okumeh or
bombax, that monarch of the African forest. I have seen a boat,
45 feet 10 inches by 5 feet 11 inches in beam, cut out of a
single tree, with the Mpno or little adze, a lineal descendant
of the Silex implement, and I have heard of others measuring 70
feet. These craft easily carry 10 tons, and travel 200 to 300
miles, which, as Mr. Wilson remarks, would land them, under
favourable circumstances, in South America. Captain Boteler found
that the Mpongwe boat combined symmetry of form, strength, and
solidity, with safeness and swiftness either in pulling or
sailing. And of late years the people have succeeded in launching
large and fast craft built after European models.

The favourite pleasures of the Mpongwe are gross and gorging
"feeds," drinking and smoking. They recall to mind the old woman
who told "Monk Lewis" that if a glass of gin were at one end of
the table, and her immortal soul at the other, she would choose
the gin. They soak with palm-wine every day; they indulge in rum
and absinthe, and the wealthy affect so-called Cognac, with
Champagne and Bordeaux, which, however, they pronounce to be
"cold." I have seen Master Boro, a boy five years old, drain
without winking a wineglassful of brandy. It is not wonderful
that the adults can "stand" but little, and that a few mouthfuls
of well-watered spirit make their voices thick, and paralyze
their weak brains as well as their tongues. The Persians, who
commence drinking late in life, can swallow strong waters by the

Men, women, and children when hardly "cremnobatic," have always
the pipe in mouth. The favourite article is a "dudheen," a well
culott clay, used and worn till the bowl touches the nose. The
poor are driven to a "Kondukwe," a yard of plantain leaf,
hollowed with a wire, and charged at the thicker end. The "holy
herb" would of course grow in the country, and grow well, but it
is imported from the States without trouble, and perhaps with
less expense. Some tribes make a decent snuff of the common trade
article, but I never saw either sex chew--perhaps the most
wholesome, and certainly the most efficacious form. The smoking
of Lymb, called Dymb in the southern regions, is confined to
debauchees. M. du Chaillu asserts that this Cannabis sativa is
not found wild, and the people confirm his statement; possibly it
has extended from Hindostan to Zanzibar, and thence across the
continent. Intoxicating hemp is now grown everywhere, especially
in the Nkommi country, and little packages, neatly bound with
banana leaves, sell on the river for ten sous each. It is smoked
either in the "Kondukwe" or in the Ojo. The latter, literally
meaning a torch, is a polished cow-horn, closed at the thick end
with wood, and banded with metal; a wooden stem, projecting from
the upper or concave side, bears a neat "chillam" (bowl), either
of clay or of brown steatite brought from the upper Gaboon River.
This rude hookah is half filled with water; the dried hemp in the
bowl is covered with what Syrians call a "Kurs," a bit of metal
about the size of half-a-crown, and upon it rests the fire. I at
once recognized the implement in the Brazil, where many slave-
holders simply supposed it to be a servile and African form of
tobacco-pipe. After a few puffs the eyes redden, a violent cough
is caused by the acrid fumes tickling the throat; the brain,
whirls with a pleasant swimming, like that of chloroform, and the
smoker finds himself in glori. My Spanish friends at Po tried
but did not like it. I can answer for the hemp being stronger
than the Egyptian hashsh or the bhang of Hindostan; it rather
resembled the Faskh of Northern Africa, the Dakha and Motukwane
of the southern regions, and the wild variety called in Sind
"Bang i Jabal."

The religion of African races is ever interesting to those of a
maturer faith; it is somewhat like the study of childhood to an
old man. The Jew, the high-caste Hind, and the Guebre, the
Christian and the Moslem have their Holy Writs, their fixed forms
of thought and worship, in fact their grooves in which belief
runs. They no longer see through a glass darkly; nothing with
them is left vague or undetermined. Continuation, resurrection,
eternity are hereditary and habitual ideas; they have become
almost inseparable and congenital parts of the mental system.
This condition renders it nearly as difficult for us to
understand the vagueness and mistiness of savage and unwritten
creeds, as to penetrate into the modus agendi of animal instinct.
And there is yet another obstacle in dealing with such people,
their intense and childish sensitiveness and secretiveness. They
are not, as some have foolishly supposed, ashamed of their tenets
or their practices, but they are unwilling to speak about them.
They fear the intentions of the cross-questioner, and they hold
themselves safest behind a crooked answer. Moreover, every
Mpongwe is his own "pontifex maximus," and the want, or rather
the scarcity, of a regular priesthood must promote independence
and discrepancy of belief.

Whilst noticing the Fetishism of the Gaboon I cannot help
observing, by the way, how rapidly the civilization of the
nineteenth century is redeveloping, together with the "Religion
of Humanity" the old faith, not of Paganism, but of Cosmos, of
Nature; how directly it is, in fact, going back to its oldergods.
The UNKNOWABLE of our day is the Brahm, the Akarana-Zaman, the
Gaboon Anyamba, of which nothing can be predicated but an
existence utterly unintelligible to the brain of man, a something
free from the accidents of personality, of volition, of
intelligence, of design, of providence; a something which cannot
be addressed by veneration or worship; whose sole effects are
subjective, that is, upon the worshipper, not upon the
worshipped. Nothing also can be more illogical than the awe and
respect claimed by Mr. Herbert Spencer for a being of which the
very essence is that nothing can be known of it. And, as the idea
grows, the several modes and forms of the UNKNOWABLE, the Hormuzd
and Ahriman of the Dualist, those personifications of good and
evil; the Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, creation, preservation, and
destruction; the beginning, the middle, and the end of all
things; the Triad, adored by all Triadists under some
modification, as that of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, father, mother,
and son, type of the family; or Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, the
three great elements; these outward and visible expressions lose
force and significance, making place for that Law of which they
are the rude exponents. The marvellous spread of Spiritualism,
whose god is the UNKNOWABLE, and whose prophet was Swedenborg, is
but the polished form of the Mpongwe Ibambo and Ilogo; the
beneficent phantasms have succeeded to the malevolent ghosts, the
shadowy deities of man's childhood; as the God of Love formerly
took the place of the God of Fear. The future of Spiritualism,
which may be defined as "Hades with Progress," is making serious
inroads upon the coarse belief, worthy of the barbarous and the
middle ages, in an eternity of punishment, easily expressed by
everlasting fire, and in ineffable joys, which no one has ever
successfully expressed. The ghosts of our childhood have now
become bon fide objective beings, who rap, raise tables, display
fireworks, rain flowers, and brew tea. We explain by "levitation"
the riding of the witch upon the broom-stick to the Sabbath; we
can no longer refuse credence to Canidia and all her spells. And
the very vagueness of the modern faith serves to assimilate it
the more to its most ancient forms, one of which we are studying
upon the Gaboon River.

The missionary returning from Africa is often asked what is the
religion of the people? If an exact man, he will answer, "I don't
know." And how can he know when the people themselves, even the
princes and priests, are ignorant of it? A missionary of twenty
years' standing in West Africa, an able and conscientious student
withal, assured me that during the early part of his career he
had given much time to collecting and collating, under
intelligent native superintendence, negro traditions and
religion. He presently found that no two men thought alike upon
any single subject: I need hardly say that he gave up in despair
a work hopeless as psychology, the mere study of the individual.

Fetishism, I believe, is held by the orthodox to be a degradation
of the pure and primitive "Adamical dispensation," even as the
negro has been supposed to represent the accursed and degraded
descendants of Ham and Canaan. I cannot but look upon it as the
first dawn of a faith in things not seen. And it must be studied
by casting off all our preconceived ideas. For instance, Africans
believe, not in soul nor in spirit, but in ghost; when they
called M. du Chaillu a "Mbwiri," they meant that the white man
had been bleached by the grave as Dante had been darkened by his
visit below, and consequently he was a subject of fear and awe.
They have a material, evanescent, intelligible future, not an
immaterial, incomprehensible eternity; the ghost endures only for
awhile and perishes like the memory of the little-great name.
Hence the ignoble dread in East and West Africa of a death which
leads to a shadowy world, and eventually to utter annihilation.
Seeing nought beyond the present-future, there is no hope for
them in the grave; they wail and sorrow with a burden of despair.
"Ame-kwisha"--he is finished--is the East African's last word
concerning kinsman and friend. "All is done for ever," sing the
West Africans. Any allusion to loss of life turns their black
skins blue; "Yes," they exclaim, "it is bad to die, to leave
house and home, wife and children; no more to wear soft cloth,
nor eat meat, nor "drink" tobacco, and rum." "Never speak of
that" the moribund will exclaim with a shudder; such is the ever-
present horror of their dreadful and dreary times of sickness,
always aggravated by suspicions of witchcraft, the only cause
which their imperfect knowledge of physics can assign to death--
even Van Helmont asserted, "Deus non fecit mortem." The peoples,
who, like those of Dahome, have a distinct future world, have
borrowed it, I cannot help thinking, from Egypt. And when an
African chief said in my presence to a Yahoo-like naval officer,
"When so be I die, I come up for white man! When so be you die,
you come up for monkey!" my suspicion is that he had distorted
the doctrine of some missionary. Man would hardly have a future
without a distinct priestly class whose interest it is to teach
"another and a better,"--or a worse.

Certain missionaries in the Gaboon River have detected evidences
of Judaism amongst the Mpongwe, which deserve notice but which
hardly require detailed refutation. 1. Circumcision, even on the
eighth day as amongst the Efik of the old Calabar River; but this
is a familiar custom borrowed from Egypt by the Semites; it is
done in a multitude of ways, which are limited only by necessity;
the resemblance of the Mpongwe rite to that of the Jews, though
remarkable, is purely accidental. 2. The division of tribes into
separate families and frequently into the number twelve; but this
again appears fortuitous; almost all the West African people have
some such division, and they range upwards from three, as amongst
the Kru-men, the Gallas, the Wakwafi,and the Wanyika.[FN#11] 3.
Exogamy or the rigid interdiction of marriage between clans and
families nearly related; here again the Hindu and the Somal
observe the custom rigidly, whilst the Jews and Arabs have ever
taken to wife their first cousins. 4. Sacrifices with blood-
sprinkling upon altars and door-posts; a superstition almost
universal, found in Peru and Mexico as in Palestine, preserved in
Ashanti and probably borrowed by the Hebrews from the African
Egyptians. 5. The formal and ceremonial observance of new moons;
but the Wanyamwezi and other tribes also hail the appearance of
the lesser light, like the Moslems, who, when they sight the
Hilal (crescent), ejaculate a short prayer for blessings
throughout the month which it ushers in. 6. A specified time of
mourning for the dead (common to all barbarians as to civilized
races), during which their survivors wear soiled clothes (an
instinctive sign of grief, as fine dresses are of joy), and shave
their heads (doubtless done to make some difference from every-
day times), accompanied with ceremonial purifications (what
ancient people has not had some such whim?). 7. The system of
Runda or forbidden meats; but every traveller has found this
practice in South as in East Africa, and I noticed it among the
Somal who, even when starving, will not touch fish nor fowl.
Briefly, external resemblances and coincidences like these could
be made to establish cousinhood between a cockney and a cockatoo;
possibly such discovery of Judaism dates from the days about
1840, when men were mad to find the "Lost Tribes," as if they had
not quite enough to do with the two which remain to them.

The Mpongwe and their neighbours have advanced a long step beyond
their black brethren in Eastern Africa. No longer contented with
mere Fetishes, the Egyptian charms in which the dreaded ghost
"sits,"[FN#12] meaning, is "bound," they have invented idols, a
manifest advance toward that polytheism and pantheism which lead
through a triad and duad of deities to monotheism, the finial of
the spiritual edifice. In Eastern Africa I know but one people,
the Wanyika near Mombasah, who have certain images called
"Kisukas;" they declare that this great medicine, never shown to
Europeans, came from the West, and Andrew Battel (1600) found
idols amongst the people whom he calls Giagas or Jagas, meaning
Congoese chiefs. Moreover, the Gaboon pagans lodge their idols.
Behind each larger establishment there is a dwarf hut, the
miniature of a dwelling-place, carefully closed; I thought these
were offices, but Hotaloya Andrews taught me otherwise. He called
them in his broken English "Compass-houses," a literal
translation of "Ngo Mbwiri," and, sturdily refusing me
admittance, left me as wise as before. The reason afterwards
proved to be that "Ologo he kill man too much."

I presently found out that he called my pocket compass, "Mbwiri,"
a very vague and comprehensive word. It represents in the highest
signification the Columbian Manitou, and thus men talk of the
Mbwiri of a tree or a river; as will presently be seen, it is
also applied to a tutelar god; and I have shown how it means a
ghost. In "Ngo Mbwiri" the sense is an idol, an object of
worship, a "medicine" as the North-American Indians say, in
contradistinction to Munda, a grigri, talisman, or charm. Every
Mpongwe, woman as well as man, has some Mbwiri to which offerings
are made in times of misfortune, sickness, or danger. I
afterwards managed to enter one of these rude and embryonal
temples so carefully shut. Behind the little door of matting is a
tall threshold of board; a bench lines the far end, and in the
centre stands "Ologo," a rude imitation of a human figure, with a
gum-torch planted in the ground before it ready for burnt
offerings. To the walls are suspended sundry mystic implements,
especially basins, smeared with red and white chalk-mixture, and
wooden crescents decorated with beads and ribbons.

During worship certain objects are placed before the Joss, the
suppliant at the same time jangling and shaking the Ncheke a rude
beginning of the bell, the gong, the rattle, and the instruments
played before idols by more advanced peoples. It is a piece of
wood, hour-glass-shaped but flat, and some six inches and a half
long; the girth of the waist is five inches, and about three more
round the ends. The wood is cut away, leaving rude and uneven
raised bands horizontally striped with white, black, and red. Two
brass wires are stretched across the upper and lower breadth, and
each is provided with a ring or hinge holding four or five strips
of wire acting as clappers.

This "wicker-work rattle to drive the devil out" (M. du Chaillu,
chap, xxvi.) is called by the Mpongwe "Soke," and serves only,
like that of the Dahomans and the Ashantis (Bowdich, 364) for
dancing and merriment. The South American Maraca was the sole
object of worship known to the Tupi or Brazilian "Indians."

The beliefs and superstitions popularly attributed to the Mpongwe
are these. They are not without that which we call a First Cause,
and they name it Anyambia, which missionary philologists consider
a contraction of Aninla, spirit (?), and Mbia, good. M. du
Chaillu everywhere confounds Anyamba, or, as he writes the word,
"Aniambi," with Inyemba, a witch, to bewitch being "punga
inyemba." Mr. W. Winwood Reade seems to make Anyamba a
mysterious word, as was Jehovah after the date of the Moabite
stone. Like the Brahm of the Hindus, the god of Epicurus and
Confucius, and the Akrana-Zaman or Endless Time of the Guebres,
Anyambia is a vague being, a vox et prterea nihil, without
personality, too high and too remote for interference in human
affairs, therefore not addressed in prayer, never represented by
the human form, never lodged in temples. Under this "unknown God"
are two chief agencies, working partners who manage the business
of the world, and who effect what the civilized call
"Providence." Mbwr here becomes the Osiris, Jove, Hormuzd or
Good God, the Vishnu, or Preserver, a tutelar deity, a Lar, a
guardian. Onymbe is the Bad God, Typhon, Vejovis, the Ahriman or
Semitic devil; Shiva the Destroyer, the third person of the Aryan
triad; and his name is never mentioned but with bated breath.
They have not only fear of, but also a higher respect for him
than for the giver of good, so difficult is it for the child-
man's mind to connect the ideas of benignity and power. He would
harm if he could, ergo so would his god. I once hesitated to
believe that these rude people had arrived at the notion of
duality, at the Manichaeanism which caused Mr. Mill (sen.)
surprise that no one had revived it in his time; at an idea so
philosophical, which leads directly to the ne plus ultra of
faith, El Wahdanyyeh or Monotheism. Nor should I have credited
them with so logical an apparatus for the regimen of the
universe, or so stout-hearted an attempt to solve the eternal
riddle of good and evil. But the same belief also exists amongst
the Congoese tribes, and even in the debased races of the Niger.
Captain William Alien ("Niger Expedition," i. 227) thus records
the effect when, at the request of the commissioners, Herr Schon,
the missionary, began stating to King Obi the difference between
the Christian religion and heathenism:

"Herr Schn. There is but one God.

"King Obi. I always understood there were two," &c.

The Mpongwe "Mwetye" is a branch of male freemasonry into which
women and strangers are never initiated. The Bakele and Shekyani,
according to "Western Africa" (Wilson, pp. 391-2), consider it a
"Great Spirit." Nothing is more common amongst adjoining negro
tribes than to annex one another's superstitions, completely
changing, withal, their significance. "Ovengw" is a vampire, the
apparition of a dead man; tall as a tree, always winking and
clearly seen, which is not the case with the Ibmbo and Ilogo,
plurals of Obambo and Ologo. These are vulgar ghosts of the
departed, the causes of "possession," disease and death; they are
propitiated by various rites, and everywhere they are worshipped
in private. Mr. Wilson opines that the "Obambo are the spirits of
the ancestors of the people, and Inlg are the spirits of
strangers and have come from a distance," but this was probably
an individual tenet. The Mumbo-Jumbo of the Mandengas; the Semo
of the Sss; the Tassau or "Purrah-devil" of the Mendis; the
Egugun of the Egbas; the Egbo of the Duallas; and the Mwetye and
Ukukwe of the Bakele, is represented in Pongo-land by the Nd,
which is an order of the young men. Nd dwells in the woods and
comes forth only by night bundled up in dry plantain
leaves[FN#14] and treading on tall stilts; he precedes free adult
males who parade the streets with dance and song. The women and
children fly at the approach of this devil on two sticks, and
with reason: every peccadillo is punished with a merciless
thrashing. The institution is intended to keep in order the
weaker sex, the young and the "chattels:" Nd has tried visiting
white men and missionaries, but his visits have not been a

The civilized man would be apt to imagine that these wild African
fetishists are easily converted to a "purer creed." The contrary
is everywhere and absolutely the case; their faith is a web woven
with threads of iron. The negro finds it almost impossible to rid
himself of his belief; the spiritual despotism is the expression
of his organization, a part of himself. Progressive races, on the
other hand, can throw off or exchange every part of their
religion, except perhaps the remnant of original and natural
belief in things unseen--in fact, the Fetishist portion, such as
ghost-existence and veneration of material objects, places, and
things. I might instance the Protestant missionary who, while
deriding the holy places at Jerusalem, considers the "Cedars of
Lebanon" sacred things, and sternly forbids travellers to gather
the cones.

The stereotyped African answer to Europeans ridiculing these
institutions, including wizard-spearing and witch-burning is,
"There may be no magic, though I see there is, among you whites.
But we blacks have known many men who have been bewitched and
died." Even in Asia, whenever I spoke contemptuously to a Moslem
of his Jinns, or to a Hindu of his Rkshasa, the rejoinder
invariably was, "You white men are by nature so hot that even our
devils fear you."

Witchcraft, which has by no means thoroughly disappeared from
Europe, maintains firm hold upon the African brain. The idea is
found amongst Christians, for instance, the "reduced Indians" of
the Amazonas River; and it is evidently at the bottom of that
widely spread superstition, the "evil eye," which remains
throughout Southern Europe as strong as it was in the days of
Pliny. As amongst barbarians generally, no misfortune happens, no
accident occurs, no illness nor death can take place without the
agency of wizard or witch. There is nothing more odious than this
crime; it is hostile to God and man, and it must be expiated by
death in the most terrible tortures. Metamorphosis is a common
art amongst Mpongwe magicians: this vulgar materialism, of which
Ovid sang, must not be confounded with the poetical Hindu
metempsychosis or transmigration of souls which explains
empirically certain physiological mysteries. Here the adept
naturally becomes a gorilla or a leopard, as he would be a lion
in South Africa, a hyena in Abyssinia and the Somali country, and
a loup-garou in Brittany.[FN#15]

The poison ordeal is a necessary corollary to witchcraft. The
plant most used by the Oganga (medicine man) is a small red
rooted shrub, not unlike a hazel bush, and called Ikzy or
Ikj. Mr. Wilson (p. 225) writes "Nkazya:" Battel (loc. cit.
334) terms the root "Imbando," a corruption of Mbund. M. du
Chaillu (chap. xv.) gives an illustration of the "Mboundou leaf"
(half size): Professor John Torrey believes the active principle
to be a vegeto-alkali of the Strychnos group, but the symptoms do
not seem to bear out the conjecture. The Mpongwe told me that the
poison was named either Mbund or Olond (nut) werere--perhaps
this was what is popularly called "a sell." Mbund is the
decoction of the scraped bark which corresponds with the "Sassy-
water" of the northern maritime tribes. The accused, after
drinking the potion, is ordered to step over sticks of the same
plant, which are placed a pace apart. If the man be affected, he
raises his foot like a horse with string-halt, and this convicts
him of the foul crime. Of course there is some antidote, as the
medicine-man himself drinks large draughts of his own stuff: in
Old Calabar River for instance, Mithridates boils the poison-nut;
but Europeans could not, and natives would not, tell me what the
Gaboon "dodge" is. According to vulgar Africans, all test-poisons
are sentient and reasoning beings, who search the criminal's
stomach, that is his heart, and who find out the deep hidden sin;
hence the people shout, "If they are wizards, let it kill them;
if they are innocent, let it go forth!" Moreover, the detected
murderer is considered a bungler who has fallen into the pit dug
for his brother. Doubtless many innocent lives have been lost by
this superstition. But there is reason in the order, "Thou shalt
not suffer a witch to live," without having recourse to the
supernaturalisms and preternaturalisms, which have unobligingly
disappeared when Science most wants them. Sorcery and poison are
as closely united as the "Black Nightingales," and it evidently
differs little whether I slay a man with my sword or I destroy
him by the slow and certain torture of a mind diseased.

The Mpongwe have also some peculiarities in their notions of
justice. If a man murder another, the criminal is put to death,
not by the nearest of kin, as amongst the Arabs and almost all
wild people, but by the whole community; this already shows an
advanced appreciation of the act and its bearings. The penalty is
either drowning or burning alive: except in the case of a chief
or a very rich man, little or no difference is made between
wilful murder, justifiable homicide, and accidental manslaughter-
-the reason of this, say their jurists, is to make people more
careful. Here, again, we find a sense of the sanctity of life the
reverse of barbarous. Cutting and maiming are punished by the
fine of a slave.

And now briefly to resume the character of the Mpongwe, a nervous
and excitable race of negroes. The men are deficient in courage,
as the women are in chastity, and neither sex has a tincture of
what we call morality. To commercial shrewdness and eagerness
they add exceptional greed of gain and rascality; foreign rum and
tobacco, dress and ornaments, arms and ammunition have been
necessaries to them; they will have them, and, unless they can
supply themselves by licit, they naturally fly to illicit means.
Yet, despite threats of poison and charges of witchcraft, they
have arrived at an inkling of the dogma that "honesty is the best
policy:" the East African has never dreamed it in the moments of
his wildest imagination. Pre-eminent liars, they are, curious to
say, often deceived by the falsehoods of others, and they fairly
illustrate the somewhat paradoxical proverb:

"He who hates truth shall be the dupe of lies."

Unblushing mendicants, cunning and calculating, their obstinacy
is remarkable; yet, as we often find the African, they are at the
same time irresolute in the extreme. Their virtues are vivacity,
mental activity, acute observation, sociability, politeness, and
hospitality: the fact that a white man can wander single-handed
through the country shows a kindly nature. The brightest spot in
their character is an abnormal development of adhesiveness,
popularly called affection; it is somewhat tempered by capricious
ruffianism, as in children; yet it entitles them to the grattude
of travellers.

The language of the Mpongwe has been fairly studied. T. Edward
Bowdich ("Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee," London,
Murray, 1819) when leaving the West Coast for England, touched at
the Gaboon in a trading vessel, and visited Naango (King George's
Town), on Abaaga Creek, which he places fifty miles up stream. He
first gave (Appendix VI.) a list of the Mpongwe numerals. In 1847
the "Missionaries of the A. B. C. F. M." Gaboon Mission, Western
Africa, printed a "Grammar of the Mpongwe Language, with
Vocabularies" (New York,Snowden and Pratt, Vesey Street), perhaps
a little prematurely; it is the first of the four dialects on
this part of the coast reduced to system by the American
Missionaries, especially by the Rev. Mr. Leighton Wilson, the
others being Bakele, Benga, and Fn.

In 1856, the same gentleman, who had taken the chief part in the
first publication, made an able abstract and a comparison with
the Grebo and Mandenga tongues ("Western Africa," part iv. chap.
iv.). M. du Chaillu further abridged this abridgement in his
Appendix without owning his authority, and in changing the
examples he did all possible damage. In the Transactions of the
Ethnological Society of London (part ii. vol. i. new series), he
also gave an abstract, in which he repeats himself. A
"vocabulaire de la langue Ponga" was printed in the "Mmoires de
la Socit Ethnologique," tome ii., by M. P. H. Delaporte.

The other publications known to me are:--

1. The Book of Proverbs, translated into the Mpongwe language at
the mission of the A. B. C. F. M., Gaboon, West Africa. New York.
American Bible Society, instituted in the year MDCCCXVI. 1859.

2. The Books of Genesis, part of Exodus, Proverbs, and Acts, by
the same, printed at the same place and in the same year.

The missionary explorers of the language, if I may so call them,
at once saw that it belongs to the great South African family
Sichwn, Zulu, Kisawahli, Mbundo (Congoese), Fiote, and others,
whose characteristics are polysyllabism, inflection by systematic
prefixes, and an alliteration, the mystery of whose reciprocal
letters is theoretically explained by a euphony in many cases
unintelligible, like the modes of Hind music, to the European
ear.[FN#16] But they naturally fell into the universally accepted
error of asserting "it has no known affinities to any of the
languages north of the Mountains of the Moon," meaning the
equatorial chain which divides the Niger and Nile valleys from
the basin of the Congo.

This branch has its peculiarities. Like Italian--the coquette who
grants her smiles to many, her favours to few--one of the easiest
to understand and to speak a little, it is very difficult to
master. Whilst every native child can thread its way safely
through its intricate, elaborate, and apparently arbitrary
variations, the people comprehend a stranger who blunders over
every sentence. Mr. Wilson thus limits the use of the accent:
"Whilst the Mandenga ("A Grammar of the Mandenga Language," by
the Rev. R. Maxwell Macbriar, London, John Mason) and the Grebo
("Grammar," by the Right Rev. John Payne, D.D. 150, Nassau
Street, New York, 1864), distinguish between similar words,
especially monosyllables, by a certain pitch of voice, the
Mpongwe repel accent, and rely solely upon the clear and distinct
vowel sounds." But I found the negative past, present, and future
forms of verbs wholly dependent upon a change of accent, or
rather of intonation or voice-pitch, which the stranger's ear,
unless acute, will fail to detect. For instance, Mi Taund would
mean "I love;" Mi taund, "I do not love." The reverend linguist
also asserts that it is almost entirely free from guttural and
nasal sounds; the latter appeared to me as numerous and
complicated as in the Sanskrit. Mr. Wilson could hardly have had
a nice ear, or he would not have written Nchgo "Ntyege," or
Njna "Engena," which gives a thoroughly un-African distinctness
to the initial consonant.

The adjectival form is archaically expressed by a second and
abstract substantive. This peculiarity is common in the South
African family, as in Ashanti; but, as Bowdich observes, we also
find it in Greek, e.g. , "heresies of
destruction" for destructive. Another notable characteristic is
the Mpongwe's fondness for the passive voice, never using, if
possible, the active; for instance, instead of saying, "He was
born thus," he prefers, "The birth that was thus borned by him."
The dialect changes the final as well as the initial syllable, a
process unknown to the purest types of the South African family.
As we advance north we find this phenomenon ever increasing; for
instance in Fernando Po; but the Mpongwe limits the change to

Another distinguishing point of these three Gaboon tongues, as
the Rev. Mr. Mackey observes, is "the surprizing flexibility of
the verb, the almost endless variety of parts regularly derived
from a single root. There are, perhaps, no other languages in the
world that approach them in the variety and extent of the
inflections of the verb, possessing at the same time such rigid
regularity of conjugation and precision of the meaning attached
to each part." It is calculated that the whole number of tenses
or shades of meaning which a Mpongwe radical verb may be made to
express, with the aid of its auxiliary particles, augmentatives,
and negatives--prefixes, infixes, and suffixes--is between twelve
and fifteen hundred, worse than an Arabic triliteral.

Liquid and eminently harmonious, concise and capable of
contraction, the Mpongwe tongue does not deserve to die out. "The
genius of the language is such that new terms may be introduced
in relation to ethics, metaphysics, and science; even to the
great truths of the Christian religion."

The main defect is that of the South African languages generally-
-a deficiency of syntax, of gender and case; a want of vigour in
sound; a too great precision of expression, rendering it clumsy
and unwieldy; and an absence of exceptions, which give beauty and
variety to speech. The people have never invented any form of
alphabet, yet the abundance of tale, legend, and proverb which
their dialect contains might repay the trouble of acquiring it.

Chapter V.

To Snga-Tnga and Back.

My objects in visiting Mbt, the reader will have understood,
were to shoot a specimen or specimens of the gorilla, and, if
possible, to buy or catch a youngster. Even before landing, the
pilot had assured me that a "baby" was on sale at the Comptoir,
but on inquiry it proved to have died. I was by no means sanguine
of success--when the fight is against Time, the Old Man usually
wins the day. The short limits of my trip would not allow me to
wander beyond the coast and the nearer riverine regions, where
frequent villages and the constant firing of muskets have taught
all wild animals that flight is their only defence; thus, besides
being rare, they must be shy and timid, wary and knowing, "like
an old hedgehog hunted for his grease." The first glance at the
bush suggested, "Surely it is impossible to find big game in such
a land of farms and plantations."

Those who have shot under such circumstances will readily
understand that everything depends upon "luck;" one man may beat
the forest assiduously and vainly for five or six weeks; another
will be successful on the first day. Thus whilst I, without any
fault of my own, utterly failed in shooting a gorilla, although I
saw him and heard him, and came upon his trail, and found his
mortal spoils, another traveller had hardly landed in the Gaboon
before he was so fortunate as to bring down a fine anthropoid.

However, as man cannot command success, I was obliged to content
myself with doing all in my power to deserve it. I offered five
dollars, equalling the same number of sovereigns in England, to
every huntsman for every fair shot, and ten dollars for each live
ape. I implicitly obeyed all words of command, and my factotum
Selim Agha was indefatigable in his zeal. Indeed "luck" was dead
against us during the whole of my stay in Gorilla-land. We ran a
fair risk of drowning in the first day's voyage; on the next
march we were knocked down by lightning, and on the last trip I
had a narrow escape from the fall of a giant branch that grazed
my hammock.

My first "bush" evening was spent in palm-wine, rum, and wassail;
one must begin by humouring Africans, under pain of being
considered a churl; but the inevitable result is, that next day
they will by some pretext or other shirk work to enjoy the
headache. That old villain, "Young Prince," becoming very fou,
hospitably offered me his daughter-in-law Azizeh, Forteune's
second wife; and he was vigorously supported by the Nimrod
himself, who had drawn a horizontal line of white chalk above the
eyebrows, a defence against the Ibambo, those bad ghosts that
cause fevers and sickness. Forteune then hinted that perhaps I
might prefer his daughter--"he be piccanniny; he be all same
woman." Marchandise offerte a le pied coup, both offers were
declined with, Merci, non! Sporting parties are often made up by
the Messieurs du Plateau, I had been told at the Comptoir; but
such are the fascinations of les petites, that few ever progress
beyond the first village. There was, consequently, wonder in the
land as to what manner of utangni this one might be.

It is only fair to own that the ladies endured with great
philosophy the spret injuria form, and made no difference in
their behaviour on account of their charms being unappreciated.
Azzeh was a stout and sturdy personage of twenty-five, with
thick wrists and ankles, a very dark skin, and a face rendered
pleasing by good humour. And Azzeh was childless, a sad reproach
in these lands, where progeny forms a man's wealth and a woman's

The next day was perforce a halt, as had been expected; moreover,
rains and tornadoes were a reasonable pretext for nursing the
headache. The 21st was also wet and stormy, so Nimrod hid himself
and was not to be found. Then the balivernes began. One Asini, a
Mpongwe from the Plateau, offered to show me a huge gorilla near
his village; in the afternoon he was confronted with "Young
Prince," and he would have blushed scarlet if he could. But he
assured me plaintively that he must lie to live, and, after all,
la prudence des souris n'est pas celle des chats. Before dark,
Forteune appeared, and swore that he had spent the day in the
forest, he had shot at a gorilla, but the gun missed fire--of
course he had slept in a snug hut.

This last determined me to leave Mbt; the three Kru-men had
returned; one of them was stationed in charge of the boat, and
next morning we set out at 6 A.M. for Nche Mpolo, the
headquarters of "Young Prince." The well-wooded land was devoid
of fetor, even at that early hour; we passed Ndagola, a fresh
clearing and newly built huts, and then we skirted a deep and
forested depression, upon whose further side lay our bourne. It
promised sand-flies, the prime pest of this region; a tall
amphitheatre of trees on a dune to the west excluded the sea-
breeze, and northwards a swampy hollow was a fine breeding place
for M. Maringouin.

Nche Mpolo lies some three miles nearly due south of Mbt; the
single street contains fourteen cottages and two palaver houses.
We were received with distinction by "Young Prince's" daughter, a
huge young woman, whose still huger mamma was from Cape Lopez.
She placed mats upon the bamboo couch under the verandah, brought
water to wash our feet, and put the kettle on that we might have
tea. The sun was fiery and the day sultry; my companions
complained of fatigue after a two hours' walk, and then busied
themselves ostentatiously in cleaning their muskets, in
collecting provisions, and in appointing certain bushmen to meet
us on the morrow. Before dark Hotaloya returned to his village,
declaring that he could find no bed at his papa's. Probably the
uxorious youth had been ordered home by his pet wife, who had
once lived with a European trader, who spoke a few words of
English, and who cooked with peculiar skill,--the solid merits of
a "superior person."

At dawn on the 23rd we set out for the southern bush, Selim,
Forteune, and a carrier Kru-man--to carry nothing. We passed
through a fresh clearing, we traversed another village (three
within five miles!), we crossed a bad bridge and a clear stream
flowing to the south-east, and presently we found ourselves deep
in the dew-dripping forest. The leaves no longer crackled crisp
under foot, and the late rains had made the swamps somewhat
odorous. After an hour of cautious walking, listening as we went,
we saw evident signs of Mister Gorilla. Boughs three inches in
diameter strewed the ground; the husks of Ntondo or Ibere (wild
cardamom) had been scattered about, and a huge hare's form of
leaves lay some five yards from the tree where Forteune declared
that Mistress and Master Gorilla had passed the night,
Paterfamilias keeping watch below. A little beyond we were shown
a spot where two males had been fighting a duel, or where a
couple had been indulging in dalliance sweet; the prints were 8
inches long and 6 across the huge round toes; whilst the hinder
hand appeared almost bifurcate, the thumb forming nearly a half.
This is explained in the "Gorilla Book" (chap, xx.): "Only the
ball of the foot, and that thumb which answers to our great toe,
seem to touch the ground."

Presently we came upon the five bushmen who had been appointed to
meet us. They were a queer-looking lot, with wild, unsteady eyes,
receding brows, horizontal noses, and projecting muzzles; the
cranium and the features seemed disposed nearly at a right angle,
giving them a peculiar baboon-like semblance. Each had his water-
gourd and his flint-gun, the lock protected by a cover of
monkey's skin or wild cow's hide, whilst gibcieres and
ammunition-bags of grass-cloth hung from their shoulders. There
were also two boys with native axes, small iron triangles, whose
points passed through knob-sticks; these were to fell the trees
in which our game might take refuge, and possibly they might have
done so in a week. A few minutes with this party convinced me
that I was wilfully wasting time; they would not separate, and
they talked so loud that game would be startled a mile off. I
proposed that they should station me in a likely place, form a
circle, and drive up what was in it--they were far above acting
beaters after that fashion. So we dismissed them and dispersed
about the bush. My factotum shot a fine Mboko (Siurus
eborivorus), 2 ft. 2 in. total length: the people declare that
this squirrel gnaws ivory, whence its name. I had heard of it in
East and Central Africa, but the tale appeared fabulous: here it
is very common, half a dozen will be seen during the day; it has
great vitality, and it will escape after severe wounds. The
bushmen also brought a Shoke (Colubus Satanas), a small black
monkey, remarkably large limbed: the little unfortunate was
timid, but not vicious; it worried itself to death on the next
day. They also showed me the head of the Njwo antelope, which M.
du Chaillu (chap, xii.) describes as "a singular animal of the
size of a donkey, with shorter legs, no horns, and black, with a
yellow spot on the back."[FN#17]

In the afternoon Selim went to fetch my arsenical soap from
Mbt, where I had left it en Fitich: as long as that "bad
medicine" was within Hotaloya's "ben," no one would dare to
meddle with my goods. Forteune walked in very tired about sunset.
He had now added streaks of red to the white chalk upon his face,
arms, and breast, for he suspected, we were assured, witchcraft.
I told him to get ready for a march on the morrow to the Shekyni
country, lying south-east, but he begged so hard, and he seemed
so assured of showing sport, that the design was deferred, and
again "perdidi diem."

Monday the 24th was a Black Monday, sultry and thundery. We went
to the bush, and once more we returned, disgusted by the
chattering of the wild men. As we discussed our plans for moving,
Forteune threw cold water upon every proposal. This puzzled me,
and the difficulty was to draw his secret. At last Kng, a black
youth, who, being one of the family, had attached himself
uninvited to the party, blurted out in bad French that the
Shekyni chief, to whose settlement we were bound, had left for
the interior, and that the village women would not, or rather
could not, give us "chop." This was a settler to my Mpongwe
friends. Nimrod, however, declared that some bushmen had lately
seen several gorillas in the direction of Snga-Tnga, two
marches down coast from Mbt, and about half-way to Cape Lopez.
I did not believe a word of his intelligence; the direction is
south-west instead of south-east, towards the sea instead of into
the forest. But it was evidently hopeless to seek for the "ole
man" in these parts, and I had long been anxious to see Snga-
Tnga; we therefore agreed nem. con. to set out before dawn on
the next day.

But the next day dawned, and the sun rose high, and the world was
well heated and aired before the bushmen condescended to appear.
After a two hours' battle with the sand-flies we set off at 7.35
A.M., Forteune, Hotaloya, and Kng at the head of the
musketeers, one of them also carrying an axe; sixteen guns form a
strong party for these regions. The viol (nchmb) was not
allowed to hang mute in Mbata's halls, this instrument or the
drum must never be neglected in African travel; its melody at the
halt and the camp-fire are to the negro what private theatricals
are to the European sailor half fossilized in the frozen seas.
Our specimen was strung with thin cords made from the fibre of a
lliana; I was shown this growth, which looked much like a
convolvulus. The people have a long list of instruments, and
their music, though monotonous, is soft and plaintive: Bowdich
gives a specimen of it ("Sketch of Gaboon," p. 449), and of a
bard who seems to have been somewhat more frenzied than most
poets. Captain Allen (iii. 398) speaks of a harp at Bimbia
(Camarones) tightly strung with the hard fibre of some creeping
plant. The Bkele harp (M. du Chaillu, chap, xvi.) is called
Ngombi; the handle opposite the bow often has a carved face, and
it might be a beginning of the article used by civilized Europe--
Wales for instance.

The path plunged westward into the bush, spanned a dirty and
grass-grown plantation of bananas, dived under thorn tunnels and
arches of bush, and crossed six nullahs, Neropotamoi, then dry,
but full of water on our return. The ant-nests were those of
Yoruba and the Mendi country; not the tall, steepled edifices
built by the termites with yellow clay, as in Eastern Africa, but
an eruption of blue-black, hard-dried mud and mucus, resembling
the miniature pagodas, policeman's lanterns, mushrooms, or
umbrellas one or two feet high, here single, there double, common
in Ashanti and Congo-land. Like most of their congeners, the
animals die when exposed to the sun. The "Bashikouay" and
Nchounou (Nchu'u) of M. du Chaillu are the common "driver-ant" of
West Africa (Termes bellicosa). It is little feared in the
Gaboon; when its armies attack the mission-houses, they are
easily stopped by lighting spirits of turpentine, or by a strew
of quicklime, which combines with the formic acid. The different
species are described in "Palm Land" and "Western Africa" (pp.
369-373), from which even the account of the "tubular bridge" is
taken--Mr. Wilson less sensationally calls it what it is, a "live
raft." The most common are the Nkzeze, a large reddish and fetid
ant, which is harmless to man; the Njenge, a smaller red species,
and the Ibimbz, whose bite is painful.

We passed the mortal remains of a gorilla lashed to a pole; the
most interesting parts had been sold to Mr. R. B. N. Walker, and
were on their way to England. I was shown for the first time the
Ndmbo, or Ndambi (Bowdich, "Olamboo"), which gives the india
rubber of commerce; it is not a fat-leaved fig-tree (Ficus
elastica of Asia) nor aeuphorbia (Siphonia elastica), as in South
America, but a large climbing ficus, a cable thick as a man's leg
crossing the path, and "swarming up" to the top of the tallest
boles; the yellow fruit is tart and pleasant to the taste. In
1817 the style of collecting the gum (olamboo) was to spread with
a knife the glutinous milk as it oozed from the tree over the
shaved breast and arms like a plaister; it was then taken off,
rolled up in balls to play with or stretched over drums, no other
use being known. The Rev. Mr. Wilson declares (chap. ii.) that he
"first discovered the gum elastic, which has been procured, as
yet, only at Corisco, Gabun, and Kama." In 1854, Mr. Thompson (p.
112) found it in the Mendi country, near Sherbro; he describes it
as a vine with dense bark, which yields the gum when hacked, and
which becomes soft and porous when old. The juice is milk-white,
thick, and glutinous, soon stiffening, darkening, and hardening
without aid of art. I should like to see the raw material tried
for making waterproofs in the tropics, where the best vulcanized
articles never last. The Ndmbo tree has been traced a hundred
miles inland from the Liberian Coast; that of the Gallinas and
Sherbro is the best; at St. Paul's River it is not bad; but on
the Junk River it is sticky and little prized. The difficulty
everywhere is to make the negro collect it, and, when he does, to
sell it un-adulterated: in East Africa he uses the small branches
of the ficus for flogging canes, but will not take the trouble
even to hack the "Mpira" tree.

At a brook of the sweetest water, purling over the cleanest and
brightest of golden sands, we filled the canteens, this being the
last opportunity for some time. Forest walks are thirsty work
during the hot season; the air is close, fetid, and damp with
mire; the sea-breeze has no power to enter, and perspiration
streams from every pore. After heavy rains it is still worse, the
surface of the land is changed, and paths become lines of dark
puddles; the nullahs, before dry, roll muddy, dark-brown streams,
and their mouths streak the sea with froth and scum. Hardly a
living object meets the eye, and only the loud, whirring flight
of some large bird breaks the dreary silence. The music of the
surf now sounded like the song of the sea-shell as we crossed
another rough prism of stone and bush, whose counter-slope fell
gently into a sand-flat overgrown with Ipomaa and other bright
flowering plants. After walking about an hour (equal to 2.50
miles) between south and south-west, we saluted the pleasant
aspect of with a general cheer. Northwards lay
Point Ipizarala, southways Nyonye, both looking like tree-clumps
rising from the waves. I could not sufficiently admire, and I
shall never forget the exquisite loveliness of land and sea; the
graceful curve of the beach, a hundred feet broad, fining
imperceptibly away till lost in the convexity of waters. The
morning sun, half way to the zenith, burned bright in a cloudless
sky, whilst in the east and west distant banks of purple mist
coloured the liquid plain with a cool green-blue, a celadon tint
that reposed the eye and the brain. The porpoise raised in sport
his dark, glistening back to the light of day, and plunged into
the cool depths as if playing off the "amate sponde" of the
Mediterranean; and sandpipers and curlews, the latter wild as
ever, paced the smooth, pure floor. The shoreline was backed by a
dark vegetable wall, here and there broken and fronted by single
trees, white mangroves tightly corded down, and raised on stilted
roots high above the tide. Between wood and wave lay powdered
sandstone of lively yellow, mixed with bright white quartz and
dbris of pink shells. Upon the classic shores of Greece I should
have thought of Poseidon and the Nereids; but the lovely scene
was in unromantic Africa, which breeds no such visions of

"The fair humanities of old religion."

Resuming our road, we passed the ruins of an "Olako," the khmb
of East Africa, a temporary encampment, whose few poles were
still standing under a shady tree. We then came upon a blockaded
lagoon; the sea-water had been imprisoned by a high bank which
the waves had washed up, and it will presently be released by
storms from the south-west. Near the water, even at half-ebb, we
find the floor firm and pleasant; it becomes loose walking at
high tide, and the ribbed banks are fatiguing to ascend and
descend under a hot sun and in reeking air. A seine would have
supplied a man-of-war in a few hours; large turtle is often
turned; in places young ones about the size of a dollar scuttled
towards the sea, and Hotaloya brought a nest of eggs, which,
however, were too high in flavour for the European palate. The
host of crabs lining the water stood alert, watching our
approach, and when we came within a hundred yards they hurried
sideways into the safer sea--the scene reminded me of the days
when, after "tiffin," we used to "mr kankrs" on the Clifton
Sands in the Unhappy Valley.

Presently we came to a remarkable feature of this coast, the
first specimen of which was seen at Point Ovindo in the Gaboon
River. The Iberian explorers called them "Sernas," fields or
downs, opposed to Coras, sand-dunes or hills. They are clearings
in the jungle made by Nature's hand, fenced round everywhere,
save on the sea side, by tall walls of dark vegetation.;
averaging perhaps a mile long by 200 yards broad, and broken by
mounds and terraces regular as if worked by art. These prairies
bear a green sward, seldom taller than three feet, and now ready
for the fire,--here and there the verdure is dotted by a tree or
two. It is universally asserted that they cannot be cultivated;
and, if this be true, the cause would be worth investigating. In
some places they are perfectly level, and almost flush with the
sea; in others they swell gently to perhaps 100 feet; in other
parts, again, they look like scarps and earth-works, remarkably
resembling the lower parasitic craters of a huge volcano; and
here and there they are pitted with sinks like the sea-board of
Loango. These savannahs (savnas) add an indescribable charm to
the Gaboon Coast, especially when the morning and evening suns
strike them with slanting rays, and compel them to stand out
distinct from the setting of eternal emerald. The aspect of the
downs is civilized as the banks of the Solent; and the coast
wants nothing to complete the "fine, quiet old-country picture in
the wilds of Africa" but herds of kine grazing upon leas shining
with a golden glory, or a country seat, backed by the noble
virgin forest, such a bosquet as Europe never knew.

After another hour's walk, which carried us about three miles, we
sighted in one of these prairillons a clump of seventeen huts. A
negro in European clothes, after prospecting the party through a
ship's glass, probably the gift of some slaver, came down to meet
us, and led the way to his "town." Finding his guest an
Englishman, the host, who spoke a few words of French and
Portuguese, at once began to talk of his "summer gte" where
pirogues were cut out, and boats were built; there were indeed
some signs of this industrie, but all things wore the true
Barracoon aspect. Two very fine girls were hid behind the huts,
but did not escape my factotum's sharp eyes; and several of the
doors were carefully padlocked: the pretty faces had been removed
when he returned. This coast does an active retail business with
So Thom and the Ilha do Principe,--about Cape Lopez the "ebony
trade" still, I hear, flourishes on a small scale.

During our halt for breakfast at the barracoon, we were visited
by Petit Denis, a son of the old king. His village is marked upon
the charts some four miles south-south-east of his father's; but
at this season all the royalties, we are assured, affect the sea-
shore. He was dressed in the usual loin-wrap, under a broadcloth
coat, with the French official buttons. Leading me mysteriously
aside, he showed certificates from the officials at Le Plateau,
dating from 1859, recommending him strongly as a shipbroker for
collecting migrants libres, and significantly adding, les ngres
ne manquent pas. Petit Denis's face was a study when I told him
that, being an Englishman, a dozen negroes were not worth to me a
single "Njna." Slave cargoes of some eight to ten head are
easily canoed down the rivers, and embarked in schooners for the
islands: the latter sadly want hands, and should be assisted in
setting on foot a system of temporary immigration.

At 10.45 A.M. we resumed our march. The fiery sun had sublimated
black clouds, the northeast quarter looked ugly, and I wished to
be housed before the storm burst. The coast appeared populous; we
met many bushmen, who were perfectly civil, and showed no fear,
although some of them had probably never seen a white face. All
were armed with muskets, and carried the usual hunting talismans,
horns and iron or brass bells, hanging from the neck before and
behind. We crossed four sweet-water brooks, which, draining the
high banks, flowed fast and clear down cuts of loose, stratified
sand, sometimes five feet deep: the mouths opened to the north-
west, owing to the set of the current from the south-west, part
of the great Atlantic circulation running from the Antarctic to
the equator. Those which are not bridged with fallen trees must
be swum during the rains, as the water is often waist-deep. Many
streamlets, shown by their feathery fringes of bright green palm,
run along the shore before finding an outlet; they are excellent
bathing places, where the salt water can be washed off the skin.
The sea is delightfully tepid, but it is not without risk,--it
becomes deep within biscuit-toss, there is a strong under-tow,
and occasionally an ugly triangular fin may be seen cruizing
about in unpleasant proximity. As our naked feet began to
blister, we suddenly turned to the left, away from the sea; and,
after crossing about 100 yards of prairillon, one of the
prettiest of its kind, we found ourselves at Bwmnge, the
village of King Lngobmo. It was then noon, and we had walked
about three hours and a half in a general south-south-west

His majesty's hut was at the entrance of the village, which
numbered five scattered and unwalled sheds. He at once led us to
his house, a large bamboo hall, with several inner sleeping rooms
for the "Harm;" placed couch, chair, and table, the civilization
of the slave-trade; brought wife No. 1 to shake hands, directed a
fowl to be killed, and, sitting down, asked us the news in
French. As a return for our information, he told us that the
Gorilla was everywhere to be found, even in the bush behind his
town. The rain coming down heavily, I was persuaded to pass the
night there, the king offering to beat the bush with us, to
engage hunters, and to find a canoe which would carry the party
to Snga-Tnga, landing us at all the likely places. I agreed the
more willingly to the suggestion of a cruize, as my Mpongwe
fashionables, like the Congoese, and unlike the Yorubans, proved
to be bad and untrained walkers; they complained of sore feet,
and they were always anticipating attacks of fever.

When the delicious sea-breeze had tempered the heat, we set out
for the forest, and passed the afternoon in acquiring a certainty
that we had again been "done." However, we saw the new guides,
and supplied them with ammunition for the next day. The evening
was still and close; the Ifr (sandflies) and the Nchn (a red
gad-fly) were troublesome as usual, and at night the mosquitoes
phlebotomized us till we hailed the dawn.[FN#18] A delightful
bath of salt followed by fresh water, effectually quenched the
fiery irritation of these immundicities.

Wednesday, as we might have expected, was wasted, although the
cool and cloudy weather was perfection for a cruize. As we sat
waiting for a boat, a youth rushed in breathless, reporting that
he had just seen an "ole man gorilla" sitting in a tree hard by.
I followed him incredulously at first, but presently the crashing
of boughs and distant grunts, somewhat like huhh! huhh! huhh!
caused immense excitement. After half a day's hard work, which
resulted in nothing, I returned to Bwmnge, and met the "boat-
king," whose capital was an adjacent settlement of three huts. He
was in rags, and my diary might have recorded, Reu un roi dans
un trs fichu tat. He was accompanied by a young wife, with a
huge toupel, and a gang of slaves, who sat down and stared till
their eyes blinked and watered. For the loan of his old canoe he
asked the moderate sum of fifteen dollars per diem, which finally
fell to two dollars; but there was a suspicious reservation anent
oars, paddles and rudder, mast and sail.

Meanwhile the sanguine Selim compelled his guide to keep moving
in the direction of the gorilla's grunt, and explaining his
reluctance to advance by the fear of meeting the brute in the
dark. Savage Africa, however, had as usual the better of the
game, and showed his 'cuteness by planting my factotum in mud
thigh-deep. After dark Forteune returned. He had fired at a huge
njna, but this time the cap had snapped. As the monster was
close, and had shown signs of wrath, we were expected to
congratulate Nimrod on his escape. Kindly observe the neat
gradations, the artistic sorites of Mpongwe lies.

At 7.30 A.M. on the next day the loads were placed upon the
crew's heads, and we made for the village, where the boat was
still drawn up. The "monoxyle" was full of green-brown rain
water, the oar-pins were represented by bits of stick, and all
the furniture was wanting. After a time, the owner, duly
summoned, stalked down from his hut, and began remarking that
there was still a "palaver" on the stocks. I replied by paying
him his money, and ordering the craft to be baled and launched.
It was a spectacle to see the bushmen lying upon their bellies,
kicking their heels in the air, and yep-yep-yeping uproariously
when Forteune, their master, begged of them to bear a hand. Dean
Presto might have borrowed from them a hint for his Yahoos. The
threat to empty the Alugu (rum) upon the sand was efficacious.
One by one they rose to work, and in the slowest possible way
were produced five oars, of which one was sprung, a ricketty
rudder, a huge mast, and a sail composed half of matting and half
of holes. At the last moment, the men found that they had no
"chop;" a franc produced two bundles of sweet manioc, good
travelling food, as it can be eaten raw, but about as nutritious
as Norwegian bark. At the last, last moment, Lngobmo, who was
to accompany us, remembered that he had neither fine coat nor
umbrella,--indispensable for dignity, and highly necessary for
the delicacy of his complexion, which was that of an elderly
buffalo. A lad was started to fetch these articles; and he set
off at a hand-gallop, making me certain that behind the first
corner he would subside into a saunter, and lie down to rest on
reaching the huts.

Briefly, it was 9 A.M. before we doubled Point Nyonye, which had
now been so long in sight. With wind, tide, and current dead
against us, we hugged the shore where the water is deep. The surf
was breaking in heavy sheets upon a reef or shoal outside, and
giving ample occupation to a hovering flock of fish-eating birds.
Whilst returning over water smooth as glass I observed the
curious effect of the current. Suddenly a huge billow would rear
like a horse, assume the shape of a giant cobra's head, fall
forward in a mass of foam, and subside gently rippling into the
calm surface beyond; the shadowy hollow of the breakers made them
appear to impinge upon a black rock, but when they disappeared
the sea was placid and unbroken as before. This is, in fact, the
typical "roller" of the Gaboon coast--a happy hunting ground for
slavers and a dangerous place for cruizers to attempt. As the
sea-breeze came up strong, the swell would have swamped a
European boat; but our conveyance, shaped like a ship's gig, but
Dalmatian or Dutchman-like in the bows, topped the waves with the
buoyancy of a cork, and answered her helm as the Arab obeys the
bit. To compact grain she added small specific gravity, and,
though stout and thick, she advanced at a speed of which I could
hardly believe her capable.

Past Nyonye the coast forms another shallow bay, with about ten
miles of chord, in every way a copy of its northern neighbour--
the same scene of placid beauty, the sea rimmed with opalline
air, pink by contrast with the ultramarine blue; the limpid ether
overhead; the golden sands, and the emerald verdure--a Circe,
however, whose caress is the kiss of death. The curve is bounded
south by Point Dynye, which appeared to retreat as we advanced.
At 2 P.M., when the marvellous clearness of the sky was troubled
by a tornado forming in the north-east, we turned towards a
little inlet, and, despite the heavy surf, we disembarked without
a ducking. A creek supplied us with pure cold water, a spreading
tree with a roof, and the soft clean shore with the most
luxurious of couches--at 3 P.M. I could hardly persuade myself
that an hour had flown.

As we approached Dynye, at last, a village hoisted the usual big
flag on the normal tall pole, and with loud cries ordered us to
land. Lngobmo, who was at the helm, began obeying, when I
relieved him of his charge. Seeing that our course was unaltered,
a large and well-manned canoe put off, and the rest of the
population walked down shore. I made signs for the stranger not
to approach, when the head man, Anglah, asked me in English what
he had done to offend me, and peremptorily insisted upon my
sleeping at his village. All these places are looking forward to
the blessed day when a trader, especially a white trader, shall
come to dwell amongst the "sons of the soil," and shall fill
their pockets with "trust" money. On every baylet and roadstead
stands the Casa Grande, a large empty bungalow, a factory in
embryo awaiting the Avatar; but, instead of attracting their
"merchant" by collecting wax and honey, rubber and ivory, the
people will not work till he appears. Consequently, here, as in
Angola and in the lowlands of the Brazil, it is a slight to pass
by without a visit; and jealousy, a ruling passion amongst
Africans, suggests that the stranger is bound for another and
rival village. They wish, at any rate, to hear the news, to
gossip half the night, to drink the Utangni's rum, and to claim
a cloth for escorting him, will he, nill he, to the next
settlement. But what could I do? To indulge native prejudice
would have stretched my cruize to a fortnight; and I had neither
time, supplies, nor stomach for the task. So Lngobmo was
directed to declare that they had a "wicked white man" on board
who e'en would gang his ane gait, who had no goods but weapons,
and who wanted only to shoot a njna, and to visit Snga-Tnga,
where his brother "Mpolo" had been. All this was said in a
sneaking, deprecating tone, and the crew, though compelled to ply
their oars, looked their regrets at the exceedingly rude and
unseemly conduct of their Utangni. Anglah followed chattering
till he had learned all the novelties; at last he dropped aft,
growling much, and promising to receive me at Snga-Tnga next
morning--not as a friend. On our return, however, he prospected
us from afar with the greatest indifference; we were empty-
handed. There has been change since the days when Lieutenant
Boteler, passing along this shore, was addressed by the canoe-
men, "I say, you mate, you no big rogue? ship no big rogue?"

At 5 P. M. we weathered Point Dynye, garnished, like Nyonye,
with a threatening line of breakers; the boat-passage along shore
was about 400 yards wide. Darkness came on shortly after six
o'clock, and the sultry weather began to look ominous, with a
huge, angry, black nimbus discharging itself into the glassy
livid sea northwards. I suggested landing, but Lngobmo was
positive that the storm had passed westwards, and he objected,
with some reason, that in the outer gloom the boat might be
dashed to pieces. As we had not even a stone for an anchor, the
plea proved, valid. We guided ourselves, by the fitful flashes of
forked and sheet lightning combined, towards a ghostly point,
whose deeper blackness silhouetted it against the shades.
Suddenly the boat's head was turned inland; a huge breaker,
foaming along our gunwales, drove us forwards like the downwards
motion of a "swing-swong," and, before we knew where we were, an
ugly little bar had been crossed on the top of the curling scud.
We could see the forest on both sides, but there was not light
enough to trace the river line; I told Hotaloya to tumble out;
"Plenty shark here, mas'r," was the only answer. We lost nearly
half an hour of most valuable time in pottering and groping
before all had landed.

At that moment the rain-clouds burst, and in five minutes after
the first spatter all were wet to the skin. Selim and I stood
close together, trying to light a match, when a sheet of white
fire seemed to be let down from the black sky, passing between us
with a simultaneous thundering crash and rattle, and a sulphurous
smell, as if a battery had been discharged. I saw my factotum
struck down whilst in the act of staggering and falling myself;
we lay still for a few moments, when a mutual inquiry showed that
both were alive, only a little shaken and stunned; the sensation
was simply the shock of an electrical machine and the discharge
of a Woolwich infant --greatly exaggerated.

We then gave up the partie; it was useless to contend against
Jupiter Tonans as well as Pluvialis. I opened my bedding, drank a
"stiffener" of raw cognac, wrapped myself well, and at once fell
asleep in the heavy rain, whilst the crew gathered under the
sail. The gentlemen who stay at home at ease may think damp
sheets dangerous, but Malvern had long ago taught me the perfect
safety of the wettest bivouac, provided that the body remains
warm. At Fernando Po, as at Zanzibar, a drunken sailor after a
night in the gutter will catch fever, and will probably die. But
he has exposed himself to the inevitable chill after midnight, he
is unacclimatized, and both places are exceptionally deadly--to
say nothing of the liquor. The experienced African traveller
awaking with a chilly skin, swallows a tumbler of cold water, and
rolls himself in a blanket till he perspires; there is only one

Next day I arose at 4 A.M., somewhat cramped and stiff, but with
nothing that would not yield to half a handful of quinine, a cup
of coffee well "laced," a pipe, and a roaring fire. Some country
people presently came up, and rated us for sleeping in the bush;
we retorted in kind, telling them that they should have been more
wide-awake. Whilst the boat was being baled, I walked to the
shore, and prospected our day's work. The forest showed a novel
feature: flocks of cottony mist-clouds curling amongst the trees,
like opals scattered upon a bed of emeralds; a purple haze banked
up the western horizon, whilst milk-white foam drew a delicate
line between the deep yellow sand and the still deeper blue. Far
to the south lay the Serna or prairillon of Snga-Tnga, a
rolling patch, "or, on a field vert," backed by the usual dark
belt of the same, and fronted by straggling dots that emerged
from the wave--they proved to be a thin line of trees along
shore. We were lying inside the mouth of the "Habanya" alias the
Shark River, which flows along the south of a high grassy dome,
streaked here and there with rows of palms, and broken into the
semblance of a verdure-clad crater. According to the people the
Nkonje (Squalus) here is not a dangerous "sea-tiger" unless a man
wear red or carry copper bracelets; it is caught with hooks and
eaten as by the Chinese and the Suri Arabs. The streamlet is a
favourite haunt of the hippopotamus; a small one dived when it
sighted us, and did not reappear. It was the only specimen that I
saw during my three years upon the West African Coast,--a great
contrast to that of Zanzibar, where half a dozen may be shot in a
single day. The musket has made all the difference.

At 6 A.M. on Friday, March 28, the boat was safely carried over
the bar of Shark River, and we found ourselves once more hugging
the shore southwards. The day was exceptional for West Africa,
and much like damp weather at the end of an English May; the grey
air at times indulged us with a slow drizzle. After two hours we
passed another maritime village, where the farce of yesterday
evening was re-acted, but this time with more vigour. Ignorant of
my morning's private work, Hotaloya swore that it was Snga-
Tnga. I complimented him upon his proficiency in lying, and poor
Lngobmo, almost in tears, confessed that he had pointed out to
me the real place. Whereupon Hotaloya began pathetically to
reproach him for being thus prodigal of the truth. Nrya, the
"head trader," coming down to the beach, with dignity and in
force told me in English that I must land, and was chaffed
accordingly. He then blustered and threatened instant death, at
which it was easy to laugh. About 10 A.M. we lay off our
destination, some ten miles south of Dynye Point. It was a
beautiful site, the end of a grassy dune, declining gradually
toward the tree-fringed sea; the yellow slopes, cut by avenues
and broken by dwarf table-lands, were long afterwards recalled to
my memory, when sighting the fair but desolate scenery south of
Paraguayan Asuncion. These downs appear to be a sea-coast raised
by secular upheaval, and much older than the flat tracts which
encroach upon the Atlantic. We could now understand the position
of the town which figures so largely in the squadron-annals of
the equatorial shore; it was set upon a hillock, whence the eye
could catch the approaching sail of the slaver, and where the
flag could be raised conspicuously in token of no cruiser being

But the glory had departed from Snga-Tnga (Peel-White? Strip-
White?); not a trace of the town remained, the barracoons had
disappeared, and all was innocent as upon the day of its
creation. A deep silence reigned where the song of joy and the
shrieks of torture had so often been answered by the voice of the
forest, and Eternal Nature had ceased to be disturbed by the
follies and crimes of man.

Snga-Tnga was burned down, after the fashion of these people,
when Mbango, whom Europeans called "Pass-all," King of the
Urungu, who extend up the right bank of the Ogobe, passed away
from the sublunary world. King Pass-all had completed his
education in Portugal: a negro never attains his highest
potential point of villany without a tour through Europe; and
thus he rose to be the greatest slave-dealer in this slave-
dealing scrap of the coast. In early life he protected the
Spanish pirates who fled to Cape Lopez, after plundering the
American brig "Mexico:" they were at last forcibly captured by
Captain (the late Admiral) Trotter, R.N.; passed over to the
United States, and finally hanged at Boston, during the
Presidency of General Jackson. Towards the end of his life he
became paralytic, like King Pepple of Bonny, and dangerous to the
whites as well as to the blacks under his rule. The people,
however, still speak highly of him, generosity being a gift which
everywhere covers a multitude of sins. He was succeeded by one of
his sons, who is favourably mentioned, but who soon followed him
to the grave. I saw another, a boy, apparently a slave to a
Mpongwe on the coast, and the rest of the family is scattered far
and wide. Since Pass-all's death the "peddlers in human flesh and
blood" have gone farther south: men spoke of a great depot at the
Mpembe village on the banks of the Nazareth River, where a
certain Ndbliya is aided and abetted by two Utangni. Now that
"'long-sea" exportation has been completely suppressed, their
only markets must be the two opposite islands.

South of Snga-Tnga, lay a thin line of deeper blue, Fetish
Point, the eastern projection of Cape Lopez Bay. From Mbango's
Town it is easy to see the western headland, Cape Lopez, whose
low outliers of sand and trees gain slowly but surely upon the
waters of the Atlantic. I deferred a visit until a more
favourable time, and--that time never came.

Cape Lopez is said to have considerable advantages for developing
trade, but the climate appears adverse. A large Catholic mission,
described by Barbot, was established here by the Portuguese: as
in the Congo, nothing physical of it remains. But Mr. Wilson is
rather hard when he asserts that all traces have disappeared--
they survive in superior 'cuteness of the native.

Little need be said about our return, which was merrier than the
outward bound trip. Wind, tide, and current were now in our
favour, and we followed the chords, not the arcs, of the several
bays. At 9.30 P.M. we gave a wide berth to the rollers off Point
Nyonye and two hours afterwards we groped through the outer
darkness into Bwmnge, where the good Azzeh and Asnye, who
came to receive us, shouted with joy. On the next day another
"gorilla palaver," when a large male was reported to have been
shot without a shadow of truth, detained me: it was the last
straw which broke the patient camel's back. After "dashing" to
old King Lngobmo one cloth, one bottle of absinthe, two heads
of tobacco, and a clay pipe, we set out betimes for the fifteen
miles' walk to Mbt. Various obstacles delayed us on the way,
and the shades of evening began to close in rapidly; night
already reigned over the forest. Progress under such
circumstances requires the greatest care; as in the streets of
Damascus, one must ever look fixedly at the ground, under penalty
of a shaking stumble over cross-bars of roots, or fallen branches
hidden by grass and mud. And the worst of these wet walks is
that, sooner or later, they bring on swollen feet, which the
least scratch causes to ulcerate, and which may lame the
traveller for weeks. They are often caused by walking and sitting
in wet shoes and stockings; it is so troublesome to pull off and
pull on again after wading and fording, repeated during every few
hundred yards, that most men tramp through the brooks and suffer
in consequence. Constant care of the feet is necessary in African
travel, and the ease with which they are hurt--sluggish
circulation, poor food and insufficient stimulants being the
causes--is one of its deplaisirs. The people wash and anoint
these wounds with palm oil: a hot bath, with pepper-water, if
there be no rum, gives more relief, and caustic must sometimes be

We reached Mbt at 6.15 P.M., and all agreed that two hours of
such forest-walking do more damage than five days along the

Since my departure from the coast, French naval officers,
travellers and traders, have not been idle. The Marquis de
Compigne, who returned to France in 1874, suffering from
ulcerated legs, had travelled up the Ferno Vaz, and its
tributary the highly irregular Ogobai, Ogowa, or Ogow (Ogobe);
yet, curious to remark, all his discoveries arc omitted by Herr
Kiepert. His furthest point was 213 kilometres east of "San
Quita" (Sankwita), a village sixty-one kilometres north (??) of
Pointe Ftiche, near Cape Lopez; but wars and receding waters
prevented his reaching the confluence where the Ivindo fork
enters the north bank of the Ogobe. He made observations amongst
the "Kamma" tribe, which differs from the Bakele and other
neighbours. M. Guirold, commanding a cruiser, was also sent to
the estuary of the Rembo or Ferno Vaz, into which the Mpungule
(N'poulounay of M. du Chaillu?), ascended only by M. Ayms,
discharges. The explorers found many shoals and shifting sands
before entering the estuary; in the evening they stopped at the
Ogobe confluence, where a French seaman was employed in custom-
house duties. M. de Compigne, after attending many palavers, was
duly upset when returning to the ship.

On the Ferno Vaz there are now (1873) five factories, each named
after some French town: Paris Factory, however, had fallen to
ruins, the traders having migrated 150 miles higher up the Kamma
River. Here a certain drunken kinglet, "Rampano," breaks
everything he finds in the house, and pays damages when he
returns to his senses. On March 31st there was a violent quarrel
between the women of two settlements, and the "reguli" embarked
with all their host, to fight it out; Rampano was the victor, and
after the usual palaver the vanquished was compelled to pay a
heavy fine. M. du Chaillu's descriptions of the country, a park
land dotted with tree-mottes, are confirmed; but the sport,
excepting hippopotamus, was poor, and the negroes were found
eating a white-faced monkey--mere cannibalism amongst the coast
tribes. The fauna and flora of the Ogobe are those of the Gaboon,
and the variety of beautiful parrots is especially remarked.

On January 9, 1874, M. de Compigne passed from the Ferno Vaz
through the Obango Canal into the Ogobe, which, bordered by
Fetish rocks, flows through vast forests; his object was to study
the manners and customs of the Kammas, a more important tribe
than is generally supposed, far outnumbering the Urungus of the
coast. Their country is large and contains many factories, the
traders securing allies by marrying native women. The principal
items of import are dry goods, guns, common spirits, and American
tobacco; profits must be large, as what costs in France one franc
eighty cents, here sells for ten francs' worth of goods. The
exports are almost entirely comprised in gum mastic and ivory. At
the factory of Mr. Watkins the traveller secured certain figures
which he calls "idols"--they are by no means fitted for the
drawing-room table. He also noticed the "peace of the household,"
a strip of manatus nerve, at times used by paterfamilias.

Mr. R. B. N. Walker, who made sundry excursions between 1866 and
1873, also wrote from Elobe that he had left the French
explorers, MM. de Compigne and Marche, on the Okanda River which
M. du Chaillu believes to be the northern fork of the Ogobe.
Their letters (Feb. 12, 1874) were dated from Osse in the Okanda
country, where they had made arrangements with the kinglet for a
journey to the "Otjebos," probably the Moshebo or Moshobo
cannibals of the "Gorilla Book." The rocks, shoals, and stony
bottom of the Ogobe reduced their rate of progress to three miles
a day, and, after four wearisome stages, they reached a village
of Bkele. Here they saw the slave-driving tribe "Okota," whose
appearance did not prepossess them and whose chief attempted
unsuccessfully to stop the expedition. They did not leave before
collecting specimens of the language.

Further eastward, going towards the country of the Yalimbongo
tribe, they found the Okanda River, which they make the southern
fork, the Okono being the northern, descending from the
mountains; here food was plentiful compared with Okota-land. The
active volcano reported by Mr. R. B. N. Walker, 1873, was found
to bear a lake upon the summit--which, in plutonic formations,
would suggest an extinct crater. East of the Yalimbongo they came
upon the Apingis, whom M. du Chaillu, after two visits, also
placed upon the southern fork of the Ogobe. The tribe is
described as small in stature, of mild habits, and fond of
commerce; hence their plantations on the north or right bank of
the river are plundered with impunity by the truculent "Oshieba"
(Moshebo or Moshobo?). Further east the river, after being
obstructed by rapids, broadens to a mile and becomes navigable--
they were probably above the "Ghats." It is supposed to arise
south in a lakelet called Tem or N'dua. A Bkele village was seen
near Ochunga, a large riverine island; and thence they passed
into the country of the mountaineer Okandas. They are described
as fine men, but terrible sorcerers; their plantations of banana
and maize are often plundered by the "Oshieba," the latter being
now recognized as a kindred tribe of the Pahouin (Fn).

Chapter VI.

Village Life in Pongo-land.

The next day was perforce a halt. Forteune and his wives did not
appear till 9 A.M., when it was dead low water. I had lent Nimrod
a double-barrelled gun during the march, and he was evidently
anxious to found a claim upon the protracted usufruct. "Dashes"
also had to be settled, and loads made up. The two women to whose
unvarying kindness all my comfort had been owing, were made happy
with satin-stripe, cassis, and the inevitable nicotiana. In an
unguarded moment my soft heart was betrayed into giving a bottle
of absinthe to the large old person who claimed to be Forteune's
mamma. Expecting nothing, had nothing been offered she would not
have complained; the present acted upon her violently and
deleteriously; she was like the cabman who makes mauvais sang
because he has asked and received only twice his fare; briefly,
next morning she was too surly to bid us adieu.

When giving Forteune his "dash," I was curious to hear how he
could explain the report about the dead gorilla shot the night
before last: the truth of the old saying, "a black man is never
fast for an excuse," was at once illustrated; the beast had been
badly wounded, but it had dragged itself off to die. And where
was the blood? The rain had washed the blood away!

Nimrod seemed chagrined at the poor end of so much trouble, but
there was something in his look and voice suggesting a suppressed
thought--these people, like the English and the Somal, show their
innermost secrets in their faces. At last, I asked him if he was
now willing to try the Shekyani country. He answered flatly,
"No!" And why?

Some bushmen had bewitched him; he knew the fellow, and would
quickly make "bob come up his side:" already two whites had
visited him with a view of shooting gorillas; both had failed; it
was "shame palaver!"

This might have been true, but it certainly was not the whole
truth. I can hardly accept M. du Chaillu's explanation, that the
Mpongwe, who attack the beasts with trade muskets and pebbles,
will not venture into the anthropoid's haunts unless certain of
their white employer's staunchness. What could that matter, when
our Nimrod had an excellent weapon in his hand and a strong party
to back him? Very likely Forteune was tired with walking, and
five dollars per shot made the game not worth the candle. Again,
perhaps the black diplomatist feared to overstock the market with
Njinas, or to offend some regular customer for the sake of an
"interloper." In these African lands they waste over a monkey's
skin or a bottle of rum as much intrigue as is devoted to a
contested election in England.

I then asked the guide if my staying longer would be of any use?
He answered with a simple negative. Whilst the Utngni remained
the Mbunji (spell) would still work, but it would at once be
broken by our departure, and he would prove it by sending down
the first-fruits. This appeared to me to be mere Mpongwe
"blague," but, curious to say, the sequel completely justified
both assertions. He threw out a hint, however, about certain
enemies and my "medicine," the arsenical soap; I need hardly say
that it was refused.

When the palaver ended and the tide served, a fierce tornado
broke upon us, and the sky looked grisly in the critical
direction, north-east. Having no wish to recross the Gaboon River
during a storm blowing a head wind, I resolved to delay my
departure till the morrow, and amused myself with drawing from
the nude a picture of the village and village-life in Pongo-land.

The Mpongwe settlements on the Gaboon River are neatly built, but
without any attempt at fortification; for the most part each
contains one family, or rather a chief and his dependants. In the
larger plantation "towns," the abodes form a single street,
ranging from 100 to 1,000 yards in length; sometimes, but rarely,
there are cross streets; the direction is made to front the sea-
breeze, and, if possible, to present a corner to storm-bearing
Eurus. An invariable feature, like the arcaded loggie of old
Venetian towns, is the Nmpolo, or palaver-house, which may be
described as the club-room of the village. An open hangar, like
the Ikongolo or "cask-house" of the trading places, it is known
by a fire always kept burning. The houses are cubes, or oblong
squares, varying from 10 to 100 feet in length, according to the
wealth and dignity of the owner; all are one-storied, and a few
are raised on switch foundations. Most of them have a verandah
facing the street, and a "compound" or cleared space in the rear
for cooking and other domestic purposes. The walls are built by
planting double and parallel rows of posts, the material being
either bamboo or the mid-rib of a wine-giving palm (Raphia
vinifera); to these uprights horizontal slats of cane are neatly
lashed by means of the never-failing "tie-tie," bast-slips,
runners, or llianas. For the more solid buildings thin "Mpvo,"
or bark slabs, are fitted in between the double posts; when
coolness is required, their place is taken by mats woven with the
pinnated leaves of sundry palms. This is a favourite industry
with the women, who make two kinds, one coarse, the other a neat
and close article, of rattan-tint until it becomes smoke-stained:
the material is so cheap and comfortable, that many of the
missionaries prefer it for walls to brick or boarding. The
windows are mere holes in the mats to admit light, and the doors
are cut with a Mpno (adze) from a single tree trunk, which would
be wilful waste if timber were ever wanting. The floor is
sometimes sandy, but generally of hard and level tamped clay, to
which the European would prefer boarding, and, as a rule, it is
clean--no fear of pythogenie from here! The pent-shaped roof of
rafters and thatch is water-tight except when the host of rats
disturb it by their nocturnal gambols.

Rich men affect five or six rooms, of which the principal
occupies the centre. The very poor must be contented with one;
the majority have two. The "but" combines the functions of hall,
dining-room, saloon and bachelor's sleeping quarters. The "ben"
contains a broad bed for the married, a standing frame of split
bamboo with mats for mattresses; it is usually mounted on props
to defend it from the Nchu'u or white ants, and each has its
mosquito bar, an oblong square, large enough to cover the whole
couch and to reach the ground; the material is either fine grass-
cloth, from the Ashira country, a light stuff called "Mbongo," or
calico and blue baft from which the stiffening has been washed
out. It is far superior to the flimsy muslin affairs supplied in
an Anglo-Indian outfit, or to the coarse matting used in Yoruba.
Provided with this solid defence, which may be bought in any
shop, one can indulge one's self by sleeping in the verandah
without risk of ague or rheumatism. The "ben" always displays a
pile of chests and boxes, which, though possibly empty, testify
to the "respectability" of the household. In Hotaloya's I
remarked a leather hat-case; he owned to me that he had already
invested in a silk tile, the sign of chieftainship, but that
being a "boy" he must grow older before he could wear it. The
inner room can be closed with a strong door and a padlock; as
even the window-hole is not admitted, the burglar would at once
be detected. Except where goods are concerned, the Mpongwe have
little respect for privacy; the women, in the presence of their
husbands, never failed to preside at my simple toilette, and the
girls of the villages would sit upon the bedside where lay an
Utangn in almost the last stage of dshabill.

The furniture of course varies; a rich man near the river will
have tables and chairs, sofas, looking-glasses, and as many
clocks, especially "Sam Slicks," as love or money can procure.
Even the poorest affect a standing bedstead in the "ben," plank
benches acting as couches in the "but," a sufficiency of mats,
and pots for water and cooking. A free man never condescends to
sit upon the ground; the low stool, cut out of a single block,
and fancifully carved, is exactly that of the old Egyptians
preserved by the modern East Africans; it dates from ages
immemorial. The look of comparative civilization about these
domiciles, doubtless the effect of the Portuguese and the slave
trade, distinguishes them from the barbarous circular huts of the
Kru-men, the rude clay walls of the Gold Coast, and the tattered,
comfortless sheds of the Fernandian "Bube." They have not,
however, that bandbox-like neatness which surprises the African
traveller on the Camerones River.

The only domestic animals about these villages are dogs, poultry,
and pigeons (fine blue rocks): I never saw in Pongo-land the
goats mentioned by M. du Chaillu. The bush, however, supplies an
abundance of "beef," and, as most South Africans, they have a
word, Isng (amongst the Mpongwes), or Ingwmb (of the Cape
Lopez people), to express that inordinate longing and yearning
for the stimulus of meat diet, caused by the damp and depressing
equatorial climate, of which Dr. Livingstone so pathetically
complains. The settlements are sometimes provided with little
plots of vegetables; usually, however, the plantations are
distant, to preserve them from the depredations of bipeds and
quadrupeds. They are guarded by bushmen, who live on the spot
and, shortly before the rains all the owners flock to their
farms, where, for a fortnight or so, they and their women do
something like work. New grounds are preferred, because it is
easier to clear them than to remove the tangled after-growth of
ferns and guinea grass; moreover, they yield, of course, better
crops. The plough has not yet reached Pongo-land; the only tools
are the erem (little axe for felling), the matchet (a rude
cutlass for clearing), the hoe, and a succedaneum for the dibble.
After the bush has been burned as manure, and the seed has been
sown, no one will take the trouble of weeding, and half the
surface is wild growth.

Maize (Zea mays) has become common, and the people enjoy "bts,"
or roasted ears. Barbot says that the soil is unfit for corn and
Indian wheat; it is so for the former, certainly not for the
latter. Rice has extended little beyond the model farms on the
north bank of the river; as everywhere upon the West African
Coast, it is coarser, more nutritious, and fuller flavoured than
the Indian. The cereals, however, are supplanted by plantains and
manioc (cassava). The plantains are cooked in various ways, roast
and boiled, mashed and broiled, in paste and in balls; when
unripe they are held medicinal against dysentery. The manioc is
of the white variety (Fatropha Aypim seu utilissima), and, as at
Lagos, the root may be called the country bread: I never saw the
poisonous or black manioc (Fatropha manihot), either in East or
in West Africa, and I heard of it only once in Unyamwezi, Central
Africa. Yet it is mentioned by all old travellers, and the sweet
harmless variety gives very poor "farinha," Anglic "wood meal."

The vegetables are "Mbongwe" (yams), koko or Colocasia esculenta,
Occras (Hibiscus esculentus), squashes (pumpkins), cucumbers,
beans of several sorts, and the sweet potato, an esculent
disliked by Englishmen, but far more nutritious than the
miserable "Irish" tuber. The ground-nut or peanut (Arachis
hypogaea), the "pindar" of the United States, a word derived from
Loango, is eaten roasted, and, as a rule, the people have not
learned to express its oil. Proyart (Pinkerton, xvi. 551) gives,
probably by misprint, "Pinda, which we call Pistachio." "Bird-
peppers," as the small red species is called, grow wild in every
bush; they are wholesome, and the people use them extensively.
Tomatoes flourish almost spontaneously, and there is a bulbless
native onion whose tops make excellent seasoning. Sugar-cane will
thrive in the swamps, coffee on the hill-slopes: I heard of, but
never saw ginger.

The common fruits are limes and oranges, mangoes, papaws, and
pineapples, the gift of the New World, now run wild, and
appreciated chiefly by apes. The forest, however, supplies a
multitude of wild growths, which seem to distinguish this section
of the coast, and which are eaten with relish by the people.
Amongst them are the Sngo and Nefu, with pleasant acid berries;
the Ntb, described as a red grape, which will presently make
wine; the olive-like Azyigo (Ozigo?); the filbert-like Kula, the
"koola-nut" of M. du Chaillu ("Second Expedition," chap, viii.),
a hard-shelled nux, not to be confounded with the soft-shelled
kola (Sterculia); and the Aba, or wild mango (Mango Gabonensis),
a pale yellow pome, small, and tasting painfully of turpentine.
It is chiefly prized for its kernels. In February and March all
repair to the bush for their mango-vendange, eat the fruit, and
collect the stones: the insides, after being sun-dried, are
roasted like coffee in a neptune, or in an earthern pot. When
burnt chocolate colour, they are pounded to the consistency of
thick honey, poured into a mould, a basket lined with banana
leaves, and set for three days to dry in the sun: after this the
cake, which in appearance resembles guava cheese, will keep
through the year.

For use the loaf is scraped, and a sufficiency is added to the
half-boiled or stewed flesh, the two being then cooked together:
it is equally prized in meat broths, or with fish, dry and fresh;
and it is the favoured kitchen for rice and the insipid banana.
"Odika," the "Ndika" of the Bkele tribes, is universally used,
like our "Worcester," and it may be called the one sauce of
Gorilla-land, the local equivalent for curry, pepper-pot, or
palm-oil chop; it can be eaten thick or thin, according to taste,
but it must always be as hot as possible. The mould sells for
half a dollar at the factories, and many are exported to
adulterate chocolate and cocoa, which it resembles in smell and
oily flavour. I regret to say that travellers have treated this
national relish disrespectfully, as continentals do our "plomb-
boudin:" Mr. W. Winwood Reade has chaffed it, and another Briton
has compared it with "greaves."

At "Cockerapeak," or, to speak less unpoetically, when Alectryon
sings his hymn to the dawn, the working bees of the little hive
must be up and stirring, whilst the master and mistress enjoy the
beauty-sleep. "Early to bed, and early to rise," is held only fit
to make a man surly, and give him red eyes, by all wild peoples,
who have little work, and who justly hold labour an evil less
only than death. Amongst the Bedawin it is a sign of Shaykh-dom
not to retire before dawn, and I have often heard the Somal
"palavering" after midnight. As a rule the barbarian enjoys his
night chat and smoke round the fire all the more because he
drinks or dozes through the better part of the day. There is a
physical reason for the preference. The absence of light
stimulus, and the changes which follow sunset seem to develope in
him a kind of night-fever as in the nervous temperament of
Europe. Hence so many students choose the lamp in preference to
the sun, and children mostly clamour when told at 8 o'clock to go
to bed.

Shortly after sunrise the young ones are bathed in the verandah.
Here also the mistress smooths her locks, rumpled by the night,
"tittivates" her macaw-crest with the bodkin, and anoints her
hair and skin with a tantinet of grease and palm oil. Some, but
by no means all, proceed for ablution to the stream-side, and the
girls fetch water in heavy earthen jars, containing perhaps two
gallons; they are strung, after the Kru fashion, behind the back
by a band passing across the forehead. When we meet them they
gently say "Mbolo!" (good morning), or "Oresa" (are you well)? At
this hour, however, all are not so civil, the seniors are often
uncommonly cross and surly, and the mollia tempora fandi may not
set in till after the first meal--I have seen something of the
kind in England. The sex, impolitely said to have one fibre more
in the heart and one cell less in the brain, often engages in a
violent wordy war; the tornado of wrath will presently pass over,
and leave clear weather for the day. In the evening, when the
electric fluid again gathers heavily, there will be another
storm. Meanwhile, superintended by the mistress, all are occupied
with the important duty of preparing the morning meal. It is
surprising how skilful are these heaven-born cooks; the excellent
dishes they make out of "half-nothing." I preferred the cuisine
of Forteune's wives to that of the Plateau, and, after finding
that money was current in the village, I never failed to secure
their good offices.

The Mpongwe breakfast is eaten by the women in their respective
verandahs, with their children and friends; the men also gather
together, and prefer the open air. This feed would not only
astonish those who talk about a "free breakfast-table," with its
silly slops and bread-stuffs; it would satisfy a sharp-set
Highlander. In addition to yams and sweet potatoes, plantains,
and perhaps rice, there will be cooked mangrove-oysters fresh
from the tree, a fry, or an excellent bouillabaisse of fish;
succulent palaver sauce, or palm-oil chop; poultry and meat. The
domestic fowl is a favourite; but, curious to say, neither here
nor in any part of tropical Africa known to me have the people
tamed the only gallinaceous bird which the Black Continent has
contributed to civilization. The Guinea fowl, like the African
elephant, remains wild. We know it to be an old importation in
Europe, although there are traditions about its appearing in the
fourteenth century, when Moslems sold it to Christians as the
"Jerusalem cock," and Christians to Moslems as the "bird of
Meccah." It must be the Greek meleagris, so called, says lian,
from the sisters who wept a brother untimely slain; hence the
tears upon its plume, suggesting the German Perl-huhn, and its
frequent cries, which the Brazilians, who are great in the
language of birds, translate Sto fraca, sto fraca, sto fraca (I'm
weak). The Hausa Moslems make the Guinea fowl cry, "Kilkal!
kilkal!" (Grammar by the Rev. F. J. Schn, London, Salisbury
Square, 1862). It is curious to compare the difference of ear
with which nations hear the cries of animals, and form their
onomatopoetic, or "bow-wow" imitations. For instance, the North
Americans express by "whip-poor-will" what the Brazilians call
"Joo-corta-po." The Guinea fowl may have been the "Afraa
avis;"but that was a dear luxury amongst the Romans, though the
Greek meleagris was cheap. The last crotchet about it is that of
an African traveller, who holds it to be the peacock of Solomon's
navies, completely ignoring the absolute certainty which the
South-Indian word "Tukkiim" carries with it.

The Mpongwe will not eat ape, on account of its likeness to
themselves. But they greatly enjoy game; the porcupine, the
ground-hog (an Echymys), the white flesh of the bush pig
(Cricetomys), and the beef of the Nyre (Bos brachyceros); this
is the "buffalo" or "bush-cow" of the regions south of Sierra
Leone, and the empacassa of the Congo-Portuguese, whose
"empacasseirs" or native archers, rural police and auxiliaries
"of the second line," have as "guerra preta" (black militia) won
many a victory. Their numbers in Angola have amounted to 30,000,
and they aided in conquest like the Indian Sipahi (sepoy) and the
Tupi of the older Brazil. Now they wear the Tnga or Pagne, a
waist cloth falling to the knee, and they are armed with trade
muskets and cartridge-boxes fastened to broad belts. Barbot calls
the Nyare a buffalo, and tells us that it was commonly shot at
Sandy Point, where in his day elephants also abounded. Captain
Boteler (ii. 379) well describes a specimen, which was killed by
Dr. Guland, R.N., as exactly resembling the common cow of
England, excepting that its proportions are far more "elegant."

This hearty breakfast is washed down with long drinks of palm
wine, and followed by sundry pipes of tobacco; after which, happy
souls! all enjoy a siesta, long and deep as that of Andine
Mendoza; and they "kill time" as well as they can till evening.
The men assemble in the club round the Nmpolo-fire, where they
chat and smoke, drink and doze; those who are Agriophagi or
Xylobian thiopians, briefly called hunters, spend their days
much like the race which Byron declared

"Merely born
To hunt and vote, and raise the price of corn."

The Pongo venator is up with the sun, and, if not on horseback,
at least he is on the traces of game; sometimes he returns home
during the hours of heat, when he knows that the beasts seek the
shady shelter of the deepest forests; and, after again enjoying
the "pleasures of the chase," he disposes of a heavy dinner and
ends the day, sleep weighing down his eyelids and his brains
singing with liquor. What he did yesterday that he does to-day,
and what he does to-day that he shall do to-morrow; his
intellectual life is varied only by a visit to town, where he
sells his choice skins, drinks a great deal too much rum, and
makes the purchases, ammunition and so forth, which are necessary
for the full enjoyment of home and country life. At times also he
joins a party of friends and seeks some happier hunting ground
farther from his campagne.

Meanwhile the women dawdle through the day, superintending their
domestic work, look after their children's and their own
toilette, tend the fire, attend to the cooking, and smoke
consumedly. The idle sit with the men at the doors of their huts;
those industriously disposed weave mats, and, whether lazy or
not, they never allow their tongues and lungs a moment's rest.
The slaves, male and female, draw water, cut fuel, or go to the
distant plantations for yams and bananas; whilst the youngsters
romp, play and tease the village idiot--there is one in almost
every settlement. Briefly, the day is spent in idleness, except,
as has been said, for a short time preceding the rains.

When the sun nears the western horizon, the hunter and the slaves
return home, and the housewife, who has been enjoying the
"coolth" squatting on her dwarf stool at her hut-door, and
puffing the preparatory pipe,--girds her loins for the evening
meal, and makes every one "look alive." When the last rays are
shedding their rich red glow over the tall black trees which hem
in the village, all torpidity disappears from it. The fires are
trimmed, and the singing and harping, which were languid during
the hot hours, begin with renewed vigour. The following is a
specimen of a boating-song:

(Solo.) "Come, my sweetheart!"
( Chorus.) "Haste, haste!"
(Solo) 'How many things gives the white man?'
(Chorus chants all that it wants.)
(Solo) 'What must be done for the white man?"

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