Expedition to the Zambesi and its Tributaries, by David Livingstone

Chapter XIV.

Important geographical discoveries in the Wabisa countries — Cruelty of the slave-trade — The Mazitu — Serious illness of Dr. Livingstone — Return to the ship.

In our course westwards, we at first passed over a gently undulating country, with a reddish clayey soil, which, from the heavy crops, appeared to be very fertile. Many rivulets were crossed, some running southwards into the Bua, and others northwards into the Loangwa, a river which we formerly saw flowing into the Lake. Further on, the water was chiefly found in pools and wells. Then still further, in the same direction, some watercourses were said to flow into that same “Loangwa of the Lake,” and others into the Loangwa, which flows to the south-west, and enters the Zambesi at Zumbo, and is here called the “Loangwa of the Maravi.” The trees were in general scraggy, and covered, exactly as they are in the damp climate of the Coast, with lichens, resembling orchilla-weed. The maize, which loves rather a damp soil, had been planted on ridges to allow the superfluous moisture to run off. Everything indicated a very humid climate, and the people warned us that, as the rains were near, we were likely to be prevented from returning by the country becoming flooded and impassable.

Villages, as usual encircled by euphorbia hedges, were numerous, and a great deal of grain had been cultivated around them. Domestic fowls, in plenty, and pigeons with dovecots like those in Egypt were seen. The people call themselves Matumboka, but the only difference between them and the rest of the Manganja is in the mode of tattooing the face. Their language is the same. Their distinctive mark consists of four tattooed lines diverging from the point between the eyebrows, which, in frowning, the muscles form into a furrow. The other lines of tattooing, as in all Manganja, run in long seams, which crossing each other at certain angles form a great number of triangular spaces on the breast, back, arms, and thighs. The cuticle is divided by a knife, and the edges of the incision are drawn apart till the true skin appears. By a repetition of this process, lines of raised cicatrices are formed, which are thought to give beauty, no matter how much pain the fashion gives.

It would not be worth while to advert for a moment to the routine of travelling, or the little difficulties that beset every one who attempts to penetrate into a new country, were it not to show the great source of the power here possessed by slave-traders. We needed help in carrying our goods, while our men were ill, though still able to march. When we had settled with others for hire, we were often told, that the dealers in men had taken possession of some, and had taken them away altogether. Other things led us to believe that the slave-traders carry matters with a high hand; and no wonder, for the possession of gunpowder gives them almost absolute power. The mode by which tribes armed with bows and arrows carry on warfare, or defend themselves, is by ambuscade. They never come out in open fight, but wait for the enemy ensconced behind trees, or in the long grass of the country, and shoot at him unawares. Consequently, if men come against them with firearms, when, as is usually the case, the long grass is all burned off, the tribe attacked are as helpless as a wooden ship, possessing only signal guns, would be before an iron-clad steamer. The time of year selected for this kind of warfare is nearly always that in which the grass is actually burnt off, or is so dry as readily to take fire. The dry grass in Africa looks more like ripe English wheat late in the autumn, than anything else we can compare it to. Let us imagine an English village standing in a field of this sort, bounded only by the horizon, and enemies setting fire to a line of a mile or two, by running along with bunches of burning straw in their hands, touching here and there the inflammable material — the wind blowing towards the doomed village — the inhabitants with only one or two old muskets, but ten to one no powder — the long line of flames, leaping thirty feet into the air with dense masses of black smoke — and pieces of charred grass falling down in showers. Would not the stoutest English villager, armed only with the bow and arrow against the enemy’s musket, quail at the idea of breaking through that wall of fire? When at a distance, we once saw a scene like this, and had the charred grass, literally as thick as flakes of black snow, falling around us, there was no difficulty in understanding the secret of the slave-trader’s power.

On the 21st of September, we arrived at the village of the chief Muasi, or Muazi; it is surrounded by a stockade, and embowered in very tall euphorbia-trees; their height, thirty or forty feet, shows that it has been inhabited for at least one generation. A visitation of disease or death causes the headmen to change the site of their villages, and plant new hedges; but, though Muazi has suffered from the attacks of the Mazitu, he has evidently clung to his birthplace. The village is situated about two miles south-west of a high hill called Kasungu, which gives the name to a district extending to the Loangwa of the Maravi. Several other detached granite hills have been shot up on the plain, and many stockaded villages, all owing allegiance to Muazi, are scattered over it.

On our arrival, the chief was sitting in the smooth shady place, called Boalo, where all public business is transacted, with about two hundred men and boys around him. We paid our guides with due ostentation. Masiko, the tallest of our party, measured off the fathom of cloth agreed upon, and made it appear as long as possible, by facing round to the crowd, and cutting a few inches beyond what his outstretched arms could reach, to show that there was no deception. This was by way of advertisement. The people are mightily gratified at having a tall fellow to measure the cloth for them. It pleases them even better than cutting it by a tape-line — though very few men of six feet high can measure off their own length with their outstretched arms. Here, where Arab traders have been, the cubit called mokono, or elbow, begins to take the place of the fathom in use further south. The measure is taken from the point of the bent elbow to the end of the middle finger.

We found, on visiting Muazi on the following day, that he was as frank and straightforward as could reasonably be expected. He did not wish us to go to the N.N.W., because he carries on a considerable trade in ivory there. We were anxious to get off the slave route, to people not visited before by traders; but Muazi naturally feared, that if we went to what is said to be a well-watered country, abounding in elephants, we might relieve him of the ivory which he now obtains at a cheap rate, and sells to the slave-traders as they pass Kasungu to the east; but at last he consented, warning us that “great difficulty would be experienced in obtaining food — a district had been depopulated by slave wars — and a night or two must be spent in it; but he would give us good guides, who would go three days with us, before turning, and then further progress must depend on ourselves.” Some of our men having been ill ever since we mounted this highland plain, we remained two days with Muazi.

A herd of fine cattle showed that no tsetse existed in the district. They had the Indian hump, and were very fat, and very tame. The boys rode on both cows and bulls without fear, and the animals were so fat and lazy, that the old ones only made a feeble attempt to kick their young tormentors. Muazi never milks the cows; he complained that, but for the Mazitu having formerly captured some, he should now have had very many. They wander over the country at large, and certainly thrive.

After leaving Muazi’s, we passed over a flat country sparsely covered with the scraggy upland trees, but brightened with many fine flowers. The grass was short, reaching no higher than the knee, and growing in tufts with bare spaces between, though the trees were draped with many various lichens, and showed a moist climate. A high and very sharp wind blew over the flats; its piercing keenness was not caused by low temperature, for the thermometer stood at 80 degrees.

We were now on the sources of the Loangwa of the Maravi, which enters the Zambesi at Zumbo, and were struck by the great resemblance which the boggy and sedgy streams here presented to the sources of the Leeba, an affluent of the Zambesi formerly observed in Londa, and of the Kasai, which some believe to be the principal branch of the Congo or Zaire.

We had taken pains to ascertain from the travelled Babisa and Arabs as much as possible about the country in front, which, from the lessening time we had at our disposal, we feared we could scarcely reach, and had heard a good deal of a small lake called Bemba. As we proceeded west, we passed over the sources not only of the Loangwa, but of another stream, called Moitawa or Moitala, which was represented to be the main feeder of Lake Bemba. This would be of little importance, but for the fact that the considerable river Luapula, or Loapula is said to flow out of Bemba to the westward, and then to spread out into another and much larger lake, named Moero, or Moelo. Flowing still further in the same direction, the Loapula forms Lake Mofue, or Mofu, and after this it is said to pass the town of Cazembe, bend to the north, and enter Lake Tanganyika. Whither the water went after it entered the last lake, no one would venture an assertion. But that the course indicated is the true watershed of that part of the country, we believe from the unvarying opinion of native travellers. There could be no doubt that our informants had been in the country beyond Cazembe’s, for they knew and described chiefs whom we afterwards met about thirty-five or forty miles west of his town. The Lualaba is said to flow into the Loapula — and when, for the sake of testing the accuracy of the travelled, it was asserted that all the water of the region round the town of Cazembe flowed into the Luambadzi, or Luambezi (Zambesi), they remarked with a smile, “He says, that the Loapula flows into the Zambesi — did you ever hear such nonsense?” or words to that effect. We were forced to admit, that according to native accounts, our previous impression of the Zambesi’s draining the country about Cazembe’s had been a mistake. Their geographical opinions are now only stated, without any further comment than that the itinerary given by the Arabs and others shows that the Loapula is twice crossed on the way to Cazembe’s; and we may add that we have never found any difficulty from the alleged incapacity of the negro to tell which way a river flows.

The boiling-point of water showed a descent, from the edge of the plateau to our furthest point west, of 170 feet; but this can only be considered as an approximation, and no dependence could have been placed on it, had we not had the courses of the streams to confirm this rather rough mode of ascertaining altitudes. The slope, as shown by the watershed, was to the “Loangwa of the Maravi,” and towards the Moitala, or south-west, west, and north-west. After we leave the feeders of Lake Nyassa, the water drains towards the centre of the continent. The course of the Kasai, a river seen during Dr. Livingstone’s journey to the West Coast, and its feeders was to the north-east, or somewhat in the same direction. Whether the water thus drained off finds its way out by the Congo, or by the Nile, has not yet been ascertained. Some parts of the continent have been said to resemble an inverted dinner-plate. This portion seems more of the shape, if shape it has, of a wide-awake hat, with the crown a little depressed. The altitude of the brim in some parts is considerable; in others, as at Tette and the bottom of Murchison’s Cataracts, it is so small that it could be ascertained only by eliminating the daily variations of the barometer, by simultaneous observations on the Coast, and at points some two or three hundred miles inland. So long as African rivers remain in what we may call the brim, they present no obstructions; but no sooner do they emerge from the higher lands than their utility is impaired by cataracts. The low lying belt is very irregular. At times sloping up in the manner of the rim of an inverted dinner-plate — while in other cases, a high ridge rises near the sea, to be succeeded by a lower district inland before we reach the central plateau. The breadth of the low lands is sometimes as much as three hundred miles, and that breadth determines the limits of navigation from the seaward.

We made three long marches beyond Muazi’s in a north-westerly direction; the people were civil enough, but refused to sell us any food. We were travelling too fast, they said; in fact, they were startled, and before they recovered their surprise, we were obliged to depart. We suspected that Muazi had sent them orders to refuse us food, that we might thus be prevented from going into the depopulated district; but this may have been mere suspicion, the result of our own uncharitable feelings.

We spent one night at Machambwe’s village, and another at Chimbuzi’s. It is seldom that we can find the headman on first entering a village. He gets out of the way till he has heard all about the strangers, or he is actually out in the fields looking after his farms. We once thought that when the headman came in from a visit of inspection, with his spear, bow and arrows, they had been all taken up for the occasion, and that he had all the while been hidden in some hut slily watching till he heard that the strangers might be trusted; but on listening to the details given by these men of the appearances of the crops at different parts, and the astonishing minuteness of the speakers’ topography, we were persuaded that in some cases we were wrong, and felt rather humiliated. Every knoll, hill, mountain, and every peak on a range has a name; and so has every watercourse, dell, and plain. In fact, every feature and portion of the country is so minutely distinguished by appropriate names, that it would take a lifetime to decipher their meaning. It is not the want, but the superabundance of names that misleads travellers, and the terms used are so multifarious that good scholars will at times scarcely know more than the subject of conversation. Though it is a little apart from the topic of the attention which the headmen pay to agriculture, yet it may be here mentioned, while speaking of the fulness of the language, that we have heard about a score of words to indicate different varieties of gait — one walks leaning forward, or backward, swaying from side to side, loungingly, or smartly, swaggeringly, swinging the arms, or only one arm, head down or up, or otherwise; each of these modes of walking was expressed by a particular verb; and more words were used to designate the different varieties of fools than we ever tried to count.

Mr. Moffat has translated the whole Bible into the language of the Bechuana, and has diligently studied this tongue for the last forty-four-years; and, though knowing far more of the language than any of the natives who have been reared on the Mission-station of Kuruman, he does not pretend to have mastered it fully even yet. However copious it may be in terms of which we do not feel the necessity, it is poor in others, as in abstract terms, and words used to describe mental operations.

Our third day’s march ended in the afternoon of the 27th September, 1863, at the village of Chinanga on the banks of a branch of the Loangwa. A large, rounded mass of granite, a thousand feet high, called Nombe rume, stand on the plain a few miles off. It is quite remarkable, because it has so little vegetation on it. Several other granitic hills stand near it, ornamented with trees, like most heights of this country, and a heap of blue mountains appears away in the north.

The effect of the piercing winds upon the men had never been got rid of. Several had been unable to carry a load ever since we ascended to the highlands; we had lost one, and another poor lad was so ill as to cause us great anxiety. By waiting in this village, which was so old that it was full of vermin, all became worse. Our European food was entirely expended, and native meal, though finely ground, has so many sharp angular particles in it, that it brought back dysentery, from which we had suffered so much in May. We could scarcely obtain food for the men. The headman of this village of Chinanga was off in a foray against some people further north to supply slaves to the traders expected along the slave route we had just left; and was said, after having expelled the inhabitants, to be living in their stockade, and devouring their corn. The conquered tribe had purchased what was called a peace by presenting the conqueror with three women.

This state of matters afforded us but a poor prospect of finding more provisions in that direction than we could with great difficulty and at enormous prices obtain here. But neither want of food, dysentery, nor slave wars would have prevented our working our way round the Lake in some other direction, had we had time; but we had received orders from the Foreign Office to take the “Pioneer” down to the sea in the previous April. The salaries of all the men in her were positively “in any case to cease by the 31st of December.”

We were said to be only ten days’ distant from Lake Bemba. We might speculate on a late rise of the river. A month or six weeks would secure a geographical feat, but the rains were near. We had been warned by different people that the rains were close at hand, and that we should then be bogged and unable to travel. The flood in the river might be an early one, or so small in volume as to give but one chance of the “Pioneer” descending to the ocean. The Makololo too were becoming dispirited by sickness and want of food, and were naturally anxious to be back to their fields in time for sowing. But in addition to all this and more, it was felt that it would not be dealing honestly with the Government, were we, for the sake of a little eclat, to risk the detention of the “Pioneer” up the river during another year; so we decided to return; and though we had afterwards the mortification to find that we were detained two full months at the ship waiting for the flood which we expected immediately after our arrival there, the chagrin was lessened by a consciousness of having acted in a fair, honest, above-board manner throughout.

On the night of the 29th of September a thief came to the sleeping-place of our men and stole a leg of a goat. On complaining to the deputy headman, he said that the thief had fled, but would be caught. He suggested a fine, and offered a fowl and her eggs; but wishing that the thief alone should be punished, it was advised that HE should be found and fined. The Makololo thought it best to take the fowl as a means of making the punishment certain. After settling this matter on the last day of September, we commenced our return journey. We had just the same time to go back to the ship, that we had spent in coming to this point, and there is not much to interest one in marching over the same ground a second time.

While on our journey north-west, a cheery old woman, who had once been beautiful, but whose white hair now contrasted strongly with her dark complexion, was working briskly in her garden as we passed. She seemed to enjoy a hale, hearty old age. She saluted us with what elsewhere would be called a good address; and, evidently conscious that she deserved the epithet, “dark but comely,” answered each of us with a frank “Yes, my child.” Another motherly-looking woman, sitting by a well, began the conversation by “You are going to visit Muazi, and you have come from afar, have you not?” But in general women never speak to strangers unless spoken to, so anything said by them attracts attention. Muazi once presented us with a basket of corn. On hinting that we had no wife to grind our corn, his buxom spouse struck in with roguish glee, and said, “I will grind it for you; and leave Muazi, to accompany and cook for you in the land of the setting sun.” As a rule the women are modest and retiring in their demeanour, and, without being oppressed with toil, show a great deal of industry. The crops need about eight months’ attention. Then when the harvest is home, much labour is required to convert it into food as porridge, or beer. The corn is pounded in a large wooden mortar, like the ancient Egyptian one, with a pestle six feet long and about four inches thick. The pounding is performed by two or even three women at one mortar. Each, before delivering a blow with her pestle, gives an upward jerk of the body, so as to put strength into the stroke, and they keep exact time, so that two pestles are never in the mortar at the same moment. The measured thud, thud, thud, and the women standing at their vigorous work, are associations inseparable from a prosperous African village. By the operation of pounding, with the aid of a little water, the hard outside scale or husk of the grain is removed, and the corn is made fit for the millstone. The meal irritates the stomach unless cleared from the husk; without considerable energy in the operator, the husk sticks fast to the corn. Solomon thought that still more vigour than is required to separate the hard husk or bran from wheat would fail to separate “a fool from his folly.” “Though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, YET will not his foolishness depart from him.” The rainbow, in some parts, is called the “pestle of the Barimo,” or gods. Boys and girls, by constant practice with the pestle, are able to plant stakes in the ground by a somewhat similar action, in erecting a hut, so deftly that they never miss the first hole made.

Let any one try by repeatedly jobbing a pole with all his force to make a deep hole in the ground, and he will understand how difficult it is always to strike it into the same spot.

As we were sleeping one night outside a hut, but near enough to hear what was going on within, an anxious mother began to grind her corn about two o’clock in the morning. “Ma,” inquired a little girl, “why grind in the dark?” Mamma advised sleep, and administered material for a sweet dream to her darling, by saying, “I grind meal to buy a cloth from the strangers, which will make you look a little lady.” An observer of these primitive races is struck continually with such little trivial touches of genuine human nature.

The mill consists of a block of granite, syenite, or even mica schist, fifteen or eighteen inches square and five or six thick, with a piece of quartz or other hard rock about the size of a half brick, one side of which has a convex surface, and fits into a concave hollow in the larger and stationary stone. The workwoman kneeling, grasps this upper millstone with both hands, and works it backwards and forwards in the hollow of the lower millstone, in the same way that a baker works his dough, when pressing it and pushing from him. The weight of the person is brought to bear on the movable stone, and while it is pressed and pushed forwards and backwards, one hand supplies every now and then a little grain to be thus at first bruised and then ground on the lower stone, which is placed on the slope so that the meal when ground falls on to a skin or mat spread for the purpose. This is perhaps the most primitive form of mill, and anterior to that in oriental countries, where two women grind at one mill, and may have been that used by Sarah of old when she entertained the Angels.

On 2nd October we applied to Muazi for guides to take us straight down to Chinsamba’s at Mosapo, and thus cut off an angle, which we should otherwise make, by going back to Kota-kota Bay. He replied that his people knew the short way to Chinsamba’s that we desired to go, but that they all were afraid to venture there, on account of the Zulus, or Mazitu. We therefore started back on our old route, and, after three hours’ march, found some Babisa in a village who promised to lead us to Chinsamba.

We meet with these keen traders everywhere. They are easily known by a line of horizontal cicatrices, each half an inch long, down the middle of the forehead and chin. They often wear the hair collected in a mass on the upper and back part of the head, while it is all shaven off the forehead and temples. The Babisa and Waiau or Ajawa heads have more of the round bullet-shape than those of the Manganja, indicating a marked difference in character; the former people being great traders and travellers, the latter being attached to home and agriculture. The Manganja usually intrust their ivory to the Babisa to be sold at the Coast, and complain that the returns made never come up to the high prices which they hear so much about before it is sent. In fact, by the time the Babisa return, the expenses of the journey, in which they often spend a month or two at a place where food abounds, usually eat up all the profits.

Our new companions were trading in tobacco, and had collected quantities of the round balls, about the size of nine pounder shot, into which it is formed. One of them owned a woman, whose child had been sold that morning for tobacco. The mother followed him, weeping silently, for hours along the way we went; she seemed to be well known, for at several hamlets, the women spoke to her with evident sympathy; we could do nothing to alleviate her sorrow — the child would be kept until some slave-trader passed, and then sold for calico. The different cases of slave-trading observed by us are mentioned, in order to give a fair idea of its details.

We spent the first night, after leaving the slave route, at the village of Nkoma, among a section of Manganja, called Machewa, or Macheba, whose district extends to the Bua.

The next village at which we slept was also that of a Manganja smith. It was a beautiful spot, shaded with tall euphorbia-trees. The people at first fled, but after a short time returned, and ordered us off to a stockade of Babisa, about a mile distant. We preferred to remain in the smooth shady spot outside the hamlet, to being pent up in a treeless stockade. Twenty or thirty men came dropping in, all fully armed with bows and arrows, some of them were at least six feet four in height, yet these giants were not ashamed to say, “We thought that you were Mazitu, and, being afraid, ran away.” Their orders to us were evidently inspired by terror, and so must the refusal of the headman to receive a cloth, or lend us a hut have been; but as we never had the opportunity of realizing what feelings a successful invasion would produce, we did not know whether to blame them or not. The headman, a tall old smith, with an enormous, well-made knife of his own workmanship, came quietly round, and, inspecting the shelter, which, from there being abundance of long grass and bushes near, our men put up for us in half an hour, gradually changed his tactics, and, in the evening, presented us with a huge pot of porridge and a deliciously well-cooked fowl, and made an apology for having been so rude to strangers, and a lamentation that he had been so foolish as to refuse the fine cloth we had offered. Another cloth was of course presented, and we had the pleasure of parting good friends next day.

Our guide, who belonged to the stockade near to which we had slept, declined to risk himself further than his home. While waiting to hire another, Masiko attempted to purchase a goat, and had nearly concluded the bargain, when the wife of the would-be seller came forward, and said to her husband, “You appear as if you were unmarried; selling a goat without consulting your wife; what an insult to a woman! What sort of man are you?” Masiko urged the man, saying, “Let us conclude the bargain, and never mind her;” but he being better instructed, replied, “No, I have raised a host against myself already,” and refused.

We now pushed on to the east, so as to get down to the shores of the Lake, and into the parts where we were known. The country was beautiful, well wooded, and undulating, but the villages were all deserted; and the flight of the people seemed to have been quite recent, for the grain was standing in the corn-safes untouched. The tobacco, though ripe, remained uncut in the gardens, and the whole country was painfully quiet: the oppressive stillness quite unbroken by the singing of birds, or the shrill calls of women watching their corn.

On passing a beautiful village, called Bangwe, surrounded by shady trees, and placed in a valley among mountains, we were admiring the beauty of the situation, when some of the much dreaded Mazitu, with their shields, ran out of the hamlet, from which we were a mile distant. They began to scream to their companions to give us chase. Without quickening our pace we walked on, and soon were in a wood, through which the footpath we were following led. The first intimation we had of the approaching Mazitu was given by the Johanna man, Zachariah, who always lagged behind, running up, screaming as if for his life. The bundles were all put in one place to be defended; and Masiko and Dr. Livingstone walked a few paces back to meet the coming foe. Masiko knelt down anxious to fire, but was ordered not to do so. For a second or two dusky forms appeared among the trees, and the Mazitu were asked, in their own tongue, “What do you want?” Masiko adding, “What do you say?” No answer was given, but the dark shade in the forest vanished. They had evidently taken us for natives, and the sight of a white man was sufficient to put them to flight. Had we been nearer the Coast, where the people are accustomed to the slave-trade, we should have found this affair a more difficult one to deal with; but, as a rule, the people of the interior are much more mild in character than those on the confines of civilization.

The above very small adventure was all the danger we were aware of in this journey; but a report was spread from the Portuguese villages on the Zambesi, similar to several rumours that had been raised before, that Dr. Livingstone had been murdered by the Makololo; and very unfortunately the report reached England before it could be contradicted.

One benefit arose from the Mazitu adventure. Zachariah, and others who had too often to be reproved for lagging behind, now took their places in the front rank; and we had no difficulty in making very long marches for several days, for all believed that the Mazitu would follow our footsteps, and attack us while we slept.

A party of Babisa tobacco-traders came from the N.W. to Molamba, while we were there; and one of them asserted several times that the Loapula, after emerging from Moelo, received the Lulua, and then flowed into Lake Mofu, and thence into Tanganyika; and from the last-named Lake into the sea. This is the native idea of the geography of the interior; and, to test the general knowledge of our informant, we asked him about our acquaintances in Londa; as Moene, Katema, Shinde or Shinte, who live south-west of the rivers mentioned, and found that our friends there were perfectly well-known to him and to others of these travelled natives. In the evening two of the Babisa came in, and reported that the Mazitu had followed us to the village called Chigaragara, at which we slept at the bottom of the descent. The whole party of traders set off at once, though the sun had set. We ourselves had given rise to the report, for the women of Chigaragara, supposing us in the distance to be Mazitu, fled, with all their household utensils on their heads, and had no opportunity afterwards of finding out their mistake. We spent the night where we were, and next morning, declining Nkomo’s entreaty to go and kill elephants, took our course along the shores of the Lake southwards.

We have only been at the Lake at one season of the year: then the wind blows strongly from the east, and indeed this is its prevailing direction hence to the Orange River; a north or a south wind is rare, and seldom lasts more than three days. As the breeze now blew over a large body of water, towards us, it was delightful; but when facing it on the table-land it was so strong as materially to impede our progress, and added considerably to the labour of travelling. Here it brought large quantities of the plant (Vallisneriae), from which the natives extract salt by burning, and which, if chewed, at once shows its saline properties by the taste. Clouds of the kungo, or edible midges, floated on the Lake, and many rested on the bushes on land.

The reeds along the shores of the Lake were still crowded with fugitives, and a great loss of life must since have taken place; for, after the corn they had brought with them was expended, famine would ensue. Even now we passed many women and children digging up the roots, about the size of peas, of an aromatic grass; and their wasted forms showed that this poor hard fare was to allay, if possible, the pangs of hunger. The babies at the breast crowed to us as we passed, their mothers kneeling and grubbing for the roots; the poor little things still drawing nourishment from the natural fountain were unconscious of that sinking of heart which their parents must have felt in knowing that the supply for the little ones must soon fail. No one would sell a bit of food to us: fishermen, even, would not part with the produce of their nets, except in exchange for some other kind of food. Numbers of newly-made graves showed that many had already perished, and hundreds were so emaciated that they had the appearance of human skeletons swathed in brown and wrinkled leather. In passing mile after mile, marked with these sad proofs that “man’s inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn,” one experiences an overpowering sense of helplessness to alleviate human woe, and breathes a silent prayer to the Almighty to hasten the good time coming when “man and man the world o’er, shall brothers be for all that.” One small redeeming consideration in all this misery could not but be felt; these ills were inflicted by heathen Mazitu, and not by, or for, those who say to Him who is higher than the highest, “We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge.”

We crossed the Mokole, rested at Chitanda, and then left the Lake, and struck away N.W. to Chinsamba’s. Our companions, who were so much oppressed by the rarefied air of the plateau, still showed signs of exhaustion, though now only 1300 feet above the sea, and did not recover flesh and spirits till we again entered the Lower Shire Valley, which is of so small an altitude, that, without simultaneous observations with the barometer there and on the sea-coast, the difference would not be appreciable.

On a large plain on which we spent one night, we had the company of eighty tobacco traders on their way from Kasungu to Chinsamba’s. The Mazitu had attacked and killed two of them, near the spot where the Zulus fled from us without answering our questions. The traders were now so frightened that, instead of making a straight course with us, they set off by night to follow the shores of the Lake to Tsenga, and then turn west. It is the sight of shields, or guns that inspires terror. The bowmen feel perfectly helpless when the enemy comes with even the small protection the skin shield affords, or attacks them in the open field with guns. They may shoot a few arrows, but they are such poor shots that ten to one if they hit. The only thing that makes the arrow formidable is the poison; for if the poisoned barb goes in nothing can save the wounded. A bow is in use in the lower end of Lake Nyassa, but is more common in the Maravi country, from six to eight inches broad, which is intended to be used as a shield as well as a bow; but we never saw one with the mark on it of an enemy’s arrow. It certainly is no match for the Zulu shield, which is between four and five feet long, of an oval shape, and about two feet broad. So great is the terror this shield inspires that we sometimes doubted whether the Mazitu here were Zulus at all, and suspected that the people of the country took advantage of that fear, and, assuming shields, pretended to belong to that nation.

On the 11th October we arrived at the stockade of Chinsamba in Mosapo, and had reason to be very well satisfied with his kindness. A paraffin candle was in his eyes the height of luxury, and the ability to make a light instantaneously by a lucifer match, a marvel that struck him with wonder. He brought all his relatives in different groups to see the strange sights — instantaneous fire-making, and a light, without the annoyance of having fire and smoke in the middle of the floor. When they wish to look for anything in the dark, a wisp of dried grass is lighted.

Chinsamba gave us a great deal of his company during our visits. As we have often remarked in other cases, a chief has a great deal to attend to in guiding the affairs of his people. He is consulted on all occasions, and gives his advice in a stream of words, which show a very intimate acquaintance with the topography of his district; he knows every rood cultivated, every weir put in the river, every hunting-net, loom, gorge, and every child of his tribe. Any addition made to the number of these latter is notified to him; and he sends thanks and compliments to the parents.

The presents which, following the custom of the country, we gave to every headman, where we either spent a night or a longer period, varied from four to eight yards of calico. We had some Manchester cloths made in imitation of the native manufactured robes of the West Coast, each worth five or six shillings. To the more important of the chiefs, for calico we substituted one of these strong gaudy dresses, iron spoons, a knife, needles, a tin dish, or pannikin, and found these presents to be valued more than three times their value in cloth would have been. Eight or ten shillings’ worth gave abundant satisfaction to the greediest; but this is to be understood as the prime cost of the articles, and a trader would sometimes have estimated similar generosity as equal to from 30 to 50 pounds. In some cases the presents we gave exceeded the value of what was received in return; in others the excess of generosity was on the native side.

We never asked for leave to pass through the country; we simply told where we were going, and asked for guides; if they were refused, or if they demanded payment beforehand, we requested to be put into the beginning of the path, and said that we were sorry we could not agree about the guides, and usually they and we started together. Greater care would be required on entering the Mazitu or Zulu country, for there the Government extends over very large districts, while among the Manganja each little district is independent of every other. The people here have not adopted the exacting system of the Banyai, or of the people whose country was traversed by Speke and Grant.

In our way back from Chinsamba’s to Chembi’s and from his village to Nkwinda’s, and thence to Katosa’s, we only saw the people working in their gardens, near to the stockades. These strongholds were strengthened with branches of acacias, covered with strong hooked thorns; and were all crowded with people. The air was now clearer than when we went north, and we could see the hills of Kirk’s Range five or six miles to the west of our path. The sun struck very hot, and the men felt it most in their feet. Every one who could get a bit of goatskin made it into a pair of sandals.

While sitting at Nkwinda’s, a man behind the court hedge-wall said, with great apparent glee, that an Arab slaving party on the other side of the confluence of the Shire and Lake were “giving readily two fathoms of calico for a boy, and two and a half for a girl; never saw trade so brisk, no haggling at all.” This party was purchasing for the supply of the ocean slave-trade. One of the evils of this traffic is that it profits by every calamity that happens in a country. The slave-trader naturally reaps advantage from every disorder, and though in the present case some lives may have been saved that otherwise would have perished, as a rule he intensifies hatreds, and aggravates wars between the tribes, because the more they fight and vanquish each other the richer his harvest becomes. Where slaving and cattle are unknown the people live in peace. As we sat leaning against that hedge, and listened to the harangue of the slave-trader’s agent, it glanced across our mind that this was a terrible world; the best in it unable, from conscious imperfections, to say to the worst “Stand by! for I am holier than thou.” The slave-trader, imbued no doubt with certain kindly feelings, yet pursuing a calling which makes him a fair specimen of a human fiend, stands grouped with those by whom the slave-traders are employed, and with all the workers of sin and misery in more highly-favoured lands, an awful picture to the All-seing Eye.

We arrived at Katosa’s village on the 15th October, and found about thirty young men and boys in slave-sticks. They had been bought by other agents of the Arab slavers, still on the east side of the Shire. They were resting in the village, and their owners soon removed them. The weight of the goree seemed very annoying when they tried to sleep. This taming instrument is kept on, until the party has crossed several rivers and all hope of escape has vanished from the captive’s mind.

On explaining to Katosa the injury he was doing in selling his people as slaves, he assured us that those whom we had seen belonged to the Arabs, and added that he had far too few people already. He said he had been living in peace at the lakelet Pamalombe; that the Ajawa, or Machinga, under Kainka and Karamba, and a body of Babisa, under Maonga, had induced him to ferry them over the Shire; that they had lived for a considerable time at his expense, and at last stole his sheep, which induced him to make his escape to the place where he now dwelt, and in this flight he had lost many of his people. His account of the usual conduct of the Ajawa quite agrees with what these people have narrated themselves, and gives but a low idea of their moral tone. They have repeatedly broken all the laws of hospitality by living for months on the bounty of the Manganja, and then, by a sudden uprising, overcoming their hosts, and killing or chasing them out of their inheritances. The secret of their success is the possession of firearms. There were several of these Ajawa here again, and on our arrival they proposed to Katosa that they should leave; but he replied that they need not be afraid of us. They had red beads strung so thickly on their hair that at a little distance they appeared to have on red caps. It is curious that the taste for red hair should be so general among the Africans here and further north; in the south black mica, called Sebilo, and even soot are used to deepen the colour of the hair; here many smear the head with red-ochre, others plait the inner bark of a tree stained red into it; and a red powder called Mukuru is employed, which some say is obtained from the ground, and others from the roots of a tree.

It having been doubted whether sugar-cane is indigenous to this country or not, we employed Katosa to procure the two varieties commonly cultivated, with the intention of conveying them to Johanna. One is yellow, and the other, like what we observed in the Barotse Valley, is variegated with dark red and yellow patches, or all red. We have seen it “arrow,” or blossom. Bamboos also run to seed, and the people are said to use the seed as food. The sugar-cane has native names, which would lead us to believe it to be indigenous. Here it is called Zimbi, further south Mesari, and in the centre of the country Meshuati. Anything introduced in recent times, as maize, superior cotton, or cassava, has a name implying its foreign origin.

Katosa’s village was embowered among gigantic trees of fine timber: several caffiaceous bushes, with berries closely resembling those of the common coffee, grew near, but no use had ever been made of them. There are several cinchonaceous trees also in the country; and some of the wild fruits are so good as to cause a feeling of regret that they have not been improved by cultivation, or whatever else brought ours to their present perfection. Katosa lamented that this locality was so inferior to his former place at Pamalombe; there he had maize at the different stages of growth throughout the year. To us, however, he seemed, by digging holes, and taking advantage of the moisture beneath, to have succeeded pretty well in raising crops at this the driest time. The Makololo remarked that “here the maize had no season,”— meaning that the whole year was proper for its growth and ripening. By irrigation a succession of crops of grain might be raised anywhere within the south intertropical region of Africa.

When we were with Motunda, on the 20th October, he told us frankly that all the native provisions were hidden in Kirk’s Range, and his village being the last place where a supply of grain could be purchased before we reached the ship, we waited till he had sent to his hidden stores. The upland country, beyond the mountains now on our right, is called Deza, and is inhabited by Maravi, who are only another tribe of Manganja. The paramount chief is called Kabambe, and he, having never been visited by war, lives in peace and plenty. Goats and sheep thrive; and Nyango, the chieftainess further to the south, has herds of horned cattle. The country being elevated is said to be cold, and there are large grassy plains on it which are destitute of trees. The Maravi are reported to be brave, and good marksmen with the bow; but, throughout all the country we have traversed, guns are enabling the trading tribes to overcome the agricultural and manufacturing classes.

On the ascent at the end of the valley just opposite Mount Mvai, we looked back for a moment to impress the beauties of the grand vale on our memory. The heat of the sun was now excessive, and Masiko, thinking that it was overpowering, proposed to send forward to the ship and get a hammock, in which to carry any one who might knock up. He was truly kind and considerate. Dr. Livingstone having fallen asleep after a fatiguing march, a hole in the roof of the hut he was in allowed the sun to beat on his head, and caused a splitting headache and deafness: while he was nearly insensible, he felt Masiko repeatedly lift him back to the bed off which he had rolled, and cover him up.

On the 24th we were again in Banda, at the village of Chasundu, and could now see clearly the hot valley in which the Shire flows, and the mountains of the Manganja beyond to our south-east. Instead of following the road by which we had come, we resolved to go south along the Lesungwe, which rises at Zunje, a peak on the same ridge as Mvai, and a part of Kirk’s Range, which bounds the country of the Maravi on our west. This is about the limit of the beat of the Portuguese native traders, and it is but recently that, following our footsteps, they have come so far. It is not likely that their enterprise will lead them further north, for Chasundu informed us that the Babisa under-sell the agents from Tette. He had tried to deal with the latter when they first came; but they offered only ten fathoms of calico for a tusk, for which the Babisa gave him twenty fathoms and a little powder. Ivory was brought to us for sale again and again, and, as far as we could judge, the price expected would be about one yard of calico per pound, or possibly more, for there is no scale of prices known. The rule seems to be that buyer and seller shall spend a good deal of time in trying to cheat each other before coming to any conclusion over a bargain.

We found the Lesungwe a fine stream near its source, and about forty feet wide and knee-deep, when joined by the Lekudzi, which comes down from the Maravi country.

Guinea-fowl abounded, but no grain could be purchased, for the people had cultivated only the holmes along the banks with maize and pumpkins. Time enough had not elapsed since the slave-trader’s invasion, and destruction of their stores, for them to raise crops of grain on the adjacent lands. To deal with them for a few heads of maize was the hungry bargaining with the famished, so we hastened on southwards as fast as the excessive heat would allow us. It was impossible to march in the middle of the day, the heat was so intolerable; and we could not go on at night, because, if we had chanced to meet any of the inhabitants, we should have been taken for marauders.

We had now thunder every afternoon; but while occasional showers seemed to fall at different parts, none fell on us. The air was deliciously clear, and revealed all the landscape covered everywhere with forest, and bounded by beautiful mountains. On the 31st October we reached the Mukuru–Madse, after having travelled 660 geographical miles, or 760 English miles in a straight line. This was accomplished in fifty-five travelling days, twelve miles per diem on an average. If the numerous bendings and windings, and ups and downs of the paths could have been measured too, the distance would have been found at least fifteen miles a day.

The night we slept at the Mukuru–Madse it thundered heavily, but, as this had been the case every afternoon, and no rain had followed, we erected no shelter, but during this night a pouring rain came on. When very tired a man feels determined to sleep in spite of everything, and the sound of dropping water is said to be conducive to slumber, but that does not refer to an African storm. If, when half asleep in spite of a heavy shower on the back of the head, he unconsciously turns on his side, the drops from the branches make such capital shots into his ear, that the brain rings again.

We were off next morning, the 1st of November, as soon as the day dawned. In walking about seven miles to the ship, our clothes were thoroughly dried by the hot sun, and an attack of fever followed. We relate this little incident to point out the almost certain consequence of getting wet in this climate, and allowing the clothes to dry on the person. Even if we walk in the mornings when the dew is on the grass, and only get our feet and legs wet, a very uneasy feeling and partial fever with pains in the limbs ensue, and continue till the march onwards bathes them in perspiration. Had Bishop Mackenzie been aware of this, which, before experience alone had taught us, entailed many a severe lesson, we know no earthly reason why his valuable life might not have been spared. The difference between getting the clothes soaked in England and in Africa is this: in the cold climate the patient is compelled, or, at any rate, warned, by discomfort to resort at once to a change of raiment; while in Africa it is cooling and rather pleasant to allow the clothes to dry on the person. A Missionary in proportion as he possesses an athletic frame, hardened by manly exercises, in addition to his other qualifications, will excel him who is not favoured with such bodily endowments; but in a hot climate efficiency mainly depends on husbanding the resources. He must never forget that, in the tropics, he is an exotic plant.


Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38